14 Replies to “Introducing the iRack”

  1. As salaam alaikum.

    This is funny, funny stuff. I worked for one of Steve’s old NeXT Station – software development partner companies about a decade ago and whenever we went to MacWorld it was cheesie, sales puke stuff as depicted in this video.

    Jazakallahu khair for sharing this, you really took me back.

    Wa salaama,

    nuh ibn

  2. LOL funny..until you think about it :-/
    And i agree with raza..bring ur radio back please! 🙂

  3. LOL! This is the best thing I have seen in many days now! oh I love it! Bush unveiled, hahaha! Dude, that was way too good.

  4. Amir, you probably read this already, if not, heres everything you need to know about Yemen, the home of your heart = )

    10 Days in the Blessed Lands of Yemen

    (A personal account by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari on his recent trip to Yemen)

    I begin in the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. All praise is for Allah Most High; and peace and blessings be upon His chosen servant, our master Sayyiduna Muhammad, his family, companions, and followers.

    I have always had a desire to travel and visit the blessed lands of Yemen. The first time I heard about Yemen and in particular Hadramawt, was when I was quite young studying Arabic grammar. At the time, I was around 13 or 14 years of age and had no clue as to where Hadramawt was on the map. Later, I became more aware of Yemen after reading the many virtues of Yemen and its inhabitants recorded in the sayings of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace).

    The fact is that Allah Most High has blessed and honoured the lands of Yemen and given this country a unique status that no other place (besides the two sacred cities of Makkah and Madina) enjoys. There are many virtues mentioned in the various narrations (ahadith) regarding Yemen and the people residing there. This land has also been the abode of many Prophets (peace be upon them all), Companions (sahaba), scholars and pious servants of Allah (Allah be pleased with them all). Of the many narrations wherein the virtues of Yemen and its inhabitants have been mentioned, some are reproduced below:

    1) Imam al-Bukhari relates from Abu Mas’ud that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) gestured with his hands towards Yemen and said: “Belief (iman) is there?.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 4126 & Sahih Muslim, no: 81)

    2) Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “The people of Yemen have come to you and they are extremely gentle and soft-hearted. Belief (iman) is that of the Yemenis and wisdom (hikma) is that of the Yemenis. Pride and haughtiness are the characters of the owners of camels, and calmness and solemnity are the qualities of the owners of sheep.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 4127)

    3) Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “The people of Yemen have come to you. They are tender-hearted and more delicate of soul. The capacity to understand (fiqh) is of the Yemenis and wisdom is that of the Yemenis.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 4129 & Sahih Muslim, no: 84)

    4) Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Belief (iman) is that of the Yemenis while afflictions (fitan) appear from there (the east), from where the side of the head of Satan will appear.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 4129)

    Imam an-Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) mentions in his commentary of Sahih Muslim that there is no bar in attributing these narrations literally to the people of Yemen. They (the people of Yemen) had strong faith in the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) sensed this from the people of Yemen such as; Abu Muslim al-Khawlani, Uways al-Qarni and the delegations that came to him from Yemen. Hence, attributing faith (iman) to Yemen meant that the people of Yemen had strong and complete faith, but this did not negate that others also had strong faith.

    As far as Fiqh and Hikma are concerned, the former (fiqh) means to have a deep understanding of religion, whilst the latter (hikma) refers to having conscious acknowledgment of Allah Most High (ma’rifa), coupled with self-reformation, good character and abstaining from following one’s desires and falsehood.

    The meaning of “they are extremely gentle and soft-hearted” is that they are the people of timidity (khashya) and have an attitude of humble acceptance (istikana). They are extremely quick in accepting genuine advice and Nasiha, and are easily affected by it. They are immune from harshness, hard-heartedness and ruggedness. (See: Nawawi, al-Minhaj Sharh Sahih Muslim, P: 158-159)

    The above few narrations related from the beloved of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) single out Yemen and its inhabitants with great qualities. Strong faith, complete belief and true conviction is said to exist in Yemen, with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) gesturing and pointing his hands in the direction of Yemen and saying “Iman is there”. Similarly, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) cites wisdom and deep understanding of religion to exist in Yemen. Moreover, when a delegation comes to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), he mentions the qualities and characteristics of the people of Yemen saying that they are extremely soft-hearted people and very humble.

