Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Spiritual Journey : The Return of the Hajjah

before i write about the return, i think i should continue where i stopped in the last entry.

we were told that the Agong and the Permaisuri would be arriving in Madinah, and so after asar prayers we gathered at the hotel where the royal couple would be staying. they were expected to arrive at 5pm and we were worried that we would miss the maghrib prayers which was at 5.35p.m. we saw a few palace officials, and haji harun was also there in his purple rayhar jacket. the arab police tried to shoo us away but the officials explained to them the situation, and then the red carpet was laid out and we were told to line on either side of the carpet. i was one of those lining up inside the hotel. 
then we were told that they would be a little late. they arrived at 5.20, with 4 police escort cars. i saw the Agong, but not too clearly since the policemen were protecting him. the womenfolk get to salam the ever smiling Permaisuri. we saw the Pemangku Raja and his sister too. then we dashed to the masjid, as azan would be heard soon.

i can't write about masjid nabawi without writing about the ever infamous female guards. unlike their much gentler counterparts in masjidil haram, the guards at masjid nabawi are younger, more aggressive, and louder. they speak indonesian too, so they could be heard shouting "ibu-ibu, maju! maju!" or "ibu-ibu, dhudhuk! dhudhuk!"(the arabs can't pronounce 'd'correctly). they are the ones who search through all our things in the bags for any banned items like handphones or packed food (other then dates or fruits) or items that you just bought prior going to the masjid. they sometimes do body search too. inside the masjid, they are the ones who direct the womenfolk where to go. and more often than not, when the masjid is silent as we have started praying, we could still hear their shouts to the latecomers. it's been a joke for all the indonesians and the malaysians to mimic the guards.

on Thursday, 10th Muharram, i fasted. this was the day when Nabi Nuh was saved from the big flood, hence the creation of bubur Asyura' which was a Malay version of 'ashara'which means ten. KT96 went on a walking tour. as always, there was a Rayhar staff holding the Rayhar flag, and as Ustaz Rosli and Haji Harun had gone back, Ustaz Hadi was there with us a hailer and started to selawat to Rasulullah. of course, the rest of the muslims nearby were nonplussed what with our procession and the selawat and also the rayhar flag. we first visited a garden which was so lush with green treens and shrubs, something that you don't often see in Madinah or Makkah. it's the garden where Rasulullah used to hold meetings with the sahabahs to discuss war strategies or other important matters. it was also here that the Ansars and the Muhajirins held a meeting to elect a leader when Rasulullah was dying.

after going to the garden, we walked to the sahabahs'masjids and as the grand finale, we went to the dates market where we bought kilos and kilos of dates. i had to post some home instead of bringing with us back on the plane. sadly though because i was fasting, i couldn't taste the sweet dates.

i'm happy to say that i managed to visit the raudhah 3 times. raudhah is a piece of Eden on earth, situated next to Rasulullah's grave. no, there are no trees or flowers. it's a part of the original masjid and what differentiates it from the rest of the masjid is it's carpeted in green carpet while the rest of the masjid is in red. it's where you do sunat prayers and it is said that it's a mustajab place for doa. on my first visit there for this trip, there were a lot of hajjahs, so it was almost impossible to pray in peace as it was crowded. the last time i was there it was before midnight, and there were less people. i must have spent half an hour there. i went there with Kak Chum, Kak Mah and my roommates K. Kusha and Aunty Cha. we came out crying and hugging each other, as it was difficult to get a chance to stay inside raudhah that long (usually the infamous guards would be shoving us out if it's too crowded).

i also have to write something about shopping both in Makkah and Madinah. the prices soar during haji season, but once the number of haj pilgrims dwindles, the sellers will lower their prices. my abayat, which i previously bought at SR110, was sold at SR80 or may be less after a few weeks. of course, you must haggle the prices. most of the sellers can speak Malay, but i must caution the ladies to be careful of the Arab sellers who might be sexually harrassing you.

