Its been about a month since my last post and since then we’ve greeted Ramadan, invited him into our homes, taken from his sincere advice and then bid him farewell (having assessed that the coast is clear of any rioters). Its all happened a bit too fast.
I managed to take some time off towards the end of the month from work and decided, with freshly purchased sleeping bag in hand, to go on my first i’tikaf (I like SeekersGuidance’s translation of this as “spiritual retreat”).
I stayed for a handful of nights at Shah Jalal, a Jamia mosque located in Easton, right next to the M32. The initial few moments were funny as I was asked to produce ID evidence and the names, addresses and contact numbers of two referees before I could join.
I guess this is good sense really but having gone from, moments earlier, a not-too-sure-what-to-expect mood to finding myself scribbling the names of some bengali friends on the back of my business card it just temporarily displaced the spiritual utopia I had in my mind of being immersed in worship from the word go.
The i’tikaf crowd were a motley crew: I could see the makings of quite a good film. First you had a couple of young kids who clearly enjoyed a break from their parents and decided that it would be a good idea to eat fried chicken every evening having paid a friend to take the short trip to lickin chicken around the corner. You then had a brother who was about my age (24) and a very old uncle who could only speak Bengali.
The experience was worth it alone for having witnessed the old uncle do nothing but read the Qur’an, pray and weep during the few days I was there. It’s likely that I won’t see him again but his state spoke volumes and its possible that he’s a grandfather to some people I know, seeing as Bristol isn’t a huge community.
The experience was awesome. I’d begin the day with the wird al-Latif after Subh followed by the 4 x 100 additional dhikrs as stated in ‘The Prophetic Invocations’. I’d then sleep for a couple of hours until about 9 and then freshen up and either make some Qada prayers or read the Qur’an.
Come Maghrib the hall would steadily become filled with those wishing to partake in a communal iftar. After Maghrib I would again have the evening’s wird al-Latif and then the Tarawih prayers. A dars in English would often follow.
One of the sweetest memories was the night’s wird of the Ratib al-Shahir which, without any time contraints of having to get an early night due to work the next day, I would recite with the optional 1000 la illaha ilallahs. Dhikr since hasn’t been quite the same.
On the Friday morning, before the khutbah was due to start, I made my way to the main prayer hall (which was completely silent and still) before the worshippers came from outside. I read the Messenger of Allah’s 201 beautiful names from Imam al-Jazuli’s masterpiece, the Dala’il al-Khayrat. Allahumma sali alayh.
During the evening before Eid, as per most years, discussions broke out as to whether the moon had been sighted or not. This year, the majority (I think all save one) of mosques in Bristol celebrated on Tuesday with St. Mark’s Road celebrating Eid on Wednesday. This was the first year I noted that moon sighting began to have a very real effect on people’s decisions as to whether to celebrate Eid on a certain day or not.
One of my good friends, I felt, begrudgingly celebrated Eid with his family on Tuesday when he knew, for a fact, that it was impossible for the moon to have been sighted in the UK that day. Alas, his family were following Saudi’s pre-calculated Umm al-Qura calendar and he too felt pressured to follow suit.
I started in the Corporate department of the firm in September and I’m now on the “home-run”, so to speak, of my Training Contract, and all going well, I hope to qualify as a Solicitor in 6 months (exciting!).
Bring on the world of (“Islamic”) mortgages, bills and council tax…not.