It seemed like it was days ago when my family was talking about making plans to make a trip to visit the Holy shrines of the Prophet’s family (pbut). Little did we know, that dream was about to become a reality. Alhamdulillah, this past July, as a group of 12, we were able to embark on this spiritual journey and pay our respects to six Imams (as), their families, companions, and various Prophets of Islam (Peace be upon all of them).
We set off on July 1st, and were on the plane from Bahrain to Syria on July 3rd. As the pilot said, “Welcome to Damascus, Syria…” emotions started running high and a thought came to me: we are finally here. Here I was; the place where the most atrocities happened after the battle of Karbala, and here I am, about to pay my respects to Bibi Zainab (sa) in a few hours. We got to our hotel around 11 pm, but unfortunately the Haram closed around 10 pm. Nevertheless, as soon as we dropped our suitcases and took our ghusl, we headed to the Haram. Take my word, the Haram at night, from it’s minarets to the iron door at the gate, is one of the most magical things one will ever witness in their life.
It was after Fajr prayers where I got my first taste of poverty. When I walked out of the Haram, a little boy came up to me and extended his hand out for me to give him some money. Unfortunately, I did not have anything on me and it broke my heart to not be able to help this child. I had never seen so many orphans or this extent of poverty in my life, and that really opened my eyes. This was something that people living in the West do not realize; especially the younger ones who have never been to Pakistan, India, or anywhere else back home.
A week later, we headed towards Najaf, Iraq. It was unbelievable to see hundreds of people lined up at the checkpoints waiting to enter Imam Ali’s (as) Haram. It was more unbelievable to see thousands of men, women, and children sitting on the ground in the 50 degree heat because they had no where else to stay.
Three days after our stay, we headed towards Karbala, being greeted by the Haram of Hazrat Abbas (as). After paying our respects to Hazrat Abbas (as) we made our way towards the Haram of Imam Hussain (as). Imam Hussain’s (as) dome loomed into view and it was just so unreal to finally be able to see what everyone has been dying to see. People say that when you see the dome of Imam you cannot cry. I found that to be true. I know it sounds absurd, but once you see his Haram, your mind goes blank for a while and you cannot believe that you have finally made it to your destination. Then everything hits you and you cannot stop crying. It was going over my head to think that I am walking where the Imam had walked and got martyred. Once you go inside the Haram-e-Mubarak, you are greeted by such beauty that words cannot even begin to describe it. Once I was in the shrine of Imam Hussain (as) and I honestly could not believe that Imam had called me to be there, and I am sure that whoever gets the chance to go there InshAllah will feel the same way.
I was lucky to be able to go and do ziyarat of my Imams (as), but I was lucky in a sense because it opened my eyes to the world. It opened my eyes to the true meaning of hijab. People in the West always ask a girl with hijab why they wear it and one of the replies would be that it is for a girl’s protection. Men over in Karbala stare at women like there is no tomorrow, and after that happened to myself, I understood that Allah (swt) made this as a protection for us to guard ourselves against men who are like that. It made me appreciate my hijab even more and it made me understand that Allah (swt) does what is best for us.
Not only did I manage to find my meaning of Hijab, I found out that as a girl living in the west, we really have to understand that we Westerners take life for granted. Even the air we breathe is a blessing. You would be surprised to see how polluted the air is in Syria. As soon as you get off the bus to go to your hotel from the airport, all you smell is cigarette smoke.
Overall, I am really glad and feel blessed that I went in the summer months to do my ziyarat. It may sound weird, but I found that ziyarat in the heat makes you realize how much people sacrifice just to be able to come and do ziyarat of Imam Hussain. There were people sleeping outside the Harams of Hazrat Abbas and Imam Hussain (as) as well, and if they can come and live in the heat, then who are we to complain about the heat? We have to realize that ziyarat is not just a journey that people do, ziyarat is something that makes you think about the world and appreciate what you have. I hope everyone gets the chance to visit Imam Hussain (as) InshAllah.