Memories of a Sacred Journey (Part 11)

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By Ammar Awais

Masjid An-Nabawi
We walked through a couple of alleyways before reaching one of the gates of Masjid An-Nabawi. A wall surrounded the actual building of the mosque and there was a huge courtyard inside it. As I stepped inside the mosque premises I was struck by its glamour; it was no less beautiful than Masjid Al-Haram. The building is decorated with marble and lavish stone and the tall minarets are among the most engaging sites in Madinah. There are lofty umbrellas in the courtyard, numbering around two hundred, which are opened during the day to ward off the heat and provide shade to the worshippers. The Green Dome is also a marvellous sight, most cherished by many visitors.
The mosque has separate compounds for men and women and they enter the building through their respective doors. Inside the building, there are magnificent columns plated with gold towards the top and the floor is covered with thick red carpets. There are coolers containing the zam-zam water, which are placed in exactly the same manner as in masjid Al-Haram. Racks containing copies of the Quran in Arabic and several other languages have also been placed there. The more recently constructed parts of the mosque are fully air-conditioned, though ceiling fans hang in the older parts. The mosque is a single storey building that has a prayer area on the roof as well.
I personally derived a sense of contentment in this mosque knowing that its foundations were laid by Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم himself, accompanied by some of the most pious men history. It is a wonder how the mosque has ‘evolved’ over the centuries – from a simple structure with trunks of date palm as its walls to a huge complex with tall minarets clad in marble. One may think the mosque is too extravagant, in contrast to the very simple lifestyle of Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم but with all the wealth the Arabian Peninsula has today, reflected by luxurious palaces and the world’s tallest buildings, it would just feel wrong if Rasoolullah’s صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم mosque seemed unimpressive when compared with these other structures.
In the days that followed, I offered almost all my prayers in Masjid An-Nabawi, and so the Imam’s melodious recitation, unhurried actions and the call for straightening of the rows became a part of our daily routine. There was much to explore inside the mosque with some important places located within it. The grave of Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم along with those of his closest companions, Hazrat Abu Bakr رضی اللہ عنہ and Hazrat Umar رضی اللہ عنہ, are all located in what used to be the room of Hazrat Ayesha رضی اللہ عنہا. I entered the building through Baab-us-Salaam with the intention of offering my greetings there and immediately became part of a long queue formed for that purpose.
The visitors are only allowed to pass from in front of this room. As I finally reached the spot adjacent to Rasoolullah’s صلی اللہ علیہ وسلمgrave, I felt awed: only metres from where I stood rested the final Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم – the one most beloved to Allah and chosen by Him to deliver His Word to the world. The design of the doors in front of this chamber allows the pilgrims to have a look inside, but there is very little visible. I paused in front of the door and greeted Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم, “Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu, ya Rasulullah.” (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم, O Messenger of Allah, and Allah’s mercy and blessings.) I then took a step forward and greeted Hazrat Abu Bakr رضی اللہ عنہ: “Assalamu Alayka ya Aby Bakr.” Moving another step forward, I greeted Hazrat Umar رضی اللہ عنہ in a similar manner. As I then stepped out the corridor, I felt truly contented.
 Located quite close to the graves is Raudah-tul-Jannah (Riaz-ul-Jannah), a piece of land ‘from Paradise’, which is easily the most crowded place in the mosque. Regarding it, Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم said, “Between my house and my pulpit is a garden from the gardens of Paradise.” (Muslim) This area has been distinguished from the rest of the mosque; it has lighter coloured carpets, white pillars, and is even more beautifully decorated than the rest of it. For my first two days in Madinah, I had neglected going there due to long queues of people waiting for a chance to pray there. Then the following night, after the Isha prayer, I entered Bab-us-Salam once again, this time with the intention of praying in this “garden of Paradise”.
There were two queues waiting to get in, one of which I now joined. As we drew close to the entrance, we were squashed together. It seemed we were almost standing on top of each other. I waited a long time as the queue inched forward once every few minutes. I tried to look down to observe if the colour of the carpet was different yet, but all I could see was feet and clothes below. I thus tried to wait patiently, realising I had not been a part of such a tightly packed crowd even in Makkah for this long. Then, some triumphant murmurs were heard in the crowd – I managed to look down and saw that the carpet was indeed of a lighter colour now. I had finally reached my destination.
 The next step was to find a place to offer salat in there. A young man stood next to one of the pillars and addressed the people in Arabic and Urdu. He reminded everyone to be calm and asserted the need to be accommodating to everyone. There was only a small area where people prayed, tightly huddled together. Some people had no space to prostrate while others searched for the tiniest of gaps to accommodate themselves.
I, fortunately, found an empty spot after a short wait where I could pray and prostrate comfortably and peacefully. I offered two rakat nafl unhurriedly, making dua while prostrating. As I left the blessed area, I saw the crowd thinning, and thought it was a good opportunity to go in there all over again. So, I walked back to the entrance, joined the queue, and within half an hour, I was again inside the Raudah-tul-Jannah. I absorbed the sight of the beautiful pillars and patterns around me, repeated the salat, and came out again. I walked to the hotel, realising once again that the more patient you were during this trip, the more you derived out of it.
Security personnel were obviously needed in Raudah-tul-Jannah to ensure discipline and that a maximum number of people got a chance to pray there.
(...to be continued)