    The few narrations above have been taken directly from the two most authentic books of Hadith, namely Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. However, these narrations are not the only ones recorded in the praise of Yemen and its inhabitants; rather, there are many other Ahadith. Let us look at some more narrations in this regard:

    5) Sayyiduna Zayd ibn Thabit (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) looked towards Yemen and said: “O Allah! Turn their hearts (towards Iman)?” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no: 3934)

    6) Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “?..And trustworthiness (amana) is in (the tribe of) Azd, meaning in Yemen.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no: 3936)

    7) Sayyiduna Jubayr ibn Mut’im (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that once the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) looked up towards the heavens and said: “The people of Yemen have come to you like the pieces of clouds. They are the best of people on the face of the earth.” A Companion asked: “O Messenger of Allah! Are they even better than us?” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) replied: “Except you.” (Musnad of Imam Ahamd, Musnad Bazzar and Musnad Abu Ya’la. See: Majma’ al-Zawa’id, 10/54)

    8) Sayyiduna Amr ibn Abasa (Allah be pleased with him) relates that Uyayna ibn Hisn al-Fazari once remarked in the presence of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) that the best of men are ?.the people of Najd. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) replied: “You have lied! Rather, the best of men are the people of Yemen. Belief/faith (iman) is Yemeni and I am also a Yemeni.” (Tabrani and Ahmad, with all the narrators in the chain authentic (thiqat). See: Majma’ al-Zawa’id, 10/44)

    In this last Hadith, it was mentioned in the presence of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) that the people of Najd were the best of people, but the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was quick to reject this notion saying that this was wrong; rather, the people of Yemen were the best amongst people. This Hadith reminds us of another narration recorded by Imam al-Bukhari and others wherein the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “O Allah! Give us Baraka in our Sham, O Allah! Give us Baraka in our Yemen.” They said: “And in our Najd?” and he said: “O Allah! Give us Baraka in our Sham, O Allah! Give us Baraka in our Yemen.” They said: “And in our Najd?” and I believe that he said on the third occasion: “In that place (najd) are earthquakes and seditions, and in that place shall rise the devil’s horn.” (See: Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 990)

    In the final part of the last Hadith, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) referred himself as a Yemeni. The reason could be (And Allah knows best) that “Yemen” was in fact the name of Qahtan’s son, and Qahtan was a forefather of the Arabs and was from the children of Sayyiduna Isma’il (peace be upon him). Hence, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had a relationship of ancestry with the Yemenis. It could also mean that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was implying that he liked the character and manners of the Yemenis; hence he referred himself to be “as” a Yemeni for having something in common with them. Whatever the reason may be, the fact that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) called himself a Yemeni is such a virtue for the people of Yemen that it cannot be underestimated.

    9) In another narration, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is reported to have said: “Faith is of the Yemenis, and they (the people of Yemen) are from me and their direction is towards me, even if they are far from me in distance. It will be very soon that they come to you as helpers (ansar); hence I command you to be good with them.” (Tabrani with a sound [Hasan] chain. See: Majma’ al-Zawa’id, 10/55)

    There are also other Ahadith in which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) praised the tribes of Yemen such as the tribes of Himyar and Azd. He said that a time will come when a man will wish that his father and mother were from the tribe of Azd. (See: Sunan Tirmidhi, no: 3937). He (Allah bless him & give him peace) also said that the people of Himyar are the people of trustworthiness and faith. (See: Sunan Tirmidhi, no: 3939). Thus, the Ahadith and narrations praising the lands of Yemen and its people are numerous to the extent that if one was to gather all of them with commentary, an entire book may be compiled!

    Any Muslim who has knowledge of these sayings of the beloved of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) would naturally long to visit Yemen and its people. Indeed, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) made these remarks according to his time, but when Allah Most High places certain qualities in a people, the effect of these qualities remain even after centuries have elapsed. Moreover, Yemen was also the abode of many of the Messenger of Allah’s Companions. He (Allah bless him & give him peace) sent Sayyiduna Mu’az ibn Jabal (Allah be please with him) to Yemen. There are also other Companions who lived and taught in Yemen. All of this in addition to the fact that Yemen has produced, and continues to produce, some of the greatest scholars, Mujtahids, Imams and saints of this Ummah.

    Due to the above reasons, for some time I have had this deep desire to visit Yemen, its people, its scholars and the religious institutions present there. It was only through the sheer mercy of Allah Most High that He blessed me with this opportunity in the month of July, 2005.

