My First Umrah

It’s been ten days since we landed on home soil. In my mind my memories already look like dreams, but I have not forgotten what it feels like. What it feels to wake up and hear the Athaan for Tahajud in Makkah. The familiarity of that call to prayer and the comfort of knowing that you’re in the best place you could ever be on earth.

I will never forget the plush carpet of Masjid Al Nabawi and the way my heart cried when I knew this would be the last time I pray there… until I receive my next invitation of course. It felt like leaving my true home, it felt like leaving something so dear to me. It was the most beloved place I’ve ever lived. It is the most beloved city.

Leaving Madina was heart-sore but we had to move on. Our Umrah had yet to take place.

We followed the steps to prepare for Ihraam and on the 31st of December 2014, at approximately 11am we started toward Makkah.

It was just about an hour when we reached the miqat, there we made our intentions and duahs.

Me and Mum at the miqat

Me and Mum at the miqat Masjid Bier Ali

Soon after we came across a petrol station and as usual there was a masjid next to it. I made Dhuer practicing the rights of a traveller to bring it forward. Dad bought Burger King Whoppers and we managed to devour it before we started moving again.

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My first Burger King, it was like a better version of the Big Mac

My first Burger King, it was like a better version of the Big Mac

Then the ride was long but soothing. The bus was comfortably air-conditioned and we took in the sights. I was amazed with all the hills and mountains. It was absolutely beautiful, it’s possibly one of my most favourite things about Saudi Arabia.

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By the time we got to Makkah the day was nearing its end. The sun took its time to set, slowly creeping toward the mountain’s dark silhouette, blazing red as it went down. Our group’s Talbiyah wasn’t as loud and enthusiastic as I always imagined it would be but we had our moments. At one point Ismail went forward to take the microphone and lead the Talbiyah, because our group leader was female and requested males to take turns in leading. It certainly was a proud moment for mom and dad as their eldest grandson’s voice boomed the Labaik across the bus.

It was maghrieb when we entered the humdrum of traffic near our hotel. It was fascinating watching the driver snake through congested roads and maybe I don’t know better but as far as my eyes could tell; we were in a tunnel and he made a U-turn! *mind boggles*

Just as mom and I were trying to make sense of what just happened, I saw our hotel. We went around the back where the entrance and peaceful parking lot was. Our last week in Makkah was spent at the Anjum Hotel. We would receive breakfast as well as dinner. I was quite satisfied with the Hayatt International in Madina but this hotel is definitely higher in standard and more modern in décor.

 

The back of the hotel aka piazza and parking lot

The back of the hotel aka piazza and parking lot

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After we got our luggage and regained our composure we were able to run down to the restaurant that was serving dinner.

Joud Restaurant

Joud Restaurant

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My first supper in Makkah. The beef and mushrooms were good.

Our agent wanted us to meet them at 8:30pm to complete our tawaf and sa’ee as a group.

Mom however had a hard time with her leg. We then decided that it was best for her to use a wheel chair, thus we would not be able to join the group. Instead the 4 of us went on our own. It was after 7pm when we left our rooms. We got a chair from the hotel, it was the last one so it was a bit shoddy but it served its purpose Alhamdulila.

Mum and Ismail in the piazza

Mum and Ismail in the piazza

The anticipation, anxiety and excitement got us all a bit tense. This made for quite a memorable evening. Dad pushing mom in a wheel chair, against on-coming traffic was nerve wrecking for her and frustratingly comical to Ismail and me. We couldn’t help but laugh as we walked pass the hammering of construction, hooting taxis and a hysterical lady in the wheel chair. It took a lot of convincing for mom to sit still and stay put.

A bit dark but this was the road we had to walk on to get to the Mataf. The construction on the left and no pavement.

A bit dark but this was the road we had to walk on to get to the Mataf. The construction on the left and no pavement.

When we got to the entrance of the Masjid Al Haram things took a solemn turn. There were so many people. Immediately mom once again worried about us sticking together. I made a point of holding Ismail’s hand and reassured mom all night thereafter that we were right behind her. We followed the signs that showed wheel chair access to the temporary ramps that circle the Holy Kaba.

