The Photo

The Prayer of the Prophet (PBUH) When the Last Grave Had Been Filled; The Names of the Martyrs Found in a Book Purchased in Medinah; The Cover of the Heavy Book Where the Spelling is Ohoud; Things Are Darkest Before the Dawn Brought Me Hope; The Names of the Martyrs, Fatima Visited the Graves Often

It is excruciatingly painful to read of the death of the martyrs, so eloquently expressed in the pages of Martin Lings’ Muhammad: The Life Based on the Earliest Sources. These words must be read I their entirety, as does the entire book. It is only then can one realize and respect the sacrifices made by the Prophet (PBUH) and the earliest believers. The death of these men decimated the burgeoning Islamic Faith. There were few faithful followers at the time and these men were the brightest and the best – to analogize to modern day WWi. The similarity in the Western world took place during WWi when the ‘brightest and best ‘of the British aristocracy were killed in the trenches. It decimated a generation and generations to come. 

The conclusion of Lings’ chapter 54 offers great insight into the brilliant mind and immense leadership qualities of the Prophet (PBUH) 

“When the last grave had been filled the Prophet called for his horse and mounted it, and they set off down the gorge, the way they had come at dawn. When they reached the beginning of the lava tract told them to stand in a linnet give praise and thanksgiving to God, and the men formed two lines facing Mecca, with the women behind then, fourteen women in all.Then he glorified God and prayed, saying: “Oh God I ask of thee Thy blessings and Thy mercy and Thine grace and Thine indulgence. O God I ask of Thee the eternal bliss that fadeth not nor passeth away. O God, I ask of Thee safety on the day of fear and plenty on the day of destitution.” (Page 200) 

Destitution  is a such powerful word: poverty so extreme that one lacks the means to provide for oneself:. Its synonyms leave one feeling rather desperate:  dire poverty, impoverishment, penury indigence, ruination, pauperdom; neediness, want, dire straits, deprivation, distress,. 

Plenty is the exact opposite, the Prophet prayed for plenty in the face of deprivation, distress ad ruination. Such a powerful image, such powerful words. 

In December 2022 when visiting Medinah for the first time, I purchased a ‘souvenir’ a book that must weigh fifteen pounds causing the payment of  overcharges for heavy baggage when I carefully brought it home to Canada. It has, admittedly, been languishing  on my bookshelf. Brilliantly I recalled its presence when writing the tale of my riveting photograph. I lugged it over to the bed, where I do my writing and research, opened it, discovering sheer gold.  (A photo of the oversize book will follow the written word.) Nestled inside the covers of the book were treasures beyond belief, which you shall be made privy to.  A list of the names of the martyrs, are preserved in those pages. The martyrs are revered, their sacrifices honored at the time and throughout these many years in the knowledgable Islamic community. Their sacrifices are honored., revered to this day.  During my pre Muslim much younger days I visited Normandy, and was in awe of the burial grounds housing the  dead of the Allied Forces.  But that was nearly as impressive as the tributes paid to these martyrs of long ago.  

Discerning readers will notice a change in spelling. The heavy book (as I call it) spells the name of the place Ohoud. This is a bit confusing, but trust me, they are talking about the same place.

 The pages of the heavy book describe in detail visitations made by the Prophet (PBUH) and the earliest believers. This to me, was most evocative.

“Zoraiq narrated that Fatima, may Allah be pleased with her, used to visit the graves of the martyrs every two or three days. Abi Jaafar said that Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH). Used to visit the grave of Hamza, may Allah be pleased with him. She used to repair it and she put a stone to refer to it. Al-Hakim narrated from Ali, may Allah be pleased with him that Fatima used to visit the grave of Hamza every Friday and cry at it.”  

Evocative, an adjective, means bringing strong images, memories, or feelings to mind. Synonyms that capture its meaning are vivid, powerful, haunting, moving, poignant. The description of is so powerful, vivid, powerful and poignant to me personally  because my Muslim name is Fatimah (which I spell with an h at the end, for some reason). 

