In The Name of Allah, the Magnificent and the Merciful




[Shamim A Siddiqi, New York]


INTRODUCTION: Since the time I studied in the forties of the last century the history of Muslim’s conquest of Spain and the epoch making role of Abdur Rahman Al-Dakhil, I had the fascination to visit the remnants of his empire in Cordoba and Granada. Later on when I studied the visit of Allamah Iqbal to the Cordoba Mosque in 1933 and the marvelous long inspiring poem he composed sitting in the shade of the Mosque, I made up my mind to see it sometime by myself its glory and the message it transpires.


Time passed on. I came to the USA and settled here for good. My grand son Dr Jameel Siddiqi is very fond of travelling and visiting historical cities of Europe and the Muslim world. He likes to travel in the company of older people like me. Last year, I visited with him Istanbul and this year I travelled with him on February 6, 08 to Spain along with his father in law, Br Alavi. It was a very good company to travel with. Jameel is well versed with the travelling manners and etiquettes and is fluent in Spanish. We left NY by Air France to Paris and from there to Madrid.  We reached there in the morning of Feb. 7. 08.


Besides this historic background, I have a great interest to visit the Islamic Center of Madrid. It was built by Saudi Arabia in 1991 at the cost of 20 million dollars. I wanted to see its activities and envision: Is there any program in the Center to introduce and spread Islam afresh in the 21 century in Europe, the job which Ummayyahs, Abbasides and Ottomans could not do for centuries together at their zenith in spite of the fact that they have the means and the resources to do that? Had they all done their job well as obligation of their Iman, the history of Europe would have been quite different today? I had the expectation in mind that this onerous task could now be undertaken by this IC of Madrid. Let me see the brothers who are running its affairs and exchange views with them. They have the opportunity to prepare the team of Da’ees in Spanish, French, German and English to tour Europe with Dawah literature as their only tool. SA has the means to finance this most innocent activity to do from her Islamic Center, magnificently sitting in the heart of Madrid.


MADRID: Madrid [Majrit during Muslim period] is the capital and a historical city of Spain. It is the most modern city, full of gardens, orchards, beautiful well decorated buildings and humming with civic, cultural and commercial activities all around. The city has a large Central park as that we have in NY. We saw the ruins of a Muslim fort in the vicinity of the palace of the present King of Spain at the mountain top. Walking on the streets, we entered into to a squire size huge housing complex with spacious ground in the center for public entertainments, hotels, tourist shopping centers and sporadic musical concerts. We sat in the front of a running cafeteria and Jameel ordered for our launch. It was a dish of fresh shrimp cooked with rice but it had horrible smell of raw fish and I could not take it. I preferred to take dried bread with water. It was very delicious for me when I recollected the historical event when Caliph Omar (RA) visited Syria and was the guest one evening at the house of Ubaidah bin Jarrah (RA), the Governor and the military Chief of Syria. He served Omar (RA) with some pieces of dried bread and water to eat and said, “Ya Amirulmumeneen, this is my food.” Omar cried. Since then, I was thinking to experience this kind of food of austerity. Allah (SWT) provided me this opportunity in Madrid and Alhamdulillah I will never forget the taste and deliciousness of that food ever in life.


In that complex, there was an Information Center for guidance of the tourists. We went there and asked an assistant to locate for us the Islamic Center in Madrid. He took a map of the city, underlined the area where we were standing and then pinpointed the IC and the rout to go there. We took the map with thanks, got out of the complex, hired a taxi and proceeded toward the Center. But before getting out of the complex, I purchased a long size pencil and a t-shirt for my sweet Princes Zahra, the little cute daughter of my youngest son Tariq.


