Orland Park Prayer Center

The Prayer Center of Orland Park

I was born in 1968, only one year after the second major “Hijrah” of the Palestinian people from the West Bank, which came 19 years after the first one in 1948. More than half of the Palestinian population were forced out of their country by the Israeli occupation, and till now a whole new generation is living in a diaspora away from their homeland. In 1982, I witnessed the flux of refugees coming from Beirut to the town I lived in Tripoli, flooding all schools, open parks and any space you can imagine to try to accommodate the people who fled from the Israeli invasion of Beirut. People tried to help however they could to ease some of the hardships on the refugees. I had a small share in that even as a teen. I remember a group of Palestinian kids saw my bike on the balcony and came knocking on our door to ask if they could borrow it to play. My mom, standing next to me, offered it freely to them and to other kids who were in the school in front of our house.

In 1985, just a couple of years before my high school graduation, my city of Tripoli was bombarded by the Syrian army while I was living alone, and I had to flee with tens of thousands of people into the province of Akkar to escape a war that lasted 3 months. During our escape from the city, our car was hit by sniper bullets, stopped many times by Syrian check points, and only allowed to pass after the driver bribed them with cartons of Marlboro that he smartly planned to carry for such encounters. Upon returning to the city after the war, many of these families forced to flee found their homes destroyed, goods stolen from their stores, and many lost lives of the unfortunate who could not escape.

Just a couple of years after arriving to the United States, I volunteered at local Mosques helping with the collection of medicine and food for the Bosnian refugees fleeing the massacres inflicted on them by the Serbs. They faced so many atrocities in that war, including systematic rape, torture, and murder.

And the list of war’s atrocities goes on and on.  Our government’s war on Afghanistan and Iraq led to millions of refugees, and for the past five years we have been witnessing a vicious ongoing war by the Syrian government against its own citizens that has left more than half a million civilians dead and more than six million refugees forced to live in harsh conditions in neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, and perhaps slightly better conditions inside Turkey and Europe for those who were lucky enough to make it there alive.

I am not sure how many more “Hijrahs” I will witness in the coming years, but with all of them comes sacrifices exactly like the ones faced by our Prophets before us like Ibrahim, Lut, Musa, and Prophet Mohammad (SAAW) with his companions. The same story of the loss of family members, many injured physically, emotionally and mentally, the total loss of homes and wealth, and being forced to leave the place of your residence to make a journey to the unknown.

The new Hijri year 1438 enters to remind us about the Hijrah of our beloved prophet Mohammad (SAAW) with his companions (RAA) to recall the sacrifices that Sahabah had to endure. From the story of Suhaib the Roman who gave up all his wealth, to the story of Um Salamah who was separated from her husband and child, to the journey that Prophet Mohammad (SAAW) took with Abu Bakr Al-Siddique, you will find stories of sacrifices, as well as the pain of leaving one’s hometown and going to a new place, facing many new challenges and hardships.

Interestingly, after every migration there was a wisdom which prevailed for the outcome of something good. The story of Ibrahim planted the seed for rise of the Children of Israel to survive in Egypt with Prophet Yusuf. It also planted the seed for the honorable House of God, Al-Ka’bah, to be built by Ibrahim and his son Ismael.

No sacrifices will pass without reward in this life and the Hereafter, and I hope and pray for any nation or people who had to flee their own countries because of wars or conflicts that they will enjoy some good saved for them by God.

I pray that the same way God rewarded the companions in their migration to Medinah to reward all those who left their countries against their will seeking safety and security for them and their children.

By Sh. Kifah Mustapha


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