    Friday 8th July 2005

    On Friday the 8th of July 2005, I left with my family for San’a (the capital of Yemen) via Dubai on an Emirates Airlines flight. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2: 15 pm local time from Gatwick Airport in London. It was only a day after the recent 7/7 attacks on the London Underground tube network. Predictably, there was a heavy presence of armed-police with dogs. Just looking at this sight was quite intimidating and scary. I thought to myself, what if they stop and question me because of my skin colour and because I obviously look like a Muslim? (I was incidentally wearing a long thawb and have grown a beard.) We walked through the gates of the Airport-departure lounge with Police and security personal everywhere. Any citizen of the UK (and elsewhere) should not have this fear whenever he/she travels and goes about his/her normal business. People should not be targeted by the police just because they are Muslims or look like Muslims. Stop and searches should be based on good intelligence, not on skin colour, ethnic background or religion. There is a genuine fear and concern within the Muslim community that they are being targeted by the police trying to prevent potential terror attacks. We are the citizens of this country and we should be no different from other citizens. I sincerely hope that the Government looks into this and makes sure that innocent people are not targeted for abuse. Muslims want to live in this country peacefully and without any fear of someone attacking them, abusing them or arresting them for no reason.

    Al-Hamdulillah, our passage through the check-in and to the plane went very smoothly. Everyone, as normal, was very friendly and welcoming. There was no sign of any hate, intimidation or pointing of fingers. The flight from London to Dubai was around 7 hours long, after which we had to wait for around 5 hours in Dubai Airport before boarding the plane to Yemen. I spent the night in Dubai reading a book by my respected teacher Shaykh Mufti Taqi Usmani (may Allah preserve him) about his travels around the world. I was particularly interested in the part where he talks about his short visit to San’a. I also used some of the time by visiting the internet caf? and emailing some friends. In the remainder of the time, I tried getting some sleep but to no avail. The Adhan for Fajr Salat was announced and al-Hamdulillah I managed to offer my Salat and we also had something to eat. Soon, an announcement was made for passengers travelling to the Yemeni capital (San’a) to make their way to the boarding gate and finally we left for San’a at around 6: 30 am local (Dubai) time. The flight from Dubai to San’a was short, around 2 and a half hours. It was indeed a relief after the long flight from London to Dubai and the long wait in Dubai. I saw a group of brothers who were dressed according to the Sunnah in their turbans, long Thawbs and beards on the same flight as me. After speaking to one of them, I was informed that they were part of the Jama’ah Tabligh from Sri Lanka and were visiting San’a for the purpose of Da’wa. Al-Hamdulillah, the brothers seemed very sincere and generally had a great concern for the Muslim Ummah. May Allah reward their efforts and all those who strive in the various fields of Da’wa work, Ameen.

    Saturday 9th July

    We landed at San’a international Airport at around 10am local time. San’a Airport is quite small and modest, in complete contrast to Dubai Airport that we had left behind. We purchased our visas at the airport. I was asked regarding my destination in Yemen, to which I replied that I was intending to visit Dar al-Mustafa in Tarim. All the formalities of passport and immigration went smoothly, al-Hamdulillah, and thus we hired a taxi and headed for our hotel.

    In the City of San’a

    San’a is the capital of Yemen with 1.85 million inhabitants (2005 estimate), and one of the oldest cities of the world. Some historians have stated that the city’s foundations were laid by the grandson of Sayyiduna Nuh (peace be upon him) whose name was Ghamdan. Among the city’s ancient names is Azal. When the people of Habasha arrived, they were amazed to see the city being made out of bricks and stones as a fortress, hence they said: “This is a firm construction (hazihi san’ah)”. San’ah in Arabic is from the root-word “sana’a yasna’u” which means to make, construct and build. When the Habashis said this, the city began to be called San’a. (See: Yaqut al-Hamawi, Mu’jam al-Buldan, 3/426)

    San’a is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities of the world from an aesthetic point of view. San’a has a very distinctive architecture; hence, it is high on the preservation list for many international heritage organisations. The city is situated between two huge mountains, Ayban in the West and Nuqum in the East. The city is very close to the equator and lies roughly 2150 metres above sea-level and is famous for its moderate climate with sunshine all year round. Even in the midst of a summer, amazingly there was no need for a fan or air conditioning. The economy of San’a is based on the fruits grown in the region. Present-day San’a is divided into two parts: Old San’a (San’a al-Qadima) and New San’a (San’a al-Jadida).

