The days spent in Medinah quickly became a habit. Woke up at 3am, in the mosque by 3.30 am for the Qiyamulail or night prayers, waited for Subuh and followed by breakfast at the hotel. I would usually have a short nap after breakfast and then down to the Bin Dawood to just walk around (absolutely love the supermarket there) or browsed at the bookshop below our hotel. By 8ish am, I would gear myself for my personal battle to enter the Raudhah. I discovered, the best efficient way to go about it is to go on my own and putting our aikido nimbleness into practice, my daily Raudha visits became less harrowing. I usually treated myself to a Movenpick cone after each Raudha trip and hence subconsciously, that became a motivation to brave the crowd (in addition to being in the Prophet’s presence of course! :p)
On one of the days in Medinah, we were taken to Mount Uhud where the famous Battle of Uhud took place and also to the graves of the warriors who died protecting the Prophet in the various battles when the enemies tried to kill him for preaching monotheism. While at the grave of Hamza, the Prophet’s uncle, I remembered the movie The Message starring Anthony Quinn about Muhammad pbuh. I must have watched that film a gazillion times and each time, I cried as though I had lost my mother. To be there at Hamza’s grave and remembering his character in history and everything else about him somehow made shiver ran down my spine despite the scotching midday desert sun.
We also went to the date plantations where all of us loaded up on the ‘Ajwa’ or a special kind of dates personally used to be planted by the Prophet himself. This kind of date is said in the hadith to contain exceptional medicinal values and he himself used to eat 7 ajwa dates with honey and milk every morning. Amongst other things sold at the plantations were dried camel’s liver, said to be good for asthma and bronchitis problems, date pollens powder for infertility problems, Sedr honey- a very famous honey from the mountains of Yemen, various nuts and other natural healing products. We had a gleeful time shopping with the rest so much so that the ustaz cautioned us not to finish all our money as yet because we had not even left for Makkah.
We were also taken to several mosques like the Qubah mosque-first most the Prophet built when he moved to Medinah, the Qiblatain mosque- the mosque with two Qiblah and did all the historical touristy thing around Medinah.
During the nights, after isya’, the husband and I would walk around the shops looking for grubs when we felt tired of the hotel food. Sometimes we went for the ‘kebabs’ which were cheap and good. Our attempt to be meat minimalist people went out the window with the arrays of ‘kebabs’ around and also Hardees, the fast-food chain which caught our eyes and taste buds.
As enjoyable as it was in Medinah, the day came when we had to say goodbye to the Prophet during the ‘ziarah wida’ i.e the farewell visit. Really surprisingly, my ‘ziarah wida’ was made smooth, so much so I had a good ten minutes in the Raudha and I actually stood there without being pushed or shoved and I had a good ten minutes to say to him everything that I wanted to say to him. I even thanked him for teaching us to love animals, especially cats. I told him about Milo and Tito and Mia and all our feline kids through the years. It was strange because through all these, no one was actually pushing me, and this was in the Raudha mind you. And what was stranger was the feeling, a very very strong feeling of ‘highness’ I felt after that conversation that I had with him about our cats that I had this strange feeling that he smiled. I smiled back and waved goodbye and softly asked him to please invite us to visit him again in the near future and this time for Hajj, insya Allah. I then walked out of Raudha, which was another strange thing because one does not actually walked out of Raudha, one gets pushed out of Raudha or squeezed out of Raudha. But I managed to walk out, because no one was actually in my path, although every other spot in the Raudha was filled to the brim. Surreal indeed!
That afternoon after the ‘ziarah wida’, lunch and zuhur, we made our way to take ‘miqat’ in Bir Ali. We put on our ihrams, did our solat ihrams, said our intention of doing the umrah ritual and called out the Talbiyah. Soon we were on our way for the 6 hour journey to Islam’s holy city of Makkah which held more challenges for us on a much more personal basis.
‘Labbaikallahuma labaik!Labaikallah syarikalala baik! Innal hamda, wal ni’mata, laka wal Mulk, la syarikala!’, we called out the Talbiyah in unision in the bus. Basically it means, ‘Here we come our Lord! Here we come, answering YOUR divine call !’