On the road from Makkah to Madinah, the desert, the rubble filled hills, occasional date trees, and a few camels and sheep caught my eye. The entire way is spotted with construction work of one sort or the other. And the temperature was a blazing 39° Celsius. Without a single tree in sight, the sunlight was almost unbearable. I kept wondering how one thousand four hundred years ago, the Prophet (pbuh) toiled along this empty desert between Makkah to Madinah during Hijrah.
The Bedouin's Arabia is now completely different! It took only four and a half hours to travel the distance of 450 kilometres from Makkah to Madinah. The six lane roads are built so well that we couldn't even feel the 120 miles per hour speed our car took on the smooth roads! The hills are being tunnelled in for further development. Houses, cars - all are the latest models, but there was a distinct lack of trees altogether. Even with modern cars and housing, a number of houses caught my eyes with their old-time window ACs. Our Burmese driver informed us that Korean cars are all the rage here. Suppose they planted some trees with the money they earn, the entire landscape of this desert would transform! The water crisis is being taken care by filtering the sea water; all that's left are the trees.
MADINAH- THE ORIGIN OF ISLAM
Madinah is greener compared to Makkah. Man made waterfalls and wall writing in Arabic caught my eye as well as lots of pigeons and some very small birds. Could not exactly say if these were the historic Ababils! Makkah-Madinah-Jeddah – English or Arabic wasn't necessary, just knowing Bangla was enough, with bit of broken Urdu or Hindi mixed in. It was quite amusing. The hotels were filled with Bangladeshi people as well.
THE TOMB OF THE PROPHET (PBUH)
The Prophet's tomb, or the “Rawza Sharif” resides inside the Masjid-ul-Nabawi. The south-eastern corner, right under the dark green dome where the Rawza is placed, that was also the home of Bibi Aisha (R), wife of the Prophet (pbuh). Ayesha is respected as “Mother of the Believers.” To enter the place where the Prophet lays in final rest, you have to take gate number 26.
The Prophet's (pbuh) residence was right near this mosque. He built this mosque in 622 AD. It is the third mosque of Islam. He himself had assisted in its building. At first it was an open-air building. It was used as a community centre, court and religious school.
The final construction work was completed later, by the Ottoman rulers in 1818 AD. The dome was painted green in 1837 AD. In the Arabian Peninsula, electricity was introduced to this place back in 1909 AD, just a hundred and nine years ago from now.
The Masjid-ul-Nabawi makes up a huge presence. The jamaat started with the azan here as well. People start gathering way before the azan though. If you want a space of your own, you too must make it there beforehand. The perimeter of the Masjid-ul-Nabawi perimeter is filled with numerous old and large markets and hotels. The nearby stores closed shop with the azan and shopkeepers prepared and left for namaz, leaving the stores empty. Besides the Prophet (pbuh), Hazrat Abu Bakr (R) and Hazrat Umar (R) are also laid to rest in the same spot.
For the convenience of the women, the time for ziarat time is 3pm, but I saw no lack of crowds. Comparing my visit at 5am at dawn to 11pm at night, the number people saw no decline. Sometimes the crowd is so huge that you do not have to move with effort, you simply cruise with the crowd!
Everywhere there are facilities for water and rest as well as wheelchairs and chairs for resting. Since you cannot enter the main Rawza with sandals, there are storage spaces for those as well. But beware, your footwear can get lost or mixed up in the crowds. Lots of people sit at the Rawza. They recite prayers, supplicate, they even take food there as well. The most challenging activity out of all is reaching the Riadul Jannah, known as the holiest place, and considered a part of heaven. A lot of chaos has to be beaten to get there, usually.
FROM JERUSALEM TO MAKKAH
Masjid al-Qiblatayn is known to most as the Mosque of the Two Qiblas. The Prophet (pbuh) while prostrating in prayer at this mosque, received Wahi (divine message) to turn away from Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem to face the Kaaba in Makkah. Prior to this, the Muslims had prayed towards the Al-Aqsa during namaz. From here the distinct journey of Islam began.
MASJID-E-QUBA: FOUNDATION BY THE PROPHET (PBUH)
In the history of Islam, one of the oldest mosques is the Quba Mosque. Although there is a debate over whether this is the oldest one, during the Prophet's lifetime, it was the oldest. After his Hijrah to Madinah, the Prophet waited at this very mosque for fourteen days with Hazrat Ali (R) and his other companions. The first foundation of this mosque was placed by the Prophet (pbuh) himself.
The Prophet (pbuh) said his prayers here every Saturday. He travelled here on transport or by foot. In hadith we find the Prophet's word that those who perform Wudu (purifying ablution) at their own house and say two Raqats of Nafal prayers at this mosque, the reward is equal to performing an Umrah. Although the foundation of the mosque was laid in the seventh century, its modernisation was completed only in the twentieth century.
THAT WHICH IS KNOWN AS THE EID MOSQUE
Masjid Al-Ghamama may sound a bit different. Ghamama means cloud. It's also called Eid Mosque as well, because it was nearer to the Masjid-ul-Nabawi and the prophet completed the last Eid jamaats of his life here. Then again some say the Prophet (pbuh) held sn Eid Jamaat only once in 631 AD. Many know this as the Cloud Mosque. Word has it that when the Prophet (pbuh) performed namaz here, a cloud would come and provide him shade. Again, many believe that once the Prophet (pbuh) said his prayers here for rain, black clouds floated in and rained on Madinah. Whatever the legends hold, this mosque no longer holds regular prayers since the Masjid-ul-Nabawi is nearby.
THE UHUD BATTLEFIELD
After their defeat at the battle of Badr, the Quraysh of Makkah assembled in the valley of the Uhud mountain with numerous soldiers. The Muslims suffered some loss, but they were the ultimate victors. There are the graves of over 70 Sahabis here. The main battle was on the red mountain known as Uhud. In this battle, the Prophet (pbuh) lost his teeth, and suffered other injuries.
THE FIRST JUMMA OF THE PROPHET
On one Friday, after leaving the Quba mosque, the Prophet (pbuh) was met with the villagers of Banu Salim bin Auf, which was a village nearly two and a half kilometers away from Masjid-ul-Nabawi. The villagers requested for Him to remain there and honouring their request, the Prophet (pbuh) said his first Jumma prayers there. Thus, the mosque became known Masjid Al-Jum'ah.
The Muslim Ottoman rulers play a crucial role in setting up Makkah and Madinah. They considered themselves as the “Servants of the holy cities- Makkah and Madinah,” as part of their former titles as rulers. During Hajj, they bore the valuable gifts from the Ottoman Emperors and the general people of Turkey. Makkah and Madinah at that time were not filled with so much grandeur. Even today you will see plenty of buildings made during the Turkish rule.
FOOD AND OTHER THINGS
I fully enjoyed the Labang from both Makkah and Madinah. Also, the stores in Madinah have good fruits and tasty varieties of bread. The Pakistani and Indian hotels have the typical oily and spicy foods. The Turkish shawarma, pizza, burger, milk, bread and bananas also tasted great. For buying dates, Madinah is the best place.
There are plenty of mosques in Madinah, many of which are related to the history and life of the Prophet (pbuh). If you have time, do checkout the Madinah Museum. Madinah also has a number of established educational institutes, namely the Islamic University of Madinah, Taibah University, and Madinah College of Technology.
Translated by Iris Farina
Photo: Shahana Huda