As I ended off the previous post at the start of my story, I will start exactly there.
There was a notice in the foyer that the men would be taken by the spiritual leader to go and ziyaret in the mosque on Tuesday morning at 9am. That basically means that they would be taken to greet the grave of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) (whom I will hereinafter refer to as Rasoolullah (SAW)) and his companions that lie beside him… Saydinaa Abu Bakr and Saydinaa Umar. They would also go and visit the Rawdatul Jannah. Before I go further, I will explain briefly what the Rawdatul Jannah is.
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.
The final resting place of Rasoolullah (SAW), Abubakr and Umar is in a chamber that was Rasoolullah’s (SAW) house where he lived with his wife, A’isha.
Men can go at any time, but women are only allowed in at certain times, and only into a very small portion of the Rawdah. Even during the specified times, there is no guarantee that one will get in, and it gets so crowded, and women push and shove so much that it can become dangerous at times. Literally thousands of women vie to get into that small section during each of the 3 sessions of the day.
What makes it even harder was that, unlike the men who would be taken by the sheikh, us women had nobody to take us. The mosque is huge, and the ladies’ section is cordoned off with partitions. We had no idea where to even go to wait to go in. I told Fadeelah that we should just go and follow the crowds and find our own way instead of waiting for someone to take us. We were going to go the Tuesday evening.
However, when we completed Fajr salaah on Tuesday morning, we saw some crowds gathering in the front section, and the women asgari’s making a noise. Oh…those women asgaris (guards) kick up a racket in the mosque all the time. They are noisy and abrupt, and are actually more forceful than the men. You usually hear them before you see them, but if you do see them, they are the ones completely covered in flowing black, with just their eyes open, and it is likely to be with arms flying, scolding someone or searching someone’s bag when coming in. Luckily we were warned about them at home by friends & family, so it wasn’t too much of a shock.
So we went to investigate the gathering crowds, and saw that it was a group of Pakistani women waiting to go into the Rawdah. All we heard was in a characteristic asgari voice: Baakistaani, Baakistaani.
“Come we go with them“.
We quickly rushed towards the group and tried to blend in. Then we heard (from a distance away)… Hajja Afrika, Hajja Afrika, Yalla. Dammit, they picked us up and chased us away! 😔
But how did they know we were African… HOW?? Afterwards I noticed that Fadeelah had her SA-flag shoe bag along. Needless to say, that would stay home at our next attempt.
Fadeelah stayed in the mosque after Thuhr, and I went back to the room. I wasn’t feeling too great with a sore throat and a slight cough. Dad wasn’t feeling well either, with a dry throat and unquenchable thirst. I was going to take him to the SAHUC doctor, and have myself seen to as well. When I enquired about where the doctor was from Sheikh Faizel (our spiritual leader), he insisted that we should rather be safe than sorry, and go straight to the hospital for Dad. Sheikh is very fluent in Arabic, and having studied in Madina for 6 years, knows the place very well too. He negotiated a rate with the taxi and went with us to the hospital. Due to his fluency in Arabic, we were in and out of the doctor, and back at the hotel in under 1 hour. And it turns out he was fine and just needed some meds. We drove past Imam Bukhari’s mosque and Jannatul Baqee as well, and it was cool to see those places with a freebie mini-tour 🙂
I went down to the haram to spend some time there when we got back. I saw a group of people waiting somewhere inside and loads and loads of people coming out from down the passage. OH…they’re coming from the Rawdah!! And those other people were waiting to go in. I quickly joined them and waited with them. However, the asgari told us that nobody would be let in any more that afternoon and ‘visiting time’ is finished. I don’t usually understand what they are saying, except a few words, such as Yalla meaning go away and I think Ieboo means get up. I could be wrong on the latter though. Anyway, she said “FINISHED” over and over, so I got the message quite clearly.
Ah man…the second time today and I was unlucky again! 😔 I went to go and sit on the carpet a bit for a while for some alone time, and went back to the room shortly after.
Soon after I got back, Fadeelah returned and related that after a 2 and a half hour wait, she managed to get into the Rawdah.
