We are living in times whereby our very beings are inundated with innumerable challenges and ambiguities. How then to restore our hearts to a state where it’s receptive to the most important reality of all: God? Dr Yousuf Patel shares his story.

Our tumultuous lifestyles and worldly aspirations accentuated by the fast pace flux of materialistic predilections constantly destabilise our religious absolutes and ethical standards. Just like a pendulum, we capriciously swing from one extreme to the other without any consideration or awareness of the deleterious complications such chaotic fluctuations may have on our physical, intellectual and spiritual dimensions. The end result is that of an “anesthetised” spiritual heart.

All of us are afflicted by these precarious trials of modernity and hence it behoves each and every one of us to initiate the necessary steps to ameliorate our afflicted hearts. It is of my humble opinion that one such way is to embark on travel with the intention and purpose of meeting the great friends of Allah, as Allah the exalted says in Surah al – Hajj, verse 46:

أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَتَكُونَ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ يَعْقِلُونَ بِهَا أَوْ آذَانٌ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا فَإِنَّهَا لَا تَعْمَى الْأَبْصَارُ وَلَكِن تَعْمَى الْقُلُوبُ الَّتِي فِي الصُّدُورِ

Do they not travel through the land so that their hearts may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind but their hearts which are in their breasts.

And so it was with this imperative that I along with three friends (Nabeel Mohammed, Dr Muneeb Cader and Habib Zaynulabideen) set out in travel to the scholarly and blessed lands of Mauritania, hoping that our travels and interactions with the local scholars, their families and students would provide us with clarity and perspicacity about our personalities and religious endeavours.   

The village of Murabit al-Hajj

Arriving in Twimaraat, the village of Murabit al-Hajj, is no easy task. The Savana like landscape, the mountainous lava rocks and the pockets of sand dunes all need to be traversed in order to reach the village. It is as if the purity and luminosity of the Shaykh and his village is purposefully hidden away from the possible threats and controversies of the modern world. The surreal yet simple nature of the land transports you back in time, giving you a glimpse perhaps of what it was like to live in the time of the Prophet SAW and his blessed companions. However, even though the environment sets the tone of one’s experience, it is indubitably the people that impacts you in the most profound ways.                         

Words do no justice

One is immediately engulfed by the grace of Shaykh Khatri, the intensity and philanthropic concern of Sharif Muhammad Zain, the majestic smile of Shaykh Salek, the purity of Shaykh Fahl and the ethereal radiance manifesting from Murabit al-Hajj. Any attempt to further describe the ineffable would be a grave injustice to the scholars, so I suffice you with saying that being in their honourable presence is sufficient for any heart to find repose. As Nabeel succinctly stated to me one evening during our stay, 

“In Mauritania you take from the state of the teacher before anything else.”

The genuine happiness and sincere concern that one is shown by the scholars and the people of the village compels one to reflect on one’s own internal condition. It is in places like these that you are able to devolve back to your natural state of Fitra. All the extraneous appendages of the modern world become obsolete, and for the first time in a long time one is able to gage how far one has digressed from Allah and his commands due to the prevailing distractions that have besieged our lives.

A blessed people

Whoever you speak to or engage with is totally focused on you and your words, continuously present to whatever you say or express. It should not come as a surprise then that these blessed people are able to recall and recollect names and details of people they met more than 10 years ago.  These are the type of experiences and interactions that cause you to go through an intense spiritual catharsis. Personal blameworthy characteristics become evident in the face of such angelic virtues. Islam, Iman and Ihsan are personified in their states. The sublime beauty in their religious expression is because whatever they do, they do it with great ease, conviction and sincerity.

Do this for yourself

Much more can be said of the blessed scholars and people of Twimaraat, however my intention with this piece was never to write a protracted account of our travels, but rather to inspire the reader to embark on a similar journey in order to spend time in the company of the righteous, and to greet the great sage of our time, Murabit al-Hajj. This journey was incredibly special for all of us as it allowed us to comprehend and realise the critical importance of sincerity in knowledge and action. As a student of the sacred sciences I was deeply affected by mastery that the Mauritanian scholars possess of the religious sciences, however what affected me even more was the humility they exude with such depths of knowledge. This in itself is a great lesson to us all, students and scholars alike. Humility coupled with righteous action informed by beneficial knowledge is a formula that we should all imbibe.                                                    

I pray that Allah facilitates a path and means for all who wish to visit Mauritania and its luminous scholars. Spending time in the village of Murabit al-Hajj is incontrovertibly a blessing from Allah. May you all be granted this blessing, Inshallah.    

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