    The city of San’a has remained under the rule of many civilizations. When the people of Himyar were in power, the King of Habasha (Abyssinia) sent two of his commanders, Abraha and Aryat, to take control of the city and they duly obliged, and thus San’a came under the rule of the Habashis. (Incidentally, Abraha was the one who made his own Ka’ba-like place of worship in Yemen and intended to demolish the house of Allah, the story of which has been mentioned in Surah al-Fil. More details concerning this event will be mentioned further along, Insha Allah). San’a stayed in the control of the Habashis for around seventy years until an individual from the Himyaris known as Sayf ibn Yazin al-Himyari approached Kisra (the king of Persia) to help the Himyaris conquer and regain the city from the Habashis. This Himyari managed to take back San’a with the help of the Persians and was made the king of the city. The king of Persia (Kisra) also had overall control of San’a and the lands surrounding it. He appointed many of his men as governors of the various cities in Yemen.

    San’a and its surrounding areas remained in the overall control of the King of Persia until Allah Most High blessed humanity with the birth of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). After the Messenger of Allah’s (Allah bless him & give him peace) migration to Madina al-Munawwara, he wrote letters to the many leaders of the world inviting them to the true and pristine teachings of Islam and to the worship of Allah only, Who has no partners. One such letter was also sent to Kisra, the King of Persia. The letter was delivered to Kisra and read out to him, upon which he tore it to pieces and threw it away. When the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was informed of this, he prayed that the Kingdom of Kisra gets destroyed just like he tore his letter.

    Kisra had appointed a person by the name of Bazan (some have said Bazam) as a governor of Yemen. Kisra sent him a message to send two of his brave officers to this person who resides in the Arabian Peninsula and claims to be a Messenger of God, so that they may arrest him and bring him to Kisra. In accordance with Kisra’s orders, the ruler of Yemen (Bazan) sent to the Hijaz two brave and strong officers who delivered Bazan’s letter to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and said they were under a command to take him to Yemen with them. They said Bazan will correspond about you with Kisra and will do what he (Kisra) says. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) heard their words with extreme calmness and before replying to them, he invited them to embrace Islam. They were so overawed by the greatness, formidability and calmness of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) that when he invited them to embrace Islam they were trembling. They observed incredible things in the presence of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). In the meantime, the Angel Jibra’il came with a revelation to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and informed him that the King of Persia (Kisra) was assassinated by his own son. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said to these two officers: “Go back to your leader (Bazan) and inform him that my Lord (Allah Most High) killed his Lord (Kisra) last night.” The two officers hurried back to Yemen, full of awe and fear, and informed Bazan what had happened. Bazan said: “If this news is correct he is certainly a Messenger of God and should be obeyed”. Soon, Bazan received a letter from the son of Kisra (Shiruyah) with these words: “Be it known to you that I have killed my father Kisra. The wrath of the nation prompted me to kill him because he killed the nobles (of Persia) and dispersed the elders. As soon as you receive my letter, you should obtain oath of allegiance for me from the people; and until you receive further orders from me don’t be harsh to the man who claims to be a Prophet and against whom orders had been issued by my father.”

    This whole episode prompted Bazan and his government employees, all of whom were residing in Yemen, to embrace Islam. Bazan wrote to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and informed him about his own conversion to Islam as well as that of the employees of his government and many others. This was the beginning of the Messenger of Allah’s message reaching the lands of Yemen and in particular San’a. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) maintained Bazan (Allah be pleased with him) as the governor of San’a. Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him) states in his al-Isaba that Bazan was from amongst the Persians who the king (Kisra) had sent as a ruler of Yemen. He embraced Islam after the death of Kisra and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) maintained him as the ruler of Yemen.

    Bazan (Allah be pleased with him) remained the ruler of San’a and surrounding areas until he passed away. After his death, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) appointed his son, Shahr ibn Bazan, the governor of San’a and surrounding provinces. Thereafter, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) sent many of his Companions to various parts of Yemen. He sent Sayyiduna Ali, Sayyiduna Khalid ibn al-Walid, Sayyiduna Abu Musa al-Ash’ari and others (Allah be pleased with them all). He sent Sayyiduna Mu’az ibn al-Jabal as a teacher to the people of Yemen towards the latter part of his life, when he indicated to Sayyiduna Mu’az whilst seeing him off that this may be their final meeting, the Hadith regarding which is renowned in the books of Hadith.

