The first 24 hours in Madinah made a huge impression on me and helped me realise why people love the place so much: it felt like the Prophet s.a.w.’s masjid was a piece of Jannah. Of course, quite literally, there is a piece of Jannah in there – the Rawda-tul Jannah (the piece of land which will be in Jannah, as stated in hadith).
But beyond that, many other things made it feel like an other-worldly experience.
The main thing difference between this place and elsewhere was the atmosphere. There was a calmness and tranquillity which I don’t think you’ll find anywhere else in the world – and this was despite the fact that there were so many people present. And the serenity wasn’t just external – it was also internal. It was like this feeling of contentment and inner peace – like this was the place my heart belonged.
The other major point was that this masjid was such a beautiful environment of Islam. It seemed like everyone there was geared towards worship – both the visiting pilgrims and the locals. In the first evening – between Maghrib and Esha – I observed Quran classes going on for kids, with teachers and students sitting together – the kids taking notes as the teacher spoke. Other people were reading Quran; some were in groups having halaqahs (study circles); others were making tasbeeh and dhikr; and some made dua.
It felt like the ultimate environment – absolutely perfect; the kind of place the heart naturally yearns for.
The people were young and old, and of many different nationalities – like the whole Ummah was there: people from Turkey, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana, Thailand, and us South Africans. And these were just the early arrivals. In the days that followed, people from many more countries would come. It was interesting to see how the different nationalities identified themselves: the Turks all wore khakis; the Malaysian women (at least I think they were Malaysian) wore bright pink hijabs; some Indonesians had bright markings on their clothing; and Africans wore what seemed to be their traditional cultural clothing, which was very colourful.
This was really the ultimate advertisement for Muslim unity. I already knew that there are Muslims all over the world, but being in Madinah at that time – where I saw such variety in front of my very eyes – was really incredible. Though everyone identified themselves differently, we all went to the same masjid, read the same salaah, recited the same Quran in the same Arabic language, and we all prayed to the same God. We’re so used to hearing about Muslims having sectarian differences, religious infighting, and racial and ideological clashes – but in Madinah, there was a mix of so many different kinds of Muslims, and none of those dividing factors mattered. It was truly amazing.
And I imagined Jannah is something like this: all different types of people in one place, all united by Islam, all worshipping Allah in the various ways available. Alhamdullilah.
Another striking feature was how zam-zam water was abundant. Anytime I wanted some, I could just go and get it from the many coolers in the aisles. Zam-zam is not only a thirst quencher, but also like a ‘magic water’ – it’s a cure for every sickness, and it is what you intend it to be (as per hadith), which is why it’s good to make specific intentions and duas each time you drink it.
Also amazing was the benefit of spending abundant time in the masjid. Because of the crowds, if we wanted to get a good spot in the masjid, we had to go early for salaah. And this was literally filled with blessings, because every moment you spend in the masjid – while waiting for athaan – is an act of worship; even if you do nothing at all. (And this applies to any masjid in the world.) In this time, you can make extra salaah, read Quran, make thikr, make dua, or just quiet your mind and take time to reflect. On this point, it’s also useful to plan your activities for this time and go to the masjid with the stuff you need – such as your Quran, books, pen and paper, and even your computer (if it’s small enough – like a Netbook or iPad).
For the fardh salaahs, the imams took their time to read – no rushing; which also helps the quality of salaah. And after salaah, the imam doesn’t make a congregational dua. You’re free to make your own duas and dhikrs – whatever you want to. It’s not like many places, where the imam makes his dhikr and dua over the speaker system, which means that you either follow along, or you go and do your own thing while still hearing him (which isn’t so easy if you need to concentrate).
Added to that was the fact that after almost every fardh salaah there was a Janazah salaah – so there were opportunities to participate in these tremendous acts of worship just by staying put for a few minutes.
Next up, insha-Allah: More experiences from Madinah.
- When you experience the serenity of Madinah, remember the peace of Jannah and make dua that you and your loved ones will spend eternity there.
- When considering Muslims of other nationalities, races, and cultures, always focus on the common link – Islam – and use that to boost your perception of the unity within the ummah. While the media (and our experience in our communities) often paint a picture of division, places like Madinah show the reality of the unity we have DESPITE our diversity.
- Drink plenty of zam-zam, and make intentions each time, and duas with it. And believe with certainty that it has the benefits mentioned in the hadiths. And if you can get zam zam water at home (for those not going in person), do so, and use it as mentioned.
- Since you’ll probably be spending a lot of time in the masjid between salaahs, plan your time beforehand and take the stuff you’ll need (e.g. your Quran, books, pen and paper, and even your Netbook / iPad / compact computer).
- Learn how to pray the Janazah salaah so that you can participate in it each day (since you’ll probably get the chance every single day).
What happened next?
Update: The entire series (30 parts) is available at this link – post by post. Alternatively, you can download the complete series as an e-book in PDF format. Feel free to share with anyone you think may benefit.
Note: Another version of these chronicles, written for a non-Muslim, audience is here.
Image sources: Unknown