Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 8
To wrap up the Madinah leg of the trip, I’d like to highlight some points which haven’t been covered elsewhere. Unlike previous posts, this one won’t follow a narrative, but will just take a point form approach. As such, there are no ‘Related lessons’ this time – as each point is its own lesson.
You can find actual information about the masjid in other places – such as this article and this talk. Here, I’d just like to advise on a few things:
- Go early for all salaahs – even when it’s not so busy. The place fills up fast as the days go by, and if you want to sit comfortably inside, you need to be there long before the adhaan. For Jumuah, try to go 2 hours early. And in all cases, take stuff to do in that waiting period (reading, dua list, etc).
- For the men (since I don’t think women are allowed), try to go up to the roof if possible. Not only is it beautiful, peaceful, and simply amazing – it’s also much quieter and less busy up there. So if you’re looking for solitude away from the crowds, chances are you can find it up there.
- If you’re keen on being in the original area of the masjid, go towards the front on the right hand side of the Rawda. Find a row of pillars with green markings at the top (the tops of these stand out as compared to the other pillars). This line marks the original masjid’s area – before the extensions.
- In the Rawda, don’t push others and don’t be rude – even though others may do it to you. Be patient, and remember that as soon as you’re on the green / cream carpet, you’re in the Rawda. So even if you can’t make salaah yet due to crowding, still make dua – because you’re in a piece of Jannah. And when you get your chance, don’t hog the space –give others a fair chance. If you want to make your duas in peace at that time, make them in sujood – as people are less likely to push or distract you (as compared to making duas while standing or walking, or sitting after salaah). Also remember – beforehand – to make dua for your chance in the rawdah, and insha-Allah Allah will open up your spot for you – even if it looks impossible.
- When greeting the Prophet s.a.w. at his grave, there’s a very fine line between actually speaking to him and asking from him. Be very aware of this, and do your best to not ask from him – because to ask is dua, and you cannot make dua to him. He may be able to hear you and return your greeting (in a way we can’t perceive), but when it comes to asking for things related to him – such as seeking his intercession on Qiyamah – make dua to Allah for those things. Never, ever ask him. The same applies in Jannatul Baqi, other graveyards, and at the kabrs of the martyrs and pious predecessors…we never, ever make dua to a person in a grave.
- Expectations: When it comes to ziyarahs / touring and spiritual programs you’re expecting from your group, don’t expect too much – or rather, don’t rely on others. For us, I expected a lot but was disappointed, and it took a while for me to realize this lesson: the journey you’re on is NOT about other people, and it’s not about being a tourist. It’s a personal journey, so consider it as your own intense time to be with Allah and to develop spiritually. Anything else you get from your group (e.g. talks and tours) is a bonus. Don’t focus on what you paid your operator for and what they should be delivering, etc – because people will ultimately fall short. Instead, focus on the positive: you’re in a place where 100s of millions of Muslims would love to be but can’t be at this time. So make the most of it. And if you really want to explore, do so on your own – taking the necessary precautions, of course.
- Shopping:Shopping is bound to be part of your plans, and beyond actually buying stuff, it can be a great experience because it gives you a chance to interact with the locals – who are very friendly and trusting. But it can also bring you down from a spiritual high because of its very nature and the fact that you’re in the marketplace – which isn’t a spiritual environment. Before you shop, make the right niyah for shopping, and while there, try not to overindulge – because that can poison your soul quickly, and can be very distracting mentally. Yes – you want to get gifts for people, but that should be an aside. Your main purpose on this trip is personal – your own relationship with Allah. Don’t taint the trip by letting shopping go beyond reasonable limits of time and attention.
- Sleep: Chances are, your normal sleep schedule will be thrown out on this trip. Don’t fight it, but rather use it as an opportunity to try to follow the sunnah – the Prophet s.a.w.’s sleep pattern. This included sleeping early after Esha, getting up for tahajjud in the night, staying up after Fajr (which, by the way, is a most blessed and productive time for the ummah – as per the Prophet s.a.w.’s dua in this regard), and – importantly – having a nap after Thuhr.
- Fasting: Aim to fast on Mondays and Thursdays – as per the sunnah. It may seem daunting – given the extreme heat – but insha-Allah with practice it’ll become easy. And if your Hajj package only covers breakfast and supper, it’ll also save you the time and money you would’ve spent on lunch. However, if your health isn’t up to it, don’t over-exert yourself. If you’re off to Makkah next, it’s more physically demanding there; and beyond that, your top priority is to be in good health for the 5 days of Hajj.
- Washing: Be warned that laundry prices can be insane. They’re charged by the article, so it can be very costly to get things washed. Unless you’re super-rich, rather do handwashing yourself – in your hotel bath/sink. By doing a little each day (or every few days), it isn’t overwhelming. And the heat is such that the clothes dry very quickly – just hang your clothes near an open window in the daytime and see how fast they’ll be dry again.
- TV: The TV in your room can be a distraction, so try to minimize use of it. Or even unplug it completely if you fear you won’t be able to control yourself (especially if – at home – you have a habit of watching a lot). If you do watch, though, there are a few beneficial things on: the Madinah and Makah haram channels – which are great for seeing how busy the masjid and rawdah are; and Al Huda TV (an English-language Islamic channel.)
- Internet and online distractions: With the advent of smartphones and tablet computers, it’s easy to stay connected to your online life – such as email, Facebook, Twitter, news, etc) – even in Madinah. Be very careful of this, because just as these online habits can eat away at your time back home, the same can happen here – and this isn’t the place for wasting time. Assess your habits and come up with a plan to be self-disciplined so that you don’t lose precious time on unnecessary activities.
- Being a tourist / pictures and videos: When you’re at the masjids and other sacred places, try not to be a menace with your camera. Don’t disturb those engaged in worship – because you wouldn’t want others to do that to you. And for yourself in any case, do you really want to be so obsessed with taking pictures and videos that you miss out on the full living experience? LIVE the experience with your own eyes and senses – rather than wanting to record everything. You can get other people’s recordings and pictures later – but actually being there and fully taking in the sights and sounds with your own eyes and ears is something you won’t get to do back home. So don’t go over the top with the camera.
- Personal reflections: If you’re one of those people that knows the value of keeping a journal – or at least documenting your experiences from time to time – make sure that you keep a journal for this trip. It’s best to write when things are still fresh in your mind – so that you can capture the important details and feelings in words. It’s better not to procrastinate and leave it for later – because your memory will fade, and with the amount of experiences still to come, your memories may just be pushed out by later experiences. A journal is also important for writing down the personal reflections and lessons you’re gaining – which will be very insightful and valuable when you’re back home and in later years.
Next up, insha-Allah: The road to Makkah
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.
Image sources: Masjid an-Nabawi – Al Anwar Hajj & Umrah group (South Africa), Grave of the Prophet s.a.w. – unknown, Shop in Madinah – virtualtourist.com