Friday, December 27, 2013

RE: Ashura Amidst Misconception, Confusion And Misleads!

                                                                                ASHURA MUZAAHARA

Sheikh Muhammad Mahmud Turi addressed the above topic on page 64 of LEADERSHIP FRIDAY of November 22, 2013. Since the debut of his Discourse page on LEADERSHIP at the later part of 2013, Sheikh Turi has spared no effort in propagating Imaamiyyah and Raafidiyyah (Shi’ah) ideologies.  

For beginners, Shi’ah Imaamiyyah adherents have added belief in imam to articles of faith; that one has to accept that imamate is a divine position, like prophethood. To them Allah chooses His prophets and messengers in the same way He chooses the imam with textual evidence, revelation so that the imam will undertake similar tasks which Allah assigns to His messengers. This belief in imamate is the cornerstone of shi’ah faith, and the fundamental of their religion as no imaan is complete without it.

The Sunni scholars described this group and others with similar ideology as Raafidiyyah (rejectors or better still, rejectionists) due to their rejection of the Caliphates of Abu Bakr Assiddeeq, Umar bin Al-Khattaab and Uthmaan bin Affaan, may Allah be pleased with them. They do not in the least recognise these Rightly Guided Caliphs as leaders of this Ummah. To them Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthmaan (RA) usurped the right of Ali bin Abu Talib (RA) of becoming the Caliph. These trusted companions of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) are abused by the Shi’ites, and maligned undeservedly!

When I took on Adamu Adamu on these pages some time ago regarding the traces of shi’ism in his writings, some concerned readers faulted both of us for using newspaper columns to discuss such differences. I have a lot of respect for our brethren who desire concealment of strife among us to forestall exposing the weakness of the Ummah to its adversaries. Pray, in what medium would response be more apt other than the one through which a deviant ideology was propagated? Many may wrongly assume that whatever they read about Islam in publications like newspapers is true. The true and right position, therefore, should be presented, in the same medium, to make it plain to those who may not know that Islam has nothing to do with such heresy.

Consequently, I will not refrain from responding to any article that aims at corrupting the true teachings of Islam. I have resolved to present the right position of Islam on all the issues raised by Sheikh Muhammad Mahmud Turi on his page of LEADERSHIP FRIDAY, from the time he started onwards. Insha Allah I will answer him word for word on any shi’ah belief he presented in the past or will present in the future. I am starting with today’s topic that the Sheikh concluded just last Friday, December 6, 2013. This will be followed by my rebuttal to his – Imam Ali’s Undisputable Leadership Qualities, and, Did The Prophet (S) Really Certify His Successor Before Demise? - in addition to many others.

                                            Ashura Procession in Zaria, Kaduna State

In the first part of Ashura Amidst Misconception, Confusion And Misleads Sheikh Turi tried to make his readers believe that no caliph had any role in the adoption of the hijra calendar. He said, ‘And, in contrast to the claim that one of the earlier caliphs was the pioneer in the adoption of the hijra calendar, it was the prophet that set the calendar since his advent in Medina which marked the establishment of the first Islamic state on this planet where he corresponded based on d to the world with the same calendar!’  
Have I not informed you about their hatred of the Caliphs?

However, Umar (RA) it was that started the Muslim calendar counting it from the lunar month, Muharram, in the year of the Prophet's migration to Medinah, 16 July in 622 CE.
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab was the first "setter of dates" of the Islamic era. As the Commander of the Faithful, he would despatch correspondences to his appointed officials but they could not fathom which to obey due to confusion in dates. If a document dated [the month of] Sha'ban, for instance, they were at lost about which of the Sha'bans was meant: was it the month that had passed, or that which was to come?
Umar (RA) then gathered the Companions of the Prophet (SAW) and told them: "Money is flowing in, and what we have apportioned bears no date. How are we to reach a way of regulating this matter?"

After long discussions and presentation of date system by Persian and Jewish reverts to Islam, the assembly eventually agreed that Islamic history would begin with the Prophet's Hijra, ‘because none of those present disagreed on the date of that event, whereas that of the Prophet's birth, and when exactly he had received the first Divine message, aroused some controversy. Agreement on this matter was reached in the year 17 of the Hijra, the fourth year of the caliphate of 'Umar. Until then, each year (after the Hijra) was called after its main event, and this was used for dating purposes. The first year of the Prophet's residence in Medina was thus called: 'The permission to travel'. The second year was called: 'The year of the command to fight'. The third year: 'The year of the test', and so on. Afterwards, the custom of naming the year after the main events was abandoned.

