Loving Madinah is Easy 'Cause It's Beautiful

The battle of Uhud in Madinah. One of the sites I visited during my awesome Umrah

Now had I known then what I know now I would have gone right back to bed after fajr (morning prayer) in Madinah on day 2. We woke up about 3 hours later for fajr and I was alert and ready. I was downstairs and bright eyed, bushy tailed, ready for the day. Morning prayer in the Prophet’s masjid was just as tranquil as ‘isha, I loved it!

My friends knew that it was a wise idea to go back to bed, I however was still on Arizona time, and was wide-awake. So instead of sleeping like a normal person, I decided to explore the city. Bad idea. I had so much to do that day that by the end I was so in auto-pilot it is not even funny. I walked and talked to the street merchants, went into the local shops and saw all the items they had for sale. It was surreal in some way but freer.

I like to go to stores that are not a corporate owned Walmart, something that is original and real. Honestly, I was amazed that I could buy two thobes and two kufis, as well as two pairs of pants for about $20 U.S. dollars. I looked into all the small shops and restaurants, smelled all the foods and investigated whatever I wanted to, wherever curiosity took me. I felt a comfort that I hadn't felt in a long time, as if no matter where I went no harm would come to me. It was a very homely feeling to have. For those of you who have not yet gone on Umrah or Hajj, plan on spending a few days getting lost and falling in love with Madinah.

I probably walked around, had breakfast, wondered back around the city and what-have-you for a good 5 hours, and the next thing I knew it was 11am. I woke up my comrades and we got ready for our day. We had a busy day ahead of us, and so now I was starting to get tired, how wonderful right?

Our first stop was to have a VIP tour of the Prophet’s Masjid. It was like the night before, but we were taken underneath the Masjid, at an exhibit that I guess is not open to everyone. This was a shame because it was very informative and interesting.

A marble slab recording the deeds of the Ottoman Sultan Muhamamd IV Bin Ibrahim I dating back to 1073 H

We watched a twenty-minute video about the construction and reconstruction of the Prophet’s Masjid, as well as the various rulers who have influenced its design. This was probably the only time that I have watched a historic video I was genuinely impressed with it. I could understand why the exhibit was not open to everyone; it would be packed all day and night.

Original and hand scripted texts from the exhibit

Afterwards we met up with an Imam of the masjid, one of many Imams, and I discussed Guantanamo Bay prison with him as well as my reversion to Islam. It was a pleasant talk, my first in the Middle East about GTMO, and he was very aware, smart, and articulate to the matter, which was refreshing. Perhaps he even knew more than most of the Westerners and people in the U.S. do, sadly. We had a language barrier, but my friends were there by my side to take care of the matter, and all came through very well.

Next was the site of the Battle of Uhud. A very chilling feeling came upon me. I could recall feelings in my life of panic, of terror, of loss and that "oh no" moment, and that is all I felt while we were standing there. I walked to the area where the Companions (Sahabah) were buried, and asked Allah that they be granted paradise (soon). I was sad to see that there were people peddling their merchandise right there on the battle site, but I suppose in this world, you aim to survive wherever you are.

It was also a little discerning to me to see all the trash that had just been thrown around in Madinah, as if people had no reverence for the environment or for the significance of the Uhud site and what had taken place here.

I am a very critical and cynical person, this is well known, maybe I need to work on changing that in me insha’Allah. We walked up the mountain of Uhud that the archers were told to have stood on (but didn’t). I tried in my head to envision what had taken place here, and to see the forces as they came into the valley.

The entire valley at Uhud is secured by towering mountains and rocks - rocks that would be hard on the feet of a camel or horse. This was truly a strategic way to go about the historic battle, being that it was not a welcomed battle, and still it occurred. Too bad the Muslims did gain an outright win, although in the long run we did, for Allah is the best of planners!

We then hurried back to the Prophet’s Masjid for dhuhr (midday) prayer, and just as quickly as we hurried there, we hurried off to another location that I did not know was on our travel stops. We visited the Masjid Qublatain, where the qibla direction changed in mid-prayer from Jerusalem to Makkah. This was really an interesting stop, I was just happy to have the opportunity to see something so interesting and historic.

