“I Wish I’d Been There”
By Aziz R. Kurwa
I awoke, excited at the prospect of the day ahead. Yesterday a proclamation was made after the Namaz that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) would be leaving for his farewell pilgrimage today, Saturday 25th Zilkada 10 A.H. ( 13th February, 632 A.C).
I was to support the volunteers from families of Ansars (Khajraj and Aws tribes) and our friends from Muhajiruns to facilitate the caravan of the pilgrims. We were to ensure the supply of all the favourite foods of Rasul-illah ( grains, dry fruits, fresh fruits, honey etc.) and water supply for all pilgrims. We were also to help in putting up the tents, give first aid and any other needs of the pilgrims, particularly the old, infirm and women..
Just as the sun’s golden rays began to shimmer over the horizon, we were welcomed in the mosque of the Prophet by Bilal’s melodious recitation of the adhan (call to prayer). After the morning prayers we moved towards the Prophet’s House. There was a soft breeze fanned by the joyously swinging palm trees as Rasul-illah came out of his house accompanied by Ali ibn Abu Talib, Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman, followed by Bibi Fatima, Aisha, and other members of the family. His face, enveloped in Noorani Radiance, caught us reciting Salawat, and a warm, unbounded feeling of spiritual joy and happiness showed on all faces. Believers had come from many remote places on foot, camels and horses prepared to undertake the arduous journey to Mecca to perform the pilgrimage (hajj) at Bait-Allah (the House of Allah) also known as Ka’bah.
We reached Mecca on Wednesday 7th Zilhaj 10 A.H. and performed the Pilgrimage.
Rasul-illah delivered an uplifting sermon at the plain of Arafat outlining all the responsibilities of a devout Muslim. The caravan left Mecca on 14th Dhi-l-Hijjah A.H. 10 and reached a little town (al-Jahfa) 3 days North-West of Mecca. This town is at a junction from where the routes for Medina, Egypt, Syria and Iraq radiate in different directions. In the afternoon on 18th Dhi-l-Hijjah the caravan reached Ghadir Khumm, a vast plain endowed with trees and bushes. Under the shade of two trees Salman Faras was instructed to erect a pulpit with stones, saddles of camels and horses. The volunteers were given the opportunity to help and had the privilege of sitting nearby.
Rasul-illah mounted the pulpit and placed Ali on his right. He then delivered a sermon, thanking Allah for His bounty and stated that he felt he would soon depart from this world. He related that he had received a Divine revelation:
“ O apostle! Deliver what has been revealed upon you from your Lord, and if you do not, you have not delivered His message and surely Allah will protect you from people.” (5 : 67)
Taking Hazrat Ali by the hand, he asked of his faithful followers whether he, Muhammad, was not closer (awla) to the believers than they were to themselves; the crowd cried out: “ It is so, O Apostle of Allah!”, and he then declared:
“He of whom I am Mawla (the Lord, The Master), of him Ali is also the Mawla (‘Mun Koontu Mawla fahaza Aliyun Mawla’)
He then prayed, “O Allah, be the friend of him who is his friend, and be the enemy of him who is his enemy.” He added that he was leaving behind two weighty things; these being the Holy Qu’ran and his Ahl-al-Bait. The two were inseparable until the Day of Judgment. If we held fast to both, we would never go astray.
Then led by Omar, who congratulated Ali and pledged his allegiance (baiyah), everyone present at this momentous event also felicitated Ali and pledged their allegiance to him (Ali).
Soon afterwards a final Message was revealed, that said:
“ This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favours upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”
Dusk had fallen and the party broke up in small groups to enjoy the rest of the evening preparing for the next day to go to their respective homes.
