If you arrive in Madinah by plane from Jeddah, try to get a seat on the right hand side of the plane. Because, as you land, you can see Masjidul Nabawi. You can just about see it during the day, but if you arrive at night, you can see the minarets in the distance clearly as they are all illuminated. And you can also see the masjid as you drive towards the centre of Madinah from the airport. Visiting Madinah has quite a different feeling from visiting Allah’s house. I think its because Madinah is to do with a human being. And not just any old human being but the greatest one that ever walked the face of this earth, who made so many sacrifices and went through so many hardships so that the deen of Allah could prevail and remain for us. And yet what were we doing? I felt so small and insignificant.
On arrival in Madinah, we had missed all the salaahs. And we got the wrong hotel. Mum and dad had booked one close to the entrances that go to the prophets grave, so they wouldn’t have to walk too far, but this one was right at the opposite end. These things do happen when you go and are often tests of your patience. But when we drew back the curtains the next day, we forgot about all that. This was the view from the window.
All ten minarets were in full glorious view. That day we decided to go and offer our greetings to the Prophet at the Rouda. The area of Riyaadul Jannah is marked out with a white carpet, and people try to read at least two raka’ahs of nafls here. But because the area is small, and the people many, you can imagine what happens. The pushing and shoving has to be seen to be believed – actually someone stepped on my head while I was in sijdah!
The feeling you get when you stand before the graves to offer your greetings is just unreal. And then you also get misguided people lifting their hands up in du’aa towards the graves, or worse still prostrating towards the graves. You also do get occasionally mass hysteria. It seems so wrong and so inappropriate. On subsequent days we didn’t even attempt to enter riyadul jannah but thought it more appropriate to offer our greetings from slightly further afield so that we didn’t have to get caught up in all that pushing and shoving. Madinah itself is very clean and has a serene and tranquil atmosphere. It is a shame that that gets spoiled right in the vicinity of the Prophets grave.
Later that day I was out shopping with my father and sister, (the area is unfortunately highly commercialised), in one of the knick knack shops, when all of a sudden we heard a loud crashing sound. We looked round to see that masses of steel plates had fallen off the shelves onto the floor, and in the middle of all this mess, was my sister, unconscious on the floor! The shopkeepers round there weren’t too helpful, so I actually went up the masjid and asked one of the ladies at the door. I had just enough knowledge of Arabic to get her to understand that my sister had fallen in one of the shops. Now you have to hand it to the Saudis, if you make an effort to learn even a little bit of their language they really appreciate it. And once they judge what kind of level you are at, they try to speak back to you in the same way so that you can understand. So this lady told me exactly what to do, who to go and speak to, what the word was for an ambulance, she was an absolute Godsend. So we got the ambulance, and while in it on the way to the hospital, realised that my mother, who was in the hotel, would be really worried about where we had got to. As none of us had mobiles on us, the ambulance driver lent us his, so we made a quick call to let her know what had happened. This would have been out 11.30 am (it was Friday). Anyway, in the end my sister was fine, she was just dehydrated, and a bag of fluid later we were ready to go. We had missed jumu’ah completely. When we got back to the hotel, we asked our mother how jumu’ah had been, and it turned out that she never made it either because my dad had the key to the room and she had been locked in!
When we all woke up that Friday morning, none of us knew that not a single one of us would be able to perform salaatul jumu’ah. We spent all that money and were actually in Madinah, yet Allah had other plans. That was a valuable reality check for all of us.
Taraweeh in Madinah was beautiful. Especially one particular day, when we were standing in our usual spot under the shade of one of the minarets. The first ten raka’ahs were sooooooo beautiful. It was the story of Prophets Musa and Ibrahim. It was recited so beautifully that I was concentrating on every word – and I don’t often manage to do that! And there was a recurring verse “wa inna rabbaka lahuwal Azeezur Raheem”. I felt at some points like I was actually in the story, like I was actually there. I was so disappointed when I realised that the first ten raka’ahs had finished. Afterwards we all met up at our usual spot, and the recitation of the first ten raka’ahs was the first thing that we all talked about. So, my dad went and asked one of the policemen in the street, in his Qur’anic Arabic “Maa ismul imam al-awwal?” the policeman replied,”al imaamal awwal? Ismuhu Salaah Budair”. So, his name was Salaah Budair, and the surah he’d been reciting was Surah Shu’araa.