When the need for toning up the administration of the Caliphate arose during the time of 'Umar bin al-Khattab, it became necessary to have a calendar so as to fix the dates. The Caliph, who was so well aware of the sunnah of the Prophet and of his temperament, instead of fixing the standard from the birth of the Prophet, which heralded an entirely new chapter in the history of man or his death which had placed such a heavy responsibility upon the shoulders of the Caliphs or some other event, he ordered the adoption of the Hijra as the basic date for the Islamic calendar.’

                                       Ashura and Display of Self-Affliction

Sheikh Turi quoted verse 23 of Ash-Shuuraa "No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin" in his attempt to prove that it refers to the Prophet’s daughter, Fatimah and his two grandsons, Hasan and Husain (Ahlul bait), people of the Prophet’s household, and that the verse enjoins believers to love them.

Let me state that all believers must love the Messenger of Allah (SAW) and his household by the authority of quite a number of texts, but Ash-Shuuraa, verse 23 is not part of that. To start with, Ash-Shuuraa is a Makkan Surah; all surahs in that neighbourhood that begin with haameem are Makkan surahs as well. So, Ash-Shuuraa was revealed completely in Makkah before Ali bin Abu Talib (RA) married Fatimah. The wedding took place in Madeenah two years after Hijra, and consummation occurred at the end of the Battle of Badr. Hasan and Husain were delivered in the third and fourth year after Hijrah respectively; so, how can the verse refer to them?  

Some hadeeth-fabricators even went further to say that when the verse was revealed, the companions said, ‘To whom does the verse refer, Oh Messenger of Allah?’ then he said, ‘To Ali, Fatimah, and their two sons.’ This is a blatant lie in the informed opinion of hadeeth scholars.

The verse rather refers to the entire clans of Quraish as all of them have one qarabah, kinship or the other with the Messenger of Allah (SAW).

                                                                       All For Husain

Sheikh Muhammad Mahmud Turi has introduced us to a new reality – the prevalence of shi’ah adherents in our midst. That is the import of maintaining a weekly column, (forget about its apparent deficiencies in grammar and syntax), dedicated to propagating shi’ism through subtle and subliminal messages to initiate the gullible. The feigned love of Ahlul Bait is the right bait to catch new converts. However, informed Muslims know that the Prophet (SAW) had addressed this Ummah concerning Ahlul Bait when he said, ‘I adjure you in the Name of Allah to look after my household.’ Thus, Muslims adore Ahlul Bait, seeking Allah’s countenance and pleasure; and at the same time believe that speaking ill of the Prophet’s household is the smack of hypocrisy. To real Muslims, Aishah (RA) is a bone fide member of the Ahlul Bait, and whatever grieves her hurts the Messenger of Allah (SAW). To malign Aishah is to malign her consort, the Prophet of Allah (SAW). How can Allah allow His Messenger to take an evil person into his household when He has said that evil women are for evil men (Qur’an 24:26)? Shi’ites, in spite of this, defamed and accused Aishah of debauchery. Their fabricated traditions are replete with words against Aishah: 1) that the Messenger of Allah once pointed to Aishah’s residence and remarked, ‘Disbelief springs from this place’ 2) that Aishah and Hafsah contrived to poison the Messenger of Allah (SAW), and so on.

How is it conceivable for shi’as to love the Messenger of Allah (SAW) and his household while, at the same time, they malign his wives whom Allah the Almighty has described as ‘Mothers of the Believers?’

The Qur’an says:     The prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves, and His wives are their mothers. (Qur’an 33:6)

Oh Allah! We hear, and we obey. Aishah (RA) is our mother in faith; just as all other wives of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) are our mothers in faith.

This feigned love of the Prophet’s household manifested itself in the second part of Sheikh Turi’s Ashura Amidst Misconception, Confusion And Misleads, (LEADERSHIP Friday, December 6, 2013), where he laboured to paint a picture of martyrdom as being the reason for Ashura ‘predestined by Allah’. I wonder why Sheikh Turi refused to mention the names of other martyrs along with Husain on that day at Karbala. He should have mentioned Husain’s brother and son, who were both named Abu Bakr. In addition, he should have mentioned Husain’s other brother named Umar. All these three were martyred along with Husain in Karbala. Will it be that Sheikh Turi conveniently avoided the mention of these martyrs because their appellations were that of the usurpers of Ali’s right to the caliphate, Abu Bakr and Umar?