The volunteers cleared everything and then we sat around campfires in groups. In my group the conversations was buzzing over the historical and momentous events of the day. Some raised the question “what is the meaning of Mawla.” Some said Ali was to be the Imam to follow the Prophet and guide the Ummah with his knowledge of the Qu’ran and the Divine Guidance as a result of Nass designated from Rasul-illah. Others said Ali was to consult the companions and would lead the Ummah by the Qu’ran, Hadith and Sunna of the Prophet. Whatever the discussions, everyone was in raptures about the unique enlightenment from Rasul-illah.
As he had foretold, soon after returning to Medina, Rasul-illah fell ill and passed away on 13th Rab’iul Awwal 11 A.H. (8th June, 632 A.C).
Ali and Abbas took care of the funeral preparation in Rasul-illah’s house. Ali asked that his cousin al-Fadl be called to assist him. He acceded to the request from the people of Madina to be present during the preparation. As the leading volunteer, I, Aws ibn Khawali, had the honour to join in the procedures on behalf of the people of Medina. I carried a jug of fresh well water. With a heavy heart and silent recitation of Salwat, I entered an environment of solemn sadness. The fragrance of incense elevated my senses as I joined in meditation and Qur’anic recitation with others.
The age of Imamat had commenced.
Dedication by Dr. Aziz Kurwa:
This article for the Simerg series “I wish I’d Been There” is dedicated to millions of volunteers through the ages who have given their ability, knowledge and time to serve the cause of Islam, and to my family who have since my childhood guided me and supported me in my service to Imam–e-Zaman.
About the writer: Aitmadi Dr. Aziz Rajabali Kurwa, MBBS FRCP(Edin.) FRCP(Lond.), was born in Mumbai and got his education there up to his medical graduation. He became involved with services to the Ismaili community at a very young age. As a college student, he helped revive a student society under the new name of Ismaili Students Education Society (ISES). The committee then undertook a number of initiatives, one of which was to organize an arts and crafts exhibition in the city. Prince Aly Khan, who was then visiting Mumbai, very graciously accepted the committee’s invitation to inaugurate the exhibition.
Dr. Kurwa arrived in England in 1958 with the sole ambition to be a consultant in the NHS. He became the Mukhi of the Birmingham Jamat in 1970, and together with the Kamadiani and other members of the Jamat assisted in settling many Ismailis who arrived in the Midlands area as refugees from Uganda.
Later he relocated to London, where he opened his own dermatology clinic in London’s famous medical district, Harley Street. At the same time, he continued to pursue his ambition of serving the Jamati. He first helped establish a Jamatkhana in Purley, Surrey. In 1979, His Highness the Aga Khan (Mawlana Hazar Imam as he is known to his Ismaili followers) very graciously appointed him as the President of the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom (now called the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board). In September of the same year, when Hazar Imam visited London for a weeklong mulaqat, President Kurwa had the good fortune to be able to raise the interest of the Jamat in Fatimid Glories by presenting the Imam with a set of Fatimid Gold Dinars (see photo).
A true visionary, President Kurwa as Ismailia Association’s chief, developed the concept of Baitul Ilm during the Silver Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, which to this day continues to have a tremendous impact on the U.K Jamat. In 1986, Mowlana Hazar Imam chose him to be one of the resident governors of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, which Dr. Kurwa proudly served until 1995. He contributed also to creating the Health Care Professional’s Association and reviving the Ismaili Seniors Club. His continued interest in Baitul Ilm led him to organise poetry sessions for Ismaili children and seniors, the success of which led to the Festival of Poetic Expressions as a Golden Jubilee programme. This event was staged in London, Manchester and Germany. Today, Dr. Kurwa serves as a member of the Executive Committee of The Association For The Study Of Ginans. This is a private initiative.
Dr. Kurwa and his wife, Aitmadibanu Shirin Aziz Kurwa, continue to reside in London.
Dr. Aziz Kurwa notes: “In whatever position in the Jamat , in my heart I am devoted to voluntary service and in this article I am making an effort to recognise that volunteer services have existed since the inception of Islam and Inshallah will continue to flourish in the Jamat as long as Imam-e-Zaman wishes it to be.”
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