“But I needed this time away. I needed this change of setting. New people, new faces, new environment. I rarely get to sit like this and write, and think, and pray like this—isolated, away, hidden”
Wednesday, June 22,2016
These lines were part of a diary entry I wrote whilst spending the latter half of Ramadan in the secluded mountains of Andalusia, specifically at Alqueria de Rosales. In the Northern Spanish plateaus of Granada, the 400-acre campus of Alqueria de Rosales lies nestled deep within the Sierra de Segura mountain range. It was founded in 1994 by Professor Abdussamad Romero, who found his path to Islam in the early 80s, alongside his family. Today, run by the entire Romero family, Alqueria de Rosales hosts a multitude of programs and retreats, ranging from The Zawiyah Retreat, Rumi’s Cave and even Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s Rihla back in 2010. Rosales’ campus contains a mosque, auditorium, library, lecture rooms, lodgings, a restaurant, a swimming pool and endless passage ways that tempt the journey of self-discovery.
As is illustrated by the diary extract above, my time at Rosales served as a temporary escape from the hustle and bustle of student life; a fast paced lifestyle that can obscure one’s true purpose in this world. My experience allowed me to break free of the ensnaring excessiveness and indulgences of this dunya. The fresh mountain air and peaceful surroundings nourished a revitalizing appreciation for nature. Such peace and serenity enabled me to journey through the pages of the Holy Quran, whilst searching for deeper meanings and relating the verses to my own life.
The definition of beauty was transformed before my eyes as I began to understand what it truly meant to get lost gazing up at the stars. The act of “looking up” is one that I learned to cherish, appreciate and practice in times of doubt or contemplation. At Rosales, beauty also meant meeting new people and hearing about their heartwarming stories of finding God – stories that I turn back to and reflect upon to this very day. Beauty was realizing that the Names of the Almighty are constantly manifested in our lives, before our very own eyes. I learned to delve into spirituality—a seemingly neglected dimension of our lives. Being able to appreciate your surroundings and those around you, counting your blessings and associating all the goodness to Him—elevates you to an entirely different realm of existence. As cliché as it may seem, Rosales is the optimal place for one to find their true self.
During Ramadan, my time at Rosales consisted of attending morning lectures that discussed Ibn Ata Allah’s renowned compilation of aphorisms, the Hikam. After the Zuhr prayer, I would usually sit in a Quran circle with the Imam. During the interval between Asr and Maghreb, a group of friends and I would take long walks around the campus before breaking our fast. On other days, we would pick cherries from the farm before sunset for them to be served at the evening meal. There were even instances where I tried my hand at preparing the iftar and the suhoor, though my absent culinary skills would land me the tedious task of setting up the tables and carpets for breaking the fast in the courtyard of the masjid.
The people I met at Rosales varied from undergraduate students to newlywed couples and families. During the final days of Ramadan, I had the opportunity to sit in the company of Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah. These sessions allowed us to ask Dr. Umar endless questions about life, Islam and spirituality. With such opportunities, Rosales cultivates a youth-to-scholar union, enabling us, the youth, to benefit from Muslim scholars’ wisdom, comprehension and experience.
Alqueria de Rosales will always have a place in my heart. A place where unworldliness, comfort and connection to the Almighty harmonize to create the perfect destination to meditate, travel within and reflect—especially during the Holy Month of Ramadan.