Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Memoirs - Spiritual journey through Damascus Part 1

“Memoirs of a Sufi Traveller in the West,
autobiography of Muhammad Sajad Ali”
My Spiritual journey through the blessed land of Damascus 
of Shahur Ramadhan 1998-2001  - Updated Part 1
Maqam of Shaykh Faiz Dagestani
Meeting Shaykh Dr F. G. Haddad
Exploring the city for food
Abu Hurayirah Allah bless him
Shaykh Nur-deen Zenghi
Hammam Nur-deen-old Turkish Bath
Umayyad Mosque
Sunni Adhan
Nabi Sayyiduna Yahya Allah bless him
Sayyiduna Imam Hussain blessed Maqam
Salah-udeen Ayyubi
Sayyiduna sakinah
Graveyard of Ahl-bayt
Great Qubt in the middle of the road
Sayyiduna Zaynib
Taxi Cons
Tips around the Cons
Shaykh Bayzid Bistami
Maqam Muhiy-deen Ibn 'Arabi
Shaykh Abdul Ghani Nabusi
Shaykh Khalid Baghdadi
Maqam Arab'ain (40 Abdal)
Hand of Arch Angel -Jibriel
Nabi Sayyiduna Dhul-kifel peace be upon him

The following is based on three Ummrahs that I went on over a three-year period and in each case, in the month of Ramdhan in the years 1998 – 2001 it was at the end of December. Each of them has some interesting stories so I’ve combined them; I will try to indicate the 1st, 2nd and 3rd years in each case. But the majority is taken from accounts from 1st and 2nd Ummah experiences of the Journey.

I went on my first Ummrah journey with two Naqshbandi-Haqqani brothers, Naheed and Nasir of Slough, we planned to go in shahur-Ramadhan. As Naheed had been before so was more of a guide. However the journey has its ups and downs and interesting moments to reflect and learn from in life.

When three persons set out on a journey, they should appoint one of them as their leader-(Amir).”  -hadith

It is mustahabb (recommended) for the group to appoint the best and wisest of their number as their leader, and to obey him. Or at least choosing anyone as leader means that a journey should be undertaken under his guidance and instructions.

"A single rider is (accompanied with) Satan and two riders are (accompanied with) two Satans. Three riders form a group.'' -hadith

The reference about describing "accompanied with Satan'' has many meanings; example if there are two and there is an argument through Waswas-satanic insinuations, or lack of adaab who will stop them if there are only two. But with three the third can jump in and stop any arguments to bring harmony and balance back into the group.

Another meaning is that it will be difficult to travel alone thus doubts of Waswas-satanic insinuations or being falling ill and which leads to danger, but in this meaning it’s about the dangers of travelling alone is evil due to problems you may face or fall into.

One of the Duas I remember that we did was reading 100 Surah Al-faitha on the plane and seeking maddat-help from the Awilyah for support us and gaze at us for the journey. That is reading 100 Surah al-Fatiha and send this reward to the Wali of the country you’re going to, if one is just going from town to town or city to city then send 100 Surah al-Fatiha to Wali or Pious Ones of that Area location or town/ City you are visiting.

This way you are asking help from the Saints and Pious ones of that place as we all feel like strangers in a new town or city. Ask them for help and blessings once you in the town or City and this way more openings will Inshallah come your way and you will meet more Pious people on any journey. 

There are other Sufic duas I learnt years later which I use now see below, It says every 12 Miles or so there is a Qutb of some sort of some rank. The wali of the most basic level from amongst them, is sovereign in the radius of about 12 miles surrounding his presence or place of living.

Thus based on the 12 Miles or radius of the authority of the Saints I say this Sufi Dua based which is from Ghawth Al Adhim's Dua of Travelling; 

Ya nuqabu wa ya nujabu wa Ya ruqaba wa ya budalu wa ya aqtabu wa ya Ghawthu, Aghi-thu-ni bi-hurmati Sayyiduna Muahammad salla 'llahu 'alai-hi wa sallam.