The Prophet (PBUH)’s daughter is known for her sense of humor and the laughter that emanated from the home of she and her beloved, husband Ali. Nevertheless, she visited the grave of Hamza and cry at it. 

I am often criticized by unfeeling people for my tendency to mix laughter and tears. My ups and downs, as they call them. I somewhat defensively say onto them: 

Me: I would rather have ups and downs then just always have constant downs, which you seem to experience. 

They: Is that a criticism. 

Me: No, just an observation. A fact as I see it. 

These criticisms were levied upon me during my pre-Islamic days. My response now would be different. 

They: You have constant ups and downs. 

Me: So did Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter and she was most beloved by her husband, by her father and by Allah (SWT). 

I am certain that will leave them speechless and is, actually, a kinder, more humane response. I shall give it a try the next time someone says that to me. I shall report my findings on this blog. What would I do without it?  Talk to myself, write to myself. But I love knowing that others, many others as a matter of fact, read my words. 

This early morning found me sad, weeping during Fajr prayer. This saying came immediately to mind, during my prayers. “Things are darkest before the dawn.” After prayers, I Googled it (of course). “This proverb says that just before the sun rises the sky is at its blackest, suggesting that when times are at their worst for us they will soon get better.” The first person to use this proverb was Thomas Fuller, an English theologian, in the year 1650. It appeared in his work titled A Pisgah-Sight of Palestine and the Confines Thereof. I do thoroughly love this quote; “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Oh by the way, you critical people who may be reading this blog with no access to me. 

They: You must be bipolar, manic-depressive. 

Me: No I am not, most certainly not. I could give you the name of a psychiatrist who could testify to that, but there is the doctor-patient privilege and he would not be able to speak to you without my permission. You would not want him to be in an awkward position, I am sure. 

You: Why were you so sad before prayers? 

Me: I was reading, studying the desperate Palestine on-going situation. I am too empathetic, that has been proven. I suffer for those Palestinians. I would like to think hope is on the way after 75 years of horror. I actually can see hope in the future. 

You: Tell me about that – how could there be hope. 

Me: I intend to learn more about it – if it is not a pipe dream, will let you know later. 

You: How will you let us know? 

Me: How do you think? Through the blog of course. 

On that rather upbeat note I shall conclude. I do not reveal the nature of my relationship with the Creator, but this I said when I thought of the proverb: things are darkest before the dawn. 

Me: Thank you Allah, for this revelation, for bringing this to light. It has helped already.  

A photograph of the heavy book and a page showing the names of the martyrs will follow. 

These Days Are Considered by Sheikha Fatimah to be the Days of Feasting Ramadan, not Fasting Ramadan; Back to the Battle of Uhud; Muhammed, the Warrior Prophet; Do Not Trust Bow and Arrow Guys;  A Modern Fairy Tale; Spread Joy; Photos of Apartment Walls and the New Home of a Quran

Many of the days preceding the famed Saudi Arabia Sojourn are spent in seclusion, purposefully. Alone, all alone (not in a the wide, wide sea as this is Edmonton and there is not a sea or be seen. It resembles many days of my 2023 Ramadan However, I am eating – it is my feasting, not my fasting Ramadan. I am at peace – travel plans are progressing favorably. Moreover, and more importantly, I do trust in the guidance and wisdom of Allah (SWT) 

Yesterday’s blog found us at the Battle of Ehud. We remain their today, reading in greater detail the pages of Chapters 52-54 of Martin Lings Muhammad: The Life Band on the Earliest Sources. The preceding chapters described the battle scene, the brilliant strategy of the Prophet (PBUH) was betrayed by the greed of the some soldiers – the bow and arrow guys. 

Here is what went tragically wrong. 