    Hence, San’a and other parts of Yemen were flourishing with Islamic teachings and practices. Unfortunately, during the last few days of the Messenger of Allah’s stay in this world, a person called Aswad al-Anasi emerged and claimed to be a Prophet of God. He along with his army of 700 fighters headed for San’a and captured it from the control and rule of Shahr ibn Bazan. Many people unfortunately left Islam and began to follow him and his people. However, his control over San’a did not stay for long, and through the help of Allah he was killed by the Companion Sayyiduna Fayruz al-Daylami (Allah be pleased with him). Fayruz al-Daylami (Allah be pleased with him) was from amongst those people who came in a delegation to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) from San’a. He has also narrated a Sahih Hadith from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). He managed to kill Aswad al-Anasi just days before the Messenger of Allah’s demise from this world. Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was informed from the heavens about the assassination of Aswad al-Anasi. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) emerged from his room to give us the good news. He said: “Aswad was killed last night. He was killed by a fortunate person from a fortune and blessed family.” It was inquired, who killed him O Messenger of Allah! He replied: “He was killed by Fayruz al-Daylami.”

    This whole incident (of the killing of Aswad Anasi) took place during the Messenger of Allah’s last few days in this world when he was in his illness that led to his demise. Aswad al-Anasi’s rule over San’a only remained for approximately 3 months before he was killed. Thereafter, Muslims once again regained San’a and since then the city has always remained in the control of the Muslims. It is reported that Fayruz al-Daylami (Allah be pleased with him) said: “We killed Aswad and things returned back to normal in San’a. We requested Mu’az ibn Jabal (Allah be pleased with him) to come to San’a and he agreed, hence he used to lead us in prayer. By Allah, we had not offered prayers for 3 days except that the news of the Messenger of Allah’s (Allah bless him & give him peace) passing away reached us. (The above details culled from Ibn Kathir’s al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya, 6/337-342, Ibn Hajar’s al-Isaba fi Tamiz al-Sahaba, 1/170 & Ibn Abd al-Bar’s al-Isti’ab fi Ma’rifat al-Ashab, P: 602-693)

    The hotel we were staying at was in the centre of San’a, in the new part of the city to be precise. One of my friends, Sidi Faiz Qureyshi, who studies in Dar al-Mustafa (Tarim), had emailed me all the relevant information that I needed for my stay in Yemen. He suggested that I should stay in the al-Mustaqbil hotel. Funduq al-Mustaqbil is a relatively cheap hotel but neat and tidy. It is situated in an area called al-Tahrir. After reaching the hotel, I performed my Zuhr Salat and then took a much-needed rest (I had not slept for over 20 hours). I woke up before Maghrib prayer in time to offer my Asr Salat. Thereafter, I went out of the hotel to a local Mosque to offer my Maghrib prayer. It was raining outside and quite chilly and windy. Despite the roads being flooded with water and mud everywhere, the Mosque was completely full with worshippers who came to offer their Maghrib prayers.

    After Maghrib Salat, I phoned a local Yemeni brother, whose name was Fari’ and whose contact details were given to me by Sidi Faiz, and informed him that I had reached San’a. Sidi Faiz had already informed this brother of my arrival; hence he was anticipating my call. The brother swiftly came to my hotel shortly after Maghrib Salat and we had a small chat about how to organise my schedule in terms of visiting the various sights in San’a. Brother Fari’ then suggested we go for a walk and see the surrounding area. We toured the roads and streets of the Tahrir area in San’a. We were virtually in the centre of San’a and right besides our hotel was the Tahrir square (maydan al-tahrir). It’s an open square and the best place for open air photography. The surrounding areas, main roads and side streets are full of shops and you can virtually buy anything at a very good price. Dozens of modern shops around the square sell cheap Japanese electronics as well as imported clothing and souvenirs. Tahrir Square is the nerve centre of the new city, the place from where tourist trips depart and return. It is a bustling modern district of shops, hotels and restaurants. On the south edge of the square stands the Military Museum, while to the north is the National Museum. Most of the small townhouse hotels are clustered in this area, as are some decent eateries and local caf?s. One is able to find stands selling freshly squeezed juices of fruits such as oranges, pomegranates, bananas, grapes, melons and mangos. There were a few Islamic bookshops and my guide suggested we have a quick look inside. Thereafter, we went to a nearby Mosque and offered our Eisha prayer, after which my guide escorted me back to my hotel.

