10 tips for surviving Disney World (for Muslims too)

With the Northern hemisphere Summer in full swing, many around the world will be heading to Disney World (Orlando) for what will be an amazing holiday – especially for the kids.

We were fortunate to visit last December, so here follows what I hope will be some helpful tips – especially for Muslim travellers. Continue reading

Glimpses from Makkah

A collection of a few shots from Masjid-al Haram in Makkah.

(You can view the gallery by clicking, or for larger versions, right click the shot you want and open it in a new tab / window).

Sources: Pictures 1,2, and 6 are from other people, but 3, 4, 5 are mine.

A little piece of heaven

I know I’d planned to not post anything while I’m away, but the opportunity came up, so I’d like to share some of the experience so far.

We’ve been in Madinah for about 24 hours now, and just this first day has made me feel like this is a piece of Jannah. Of course, quite literally, there is a piece of Jannah on the earth here – the rhodatul jannah – which is a piece of land, from this earth, that will be in Jannah.

But beyond that, there’s so much else that makes it feel like an other-worldly experience. People always talk about the calm, peace and tranquillity here, and I’ve definitely felt it – alhamdullilah. To be fair, we haven’t ventured far at all yet – just Masjid un-Nabawi (the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.’s mosque), the hotel, and a few streets around the area. But in this limited time and geographical range so far, what strikes me most is that this place in such an environment of Islam. The atmosphere is unlike anywhere I’ve been.

The radio station we heard in the bus, and the shops so far, contain no music. Just Quran and narrations of hadiths. It’s a contrast to other Arab countries, like Egypt, where the cultural influence means that music is just a normal part of life – be it Arab / eastern music, or other. It’s refreshing for me, because living in South Africa, and having been to other Western countries, music is ubiquitous. You can never escape it.

It seems like almost everyone here is geared towards worship – the visiting pilgrims, I mean; as well as the locals in the masjid. As I write this, it’s after maghrib in the masjid, and there are Quran classes going on for kids. Teachers and students sitting together in some places, with kids taking notes as the teacher teaches. Others are reading Quran. There are study circles – halaqahs – of adult men. Other people are making tasbeeh. Some make dua. Others are sleeping. Some are just talking to each other.

This is the ultimate environment of deen. It’s so perfect, and something that I think the heart yearns for. Like it’s so natural. Like this is home.

Since I’m in the male section, I can’t speak for the ladies section – so I don’t know what the experience is like there. But here, there are old men, young men, boys, and just a mix of all different ages. And different nationalities. It’s like the Ummah is here – so many different people. A lot of Turks; some Indians; many Malaysians and Indonesians. On the flight in, we had a large group from Thailand. And in the coming days, apparently, many more will be arriving.

It’s interesting to see how different nationalities identify themselves. The Turks all wear khakis. The Malaysian women – or some other country (not sure) – were wearing bright pink hjabs. Some Indonesians had bright markings on their clothing. And not a group of them are walking past – wearing what seems to be their traditional cultural clothing, which is very colourful.

I imagine Jannah is something like this. All different types of people in one place – all united by Islam – and all worshipping Allah in the various ways available. Alhamdullilah.

And the zam-zam water! It’s here – so abundantly. Anytime you want, you just go and get. It’s not only a thirst quencher, but also – as one of the sheikhs here said – ‘magic water’, in that it’s a cure for every sickness, and something that every person – each and every unique person – can drink with the intention of Allah using it to cure them of whatever they need cure from. As the hadith goes, it is what you intend it to be. Which is why it’s good to make specific  intentions / duas each time you drink. If you can get it back home, do so.

The other great thing is that you have to be early for salaah, or else you may not get a spot in the masjid. And coming so early is filled with blessings. Every moment in the masjid, while waiting for athaan, is an act of worship – even if you do nothing at all. There’s time to make extra salaahs, read Quran, make thikr, or just anything you want. And at salaah times, the imam takes his time to read – no rushing. And after salaah, the imam doesn’t make a congregational dua. You’re free to read whatever you want to – it’s not like home (and other places, probably), where the imam makes his thikr and dua over the speaker system, which means that you either follow along, or you go and do your own thing while still hearing him (which isn’t so easy if you need to concentrate). Here, you’re totally free to do whatever thikrs, or make whatever duas, you want.

Alhamdullilah – this has been an amazing journey so far – even without siteseeing, and even despite some difficulties of travel. It’s a journey that I wish for each and every person; and one that is possible for everyone – no matter what their circumstance; since Allah can grant it to whoever He wants.

May Allah take each and every one of us on this journey, and to this blessed city of Madinah – over and over again.

Up North (Part 2)

Since the previous set focussed on nature, this one is concentrated on civilisation, for the most part.

A replica of an old Western House in Heritage Park, Calgary (Canada).

The main street in an Alaskan town.

Such gorgeous flower displays are commonly found in Alaska.

But Rudolph wouldn’t like to see his buddy in captivity. Reindeer sausage is a popular meal there.