I was wrapped up in the idea of thinking that the Prophet ﷺ and his companions had once been here. And further in my mind I thought of its distance from other locations we had been to already, and having used a car, it must have taken so much longer on horseback. I think this is when I finally started to look around me and begin to feel thankful for all the blessings that I have in my life, and the blessings that I have overlooked. This is probably when it set in, "We will never have it as hard as the sahabah had it". How many times a day we hear this but how many of us understand this, I mean really understand this? It isn't just a matter of being grateful for what we have, but we also have to realize what the earlier and the new Muslims went through, and I have found that Ibn Ishaq's "The Life of Mohammed" is probably one of the best ways to learn about our beloved Prophet ﷺ and his Companions.

I was absorbing all of this as we arrived at the mosques and the site of the Battle of the Trenches. Lucky for me one of my escorts who was a student at Al-Madinah, was also a history buff and gave me a quick refresher on what had occurred here. For those of you who are not aware of the history behind this battle, do not Google it, do not Wikipedia it, go to get a researched book. Get An Islamic history book and read up on the Battles of the Trenches. Please.

I prayed in the Masjid Al-Fath, and again that feeling of having been somewhere that the Prophet ﷺ had been came to me, and it is an amazing feeling to have. I looked over the valley from where we were, and tried to envision it without all the commerce and buildings, just the desert.

And what it must have felt like to be this humble man who was being messaged by Allah Himself, and setting the world aright. What a significant burden to have on one's shoulders, and what a blessed man he, our Prophet, was!

Why did we have Asain food? I didn't eat, I came to Saudi to see giant spiders and ride a Camel and eat lizard and such, not have Chinese food, if I wanted Chinese food I would go to California.

Next on our stop of the-day-that-never-ended, and believe me we are only half way through it as of now, was an Asian restaurant - because everyone knows that you go to Saudi for the Chinese food, not for religious pilgrimage, right…? I have a hard enough time eating once a day usually so I passed on lunch, which freed me up more time to talk with one of our guests. We discussed my book ‘Traitor’ that I have been trying to get published for years, and it seems as if it will never see the light of day, but I continue to have faith.

We spoke of my life and his life, rapped for a while about future ideas and what sounded to be good and bad projects. All in all, I think I made a great friend with this visitor at lunch. I should probably mention at this point, not everyone who was a part of my trip or involved wishes to be mentioned, so I am avoiding using names. This is not to discredit anyone or their efforts, as this whole document stands to be one great big "thank you" note for them all. It is just better to leave with anonymity. Nonetheless, it was a great lunch, and it lead to a friendship that I look forward to continuing for many years to come, insha’Allah. (By the way, the Chinese food did smell and look quite good, I just didn't want to slow myself down since this was only about 2pm in the afternoon and we were still looking to keep going until nearly 11pm that evening, I was really beginning to regret having explored all morning.)

Hanging out with my homie hajji hookup buddie and he is showing me that the Prophet, peace be upon him could make wudhu with this can

Then it was back to the Prophet's Masjid for ‘asr (afternoon) prayer, and as quickly as we arrived, before I had finished the fourth rakat, boom, we were back in the car and off for another visit. We went to visit a doctor who specialized in the Prophet’s ﷺ life, and had quite an amazing library. We exchanged greetings of pleasantry and got down to actual discussion afterward. Again we spoke quickly of GTMO, and on to various matters; a good conversation. He was a very warm and welcoming man, and shared with me some great du`a (supplications), and facts I had not heard before, so it was nice to have some new knowledge in the ol' grey matter upstairs.

We toured his extensive library, literally an entire floor of an apartment building. I began to drool when I arrived upstairs, and wished I could read and write Arabic so badly, so as to spend months of my life up here with a 6 pack of Coke and these books. All of the wonderful knowledge contained therein that I would not be able to read, any time soon, that is.

This was a private library of a Hadith scholar I visited.

I began to think more heavily about how dearly I wanted to go to school here, and how I wanted to live in Madinah for the rest of my life, but I was also beginning to see a repeating pattern occur. In every conversation someone would tell me how important it was that I stay in the states. I do not want to stay in the states, especially with how the U.S. harasses me when I travel, they must not want me there either. They might be willing to come to a plea bargain, where they send me to some other country to live, give me a yearly allowance, and I just never come back. Sounds plausible.

When we got back into the car that day at about 4:30pm, I was too tired to bother talking to my travel companions, so I just stared out the window as we drove around the city and tried to take in all that we visited that day. I am still trying to recall what happened from mental notes during the process. Having been sleep deprived, I will have to expand on these thoughts and the following events a little further.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Images: Holdbrooks ©

More by Brother Mustafa:
'Islam Is A Prison', Discuss
Islam At Guantanamo, Guardian Interview
Terry Holdbrooks: Detained By FBI


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