Continued from Part 1
Once at the terminal, which comprised 2 small rooms with washroom facilities, we handed in our passports. After a few formalities and a few more payments, we were boarded onto a 15-seater shuttle bus with some other guests. This cost us £5 per person, £1.50 for large luggage, and £1 for small luggage; money, money, money all the way (it wasn’t too bad in the end).
The bus crossed the few kilometres from Jordan, taking us into Palestine. This side is operated by the Israeli authorities and sometimes called the al-Karāmah Crossing. After a few checks, we reached the arrivals terminal and saw 150-200 people queuing outside, waiting to enter the building. A coach, full of UK passengers, had arrived at the same time as us (Mawlānā Farīd with families from Northampton, Cardiff, and Leeds).
We were made to wait in our shuttle bus for 15 minutes. A security official had already asked where we had come from. After we were allowed to disembark, it took 20 minutes to have our luggage scanned as we entered the terminal. There were only 2 counters in operation and this is where our passports were first checked.
Wehad all separated and besides Shaikh Yūsuf Hajāt and myself, all others had their passports taken and some were asked to open their hand baggage for security checks. All passports were returned as we moved into the hall towards immigration.
All 9 of us decided to approach the immigration counter together under the leadership of Shaikh Rafīq Ṣūfī. We handed our passports over to the 2 officials who were on the other side. They came out of their kiosks to ask us some basic questions. Where have you come from? Where are you visiting? When we replied, ‘The Holy Mosque and Jerusalem’, one of the officials repeatedly asked, ‘Where else? Is that all? Are you not going anywhere else?
The same similar questions over and over again. This is where your patience is tested; we took it easy, answering their questions calmly.
After a few minutes they both went back into their cubicles and we requested that our visas be stamped on card/paper. After a few further questions, we all received officially printed small forms for visas, which we completed and returned. Things were looking very smooth, until the next question, ‘Where are you all originally from?’ The reply, ‘Eight from India and one from Pakistan’, did raise an eyebrow.
A few minutes later we were all given a detailed form to complete and asked to take a seat in the waiting hall of the terminal. As we entered around 2pm, we saw the group from the UK and a few other people as well, who had all been asked to complete the same form. Once the forms were filled in, it was just a waiting game, which we had expected, and had been well prepared for.
There were washroom facilities and a nice little tuck shop selling snacks and drinks, so with all the food that we had brought from home the next few hours passed with ease, اَلْحَمْدُلِلّه. Ṣalāh, Zikr, food, etc. saw us through till 5pm. During this period, a few people had been called in for questioning and at 5pm it was Shaikh Shafīq’s turn.
The next 2 hours were very tense, during which Shaikh Shafīq only made a brief appearance after about an hour to take his mobile phone. This time was spent, mostly, in Zikr & Tasbīḥ, and at 7:30pm Shaikh Shafīq was back with us.
Although he had been gone for 2 hours, the questioning lasted for only 20 minutes. The main questions related to his profession (Imām, or not), when he last visited Pakistan, purpose of visiting Albania, type of projects MWI undertakes, etc., to which he had responded very well and very positively, اَلْحَمْدُلِلّه.
This was followed by a nervy hour, with the possibility of maybe one or two us being taken in for questioning but, مَا شَآءَ الله, that did not happen.
At 8:30pm, an official started bringing the passports, and by 9pm, مَا شَآءَ الله, we had all received our passports, with our visas stamped onto the forms. اللّٰهُ أَكْبَر, the feeling was sensational. Seven hours had felt like seven minutes. Everyone was smiling and happy, as Masjid al-‘Aqṣā was just an hour away, سُبْحَانَ الله.
Continued in Part 3