By Anees Teladia
Some lucky South Africans have been blessed with the opportunity to perform I’tikaaf in Masjid al-Aqsa – one of the holiest places for Muslims – this Ramadan. The group has been welcomed to the Masjid compound with open arms by the Palestinian people and is excited to be there to experience the special final ten days of Ramadan. This I’tikaaf is not only important for spiritual reasons, however, as there have been increasing calls from the Palestinian people urging the Muslim community to come to Masjid al-Aqsa.
These calls for increased visitation to Masjid al-Aqsa by the Palestinian people come amid recent “security” escalations by the Israeli forces. Muslim worshippers have been repeatedly evicted from Masjid al-Aqsa by Israeli security forces and at the beginning of Ramadan this year Israeli settlers raided the masjid. These are just a few examples of the manner in which Israeli forces and settlers seek to disrupt the Palestinian people and disturb Muslims in Palestine during the holy month of Ramadan.
Speaking to VOC’s Ramadan AM show, regular al-Aqsa visitor Ayoob Dadabhay said that the South African group visiting the sacred masjid for the last few days of Ramadan is equally excited to be there as the Palestinians are to welcome them. Dadabhay says that the feeling you get visiting al-Aqsa is unique and a definite must-have on a list of travel experiences.
“You’re excited and you can’t wait to get to the old city of Jerusalem. You make intentions and you look at the beauty surrounding the place…it’s amazing and difficult to explain in words. You have to come here to experience that feeling. When you come to al-Aqsa, it’s old and in its natural form – it has kept its essence and that’s what attracts so many people. There’s absolute beauty in the originality,” said Dadabhay.
“The Palestinians are so excited to see us South Africans. They love South Africans to come to al-Aqsa…this is like a second home [for us].”
Dadabhay also added that I’tikaaf in Masjid al-Aqsa is unlike any other.
“It’s a very different I’tikaaf from South African I’tikaaf. You are allowed to visit the whole compound in I’tikaaf – you can go to the museum and the library and you are still in I’tikaaf,” said Dadabhay indicating that there are many sights to see and explore in al-Aqsa even when performing I’tikaaf.
Masjid al-Aqsa has repeatedly been a site of increased persecution and discrimination against the Palestinian people, particularly during the blessed month of Ramadan but also on other significant Islamic dates.
International visitation can be utilised as a strong deterrent against the persecution of the Palestinian people at al-Aqsa, too often perpetrated by Israeli forces and settlers.
For more information on Masjid al-Aqsa & additional reasons to visit, click on the link below: