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Giving without reserve

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It is with reticence that I write this. I do not wish to place myself on the moral high ground, or to sermonise anyone. This chapter tries to show the truth and importance of dreaming of our Holy Prophet Muhammad   . These words seek to confirm that ours is a Prophet of Mercy, a Witness, and a Bearer of Good Tidings. It also aims to portray the consequence of da’wāt in the Masjid al- Harām. It is moreover meant as a method of encouragement for our children to some day continue with the Prophetic Tradition of raising an orphan for the sake of Allāh, The One of Unbounded Grace. So that they may by this means know that there is more to life than just prayer and fasting. And that they should give of themselves unreservedly. That they might through it also, temper their adhkār with compassion.

We were asleep at the Mashrabiyya Hotel in Khalid bin Walīd Street in Shubayka, Makkah al- Mukarramah when, by the Mercy of Allāh, I had the most beautiful dream. I saw myself standing in  the  holy  presence  of  our  Truthful  Prophet  Muhammad    .  The  appearance  of  the  Holy Messenger of Allāh matched scriptural records. Our Prophet   was spotlessly dressed in white robes and a white turban. I stared aghast. Our Prophet   stood about two metres away and faced me directly. Someone so unimaginably holy, so indescribably handsome, one will not come across. I do not have  the words with which to suitably portray this most wonderful man, the Seal of the Prophets  .
I reached for my turban, embarrassed for having only a skullcap on my head. “Leave it,” I said to myself. “You are in the Company of the Prize of creation.”
Brilliance shone from our Guided Prophet   . Our Prophet   smiled at me. His smile radiated light. I stood alert, too humbled to speak. I wished that the dream would last forever. The heavenly smile lasted between ten and fifteen minutes, it felt like.

Al-hamdu-lillāh. I had never considered myself deserving of such an enormous honour. This was a spiritual experience of the first magnitude. “What does that smile mean?” I wondered. “Why is our Heroic Prophet Muhammad   so extremely pleased?” I asked  myself over and over again. I stared at the House of Allāh for extended periods, contemplating its meaning.

Deep in thought, I barely noticed the usually persuasive central-African women selling bird-seed as I walked back and forth from the Masjid al-Harām. I was hardly aware of the Turkish female who was dealing in steel daggers on the side of the street. Two men earnestly collecting on behalf of Bosnian refugees also failed to draw my attention. I half-heard a Pakistani lad calling out the price of bottled perfume to prospective customers alongside the road. Malaysian girls trading informally with scarves only just caught my eye. Part of the street had been freshly tarred.

“Unless you receive the sort of treatment that a host bestows on a guest, don’t ever think that, because you have performed the  ziyārah of the Baitullāh, you’ve been the guest of Allāh,” my father had once counselled me. A similar comment from my uncle, Haji Suleiman, I had further recollected. He had said to me: “Die persoon was Makkah toe – vra vir hom wat het hy gekry.” This rendered into English, says: “The person has been to Mecca – ask him what he had received [there].” I considered his observation a bit harsh then, but the force of his remark was now bearing home on me. He knew what he was talking about. “’Ammie Haji” had taught the Haj for more than fifty years. For him it had happened very quickly. Aged twenty-five on his first Haj in 1949, Haji Suleiman had landed inside the Holy Ka’aba when someone lifted him head-high and tossed him over the 2.25 metre high  threshold of the Baitullāh. Not just anyone is allowed into the Holy Ka’aba. “Did you not get hurt?” I inquired further. “No!” he responded excitedly. “I was young and fit, and had landed on my feet,” he continued proudly.
Once over the doorsill, he did not have too far to fall, as the inside floor was 2.2 metres above the ground. ’Ammie Haji performed two cycles of discretionary salawāt once inside. From then on, he would wonder who had done him the good turn.

A number of Muslims before our time had believed that someone who had been inside the House of Allāh would not return home. Such was ‘God’s Will’, they had resolved resignedly. ’Ammie Haji chuckled as he recalled years later how the neighbours in Salt River, on learning of the incident, came to commiserate with his mother on his impending death in Mecca.

