Saturday, April 23, 2011

I am the Luckiest Guy Alive in Medina - Umrah Pilgrimage Part 16

On Thursday, 24th March 2011, around brunch, and if you were strolling in Masjid Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque) you may find a black bundle of a man sprawled across the soft red blue carpet of mosque. You may hear him mumbling nonsense, and once in a while, taking out his handphone and taking pictures of the interior. You may even have seen him jotting down some intelligible notes in his journal - "Immigration (exhausion)... couldn't sleep good... Hunger... confusion... (wrote) an emo sms to Heche...". You must forgive him, because this sinner just arrived in Medina from Jerusalem via Jericho and Amman, had to go through Medina's infamously disorganised passport control and finally crawled into bed the night before, barely half the man he was when he left the Holy Land Hotel in the Old Quarter. And later I found that the airconditioner wasn't working.

So here I am. In Medina, in the home of the Prophet after he left Mecca all those years ago upon a pilgrimage to change the world. Later the same day, I found the cafeteria which served excellent food and the sinner was rejuvenated. You must forgive the sinner for being so food-driven, after all, he's not used to going without a meal for more than 24 hours. To be honest, I am not that guy who can be jolly and happy regardless of the state of his stomach. Once I had some yummy in my tummy, suddenly it dawned upon me... Yeah! I am in Medina! The City of the Prophet! Wuu Huuu!

The mosque of my Prophet is beautiful. And that umbrella thingy they have installed on the exterior, very lovely and shady. It was warm when we were in Medina, but because of the dry weather, it's much more bearable. As compared to hot and humid Malaysia, when you can break into a sweat just getting dressed up after shower. I kid you not.

After lunch the sinner wandered back to the mosque, wondering what to do next. Happily I bumped into Saiful, my friend and part of the group. He was heading to the Turkish quarter of Medina (which lies just outside Bab as-Salam (The Gate of Peace) which leads to the entrance of the Raudah (the Prophet's Tomb), which is the epicentre, the central focus of the Masjid Nabawi. "We will visit the Raudah after we check out my friend's shop", he said. Alas, when we reached the Turkish shop, we found out that the establishment has just closed down for good. So no chance to get Saiful's Turkish robe (I think he's talking about he Naqshbandiya Khalidiya robe which we see a lot of Turkish pilgrims wearing here in Medina - they are here, by the thousands). We resigned ourselves to fate and enjoyed a cup of milky chai in front of the mighty gates of this amazing mosque. I looked at him and smiled, thinking, "Yeaah!... I am in the Prophet's city, just a few steps away from his Raudah." I felt like the luckiest guy alive, sunshine.

We later made our way through Bab as-Salam, passing through nervous and excited pilgrims, their eyes ever searching to the front... "Where is it? Where is the Raudah? Where is he? Where is my Prophet?" And me, sunshine? What was crossing my mind? I don't know why, but these words were running through my heart... "You are the lake of my lake, the sun of my sun, the sea of my sea..." and similarly odd words and phrases. I would not understand the meaning of this until much later. Slowly I walked towards the Raudah with my fellow pilgrims. My throat felt dry, my heart was beating fast and although crowded by humanity, I felt alone and priviliged, I am going to say Hello to him, to my Prophet Muhammad, to his Companions Abu Bakar and Umar, and also to his beloved daughter, Fatima az-Zahra... Again, I felt like the luckiest guy alive, sunshine.

If you will notice the picture above, there is inscribed in Arabic script the name of Muhammad, the Prophet of God. This is in fact right behind the Raudah and is one of the older parts of the mosque - built during the Ottoman times. And as far as I am aware this is the only part of the Masjid Nabawi where the name of the Prophet Muhammad is exhibited as well as the name of God. This is the way in which almost all homes and mosques in Malaysia exhibits the name of God, ie. God's name on the right, with the Prophet's name on the left and on the same height. This is an important fact to note, sunshine.

And beneath the name of God and His Prophet lies the suffah, a platform which was originally in the Prophet's mosque from his time. The suffah (I thought he said 'sofa' - and I thought, "A sofa, behind the Raudah? Really? How convenient!") was famous even in the Beloved's days because that was where the 'especially involved' early Muslims used to stay all the time, praying and doing dzikr (remembrance of God). They are called the lovers of God and His Prophet, and from that name arose the title 'Sufi'. (Yes, yes... I know there is also another theory as to how the Sufis got their name, but bear with me, okay?) If you are looking for the strangest and weirdest of people in Masjid Nabawi, this is where you may find them. But I looked around and saw just ordinary people, patently happy. But I bet none felt luckier than me, sunshine. Hehehe. Because here I am! The incorrigible sinner, right at the suffah! What irony! Wuu Huu!

Outside my hotel and adjacent to the mosque, street traders made brisk business selling their slippers, rosary beads, skullcaps, perfumes, robes, shoes and cellphone simcards and credit top-ups to the voracious shoppers amongst the pilgrims. There is a spot I picked just outside my hotel where I would spend my lazy time, just looking and observing. And one day this was what I wrote "...Chilling until zuhr (afternoon prayers) at "my spot" near the entrance of the Mosque. I like people watching - so many thousands who come to you, o' Rasul (Prophet) in endless shapes and sizes. You don't need me... But you still want... thank u !..."

Perfumes, Haji?!

22. More and more love
As the Prophet ascends the
Ladder of spiritual stations,
He draws more and more Love
From the Lord’s Sea of Infinite Love.
And the Prophet passes what
He has gained to you.

O’seeker, do you now see?
The Prophet is ever falling
More and more in love
With you.

How do you treat
One such as him?

God bless you, sunshine. I have been to Medina. And I am contented. Alhamdulillah.

Pax Taufiqa.

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