Abode Of Peace
If you’re Kedahan, then you would know of Kedah’s beautiful state mosque: Masjid Zahir.
Built in 1915, Masjid Zahir could well be one of my favourite mosques to not only pray in but to spend time in to read the Quran, to reflect on God and escape from the hustle and bustle of life. I’ve prayed here at different times of the year throughout my life and it’s always nice being able to compare how much the atmosphere of the mosque differs throughout the day and throughout the year.
When I was a kid, my mum would always come back from the mosque looking so uplifted and she would tell me how certain mosques can have that special effect on you. I couldn’t relate to what she experienced back then but I knew the calmness she described was genuine because I felt it in her energy.
Masjid Zahir has that effect on me—the reasons are complicated yet simple. Maybe it’s the architecture, maybe it’s the location or maybe it’s the barakah (blessings) of the people that walk in and out of its huge, wooden doors. I can’t explain the inner workings of my heart but what I know for sure is: there is something truly special about Masjid Zahir.
A little background on this masjid: considering that it is the state mosque of Kedah, it’s not that big. It’s cute sized compared to the mega-sized mosques in Malaysia such as Masjid Wilayah or Masjid Negeri Selangor. But then again, this is no modern mosque, they didn’t have the resources nor the technology to build such a huge mosque back in the day.
Due to its humble size, you definitely cannot get lost in this mosque and if you want to explore its premises, you could do it under 20 minutes unless you intend to admire and inspect every detail of the mosque—for that, you could take up to an hour.
So far, Masjid Zahir is the one mosque I’m drawn to do i’tikaf (spiritual retreat) in because you can’t help but feel pulled in while you are here. It’s not always that you find a place that puts you in so much ease and when you find such a place, the heart does not want to leave.
The Believing Woman
Besides the physical structure of the mosque itself, perhaps the second thing I love most about Masjid Zahir is the lovely ladies I meet when I’m here. Masha Allāh.
Not surprisingly, during the daylight hours of Ramadhan, the mosque is mostly filled with both elderly men and women as most of them have retired and have more free time to dedicate to ibadah (worship). I’m always sitting next to a friendly mak cik while I’m here and they exude such a calming aura.
If they’re not deep in dhikirullah (remembrance of Allāh), they will be reciting the Quran or taking down notes while the imam delivers his lecture. Seeing them busy themselves with worship and seeking knowledge reminds me of this quote by Prof Muhammad Zainiy:
People have a lot to say on the topic of ‘true beauty’ and in a way, we bring our own realities into the definition of true beauty but if you focus on the word ‘true’, which means ‘accordance to fact or reality’, the only true reality is al-Haqq, one of Allāh’s 99 beautiful names which means the Absolute Truth.
As the believing woman’s physical beauty fades with age, it brings forward her true beauty: her piety.
It got me thinking of how special it is that these women are probably unaware of the beauty they exude. Although their bodies are frail and their faces decorated with wrinkles, the lines around their eyes and smiles etch a story that is full of wisdom and triumph.
Beauty is not always in what you can see but it is in how it makes you feel.
I strongly believe that all khayr (good) will leave a pleasant feeling in the heart. Nothing that is evil, or lacks good, can ever fill your heart with calmness—it may excite you, give you pleasure or make you high on happiness but it cannot grant you stillness in the soul.
As women, there is certainly more pressure on us to age gracefully and great emphasis is put on on maintaining our physical looks instead of emphasising on our spiritual development. Our physical bodies weaken as the years go by and when we die it decays into nothingness while the soul lives on forever.
Observing the women I meet in Masjid Zahir definitely got me reflecting on how much time, effort and money we waste on the temporary and un-real.
As I looked at the women around me who were beautifully immersed in Allāh, I lifted my hands and made a prayer: “Ya Allāh, if I get to live until old age, may I become as beautiful as these women who despite old age, still dedicate their time to you.”
If you don’t have a habit of going to the masjid, it’s never too late to start. There was a time I felt anxious being there because I always felt like I was being watched or scrutinised (hello, social anxiety) but alhamdullilah, over the years that feeling has gone away and I’m able to not only enjoy jama’ah (congregational) prayers at the masjid but I’m able to see the masjid as a place where I can find solace and get closer to Allāh.
The Messenger ﷺ said: “If anyone goes back and forth to the mosque [to attend the prayers], Allah will prepare for him a feast in paradise as often as he goes back and forth.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Another narration states: “If anyone purifies himself in his house, and then walks to one of the houses of Allah to fulfill one of the obligations laid down by Allah, then [each one] of his steps will erase one of his sins and the next will raise his degrees.” (Muslim)
In case you don’t know, Kedah is also known as Kedah Darul Aman, which means the abode of peace. Wherever you go, I pray that you may find the peace that your soul is searching for. Amiin.