Once we were there everything happened so fast. We weren’t necessarily running but we kept a steady pace. There were lots of people from different nations, some in big groups that we had to go around and some in small groups of 3 or so, randomly spaced. We had breathing room; we could go at a pace we chose. Everything was white, the ramp, the walls, the people’s clothing. The lights were bright as well. I was trying to keep up and hold onto dad when I first saw the Kaba. My eyes were wide as I tried to make duah with my gaze intently locked on. I wanted to hold my ‘first gaze’ as long as I could.

We started at the neon green lights which indicate where the Hajr Al Aswad is. Good thing too because try as I might, I couldn’t spot it when I looked over the barrier down at the Kaba. When mom returned from Hajj she told me the Kaba is smaller than one would expect. I could see now first-hand what she meant. The Kaba is smaller and the ramps are narrower than what it looks like on TV. I prepared myself for a longer stretch when I heard we’d be using the ramps, but the tawaf went by so quickly I literally thought,’ was that it?’ I would hardly make three ‘Rabana Fid Dunya’ dua’s then we’d turn the next corner.

I’m glad I had notes with me though. Even when repeating the same sets of dhikrs & dua’s I still had to look at my booklet every time we started another round, to check how to say ‘Bismillahi Alhamdulila Wa Allahu Akbar’. Making Tawaf is such a simple task. However, the fact that there are other people that you need to go around or give way for and keep up with, added to the fact that you’re trying to comprehend the sight before you (the KABA!); the significant act you’re currently performing and just the awesomeness of what’s happening right then and there. It’s slightly overwhelming. (It’s for this reason that I’m grateful we went for a second tawaf, closer to the Kaba so that I could concentrate better and spiritually connect with my surroundings and emotions).

When our tawaf was done we made salaah on the ramp, where some people were gathered. We stood as out of the way as possible but I basically made salaah under moms wheel chair, behind her. When we exited the ramp, we were surprised to find a wide carpeted area available for people to make salaah (*Eish*). There we also found Zam Zam containers lined up. We then just refuelled with Zam Zam and continued onto the next stage; the Sa’ee.

The hills, safa and marwa, are low but wide in expanse. The passage between them is tiled and air-conditioned but it’s quite a long passage. When I imagined a blazing sun above me, loose red sand beneath me and the crying of my suffering child, with no shelter or water in sight, I couldn’t help but feel for Hajaar. How faithful and strong she was Subhanallah. So as a mother the sa’ee really hit home for me.

It’s also during this time that I started to feel the physical effects. I didn’t practice walking like I had planned to before this. I could see why it’s important to be in shape and take care of your health. Next time I’ll try harder In Sha Allah.

When we were done we left via a random door in the passage. We checked a map which made no sense, and then we asked one or two people where we could find the barber. Nobody spoke English so it was a bit tough trying to communicate, but they pointed to where it was. When we moved position we could actually see a building in the distance clearly stating ‘barber’.

Mom and I then sat patiently waiting for Ismail and Dad to come back. When they returned we had the task of figuring out how to get back to the front of the masjid. Due to construction there were barriers preventing us from just walking around the masjid.

We then went back and forth into the sa’ee area. The upstairs and downstairs sa’ee passage looks exactly the same and we got a bit confused as to where we were. (I don’t know how we ended up up-stairs when we were on the ground floor before).

This is where confusion, frustration and exhaustion can get to people. Especially when in Ihraam we have to be consciously aware of our actions and words. We asked a (non-English speaking) cleaner how to exit. He briefly contemplated just pointing but then realized it would be useless. To my surprise he led us all the way (aaaallll the way) down an exceptionally busy escalator, against the tawaf traffic, and through the masjid. All the time we were running to keep up with this guy, he was just casually strolling. I ran ahead while dad struggled with the wheel chair through the thick of people. Massive groups of people came between us multiple times. We thought we’d lost him or he just gave up on us then we’d spot him again.

Alhamdulila eventually we made it out. If I think about it now, I realize that exiting was often harder than trying to perform a task. It happened with the Umrah and when we went into the Hijr Ismael (kraaltjie) as well. When I hear the others talk they’d say the same, coming out is harder.

