Visiting The Prophet’s Mosque In Madinah

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Terry Holdbrooks, former Guantanamo Bay prison guard, offers a prayer outside the Rawda - where Prophet Muhammad is resting

After a pretty good opening of my pilgrimage, heartfelt and sincere, I wrote this sitting at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport waiting to go to Chicago, then on to Jordan, and finally to my destination of Saudi Arabia. I honestly had no idea what to expect or feel. These were heartfelt sentiments that I expressed, these were my thoughts and intentions during Umrah.

I set out with a very unstable foundation in Islam as can happen with some reverts from time to time, no matter who they may be. I have been often reminded of my ‘muslimness’ so that every time I do feel lost, Allah will shake me up and show me He is here. How fortunate am I to have a Creator who cares so much for me, not only to guide me to the path, but also to guide me back to that path. Again and again.

My experience in Madinah, Makkah, Jeddah, and Riyadh was truly something amazing, Masha’Allah (as Allah wishes). I will try, as best as I can to recount for you the entire adventure as it happened, I took some mental notes, in my brief hours of awareness, and alertness, brief because we were so busy that I did not sleep that much.

The night in May that I arrived I was so surprised of how far away that you could see Masjid Nabawi, the Prophet’s ﷺ mosque (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him). Literally, you could see it from 100 miles away, if not more. It was like looking at the Luxor of Las Vegas, but it wasn't full of sin. In that very moment it finally began to sink in how extraordinary Umrah was going to be.

We arrived at the customs area and the officers were a little confused as to why I had already been stamped for entry yet was just arriving. Not knowing what to do they asked me a few questions in Arabic, and wanting to have a little fun - I responded to them in Spanish. I had decided on the flight over that I was going to speak Spanish to the Arab customs’ officers the whole time, and when they got me a Spanish translator, I would start speaking English, just to shake it up a little. At any rate a supervisor came by, noticed the situation, took note of my name, and said what I can only assume to be "let him in". KSA had already approved me entry, why would customs have any issue with it?

My good friend from Canada was waiting for me just outside the door along with a friend of his who lives in Saudi Arabia, a Swedish Student of Al Madinah. They both greeted me quite nicely. We began our approach to the Prophet’s Masjid and hotel. I was hoping for our hotel to be near the Masjid, or in the heart of Madinah. I did not expect that we would stay at the Dar Al Taqwa Hotel literally one inch from the Masjid. We could walk one step out of our hotel and be on the Masjid, it was that close. How wonderful, subhan’Allah (exalted and glorified is Allah).

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Excitedly taking photos around Madina

After we settled into our rooms, I took a few moments to shower and refresh myself. It became evident to me that everyone had been expecting my arrival had been sleeping all day, whereas I had been up for nearly a whole day at this point.


Drifting back to my experience, the first thing I thought when I saw the Prophet’s Masjid was, "Wow, this is so big". I mean, you cannot really understand how large the place is unless you have been there. Take any shopping mall you have been to in America - it is bigger. Any concert hall or sports stadium you have been to - it is bigger. This is the largest masjid I think I have ever been to, and it left me in sheer awe. I did not know what to do with myself at first, aside from take photos and just look around in wonder and amazement. I was so speechless, and that rarely happens. Do you understand what it is like to be in a place that can accommodate one million Muslims in prayer? It is huge! I was taken by how marvellous the art was, the architecture, the marble and designs, the beauty, everything. I was simply in love.

There is a peace that can be felt in Madinah that is unlike any peace felt anywhere else in the world. It was so relaxed and mellow. Calm. Everything was going to be O.K. I knew that this was where I wanted to be.

We walked around and I was given an explanation of everything that I saw for about the first hour and a half of the evening. We saw Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ old home, and the original masjid within the current masjid. We saw where the Prophet ﷺ is resting, along with the departed Abu Bakr (ra) and `Umar (ra) on the side.

Happy outside the Prophet's Mosque

I remember the first prayer I tried to give while we were inside the masjid. My friend asked me if I wanted to give the Iqamah (second call to prayer), but I could not remember the words, at all. How many times had I uttered it in my life? I was so wrapped up and taken in with what I was surrounded by, that I could not clearly remember the call to prayer. WOW! It’s like seeing your wife or meeting her family the first time. We managed to pray ‘Isha though, and then we roamed around for a while. A representative of the Prophet’s Masjid gave us close access to the Rawda (the Prophet’s ﷺ tomb), which I had no knowledge of, and wish I had before witnessing it firsthand.
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After some negotiation by officials and some waiting, we were kindly escorted ahead of many people who had been waiting, to the best place to pray of the Rawda, or any masjid for that matter. I didn't understand the significance of this event until post facto, and when that came, it sunk in that this was something very special, very rare and I was privileged.

I was content to simply have visited the Masjid, let alone see where the Prophet ﷺ is buried, as well as Abu Bakr (ra) and `Umar (ra), and where Prophet ‘Isa (Jesus) `alayhisalam will be buried when he returns. It was truly so inspiring and refreshing.

Madinah is a piece of something I cannot put to words on earth. It is probably the most tranquil place I have ever been in my life, and I hope to return there again one day, insha’Allah.

We said goodnight to the Prophet’s Masjid, and to the Prophet ﷺ. On our return to the hotel we stopped for a taste of wonderful Arabic coffee with the representative.

I journeyed upstairs step by step, and fell soundly to sleep, concluding a small part of a very long adventure for me.

Images: flickr©

Part 1 | Part 2

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