A Trip Home

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I have come to know through failure what you my dear reader know from your iman: that the plan of Allah the Exalted is unlike even the hopes and theories of the created. It is so incredibly unexpected and fantastic in its arrangement across time and space that when we realize just some of what has happened – and how - it takes our breath away.

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None of us had met or personally known the gentleman at whose grave some 150 or so of us now kneeled, may Allah shower his love and mercy upon him. After journeying but a few hours, we - men, women and rather excited children - first stopped at a graveyard in what some would describe as a remote part of the world surrounded by farms and natural beauty. We gathered around the resting place of the father of an inheritor of the beloved Messenger Muhammad, upon whom be the peace and blessings of Allah. “Indeed the scholars are the heirs of the Prophets,” our beloved Messenger teaches. A tiny golden-haired girl, something of an angel herself, circled the grave before reluctantly accepting her older brother’s reminders of sobriety.

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He was the first to be buried in this new Muslim land, having entered Islam through his son not too long ago. “And no soul knows in what land it will die.” At the head of our gathering was his son, our teacher; his face radiant from the dignity of knowledge lived truly and the reverence of worship, gifts from the Divine. “And the superiority of the scholar over the worshiper is like the superiority of the moon over the rest of the celestial bodies,” the Messenger, upon whom be the peace and blessings of Allah, declares. Sitting nearby, his honored mother, quietly weeping. She, too, had been brought to Islam through her son, may Allah bless and elevate him. What a distant time and place this was from Mecca, the Blessed, and Madina, the Radiant. How far the inheritance travels. Truly, Allah selects, orders and honors as He pleases.

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Pulsing through my soul as we rode buses was a poem and prayer, known as Dua al-Nasiri. Just days earlier, our local weekly dhikr gathering had recited it aloud together. From across a sea and an ocean, we wept longing for the well-being of the people of Palestine. Sprung from the heart of a devout worshipper and erudite scholar, Shaykh Muhammad b. Nasir al-Dir’i, may Allah shower his loving mercy upon him, this supplication is a masterful foundation in spirituality and a ‘sacred activism’:

There is no one in existence more

Lowly than we are nor poorer and more

in need of what You have than us

Give us victory over the aggressors

and contain the evil among those who asked for it

I was unable to recall its exact Arabic words. But I closed my eyes and experienced the poem’s force and rhythm, now internally embedded. Through it, I felt strength and confidence. Here in a mosque and spiritual and educational center, we took physical refuge. Some little girls sat by a stream. Some boys took to throwing an object into a net, only to be reminded by their Imam, himself descended from Gaza, of the perpetual rank and skill of the elder before calling them into the sacred space. My mind wandered to the fright and horror in which the children of Palestine, in contrast, now exist.

O Succour of the poor, we trust in You

O Cave of the weak, we rely on You

This inheritor-teacher of ours and his community embodied the sunan of magnanimity (ihsan) in their hospitality. They expressed gratitude and happiness for our short trip and brief visit, though it was we who were being given.

You have such concern for us that

We cannot hope for protection which

Comes through any other door

Our kind hosts did not allow us to leave with mere food and drink, but nourished us with purpose, for no gathering is proper without the mention of Allah. The Shaykh reminded us that when a Muslim sets out to visit his fellow believer, 70,000 angels accompany him. Our Shaykh, may Allah preserve and protect them, led us in the midst of seemingly countless angels through litanies of remembrances, themselves established, to our knowledge, by descendants of the house (bayt) of the Beloved Messenger, upon whom be the peace and blessings of Allah the Exalted. To our delight, this would include the Du’a al-Nasiri, for our hearts were collectively constricted and weighed down by news and images of the incessant attacks in Palestine.

Overturn what they desire and make

Their efforts fail, defeat their armies

And unsettle their resolve

The French would ban the collective recitation of this prayer, perhaps having glimpsed momentarily some bit of revelation (or its power). Du’a is described, quite intentionally and purposefully I remind myself, as the weapon of the believer by the Messenger upon whom be the peace and blessings of Allah. Du’a is not the least we can do. It is the utmost and the centerpiece.

There is nothing more majestic than

Your immense power, and nothing

mightier than the might of Your


As we recited Shaykh Al-Nasir’s definitive statements of human poverty and begged for their safety and security in unison, the people of Morocco of long ago also flashed before my eyes, standing humbly and courageously on rooftops across villages and cities, singing out this very prayer.

To You our Lord, we have stretched

out our hands and from You, our Rabb,

We hope for kindness

From the intensity of how recitations and songs burst forth from the hearts of His servants, I have learned something of love (hubb) – love of servanthood (‘ubidiyyah), love of the Messenger, upon whom be the peace and blessings of Allah, and love for Allah the Exalted.

I would be the last person to possibly inform of Divine wisdom or rationale in apparent suffering and oppression. “It is that you see all matters as from Allah,” Imam al-Ghazali, may Allah have mercy on him, writes in his Ihya’, defining tawhid. This is a definition that – for me - provides harmony, establishes agency singly in the Creator, and positions all else but Him as His created and wholly dependent servant.

Be kind to us in what You decree

And let us be pleased with what pleases


Victory – or even safety and security – are not sought in and of themselves. They are means. As such, means are creation, and all creation bows before its Creator.

Make our land a land of religion

And repose for the needy and the poor

We know enough that suffering is a means of forgiveness, and some sacrifices engender the status of the shuhada’.

O Lord, make us follow the road of

The fortunate and make our seal

The seal of the martyrs, O Rabb

Some suffering, moreover, demonstrates to those ‘on the outside’ their own deficiencies of courage, generosity, and faith.

You are the one Who guides when we

Are misguided. You are the One who

Pardons when we slip

And sometimes seemingly everything is stripped away, so that one might learn that our sole refuge and the single source of love, wisdom, health, safety, peace, and provision is Allah the Exalted. “He only made injury flow from their hands onto you so that you would not find rest in them. He wants to push you away from everything so that nothing busies you away from Him”, reads one of the hikam of Shaykh Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari, may Allah have loving mercy upon him.

We do not aim for other than Your

Noble door, we do not hope for other

than Your encompassing bounty

The prayer reminds me, as does gazing upon the inheritors of the Messenger, upon whom be the peace and blessings of Allah: when we are granted sight through the lens of tawhid, there is comfort and calm. And when we see through the lens of the pains, losses, and challenges of this finite world alone, discomfort and disquiet results. Regardless of how we see or do not, it is Allah who orders, arranges, and decrees all matters, tangible and intangible. “My loving mercy encompasses each and every thing.” Time has not come to an end, not yet.

O Lord, help our Muhammadan deen

And make it end mighty as it began

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