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Travel Writings Series

When I Took My Way to Madinah

Part One

We’re living in a high-speed vigorous world where spirituality, unfortunately, is not a priority.

I have to confess that the mayhem of the modern life has taken me into deep heedlessness. The career plans, the growing materialistic demands, the gridlocked streets of Cairo, the breaking news that I follow on hourly basis since the start of the Arab spring; all that and more made me spiritually dwindle in the past few years.

I can feel that by time, the intensity and the congestion of life making my soul unable to breathe. I am losing my spiritual connection to Allah. I’m distracted even while praying and reading the holy Qur’an.

I’m in dire need to press ‘pause’, step back, and reconsider my relation with Allah. I need a good chance to ponder the path my life.

Alhamdulellah, I finally went to Umrah with my family. We’ve been planning it for long years, but it was always hindered for no reason. I don’t know how it was quickly facilitated. Maybe because I put “going to Umrah” a priority prayer last Ramadan. Or it may be because my mother, who went there multiple times, has been praying for years to take her kids with her. Or maybe because whenever a friend goes there I ask them to pray it for me. I don’t know; it’s after all and above all Allah’s willingness.

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My Umrah trip started in Madinah. Few days before travelling, I tried to prepare myself get “into the mood”. I read more Qur’an, more Dhikr, more prayers, visited my favorite mosques in Cairo. But that was all in vain! I felt like my soul has suffocated and I was unable to help revive it even by worshipping Allah. You have to imagine how miserable this made me feel.

This case of un-preparation lasted until I arrived to Madinah airport. But once the cab driver taking us to the hotel pointed to a huge mountain we passed by saying “this is Mount Uhud”, I started to feel different.

When I Arrived at Madinah

We checked in and I found that my room was in the 13th story. As an alto-phobic, that was my worst-case scenario. I told myself “I won’t look from the window, I won’t take the panoramic elevator and I’ll pray Allah for it to go fine”.

But when I got into my room I couldn’t hold myself from sliding the curtains to look at the haram, and look down at the people walking from different streets heading to the mosque. Believe it or not, I was taken by the beauty of the scene and the altitude did not scare me!

I then went to the Asr prayer and I had to take the panoramic elevator (because my mom loves them) and for the second time altitude didn’t scare me!  My mother told me, “Honey, this is a serene tranquil place where the fear of Allah is the only fear people have in their hearts!”

She was absolutely right. Throughout the trip I felt so calm and relaxed, my alto phobia vanished, and all the worries and concerns I used to have back home were instantly washed away my brain. A miracle!

As I walked my first few meters from the hotel to the mosque, I was struck by the peaceful aura of the holy place. I kept asking myself, did the prophet step in the same place my feet are now stepping in? Can my feet possibly meet the footsteps of any of his wives or friends? Was Jibreel once around this place? Was this place of the muhajiren or ansar? Which Qur’anic verses where first recited here?

The holiness and the purity of the place were beyond my imagination and my affordability. I suddenly burst into tears.

I have to emphasize that all pictures and videos don’t do the place justice. Not even a fraction of its beauty, attraction and placidity are shown in the pictures we see every day. That’s why I didn’t take a picture of mine there.

The Muslim Melting pot

I was fascinated by the diversity of people around me, people of all ages dressed in totally different costumes coming from the four corners of the world to worship Allah in his Prophet’s mosque. While praying I rubbed shoulders with total strangers whom I don’t even have a common language to communicate with them.

Yet I felt a magical bond between us. A bond that made us smile to each other whole-heartedly, pray for each other, and ready to start a chat by few words and gestures. I loved listening to “Asalam Alykum” in their broken Arabic.ProphetMosqueInside__660x478

I talked with an Iranian newly-married couple about the Shia denomination; the lady gave me a rosary from Karbala as a gift (and a souvenir) at the end of our long two-and-a-half-hour discussion. I met an Indonesian woman who when saw my Arabic handwriting exclaimed and said” I read Qur’an in Arabic, but this handwriting is illegible!” and we both laughed.

I made friends with a Singaporean Qur’an teacher who when asked me if I have an account on Facebook, I couldn’t stop myself from telling her about how the Egyptian cyber revolution started from Facebook. I met a Jordanian woman who when discovered I am single prayed Allah feverishly to grant me a good husband. I met two Palestinian women from Gaza who when I told them “We pray for you [Palestinians]” they kept praying for me a long sincere prayer that left my eyes wet.

I had an interesting chat with a Pakistani Chemistry professor who eventually gave me her address in Lahore, so that when one day I visit Pakistan I should go pass by her. I met an Indonesian man asked me “Are you from Turkey?” I answered “No, from Egypt”, he replied smilingly “Aha, country of Anwar Al-Sadat!” A Moroccan woman heard us and commented in Arabic “He remembered Anwar El-Sadat and forgot Mubarak!”  I told her “And that’s good of him” and we both laughed!

They are my siblings in Islam. We fast Ramadan together, we celebrate the same feasts at the same time, we head to the same direction –Makkah- while praying wherever in the globe we are, we have the same role model, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and we all seek Allah’s forgiveness.

We were all different and we were all the same. I’ve never been to a place that is so cosmopolitan and so spiritual at the same time!

My favorite part in Madinah? Praying Qiyam Al-Lail.

When the mosque is almost empty and I feel the chill of the air conditioner, and the heavenly sound of the chirping birds is all around me, nothing compares to praying Qiyam. It was a literally magical experience. I prayed there like I’ve never prayed before, I recited Qur’an like I’ve never recited before and I supplicated there like I’ve never supplicated before. Alhamdullilah.

I’m back home now, but I left my heart in Madinah. I’m yearning to go back over and over and over.

I pray Allah from the bottom of my heart to grant every Muslim the honor and the pleasure of visiting Madinah and Makkah. Amen.

First published: August 2015