Our muscles felt the burn as we walked back to our hotel. The sweat ran down my back as my feet marched on. What an event that was.

Mom and I hadn’t cut our hair yet so we were still in Ihraam. In our room I joked with Ismail, asking him how short I should go; ‘bob maybe?’. Mom and I cut an inch of each other’s hair and that was that. I practically jumped for joy, exclaiming, ‘Alhamdulillah!’  

By the time I’d showered and got into bed it was pass one am already.

IMG_2115 I reckon there’s no better way to bring in the New Year; my first Umrah.

The details

  • Everywhere in Makkah smells nice, what ever shop, what ever building, even in the masjid; I noticed the hint of attar perfume.
  • The shops in Madina are small and sometimes crowded but you get good deals. In Makkah the small shops have been broken down along with what used to be grand hotels to make space for bigger, better things. The Zam Zam Towers and Bin Dawood Malls are still there (at the moment). These malls in Makkah are huge and have many, many, many boutiques that sell the most gorgeous clothing and homeware. Here you’ll find the likes of Aldo and Nine West. Sometimes the boutiques sell similar things found in Madina but the prices are tripled.
  • The traffic is crazy but I find it exciting! (Didn’t see one female driver for the entire trip though)
  • The people are friendlier, more approachable in Makkah but Madina truly is ‘The Beloved City’. There’s just something about the masjid, that makes you feel calm, content, at home.
  • When leaving your hotel, you rarely need more than your muslah and room key-card.
  • Always have wudu, all day errday.
  • People may think we who’ve been there exaggerate, but I’ve experienced it myself. Your Duahs are answered even when you didn’t technically make duah.
    You might just be thinking, ‘gee I’m getting hungry’ then someone will offer you a date.
    One night I was alone in the masjid (without family) and I became a bit peckish. A group of Turk women I sat next to, handed me a generously sized biscuit. I took it and passed on another one to the lady sitting next to me.
    Before I could take a bite, a girl in niqab came to me and asked about the biscuit. I wasn’t sure what she meant, so I pointed at the Turk ladies, meaning; they gave it to me. But she pointed to my biscuit and herself then I knew she was asking for it and gave it to her. Before I could tell my sad tummy that Alhamdulillah, I just did something good, the lady on my right told me I could have hers because she doesn’t want it. She asked/gestured if she could just get a piece to taste.
  • Also on another night, between Maghrieb and Ishaai, Mariam and I sat talking. She asked me if there was any Cape Townian food that I missed. I said, “not really. If I have to think of anything then I’d say I liss for a samoosa at the moment.” After Ishaai we went straight to the restaurant for supper.
    I kid you not, out of the 6 nights we had supper there, this ONE night they had cocktail samosas!
  • If you’re generally unsocial like me, remember; once you get over the culture shock, realize that the women of the other nations are just human too, you don’t need to feel intimidated or anxious. Just smile at them, everyone is a traveler just like you.

Umrah; General Tips

– in case you’re an innocent bystander like me who for some reason always gets dirty during transit (whether an 8hr plane ride or 4 hr bus trip) OR you find out at the airport that your luggage will be going straight to your destination, while you will be taking a connecting flight 12hrs later; always have overnight supplies in your over night bag, including a spare outfit. When wearing Ihraam, use a napkin as a bib and if you choose a special outfit to go home in; change at the airport.

– when they say; ‘ have one bag of luggage and three bags of sabr’. Maybe one bag of patience will be needed for the uncontrollable things like the crazy airport, unresponsive hotel staff, the agent, foreign people. However it’s a given that most of your bags of sabr will be needed for your own family and/or people you’ll be sharing a room with. In unfamiliar situations people panic and lose their cool/say things that might offend you and vice versa. When you’re not used to spending so much time with certain people, toes might be stepped on, sleep deprivation/hunger/pms causes irritability etc. hold your tongue, breathe, get some alone time, don’t take things personally.

– Most of the time instead of getting upset, it’s better to take a deep breathe and recite dhikr but when it’s reached a certain point, someone can be tactfully and respectfully made aware that their behavior/ way of speaking is offensive/ inappropriate/ annoying.