ISLAMIC CENTER OF MADRID: While proceeding towards the IC we found that there is an underground road system in the City that goes to different parts of the country. We travelled about half an hour underground and then came up in the day light and soon entered into the compound of IC. It was about 4 PM when we reached there and to my ill luck, the offices were closed. Only Masjid was open and the cultural center.  By chance I met a brother named Muhammad. I introduced myself to him and gave my visiting card.  He said that offices are closed by 3 PM and you come tomorrow to see Dr Ibrahim al-Zaid, the Director of the Center. He also gave me his E-mail address and a brief sketch of Centers activities in the field of prayers, sermons on Fridays, Qur’anic sessions, Tajveed classes, matrimonial and burial arrangements. The Center has a mosque, a library and a lecture hall. This is the list of normal routine activities of Islamic centers around the world and it has no trace of Dawah activities on the lines I mentioned above. I wish the leadership of SA would have the vision to make the best use of the IC to fulfill the inherent mission of Islam in the West. [ Later on, I found that E-mail address given to me was not correct as my mail returned ”undelivered’]       


AN EVENING IN MADRID: During evening hours, we went to a big central place, a public park                                 surrounded from all sides with tall buildings, practically all in equal size, height and shape. The park was humming and jam packed with people of different sex, age, taste and manners, wandering aimlessly in groups in an easy going style. It was a reckless wandering of the Western youth. We occupied an empty bench and felt rested a while. We offered our Maghreb prayers while sitting on the bench under very watchful eyes of the onlookers. With the setting of the sun, the second and fourth floor of each building was illuminated all around, presenting a memorable picture of the public park never to be forgotten.  We were watching the movements of each group with appropriate comments. It was a vivid picture of the cultural “waste” that West presents today to the humanity at large. There was nothing to be imitated. It appears to be a total loss of youth of both genders. We had simple dinner in a restaurant and returned to hotel.


A MEMORABLE NIGHT AT HOTEL: We were staying in Hotel Carlton in the vicinity of Madrid Railway station. I am habituated to sleep on hard mattress but in the hotel it was a soft one. As such, I could not sleep. After tossing on the bed for about an hour or so, I got up at around I PM, offered my unfinished nightly prayers, sat down on a chair, stretching my legs on the bed not the body and started thinking over my past, present and future projections of life. I am often worried as how to use the remaining portion of my life known to Allah alone. Alhamdulillah, I am running eighty. Intellectually I feel very sound though physically, many body parts are “insisting” not to come along with me to share the burden of my life-long pursuit of Iqamatuddeen till the last breath of my life. I started thinking what more could I do in the most conservative expectancy of my life that cannot be more than a couple of years or so. “Wal Ilmu Indallah”.


My inner self inclined me to plan as what to do now onward, I took a sheet form the writing pad of the hotel and started jotting down the projects to be undertaken henceforth on return to States.  



* Completion of the impending Book – After Becoming Muslim –What Next?

* Muslim Ummah in a Mess – How to get out of it?

* Western Civilization – Where it stands today? [It needs total exposition]

* Muslims Through Crises – A process of Critical Evaluation of our Past, Present & Future];

*.Human Society Needs Justice & Peace: Who can deliver it and How?



* Building the requisite Team of Da’ees in every country where Muslims live;

* Introducing & Preaching Islam as human’s need;

* Producing issue-oriented Dawah Literature in different languages for mass circulation;

* Organizing the Institution of Zakah on Global level to help the suffering humanity;

* Opening dialogue with Judeo-Christian community for better understanding of each other and

   promoting the Abrahamic faith;

* Establishing Model Muslim Communities around the world to present a replica of Islamic system of

   life in the context of the modern world;

* Establishing an Institution of Fiqh to resolve the growing issues and challenges of modern age in the

   context of the Qur’an, Sunnah and Ijmaah of the Ummah.   


The night passed on in thinking and planning what to do and how to do? I thought to make it an integral part of “My Visit to Spain” with the intention that some brothers/sisters may be thinking like that and would prefer to undertake it as the mission of their life to fulfill. What I am thinking in my humble way, others can build a movement to get the mission accomplished.   