The Muslims continued to advance until at one point the enemy lines were broken altogether. The way to their camp was thus laid open, and there was a huge forward of would be plunderers. Now the fifty chosen archers were at some distance to the left of the Prophet. Between him and them the ground down to the plain and then rose up to the point of vantage at which he had placed them. They could see the first lines, and the sight of their fellows about to enrich themselves, as they thought with enemy spoils was too much for many of them. In vain their commander reminded them of the Prophet’s order not to leave their post on any account. They replied that the Prophet had not meant them to stay there forever,The battle was now finished, they said and the disbelievers rooted. About forty of them sped down the slope in the direction of the camp leaving Abud Allah as the head of a staunch but fatally depleted nuclear of bowmen. (p.188.) 

To make a long story short, things did not go well after that. Up until then the Meccan army had been of no avail but they came into the fray. The Muslims were driven back step by step and the whole battle moved towards Uhud in the direction of the Prophet.” 

A recent book has been written about the Prophet’s understanding of warfare and strategy . 

The review from Wikipedia (who is always us): The Warrior Prophet: Muhammad and War is a 2022 biographical book by British-New Zealand Islamic scholar Joel Hayward about the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s understanding of warfare and strategy. 

The book is summarized in the following manner. 

“Hayward has been noted for weaving “together classical Islamic knowledge and methodologies and the source-critical Western historical method to make innovative yet carefully reasoned sense of complex historical issues”.[3] The Warrior Prophet: Muhammad and War is his latest book to use this approach.[4] The book eschews the traditional Islamic explanation that Muhammad excelled at warfare simply because he was a prophet and was therefore good at everything. Hayward argues that this incomplete explanation ignores Muhammad’s agency and hides his human aptitude and brilliance. Muhammad, he argues, was himself an astute and skilled strategist and warrior who understood the necessity of warfare as well as its transformational power.[5] At 457 pages, it took Hayward “about a decade of on-and-off work to complete

That is impressive, 457 pages could be described as a BB (Brief Book) or, in this instance, a BAB (Brief Awesome Book).

Wikipedia brings us a wealth of reviews: 

A five-star BookViral review states: “Joel Hayward sets aside religious fervor and hearsay in his impeccably and intensively researched book, The Warrior Prophet: Muhammad and War. Rather than offering sentimentality and thinly veiled assumptions, it represents a comprehensive and evidence-based historical account of the Prophet Muhammad … Hayward’s tireless study is evidenced in his superbly executed academic writing, as he brings together the threads of past documentation and artifacts, shaping his words into a fully rounded account. With the fascinating backdrop of customs, practices and beliefs of the peoples of that time period, Hayward brings the Prophet Muhammad to life, focusing on his motivations and movements as he wielded great strength and power throughout the east, fighting alongside his soldiers in his God-ordained role. … Complete with comprehensive and extensive referencing, The warrior Prophet: Muhammad and War is unreservedly recommended as a historically accurate fully researched work detailing the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad.[7]

Charlotte Walker of LoveReading wrote: “Referenced in detail and using extant sources, … it comes complete with chronology of the Prophet’s life, glossary, maps and a table of Islamic Raids and Campaigns to further help the reader get to grips with the subject . … The Warrior Prophet is an “engaging read for those interested in military history as well as those looking to expand their knowledge of Islam and the Prophet.”[8]

A five-star review in The Online Book Club described the book as “highly insightful and informative”, with a detached and historical critical methodological approach that analyzed Muhammad within the context of seventh-century Arabia, and thus provided “in-depth knowledge and enlightenment.”[9]

In a five-star review, Philip Zozzaro of the Manhattan Book Review called The Warrior Prophet “convincing and thought-provoking” and stated that “Hayward contributes a well-researched and annotated study” that “doesn’t narrowly focus on wins and losses for Muhammad and his disciples but also delves into the guiding philosophies that Islam teaches. Hayward’s book will open the eyes of history devotees as well as those who are well-versed in the life of the esteemed prophet/leader.” 

By the way, there is a Wikipedia: List of the Biographies of Muhammed. I have this to say about that:

Me: I have got a lot of reading to do! 

Alter Ego: The list is never ending! 

Me: I know!!! But the good news is this: I am a fast reader, I am retired and the extensive winters found in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada make hibernation a sheer necessity. 

