Heirs and Legacies

 

The sun shines brightly on the white walls and red roofs of Cordoba, the capital of Andalusia. Abd al Rahman ibn Muawiya I stands on a balcony of the main mosque at the centre of the city. He wears a white turban and a green cloak. On his right hand, he clutches a Quran close to his chest. He speaks with a loud and clear voice.

"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Peace and blessings be upon His Messenger Muhammad, his family and his companions. O people of Andalusia, I greet you with the greeting of Islam: As-salamu alaykum!"

The crowd responds "Wa alaykum as-salam!"

"I am Abd al Rahman ibn Muawiya, I am from the noble tribe of Quraysh, the tribe of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). About 100 years ago, the beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) passed away leaving us the Quran and the Sunnah to guide all Muslims. The first kingdom after the Khalifah Rashidun to carry the mantle of rule on that guidance were my ancestors. We built mosques and schools, we supported scholars and poets, we defended the borders and expanded the frontiers. We established justice and harmony among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I am the heir to that legacy."

Abd al Rahman paused and took a deep breath. "Some of my fathers were sinners," he admitted, "and some were rightly guided. In Islam, each child is born upon a blank slate of deeds - the child does not carry the inequities of the father - but for some reason I had to reap every wrong doing on their part."

The crowd listened attentively, eager to hear what the prince had to say.

"I was born in a palace, surrounded by luxury," he began. "But suddenly, when I turned 20 years of age, it seemed like the rest of the world had conspired against me. My entire family and I were being hunted one by one. They killed my grandfather, who was a pious and generous caliph. They killed my father, who was a brave and wise prince. They killed my uncle, who was a patron of monumental buildings like the Mosque of Damascus and the Mosque of Medina."

The crowd gasped as they heard his tragic tale. They felt sympathy for this man who had endured so much.

"I had to leave my own son behind,” he continued, “in a safe place while I jumped into and swam across the great Euphrates river to save my life - and my lineage. I watched my own brother Yahya get slaughtered mercilessly in front of me. I had to watch my back for my allies more than my enemies, because their pockets felt too light for them and they sought to fill them by betraying me. I wandered from one place to another, seeking refuge and support. I crossed deserts and mountains, rivers and seas, until I reached North Africa, where I found some friends among the Berbers, who shared with me blood from my mother's lineage and of course, my beautiful religion.”

The crowd cheered as they heard his words. They felt joy for him and his resilience.

“From there, I heard about your situation in Andalusia,” he said. “I heard that you were divided and oppressed by tyrants and rebels. I heard that you longed for a leader who could unite you and protect you. I heard that you remembered the glory days of my dynasty, who brought you Islam and civilization. I heard that you called me by name, as your emir and your savior.”

The crowd agreed with much enthusiasm. The courage and confidence of Abd al Malik inspired them and they felt they could place their trust in him. They started chanting his name.

“So I decided to come to you, answering your call and fulfilling your hopes,” he said. “I do not ask for your riches, I do not ask for your noble women - I ask for guidance from Allah Almighty to bring victory to these lands. Let us establish a grand mosque like the Dome of the Rock my ancestors built in Jerusalem. Let us establish peace and harmony with the Jews and Christians in this land like my ancestors had established in Jerusalem for centuries. We are Muslims and we will establish peace and justice wherever we go in the world, as doers of good and charity. Let Islam manifest in our art and our character. Together we shall show the world what our civilization can do! Allahu Akbar!”

“Allahu Akbar!” the crowd roared as they heard his final words. The chants of their proclamation to the Creator rang throughout the cobble streets of Cordoba.

~

Tyler walked along the narrow streets of present day Cordoba, admiring the architecture and the history of the city. He had converted to Islam a few years ago after studying the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was eager to see the Great Mosque of Cordoba, one of the most famous and beautiful mosques in the world.

He turned a corner and saw the mosque’s minaret towering over the surrounding buildings. He felt a surge of awe and excitement as he approached the entrance. He paid the admission fee and entered the courtyard, where he saw a fountain, palm trees, and rows of arches. He followed the signs to the prayer hall, where he was greeted by a stunning sight: hundreds of columns supporting red and white striped arches, creating a forest of light and shadow. He felt a sense of peace and wonder as he walked among them, admiring the intricate geometric patterns and calligraphy on the walls.

