aqsa

From Khalid Amayreh in Jerusalem

As the month of Ramadan draws to a close, many Palestinians are devoting the last ten days of the holy month to gaining more  spiritual enrichment through I’tikaf or uninterrupted spiritual engagement.

Many people are going for I’tikaf this year, motivated by a desire to gain Allah’s blessing and also encouraged by a relative relaxation of the normally harsh Israeli restrictions on the entry of Palestinians to al-Quds.

The Israeli occupation authorities this year allowed men over 50 and women over 45 to enter Jerusalem on Fridays. However, worshipers are still subjected to meticulous and often humiliating searches.

 worshippers
Palestinian worshippers on their way to Jerusalem at a checkpoint near Bethlehem

This, however, seems to have little bearing on the number of Muslims wanting to access the Haram al Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, of Jerusalem.

Wakf officials estimate that an average of 200,000-250-000 Muslims prayed at the al-Aqsa esplanade every Friday. The number is expected to rise significantly on the last Friday of Ramadan, known in local folklore as “al Juma’a al Yatima” (the lone Friday) According to Muslim traditions, reward for a single raka’a (a ritual posturing) at the Aqsa Mosque is multiplied 500 times. In Ramadan, the heavenly reward is multiplied 70 times. Worshipers, withdrawing from worldly preoccupations, spend many hours reading the Quran, the literal words of God,  making ritual prayers, and beseeching the Almighty for spiritual grace and blessing. Islamic charities catering for the Mosque and the worshipers provide thousands of meals for the sunset meals marking the end of the day’s fast. The charities also bring in worshipers who can’t afford the expenses of the trip. Prior to sunset, the faithful sit down awaiting the Athan or call for prayer, marking the end of another fast’s day. Allah is the most great, I bear witness that there is no god but Allah. I bear witness that Muhammed is the Messenger of God. Come to prayer Come to Prosperity Allah is the Most Great. There is only one God

iftar at aqsa 
  Preparing for the evening meal at the Aqsa Mosque

As the timeless words, which include Islam’s articles of faith, are chanted through loudspeakers, the fasters take a few dates and a glass of water before performing the Maghrib (sunset) prayer in congregation. The prayers lasts for only 5-7 minutes, and each part begins with the recitation of Suratul Fatiha, or Opening chapter of the Quran: In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the universe;  Most Gracious, Most Merciful;  Master of the Day of Judgment; Thee do we worship, and Thy aid we seek;  Show us the straight way;  The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace; Not those targeted by thy wrath, nor those who go astray. Following the usually delicious meal, many people rest for an hour or so, awaiting the Tarawih prayers, which last for an hour during which a portion of the Quran’s 30 portions  is recited. The entire Quran is recited in Tarawih prayer during the holy month. Laylatul Qadr The Ramadan spiritual season reaches its climax with Laylatul Qadr, translated as “the Night of Power,” or “Night of Destiny.” This is the night during which the Almighty sent down the Quran  to the lower heaven, before revealing it to the Prophet Muhammed  verse-by-verse through the archangel Gabriel. In the Quran,  Laylatul Qadr is accentuated as an occasion of unmatched spiritual importance. We have indeed revealed this (the Quran) in the Night of Power: And what will explain to thee what the night of power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit, by Allah’s permission, on every errand: Peace!…This until the rise of dawn! It is generally assumed it occurs on the 27th night of the holy month and Muslims are strongly recommended to spend the night in prayer, contemplation and supplication. This is exactly what tens of thousands of Palestinians do. And as always, it is expected that many more thousands of people will be heading for al-Masjidul Aqsa to spend the night there in prayer and reflection. Catering for the hundreds of thousands of worshipers are several organizations, including al-Aqsa Association for Waqf and Islamic Heritage, headed by Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, the prominent Palestinian Islamic leader and founder of the Islamic movement in Israel . According to the organization’s spokesperson, Mahmoud Abu Atta, more than 100,000 meals have been donated through the charitable group by donors, mostly from the 1.5 million -strong Arab community across the Green Line ( Israel ). Other donors, including the government of the United Arab Emirates, have also donated money covering hundreds of thousands of meals at al Masjidul Aqsa. In addition, thousands of people are bussed to Jerusalem  from all over occupied Palestine nearly free of charge in order to keep the place occupied. Sheikh Ikrema Sabri, one of the chief khatibs (preachers) at the Aqsa Mosque lauded the “impressive influx” of Muslims to Islam’s third holiest place. “Al hamdulillah (praise be to Allah), this is an important message to the Zionist occupiers of our country, that Muslims will never ever abandon this place of paramount sanctity,  and that they will never allow those coveting  this place and conspiring  to destroy it to attain their sick goals.” Sabri’s words are not only received well by the huge multitude but are also internalized as is evidenced by the obviously unmitigated attachment of Palestinians to the place. One young man from a village near al-Khalil ( Hebron ) remarked that without al-Masjidul Aqsa and al-Quds, the entire Palestinian issue loses relevance. “Al-Quds is the heart of Palestine , and the Aqsa Mosque is the heart of Jerusalem . Which means that the Mosque is the heart of the heart of Palestine .  Hence, I can’t even imagine that Muslims would even contemplate letting it down. “I am not speaking about stones and ancient buildings, I am speaking about the essence of the Islamic Umma’s religious and spiritual existence. Hence, I can’t even imagine how the Muslim Umma can live without al-Quds and al-Masjidul Aqsa. “Can a person live without his heart?”

MRN

Author: MRN Network

The aspiration of the Media Review Network is to dispel the myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and to foster bridges of understanding among the diverse people of our country. The Media Review Network believes that Muslim perspectives on issues impacting on South Africans are a prerequisite to a better appreciation of Islam.