This is almost a modern fairy tale An old woman from Saskatchewan travels to Saudi Arabia. Rather accidentally takes a photograph which is enlarged and ‘improved’ by Noah at  London Edmonton Drugs. Blessed with curiosity the old woman explores the written word to learn of the significance of the sight. She then writes about it (in boring detail) sharing it with the world through her blog. A fairy tale has to have a happy ending, this is it.  

The Hadith of the Day on my Muslim Assistant App is “Every good action is a charity and it is good action to meet a friend with a smiling face” (Bukhar). 

A most encouraging Instagram post appeared. It was downloaded and spent to special people in my life. I sent the link to myself with the subject line spred joy:

I received a response from a very important, accomplished woman (who shall remain anonymous) loved my sending of it to her. 

Me: I love this and thank you for your love of it too. I do make others happy so it is so inspiring to hear it is beloved by Allah (SWT) 

She: That’s true. Thank you for sharing this content, it makes me happy and feel at peace. 

Me: That makes me feel happy. The happiness and peace multiply. I am coning to Saudi Arabia for about a month, traveling on Qatar Air, of course. 

She: That is a pleasure to know! I hope you enjoy your stay in KSA.

Upcoming photographs will reveal the ever changing art appearing on the walls of my apartment. Photos of UAE friends have been replaced by a series of stunning sunsets, all taken from the top floor of this apartment building. 

The second photo is the east facing wall of my prayer room. Two photographs added – cloud formations taken in Riyadh. It the time they seemed to be a sign of some sort. The photos were unable to capture the beauty, the immensity, the sense of being beckoned. The tablee, purchased recently at Alberta Craft Council, houses two of my Qurans.  

News of another Quran finding a new home. For the past month and a half  I have had the intense privilege of receiving the services of an excellent physiotherapist at the Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic located at the Kaye Medical Clinic at the University of Alberta. His guidance, his knowledge and my dutiful performance of the exercises he provided has made Saudi Arabia a possibility. Every week I have shown progress, minimal left knee swelling, left knee bends almost as well as the right. There is a Prayer and Meditation Room, near the Sports Medicine Clinic. I visit it weekly . here were two ‘Holy Bibles’ there but no Quran. Now there is one. A  Prayer and Meditation room and the gifted Quran will also be shown. 

How an Amazing Photograph Compelled A Return Trip to Saudi Arabia; Definition of Compel; Shell Shock Defined and Illustrated; Martin Lings’ Monumental Book; Quotation From a Book Accidentally Found in a Used Book Store in Edmonton; Photos of the Amazing Photograph and the Cover of the Two Books 

Faithful readers are aware that I am returning to Saudi Arabia at the end of this month. Do not know if there is wide spread speculation concerning my motivation in taking what could be viewed as a useless trip. Many of my critics (and my friends)  probably see this return as a waste of money, but see that no real harm will be done.  

I shall now reveal the real reason for this untimely journey – untimely as it is summer in Canada, snow birds leave during the winter months. This is summer – not only here, but there. And when you are hot (in Saudi Arabia) you are hot. And when you are not, you are cold. 

I am going, in part, to retrieve my summer clothes, left in the luggage room of a Riyadh Hilton. Summer clothes, my winter coat and a wall hanging. Although this brings a sense of clothing closure – there is another much more compelling reason.

Compel is a strong word., it is to force or oblige (someone) to do something. Some forceful synonyms are: impel, drive, press, push, urge, prevail on; bully into, bludgeon into, intimidate into, leave someone no option but to; make; bulldoze, railroad, steamroller, twist someone’s arm, strong-arm, lean on, put the screws on. 

In other words I feel impelled  steamrollered, driven to return to Medinah, which is (by the way) in Saudi Arabia. The stunning photograph, proudly displayed in my prayer room is the force behind it all. I took the photograph in Medinah, not knowing anything about it, not the history, nor the significance. I gifted a smaller, earlier version of the photograph to a Muslim woman and her family. She and I had the following conversation. 

She: I kept the picture of the mosque. 

