An unforgettable experience...
My wish was finally coming true. I had been on Umrah before when I was younger but for the past year, I had really wanted to go for the last ten days of Ramadan and it was now finally happening. I would spend three nights in Medinah and from there go to Makkah for 8 nights. I was excited, but also worried if my trip and Ibadat would be as rewarding as I had hoped. The Holy Land awaited me.
Alhamdulillah, I have many experiences and many stories from the trip to recollect but I will try to share some of the most meaningful moments…
We first arrived in Madinah and made arrangement to visit the Prophet’s Mosque. As we were being driven from the airport, I couldn’t wait for my first glance of the Prophet’s Mosque. But before that, we drove past Jannat Al-Baqi: the graveyard of the Sahabah. It was truly incredible to know that some of the greatest men and women that have ever lived were resting a few hundred metres from me. I was wishing I could have been born at that time and lived with both the Prophet and the Sahabah; what an amazing life that would have been to be in the company of the greatest people to have ever stepped foot on this planet! However, Allah always does what is best for the believer so this must be the best time for me to be around.
The Prophet’s Mosque
…And then I saw the Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi, the Prophet’s mosque. Breathtaking is all I can think of to describe it. This was where Islam was first established in the community and I was standing on the very soil on which our beloved Prophet began to implement Islam in all aspects of society; I felt so blessed.
My first few days were unbelievable. This place was so detached from the rest of the world; you could literally tell how everyone felt like they were in a different world – there was no stress from business, family or anything else. The only thing on everyone’s mind was their Rabb and gaining the blessings of Ramadan.
Ziyarat (visiting sites related to Prophet Muhammad) was a lot of fun. The most memorable Ziyarat locations for me were firstly Masjid Al-Quba: the first mosque in Islam. Just to pray Salah on the same soil gave me goosebumps. I was in awe as I looked at the walls; I could just imagine the believers building this mosque brick by brick with the Prophet helping them. Once again, I wished I was one of the Sahabah and could help in the construction of such a meaningful building. I pray that one day I can contribute significantly to the building of a mosque in this world.
Battlefield of Uhud
The second was the battlefield of Uhud, where Hamza (radhiAllahu ‘anhu) gave his life fighting for Islam and in which the Prophet’s orders to the archers were abandoned, ultimately leading to a disaster ending to the battle. I think the reason why these two places had the greatest impact on me was because I have grown up, like many of you have, watching ‘The Message’ where both events are depicted in this film, and so it was easier for me to imagine what happened. Just being there really touched my soul
Breaking The Fast
One of the highlights of going to Umrah during Ramadan was undoubtedly breaking the fast. Right after Asr, hundreds of volunteers roll out plastic mats and start putting dates, yoghurt, bread, nuts and water out for the people. After a long day, with the sun’s heat, to be looking at food for such a long time and not to be allowed to eat it…subhanAllah, such is a test from Allah! I tried to keep my concentration on making dua and reading as much Quran as I could but even then it was quite difficult. However, this feeling would disappear as Maghrib would approach; there was a buzz around the mosque as everyone would get ready to break their fast. Some were making one last dua’, some were finishing off a surah, and some were quietly chatting with their neighbours, but everyone felt that brotherhood amongst themselves and that’s what made it so special. As the Adhan would be called, we were all reminded that we were doing this for one purpose: for the sake of Allah.
Travelling from Medinah to Makkah by car really put into perspective the hardships the Sahabah and Prophet had to endure while travelling to spread the word of Islam. The rocky mountains, the scorching heat, and the plain desert land with nothing in sight could have only been an extremely arduous journey. It was the anticipation of seeing the Kabah that was eating away at me; it was the excitement as well as the nervousness (which I will explain later).
Upon seeing the Kabah, I could not help but start crying. I had seen it when I visited Makkah before but for a strange and unexplainable reason, the emotions were as raw as ever. I felt at home. It is difficult to describe the exact feelings that one has when facing the house of their God, only someone who has been there will be able to understand exactly what I mean. The first thing we did was to perform our Umrah which was a remarkable experience. I had never seen anything like it before; crowds were intently focused on their Ibadat as they went around the Kabah and ran between the two hills. That’s exactly what I was trying to do: just focus on every word I was saying, understand and really feel the depth of all that I was asking from God. My legs were aching and the soles of my feet hardening but I kept on going and was giving encouragement to my mum at the same time. During the Umrah, I began to feel very scared and remember the Day of Judgment as all I could see around me were people asking for forgiveness. Surely this must be like that Day, but the difference being that we won’t be able to change anything then unlike in our current state. This realization shook me and I began to repeatedly ask myself, “Am I doing enough to save myself from Hellfire and earn Allah’s Mercy?” I pray that I can one day positively answer this question…
Another highlight of coming to Makkah/Medina during Ramadan is the Taraweeh prayers as well as the Qiyam prayers during the last ten nights. The Tawareeh prayers start right after Maghrib and last for about two hours, and the Qiyam prayers including the Witr start at 1:00am and again last for another two hours. These prayers are spiritually uplifting – to stand in congregation with your brothers facing the Qiblah while listening to some of the world’s best Qaris is mesmerising! Standing for so long is not easy especially if you weren’t able to stand on the carpet and instead have to stand on the marble, but subhanAllah it is all worth it when you think of where you are, what you’re doing, and how much reward you could be earning.
