By Laura Fawaz, TMO
The mosque and maqam of Imam Hussain in Karbala
Iraqâ€“The headlines in todayâ€™s western media on Iraq surround the notion that it is a desert land with memories of a war still lingering–with daily bombs and military attacks.
I recently ventured off to visit Iraq. And before I left, all my friends and family in America warned that it is not a safe thing to do, that they are still coming out of a war. And when watching the local news channels on Iraq, thereâ€™s the looming feel that it is an uncivilized country that is unable to function daily without outside assistance. So the idea of taking a trip there, while the media leads us to believe that it is still a danger zone where no one should go, was a bit shocking to my American friends and family.
But for this journalist being in Iraq, I felt safer walking the streets at night there, than I do in America. Why? Well first, a big part of it is what area youâ€™re in. Every tour group told us not to go to the capital, Baghdad, because being the capital, there is still political unrest and tensions, causing a few terrorist attacks. For us, we stayed Karbala; a city rich in Islamic and political history. The most amazing part though, is even with such history, there is not any of the Sunni / Shia tensions that there is played out to be in the western media. Many believe this to be a plan devised to create a divide and conquer scheme to assist in taking over the land during the American invasion into Iraq.
The way daily life there really is just an Islamic lifestyle, loving Prophet Muhammad (s), and his family. The only remnants of past apprehensions come from the dreadful memory of Saddam Hussein and his regime. For example, when you go into the shrine of Imam Hussein (as), youâ€™ll find a beautifully redone, grand mosque. Yet there are a few small sections of different walls scattered throughout the mosque that are desecrated with bullet holes. These are the same bullet holes that were fired by Saddamâ€™s men who would wait for people to go inside this mosque, visiting Imam Hussein (as), and then shoot at them, brutally massacring them.
In this same shrine, there is a museum on the second level, overlooking the entire mosque. In this museum are artifacts pertaining to the history of Karbala and Imam Husseinâ€™s shrine (as), as well as his grandfather Prophet Muhammad (s). There was one other powerful item being shown in this museum that is quite telling of the country, as one trying to get out of the past and move towards a new, innovative, bright future. It was a TV screen that played a photo slide show with visual evidence of the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Some of the photos were lines with bodies, or the weapons used to kill them with. This was used as a method to brag about by the terrorist Saddam.
In the city of Kufa, there are many great places to visit. The most notable is the Grand Kufa Mosque. One of the reasons why this mosque is one to visit is because every prophet of Islam prayed here at this mosque. The night that Prophet Muhammad (s) prayed here was the night he was lifted up to see the seven heavens by Allah (SWT). After this, the Prophet (s) was sent down to the Grand Kufa Mosque, where he offered two rakat of prayers. This very spot is still kept with a sign stating its greatness. We were also able to offer two rakat of prayers there, as well as in other remarkable spots such as the place where Prophet Adam (as) prayed, and a place where Angel Gabriel (as) came down.