Me: It is a picture of a mosque but its significance is that the people entranced looking into something on the left hand side is it is the burial site of the 68 (or 70) martyrs. It is revered, I had no idea when I took the picture of its significance. I could not understand what those people were looking at. I MUST go back and see it and so many other sights and sounds of Medinah. I did not see Medinah properly, not learn of its significance. 

I shall now tell you, faithful readers, what I learned and, equally important, how I learned of it.

Returned from Saudi Arabia on Christmas Eve, in a state of shell shock (almost,) for many reasons. “The term “shell shock” was coined by WWI soldiers themselves. Symptoms included fatigue, tremor, confusion, nightmares and impaired sight and hearing. It was often diagnosed when a soldier was unable to function and no obvious cause could be identified. It is also described as a condition with psychological and psychosomatic symptoms resulting from exposure to active warfare, first identified in soldiers undergoing bombardment in the trenches in World War I. Shell shock would now be regarded as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

I scarcely left my apartment for weeks. In the early days I emerged briefly, walking to Audrey’s Bookstore to pick up a treasured book I had ordered. The book was Marin Lings’ Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, The Times of London: “This work is widely recognized as the most readable account of the life of the Prophet to date.” Lings was an amazing man, holding degrees in English and Arabic from London University and Oxford University. He was impaired by other philosophers to convert to Islam. He is the author of twelve books on religion and spirituality. 

The book was read during the days of my self imposed solitary confinement. It was an absolute blessing. It was healing – I was missing Saudi Arabia, and it took me back there – during the days of the Prophet (PBUH) It was there I first learned of the significance of the martyrs. 

I also, rather miraculously, found a second hand book at the Alhambra Used Book Store. This provided basic information: A Glance at the Life of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Chapter 14 discusses The Motives of the Wars of he Prophet. 

“Unlike the self-centered rulers and kinds all over the world who embark on wars for exploitation of human powers, and for the plunder of other people’s wealth and natural resources, the Prophet of Islam refused to resort to the sword and fighting unless it was necessary and unavoidable. Instead, he advanced carrying the torch of the Holy Book and the divine laws and would get involved in war only to remove the stumbling blocks—the thorns in the way of salvation—to hinder oppression and tyranny and to hoist the flag of justice and truth. 

The battles of the Prophet of Islam against the infidels were, needless to say, meant to remove those brutal selfish pagans from the scene who for the sake of their own satanic passions and desires inflicted all kinds of oppression against God’s pure creatures and prevented the promulgation of Islamic precepts and beliefs. He only fought to bring about conditions of justice and equity under which human beings could materialize the ideology of world peace and mutual understanding. 

Can such a war be considered illegitimate and unjust?  It goes without saying that such struggles are necessary and that no nProphet could avoid combating those who intend to bring ruin on human societies and cause corruption and social decay. No doubt any wise, humanitarian person accepts such combat and admires it because there is no other way to achieve the sacred ends of the prophet……

Christian propaganda purposely misinterprets the holy wars of the Prophet of  Islam  and ascribes large numbers of casualties to them to weaken the morale of Islamic nations, to hinder the ever-increasing expansion and prevalence of Islam, and to make the murder of innocent people by the masters off the churches and the crusades appear trivial and negligible to the people of the world.” 

The book then goes on to point out the motives of the Prophet of Islam in the wars he undertook, the casualties of the wars. 

The book first discussed the War of Badr and then the relevant war, for purposes of the photograph, The War of Uhud. 

Since a considerable number of the infidel troops had been killed in the Baer war, the next year, the third after the Hijra, the Quaraysh prepared to take revenge for the defeat in the Badr war. They proceeded to Medina. They faced the army of Islam in a place called Uhud. Since a number of the Muslims in the war did not fully obey the instructions of the Holy Prophet, the Muslims did not become victorious in the Uhud War. (Citation to Tabbaqat pp. 27-29) 

Martin Lings’ comprehensive book contains the gory details. More about that in a subsequent blog. 

The photographs will be the compelling inspirational photograph taken by none another than Alexis McBride as well as the covers of the two books mentioned in this blog.