Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Jordan Whisperer by Riyaad Moosa


Learning the language of Arabic or any language for that matter, is not just a matter of ingesting copius amounts of vocabulary and using grammar to glue these words into a coherent sentence, as Riyaad had discovered in his book debut, "The Jordan Whisperer". It's trying to grasp the culture, the music and even the food in order to understand the building blocks of said language.

Written in blog format, Riyaad's journey is a play by play account, as it occurred on a particular day of his six months in the capital of Amman, where he studied the Arabic language at the best institute in the Levant.
"The Jordan Whisperer" takes us through the ups and downs of learning Arabic while having to adjust quickly to Arab culture. In between chomping on felafel sandwiches and savouring the local delicacy of knefah, his trips to the Jordanian country side gives us a glimpse of the rich historical sites dotted throughout the Jordanian landscape. The reader develops an appreciation for the contributions of Western civilisation and acquires an insight as to what is needed in order for the Arab nations to make progress as a potent civilisation. Surprisingly, the book also provides a remedy for being homesick should you be away from home and even a recipe on how to make a delicious tuna sandwich aimed specifically at men.

The climax of his studies was Riyaad's visit to Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque which he depicts in astonishing detail, leaving the reader completely inspired to visit the Holy Land. This is a must read for those who are interested in learning Arabic in the Middle East as well as those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the Arab mind-set. The book is presently available in digital format for the Amazon Kindle and PC. So, go on, save a tree and download the book from

In The Footsteps of Salah ad-Dīn (an excerpt from The Jordan Whisperer)
Posted on December 29, 2011
So, today the entire school was taken to Ajloun to see the fortress built by the forces of Salah ad-Dīn. I can’t emphasise enough how important this was for me personally. About 2 years ago, when I was really getting into my martial arts training, my teacher, a Muslim, began to speak about the contributions made by Muslims throughout the ages in medicine, astronomy, mathematics, literature, art and even martial arts itself. I then, on my own, began to research all these things that he spoke about and was quite surprised to discover that my true heritage as a Muslim was much, much more wholesome than what was passed down to me through my Indian elders.

Whereas Ibn Rushd, and Ibn Sina stand out as scholars in philosophy, Salah ad-Dīn stood out for me as someone who encompassed all the attributes that a real Muslim warrior should have. With the help of his forces, he was able to stop the Crusaders advance which then signaled the collapse of the entire crusade. Our tour guide, a Muslim by the name of Ebrahim, is an old man, definitely reaching for his late 60′s. His knowledge on the castle, its surroundings and its deep history was immeasurable. A qualified archaeologist, he spent much of his life researching this castles’ history even unearthing more than 500 ancient documents detailing the on-goings within the castle.

The castle is surrounded by deep green valleys, home to indigenous populations of wildlife like wolves, hyenas and the white-breasted eagle to name a few. The hills also hold olive, cyprus and pine trees, giving the usually dry, arid country a wonderful mix of colour and life. Up the first few steps he led us, across the drawbridge. Before entering the castle, he pointed to a tiny room which as he explained housed hot oil used tothrow onto the enemy if they tried to scale the walls. Below us a wide moat, now completely dry, encircled the castle. Ebrahim, his face burnt an extra shade of brown, ushered us to each room of the castle, spending not less than 10 minutes, describing in minute detail the purpose of each room. There was a surgery, a hospital, a toilet and shower area, and even a madrassah where medical students did an intern service in surgical procedures. Ebrahim mentioned that one European scholar said that the education received by students in this castle was the beginning of the Renaissance in Europe. I can’t remember the European scholar’s name.

We walked up the second and third flight of stairs until we reached the top. Due to several earthquakes in the past, the four towers above it had crumbled to the ground, leaving the castle with its open air view. Ebrahim pointed out where Nablus, Jenin, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights are. When Ebrahim had done talking, a nasheed artist that teaches poetry at Qasid, began to beat out a lovely tune on the darbuka, causing everyone to clap in sync to the beat. Even the local teen Jordanian visitors that were there joined in the chanting.

I walked with Ebrahim down the winding stone stairs again, hoping that by some miracle, some of his hard earned knowledge and wisdom would rub off on me. The director of Qasid, met us and began to ask him about the Islamic significance. Ebrahim replied by saying that there were four main sahaaba that took part in a battle just close to Nablus. I can’t remember what their names were. Damn, I have a problem remembering names. I should’ve brought a bloody notebook with. Anyways, he said in this specific battle there were 14 000 sahaaba that were martyred and buried there.
The director of Qasid enquired as to which prophets were buried in this part of Jordan, he replied that it was only Prophet Elijah (peace be upon him). Ebrahim went on to narrate that the Jews at that time didn’t want to follow Prophet Elijah (peace be upon him). They surrounded him and besieged him hoping to starve him to death. Allah then sent angels disguised as a flock of birds to bring food to him. When the Jews checked to see if he had died, they saw him sitting and eating silently. This enraged the group of Jews and they then declared they were going to “squeeze” him to death. Allah then opened a rift in the sky allowing a column of light to appear, shining down to earth. When the Jews looked up at the light, all 500 of them were blinded. That is why that specific area in Jordan is known as Blinds Mountain.