    The Town of Hadda

    My family and I had not eaten anything all day long thus we decided to go and have something to remove our hunger. We enquired from the locals as to where we could find some good restaurants. We were advised by one local brother to go to an area called Hadda. Hadda is a small town about 10km SW of San’a and a ten minute drive from San’a city centre. It is full of restaurants and takeaways, with both types of food available, traditional Yemeni as well as western. We went there by Taxi and I have to say, there were some great restaurants available to choose from. We had our dinner, strolled around the area window-shopping for a while and then returned to our hotel and retired to bed. On the way back, I purchased some pure honey that was produced locally. Since ancient times, Yemen has been famous for the excellent quality of its honey that was widespread in the valleys of Eastern Yemen in the pre-Islamic period. In modern-day Yemen, an offer of honey continues to have an important role when welcoming a guest. Honey is often served in banquets. Honey and eggs are considered important for fertility and physical strength and therefore are given to young bridegrooms. Yemeni tradition prescribes honey together with melted butter for consumption by mothers immediately after childbirth. It is also widely used in folk medicine. In San’a city centre, honey is usually sold in bottles or plastic tanks. The taste of the honey was indeed delicious and scrumptious!

    Sunday 10th July

    The following day, our guide made a plan of taking us to the old part of San’a, visiting a grave of a Sahabi (Allah be pleased with him) and some sight-seeing. In the morning, we went around some of the shops in and around the Tahrir area close to our hotel, visited some bookshops and had lunch. After taking a rest and performing our Asr Salat, we headed first to the old part of San’a called San’a al-Qadima.

    Old San’a (San’a al-Qadima)

    The old city of San’a is unique, exceptional and amazingly beautiful. It is surrounded by a thick wall, whose history goes back to pre-Islamic times. This wall has seven gates through which you can enter the city. The most famous of these gates is the Yemen gate (bab al-Yemen). This gate stands till today in its old place, forming one of the archaeological sites of the ancient city of San’a. Surrounded by ancient clay walls which stand six to nine metres (20-30ft) high, the old city is a wonderland of over 100 Mosques, 12 Hammams (baths) and 6500 houses. Most of the buildings date back to the seventh and eighth centuries BC, when the city achieved prominence as an important centre for Islam, and were constructed from dark basalt stone and brick.

    Our guide parked the car just outside the “Yemen gate” and we entered the city on foot through this historic gate. The sight before my eyes was something I had never witnessed before. I was completely lost in my admiration of the houses, buildings, the general architecture and the structural designs of the city. We strolled inside the city admiring the houses, shops, the streets and alleys. The pathways and roads were also built with traditional bricks and stones, and the houses were several stories high. They were nicely ornamented from the outside and lined the narrow streets of the old town. It was a sight worth beholding!

    Old San’a is filled with shops, Souqs and bazaars where one is able to purchase almost everything. One of the most popular attractions is the 1000-year-old Suq al-Milh (salt market) where it is possible to buy not only salt but also bread, spices, raisins, cotton, copper, pottery, silverware, antiques and a host of other goods. The rest of the Souq (market) is divided into different sections. The jewellers are in one section, the leather sellers and makers in one section, the blacksmiths in a different section and so forth.

    The Consumption of Qat

    As we walked through old city San’a, I noticed many locals constantly chewing on something that seemed like some kind of leaves. They were holding a plant in their hands and kept consuming from it. They continually chewed on this to the point that it seemed they had a massive bulge on one of their cheeks! Many shop-keepers would just sit in their shops and carry on chewing all day long. Upon enquiring, I was informed that they were chewing on what was locally called Qat.

