Maximising every opportunity in these Holy Cities was key. When would we have such an opportunity again? This morning, Asif and I left met in the lobby and left early for the Haram, to find a place to pray Fajr under the open skies. I had only slept 3-4 hours, yet I felt so awake! It was only the second day, and it felt miraculous to be running on some sort of divine energy!
The time for prayer was 4:40AM, and after praying, I moved to get a good view of Jannatul Baqi. There behind Baqi, behind the walls of the blessed cemetery, was a breathtaking view of the sunrise. As the sun rose, the umbrellas in the Haram began to open, providing shade to the thousands that were walking to and from the Masjid of the Holy Prophet (S). Such scenery, I felt I could sit here forever! I met up with Asif and we then headed back to the hotel for breakfast.
And what a breakfast! There were hot paratha’s that I would drizzle honey over, and have with a cup of strong black tea. But it wasn’t just the food. That time of the morning in the lounge was also a time to socialise and catch up with others who were in the group. This particular morning, I was surprised when I saw a few familiar faces! My dad’s cousin had come from Edmonton, and I also met a friend that was living in Orlando before she got married. It was nice to catch up. What was intended to be a quick half hour in the breakfast lounge (so that I could then go sleep) ended up being well over an hour of chatting, and sharing stories. At 8:00am, I made my way to my room to rest before the time for Dhuhrain prayers would set in. These power naps were simply needed in order to function and whilst I probably didn’t value them as much at the moment, I knew I’d savour every moment at the most crucial stages of this journey.
At around 11:30, I woke up, freshened up and made my way to the Haram for Dhuhrain prayers. We didn’t stay too long at the Haram as the heat was intense, and we had lectures scheduled at 1:30pm in our hotel. These lectures were extremely important and today was the first of a series where the speakers would be discussing the rituals of Umrah-e-Tamattu. Akil Mama began the lecture with the rules and rituals of Ihram, Miqat for Niyyah, and the Talbiyya, specifically emphasising those things forbidden whilst in the state of Ihram. Much of this was recap of what we had already read back in Toronto in preparation for Hajj, but the refresher was needed to ensure we didn’t miss anything and were aware of our duties. Abbas mama then spoke briefly, discussing the spiritual and philosophical aspects of Ihram. Together, the two speakers were synchronised in creating a clear understanding of our responsibilities on this journey. It was extremely informative, especially for someone like me, who had never been for ‘Umrah before, and this being my first Hajj. I had been really anxious in the weeks leading up to this journey. The anxiety was more because I just wanted to make sure that I performed my Wajibat correctly. But as I heard more lectures and spoke to more people, I found myself feeling more and more excited to finally have reached this far and to be so close to the House of God.
After the lecture, lunch was served. I was playing it safe and mainly eating rice with yogurt. It was filling and just felt like no risk, not knowing how I would take to the food. I also began eating lots of fruits! I thought after lunch I would manage to rest a little before heading back to the Haram for Maghribain prayers, but that wasn’t the case. Arriving at my room, I saw that some of my roommates were there and we began getting to know each other. None of us slept, and before we knew it, it was already 5:30pm.
We met with our husbands and decided to go to the Haram early to look around. Outside the walls of the Haram different exhibitions were being showcased. The Qur’an exhibition sparked my interest, and a few of us decided to head that way. We managed to tour half of the exhibition before being told that the place was closing for prayers and we could return later. The exhibition was amazing. Different Qur’anic scriptures in various fonts and calligraphy were showcased. We saw Qur’anic script from different times in history and even in various sizes. My favourite part was seeing the large posters mounted on the wall with various different facts as we walked through the exhibition. Some spoke of Qur’anic revelations and the benefits of recitation, whilst others talk about memorisation of the Qur’an, Tafsi and Tajwid, and much more.
That evening’s lecture was exceptional. Abbas Mama gave an insight to Jannatul Baqi and its history. Prior to arriving in Madinah, all I really knew was that Jannatul Baqi was the cemetery were some of our Imams were buried, where Sayyida Fatima (a) may have been buried, and that at one point in history it had been target and destructed. Such was the grief for the Shi’a community that there was a day in the lunar calendar dedicated to this. However, I didn’t really know the extended history as to why it had been destructed, by whom, when exactly, and the aftermath of the destruction. For me, this was all new information, and was quite overwhelming. All of a sudden I felt an intense connection to Baqi and a strong sense of emotion hearing what had happened. Now knowing all this history, I felt even more saddened that I, as a woman, was not allowed to enter the cemetery because of local laws and government stating that it is not permissible for ladies to enter the cemetery! Abbas Mama also discussed local landmarks and mosques that were accessible by walking, and that we could visit during our stay in Madinah. For everything I learnt, especially the history of these local landmarks, I felt a deeper appreciation of where I was and how fortunate I was to have reached this far. I wanted to see it all!