                                                                 Ashura Shi'ah Style

On the issue of thirst that Husain and his followers were afflicted with during the battle, I am intrigued by the fact that the Shi’ites believe that their imams possess knowledge of the unseen (Ghaib). If this was the case, then, why was Husain not able to foresee this impending danger of death by thirst, and make provision for abundant supply of water so as to save many of his followers including ‘his six month old baby’ whose thirst was quenched ‘with a deadly poisoned arrow’ of ‘Yazid’s senseless army’? In every expedition, Muslims are to prepare state-of-the-art armour for the frontlines in order to have upper hand over the enemy (Qur’an 8:60). Of course, one who knows the unseen should have used this lawful means of making provision towards quenching the thirst of his followers, rather than demean himself by importuning his enemies for water.
Reading both parts one and two of Sheikh Turi’s piece under discussion, you see the killers of Husain in Mu’awiya, Yazid and their hosts, whereas, even by the confirmation of Shi’a sources, Husain was actually murdered by no other than his own followers!  “Twenty-thousand people in Iraq” wrote As-Sayyid Muhsin Al-Amin in A’yaan Ash-Shi’ah, “swore the oath to Al-Husain, but betrayed him and rose against him. They turned their backs on their pledge and murdered him.”

So, the same people, as related by Sheikh Turi, who said to Husain after his last address to them at the battlefield ‘O our master! We are all ready to defend you and your Ahlul-bait, and to sacrifice our lives for the cause of Islam’, they were the very ones that murdered Husain.

Husain himself confronted these murderers at Karbala and said to them:

Did you not write to me and say that the time had come, and that you were presenting me with new recruits? Woe betide you! You were driven to distraction and you called on me for help. You sharpened a sword for us that was already in our hands, and you kindled a fire that we had already set to consume your enemies as well as ours. Then, you turned against your friends and joined your enemies. You rushed to swear the oath of allegiance to me, falling upon me as you fall into your beds. Then you disregarded your oaths foolishly. Away with the tyrants of this Ummah!’

Husain then turned to Allah and supplicated:

O Allah, if you will spare them for a while, then split them asunder and never allow them to rise again. Let the imams (those in authority) never be pleased with them. They called on me and said that they would support me until victory. Then they turned to fight against me.”

Therefore, if you are looking for those who murdered Husain, unlike what Sheikh Turi was trying to depict, the above quoted Shi’ah sources have spared you the trouble. Husain’s killers were those who claimed to be his supporters and followers.

This article by Sheikh Turi purposed to change the face of Ashura from that taught by the Prophet (SAW) to one of expressing melancholy and grief for the loss of Husain through annual muzaaharaat, processions to commemorate the sad event. Why will Husain be singled out for this show of grief every year? If the answer is because of his being from Ahlul-bait, what about Hamza, the uncle of Prophet (SAW)? The polytheists, in the battle of Uhud, targeted Hamza, killed him and cut his chest open, ripped out his heart and mutilated his body. The Messenger of Allah was so distraught, angry and nonplussed by this murder that he prayed the janaazah salaah on Hamza for more than seventy times. We have not seen the Shi’ites commemorating the death of this honourable member of Ahlul-bait annually. Moreover, the death of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was a greater loss to this Ummah than the death of any mortal. The Shi’ites do not organise annual procession to commemorate his death!

                                                            Ashura in Blood

Ashura is not an occasion for melancholy and sorrow as we see Shi’ites do every year, slapping their faces, tearing their clothes and striking their bodies with swords and sharp objects with blood gushing forth from their heads, backs and sides. To the Muslims who adhere to the true teachings of Muhammad (SAW), Ashura is a time to celebrate, and to be pleased for following the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW).

As reported in both Bukhari and Muslim, when the Messenger of Allah first entered Madinah, he found the Jews fasting on Ashura, the 10th of Muharram. When he asked them as to why they were fasting, they said, ‘This is a great day in which Allah saved Musa (Moses) and drowned Pharaoh.

The Prophet (SAW) then said to them, ‘I have a greater right on Moses than you.’
He fasted that day, and ordered the Muslims to do the same.