– ***Important in case your (24+ floor) hotel gets evacuated at 3am in the morning (which ours literally just did, hence me being awake at this holy hour) keep your passports and important documents in one nifty bag, keep it in a safe but accessible place along with your money and cellphone (and charger) so it can be quickly grabbed on your way out.

– seafood (specifically shellfish) and curry are foods I would recommend you AVOID as you can’t trust how it may affect you afterward, better safe than sorry.

– DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER… Ever.

– Learn conversational Arabic! Learn; yes, no, ‘no Arabic/ I don’t understand/ do you speak English?

– speak with your hands but be mindful of what you’re doing. Your ‘go-ahead’ signal may mean ‘go-away’ to them, hence facial expressions will help too.

– Dubai airport is huge, without good navigational skills you could get lost.

– the haram in Makkah isn’t that big but due to the crowd and the different levels/ floors all look the same, it’s easy to misjudge and end up on the completely opposite side of where you need to be.

– most handy items:
1. Compact Handbag

This is the one I used. It's a sling bag, very compact. The top zip's compartment held my sunglasses, tissues and phone, the second held my tasbeeh and note book, the smallest held lip balm, sweets/chewing gum and my key-card. At the back it had another zip where I put my cash.

This is the one I used. It’s a sling bag, very compact. The top zip’s compartment held my sunglasses, tissues and phone, the second held my tasbeeh and note book, the smallest held lip balm, sweets/chewing gum and my key-card. At the back it had another zip where I put my cash.

 2. Sunglasses** important!
3. Cellphone
4. Small purse
5. Lip balm
6. Tasbeeh
7. Pocket Quran
8. Muslah
9. Shoe bag
10. Navigational skills/ your eyes and brain + coffee

A blessed house

NB: I have as yet, not written about our actual, performed Umrah itself. InShaAllah it will be posted soon.

It was 1:45am Monday the 5th, when I got a wake up call from dad.
We met on the piazza just a few minutes after.
Dad, Mariam, Ismail and me; we intended to do a tawaf this night.

The Thursday before, the haram was packed with thousands of mu’tamireen. Even at 3am they were there in their masses donning Ihraam and doing their Umrah. The weekend we noticed the ladies section in the Masjid become emptier. The haram however, not as much.
Our bus was scheduled to leave on Wednesday the 7th, the Tuesday we would use to pack and rest. Hence we decided that the early hours of our last Monday would be the best time to go.

We walked to the haram in good spirits, no hurry at all. We got onto the Mataf and joined the anti clockwise circulation around the blessed Kaba. It took almost a full rotation to get to the Hajr Al Aswad, the starting point of tawaf. It was a surreal experience to be in that brightly lit, spiritual arena at 2am in the morning, surrounded by groups of foreign people.
The crowd wasn’t too dense, it was manageable.
Before our first of 7 rotations around the Kaba was over, we approached the semi circle next to the Kaba called Hijr Ismail, also known by Cape Townian locals as ‘the kraaltjie’.
To make salaat in that section is equal to making salaat inside the Kaba itself. Of course it was filled with people. Dad asked me; do you want to try to get in? And I replied yes, it was after all my very first time to get that close to the Kaba.

We went through where there didn’t seem to be place to even put your feet, without pushing or Hurting anyone we just walked. We got to the far side of the ‘kraal’ and ended up standing directly behind people who were ‘hanging’ on the Kaba’s wall. I found my place to stand and reached out to the clothed wall.

My hand felt the silk, black fabric while my forefinger brushed over the indent of the embossed calligraphy. My eyes also noticed the picture perfect way my dads hand was placed next to mine as I sobbed and I think I saw him trembling too.
Mariam said ” Fahrie smell your hand.” And I did. What a fitting scent for such a magnificent creation. It’s probably an atr made especially for the Kaba.

I made two rakats while standing and touched the blessed wall again. Coming out was slightly harder, I remember some people almost falling over people who thought it ok to go down onto the ground to pray. They don’t realize that they become invisible in the immense crowd and thus become a hazard. But Alhamdulila we got through unharmed. We were blessed enough to be able to gaze at the Maqam Ibrahim without any rush, there was no crowd around it.

