Abu Hurayrah (ra) reports that the Prophet (saw) said, “The angel of death was sent to Musa. When he came to Musa, Musa punched him in the eye. The angel returned to Allah and said, “You sent me to a servant who does not want to die”. Allah ordered the angel, ‘Return to him and tell him to put his hand on the back of an ox and for every hair that will come under it, he will be granted one year of life’. Musa asked, “O Lord! What will happen after that”? Allah replied, ‘Then death’. Musa decided, let it be now’. Musa then requested Allah to let him die close to the Sacred Land (near Masjid Al-Aqsa) so much so that he would be at a distance of a stone’s throw from it”. Abu Hurayrah (ra) added, the Prophet (saw) then said, “If I were there, I would show you his grave below the red sand hill on the side of the road”.(Bukhari)
Today we visited that red sand hill–we visited Musa (as) at his tomb right outside of Jericho. Mash’allah, it was a beautiful quiet place–a masjid, tomb, and cemetery tucked in the hills. You had to be looking for it to find it and you only got a couple of glances of it from the main highway and a couple of signs along the road.
I always thought it’d be very interesting to meet Musa (as). I like his personality. He (as) seemed to be very strong-willed and not a pushover. He seemed to be very close with Allah in the boldness of his speech and actions. Musa (as) was the kalimAllah–he spoke to Allah. He was never afraid to speak out either. If not for his guidance to rasulAllah (saws), we’d probably have to figure out how to make 50 prayers each day, and it’s hard enough for some of us to make 5.
Walking into Nabi Musa’s resting place is an experience I cannot explain. There is a spiritual gravity and pull to the place. Very different from the spiritual feeling of Al Aqsa, and it equally makes me feel good. I feel a magnetism to the place that I don’t think words can adequately describe. You must come and see for yourself. It’s in the middle of nowhere right outside Jericho in the desert and I feel that that’s part of the charm of the place. It’s secluded and great for meditation and after greeting the masjid, I didn’t want to leave. The shaykh there also seems to have a spiritual pull to him. Speaking only Arabic, I understood everything he said. He gave a mini khutba in between the sunnah and fard prayers of salatul dhuhr, reminding everyone of many duas that we all know to say but often forget to say. After prayer, the custodian of the tomb, Fadal, asked if we would like to meet Nabi Musa. Yes!, we exclaimed. And it was the best meeting to be had…I can’t imagine how it must feel then at Masjid An-Nabi in the presence of the final prophet (saws)! Also, I must note that Nabi Musa’s grave was populated with an extraordinary amount of ants. They were going around his window in circles. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were making tawaf around his grave. Perhaps this is their way of saluting the prophets (pbut)? There were also some cats in the courtyard, but that wasn’t too unusual to us…the feline presence can be felt all over the city. There are stray cats everywhere whether in Israeli or Palestinian territory.
After leaving Nabi Musa, we saw a Palestinian boy on the road with a hitchhiking thumb up. He was no more than 13 or 14. And mind you, this was in the middle of the desert in bedouin land and he had a sweatshirt on, with the sun really beating down. We pulled over and gave him a lift to the intersection as we were both going opposite ways. Looks like hitchhiking isn’t outlawed everywhere…but who let’s a teenager hitchhike?
After dropping off the boy, we headed for Jericho, the oldest city in the world. It looks a little run down, like a ghost town, but there are people there. We stopped at a restaurant/swimming pool for lunch, and noticed that basically all the restaurants in the area were of a dual nature…if it wasn’t eating and swimming, it was eating and amusement park rides. Very interesting….and very family friendly. This restaurant also boasts the best presentation of hummus and tabouleh I’ve ever seen…looks can be deceiving in Jericho, people!
After eating, we headed to Hisham’s Palace, a site of the ruins of an old Ommayad Dynasty palace famed for it’s Islamic architecture. Let me tell you, it took a while to get to it and we kept getting turned around so much that by the time we got to Hisham’s palace, I thought we had already seen it. There’s not much to Jericho that appeals to the naked eye. It looks like a town bareky surviving on a thread based on the prevalence of demolished houses and unfinished construction sites. The sun was burning down on us in Jericho and Hisham’s Palace was large and outside–so all I could do was snap pictures of it. Other than that, I can’t tell you much else. Though I love Islamic art and architecture, I thought I’d become a part of the ruins if I stayed to read all of the signs.
So we got back in the car to set off for a cool building we saw on the way. It advertised cable cars to the Mount of Temptation, a mountain full of caves where Isa/Jesus (as) is supposed to have meditated, prayed, and fasted. So we took the cable cars up, able to see all of Jericho on the way, and found a monastery there. But we also found a lot of disappointment. The mount is a bit of a sell-out. We thought we’d be able to sit and meditate and become closer to the Divine there. Instead we found hookah bars, shops, people dressed as random animal characters, face painting, and snake acts. It was a circus, and only one person–a person dressed as a character–was actually able to point us towards the footsteps of Isa (as) in the caves. There were a lot of stairs to walk up, so much that I broke into a sweat several times and we reached the top…just to find the monastery locked. Oh well. So began our trek back down the mount which was more of a physical exercise than a spiritual one.
Maghrib was due in soon so we looked for the blue masjid we saw along the way that had doors decorated in the Asmaul Husna (99 Names of Allah). We got turned around in the busy city center and went to another masjid to pray instead.
While driving, we also saw signs for a place called Banana Land–literally, it was written phonetically in Arabic: banana land. With a name like Banana Land, you know it must be fun and we’ll have to come back to Jericho inshAllah to see what it is. But I don’t think there is anything else left to see there. So the sun sets in Jericho.
P.S. Before going to Nabi Musa, I got to ride a camel! There was a Bedouin man on the side of the road by the sea level signs (the road to Jericho steadily declines in sea level and yowza! the ear popping would make you think you were flying!) I went up to the camel and he seemed nice (I’ve met some mean camels before, which is why I’ve never been on one, plus the fact that I always seem to be in an abaya or skirt when I actually do have the opportunity to ride one…but today I was prepared, and it was awesome!!) what a great camel! And the Bedouin man was so nice too. He had the camel, Shoo-shi, pose and took numerous pictures for us. He could have been a photographer by how well he worked the camera and worked our poses too! You could tell he had been doing this forever–he spoke English, Russian, and Arabic all equally good for the tourists that swarmed the sea level sign, but only I took his offer that day to ride the camel. He said he and the camel had been doing this for over 30 years and he inherited the job from his father. He said they had been working this road long before the road was even built and gave us a picture of Shoo-shi in his earlier years at the same place. Hardly recognizeable! Mash’allah!
Jericho and Hisham’s Palace
Mount of Temptation
Presentation is everything! Yum!>