on saturday, 18th December, we said goodbye and left Madinah after asar prayers. we arrived in Jeddah at midnight and slept in dorms at Tabung Haji's building. that night for the first time in 42 days we heard loud music booming coming from the cafe downstairs. the next day, we received our boarding pass and weighed in the bags. then we made our way to the Jeddah airport, received our passports and the complimentary Quran and then finally we boarded Mas, already feeling at home. 

at 6.45a.m. 20th December, we touched down on Malaysian soil. i was glad to see Kak Sham, Abg Jenal, Abg Zaki and Kak Ah waiting.

i'm glad to be home, and i'm happy that i went for haj. it's not some mundane journey, it's THE journey. it's full of so many significant memories, lessons and experiences of ourselves, the ukhuwah with other muslims and our communication with Allah. it is not only to fulfil the 5th rukun islam, but it's one's spiritual journey, to be close to Allah, to learn of the history of our religion, to feel humbled with our frailty, limits, ignorance and to respect the sacrifices of the muslims of long ago, especially our Rasulullah and above all - to discard all worldly possessions, pride, wealth and to submit oneself solely to Allah. i feel at peace and syukur to experience  the miracles and syukur that Allah had sent me help me when i needed it.

"mereka yang selalu bertaubat, yang beribadat kepada Allah, yang memuji-Nya dalam setiap waktu, dan yang mengembara dalam mengembangkan amanat-Nya, yang selalu rukuk dan sujud, yang selalu mengajak berbuat baik dan yang berpegang teguh hukum Allah. sampaikan berita gembira kepada mereka yang beriman" 112, Surah At Taubah


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Spiritual Journey: miracles in madinah

i will start my madinah story with the story of tawaf wida in makkah.

i felt very sad to leave the holy city, something which i didn't feel the first time around i was there for umrah 2 years ago. i knew i was going to miss the jamaah prayers at the Masjidil Haram, miss looking at kaabah, and miss tawaf the kaabah. 

as if to echo the sadness, it drizzled after asar. and my favourite imam Abdul Rahman Al Sudais imamed the isya' prayers. still, i felt sad.

we were told to do tawaf wida at 4a.m. instead of at 3a.m. after the last incident (KT 56 had to wait for 6 hours before their bus arrived). we had prayed hajat and doa that nothing would go amiss during our journey. at the dining hall, the number of people had dwindled to 20 something - and there were still kedai kopi sessions - getting to know the rest of the jemaah haji - there was one uncle who wrote a poem for Hari Pahlawan and there's another uncle who was a primary school headmaster and an excellent English speaker who had a lot to advise me about the teaching profession.  

i went to Masjidil Haram early - as early as 2.30a.m. and did my usual sunat taubat and tahajud prayers. at exactly 4a.m. i walked towards Kaabah and saw its magnificence and glory and felt sad. there weren't too many people, so i completed the tawaf in 20 minutes. i met Kak Chum there, the kakak who befriended me on the first day i was at Masjidil Haram. just before i started my sunat tawaf prayers, it drizzled. subhanallah! we felt so priviledged at that time. after the prayers i knew i had to leave a.s.a.p as required but i couldn't leave without gazing at Kaabah one last time. and i wept. i wept openly and didn't care if anyone saw me. i didnt want to leave Kaabah but i knew i had to, to continue on with my life.

still sniffling, i returned to the hotel, bought some food, waited for subuh, then went down with my handluggage. we didn't have to wait that long because our bus arrived soon after. i was on board bus no 2 with a driver who spoke only Arabic and who didnt know his way in Makkah so we were alarmed when we went on a merry go round ride until he stopped a few times to ask for directions. we stopped 3 times - once to receive muasassah food pack at the haj pilgrim centre, then once to have lunch where the men lounged on Arabian rugs and cushions then the last one to pray Friday prayers. we arrived early, so early that our rooms weren't ready yet. Haji Harun told us to have our second lunch there  (rezeki jangan ditolak) and the dining hall was jam packed as KT76,KT56, KT88 and KT96 were all there. i should say there were around 400-500 people at that time.