Even up until today, Ebrahim continued, if someone sinned in that area and spent the night there, in the morning when they woke up, they would be blinded. I don’t know how true that story is, but it does give a stern warning: don’t mess with the prophets sent by Allah. Something else Ebrahim mentioned to me which I had not heard before, was his belief that at the end of times, the final battle between the believers and the oppressors in Palestine would take place somewhere in the hills of Nablus. With that being the end of the tour, I took his number, name and shook his hand for sharing his time with us. I can’t explain it, but I am in awe of this man.

Before making the final pull back to Amman, we were treated at a local restaurant on the way, to khubz bread with lamb curry, salads, falafel and the other Arab dishes which I’m not aware of. I concurred with one of the American students when she exclaimed this was the first meal she had that resembled the cooking back home. We disembarked at Qasid with our stomachs full, Alhamdullillah, and time to go our separate ways.

It would seem this trip would be the highlight of my day, but it wasn’t to be so. I waited a long, long time for one of the yellow taxis to stop for me. Every taxi I hailed was full or wasn’t going in the direction I wanted. I sullied a bit further up the road on the side, hoping to increase my chances to get home before 5pm. By a stroke of sheer luck or by decree of The Divine Sovereign, whichever suits your fancy, the taxi quietly drove past those that stood in line before me and I got in.

“Jabal Hussein”. “Ahh, yes get in. Yalla”. Thinking that he didn’t understand English, “This road is full”, I said while slapping my palm against a closed fist.
“Yes, yes. Tomorrow is Friday, a holiday, so after three, it is difficult to get taxi”. We merged with the traffic as Jordanians normally do which is a frenzy of hooting, angry stares, and overtaking not using the indicator lights. “Are you from India, Pakistan”? “No I’m from South Africa but my ancestors are from India and Afghanistan”. “Doesn’t matter, they all look the same.” I had to laugh at this remark. “Are you Muslim?” “I’m Muslim”, I replied. A short silence came between us. “There are many Muslims here. 95% in Jordan”. “Are there any Christians here?”, I asked. “Hmm, maybe about 3 or 4%” “Are there any Jews here?”. “No, nothing.” “Well, they must be all back in Israel”. This remark broke the camel’s back.

Immediately he replied that no, I shouldn’t say Israel. The land is called Palestine, otherwise it gives legitimacy to the occupiers that their claim is a legitimate one. He went on to explain that all these Jews living there in Palestine now came all over from Europe to make that land their home. He stated as a matter of fact, he worked as a teacher in Kuwait and then after that spent 5-6 years in Saudi Arabia. Then he came to Jordan. Why? Because he could smell the land of Palestine from Jordan. I sat still for a minute realising my folly, my careless indiscretion. I quickly gazed at the elderly man commanding this left -handed vehicle we both sat in. The grey hairs dotted neatly around his tanned face yet bore a sparkle in his eyes.

“InshaAllah. One day all Muslims, not only Arabs but all Muslims will stand together. It is the job of all Muslims”, he said. Almost at our destination, I mentioned to him that when I get back to South Africa, I will be teaching Arabic at the local musjid and to as many Muslims as I can in Cape Town. “Yes, when you do that, you get all the hasanat from everyone you teach”, he exclaimed.

I advised that he can drop me off at the Toledo Hotel. Khadir quickly belted out, “Do you know where Toledo comes from?” I shook my head in the negative. “Toledo comes from Spain. It is Tulaytulah. Just like Cordoba.” With a look of amazement at this wise man’s knowledge, I motioned to the left to enter Silwan Street. His courtesy didn’t cease to amaze me. He stopped right in front of my place and even went so far to show me the coin denominations. I shook his hand, “Shukran Uncle Khadir” and got out of the car.
I struggled to reach for my house keys in my ‘man bag’. When I did find them, to my disappointment the link on the Palestine key ring I bought at the tourist shop at Ajloun had broken off.

Numbering under ten, this year, there were some experiences that left a lasting impact on me. My exchange with Uncle Khadir and this broken key-ring, ranks up there in the top three.
Tags: Ajloun, castle, Ebrahim, Khadir, Palestine, Salah ad-Dīn, Salahuddeen

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