Nobody can distort or change this Prophetic Sunnah of fasting and exultation on Ashura to procession, walling in grief and melancholy!

                                                     Ashura With Blood and Public Display of Aurah

Friday, November 22, 2013


                                                                    Wadil Qura (Valley of Villages)

After a successful Hajj operation, a tour operator should start planning for next year’s Hajj and searching for new destinations in his tourism programmes. No serious company will rely solely on Hajj and Umrah operations. It was with this spirit I visited Al-‘Ula and Mada’in Saleh in Saudi Arabia. In the first part of this year, we had Saudi tour on our Summer Umrah package. It will not make any sense visiting the same places within Saudia for 2014 operation. There was need to explore new tourist sites for the purposes of innovation, making the tour more attractive to potential clients for next trip, and less boring for those who took part in the 2013 edition.

UNESCO has, in 2008 ‘proclaimed the Archaeological site of’ Mada’in Saleh ‘as a site of patrimony, becoming the first World Heritage property to be inscribed in Saudi Arabia.’

I was to catch a flight to Riyadh, the capital, and connect a twice-a-week Saudi Arabian flight to Al-‘Ula, but the schedule would disrupt my plans of signing final papers of exit for our pilgrims. Therefore, I flew to Madeenah with Saudi Airlines where my tour guide, Mr Abdul Kareem Al Johani was waiting for me so we can drive to Al-‘Ula, the gateway to Mada’in Saleh, in his car. Abdul Kareem is a professional tour guide and a travel agent par excellence.

                                                                           Madinah Airport

As we left the Prince Muhammad bin Abdulaziz Airport, Madeenah we turned right to a road with a ‘Non-Muslims’ sign. Non-Muslims who come to Madeenah cannot follow the other road on the left, which leads to the Haram. I have never travelled on this road, the one on the right turn, for I had nothing to do in that part of Madeenah. This is good news, however, because it shows that non-Muslims could still go to Madeenah and travel to such tourist destinations like Al-‘Ula. No wonder, I met quite a number of non-Muslim Europeans and Americans at Madaa’in Saaleh and Al-‘Ula.

On our way, my tour guide gave me lectures on the great people of his tribe, Johainah. He said any Madeenite whose name ends with Al Johani means that their ancestors were from the tribe of Johainah. He showed me the place where the Johainah tribe lived during the prophetic era, at the outskirts of Madeenah. People still live there as I saw houses and other buildings as we drove pass the village almost encompassed between the Radwah, Ajraad and Ash’ar mountains. Actually, Madeenah is surrounded by mountains, but on your way to Al-‘Ula through Mada’in Saleh and beyond, there are mountains everywhere you turn.

When we passed by Wadi Rashaad, the Valley of Guidance, Mr Abdul Kareem, my tour guide mentioned the history behind this valley. He said that a delegation from that place went to pledge the oath allegiance to the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him. When it was time for them to introduce themselves, their leader said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! We are Banu Gayaan from Wadi Gawaa, Misleading Valley.’

The Messenger of Allah did not approve of the name, either of the clan or of the valley, which depicted rebellion and disobedience to Allah. He, (SAW) renamed both by saying, ‘No, you are Banu Rashaad from Wadi Rashaad, Valley of Guidance.’

Al Johani, my tour guide reminded me of some of the men around the Messenger, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him that were from Johainah. He mentioned the narrative of a handsome person amongst the companions of the Prophet called Dihyah Al Kalbi. Arch Angel Gabriel (Jibreel) was reported to have appeared several times to the Messenger of Allah (SAW) in the form of Dihyah Al Kalbi. Angel Gabriel would come to the chambers of the Messenger of Allah and start talking to him in the presence of Um Salamah. When she was asked who it was that came and spoke to the Messenger of Allah after he left, she said that it was Dihyah Al Kalbi because Gabriel came in his form. She realised the mix-up only when she heard the Messenger of Allah relating to his companions from the pulpit what transpired between him and Arch Angel Gabriel. (Sahih Al Bukhari.  Book 6.  Volume 61. Hadith 503). This same man of Johainah, Dihyah Al Kalbi was the emissary of the Messenger of Allah to Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium.

The letter to Heraclius, which was carried by Dihyah al-Kalbi, read as follows:

“In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. From Muhammad, the slave and Messenger of Allah, to Heraclius, the Emperor of Rome. Peace be on him who follows the guidance. After this, I invite you to accept Islam. Accept Islam and you will prosper and Allah will give you double rewards. However, if you refuse, the sin of your people also will fall on your shoulders…..”

