The first time I went to visit him was a good ten years ago. I remember the incident well, I had wanted to get as close to the Raudhah as possible or even in it, in the great mosque of Nabawi. I wanted to make supplications there and then get close enough to say my salaam to him. It was so crowded and like myself, everyone wanted to get into that area. The bigger middle eastern and african ladies were pushing their way through and stepping on anything ( and perhaps anyone ) just so they could get to where they wanted. I was in daze, as not only it was my first visit to Madinah, I also have demophobia (crowd phobia) and am claustrophobic. I thought I was going to pass out, and to make matters worse, I lost the tour group which had my mother in it. It was her third umrah trip so naturally she knew what to do and where to go. I didn’t.
I remember praying silently that I don’t pass out and that I get as close to his makam as possible for I know not if I get to go there again. I could handle the heat, but not the crowd. Then I saw another ( I lost mine ) tour group from my hometown ( they were wearing telekungs bearing the name of their tour agent ) and I grabbed one of the makcik’s arms desperately telling her I wanted to go as near to the makam of the prophet as possible. She told me to follow her group as their ustaz was taking them there. And so I followed them and somehow or the other, I got to be as near as one metre away from the makam. And I burst out crying there and then.
Prior to the trip, I read Martin Lings book on Muhammad. I couldn’t put the book down and re-read it through the journey. The places hence became more meaningful for me as then I could ‘feel’ where he stood in which battle, what happened where etc… Being there after reading the book and re-reading the book through the trip brought the whole experience to a different light altogether. I also watched the film The Messenge starring Anthony Quinn before the trip. So back then, I wanted badly to get as close to him as possible. And I did, glory be to HIM.
There is an old Malay saying that ‘ Tak kenal, maka tak cinta’ loosely translated to ” If you don’t know something/someone, you may not end up loving it”. Many muslims carry his name, Muhammad/Mohammad in front of their own, or named after him totally. In one global census I read about in Reader’s Digest, his name is the most frequently used name worldwide. But if only just as many people know him, his character and behaviour and try to emulate him, I think the world, especially the Muslim world would not be as in shamble as it is now.
However, to be fair, in my own weakness- he is very tough person to emulate. He was thrown faeces many times when passing an old man’s house that it became an everyday affair for him. Yet, he did nothing to stop the man nor showed any form of anger. Had it been me, I would have done iriminage ten times over until the old man could get up no more! But one day when the old man was not there to throw faeces at him anymore, he actually enquired about what happened to the old man. And upon finding out the old man was ill, he went to visit him in all manners of visiting the sick. And of course, too many other examples of his noble character.
I want to visit him again. Before I left his makam ten years ago, I said to him, Ya Maulana, I know you can hear me. Please invite me to visit you again, please. I am still waiting for the invitation to come, hopefully this time for the Haj. But today, on his birthday, I would like to take some time in remembering what he brings about to the world more than 1400 years ago.