My first trip to the Holy lands of Mecca and Medina were truly impactful. I travelled to Saudi Arabia with my wife and in-laws for one week to perform Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage) as well as visit Medina and other significant areas from our Islamic history. Allahu Akbar! What an amazing experience it was. May Allah grant us the desire, ability and tawfiq to visit these lands soon and often.
Something you hear frequently from people who have traveled to Mecca and Medina is the difficulty and hard work experienced in Mecca vs. the ease and comfort felt in Medina. I myself felt a great sense of peace and tranquility sitting in Al-Masjid An-Nabawy in al-Medina that I did not feel in Mecca, and I say this even though my heart yearns to visit both again. One explanation for this common experience is that the Lesser or Greater Pilgrimages performed in Mecca are physically strenuous and the garments men must wear are not what one is accustomed to. In Medina however, one can wear comfortable clothing and spend their time worshipping inside an air-conditioned masjid with beautiful architecture and a gentle, calm atmosphere. This simple yet critical difference in the physical demand put forth by each location can be the reason for the people’s distinguishable experiences in the two Holy Lands.
I have also heard people say that the Islamic history of these locations in relation to the Seerah of our beloved Messenger (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) plays a role in why people feel the way they do in each location. Mecca was a place where our Prophet PBUH was abused, rejected and exiled along with his sincere followers. Medina was the place that accepted him, protected him and became the first Islamic state. This history left a distinctive aura, which resembles the experience of our Messenger in both holy lands- although both are beloved to him and to Allah ‘azza wa jal.
One specific event that stood out to me while I was visiting the Prophet’s mosque in Medina was while waiting in groups to enter ar-Rawdah an-Nabawiyyah, described as a garden from Paradise. This is a space within the masjid covered by green carpet to outline its exact position, and people gather within a waiting area and enter as groups for 15 minutes at a time. People were so eager to enter this space that they began pushing and shoving and when they were allowed into the space, would run to get the perfect spot. As I watched this from the waiting area, I was tempted to judge and criticize my Muslim brothers. Alhamdulillah, instead Allah placed in my heart a different thought and feeling altogether. Suddenly, I felt a strong genuine love for my Ummah. My exact thought was “these are MY people, these are MY brothers, and I love them despite all their short comings. If I don’t dedicate my life to serving them, then who will? If I don’t sacrifice for them then who will?” I pulled out my tiny bottle of itr and started passing it around to the people within my reach. Their smiles were contagious and the waiting area started to develop a different flavor. By the time my group got into the garden, I was filled with so much joy and peace, that the two prayers I fulfilled with in that space were like no other.
I left Medina with further determination to continue in da’wah work and to continue to serve my Muslim community here in Edmonton and my Ummah at large. May Allah guide our hearts and keep us on the straight path, make us people who give to and uplift our Ummah, help us to live purposeful lives of submission to Him, until the day we meet Him pleased with His Decree, as He is pleased with us.