Ramadan 27th & 29th
The masjid is always packed with people but on the 27th night, my mother and I made the mistake of going back to the hotel between Maghrib and Isha because just within twenty minutes, all of the entrances to the Masjid were blocked off and the roads were full of people coming from all directions. We ended up having to pray our Taraweeh prayers in the middle of the roads, with ambulances driving in between the rows of people, and with no space and nowhere to move or go. Everybody was stuck but it was exciting and both terrifying as there was every likelihood that we could be crushed.
I have never seen so many people than on both the 27th and 29th night of Ramadan. As far as my vision could go, all I could see were people. At times, my mother and I felt suffocated with the number of people around us; just to walk a hundred metres, it would take half an hour. Therefore, there was no real point of moving but since my mother was ill at the time, we had to regularly go to the bathroom, resulting in being squashed from all directions as well as being worried of getting separated. Alhamdulillah though, we managed to stick together, even when my mum disappeared into a huge crowd as I was able to find her within a few minutes.
One of the most special moments on my visit was standing in front of the Kabah during both the Fajr and Maghrib Adhan. I purposefully walked up to the front of the rows near the time of the Adhan so that I would be one of those who prayed in the walkways and had a full view of the Kabah. It was easily one of the best moments of my life hearing the Adhan while looking at the House of God – again it was just one of those indescribable moments that cannot be matched by anything in this world. My heart just felt so at peace and as I write this, I wish could be there right now.
The Journey Home
Two weeks quickly flew by and before I knew it, I was on my way to Jeddah to fly back to London. From what I have written and from what people have heard from me, the visit seems to have appeared to be rather perfect, but unfortunately, there were many things that went wrong such as feeling ill, stifled by the sheer number of people, and being let down by our tour organisers. However, this was fine because nothing ever works out to be perfect and especially since there are always lessons to learn. However, my biggest hardship was not the physical tribulation that I faced; it was rather a test of my faith…
During my visit. I was repeatedly attacked by Shaitan who made me question many core elements of our faith such as, ‘Why do we worship God?’, ‘Why do we pray Salat five times a day?’, and ‘Why do we praise God?’ Astaghfirullah (I seek refuge in Allah). These thoughts were continually circling my mind and it made me very depressed at times because I was in the most holy place on Earth but I still having these silly thoughts in my mind that were disabling me from being able to fully focus on my Ibadat at all times.
It was strange as these questions never troubled me before, and only later was I slightly comforted as someone told me when I came back that Allah tests people in different ways and this was just one of my tests. My heart only came to rest when I came back as I spoke to people and read up and found the answers which I always knew and understood deep down. Therefore, although this was the best trip I have ever made, it was also the most difficult and I was very worried that my Iman was decreasing in such a place.
So what have I gained from this visit? Have I become closer to my Deen through this visit? The troubling thoughts were definitely taxing, but as there is always something good in what happens, I pray that by going over these questions, I have reaffirmed my faith, strengthened my Iman, and allowed me to answer questions that many Non-Muslims pose. By reflecting on the feelings and emotions I experienced while I was there, I felt like I have become closer to Allah. Usually after people come back from Umrah/Hajj, it is a time of deep reflection and improvement but truth be told, it had not been anywhere near enough as I would have liked, especially since I still had those thoughts circulating in mind, and as I was continuously preoccupied with work and charity. However, now that my responsibilities have reduced and I recollect my thoughts on paper, I realize that I must now look to my ultimate responsibility: to become a better Muslim.
Of course this journey does not end on the aeroplane, but is one that is continuous until I go back to my Lord and one that I hope to continue to learn from and improve myself inshAllah. Visiting the Holy Land during Ramadan was truly amazing and I pray to Allah to be granted this opportunity again for it is an experience I will never forget.
“So, it is a must for the souls to be nurtured by way of tests, and to be severely tested during the course of the battle between truth and falsehood with fear and hardship, and with hunger and decrease in wealth and life and fruits. This testing is a necessity so that the believer can give his share of what his belief requires; so that it becomes dear to him in accordance with that he gives for its sake of sacrifice and burden; so that it becomes dear to him in accordance with what he is willing to give for its sake!
(‘Fi Dhilal al-Qur’an’; 1/145)