At 11:00pm, after having had dinner and rested a little, I joined the ladies group that was going inside the Masjid of the Holy Prophet (s) to pay their respects and see the different places. The group had gone the previous night and was going to be going every night whilst we were in Madinah. Being my first time, I did not know what to expect or where to go – it was huge! Asif decided that he would also go in from the gents side and do his Ziyarat. We would meet the next morning in the lobby, and go for Fajr prayers together.
Whilst walking over to the Masjid, a thought came back to me. This specific thought had popped into my mind whilst we were flying to Madinah, when we arrived, and even when I entered the Haram for the first time. How would I know, I thought to myself, that when reciting the Du’a asking permission to enter the Masjid (Idhn Dukhul), Allah (SWT) and the Holy Prophet (S) would grant me permission to enter this sacred place? It seems as though this may have been a common thought amidst us.
In the afternoon lecture, Akil Mama brought up this question and gave a beautiful encouraging answer. He said that at the time when one is reciting the Du’a, if you felt overwhelmed or you felt that your heart softened as you asked permission, and if you felt that you were overcome with humility and realisation of how great this Mercy of Allah (SWT)’s is, then take that as a sign that you have been granted permission to enter.
Every step towards the Masjid seemed heavier and heavier. We passed the gates of Jannatul Baqi and circled around outside headings towards the Eastern ladies entrance. I was nearing the grave of the Holy Prophet (S), the Messenger of Allah (SWT), and the highest of His Chosen Ones. All I could think of, was clearing my head and heart of all other thoughts and bringing myself to ask for permission to enter, with as much sincerity as I could. This was no small opportunity, to have come here. Allah (SWT) knew the thoughts of my heart, and no sooner had I thought the above, the leader of the group asked if I would recite the Du’a loudly for the group. I can clearly remember how I felt whilst reciting the Du’a, not knowing who was even standing next to me, or how long the Du’a was. If you’re reading this, when you are granted that opportunity to stand there in front of the Masjid and recite this Du’a, only you’ll know the response you receive.
The extension of the Masjid was huge, and to reach the grave of the Holy Prophet (S), at the centre of the Masjid, was quite a walk. We walked, and as we did, I admired the architecture and my surroundings. What great individuals dedicated their lives to making this place look as beautiful as it did? And to think that at time of the Holy Prophet (S) all this was actually the extent of Madinah itself. We reached an area where I saw several women sitting in small clusters. Further ahead there were female guards allowing women into what I assumed was the Masjid. This specific area was only made accessible for women at certain times of the day and most rushed there after Eisha prayers. It was now midnight, and the rush seemed less, though there was still quite a significant crowd. There was one hour left before these entrances would be closed.
Here, I looked around. Abbas Mama had mentioned in one of his lectures that the pillars had names of the companions of the Holy Prophet (s) embossed on them, but amazingly enough, amidst those names we would find the names of the 12 Imams. How fascinating this seemed given the government that was in power. We waited in a cluster of our own, waiting to be given permission to enter. Whilst we waited, we recited several other Du’as and Ziyarahs from the Madinah books, and Mustahab prayers as a token to the Holy Prophet (s) and his daughter, Sayyida Fatima (a). About 20 minutes later, we moved a little closer to the entrance of the Masjid. Another 15 minutes and the guards let us in. The moment was breathtaking.
Right ahead of us was an area marked with green carpets known to be the piece of heaven that stood between the grave of the Holy Prophet (s) and his mimbar. Here, any prayer you ask would be answered. There was no space to move, and we had already dispersed from one another in our group but it didn’t matter. I closed my eyes, inhaled, and let myself get lost in the moment….until I was shoved and realised I had to move on. I was determined to touch the shrine of the Holy Prophet (s) and was with a friend who was determined to do the same. We held tightly on to each other and made our way towards the center. The shrine we managed to touch was an encasing 3 meters away from the actual grave of the Holy Prophet (s) but it was the closest anybody could get. We managed to find an area where we were not being pushed and recited the salutations to the Holy Prophet (s) and Sayyida Fatima (a). To our left was where the House of Sayyida Fatima (a) had been. I can’t describe what exactly I was feeling at that moment, but it was emotional and surreal.
We saw pillars that held different significance. One was where the Holy Prophet (s) would meet people whilst the other was where Imam Ali (a) stood as a guard during these meetings, protecting the Holy Prophet (s). We saw a little of the mimbar of the Holy Prophet (s) past the scaffolding. All of it seemed so near, yet so out of reach, and that was disheartening. But we had to make the most of the moment and know that Allah (swt) knew of our intentions and purpose of being here.
The walk back from the Masjid seemed really long, but it was probably because we were so tired and drained from the rush. It was still so hot at that time, not a single feeling of cool air. As we walked, we saw young men cleaning the umbrellas with jet washes. Who knew how people dedicated their lives and spare time to serving the mosque of the Holy Prophet (s). Subhanallah!
My friend and I arrived back at the hotel at 2:00am. I had an hour and a half to sleep before meeting Asif in the lobby for Fajr. I thought yesterday had been my best day in Madinah, but now, I think it was today. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll say otherwise…