Twelve years ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing the quintessential Egyptian Ramadan, a night in prayer behind Sheikh Mohamed Jebril in Egypt’s oldest mosque, the Mosque of Amr ibn al-‘As, on the holiest night of the year. It was a night of peace, prayer and beauty followed by unplanned meetings with friends we hadn’t seen in so long, coming to experience the same Egyptian Ramadan night.
Two nights ago, on the night of the 27th of Ramadan 2015, in the wee hours of the morning, my husband read to me some news he was seeing pop up on his Facebook newsfeed. Sheikh Mohamed Jebril had made a dua’a (prayer) in the Mosque of Amr b. Al ‘As (Gami’ Amr) in Egypt, a dua’a that I can only describe as the prayer that shook an empire. My husband read off to me some of the words that Sh. Jebril had made on this special night of prayer in the Muslim world, and all I could do was shake my head in incredulity and admiration. As more information on this prayer came out over the next few hours and days, my admiration and respect increased exponentially for this sheikh.
To really understand the power of what Sh. Jebril did, you have to understand what Gami’ (Mosque) Amr is, and who Sh. Mohamed Jebril is. Sheikh Mohamed Jebril is Egypt’s sweetheart modern-day Qur’an reciter. Egyptians love Mohamed Jebril, and they love praying behind him specifically on the night of the 27th, specifically in the Mosque (Gami’) of Amr ibn Al As, specifically to hear his famous hour-long witr dua’a that can leave you wishing for a chair to sit on, or a small break to rest your aching arms. Egyptians love saying ‘Ameen!’ in their loudest voice after every dua’a he makes on this night, and they love recording this dua’a and listening to it throughout the year.
That is what Mohamed Jebril did. Two nights ago, in the middle of Cairo, in the oldest, largest mosque in the heart of Egypt, he took his annual moment of fame and popularity, and used it to make a prayer that shook the world. He stood up in Gami’ Amr and he prayed and prayed and prayed, and Egyptians loudly cried and said ‘Ameen! Ameen! Ameen!’ to his every dua’a; they found someone to voice their frustrations, oppressions and anger.
Jebril prayed against the media apparatus that use their power to mislead unknowing people. He prayed against ‘leaders’ who brought oppression and instability to their people. He prayed against religious scholars who knowingly supported and propped up a tyrannical regime. He prayed against those who had murdered, imprisoned and raped thousands of their own country people. He prayed against military and dictatorial regimes everywhere in the Muslim world where oppression is rampant.
He did it in the middle of Cairo, Egypt, in front of tens of thousands of people, with a tyrannical, oppressive government just across town waiting to silence any voice of dissent. He did it strongly and with full knowledge that he could be shot dead in the middle of any of those Ameens! or imprisoned for the rest of his life. Nonetheless, he did it.
And for me, he is a hero. He embodied with that one action, the words of the Prophet (pbuh) that the greatest jihad (struggle) is a word of truth spoken in front of a tyrannical ruler. He embodies the highest ideals of Islam, to stand up for the universal truth of justice as described in the Holy Qur’an, 4:35 (“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both.”
Straightaway, the Egyptian authorities responded with a travel ban on him and a ban from leading any prayers or sermons in any Egyptian mosque. Sheikh Jebril was in Dallas, Texas just a week before this incident, and was planning to pray in London, UK just a few days later. He knew that this might be the end of his freedom, and he went ahead with his duaa. May Allah accept his jihad and allow me as a mother to teach my children to stand up for justice always and to use their spheres of influence to uplift mankind and to change the world for a better place. Mad respect to you Sh. Jebril. May you taste your freedom soon. This dua’a will undoubtedly go down in history as the prayer that shook a throne.
Fatima is a Northern Virginia mother of four, who spent a couple of summers strolling along Old Cairo’s Corniche Street, from her father’s childhood home to Gami’ Amr. She can be found with a cup of locally-roasted coffee in one hand, and an audio recording of Mohamed Jebril in the other.