i moved into my new house with 3 other roommates and we went for maghrib and isya prayers together that night. during the next cold dawn, i fell down near the curb and limped slightly to Masjid Nabawi. we went for an external masjid tour after breakfast, and at that time i didn't wear my thermal top. before zohor i started to wheeze and had to take 3 Ventolin puffs. i decided to play it safe as i haven't been truly well for a month and didn't go to the masjid. 

the next day, we went on a trip to Jabal Uhud (the place of martyrs), Masjid Quba (the first masjid to be build based on taqwa) and the date farm. it was at jabal Uhud that the miracle happened. i saw a formation of clouds and thought that i never saw such clouds before in my life. i snapped a picture of it, and didn't think much about it until lunch when Ustaz Rosli said that KT96 jemaah haji were lucky to witness such an event. i went back to my room and check my camera. subhanallah! in the picture you can see the word Ällah and also Muhammad. we can't figure out the rest. we truly felt blessed, as since our tawaf wida we had no complications at all and now we get to witness a miracle.

back at the hotel, i didn't feel that much inclination to shop. madinah is definitely different than makkah, as it is more modern. our hotel is very big, and since i had stayed here for umrah i was looking forward to the comfort after the cramped hotel at Makkah. 

yesterday we made a trip to a place where there is a strong magnetic force field. it was so strong until our bus sped at more than 110kmph. the bus driver didnt even sit at his place, so the bus was moving on its own. 

after that we went to the printing press which produces the official madinah quran. i bought only 2 to give as gifts to friends as i use my late parents madinah quran at home.

we were told that Sultan Mizan will be arriving in Madinah today and haji harun has plans for us to welcome the king here.

will keep the readers posted.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Spiritual Journey : The last few days

it's quiet now at the mezzanine floor. the pilgrims of earlier flights had returned home, the first batch of late flights pilgrims are now in Madinah. around 20 are waiting for the bus to take them to Madinah, and there are less than 20 pilgrims now at the hotel. the hotel used to be so packed that having meal means tapau food from the mezzanine floor. now, we can actually sit back after all the meals and have really long conversations with some interesting people.

the sellers are now slashing the prices of their goods (usually the abayas) as most of the pilgrims have gone back. but it is also difficult to find small sized abayas as all Asian pilgrims bought those. most of the times there are abayas of  big Arab sizes, which will sink any medium sized Asians. 

at Masjidil Haram, the top floor has been closed. i managed to pray there only once, on the day of my arrival. a few hours ago i heard that the entrance gates from Safa and Marwah have also been closed. going to the masjid now isnt a hassle, you can always find a  nice spot to pray and see Kaabah even half an hour before prayer time - something that was unthinkable a few weeks ago. there are not many people around doing tawaf either, but i still can't get to hajarul aswad - most cautioned me not to go for my safety.

how do i feel right now? i feel sad to leave. those who have not been here will wonder, what does this dry dusty land have that other major cities in the world don't? (duh, the most obvious - the Kaabah!) no, i mean seriously.

all the cities have their own specialties - but they're all the same. they have all the tangible and physical attractions like the shopping experiences, the food, the architecture etc. but Makkah is a holy city. it doesnt have temperate cool climate - it is dry, dusty, hot and there are barren rocks everywhere. so when one comes to Makkah, it's a matter of faith and submitting oneself to Allah - forsaking comfort for Allah's pleasure.

and there's something that one cannot explain.

i feel that bond with Kaabah and the Masjid. and because my days here are numbered, and unfortunately since i'm asthmatic, i'm willing to wear purdah (another alternative to wearing mask) to avoid the dust in order to pray at the Masjid at least during maghrib and isya'. to be in the Masjidil Haram is to feel safe and to feel the ukhuwah you have with the rest of the Muslims around the world - and to hear the beautiful quran recitals during prayer by Imam Abdul Rahman Al Sudais is very soothing to the soul. 