Recording supplied courtesy of http://www.haramainrecordings.com
The other thing that we hadn’t seen before, was what happened outside the gates to courtyard of the mosque at the time of the witr du’aa. Because some people read ten rak’ahs and then maybe do dome shopping. But when the witr du’aa started, passers by on the street stopped at the nearest gate, dropped their shopping bags onto the floor, and raised up their hands to join in the du’aa. As soon as the du’aa was over, they picked up their bags and carried on! I’m not sure wherever else in the world you can have such a spiritual shopping trip!
We also went to Masjids Qubaa, Qiblatain, and to Uhud. Uhud was amazing too. I just kept looking at the size of the mountains and thinking, this is where it all happened. Soon after that we had to go to Makkah, but here are some more pictures of Masjidul Nabawi.
The main entrance at night.
When we first arrived in Makkah, we had just missed the last prayer. So we went straight to our hotel, dumped our luggage, did our wudhu, and left for the mosque. I still could not believe it. Here it was, the place I had dreamed of visiting all my life, and now it was right in front of me, and I was about to enter it. Masjidul Haram at night truly is a sight to behold.
In fact, it is a sight to behold at any time of the day or night.
The architecture of the masjid itself is beautiful both inside and outside. After entering, ideally you are supposed to keep your gaze lowered, so that when the ka’bah appears, you appreciate its majesty even more. Alas, I wasn’t very good at that all! My gaze was searching out the ka’bah. Then, between two pillars (masjid al haram is full of pillars wherever you go) there was something black, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Then I became aware that the people I could see beyond those pillars were all walking in the same direction. Then as we progressed further, I saw some gold embroidery appear on the top part of this black thing. And that’s when it hit me. That’s when it hit me that I was actually looking, with my own eyes, at part of the ka’bah. I really cannot describe in words what I felt at that moment in time, so I won’t even try! As we progressed further the whole ka’bah became visible. We all stood still and prayed. At that moment in time all I could do was to thank Allah who had given us the means to come here, actually brought us here, and the fact that I had eyes with which I could actually see the ka’bah for myself. So many different thoughts and emotions went through my mind. Only to be disturbed now and then by cries of Yalla ya haaj (as sis Jawharah said!!) That jolts you out of your thoughts and brings you back to reality really fast! We went down the stairs and onto the mataaf (tawaf area), and joined in the tawaf. I just could not believe I was here, and I kept gazing at the ka’bah while doing my tawaf. I just couldn’t stop looking at it, but then had to if I wanted to avoid bumping into whoever was in front of me! And I was aware, while doing my tawaf, that the angels were also doing tawaf directly above us around the baitul ma’moor. That was an awesome feeling. As my parents were tired, we decided to postpone the sa’ee until the following morning after Fajr, so as to get a good nights sleep, as we had not slept all night.
So the following morning we all entered the masjid and made our way to the prayer area near the mas’aa (saee area). Here there’s a bit for ladies right at the front, by the stairs that go down to the tawaf area. The ka’bah was in full view as the adhaan sounded. Then the imam said “ista’oo…uqeemu sufuufaqum wa saddul khalal…” That voice kind of sounded familiar but it hadn’t yet dawned on me who it was. And then he said Allahu Akbar. It couldn’t be could it? And then he started Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen in his characteristic tune. I was standing with my mum on one side and my sister on the other side, and they both gave me gentle nugde. It was. It was the imam whose du’aa tape and whose recitation I listened to day in and day out. It was Shaikh Saud As Shuraim. Now I really could not believe it. Here I was inside masjidul haram, praying with the kabah in full view behind Sheikh Shuraim. I thought I was the luckiest person alive. While everyone else was merely facing this direction, I was here. I just could not thank Allah enough for that and still can’t.
We completed our sa’ee uneventfully. The next morning, at tahajjud time, I heard what to me, was probably the most beautiful adhaan ever heard on planet earth. It was so hauntingly, awesomely beautiful. I’d never heard anything like it before. So the following day I had a tape recorder at the ready, and leapt out of bed to record it but missed the first takbeers. The quality is appalling, but you still get an idea of how beautiful the adhaan was.
I later found out that that particular muaddhins name was Shaikh Farooq Abdul Rahman Hadhrawi.