Every Muslim who had walked on the holy soil had the potential for such an experience, I realised. Such incidents might have been more prevalent than was ordinarily heard of, I thought. “You don’t tell just anybody about this sort of thing,” some said “as your sanity could be questioned.” I had for a long time suspected that at least some pilgrims who repeatedly visited the Holy Land, apart from drawing from its built-in holiness, did not preclude themselves from offerings of this nature. It would be silly to think that parallels could not be drawn with al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah in occurrences of this kind. Thinking that this sort of happening was in any way unique to myself, was ludicrous. It would also have been reasonable to expect wondrous incidents of this nature to occur in Jerusalem, as the major Middle Eastern religions agreed on the sanctity of this, the City of the Farthest Mosque. Allāh   Had Taken our Reflective Prophet Muhammad   on a journey by night from Al-Masjid Al-Harām to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsā in Jerusalem, and the heavens. To Muslims, Al-Aqsā Masjid was the First of the Two Directions of the Formal Prayer.

Part of my da’wāt in the Holy Mosque in Mecca, was to ask Allāh, The One Who Makes Clear to us His signs so that we may be grateful, to Grant to ourselves the opportunity and blessings of raising an orphan for His sake.

Having the money with which to afford to go on Haj has always been its first consideration. There were many people who had performed the Holy Pilgrimage more often than I. With regard to my parting from the Holy City, though, I had received a fascinating send-off.

My wife and I had, over a number of years, tried to adopt a baby by applying at several local agencies, and were given all sorts of excuses which disqualified, and sometimes discouraged us. Reasons given were that we were not married according to South  African law, that few babies from local Muslim parents came up for adoption, and the fact that we have children of our own. We were also faced with, what was to my mind, the worse aspect of the South African race laws. These regulations and those  administering it, in this case, the social workers, prescribed that a
‘brown’ orphaned child had to be matched with ‘brown’ adoptive parents. A ‘yellow’ baby could only be placed with prospective ‘yellow’ adoptive parents, a ‘white’ orphan could not be raised by ‘black’ adoptive parents, and so on. They played dominoes with human lives. Some social workers were more ready to read the ‘race act’ than others. In an interview and in response to a question on whether we would mind adopting a child from a ‘lower rung’ of the colour scale, I told them that “a nice green one” would do.

A jab to my ribs from my wife quickly halted the acid flow down the sides of my mouth. Stirring the ire of our then masters by criticising their political beliefs would not help, she meant. “When the white boss tells a joke, and regardless of its lack of humour – laugh!” she chided me later.
Race inequalities existing at the time ensured that hundreds of black orphans went begging in more ways than one. It virtually excluded us from adopting a child. No orphans that matched our race and blood mix were on offer and they weren’t likely to easily present themselves for adoption. My wife is of Indian (as in “Indian” from India, as opposed to “American” Indian) stock and I am of (well) mixed blood.

On the morning of Wednesday, 1st June 1994, just three days after arriving back home from Haj, we received a telephone call  from Melanie Van Emmenes of the Child Welfare Society. She explained that a five-month old girl had come up for adoption. The baby had earlier undergone successful abdominal surgery and she asked whether we would adopt the child. We jumped at the chance.

A rush of adrenaline replaced the after-effects of travel. We were rejuvenated. Capetonians usually visit local pilgrims before departure and also on their arrival back home. We excused ourselves from the few visitors and asked my mother-in-law to host  them in our absence. My wife and I immediately went to the Adoption Centre in Eden Road, Claremont. We signed the  necessary papers.

Afterwards, we told our children that we were about to receive an addition to the family. Rifdah, the youngest, had started primary school at Habibia. We plodded through a maze of red tape in order to legalise the adoption process. (My wife and I  had  to marry in court because Muslim marriages were not recognised then, believe it or not). A few days later, my wife, brother and I collected the petite infant from a foster-mother in Newfields Estate. I shall never forget the joyous feeling when I first carried the frail waif past the front door. Her name is Makkia. We named her after the great city from which we had just returned.