Heraclius wanted to know more about this religion, so he summoned some Arab merchants who had come to Gaza with a caravan. Abu Sufyan, one of the bitterest enemies of the Prophet (SAW), happened to be in that group, so he became its spokesperson. The conversation that took place between Heraclius and Abu Sufyan was as follows:

Heraclius: Is the family of the person claiming prophethood a noble one?

Abu Sufyan: It is a noble family.

Heraclius: Has anyone else in his family claimed prophethood?

Abu Sufyan: No.

Heraclius: Has there been any king in this family?

Abu Sufyan: No.

Heraclius: Are the people who have accepted this religion weak or influential?

Abu Sufyan: They are weak people.

Heraclius: Are his followers increasing or decreasing?

Abu Sufyan: They are on the increase.

Heraclius: Have you ever known him to tell lies?

Abu Sufyan: No.

Heraclius: Does he ever commit a breach of any pact?

Abu Sufyan: He has not done it so far, but we would like to see if he keeps up a new peace treaty that we have recently negotiated with him. (Abu Sufyan was here referring to the Treaty of Hudaibiyah)

Heraclius: Have you ever fought against him?

Abu Sufyan: Yes.

Heraclius: What was the result?

Abu Sufyan: Sometimes we won and sometimes he.

Heraclius: What does he teach?

Abu Sufyan: He bids people to worship one God and not to associate any partners with Him, to offer prayers, to be truthful and chaste, and to bestow alms.

Heraclius then summed up the conversation thus:

"You say that this man belongs to a noble family. Prophets always come from noble families. You say that no one else in the family ever before claimed prophethood. Had it been so, I would have thought that he was influenced by family traditions. You say that none of his predecessors was a king. Had it been so, I would have thought that he was aspiring to attain kingship. You admit that he never tells lies. A person who does not tell a lie to a man cannot tell a lie about God. You say that poor people are the adherents of his creed. The first followers of prophets always come from this class. You say that his religion is expanding. This is a characteristic of a true religion. You say that he does not deceive. Prophets do not deceive anyone. You say that he bids you to offer prayers and to observe purity and chastity. If all this is true, his realm will come right up to my domain. I had thought that a prophet might be coming, but I did not think that he would be born in Arabia. If I could go there, I would have paid homage to him."

Another such companion as came from the Johainah tribe was Basbas bin Amr Al-Johni, the first spy of Islaam commissioned by the Messenger of Allah to gather intelligence for the Muslims against the Quraishi army in the build-up to the Great Battle of Badr. Others were Dhamrah bin Amr, the brother of Basbas, ‘Uqbah bin ‘Aamir, Tha’labah Al Johani, and many others.

The journey from Madeenah to Al-‘Ula took three hours, but I felt as if we travelled for about 30 minutes. This was for a cocktail of reasons not least the du’aa’us safar, prayer for travel, where we asked Allah to let our journey be covered quickly and most easily, the breath-taking scenery as we cruise the Madeenah-Al-‘Ula road, and for the fact that my tour guide made the trip so educating and entertaining that hours passed like minutes. He had useful information to give on every settlement that we encountered, on every caravan route of old, and on battlefields, reciting copiously from verses composed by poets of the period of ignorance to the time of Islaam, and citing various historical events that occurred during that epoch.  

We arrived at Al-‘Ula around Ishaa time and proceeded to Al-‘Ula Arac Resort where my tour guide had reserved a room for me. It was already dark; I was not able to see much of the town but Mr Abdul Kareem promised me, ‘You are sure to be surprised by what you shall see in the morning.’

                                               A Double Room in Al-'Ula Arac Resort

Al-‘Ula Arac Resort is a four-star tourism lodging equipped with necessary requirements and utilities; managed by competent, English-speaking personnel who provide excellent services to its guests and tourists at all times. Actually, when I spoke to the General Manager over the telephone I thought him to be an American. It was in the morning that I met Mr Rafat Farajat, and only then realised that he is an Arab with flawless American accent.

Visits to tourist sites, in both Al-‘Ula and Mada’in Saleh, are not allowed after sunset, so, I took a shower and sat in the garden of the Resort, situated right in the middle of, and encompassed by the rooms, restaurant and reception area. The ambience of the place is serene, natural and the passages adorned with beautiful flowers.

