My Palestinian Village (Part-4)

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To read the previous part of this story, click here.

8. My Village School
In Bayt Zaytun, we have a school, al-Hamdulillah. Here is the inside of my classroom. In the early morning, my younger brother and sis- ters have their classes here, but mine are in the afternoon. I usually sit in front of the teacher’s desk, next to the globe. For me, the most exciting and interesting subjects are history and geography. Insha’ Allah, I would like to be a history and geography teacher when I grow up and be able to write a history of my village.

As Muslims, we know the importance of education, al-Hamdulillah . The Prophet Muhammad (SM) said, “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” Each morning after the fajr prayers, I ask Allah for knowledge that will be of use to me. I remember the dua of the Prophet “O Allah, grant me benefit in what you have taught me; teach me what will benefit me and increase my knowledge Allah also instructs us in the Holy Qur’an in surah ta-ha, ayah 114: “Say: ‘O my Lord [my Sustainer]! Cause me to grow in knowledge.’”

The occupation of Palestine has caused problems for some pupils in neighbouring villages that do not have schools. These pupils, therefore, must study with us here in Bayt Zaytun, but the many checkpoints, roadblocks and curfews can sometimes prevent them from getting to classes. Last week, even our Arabic teacher could not reach school. On that day, we all stayed in our classroom and reviewed our lessons. Every Palestinian boy and girl knows that education is a great blessing from Allah. We understand that as pupils in school, our Islamic duty is always to seek knowledge and the pleasure of Allah.

Palestinian children are very good pupils, masha Allah. We love to learn and are not afraid to study foreign languages. For example, in today’s history class, as you can see, the subject of the lesson has been written in both Arabic and English on the blackboard. Our teacher first introduces the new lesson in Arabic. He repeats the highlights of it in English and finally allows us to summarize the lesson in English. He encourages us to speak English even if we make mistakes. Masha’Allah, this is very good advice!

Al-Hamdulillah, in all of Creation, Allah has blessed only we human beings with the gift of speech. The Prophet (SM) said that knowing a second language is like being a second person with a second voice. Every time I speak or write English, I give thanks to Allah. We Palestinians have an important story that we want to tell the world. Insha’ Allah, when I am older, I will be able to tell this important story in English, my “second voice”.

9. A Visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque
In the heart of Palestine lies the third holiest shrine in Islam, namely al-masjid al-aqsa (“the farthest mosque”) in the city the Qur’an calls al-quds (Jerusalem). Last year, I made ziyarah here with my family. We left our village after fajr prayer and arrived in time for dhuhr prayer at al-masjid al-aqsa on the Temple Mount, the only place on Earth where all the Prophets of Allah (‘aleyhum al-salaam) performed prayer in congregation.

The Prophet Muhammad (SM) was once asked by a woman: “‘ O, Rasul Allah! Give us a ruling as to Jerusalem (al-quds).’ And he said, ‘ It is the land of Resurrection and the Judgement assembly; go there and pray. For indeed, a prayer there is worth a thousand elsewhere.’“  

The history of Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, is both long and complex. Throughout its history, it has experienced the repeated destruction and slaughter of its population. On two occasions, however, it witnessed outstanding examples of tolerance shown towards the inhabitants of the city. Firstly, in 638 CE, the Caliph ‘Umar (Ra) personally accepted the surrender of Jerusalem to his Muslim forces. “Umar (Ra) entered the city on foot and no blood was shed; the property and places of worship of the inhabitants were all protected.

The construction of the beautiful mosque of alaqsa , as we know it today, (see illustration) was first begun during the reign of the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan in 705 CE. By that

*The distinctive colours of the Palestinian flag have a significant historical meaning. They are also found on the national flags of several countries of the Arab world: Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan. The red triangle on the Palestinian flag recalls the red banner carried by Arab tribes during the early conquest of North Africa and Al-Andalus . For hundreds of years, the red flag was also the symbol of Islamic Spain. The black band represents the preIslamic sign of revenge and the colour of mourning adopted by the Abbasid Dynasty. The first Islamic dynasty, the Umayyads, chose white as a symbol of mourning and also in remembrance of the Prophets M first battle at Badr. Lastly, the green band symbolizes the Fatimid Dynasty of Egypt and the colour of the blanket placed over Ali (radhi Allahu 'anhu) who attempted to fool would-be assassins of the Prophet Since 1 948, this flag has symbolized the hopes and dreams of countless millions of Palestinians and their brethren-in-faith world-wide.*
time, the majority of Palestinians had become Muslim, al-Hamdulillah. The darkest days befell the mosque in 1099 CE when Jerusalem and its people were occupied by Crusaders from Europe who made the streets run with the blood of Muslims. For almost a century, al-masjid al-aqsa remained in the hands of non-Muslims who showed great disrespect by desecrating the mihrab (prayer-niche) and converting the building into military barracks.

