By Sumaya Seedat
After an eight hour journey we finally reached our destination. The excitement was kicking in. I had heard many accounts from others and I had seen many pictures too, but on that special night, little did I know that no amount of planning could prepare me for what I was about to experience. I was embarking on a journey to the sacred lands of Mecca and Medina for the very first time.
At the airport in Jeddah, my husband and I completed all formalities and went in search of our transport to Medina. The journey was long, but it didn’t matter. I sat staring out of the window in anticipation of reaching Masjidun Nabawi, imagining what it could have possibly been like 1400 years ago when our Beloved Prophet (SAW) tread along the same routes.
As we entered Medina I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and happiness, The call for Tahajjud Salaah resounded around me as I reached the entrance of the Masjid, leaving me awe struck. Not only was the Masjid beautiful, but it left an imprint of ease on my heart. I kept pondering on its development fromfrom30x35 meters of palm trunks and mud walls to a Masjid that now boasts a massive main prayer hall, twenty four domes raised on square bases on a flat- paved roof and a courtyard that is shaded by umbrellas that are attached to free- standing columns. The walls boast a series of windows. Six peripheral minarets are attached to the new extension and four others frame the Ottoman structure. The Mosque is decorated with polychrome marble and stones. It is now one hundred times bigger than the Mosque built by Prophet Mohammed (SAW) and it is able to accommodate more than half a million worshippers.
Overall the City of Medina was peaceful, the only rush being centred round the prayer times. I walked a lot, until my feet ached, but the pain mattered little. I enjoyed doing a Ziyaarat of the City too. It was an emotional trip as I relived everything I had learnt in Madressa. My imagination had a field day as I pictured at various places what it would have been like during the time of our Prophet and his Sahaba.
Medina had stolen my heart. On the other hand, my husband who had been there before witnessed a remarkable change. I was emotional at the Roudha – where the graves of our Prophet (SAW), Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA) lay and on my last day in Masjidun Nabawi whilst praying my Salaah, I cried and asked Allah to invite me again to this city. The next and most pivotal part of my journey was just beginning as we left for Mecca to perform Umrah.
We journeyed from the city of peace and tranquillity to the city that never sleeps.
Mecca is nothing short of amazing. There is a constant flow and never a dull moment. We reached the Holy City at Asr time and waited until after Esha to go to the Haram to perform our Umrah. As we walked through the Haram I was pushed and shoved by the crowd and my husband advised me to lower my gaze until we reached the Kaaba.
At his request I lifted my gaze up slowly- from my feet up- what stood before me was a majestic sight. This black cube that marks our Qiblah as Muslims could never have been more magnificent. It then dawned on me- I was Allah’s guest at His sacred house. I was humbled.
I performed my Umrah emotionally, again imagining what it would have been like to walk on this sacred ground 1400 years ago. I was amazed at the unison of the Ummah. People from various countries, races and backgrounds were all there for one sole purpose – to praise and to glorify the Almighty. Besides the actual pilgrimage, I felt disappointed at how modern he Haram has become and the disrespectful manner in which people conduct themselves on site by taking out their phones and camera’s whilst performing the sacred rights.
The Masjid Al Haram is constantly under construction. Out of curiosity we enquired about the overall vision and plan for the future of the Haram. We discovered that the intention is to accommodate ten million worshippers at one time and to make Mecca the most modern city in the world by the year 2020, with the Haram being the focal point. The Haram was built in the seventh century and has been expanded ever since. Due to expected wear and tear it has been under constant renovation. It has an air con that flows from beneath the tiles and the windows are covered with bands of white marble. Recently, half the Haram has been closed for construction. Two ramps have been added to accommodate the crowd during Tawaaf and the route for travelling to Safa and Marwa from the Kaabah has been restricted. As the years progress, the Kaabah has and will remain as the only unchangeable feature of the Haram.
The day we left Mecca was one of my saddest. My heart ached to be departing from such a blessed place. I prayed that Allah accept my efforts for Umrah, forgive my shortcomings and invite me again to his Holy land. Back home, when I recall my journey, my eyes tear up. It is a memory that will be etched in my heart and mind forever.