PROCEEDING TOWARDS CORDOBA:  We were to go to Cordoba by train. We took our continental breakfast in the hotel, checked out in the morning hours of February 8, 08 and walked to railway station of Madrid which was just across the street. It is a huge complex with morning rush hours. Our seats were booked. Trains are most modern, speedy, neat and clean. We boarded in the train, walked inside to our allotted seats and train started for Cordoba on time, a journey of about 280 km. The country side was just beautiful, full of large agricultural farms and big gardens of fruits and vegetables but the train was fast and we could not enjoy it much. We reached Cordoba around 10.30 AM.  Before going out of the station, I entered in a store with Jameel and Br Alvi, saw two beautiful Mufflers for girls and purchased them for my grand daughters. When I wanted more as I have seven of them she said, “No more”. I decided to give them through “lucky numbers”.


IN CORDOBA MOSQUE: After lodging in the hotel, we hired a taxi and proceeded towards the Cordoba Mosque. In Spanish mosque is called “MEZQUITA”. This historical place is also called: “The Cathedral of Cordoba”. The entrance fee is Euro eight per person and bears the emblem of “CATEDRAL DE CORDOBA [ANTIGUA MEZQUITA]. It is no longer the historic mosques of Abdur Rahman but predominantly a church with some signs of Masjid left here and there and that too are totally guarded with iron fences. You can only envision its grandeur and exquisite beauty through its marvelously decorated pillars, arches and Qur’anic verses written around them. Practically, entire Mosque has been turned into a Cathedral, the “Mother Church of Dioceses”. You can go like tourist. roam about here and there, have some sighs of exclamation mixed with sorrow and recite “Inna lillahey wa Inna elahey Rajeoon”. On both the flanks of the “Church’ [North and South] wooden benches in a long row have covered the area for Christian prayers   


The Cordoba Mosque was the imagination of Abdur Rahman I on the pattern of the Mosque of Damascus which he was missing in the West. However, the Mosque went on progressing and expanding by subsequent rulers, Abdur Rahman II & III, Al-Hakim and Al-Mansur. A Rahman III ordered the construction of minaret which is now “embedded in the tower of the Cathedral”. The final extensive expansion was rendered by Caliph Al-Mansur, adding eight aisles along the Eastern side of the Mosque including the courtyard. King Ferdinand III conquered Cordoba in 1236 and started the transformation of Masjid into church. In fifteenth century, the original palm trees in the courtyard were substituted by orange trees and that give its name now.


I had every intention to offer two Rakaah Nafil in the Mosque and read out the poem that Iqbal composed while visited Cordoba Mosque in 1933 but, unfortunately, there was no place for offering the prayers. With the Mashwarah [consultation] of Br. Alavi, we went to church area which was covered with benches. We sat on one of them and taking the area as that of original mosque, offered our prayers and implored to Allah (SWT) to restore Muslim Ummah and the mosque to its original glories. I took out the poem of Iqbal from my inside pocket of my jacket and recited its concluding portion where he concluded with the following verse:


[“Naqsh hain sub natamam khoon-e-Jigar key beghair <> Naghma hai sawdaey kham khoon-e-Jighar key beghair”- Translation: All the imprints are imperfect without the liver’s blood <> All songs are uncooked insanity without liver’s blood”]


However, while keenly busy in observing the “Mehrab” of the Masjid, to my utter astonishment, a guard approached me from behind and handed over to me that issue of “Messaque”, Lahore of November 07 which contains the aforesaid poem of Iqbal saying: “This place is not for prayer. It is prohibited here”. Perhaps I could not keep it back properly in my pocket. It fell there where I was sitting for prayers. The guard was watching my movements and delivered a stern message to me in disguise: It is no longer a “Mezquita.”        


MADINAT al- ZAHRA: After wandering for some more time in the “Mosque-turned-Church” we came out at he back of the “Mosque” to have a look of the of “Wadiul Kabir” [Guadalquivir] on the bank of which the Masjid was established. It is a picturesque site with rush green mountains in the background and beyond that was established the “Madinat-Al - Zahra” [City of Al-Zahra], four miles away from the Cordoba Mosque. We were on the road to go there but there was no taxi available. We walked for about a mile or so and then got the cab. We reached there in the evening. The lush green mountains were now on our back and this City of Zahra was in its lap. The city is now in ruins and only its archaeological remains are the attraction of tourists. Br Alavi and Jameel went to see the remnants of once most beautiful city. I could not go due to my knee trouble and engaged myself in the picture gallery in the information office.


