Pilgrim’s Progress: My Experience at the holy Cities of Macca and Madina
Gambia author Sabally
Friday, August 03, 2012
It was a day of great humour at my former work place when a jublitant Jola man attacked a my boss, a Serere alleging that Serere’s do not go for the muslim pilgrimage (the Hajj) because of a bad experience an ancestor of the Serere’s had. He said the old man went to Mecca and died and so his people blamed him at length saying since it is God that kills people, if you go to His house and die there then you have no one to blame but yourself. So that was the last time the Serere’s ever visited the Holy City of Mecca as alleged by the Jola man. Well my wife is of Serere origin but she is yet to succeed in morphing me into the clan of the fishermen. So on a recent trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I was bold enough to visit the House of God called the Qaaba in the holy city of Mecca and it was an experience unparalleled in my many years of travel around the world.
I left Jeddah by 1 AM with four others and drove to Mecca, arriving my 2 AM. Already dressed in out white ihram attire, we headed straight for the Masjidil Haraam which is the vast mosque surrounding the Qaaba. Upon approaching the tall rectangular building that is the Qaaba, I felt a strong feeling through my body that manifested itself as light on my face. Yes light that I did not see in any mirror for there was none around but I felt its presence on my face thereby confirming the words of many a discerning pilgrim that visited this place before me and explained a very special feeling. Led by a guide, I did the tawaaf, circumambulating the Qaaba seven times with prayer and glorification of Allah. We were not opportuned to touch the black stone because the crowd was struggling each wanting to touch it but the gathering was not at its typical peak so I was privileged to touch the Qaaba with my hand and progress to stand at Maqaama Ibraheem where the footmarks of prophet Abraham have been preserved in a glass container. I stood there and prayed at length for myself, family, country and Ummah.
Having finished the tawaaf, I went on to do the run between mounts Safaa and Marwa, reminiscent of the trips done by the wife of Prophet Abraham in search of wherewithal for her child when the great prophet left them in that wilderness in fulfillment of a command from Allah to go some place. Of course the result of such strife by the prophet’s wife bore fruit when the crying Ismail struck water with his tender heels on the hard rocks of Mecca by the grace of Allah creating the blessed well called “zam zam”. You would not see the well now for technology has transformed it into modern taps and in between the trips between the two mounts I did take my fill of this blessed water. And the trips between the two mounts were also done with great prayer and the glorification of Allah.
By the time I was done at the mounts, the call for the subh prayer was made and I proceeded to the area around the Qaaba for the congregational prayer. I was treated to some inspiring recitation of the Quran during the two rakas with the Imam choosing Surah Al-Hujuraat which he divided between the two rakas. And in this surah is great instruction for us Muslims (and non-Muslims) to avoid the vices of backbiting, tribalism and racism. But while it is true that we do indulge in such vices, the pilgrimage at Mecca is one staunch example of our obedience of the commands of Allah for there is no room for gossip there but prayer and remembrance. And through the uniformity of white garb and mutual respect and understanding during the pilgrimage does Allah teach us in practice the good and decent life devoid of class and caste. Would that some of us continue to live these lessons beyond the walls of the Masjidil Haraam
By this time my pilgrimage (Umrah) had come to an end, but that would not be enough for the curiosity of my soul, so I proceeded on a five-hour drive to the holy city of Madina where I arrived at the blessed Mosque of the Prophet of Islam Muhammad Sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam. I did the customary two raka’s in that great mosque and then proceeded to the grave of the Prophet where I prayed for him and his immediate Khalifs who are interred beside him. Now it is important to make it clear here that as Muslims, we do not go the graves of any person no matter how noble to seek their blessing or assistance but rather to pray for the dead as instructed by Allah and His messenger. And to avoid the confusion that may affect some people, the security officers in the mosque would not allow anyone to stay too long around the Prophet’s grave just to make sure that people do not treat it as a shrine and commit the grave sin of shirk.
I then proceeded to the cemetery called Al Baaqee which was the main cemetery in Madina during the Prophet’s time and many of the heroes of Islam including the Prophet’s wife Isha are interred there. I praying for the inhabitants of that grave too and then progressed to two very special mosques in Madina to pray. These are the Masjidil Qubaa which happens to be the first mosque ever built by Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) and Masjidil Qiblataini (the mosque with two qiblas/directions). Now the latter mosque got its name because the Muslims used to face Baitil Maqdis in Jerusalem before Allah revealed the verse commanding our prophet to change direction and face the Qaaba in Macca. So during one particular prayer when the message of the new qibla was announced while the Muslims were in prayer they turned around immediately and faced the Qaaba, hence the name of this mosque. But such was the degree of obedience of our ancestors in the faith that even when in prayer they would immediately obey the command.
The final place I visited in Madina is Mount Uhud. Now this is a place of great importance in the history of Islam because it was here that the Msulims lost a battle that they had already won. Now this battle was lost because some of the disciples of the Prophet did not act according to his command. He instructed them never to leave their position on the mount under any circumstances whatsoever because of the strategic nature of that post in the battle of Uhud. But unfortunately when they saw that the Muslims were defeating their enemies who were fleeing away, they thought the battle had been won and left their post. The enemies took advantage of that lapse and killed the Muslims in great numbers.
Now in the foregoing story is a great lesson for us Muslims to make sure we obey the instructions of our prophet whom Allah has praised in that he does not speak of his own desire but only talks when he is inspired by Allah. Yet some ignorant people who cannot even read the scriptures in their original language much less understand the history and circumstances of the revelation of verses of the Quran or hadith would easily downplay the importance of the teachings/hadiths of the Prophet. We should know that Muhammad (SAWS) is no ordinary person but one of whom Allah has said that he sent him as a blessing for His entire creation. And please read the foregoing sentence again for the statement is that Muhammad (SAWS) is a blessing not only to Muslims or mankind but to the entire creation of Allah.
Ours is a religion pure and complete as testified to by Allah Himself in Surah Alma’ida “This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favours upon you, and have chosen for you, Islam as your religio.” so we should not allow any person or cause to demean our faith and bully us into corners just because a small group does sometimes abuse our religion by committing heinous acts in the guise of Islam. Such misguided criminals are political agents of their own cause for as Sheikh Bun Jeng would say, Islam is a pure religion that is complete and if you bring in any impure thoughts or actions, Islam stands aside and you are now left with something else but not the religion of Muhammad and Abraham (may the peace and blessings of Allah be on both). Religion of many types have been abused and continue to be abused in many and more ways than Islam within the guises of various military, industrial and political complexes but no one puts the focus of the global media on them. Neither are the actions of such agencies branded with the name of the faith that the perpetrators profess. Islam has been under a lot of pressure of late but we the adherents of the pure and complete faith must not budge or try to adulterate our religion for any reason. We must continue to hold on to our faith and to practice and protect it as it was taught and demonstrated by Muhammad (SAWS).
I left Madina to return to Jeddah but there was something about the experience I had at the two holy cities that made me want to go back. So I extended my stay in Jeddah for three more days so that I could return to Macca two more times and witness the first day of Ramadhan in the Holy City. I went back again and again to the Masjil Haraam each time making more progress on the spiritual realm. And I did thank Allah for blessing me with the opportunity to perform the Umrah but prayed further for Him to help me to return to Macca again in the near future to progress to the full pilgrimage called the Hajj.
Author: Momodou Sabally Author, The Way to Happiness