Continued from Part 4
Birthplace of Ḥaḍrat ‘Īsā, عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ – Masjid ‘Umar رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ – Ṣalāh ud-dīn al-Ayyūbī, رَحْمَةُ الله عليه
Shaikh Jamīl arrived at 8am and we took the bus to Bethlehem. Travelling on this public transport gave us an opportunity to witness first-hand the daily life of the Palestinians, something which cannot be seen if taxis are constantly used. Stops at regular checkpoints where all under 40s have to get off to show their IDs; women with children, over 40s, and foreigners stay on the bus while security officials board the bus for their normal checks. We had heard that Palestinians were treated as prisoners in their own land, and today, having witnessed this with our own eyes, our blood was boiling.
We arrived at the one of holiest sites of Christianity, the Church of the Nativity. There were hundreds of tourists and pilgrims there, and we were made to feel very welcome indeed. Three separate denominations occupy different sections of the church. There was a very big queue towards the left at the front, near some steps leading to the basement area, where lies the exact spot where the miraculous birth of Ḥaḍrat ‘Īsā, عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, took place, marked by a 14-pointed silver star. This is the Christian belief, and later on, we were informed by the locals that this birthplace is quite authentic.
Due to the big queue, we decided to come back later. Opposite the church, in Manger Square, was Masjid ‘Umar, رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ, and nearby, there was a restaurant which, according to Shaikh Jamīl, was very famous for its traditional Palestinian falafel sandwich. This was a good opportunity for lunch, the falafel (vegetarian kebab type sandwich), with salad and chips was very tasty.
We offered our Ẓuhr at Masjid ‘Umar, رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ, and then queued up inside the church to see the birthplace of Hazrat ‘Īsā, عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ.
Nearly an hour later, we walked down some very narrow steps into the basement area and saw a few places of significance, including the location of the tree which Maryam عَلَيْهِم ٱلسَّلَامُ leaned against, after which we returned back to Jerusalem.
We visited the Christian Quarter and arrived at the Church of the Sepulchre, another of Chritianity’s most holiest sites, where Christians believe that Ḥaḍrat ‘Īsā, عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, was crucified, a creed contrary to Islamic teachings. There was a big queue here as well to see the exact place of crucifixion, but we did not join it, and left after seeing the other few places of significance according to Christian belief.
Our next stop was the Masjid & Khānqāh of Sulṭān Ṣalāh ud-dīn al-Ayyūbī, رَحْمَةُ الله عليه, the Liberator of Palestine. The Masjid has been very well preserved and restored, thanks to the great efforts and sacrifices of our host Shaikh Jamīl. There are a lot of artefacts and inscriptions relating to this great warrior & hero of Islam. It is said that Ḥaḍrat ‘Umar, رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ, conquered Jerusalem, Ṣalāh ud-dīn al-Ayyūbī liberated it, and now the Muslim World awaits another ‘Umar & Ṣalāh ud-dīn.
Moving on to Masjid ‘Umar, رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ, another Masjid which has been preserved by the efforts of Shaikh Jamīl. Recently, a large area was discovered, which is in a dilapidated condition; this area is also being restored. There are a few inscriptions and artefacts here, which reflect upon the history of the time when Ḥaḍrat ‘Umar, رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ, came to Jerusalem. This Masjid needs urgent attention.
Having finished around 6pm, we decided to eat before Maghrib so that we could spend the evening in Masjid al-‘Aqṣā. We had some chicken & chips at a nearby restaurant, at which the friendly owner said he would prepare the traditional Maqlūbah dish for us on Saturday evening.
Between Maghrib & ‘Ishā in Masjid al-‘Aqṣā, we managed to complete one Qur’ān between us. After ‘Ishā, we went wandering outside the Old City through Damascus Gate and ended up having a chicken shāwarmā at the stalls. Shaikh Ḥasan Patel had not been so well. so we took a shāwarmā for him.
Continued in Part 6