I shall always be grateful to the people who had assisted us with the adoption. In a letter of recommendation to the social  workers, Haji Achmat Lalkhen al-Qādirī al-Chishti wrote that he could vouch for my decent parents. Sheikh Mogammad Riefaard bin Moegsien Manie al-’Alawi al- Qādirī al-Chishti had stated as a character reference that I was ‘of sober habits’.

Taking her into our modest home is one of the better things that we have done. Makkia has added a marvellous dimension to our lives. She is part of our life’s-work.

Adoption is a superb act of charity and the most effective form of da’wah. If every able married couple took on an orphan, the world would be a better place. Raising an orphan means giving from the innermost recesses of one’s heart. Adoption springs from the soul of the adoptive parent. We cry when a child is orphaned. God cries more.

The meaning behind the glowing smile from our Trustworthy Prophet Muhammad  had played itself out in the most delightful  way. My dream shows our Prophet’s level of awareness and highlights  his  profound  love  for  orphans  and  how  kindly  he  looks  on  raising  an  orphan.  It demonstrates that raising an orphan is an immensity before God. In our Prophet   we have a beautiful pattern of conduct. Our Affectionate Prophet Muhammad  , also, had raised a destitute child. Our Divinely-inspired Prophet is the first of the God-fearing. No person is better than him.

He had scaled the peak of human tenderness and is without sin. Our Faultless Prophet   is the foremost of those who submit to the Will of Allāh. An exemplar to those who worship God, our Kind-hearted Prophet Muhammad   is the beacon of the pious.  Religion is a feature that has encompassed all cultures throughout history. He had brought a religion of kindness and peaceful coexistence. Sent by God with an easy and straightforward religion, our Prophet Muhammad   is the leader of the prophets. Like a lamp that spreads light, the Messenger of Allāh   invites to the Grace of Allāh by His leave. He is an inspiration to those who are thankful to God and the leader of those who remember Allāh  . How should I express gratitude to the Holy Messenger of Allāh   for his kind intervention? I am unworthy of untying the thongs of our Prophet’s sandals.

From the Sahīh al-Bukhāri, Volume 7, Hadīth Number 224, translated from Arabic: Narrated Sahl: Allāh's Apostle   said, “I and the one who looks after an orphan will be like this in Paradise,” showing his middle and index fingers and separating them.

From the Sahīh al-Bukhāri, ‘the Good Manners’ (Al-Adab), Volume 8, Book 73, Hadīth Number 34, translated from Arabic:
Narrated Sahl bin Sa'd: The Prophet   said, "I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him, will be in Paradise like this," putting his index and middle fingers together.

From the Sahīh al-Muslim, Chapter 3: ‘Benevolent Treatment to the Widows, Orphans and the Poor’, Book 42, Hadīth Number 7108, translated from Arabic:
Abū Huraira reported that Allāh's Messenger   said, "One who looks after the orphan whether he is his relative or not, I and he will be together in Paradise like this," and Malik (explained it) with the gesture by drawing his index finger and middle finger close together.

From the Muwatta of Imam Mālik ibn Anas, the section called: 'The Sunnah on Hair', Book 51, Hadīth Number 51.1.5, translated from Arabic:
Yahya related to me from Malik that Safwān ibn Sulaym heard that the Prophet, may Allāh Bless him and Grant him Peace, said, "I and the one who guards the orphan, whether for himself or for someone else, will be like these two in the Garden, when he has taqwa," while indicating with his middle and index fingers.

May Allāh, The One Who Befriends the righteous, Send His Richest Peace and Blessings Upon our Holy Prophet Muhammad and On his family and companions, as much and as often as Allāh Wills.

Allāh, The One Who Is Sufficient For those who put their trust in Him, Had Accepted our prayers and Granted our want through the barakah of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad  .

I’ve been fairly constant about wearing a turban during ’ibādāt since.

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