THE MISSING STORY OF THE CITY: After watching the various pictures of the site, I was very much disappointed as there was no picture drawn keeping the mountains in the background which have great significance in the historical perspective of the City. When the City was completed, the Caliph moved in the palace with his wife Zahra. In the morning hours he asked the queen how you feel about the location of the site. She said, ‘I am seeing a beautiful damsel sitting in the lap of a black man”. The Caliph was much surprised to hear the profound feelings of his beloved wife for whom he built the City at enormous cost. He ordered his courtyard people to remove the mountain. They said: It is not possible. He then ordered to clean the mountain and cover it with fruit trees and flowers that made it a lush green beauty, since then.  I told the story to the person in-charge of the site and requested him in writing to tell his bosses to put some pictures here with the mountains in the background, at least to commemorate the beautiful comments of the Queen Zahra.  


The sun was about to set. Its glow made the entire environment spell bound.  We kept our taxi in waiting as there was no chance to get one there. We returned to our hotel, had our dinner, walked awhile in the hotel lobby with Br Alavi and went to sleep after offering our Isha prayers as next morning we were to go Granada. The bed was up to my liking and I had a sound sleep, Alhamdulillah.


ALHAMRA PALACE IN GRANADA: It is at a distance of about 180 km from Cordoba and we had to return to Madrid the same day by train to catch our flight to Paris on way to NY. May Allah bless him! Jameel decided to hire a car and go there by road. We did it and enjoyed the side scenes more than any thing. While driving further south of the province of Andalusia of Spain, we saw the picturesque site of snow clad Mounts of Serra Nevada in the horizon. It presented a beautiful landscape from the mountain top to the valley where the Palace of Alhamra palace was built in the fourteenth century, presenting the most perfect situation from the point of location. It was built by red stones and that is why it is known as Alhamra.  The palace is in ruins and Spanish people plundered its charm, beauty and richness.  Dr Gustauli Ban of France has given a vivid picture of Alhamra’s destruction and plunders in his book: “History of Arab Culture” [I have its Urdu translation “Tamaddun-e-Arab” by Sayed Ali Bilgarami].


A COUPLE OF HOURS IN PARIS: We hardly stayed in the Granada for about an hour or so and returned to Cordoba to catch our Train for Madrid as our seats were booked and we could not miss it. We reached Madrid four hour before the flight time for NY. We used this time to have a bird’s view of Paris around Eiffel Tower. There I encountered a very sad incident of my life. A poor lady, perhaps from Albania approached us and Jameel gave her sufficient cash. Meanwhile, Br Alavi decided to have ice cream. The moment I had it in my hand, she again came to us and begged. I told her to get out. I immediately realized my mistake by recollecting: “Drive not away the beggar” [93: 10] and begged her pardon and gave her the ice cream that I had in my hand, a token of compensation for my misbehavior with a needy sister. May Allah forgive me.!


CONCLUDING WORDS: This is what I have seen, felt and experienced during “My Visit to SpainMadrid, Cordoba, Granada and a bit of Paris. I have shared what happened to me.  I have expressed meticulously what I envision and have elaborated what is my concern about Muslim Ummah as how can it now be resurrected to regain her past and lost glory amongst the community of nations. It would now be possible only by upholding again the mission of our life that was upper most in our mind when Tariq bin Ziad landed at the coast of Gibraltar and burned his boats as a symbol of determination. But it was simply for the conquest of land not of heart and mind. Now this mission is long over due. We have to undertake it as the challenge of our life and fulfill it in the Continents of Europe and America with the same determination that Tariq displayed but now in a different perspective as envisaged above.


May Allah give us Tawfeeq, courage and means to fulfill it within a foreseeable future! Amen    


Shamim Siddiqi   

March 6, 2008