**Article to add:
Darqawi Qutb Shaykh Ahmad ibn 'Ajiba, from his ‘Basic Research’ The seventh rule concerning travel and visiting Shaykhs. 

The plan was to go to Jeddah via Damascus. We landed at Damascus Airport after all the red tape we finally got outside, I remember the crazy taxi drivers like vultures, trying to get us into their cars, and the airport was about 25mins drive into the city. We finally agreed on a price that I think was £10.00 English money. (We were conned – nothing new for strangers in a new city).

It was too wonderful being in the city of 40 Abdals- there is a tradition that the 40 Abdals live in the city of Damascus and one should show the utmost respect to the people and place, because you don’t know when you may just meet one of them.

Being thrilled, I was looking through the windows of the taxi to see the blessed land, maybe it was just myself being excited of travelling made me happy- not knowing I would come back next year.

We reached the old city, it was still morning and we started to walk around, my opinion was to first of all re-confirm our tickets; but we got into a some disagreement and didn’t and that was that.

We booked into our hotel; it was a hotel that brother Naheed had stayed in before. The rules of the hotel are that you have to give them your passports. In return they gave you a card which had details of their hotel, we were told if the police stopped us you just show them the card as a form of ID.

Eager to visit the tombs and shrines of the Pious Anbiya, Sahabah and Awliya, I wanted to venture through the old city. I can’t remember in which order we went to visit the tombs, but I’ll try in some fashion to explain without confusing myself.

Because I Spoke some Arabic the shift of Amir of the Journey went from Naheed guiding went to me (In Islam if you’re travelling you must point some as the Amir and he must make all the decisions you must not argue with him but may give him Naseeha - Advise if he feels he is not up to the job then someone else may take the role).

But I still had to consult him, he wasn’t as enthusiastic as me to find as many tombs as we could and give ziyarah-(visit them), maybe because it was my first time and his second. In regards of Adaab of Travelling see the article; The seventh rule concerning travel and visiting Shaykhs by Shaykh Ahmad ibn 'Ajiba (Qutb)-Darqawiyyah: Basic Research  To be added*

Travelling in a taxi to most of the places that we went to, not really knowing the fact that we were completely ripped off, but I know it was a bit of a con but I didn’t know how bad it was being conned until my next trip, when I wised up more.

The area ruknah-deen was at the bottom of Jabul-Qassum a mount, once there, we had to get a small Suzuki. Suzukis had pit stops, they’d go up and around most of the mountain top with all its swirling paths. It was something very bizarre if you’d never had the experience of doing it before- and seemed even more dangerous than it looked.

You have to image a small 3 pistol Suzuki, going up a mountain frantically, through small bends made for walking; yes it did have enough space for cars. But once you were in the wild Suzuki you would have to hold on to the bars to protect yourself for dear life.

As buses and large heavy-duty lorries also frequented the journey, it made your heart jump and your eyes became wide open: staring at a large heavy lorry coming at you down a very steep mountain. Seatbelts? What are they! Not something for the light-hearted to say the least. And a little child was tagging onto the car by jumping on the back and then jumping off again.

Maqam of Shaykh Faiz Dagestani
Brother Naheed said that we had to get off at Maqam Ibrahim, so we jumped off and set off to find the Maqam of Shaykh Faiz Dagestani. (this is an old photo of the Maqam and since the clothe that covers the tomb has changed). 

 While walking up the Jabul-Qassum we walked past an unmarked Maqam- which Naheed pointed out. It was strange that the children were playing around it, however I read Fatiha as we walked. We then kept walking and a  few shops passed on our way.

We were now very closed to the maqam, however you can easily lose yourself in the labyrinth (maze) of little streets, Naheed had to think for a moment if it was the right way, and had to pause and was not sure which  way to turn. At this moment I stopped and looked down next to me where I saw rubbish bags with files flying around them and suddenly sweet scent of roses and I said it’s this way, maybe the Shaykh was helping us! It was my first time, so I just went with my soul’s direction.

