(Mini) Journey of a Lifetime Part 1: Madinah

17 Dhul-Hijjah 1432H

This sacred month of Dhul-Hijjah is making me miss Makkah and Madinah even more. I posted a short entry about my umrah trip 2 years ago but hearing news of people going to Hajj and coming back safely as well as looking at the photos (it has just been 2 years but I saw a lot of changes to some of the places in photos) makes me recall my time there and so I thought of blogging about it and relive my experiences. Be prepared for a long entry though, only read this when you’re free, if not let’s get started and don’t forget your accompanying cup of tea!

Feelings Before the Start…

Honestly before the trip I was quite unprepared. One day in 2009 few months before the journey my mum randomly suggested it and we thought, why not? Let’s make it happen. So you can say it was spontaneous – we did not plan to go a year before, though it had been playing in our minds. For me I didn’t know why I wanted to go and was quite “blur” at some of the things we have to do there (I knew tawaaf but did not even know what sa’ie was yet until I watched an “Umrah 3D” DVD), but somehow I felt a calling. Like I have to go. I have to be there at this moment at this date and time. But I don’t know why.

Later on I realized and was told that Allah chooses who goes and performs the journey. And Alhamdulillah I am so eternally thankful to be among the ones chosen.

I also did not know what to expect as it was my first Umrah and first time stepping into any Middle-East countries. I went with my mum and my guy cousin who was also my mahram for the journey. (Originally wanted my brother to be my mahram but it was on his school peak period and fortunately my cuz agreed to follow us, Alhamdulillah). So the three of us went with Primula Travels and followed an Umrah course at Masjid En-Naeem every Sunday morning. The thing is, I did not attend a lot of lessons, unlike my mum who attended most classes I only attended a few. So a few weeks before the journey I did, as mentioned above, went to watch the Umrah 3D DVD and I it was only then that I finally had an idea of what to do, what to wear, what not to wear etc.

As the day was getting nearer I felt wow MashaAllah I’m really going? It seemed pretty surreal actually. When I stepped into Changi Airport and saw the huge crowd of white people (you know how its very obvious at Changi Airport that people are going for Umrah or Hajj), you can really feel the spirit! Oh how wonderful, feeling excited knowing that I was heading closer to Baitullah!

Arrival in Tanah Haram

We arrived at Jeddah International Airport in the wee hours of the morning and proceeded to Madinah. Our journey was to spend 3 days in Madinah and 10 days in Makkah, making it a total of 13 days. When the bus first stepped into Madinah, I felt overwhelmed I cried. To know that Rasulullah s.a.w had been here, to step into a land he has stepped on, to finally be here at Madinah… it was pretty emotional. Furthermore, the hotel that we stayed in, Dar Iman Intercontinental, was located directly in front of Masjid Nabawi. Subhanallah Subhanallah.. Prophet’s Mosque… u can feel it, the magic, the calmness. It’s huge, so spacious and it’s very beautiful. Marble flooring, gold-plated accessories, oriental carpeting…materialistic description aside, it was being in the space itself that was beautiful. After making my prayers for the first time there, a rush of calm swept over me. Every ounce of misery and depression that I had melted away. The feeling was just indescribable.

We visited Raudhah at night, the area where Rasulullah s.a.w used to live with Siti Aishah r.a., but we didn’t get to visit his makam. So mum & me and the rest of the jemaahs solat tahiyyatul masjid there and made our supplications as prayers made there will be accepted insyaAllah. The temperature there was 45 degrees celcius. I had never felt that kind of heat ever before, no matter how hot and humid Singapore is. However, the magical thing about the heat was that even though it can be blistering hot and if u don’t wear sunglasses u can hurt ur eyes, it’s not humid and it’s always breezy. Amazing kan? And to know that at one of the hottest countries in the world, most of the people, both men and women, cover their aurahs from head to toe – that is just simply amazing.

Culture shocks

Although at first, that was one of the things that shocked me; the sight of many muslimahs decked out in their black abayas and some with their niqabs and burqas. MashaAllah honestly at first it kind of scared me, but after going into the mosque and discovering that the ladies were super nice and pretty and beautiful I realized the niqabs and burqas really were on the outside (I know, I wear the hijab but still felt this way when I first saw them) it did not make me scared anymore and I got used to it. After that onwards I started to appreciate the beauty and freeness of wearing the abaya, jubah and actually, that is one of the things I miss most about being in Madinah and Makkah. To be able to wear black abaya and shawl, niqab and burqa from head to toe and not being stared at because it is a normal thing. There is this feeling of being free and easy when you are (loosely) covered from head to toe. Like, who cares what other people think when I dress this way because I am dressing only for Allah s.w.t as He has ordered for us women to protect our modesty.

Sidetrack: In Singapore, Alhamdulillah I see more and more muslimah wearing the black abaya and shawl, or jubah and tudung, but when I wear them too I admit there are times when the general public tends to look at you differently. Although we can generally get by wearing them, sometimes people do stare and then look away, or looks at you twice. Now let’s not even go to wearing the niqab and burqa here, that would be another story altogether.

The three days that we had in Madinah was spent mostly going to Masjid Nabawi, exploring the area including some shopping for books and abaya. Even though we had a lovely hotel room, it was such a waste to stay in! Another thing that shocked me was the fact that 5 – 10 mins before every obligatory prayer time everyone would rush to the mosque to get a space to pray and to be there in time for prayer. It was such a surprise to me because as soon as the Azan calls, the mosque would have been full house already and that is why you have to come earlier. Praying in Masjid Nabawi gets you 100 times more pahala than usual, furthermore praying in congregration (solat jemaah) which multiples it by 27 times. MashaAllah no wonder every prayer time is an event over at the 2 holiest mosques! Now if only we can treat our home mosques and our prayers that way..talk about the power of place.

One of the best things about being there was the continuous supply of the waters of zam-zam (air zam-zam). There would be tumblers of air zam-zam in several sections of the mosque, along with plastic cups provided. Anyone can take them and drink from these tumblers. Some, like me, would fill up their bottles with them (but not 1.5 L la, just the smaller ones. hehe melebih pulak ye). So can you imagine, to wake up and drink air zam-zam only for 13 days? SubhanAllah. We were also told that it was not safe to drink water from the hotel taps so we turned to the best source – air zam-zam! Who needs other sources when you can have the most natural source that will never run out and is naturally purified by Allah?

When it came to time to leave, it was such a sad feeling :( 3 days was simply too short! But, looking at the bright side we were off to Makkah, to the Kaabah, to Baitullah! We were encouraged to wear white and guys would wear the ihram (although ladies, not a good choice to wear white unless you are completely sure your garment is not sheer at all) and off we went in our bus to Makkah.

[This will be broken up into 2 parts – Part 1: Madinah, Part 2: Makkah due to the length of story.]