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Travel Trouble! by Ajmal Masroor

Day 1 – 20 March 2014

I set the alarm for 3.30am to wake up for the 6am flight from the Heathrow airport. After a long and tiring dinner at our house with friends I finally hit the bed at 12 midnight. I was travelling to Jerusalem, one of my most spiritual and loved cities in the world. I was excited by the prospect but anxious at the possibilities of troubles at the Israeli airport. I was so tired that no thoughts or worries could keep me awake. My eyes shut down within a few seconds after lying down on the bed …

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Juma at al-Aqsa by Ajmal Masroor

Day 2 – 21 March 2014

Jum’a at Al-Aqsa started with a big bang. Every entrance to the mosque was guarded by thousands of Israeli soldiers. Their motive was to prevent anyone below the age of 50 from entering the mosque. The soldiers pushed one young Palestinian who tried to enter back. He protested and a scuffle broke out. I saw a swarm of soldiers rushing to the scene to attack the young Palestinian …

The connection between the sacred Mosques in Makkah and the sacred mosque in Jerusalem is umbilical, inseparable and symbiotic. This is not just in the physical space that has come to be associated with the holiness but the entire environment that surrounds these two sacred locations. As I looked around the mountaintops, the depth of the valleys, the sacred mosque, the holy Sepulchre and the Jewish sites and took in the significance of the sacred spaces not just for Muslims but also people of other faiths …

 

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Exploring Christian Heritage by Ajmal Masroor

Day 3 – 22 March

Can Jews, Christians and Muslims imagine a possibility of ever sharing their sacred space? This question was posed to us by one of the lecturers. The answer to this question became absolutely clear in my journey to the Holy Sepulchre. There is a small metal gate that appears at the end of the narrow market street that leads to the Christian’s holy precinct. The gate is marked as the mosque of Umar. It clearly states that this mosque is only open to the worshippers. Very rarely tourists venture through the gates. Keep this mosque in mind and I will come back to it later on in my diary entry …

As a Muslim we do not believe prophet Jesus was killed or crucified, but God raised him to the heavens. For Muslims this was another miracle of God just as Jesus’s birth was an extraordinary miracle. However, for Christians, belief in Jesus’s crucifixion, death and resurrection form the central part of their creed. To deny this is to deny Christianity! And this could be extremely offensive for them. In exploring our shared perspectives, this was the main challenge. Can the Muslims suspend their judgment on Christian beliefs and accept their right to believe? And Can Christians suspend their judgment on Muslim beliefs and accept their right to believe? I know as a Muslim I cannot accept Jesus’s divinity but can I accept the right of my fellow Christians to belief in Jesus as both divine and human? I know Christians cannot accept prophet Muhammad as the final prophet and messenger of God but can my Christian friends accept my right to believe in prophet Muhammad as the final prophet and messenger of God? …

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Exploring Jewish Traditions by Ajmal Masroor

Day 4 – 23 March

The Adhan of Haram got me out of my bed. It was calling me loudly and beautifully saying, prayer is better than sleep, come to pray and come to gain success”. How can you sleep when you hear such a loving invitation? I will share with you the story of the Fajr prayer later but let me now talk to you about something more depressing and disappointing …

I walked up to the ‘Wailing’ Wall and observed closely the method of prayers. As I saw people devoting their time and energy in calling God I started thinking, Jews are praying, Christians are praying and the Muslims are praying. Yet they are constantly fighting against each other. If they were truly praying to one God, surely their common belief and prayers would have been enough to create the culture and desire for coexistence. Maybe they are just paying lip service to submitting to God …

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The Tomb of Abraham by Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal

I have just returned from Hebron where we visited the Mosque of Abraham where Prophet Abraham and members of his family are believed to be buried.

And today I cried.

This is the one place on earth where we – Muslims, Jews and Christians should be united – at the tomb of the Father of all our nations. On one side of the tomb is the Mosque and on the other side is a synagogue with a big heavy metal door dividing the sacred spaces with the tomb visible from both sides. And never the twain shall meet …

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Was Abraham Jewish, Christian or a Muslim? by Ajmal Masroor

The first grave you encounter is the grave of Sara, prophet Ibrahim’s wife and the mother of Ishaq (Isaac). Inside the Al-Khalil mosque there were few more graves – the graves of Prophets Ishaq, Ya’qub (Jacob) and some claim Yusuf (Joesph). Prophet Ibrahim’s grave is only visible from the opposite side of Sara’s grave. I prayed in the mosque, send my salutations to prophet Ibrahim and was simply walking around to observe various aspects of the mosque decoration that comes from the Ottoman era. It was nearly the time for Dhuhr prayer and the muezzin (caller to prayer) was ready to give the Adhan (call to prayer) …

Our next stop was to the city of Bethlehem. According to Christian traditions here Jesus, son Mary was born. This Church of Nativity is a very important spiritual place for the Christians. There was a lot of repair and restoration work going on in the church. So we did not get to see all the parts. However the part where he was reportedly born and where he was placed in the crib was open to all to see. It is the spot that many Christians kissed, touched and showed their reverence. It was extremely heartening for me to see how Christians were so engrossed in their spiritual journey here as opposed to the spiritual vacuum and soullessness we often observe in many countries including the UK. As a Muslims I feel happy to see Christians and Jews become devout in their faith. In my view faithful Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities are good news for the betterment of the world …

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