He noticed a small shop on one side of the hall, selling souvenirs and clothing. He decided to take a look, hoping to find something to remember his visit. He saw a friendly-looking man behind the counter, wearing a traditional robe and a cap. He smiled and greeted him with “As-salamu alaykum”.

“Alaykum as-salam,” the man replied warmly. “Welcome to my humble shop. Where are you from, brother?” he asked.

“I’m from Canada,” Tyler said. “I’m here on vacation, but I also wanted to see this mosque. It’s amazing.”

“It is indeed,” the man agreed. “It’s one of the jewels of Islamic civilization. I’m glad you appreciate it.”

“I do,” Tyler said. “I converted to Islam a few years ago, after learning about it online and reading the Quran.”

“Mashallah,” the man exclaimed. “That’s wonderful. May Allah bless you for your choice.”

“Thank you,” Tyler said. “What about you? Are you from here?”

“No, I’m from Madrid,” the man said. “But I moved here about 15 years ago, after I converted to Islam myself.”

“Really?” Tyler said, intrigued. “What made you convert?”

“Well, it’s a long story,” the man said. “But basically, I was always interested in my ancestry, and I did some research on my family tree. I found out that I was a descendant of the Umayyads, the Muslim dynasty that ruled Spain for centuries and built this mosque. That started my journey into Islam”

“Wow!” Tyler exclaimed. “That’s incredible. I’ve never heard of them before.”

“They were one of the most powerful and influential Muslim dynasties in history,” the man explained. “They expanded their empire from Arabia to North Africa, Spain, China, and beyond. They were known for establishing justice for Jews and Christians here. They also contributed greatly to science, art and architecture as well. They left behind many monuments and landmarks.”

“Like this mosque?” Tyler asked.

“Yes, like this mosque,” the man said. “But also many others. Do you see that hoodie over there?” He pointed to a display that had a picture of a golden-domed building.

“Yes,” Tyler said.

“That’s the Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem,” the man said. “It’s one of their most famous creations.”

“That’s amazing,” Tyler said.

“It is,” the man said. “And there are many more examples of their legacy in Spain and elsewhere. You should visit them if you can.”

“I would love to,” Tyler said.

“Then you should,” the man encouraged him. “You have a connection with them, you know.”

“How so?” Tyler asked.

“You are a Muslim, like they were” the man said. “You are their brother in faith.”

Tyler felt a warm feeling in his chest. He realized that he was part of something bigger than himself, something that spanned across time and space.

“Thank you for telling me this,” he said.

“My pleasure,” the man said. “By the way, my name is Omar Solimán.”

“I’m Tyler,” Tyler said.

“It’s nice to meet you, Tyler,” Omar said.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Omar,” Tyler said.

“So, do you like that hoodie?” Omar asked.

“I do,” Tyler said.

“Would you like to buy it?” Omar asked.

“Sure” Tyler said.

“Great,” Omar said. “And I’ll give you a discount for being a fellow convert to Islam.”

Tyler smiled and said he appreciated it. He bought the hoodie and felt a connection with Omar's heritage as he put it on.

He thanked him again and said goodbye. Omar wished him well and said “Allahu akbar”. Tyler echoed his words and left the shop. He continued his tour of the mosque, feeling more inspired than ever by its beauty and history. 

He stopped at a bench and took a closer look at the hoodie he had just purchased. He saw that the picture of the Dome of the Rock was on the hood, and that the front had an Arabic phrase written in calligraphy. He recognized the word “Palestine”, and he used his phone to translate the rest. It said “Palestine in my heart”. He felt a surge of emotion as he realized that this hoodie was not only a souvenir, but also a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people, who were struggling for their rights and dignity in their homeland. He felt a connection with them, too, as fellow Muslims and human beings. He put on the hoodie and pulled up the hood, feeling proud and hopeful. He prayed for peace and justice in Palestine, and for all oppressed people in the world. He thanked Allah for guiding him to Islam, and for showing him the beauty and diversity of his creation. He smiled and resumed his tour, feeling more grateful than ever for his life and his faith.

~

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