23rd and 27th July
Edinburgh and Rochdale in one week. Is Rochdale a city though? Never mind.
The talk was in fact my one day Dawa seminar, and I have to say the two groups were amongst the best I have delivered too so far.
Well done to everyone!
The original plan was to deliver the dawa seminar in Edinburgh and then over the next week gradually make my round the Seven Staines, down to the Lake District and then finish up in Rochdale a week later. However, we have our plans, but Allah has other plans. My beloved GarryFisher X-calibre had been badly damaged by zealous Estate manager in the mosque who thought that my bike was one of many dumped in the masjid by some Muslims who seem to think that that is what the railings in the masjid are for! Hiring bikes for a week was not really going to be and option. Still, I was going to play it by ear and see how everything went.
Now, if there are any of you out there that I have managed to enthuse with the idea of taking up mountain biking Seven Staines are seven mountain biking areas scattered around Southern Scotland and are rated amongst the best in the world. Check out the comprehensive web site. More of that later!
It’s a ten hour drive from London to Edinburgh, and I had as company “the” teenage son, Bilal. ‘Nuf said.
What amazed me was that he actually sat through the whole dawa seminar, and even complimented me on how it was conducted!
The seminar was held in the Edinburgh central mosque in preparation for the Exhibition held there every year during the Edinburgh Theatre festival, for which they get about four thousand visitors. The brothers and sisters were full of ideas and competitive contributions, and it was very well attended. A special mention has to go to top man Sufyan for organising the whole event and sister Janis. For being the most clued up in answering very difficult questions posed by me in high pressure scenarios.
For anyone interested in organising such an event here is the basic schedule/programme.
11:00 The Importance and status of Dawa and Diaee.
12:00 Essential Guidlines and aspects of the Fiq of Dawa
1:15 -2:30 dhur and lunch
2:30 Uncomfortable Questions
3:30 Answers to Uncomfrotable questions
4:30 Essential methods
6:30-7:30 Questions and conclusion
The days in summer are long in Scotland, and after the seminar ended, earlier than expected, we eventually manage to persuade Bilal, after much protestation, to go for a small walk round the centre of Edinburgh. It really is a picturesque city, and in certain places it has a distinctly medieval feel. Even the architecture of the mosque manages to blend into the theme of city.
The end of our “tour” took us to Blackfriars Bobbitt. This is a statue dedicated to a dog that sat on his masters grave for fourteen years…dedication or stupidity? They made a film about this dog, which I didn’t see, but the kids loved it.
Some very kind brother lent us his flat and it was midnight by the time that we got to sleep.
The next day Bilal and I headed off to Glentress, the biggest and best of the 7staines sites, where I had hired, by phone, earlier in the week two Scott Ransoms, a 150mm front and rear travel, freeride, carbon fibre modern wonder of a bike that weighs a mere 30lbs!
How perfect and sublime Allah is, the Generous, the Bountiful Bestower!
The first problem we encounter is that the guys in “The Hub” are insisting that I should supply a photo ID. They had a bike stolen recently and are refusing to hire them without it. Now for some extraordinary reason my driving licence is not in my wallet, and I don’t have my passport with me either! I’m really upset and tell them that I have come all the way from London, and no one told me to bring photo ID. The man in the shop grumpily insists that I was told, everyone is told! He can hire me a basic hardtail but not a £3000 bike!
I go to my car in desperation, hoping that something might be there, and then I remember! In my bag I have my Cannons Membership card! I take it triumphantly. “Here, this proves who I am!”
He grudgingly accepts, but wants my credit card, car keys and tax disc just to be sure!
Well, was it worth it?
Firstly you need to know that the Glentress Red Route (which we opted for) starts with what seems like an eternal climb. You keep thinking you’ve reach the top, but there is still more to go. We climbed up and up for what must have been at least twenty minutes. This is where you really start to feel the weight of the bike. 30lbs is, no doubt, light for a bike with that amount of travel, but that’s an extra 4-5lbs on my Garyfisher. On top of that the water we had was all frozen from leaving in the freezer the night before and was obstinately refusing to melt.
Keeping hydrated is essential to keeping focused. I had already suffered a nasty fall and badly scrapped raw the entire lower part of my left leg. I had to bandage it up, and the ride had barely begun! When we eventually reached the top the initial descent is a superb combination of berms and bumps which experts fly over...literally! I was taking it fairly easy, but some other riders encouraged us to try it again, and described the short cut back up. We left the water in the sun hoping it would melt, and made our way up to the top. Things started well. The suspension was soaking up the bumps and encouraging me to go faster and faster. I took one of the jumps at speed and took some air. On the landing I made a fatal mistake. I touched the powerful front break. I realised my mistake, and for a moment thought I was going to pull through, but it wasn’t to be. Clipped into the pedals I went flying over the handlebars, crashing onto my head, the bike following me and landing in a heap in the trail. It was a painful, horrible crash. The bike was fine, but I was less well off. We managed to ride the rest of the tail. Bilal in all fairness styled it the whole way down, skidding round the corners and hammering it on the down hills. He had a few crashes too, and if it wasn’t for my body armour that I had lent him he would have been more mashed than me.
Our deadline to return was 4pm. We made it with half an hour to spare.
One of the delights about a hard days riding is how satisfying a cup of coffee and slice of cake is. It’s one of those times you really appreciate Allah’s bounties, something that is all too rare in our luxury lifestyle world when we eat what we want, when we want, and often when we don’t even want!
Glentress really is a fantastic place to ride. The trails are amazing; with a specific “beginners” practice area, a freeride park and huge ridding opportunities and views with stunning scenery.
We returned to Edinburgh and after showers headed to the mosque where I met my old friend Sheikh Abdurrahma Damishqi who was there to help out for the duration of the exhibition. We talked a while about all that is happening in the world, but I was tiered and looking forward to sleep. It was to be an early start the next morning and I decided to take it easy on the drive down to London. We took the scenic route down the A702 along the Pentland Hills that revealed from the side of the road more great MTB opportunities. I wondered how I could get to live in this part of the world!
The further south we headed the hotter it got, and soon enough we were sweltering. We decided to take a diversion to the sea for a swim, and ended up heading for Morecambe, a typical run down semi squalid British seaside resort, which did not seem very inviting. We kept on until we reached or Haysham, a small and pretty village at the tail end of the town. We had lunch and headed down to the beach. The tide was out and we had to walk a fair way just to get to the sea. It was worth it. The water was cool and refreshing. Bilal was encouraging me to swim more, but the salt was stinging the cuts and scrapes that covered most of left leg and parts of my arms. I reminded him that putting salt in wounds was a form of torture!
Overlooking the bay was the ruin of a chapel. It seems, according to the plaque, that it is the ruins of one of oldest churches in the country, and had unique graves dug into the rock.
It’s a reminder to all those involved in Dawa, that this land was once a pagan country. Christianity was an alien, unknown religion from a far away place in the Middle East, but the message of Isa (as), albeit somewhat changed and corrupted, reached these shores, and today its ruler is called the defender of the faith!
Every drop raises the ocean!
see album for more photos