The Journey to Sayyidah Zainab

This weeks recitation comes from the Mosque of Sayyidah Zainab, a descendant of the Messenger  and one of the greatest people to have walked this earth. It’s amazing to think the impact so many females had on this faith from so early on in its history – how sad it is today that we degrade our daughters, sisters and wives to the kitchen at home! 

A portrait of the prophetic lineage inside the Mosque of Sayyidah Nafeesah

My journey here was eventful. It came after having attended one of the most beautiful Friday prayers at Sayyidah Nafeesah. The Imam spoke with an eloquence which is so peculiar to the Arabic language; a poetic touch to each sentence crafted with such fluency and rhythm. Each word penetrates the heart simply by its delivery, allowing the message to flower directly in your heart thereafter. I’ve never truly appreciated the art that surrounds the Arabic language. Its depth allows such expansive meanings to emerge from such simple words. The most subtle of changes in just the articulation of a word can make the most significant changes to its meaning. Only masters of the language can craft it with such beauty to allow it to resonate out with such brilliance!

After the prayers, I went to find my sandals fearing they would disappear in the midst of such madness – they weren’t there. As I searched all over the mosque in the hope that they may have been moved accidently, I was infuriated that anyone could steal inside such a mosque in the midst of such a blessed gathering! But I guess that is the metaphor for this wonderful country; there is a bit of everything here in Cairo!

But before I could even begin to get angry, a funeral procession passed me as they announced a Janaazah prayer would be made upon the deceased. A simple coffin covered in green cloth carried on the shoulders of a few men. In just a few hours, that person, so once full of life and joy, will be buried in the earth with only a stone to mark their name. Their fate is in the hands of creator and the belief they had in Him; with it they will enter the eternal bliss of paradise, and without Him they face the blazing fires of Hell. How insignificant it seemed to be upset over a pair of sandals…

The funeral procession as it passed by towards the front of the mosque.

As the prayer finished, I headed over to the doorman at the front of the mosque to ask if there were any spare sandals I could use and where the nearest place would be to buy replacements. The man handed me a pair of bathroom slippers – a thin souled piece of footwear with a tip which digs into the top of your feet. I was then told the nearest shop was in Sayyidah Zainab, a “short walk” to the right of the masjid…

…that short walk turned out to be over a mile and a half in around 30C heat through the sandy backstreets of old Cairo – but that was probably one of the most amazing journeys of my life. As I trotted along in some bathroom slippers, I passed people whose lives were far more difficult than I could ever imagine, people whose livelihoods had been stolen from them through years of oppression and neglect, people who had risen up against their regime to say enough is enough. It’s strange to think how a string of catastrophes can lead to something so magnificent. But when you realise how short and insignificant this world is, you see there isn’t really much point in working yourself up over such petty things. The people of Egypt have only just begun to taste the freedoms we so enjoy. I wonder if we can now learn from their example to fight our own internal battles against greed and extravagance? 

“…But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.”
(Al-Baqarah 2: v216)

And here the journey ends at the grave of one of the greatest females this world has ever known. It was after Asr salah on Friday afternoon – this mosque has recitations before every prayer. I did not manage to get the name of this reciter, but his voice was a perfect elixir for a tiring journey!

Please make dua for the scholars, students, Muslims and people in the world today and those before us, and that Allah guide us to become closer to Him in our lives. Ameen

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