We finished the rest of our tawaf within minutes and stood opposite the multazam (Kaba’s doors) adjacent to the maqam Ibrahim and made our two rakats salaatul tawaf.

Mariam and I then stayed behind the cordoned off area where we prayed and made duah while Ismail and dad went back to the Kaba. Ismail managed to infiltrate the crush of people and get his head inside the Hajr Al Aswad. With a quick boost from Dad, he also touched the doors of the Kaba. His guts really paid off and he was rewarded greatly for his intentions.

Our whole adventure took one and a half hours. It was pass 3am when I was back in my hotel room. I showered and went to sleep with a smile.

Madina to Makkah

imageimageimageWe’re in the bus, on our way to Makkah. We stopped at the miqaat already.
We also stopped at a masjid and then a garage where we got Burger King for lunch.
Now we’re on the long road.

Unlike Cape Town where we have rolling hills of green for scenery, here there are red boulders at the feet of rigid Mountains of black stone.

I spotted camels, donkeys and a herd of sheep. There are masjids every few kilometers, often accompanied by petrol stations.
They however, don’t seem to have been in use for many years. We’ve passed countless abandoned buildings as well as abandoned vehicles. Only history knows the story behind those empty shells.
There are so many of them, it makes one wonder.

We are far from anything now. The only thing that surrounds us are gravel paths and rocky landscape. Yet, there is something about the dry land and the scorching sun, that is comforting. I keep wanting to reach out and touch the angular black rocks. It takes our bus approximately 6 hrs to get to Makkah on a tar road, I can only imagine what a journey it was for our Nabi SAW and his companions.

For now I won’t dwell on the thought of this wide expanse of barren land. I should concentrate on what lies ahead.
Our Umrah. Soon I will see the sacred house that Nabi Adam and Nabi Ebrahim, peace be upon them, built. The place which all Muslims around the world direct their prayer toward.
The holy Kaba.

Labbayka Allāhumma Labbayk. Labbayk Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk. Inna l-Ḥamda, Wa n-Niʻmata, Laka wal Mulk, Lā Sharīka Lak.

Living in the beloved city

Tonight we say our goodbyes to our beloved Nabi SAW.
The week has passed by so quickly. It took 3 days for my sinuses to get used to the stuffy warm air and air conditioners in every building. I used to get sleepy due to lack of clean oxygen my room. I still get a runny nose when I walk outside and cough when I sit in the haram. I assume it has something to do with the thousands of people sitting all around me.

I’ve been wearing the niqab for a few days now. Just when I go out the building, I don’t wear it when I go for breakfast. I quite like wearing it and of course it’s so common here, nobody stares at you. I suppose the main objective of wearing it in the first place is to make the female inconspicuous hence modest.
Since I’m not much of a people person, I find it comforting to hide behind the vail. The annoying vendors don’t see me pulling a face when I’m not interested in what they’re selling. So I feel less guilty for being ‘rude’.

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When I go to the haram I can’t help but watch the women. I’m fascinated with the various cultural garments worn by the different nations. I’m especially attracted to the chador. It’s a wide piece of fabric that covers them from head to toe, worn mostly by Iranian women.
I’ve noticed it comes it prints of tiny floral but there are certain groups that stick to black. They wear a white burka underneath and end up looking just like nuns. I wish I could take a picture of them.

I also like the frilly burkas worn by the Indonesians. It’s the type of thing we used to wear as kids but wouldn’t want to now. I however think it’s super cute.

Mom and I did some gift shopping last night and got ourselves long burkas. If I found a suitable sheet at home, I’d totally make myself a chador out of it!

I love the abayas we got here. The fabric is significantly lighter then the ones we have back home and if we found these at our local stores we’d probably pay at least R100 more then what these costed.

Since I had very little savings, I knew that when I came I wouldn’t be able to do much shopping. I managed to get quite a few things but next time I’d definitely try to have loads more spending money. It doesn’t help that the rand is terribly weaker than the riyal.