Al-‘Ula is also called Wadi al-Qura, (the valley of villages), and even Ad-Deera by the local inhabitants. I was expecting to see a village in every meaning of that word, but as Mr Abdul Kareem promised me the day before, I was utterly surprised with what I saw in the morning. Everything in Al-‘Ula is good – wide roads paved with asphalt like any other modern city stretching up to Madinah from one side and to the town of Tabuk on the other, beautiful structures sprouting all over the place, constant electricity, shopping malls, super markets, etc. No, this is not my definition of a village!

                                                                       Entrance into Al-'Ula

‘Throughout the history of the Middle East, Al-‘Ula has been an established commercial route for ancient trade activity….that hosted all trade caravans coming from Southeast Africa, Southeast Asia, and the South of the Arabian Peninsula. These caravans carried all kinds of commodities such as spices, perfumes, and incense. In this connection, the Qur’an says:

 ‘Between them and the cities on which we had poured Our blessings, we had placed cities In prominent positions, and between them we had appointed stages of journey In due proportion: "Travel therein, secure, by night and by Day." (Saba’: 18)

Also, from ancient time all the way up to the sixth century, Al-‘Ula was subjugated and dominated by four different states: Didan, Lihyan, Mu’een, and the Nabateans – the Thamud.


We moved northeast of Al-‘Ula to see Al-Khuraibah one of the most important archaeological sites in that area. Here you find many tombs carved into the mountains. The tombs are not alike. Some are simple chambers cut into the rock with rectangular burial places cut into the walls and floors. The interiors of some recalls the tombs of Mada’in Saleh (which I will revert to later) with the difference that the later are more accurately cut and better planned with ornamentation that is more sophisticated.

Other tombs are small cubic chambers that held two graves at the most. Most of them are two metres long and sixty to eighty centimetres wide and seventy to one hundred centimetres high.

                              Al-Khuraibah With Burial Places Cut into the Mountain

Others look like simple rectangular cavities cut into the mountain and designed to hold a single grave. The best known tombs of this kind are the so called Maqaabirul Usuud, Lion Tombs, because of two pairs of lions carved on top of each side of the tomb.

We then moved to the old town of Al-‘Ula which is a unique example of an Islamic city from the classical period. It consists of a walled village of about 800 dwellings around the perimeter of the more ancient castle with narrow winding alleys, many of which are covered to shield the people from the heat of the sun. Most of the foundations of the buildings are stone, but the upper floors are made from mud bricks, while palm leaves and wood are used for the ceilings. Although many of these houses were probably rebuilt over time, their foundation is likely to be from the original construction of the town in the 13th century AD. The houses had no openings on the ground floor other than a fortified entrance.

                                                      A Narrow Street in Old Al-'Ula

                                                                  Old Al-'Ula Town

This old town of Al-‘Ula was built around a high plateau adjacent to the mountain above which is Musa bin Nusair or Umm Nasser Castle. My guide and I climbed to the summit of this castle using the original stairway carved in the rock many centuries ago. From this height, one could see much of Al’Ula as well as watch closely the entire old city. The castle was used as a control point to safeguard the town against any attack, and to alert the population of the coming of any danger from outside, like enemy advance and so on.

                                                         Musa bin Nusair's Castle

                                                        A Board in Front of the Castle

We afterwards travelled to Mada’in Saleh – the Capital of the Monuments - which lies about twenty-two kilometres to the north of Al’Ula. The locals also call it Al-Hijr, just as it is in the Glorious Qur’an, in reference to the Thamud people and Saleh, the prophet sent to them.  In fact, a whole surah in the Qur’an is christened as Al-Hijr (Surah 15). The people of Saleh have been referred to in verse 80 of the same surah as as’haabul Hijr (The People of the Rocky Tract). For anyone who visits Al-‘Ula and Mada’in Saleh, the rocky country and the spacious fertile valley (wadi) and the plains of Qura are there for all to see.

                                               Chambers Carved Out of Stone

In his commentary to this verse, Abdullah Yusuf Ali said, ‘The Rocky Tract is undoubtedly a geographical name. On the maps of Arabia will be found a tract called the Hijr, north of Madinah. Jabal Hijr is about 150 miles north of Madinah. The tract would fall on the highway to Syria. This was the country of the Thamud.’