The liberation of Jerusalem had always been the goal of Salah al-Din and his predecessor, Nur al-Din al-Zenji. It was, therefore, a triumphant moment when Salah al-Din finally entered the city as its liberator on Friday, October 2, 1187 CE, the holy laylah al-miraj (Night of Ascension). Before the city’s liberation, Salah al-Din had said: “If Allah blesses us by enabling us to drive His enemies out of Jerusalem, how fortunate and happy we would be! For Jerusalem has been controlled by the enemy for ninety-one hijrah] years, during which time Allah has received nothing from us here in the way of adoration.”

With the return of al-masjid al-aqsa to Muslim control, we witness the second great example of tolerance shown on behalf of Muslims towards non-Muslims. During the peaceful takeover of al-quds, Salah al-Din forbade the ill-treatment of anyone, saying that such behaviour was unbecoming of a Muslim. Masha Allah., Salah al-Din’s generosity, sincerity, honesty and decency are all remembered even today not only by Muslims but by many nations whose once opposed him.

In one short week, Salah al-Din and his followers transformed al-masjid al-aqsa and the al-qubbah al-sakhra (Dome of the Rock) back to their original character. All parts of al-bayt al-maqdas (the Temple Mount) were purified with huge quantities of rose water and of course the first area to be cleansed was the mihrab of al-masjid al-aqsa. An exquisite carved wooden mimbar (pulpit) was transported from Halab (Aleppo) in Syria to be placed in al-masjid al-aqsa. With al-bayt al-maqdas all cleaned of debris, the first salah al-juniah in almost one hundred years was prayed on Friday, October 9, 1187 CE. The khutbah (sermon) delivered that day captured its great historical importance. “Jerusalem is the residence of your father Ibrahim the place of ascension of your Prophet the burial ground of Messengers and the place of descent of revelations.. . .Glory to Allah who has bestowed this victory upon Islam and who has returned the city to the fold of Islam after a century of perdition. Honour to His army which He has chosen to complete the conquest! And may salvation be upon you, Salah al-Din, son of ‘Ayyub; you have restored the spurned dignity of this nation.” Salah al-Din’s victory was justifiably compared to that of ‘Umar’s (Ra) years before.

The spirit of Salah al-Din lives on in Jerusalem. Attempts have been made by the enemies of Islam to reoccupy the Temple Mount. For example, in August 1969, the beautiful mimbar of al-masjid al-aqsa was intentionally burned along with 1,500 square metres of the mosque. (The charred remains of this mimbar can be seen in the Al-Aqsa Museum). The great importance of al-masjid al-aqsa to all Muslims is made clear in the the Holy Qur’an in surah al-isra, ayah 1:   

Limitless in His glory is He who transported His servant by night from al-masjid al-haram [at Makkah] to al-majid al-aqsa [in Jerusalem]-the environs of which We had blessed-so that We might show him some of our symbols: for, verily, He alone is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing.

10. 'Eid in Jerusalem
Al-Hamdulillah, my family and I were able to be in Jerusalem to pray salah al-'eid al-‘adha (the “holiday of the Sacrifice”) last year. We had to pray outside on the well-worn marble pavement of the Holy Mount with some other 200,000 Muslims! We were facing al-masjid al-aqsa and behind us was al-qubbah al-sakhra, the beautiful Dome of the Rock. In our village mosque in Bayt Zaytun we are only a small jama at . Can you imagine the feeling of reciting the takbir with so many people? Allah-u akbar, Allah-u akbar, Allah-u akbar. La-illaha illah-u, Allah-u akbar; Allah-u akbar wa ilia il-hamd. Like us, many Palestinian families from all over the country try to visit Jerusalem in order to perform the ‘eid prayers and celebrate the holiday in this blessed city.  

The octagonal (eight-sided) Dome of the Rock (see illustration) is the oldest Islamic structure that has survived from the earliest days of Islam. Allah in His Wisdom chose to transport the Prophet Muhammad (SM) from Makkah to Jerusalem and from there to the Heavens. The Dome of the Rock, therefore, was built by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan in 691 CE to preserve the site of this miraculous event. The Dome of the Rock lies at the centre of the Temple Mount and beneath its gold-covered dome is found the large slab of rock from which the Prophet Muhammad (SM) ascended to the heavens on the steed buraq.

After 'eid prayers were over, the imam offered a dua asking Allah to make Muslims the eternal protectors of Jerusalem, the city sacred to the Prophets Ibrahim (A) Daud (A), Sulaiman (A), ‘Isa (A) and Muhammad (SM). With our palms still raised in supplication, I personally asked Allah to bring peace to my beloved homeland justice and dignity to all Muslims living under occupation. May my Muslim brothers and sisters from all corners of al-dar al-islam once again be free to worship with us here in al-bayt al-maqdas. Amin.

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