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Spiritual Journey: Charity

in one of my entries for the Spiritual Journey journal series, i've mentioned that somewhere that the Prophet has said that haj mabrur is sedeqah and salam.

the charity aspect is very much seen everywhere here. it is encouraged by the ustazs here in Rayhar and it is seen in Masjidil Haram and also when i was in Arafah and Mina. it is not strange to see sisters in the masjid passing dates or nuts or even sweets to other sisters. but it doesnt mean that you have to sedeqah in the form of objects - you can give sedeqah through helping other people, sharing your knowledge or even giving a smile.

here at the hotel, the pilgrims will share their foods with the rest. some brought packed rendang, serunding daging (beef floss) and dried sambal ikan bilis. my contribution was the kicap kipas udang, which finished in 2 days. for yaasin recitals, some will pool money and then there will be a feast of mutton mandy rice (which i don't fancy at all).

in arafah i remember younger ladies in my tent gave us sedeqah by helping to distribute the packed muassasah food and drinks. they had to walk to and fro in order to deliver to probably 30 sisters in the tent. some even volunteered to throw the used tin foils into the garbage can outside the tent. how else can you give sedeqah? some of you who have been reading The Spiritual Journey journal would have read about the queueing and the condition of the toilets in Arafah and Mina. by giving up your turn to some other people who are "desperate" for nature's call you are giving sedeqah. though not in tangible object form, the other receiving party will appreciate it, and you will receive their gratitude.

i was told of this story. there is this one particular old makcik from kampung who travels without a mahram. she depends on the others for help. on one particular night, this makcik woke up earlier than usual - she woke up just after midnight, and asked her sleeping roommate for the time, and being sleepy the roommate mumbled  the time. the poor old makcik heard wrongly and thought it was near to 4 a.m. so she left for the masjid for subuh prayer at 1a.m. the concerned roommate pitied the makcik and realised that even though the makcik is poor, she doesnt act needy. the roommate then remembered that the makcik does not bring a sejadah to the masjid, she only uses a face towel as her sejadah. she zikirs only with her fingers, and not with her tasbih. she washes her dirty laundry with the remnants of the roommate's detergent. the roommate then decided to be charitable and bought the makcik the things. the makcik was very happy and thanked the roommate. the roommate was happy too, but she was happy because the sincere charitable act gave her peace and tranquility in her heart. 

in Surah Al - Rum, verse 37-38, Allah says
Have they not seen that Allah enlarges the provision to whomsoever He pleases, and straitens it to whomsoever He pleases? In that truly are Signs for a people who believe. So give to the kinsman his due, and to the needy, and to the wayfarer. That is best for those who seek the favour of Allah, and it is they who will prosper.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Spiritual Journey: When the Imam weeps

2 nights ago, the chief imam at Masjidil Haram, Abudl Rahman Al Sudais, wept when he recited a few verses of At Taubah during isya' prayer. not knowing a word of Arabic (correction, i took Arabic when i was in Seri Puteri but failed miserably), i was determined to know the verse which made him cry until he was unable to continue reciting for almost a minute.

back at the hotel, i asked our ustaz in resident, Ustaz Nik, and he told me that it's the last verse in At Taubah. in order to understand the last verse, i've to mention the verse before.

128. Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. it grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. he is anxious over you (to be rightly guided, to repent to Allah, and beg Him to pardon and forgive your sins, in order that you may enter Paradise and be saved from the punishment of the Hell-fire), for the believers full of pity, kind, and merciful.

in my humble and little knowledge about Al Quran, i think this verse talks about leaving your fate and depending on Allah, after being rejected by the very people you're trying to help. this is especially true when you're in distress or troubled and you feel so alone and there's no one to turn to - Allah is always with you. and this is especially true for me when i went back to the maktab in Mina alone at 4a.m. after stoning. i felt so alone in the sea of other pilgrims but because of tawakkal to Allah, i persevered and arrived safely at the maktab.