There are places on earth that have such an intense connection with the spiritual world that it can be felt by a sensitive soul. The holy cities are probably the places where that link is most translucent and easily felt, but I think every place that has had a momentous role in history shares in that… places where prophets walked, or saints lived, or blood was shed in a righteous cause, or in which God’s mercy or anger was made clearly manifest. Refined souls probably feel it everywhere.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Mu’tah, a town about two hours outside of Amman, Jordan. It’s significance is in that a battle took place there at the time of the blessed Prophet, salAllahu alayhi wa salam. The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) had sent some peaceful delegations to a number of outlying tribes in this area, whom the tribes subsequently killed. This was a sign of political aggression and open hostility at the time, so the Prophet (saw) then sent out a force of about three thousand men to confront them. The tribes were allies with the nearby Romans, and with their reinforcements their army numbered close to a hundred thousand men. It was in this battle that one of the commanders of the Muslims, Ja’far, was killed, his arms cut off by the enemies, and the Prophet (saw) had a vision of him in Paradise, his arms replaced with wings like the angels. A number of others of his companions died before Khalid ibn al-Walid was able to take charge, fend off the enemy, and make a wise retreat. (This battle is described very soulfully in Martin Lings book, ‘Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources’, which is an excellent read.)
The site where the battle took place is simply a huge open field. There is a tumbled down stone building of sorts on one side, but with no demarcation of what it used to be. The Jordanian government recently built a beautiful masjid and building around the graves of the three commanders of the battle, which stands a short distance away. But the battlefield itself had been left alone, which I actually greatly prefer. It’s much easier to reflect on its history without a lot of new things being built on top of it.
Visiting this place evoked many different emotions inside of me. Firstly, and most honestly, I was so aggravated to see the litter and garbage that seemed to overwhelm a lot of the area. This habit that people generally have in the Muslim world, of treating the world around them like a dumpster, is really frustrating and repulsive, and even more so in places that should be respected.
Secondly, it seemed like the place had become an area for people and families to picnic and hang out. There was a large stone plaque on one edge of the field that described what took place there. Next to it, we saw that there were some young people smoking nargeela, laughing and relaxing.
While these things in themselves may not necessarily be a big deal, the fact that it was taking place *here* was something I found so distressing. I could not keep my mind off of these people, and the trash that I saw everywhere.
This was a place of such serious reflection, on our history and on our present state, on the sacrifices and the blood spilt by that first generation. What does it take for someone to do what they did, to have the courage to stand up in battle and put their life on the line, *only* for the sake of the truth? And we, countless generations later, are still benefitting from their struggles, in that we know this deen.
How many of us have taken a stand for the truth in our own lives, even just once? How many small compromises and minor concessions have we made at times when we needed to be strong? How many of us have fought the good fight, even against our own selves? And why aren’t our souls moved by this? Are we so dissevered from that history that we don’t feel anything, even when we are *literally* walking in their footsteps?
I understand that living in a place makes a person less sensitive to it, but I could not help but be deeply disturbed. It struck me that this, what I saw, was just such a perfect metaphor for our state: we are sitting on this legacy of some of the most beautiful, courageous and passionate people that walked on this planet – and what are we adding to this tradition except garbage and wasting of time?
I was so hurt by this scene, probably because it was such a clear reflection of my self and my own life. this beautiful tradition, the history of those who came before us right in front of my eyes, while I just sit back and take it easy, or tell myself ‘I’ll do it later’. Or worse, contributing negatively to it, due to my own weaknesses. This must be something so ugly in Allah’s sight.
I felt so ashamed for our present state, and such awe for the people that came before us, that as I was standing there I could only ask Allah that He be generous and forgiving to us, and somehow make us like them, and our hearts like their hearts… and that when we meet the Prophet salAllahu alayhi wa salam that he loves us, for the full and meaningful lives we lived, fulfilling his legacy and living by his teachings…
I ask that Allah refine our souls and make us people who feel, are sensitive to, and are hugely inspired by our history… (ameen).