In spite of all these, some academics are searching for archaeological evidence to confirm the presence of Thamud at Mada’in Saleh. There is nothing wrong in looking for proof to substantiate any claim; it is part of knowledge. They can keep searching, but I do not need any archaeologist to confirm to me what I have read in the Qur’an concerning Thamud, more so that I have now visited Al-Hijr and seen for myself all the traits contained in the Book about the people.

                                                             Chambers Carved Out of Stone

The Qur’an (7: 74) speaks about the ability of the Thamud to build for themselves ‘palaces and castles in open plains, and carve out homes in the mountains.’ I saw, in the tour of Mada’in Saleh, this mastery of the Thamud of carving dwellings as well as necropolises for the dead out of mountains. What people describe as ‘tombs’ in Mada’in Saleh cannot all be tombs due to the noticeable differences in their shapes and sizes. Some of them could better be designated as small chambers, living quarters, since no graves were cut into the rock inside them.

                                                          Burial Chambers Carved Out of Rock

These so-called tombs and chambers at Mada’in Saleh are the sites most impressive and most recognised monuments. The site holds ninety-four monumental tombs with decorated façades, thirty-five plain chambers, and more than one thousand non-monumental graves and other stone-lined tombs.

                                                           The Diwan

                                                           Inside of the Diwan

We started with The Diwan during our tour. This consists of a rectangular chamber 12.8 metres long, 9.8 metres wide and 8 metres high, carved into the rock. It has an entrance of 8.85 metres wide. There are carved benches 1.5 metres high and 2.25 metres wide with sitting places incised into them, 45 cm and 15 cm lower than the benches. The benches are reached via stairs carved on either side of the entrance. This Diwan is similar to what Dan Brown, in his latest novel, Inferno, described as a mouseion, in relation to early Greeks, ‘a place where the enlightened gathered to share ideas, and discuss literature, music, and art.’

                                                                Qasr al-Fareed

We went to Qasr al-Fareed, which lies in the southeastern part of Al-Hijr. It was called “al-Fareed” (The Unique) because it was cut into a single huge rock; it also includes an architectural element not found in any of the other tombs. The façade of this tomb or chamber (palace) occupies most of the northern side of the rock.

                                                            Qasr al-Bint

There is Qasr al-Bint on a mountain, which extends from north to south, and contains a group of twenty-nine tombs divided in three sides.

                                                          Qasr al-Bint 

There are nineteen tombs on the western side, one of which was left uncompleted, the mason having started with the upper part of the façade, where the verandas are located, without finishing the rest. Had the façade been completed, it would have been the largest tomb façade in Al-Hijr.

Yours Sincerely at the  Façade of The Diwan

Friday, September 27, 2013



I do not envy the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) in its task of distributing a limited number of Hajj seats to tour operators, not least this year where the total number of seats has been slashed by more than 20% worldwide. This has further made NAHCON’s distribution process only more difficult. Apart from hundreds of older tour operators qualified for allocation, there was a flood of new companies that have fulfilled all the conditions for Hajj seat allocation stipulated by NAHCON; the seats available were at a premium.

We understood from our intercourse with the commission that it had to devise means of eliminating negligent tour operators in order to have a manageable number of companies eligible for Hajj seat allocation. Example of such eliminated Hajj operators were those with uncompleted documents, those whose International Air Transport Association (IATA) certificates were not renewed or were in default of ticket remittance, and so on. I said ‘negligent tour operators’, because, in a great many cases, it is only negligence that will lead to any of such problems as discovered and timely used by NAHCON in denying the affected companies this year’s Hajj allocation. IATA communicates with travel agents through emails and the Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) on its online portal. Any vigilant travel agent who checks their mail and visit IATA BSP portal regularly will not be caught napping.

The process of seat allocation for Hajj 2013 was transparent; the basis for most of what NAHCON did was clear. If a company was denied allocation, reasons for such denials were communicated to the affected tour operators. As far as that was concerned NAHCON was above board. Yes, many of us grumbled and complained bitterly on the meagreness of what we got, but at the end of the day, we had to concede because nothing was hidden in how we ended up with the number of seats allocated to us.

Personally, what I find disturbing about the criteria for allocating the seats is that a company’s years of experience and its performance each year means very little to the Commission. A company might have been in operation for 15 years and may have got allocation of seats from the Commission for years but if it had no IATA Certificate in the last 4 years or so, it will get less seats than a company that got its IATA license last year and is operating for the first time this year. In fact, the older company would get no allocation. If the older company struggles to get the said certificate this year, the company would be deemed by the Commission to have started operations this year; forget the fact that there is ample documentation to prove otherwise in their archives. I find this unwise and unfair; especially as the IATA license hardly has any relevance to Hajj operations.

Another sore point is the fact that the Commission registers as many companies as fulfil their conditions for allocation of seats. In itself, there is nothing wrong with this except that the total number of available seats is not increasing but the total number of companies jostling for the seats almost doubles each year! Soon, the number will increase to the point that the number of seats allocated to each company would render the business unprofitable.

If you peruse the Commission’s website, you will find a new and commendable development; the publication of the names of successfully and unsuccessfully accredited companies for this year’s Hajj operations. The site could still use much improvement but I can only pray that Allah reward the leadership with much good in this world and the hereafter. It has a listening leadership - hitherto one could not access the latest developments on Hajj from the site. In spite of this laudable development, there are questions begging for answers.

The publication of Hajj seat allocation on the website ( and in the national dailies (see Daily Trust Newspaper August 30, 2013, pg. 40) which has been NAHCON’s custom annually is baffling. This year there was no mention of the number of seats allocated to each company, which led many to believe that something was amiss. The Yorubas are a witty tribe; they have a proverb which illustrates my point. They say, “When you roast groundnuts for the blind, you are honour bound to whistle frequently lest you are accused of chewing the nuts”. Was it because of some disparity in the number of seats allocated to all companies that the figures were not made public? NAHCON had told us whatever any company got during last year’s allocation was the number of Hajj seats it would get this year. Some people said that was not exactly what happened as some companies got not only more than what was allocated to them last year but they also got far in excess of the average given to others.

Rather than peddle rumours, I want to inform the Commission what rumours we have heard; some people in the industry have been talking in hushed tones about how some seats meant for International Hajj Tour Operators have been allocated surreptitiously to the National Assembly. Every year, it is rumoured that NAHCON uses Hajj seats meant for tour operators to cater for some needs from the State House, some ministries and even the National Assembly.

The people who made this allegation said that some companies from the ranks of private Hajj operators are chosen for such an arrangement, since NASS, or any other government body targeted for such allocation is not a registered Hajj company; the number of seats given will be added to whatever NAHCON allocates to the Hajj tour operator. For example, if the company has 100 seats, and NAHCON decides to give the House of Representatives or the Senate as the case may be, say 500 seats, the company’s allocation letter will read 600 Hajj seats with the understanding that 500 is for the upper or lower legislative chambers. They allege that each arm of the National Assembly has its own separate allocation taken from that of tour operators.

I just hope the above allegation is not true, but if it is, well, the honourable members and distinguished senators who may use the Hajj seats are Nigerians and Muslims, it is understood that non-Muslims do not participate in Hajj. It is only more disturbing to hear it rumoured that even non-Muslim NASS members and senators use the Hajj seats by giving them to their Muslim friends and aides, or even selling them to Muslims (?) I have heard of both cases. I still hope it is not true, but if it is, how many of the members and senators know that there is an annual Hajj seat allocation for them from NAHCON. Who approved the company through which the alleged allocation was given, and what happens to the seats at the end of the day?  

The point is the Muslims at the National Assembly have every right to Hajj seats but NAHCON has a better way of satisfying that need rather than taking from the little allotment of tour operators. The states have the largest share of Hajj seats, the effect of taking 600 to 2000 or more from states’ allocation will be minimal than when the same number is taken from that of private Hajj companies which is inadequate.

NAHCON was created by the Act of the National Assembly in order to, among others, ease Hajj operations in Nigeria. The people who initiated this process that gave birth to NAHCON will receive their reward twice – by getting their full recompense with Allah and by seeing the wonders that the current leadership of NAHCON is doing in revolutionising this spiritual trip with successes unparalleled in the annals of Hajj operations in Nigeria. As you are reading this piece, more than 50% of Nigerian pilgrims for Hajj 2013 have been successfully airlifted to the Holy Land. NAHCON has done its part, learning and avoiding all the hitches encountered during last year’s Mahram debacle, and many more areas too numerous to mention within this article. In spite of all this, NAHCON is run by human beings, who can err and do things right, thus in need of honest propositions to make things better. Like the Arabs, I say to them ilal amaaam, insha Allah!