Ismail got very nice gifts, always at a discount. Mariam is a master of bargaining, I think she should teach classes on the art.

Everyone (the 6 of us) has so far had a pleasant stay. For some reason everything has worked in our favor, from being prepared to overnight at Dubai airport to getting hotel vouchers as well as other small incidents that make us feel very lucky Alhamdulila.

I have to be honest and say that our stay in Madina has really felt like a holiday. We live in a 5 star hotel, we have no chores or responsibilities.

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Our day revolves entirely around praying and our extra murals consist of sleeping and shopping. That’s literally all we do. Oh yes, and eat!

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My parents and I are happy that Ismail is independent and enjoying himself by taking walks when he feels like it. He’s also been Mariam’s walking/shopping buddy. The two of them always come back with bags and stories to tell. Ismail also always comes back smelling of atr. He goes to the atr stall every chance he gets because they give him free perfume by rubbing it on his arm, trying to convince him to buy.
I’m not one to walk around aimlessly, especially when I have no-more cash to buy anything so I just hang out in my room until it’s time to go to the haram again. I must sound so boring but come on, it’s seriously hot out there.
I got heat rash on my arms and legs on the first day. The lotion the pharmacy gave me was expensive but it really helped though.

I now know what it’s like to live in ‘the city’. We’re surrounded by unexpectedly tall buildings, they’re close together and all you hear from your window are hooters and sirens all day.

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The advantage of living in a city I guess is the fact that everything is so close together. You walk out your building and you’re surrounded by shops. The mall is just two blocks away and there’s no need to get into a car at all except for excursions. The shops are open 24/7 except for prayer times and there isn’t a lack of anything you might need.

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I can see the appeal, especially when I watch movies of Americans that walk to work from their apartment or just jump into a taxi, not really needing a car.
Personally however, I couldn’t give up my suburban, free standing house with a front and back yard.

Tomorrow we have a hectic schedule. Our bags have to be in the lobby by 9am. We leave here in Ihraam and will take a 6hr bus ride toward Makkah. That will be the start of our true Umrah.

Masjid Al Nabawi

-Written on the go via iPhone-

Imagine a place where everyone and every business revolved their lives around prayer times. And everything comes to a standstill between the Athaan and the moment the Imam says ‘Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatulah’

Significance of Masjid AnNabawi and Rawdatul Jannah Rasoolullah (SAW) said: “The area between my house and my pulpit (mimbar) is a garden amongst the gardens of Paradise.” Garden of Paradise in Arabic is Rawdatul Jannah, and that particular area will be an actual garden in Paradise. It is highly recommended to perform 2 raka-at sunnah in that area. The area is very small, and it is indicated physically by a green carpet. In today’s terms, it refers to the area between the chamber in which Rasoolullah’s (SAW) grave is and the place of his original mimbar.

After two days of travel and three airports we finally got to the hotel that would serve as our home for the next 7days. The maghrieb Athaan started as we got out our luggage from the bus. We were given 4 hours to freshen up and meet the group leaders outside again. They separated the men and women after giving us a brief talk on what we were going to do and how to behave when we’re faced with unmannerly people. My Aunty Gairo an I joined the women and tried to stick to the group leader as much as possible. This would be my first night in Madina and my first visit to Masjid Al Nabawi. I had no idea what to expect.
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/1d7/69380011/files/2014/12/img_1324.jpg We did two rakats salaatul masjid, two rakats salaatul shukr and then drank some zam zam water. We then made our way further into the masjid. We went from this way to that. An asgari came and told our group leader to follow her, she then took us even further in where many women sat waiting. There was some confusion with our group and the other women. Our group leader also kept disappearing. We started splitting up. I then decided to keep my eyes on the asgari lady, thinking she would give us a personal escort into the Rawda.