    Qat or Khat is the Arabic term for Catha edulis and is used throughout Yemen and some other countries. Qat is a natural stimulant from the Catha edulis plant, found in the flowering evergreen tree or large shrub which grows in East Africa and Southern Arabia to tree size. It reaches heights from 10 feet to 20 feet and its scrawny leaves resemble withered basil. Qat is chewed like tobacco and has the effect of a euphoric stimulant. In Yemen (and more specifically in San’a), Qat is used daily by 85% of adults. Yemenis have been chewing this for more than 700 years and all previous attempts to clamp down on the country’s favourite substance have ultimately failed. Some Yemenis typically spend 4-6 hours a day buying and chewing the leaves when, according to the anti-qat lobby, they could be doing productive work – hence the dire state of the economy. Some spend well over half their income on the habit. Qat keeps people awake, so chewing sessions, which last for several hours, start in the afternoon to allow the effects to wear off before bed. As a result, virtually the entire civil service shuts down at lunchtime.

    To meet the ever-growing demand, one-third of Yemen’s agriculture is now devoted to a crop with no nutritional value, and irrigating it consumes scarce water supplies. Qat has supplanted other crops which could be exported or used to reduce the need for imported food. In the past, Qat was regarded as an occasional luxury rather than a daily necessity. Consumption among city-dwellers increased in the 1970s with the development of roads. The plant grows best at an altitude of 3,000-6,000 feet and good transport from the growing areas to the cities is essential because the leaves rapidly lose their potency after cutting.

    Yemeni consumers say that there is no harm in chewing Qat. They believe that Qat increases stamina, concentration and mental alertness and elevates mood. They consider it similar to drinking coffee or tea. Some Ulama declared it to be unlawful (haram) saying that it was an intoxicant. However, the majority of the Scholars don’t consider Qat to be an intoxicating substance, but they still discourage its usage due to the fact that it could be harmful and wastes one’s time and wealth. Those who have any value for time would never consider spending their valuable hours and minutes in chewing on a plant. Qat chewing is spreading rapidly in some parts of Yemen despite the authorities efforts to fight it, with more schoolchildren and women having recently joined men in this practice. Qat has been banned in some non-Arabian countries due to it being considered a harmful drug.

    The Great Mosque of San’a (al-Jami’ al-Kabir)

    Walking through the markets and Souqs of the old city, we arrived at our destination – the Great Mosque (al-Jami’ al-Kabir) of San’a. The Mosque is the oldest and largest of the Mosques in San’a and one of the oldest in the Muslim world. It was built in the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and then extended and enlarged by Islamic rulers from time to time. It is reported that Bazan (Allah be pleased with him), whom the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had maintained as the governor of San’a, had a garden which he gave as Waqf for the building of this Mosque. The construction of the Mosque however, was carried out by another Companion Wabr ibn Yahnas al-Kalbi (Allah be pleased with him).

    Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him) in his al-Isaba and other historians relate that when the Companion Wabr ibn Yahnas (Allah be pleased with him) visited the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), he (Allah bless him & give him peace) commanded him to build a Mosque in San’a that faced in the direction of mount Dhayn. Hence, adhering to the Messenger of Allah’s command, Sayyiduna Wabr ibn Yahnas (Allah be pleased with him) constructed this historic Mosque in the city of San’a. Ibn al-Sakan and Ibn Mandah both narrate in their respective Hadith collections from the Companion Wabr ibn Yahnas that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had ordered him to construct a Mosque in San’a and also advised him to appoint the Qibla in the direction of Mount Dhayn. As a result, the Qibla direction till today stands facing towards this mountain. (See: al-Isaba fi Tamiz al-Sahaba, 3/630)

    We entered this momentous and historic Mosque through one of its many gates. The Mosque has now been significantly extended, and is structured around a central courtyard measuring approximately 80 meters long by 60 meters wide. To the north and south of this courtyard are the prayer areas, and to the east and west of the courtyard are halls of three aisles each. Inside the court, not exactly at its centre, stands a domed square structure that dates to the early sixteenth century when the courtyard itself was paved. We crossed the courtyard and made our way to the southern/rear prayer area (not the area where the Imam currently stands) and found two pillars marked out. One pillar had the word “Manqura” inscribed on it whilst the other had “Masmura” written on it. The area between these two pillars is said to be the original Mosque that was built by the Companion Wabr ibn Yahnas (Allah be pleased with him).

    It was between Asr and Maghrib when we had entered this historic Mosque, hence unfortunately I was not able to offer any voluntary prayers (nafl) or the prayer of greeting the Mosque (tahiyyat al-masjid). There was a Shaykh-like person sitting against one of the above-mentioned pillars and I spoke to him briefly about the significance of the Mosque. Many worshipers were seated engaged in the recitation of the Qur’an, some in the front hall, others in the rear hall and many in the open courtyard. Some students were also studying the Qur’an with their teacher.

