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We were several individual who wanted to live together a spiritual retreat and a cultural quest, at the roots of our Islamic faith, in company of inclusive Muslim brothers and sisters. The aimof this trip was to offer participants a unique experience, filling them of positive energy, at the source of the Islamic culture.Our inclusive group of “’Umrah of Tawheed 2012” was made up of Muslims from Europe,North Africa and North America; inclusive, progressive, reformist Muslims, supporting an appeased,egalitarian and gender-neutral representation of Islam. We were accompanied in this quest,alhamdouliAllah, by a great woman of contemporary Islam: Dr. Amina Wadud – who is an Imam, a theologian and a Hadja -, that throughout this journey embodied with us the peaceful share of theIslamic spiritual quest. Such was the history of our inclusive pilgrimage to the sources of Islamic Liberation…We hope that this token of our spiritual quest to the sources of Islamic Liberation, shall inspire those who fear to do their pilgrimage, not to be reluctant anymore to accomplish this path towardAllah. We are Thursday, June 7, 2012; it is the eighteenth day of the lunar month of peace:Radjab,year 1433. Amina Wadud arrived this morning in Paris, from San Francisco. She will spend the night with us, so we could all leave together from Paris to Medina, Saudi Arabia. After a short nap to recover from jetlag between North America and Europe, Amina and the rest of our group met with some of our Friends and our loved ones for share a traditional dinner and to celebrate our imminent departure for the Holy Land. Farida prepared some North African dishes. The atmosphere is full swing; we spend the evening discussing about this and that. After evening prayers done together, our friends eventually return home. We fall asleep bearing in mind the unique night that separates us now from our meeting with the Ka’aba: this historical relic, the square, dark room, which symbolizes all that is most sacred in the hopes and ideals of our humanity.The next morning, after the dawn prayer and a light breakfast, our group sat around Amina Wadud to pray together on the doorstep. Then we go by train to Charles De Gaulle airport, which is located nearby. A few hours later, we take our mid day flight with the Jordanian towards Amman. The flight went smoothly; we fly over Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean sea, then Palestine and the Jordanian desert. We finally fly over the Dead Sea,before landing at Amman airport. After the usual
identity security checks for all passengers in transit – travelers of North African nationalities do n
ot pay any visitor’s visa fee – we are out-licensed to visit the capital. We pray in the airport mosque
before sunset and then we take the 8am o’clock bus to the city center. There, some of us who
already know the place, advise us a restaurant among the best in town: Al-Quds (“Palestine”). We eat delicious traditional dishes, such as somemansaf: a dish consisting of yellow rice coating of butter,beef and curd milk… Are there any takers? We taste some oriental pastries, before settling at an outdoor cafe overlooking the city center, smoking ashisha while listening to an orchestra of Arab music. After a few hours of well deserved relaxation, to forget about the months of stress preparing for this inclusive pilgrimage and to get discreetly our visas without problems with the Saudi authorities – remember that Saudi Arabia is still one of the seven Muslim countries in the world that condemns homosexuality of the death penalty -, we return to the airport where our planes takes off at 2am.After a two hour flight, we arrive at the airport of Medina exhausted as well as tremendously
excited by the discoveries that are waiting for us.Moreover, although some of us have already done one or even several pilgrimages – some are accomplishing here there fifth pilgrimage -, it is the first time we participate in such an adventure among a group as diverse and motivated. On our descent from the aircraft, after performing the dawn prayer, a minibus that was booked by our agency in Paris leads us to our downtown hotel. The establishment Ishraq Al Madinah is located a few hundred meters from one of the main gates of the Haram al-Madani- a term that refers simultaneously to the sin and the sanctuary. The Haram in Medina, the Holy Mosque, encompasses the tomb of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, built on the site of his former residence and one of the first mosque of Islam. At the hotel we find spacious rooms with all comforts to spend four days dedicated to worship and meditation. After a nap that lasted until shortly before midday praying, we take a shower, put on our white robes of pilgrims and all together we leave for the Haram. We go through the majestic doors of the grand Mosque, under a scorching heat, and discover a sparsely decorated interior, worthy of the finest monuments in the world: the pillars are adorned with gold, ceilings are ornamented with stucco, walls are covered with marble… A most delicate debauchery of luxury that is criticized by many Muslims who come to visit these holy places by abnegation, to meditate at the sources of the Islamic liturgical tradition. We have to say that the air conditioning of all the holy places is a luxury that would be hard to dispense with in the desert of Saudi Arabia. After zuhrprayers, we go in the closest mall in front of the Mosque to share a lunch. Again, we appreciate the local cuisine, usually made of meat and varied salads. Then some decide to return to the Mosque to pray, others return to the hotel to freshen up, while others decide to finally start now to do their shopping: Medina is known for centuries for its flourishing trade, importing from the four corners of the world’s most valuable Islamic fabrics and more expensive jewelry.All pictures of outside the main Madinah Haram mosque. In the late afternoon, since the visit to the tomb of the Prophetis governed by rules of strict segregation of the sexes, the men in our group decided to take this afternoon to pay tribute to our Prophet Muhammad and the more faithful companions, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar Allah be pleasedwith them, buried in these drawings:“O Allah, Confer blessing upon Muhammad and the Folk of Muhammad, as You conferred blessing upon Abraham and the Folk of Abraham. O Allah, confer bounty upon Muhammad and the Folk of Muhammad, as You conferred blessing upon Abraham and the Folk of Abraham. Lo! You arePraiseworthy, Glorious!” Between evening prayer,al-Maghrib,and that of the night,al-‘isha, most of us spend their free time at the Haram, usually to read verses from the Qur’an. Some of our group helps those whohave the biggest difficulties to decipher Arabic. These are special moments, unforgettable, a brotherhood and an unparalleled devotion. After a frugal meal, we return to the hotel to sleep:drunken with sleep after so many efforts. The nextmorning at around 4am, we go back to the Mosque. It’s amazing to see we are thousands to converge towards the Haram, in this early hour, to prostrate ourselves at the same time before the Lord our God, at the rhythm ofallahu akbar chanted by the crowd of believers in communion. We spend three days and four nights in Medina, where daily life is punctuated by prayers, meals together, meditation, and for some a bit of shopping.Before leaving the Holy City of the Prophet, we also visit the market with dates and the “mosque of two qibla” – direction to which we pray – :Masjid al-Qiblatain. Indeed, the first qibla was not towards Mecca but al-Quds- Jerusalem; the direction in which Bilal the African -may Allah be satisfied of him -, Prophet’s companion and the first muezzin of the Islamic history, called on Muslims to prayer. Then, after more than ten years of prayer turned to Al-Quds, Allah – the Exalted -ordered in the second year of the Hegira, to change direction to the one we know today, Mecca:
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