After more confusion I spotted our group leader walking closer to where the makeshift entrance to theRawdatul Jannah was. I got up and hastily walked toward her, pointing and loudly telling Aunty Gairo, “there she is!” Suddenly a female asgari, a petite girl with fingers thinner than mine, jumped in front of me. She aggressively put her hands up toward me shouting; “sabr! Sabr!” I was so shocked and of course it was no use explaining to her that I was trying to get to someone. She said, “sit!” And I sat! Some South African women smiled at me and I just made a face as if to say, “wow, this chick cray”

A few Pakistan ladies were walking by looking quite lost. The asgari told them to go the opposite direction but the ladies were reluctant. They went but came back again just to have the asgari scold them. They ignored her and gestured that they were leaving . The asgari said, “sabr! Sabr!” But these ladies were clearly not in the mood for this escapade. The asgari’s reaction was priceless. She muttered aloud half to herself a bunch of Arabic words including; “astagfirlah!” I couldn’t make out if she was asking forgiveness for their insolence or askin forgiveness because she felt guilty for scaring them. The South African ladies that subtly laughed at the berating that I got earlier, couldn’t resist chuckling again.

The aggressive way the asgaries act is very foreign to us and we’d think it’s ‘uncalled for’. Thinking about it, I however understand and have seen, that people just don’t co-operate. I guess she has to continuously express her authority, it must be exhausting. Despite her small figure, the combination of her full black niqab clothes, aggressive demeanor and voice, were all enough to make me feel like a small child being scolded by an evil teacher. Aunty Gairo was still sitting down a bit away from me but as soon as the asgari got distracted she told me to come and we went closer to the entrance (the partition that they would eventually open).

Here the crowd was made up of different nations. We were a very small group compared to them. I then wiggled my way between the other nations as the other ladies in my group went around the side of the crowd. I didn’t want to go there because the asgaries was scolding them and some women were using that side as a pathway. Just as my legs started getting pins n needles, everyone got up from the floor. Immediately there was a sense of urgency in the atmosphere.

I let the crowd push me forward. At one point I was literally walking on my toes. I was being squashed by so many people it wouldn’t have been surprising if I started to float. Luckily I was among many Indonesians who were shorter than me therefore I didn’t feel claustrophobic. The way the area was cordoned off made me very confused but I had an idea of where i needed to be. I could see the gates that house the kabr of our Nabi SAW. As we got closer, I moved more toward the left, toward where I thought The Rawdatul Jannah would be. Navigating my way, I wasn’t in a spiritual state yet but I felt a tightening in my gut. A physical feeling that I cannot describe. It was just my unwavering intuition telling me; something is happening, something is coming.

The women continued forward while the asgaries shouted and pointed toward the makeshift exit. I wondered why they were showing us to go that way when there was a barrier right in front of us; should we not still get to the green carpet? After trying to keep a baby’s head from being decapitated by the crowd (his mother was carrying him on her side but she seemed oblivious. He kept looking upward but his head was unnaturally bent backwards, I almost thought he was disabled) and then observing a woman who looked like she was fainting next to me, a small space opened up at my feet.

Unconsciously I looked down. The sight below me hit me like a bag of bricks… In a good way. I was standing ON the green carpet! I was standing in the Rawdatul jannah!

Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar! Allah Hu Akbar!

I was so overwhelmed at that moment. I forgot about the crowd around me. I forgot all the Duahs I planned to say. My mind went blank with awe. The tears gushed out and my heart was filled with uncomprehending joy. I couldn’t believe the honor. I praised Allah, I thanked Allah.

It got so crowded again that nobody could make salaat. I couldn’t even put my hands on my knees let alone prostrate. I made the two rakats Rawdatul Jannah while standing in one spot. I can’t even remember what I made duah for, however I know I made duah for Allah to accept all my previous Duahs and all my future Duahs and all good Duahs made for me by others. Knowing that; remembering that I made that duah, puts me at peace. I now don’t feel the need to go back and try again because having faith means you’re confident and trust that your prayers were heard. I trust that all Duahs made there are guaranteed, so what more could I want?

Once I was satisfied that I had said as much as I could say I made my way toward the exit. I continued making duah while the exiting crowd dispersed and was brought back to reality when another asgari shouted at me. Clearly I was coming from the cordoned off portion of the Rawda but I just told her “exit, exit” so she let me go. I made another two rakats salaatul shukr at a safe, quiet spot and then left the masjid to meet my family outside.