    I could not get over the fact that I was unable to offer any prayers in this historic Mosque; hence, I made a firm intention to return to the Mosque the next day. After all, this was a historic Mosque built by a Sahabi under the instruction of the beloved of Allah; and many Companions, their followers and great scholars of Islam had worshipped, offered their prayers and studied in this Mosque. Many great scholars of Hadith are reported to have taught and related Hadith in this blessed Mosque. Till today, one is able to sense the great Baraka left behind by these great luminaries of Islam.

    Imam Abd al-Razzaq al-San’ani (Allah have mercy on him)

    The city of San’a was once bustling with Halaqas of Hadith, Fiqh and other Islamic sciences. The Mosque we were standing in was once a centre of Islamic learning with scholars of Hadith (muhaddithun), jurists (fuqaha) and other scholars quenching the thirst of many students who travelled from far and wide places. Scholars from other areas would also travel to San’a in order to learn and benefit from the great Ulama residing there.

    One such great personality to have lived and taught in San’a was the great Hadith expert (hafidh), Imam Abd al-Razzaq ibn al-Humam al-Himyari al-San’ani (Allah have mercy on him). The Imam belonged to Himyar, a major Yemeni tribe, and was known as al-San’ani, as he lived in San’a, the capital of Yemen. Imam Abd al-Razzaq was born in 126 AH and studied under a large number of scholars including many of the leading figures of his time. His teachers include: Imam Malik, Ibn Jurayj, Ma’mar, Imam al-Awza’i, Sufyan al-Thawri and Sufyan ibn Uyayna (Allah have mercy on them all). His pursuit of knowledge also saw him travel to Makka, Madina, Syria and Iraq, where he studied under many scholars of his time. His students include figures like Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Yahya ibn Ma’in, Ishaq ibn Rahuya, Ali ibn al-Madeeni and many others (Allah have mercy on them all). Imam Ahmad was one of his main students and travelled to San’a to take the knowledge of Hadith from him. Imam Ahmad has a famous statement which states: “Travelling to San’a is a must even if the journey is very long” (la budda min San’a wa in tala as-safar). Hence, Imam Ahmad sacrificed his time and (along with Imam Yahya ibn Ma’in) travelled to San’a and remained in the company of Imam Abd al-Razzaq for a considerable length of time. Imam Ahmad was asked whether he met anyone who was better in Hadith scholarship than Imam Abd al-Razzaq to which he replied in the negative.

    Imam Abd al-Razzaq’s knowledge of Hadith was extensive. He wrote several books, the most important of which is his “al- Musannaf” – a collection of Ahadith in several volumes. His other works include a commentary of the Qur’an and a book on the Prophet’s life. However, only al-Musannaf survives, and has been published more than once. The great Hadith scholar of the Indian subcontinent Shaykh Habib al-Rahman al-A’zami was the first person to have worked on and publish al-Musannaf. A new and fuller edition was later published by Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi in Beirut in 2002. Imam Abd al-Razzaq passed away to the mercy of Allah in the month of Shawwal 211 AH, when he was well over 80 years of age. May Allah have mercy on his soul and grant him Paradise, Ameen. (See: Mu’jam al-Buldan, 3/428 & al-Musannaf, 1/1 Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi edition)

    Imam al-Shawkani (Allah have mercy on him)

    Another great scholar to have lived and taught in San’a was Imam al-Shawkani (Allah have mercy on him). Imam Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abd Allah al-Shawkani al-San’ani was born in a town called Shawkan, a days walking distance from San’a, in the year 1173 AH. He then moved to San’a with his father who was a judge and a scholar. He did not travel to gain knowledge; rather, he remained in San’a and took from the Ulama there. He was originally a Zaydi, but then left this school and began to concentrate more on Hadith. He was quite extreme in rejecting Taqlid (following one of the four Sunni Schools) and was an advocator of Ijtihad. He authored many books, the most famous of which is known as Nayl al-Awtar, a commentary on the Hadith collection of Ibn Taymiyya al-Jadd titled Muntaqa al-Akhbar. He passed away in the year 1250 AH and was buried in San’a (may Allah have mercy on his soul)

  5. Thanks for posting that IK, that is so true. all the yemenis I have met so far are the kindest, and most humble muslims.

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