Luckily, our hotel (now unfortunately demolished) was just across the road from the courtyard to the haram. So for all our salaats, all we had to do was to come out of the hotel, cross the road and plonk ourselves on the pavement next to one of the clock towers dotted around the haram area. We always managed to get the same spot every day, next to the same clock tower, so for the last ten days this is where we prayed. Which meant that once the salaat was finished it was easy for my parents to get back into the hotel without getting too caught up in the rush. Except for one day that is. When they did make it back into the hotel. But I nearly didn’t. Because there was a fast flowing river flowing down the street. A human river, that is. And I was stuck on the other side. My mum had made it across to the hotel door. But the flow of people down the street was so heavy and fast that I would have got trampled had I even dared to try and make it across. Even the hotel staff were by now standing outside the hotel door with my mum, watching helplessly. Well actually they were laughing. They found it highly amusing. I suppose it’s only a sight that they get to see once a year as well! Anyway, after about half an hour, I finally made it across, just about in one piece!
A picture of the crowded streets outside the haram
Taraweeh and tahajjud in Makkah was a unique experience. The whole atmosphere, the realisation that you were in the best place on earth, the sheer volume of people, the recitations, it really was very pleasantly overwhelming. But still certain parts stick out in my memory more than others. For example, I can still exactly where I was standing, and the breeze that was blowing while sheikh Muaiqly was reading Surah Rum. Especially those six ayaat that begin, “wa min ayaatihi…”. It was soooo beautiful. You see in Ramadhan, they take extra care over the sound system both inside the haram and outside. If you look carefully, you can see that there are speakers dotted on most of the shops and hotels, as well as specially erected poles that are covered in speakers from top to bottom. So the depth and the echo that you hear while you are actually there is awesome. Unfortunately though, none of the CD sets that are available capture that. Here’s a recording of that extract from Surah Rum, but it doesn’t like I said, capture that beauty.
Recording supplied courtesy of http://www.haramainrecordings.com
Tahajjud was at 1am. I never knew it was possible for so many people to gather at such an “unearthly” hour. Subhaanallah. I did begin to wander what on earth I would do in such long rukoos and sujoods, but it wasn’t long before I was beginning to wish that they would never end.
The 29th night was just awesome. That’s the night of the khatmul quran dua. It was absolutely packed, inside and outside as far as the eye could see. Nowhere else on the planet do so many people from different countries turn up to worship Allah alone. Unfortunately though, we didn’t anticipate just how quickly all those people were going to turn up. Which means by the time we tried to get out of our hotel, we couldn’t. Because the jamaa’ah was already right up to the door and past it. We were stuck! And on the 29th night of all nights! So next time inshallah we won’t move after Maghrib. But all was not lost. Our hotel had a prayer room on the 1st floor with speakers from the haram (though the sound wasn’t too good), we did manage to pray and join in the du’aa. The view from there of all the people was spectacular.
Eid in Makkah was just something else. The announcement for Eid was made 10 minutes before Isha on TV, so after Isha a lot of people stayed put waiting for the taraweeh to begin, not realising there was none.
We left early for Fajr the next morning and got our usual place next to the clock tower. A word of advice for anyone contemplating Eid in Makkah. DO NOT MOVE after Fajr. Stay firmly put, as salaatul Eid is only about 15-20 minutes after shurooq (sunrise). If you move, you can pretty much forget about getting any decent place, in fact any place at all. As we looked behind us, we could see that the two main roads leading into the vicinity of the haram were already full. So people who were still approaching were forced to climb up a mountain, that was the only place left. And soon, there were a sizeable number of people forming rows on the mountain. Subhanallah. I hadn’t seen that before.
I hadn’t performed salaatul Eid in a Muslim country before, so the first time the Eid takbeers started, I nearly stood up thinking it was the opening takbeer! Unfortunately I only managed to record one of the takbeers.
The takbeers were beautiful, with each of the muezzins taking it in turns, but unfortunately the brothers where we were sitting just would not get into the spirit of things. And as the sun rose, we watched the sky change from pitch black through to white with various beautiful shades in between. Seeing all these colours, with Masjidul Haram in the foreground was just amazing.
There were loads of balloon sellers too for the kids. Anything that a person could possibly stand on was being used to pray on. When salaatul Eid was announced and everyone stood up, that was really an awesome moment for me. And it sent a little shiver down my spine to think that I was actually performing Eid salaat in Masjidul Haraam. After the salaat had finished it became clear to us that we were going to have to run, as nobody seemed to want to listen to the khutbah, and everyone seemed to be in a hurry to go. Had we stayed where we were, we would have got trampled on, so we decided to leg it back to the hotel, and ended up watching the rest of the khutbah on TV. But it wasn’t quite the same though, and just didn’t seem right.
Three days after Eid we left for home……an experience never to be forgotten. I pray that Allah takes all Muslims to both Makkah and Madinah, and accepts all our worship. Ameen