We swiftly turned the corner and we approached the doorstep. The Green door of the Maqam was locked, Naheed said we have to go around the corner a few yards away and knock on the door and ask the muqaddam – Keeper for the key. We knocked on the melt doors then pressed the doorbell which echoed upstairs, the doors opened with a creak and Shaykh Anwar (who recently passed away 2016) stood there. He smiled and asked us to come in, we went upstairs and sat in the Shaykh Dagestani’s Zawiyah- (Zawiyah is the place where mureeds learn and sleep)

Going inside the Maqam of Shaykh Faiz Dagestani the Muqqadim-(the caretaker) gave us the key, as we opened the door inside was you a small box, the first impression is why a box? You’d think, why it so small, it happens that Shaykh Dagestani built his own Mosque and resting place with the measurements of the Holy Ka’baah.

As you looked inside you saw the Maqam to your left through a door and had a wooden boundary around it and to your right was the Qibah and there was a larger area for the mureeds to pray. This is in conjunction that a grave is not part of the Mosque so a barrier has been put around it so the maqam has its own space and doesn’t conflict with the Mosque.

After giving salaams and praying two ra’kahs we went back to the Shaykhs house. After a short while some German Mureeds came they were in their 50’s, and had been with the Shaykh for many years, dressed in purple that was the colour that many of the German Naqshbandi-Haqqani’s wore.

 I'm the on the right (Zebra colour Jubba) and on right next to me is Shaykh Anwar.

We ate together and food was prepared in a Damascus style. It was fun watching Shaykh Anwar serve so fast yet maintaining a conversation at the same time. He would laugh say a dua and put food down, eat and serve tea, clean the used dishes, laugh and joke with duas in between and you just didn’t notice him clear the food spread on the floor. All this happened just so fast in front of you. I was told Shaykh Dagestani trained him to serve food, to serve a large gathering of mureeds with ease and skill. Yet at the same time eating with them and cleaning up all the same time.

We stayed until Maghrib time, and then went to the Shaykhs Maqam were we did the prayer and then performed the Naqshbandi Wird. We then sent back for the hotel. But from that I wanted to do some Dhikr at the blessed place were Shaykh Faiz Dagestani and Shaykh Nazim sat for Dhikr. There we are sitting and behide us is the Maqam of the Shaykh.

 Me sitting in the Qibla area where Shaykh Faiz Dagestani & Shaykh Nazim sat for Dhikr too.

 There we are sitting and behide us is the Maqam of the Shaykh Faiz Dagestani

Our last day in Damascus I had a dream; In the dream Naheed tells me to hurry up at the Maqam of Shaykh Dagestani, and it happened just like that as in dream. So now at the Maqam Shaykh `Abdullah al-Fa'iz ad-Daghestani I’m making Duas and suddenly, Naheed walks has says to me come we have to go. (I used to make a lot of duas at maqams and made a lot especially at Maqam Shaykh `Abdullah al-Fa'iz ad-Daghestani). For those who don’t know, Grand Shaykh `Abdullah al-Fa'iz ad-Daghestani 39th Shaykh of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Golden Chain, he was the Shaykh and teacher of Shaykh Nazim Haqqani.

I’ve had many dreams which (I’m going to add them to My Sufi Narrative Blog) Throughout my 3 Ummrahs I’ve had different dreams relating to each of my Ummahs

Meeting Shaykh Dr F. G. Haddad
On the 2nd trip at the Maqam of Shaykh Dagestani I met Shaykh Dr F.G Haddad, I didn’t know who he was at first, we talked and I asked his name he said Foud Haddad. It didn’t click instantly but then after a short while my brain clicked and I said, ‘What Dr. F. G. Haddad’ he replied ‘yes.’ Ah! I said, ‘Subhallah!’ … to Continue 

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