Sheikh Faizel took our group on a tour of the museum later that afternoon, which was totally awesome. That is where I got the photo of the model of Masjidun Nabawi, which I used in the illustration of the Rawdah positioning above.
That evening I was determined to try my utmost to get into the Rawdah as well, as my dad and my sister were there that day. I prepared well, with minimal ‘accessories’. I didn’t take a bag in with me, only my small musallah and 2 tiny duah books which I would need, and that fitted into the small musallah bag. I didn’t even take my zam-zam bottle. If I needed to drink, I’d drink from the cups. And I mentally prepared for a long wait.
The Rawdah opens at 9pm in the evenings for women. Esha finished at about 8:15pm. Fadeelah went again that evening. We decide to go straight to the front after Esha instead of leaving and coming back at 9pm or later.
And guess what we find? A board saying AFRICA and a group of African women gathering. SCORE!! We definitely can’t be chased away from here! 😃 Another bonus was that the asgari in charge of us actually spoke English when she explained the procedure and what would happen next.
Fadeelah and I went to the middle of the group as far forward as we could so that we could be of the first to go through when the doors opened. You don’t know which door would open, because it’s not really a door. It’s the partition opening up like a door, and they all look the same. In the meantime, I opened my small duah book and made myself familiar with the duah to greet Rasoolullah (SAW).
*skips some non-interesting parts of the story*
The asgari was still speaking (over the loudhailer), when at 9pm, all of a sudden, directly in front of us, the partition opens. The ladies in front of us start making a noise and some of them start running through.
Now…if there’s ONE thing I know how to do…it’s RUNNING! I also know how to run my way through a crowd without pushing anyone over.
I got up and RAN!!! I ran past the people who were walking, past some of the people who were running, and followed the ones in front. It was quite a distance. We ran through a large area of the mosque, over carpets, over marble, over anything. By this time I had already lost my sister, but I knew she would find her way.
Eventually we arrived at the section of the old mosque, and a little further I saw the green and gold enclosure of the chamber that the graves are in. Allahu Akbar…how majestic!!
Looking towards the floor, I saw the green carpet.
I immediately stepped onto the green carpet, trying to catch my breath and paging the duah book to the greeting. My heart was beating so hard inside my chest, and it wasn’t because of the running. Miraculously, I had plenty of space around me as well.
By the time I was in a few seconds into the duah, my heart could not contain itself any longer. I cried, and cried and cried and cried! And then cried some more.
I was here. The first one of my hajj goals was achieved. I was in the Rawdatul Jannah. I am standing next to the final resting place of Rasoolullah (SAW). I am standing on the area in which he walked every day from his house to his mimbar. I have the honour of passing salaam to Rasoolullah from the closest proximity to him that I’ve ever been, and also passing salaams from all the people back home that asked me to.
By the time I made my 2 raka-aat sunnah, I still had plenty of space. And there were no asgaris shouting in my ears and chasing me away. I could leave when I wanted to.
There is a partition seperating the ladies’ section from the men’s section, and the mens’ section in fact houses the more interesting things like the mimbar, the door to the chamber, etc. The door is around the corner, but I could see the top of the pillars in front, as well as the mimbars. My only regret at that point was not sneaking my phone in to take pictures. But it was fine… I was in the Rawdatul Jannah, and there was no reason why I couldn’t try again the next day.
As it turns out, Africa was the first group to be allowed in that night, so we were very lucky. We were out of there by 9:15pm, and I eventually found Fadeelah again as we left. So all 3 of us had gotten into the Rawdah that day, all at different times…Dad in the morning, Fadeelah in the afternoon, and me in the evening. We decided to spend the rest of the evening going to look for bin Dawood and getting some supplies. And we found sugar-free juice… score again! 😋
The next evening I went again. And I decided to take some more stuff with. I took my zam-zam bottle this time, and also my notebook where all the names of people who asked me to make duah and pass salaams are in, so that I could personally make sure I give salaam individually and not miss anyone. (yes I have a book and if you asked us to make duah for you then your name will be in it) And also my phone, to take pictures with.
Understandably, Africa wasn’t first this time again, and it was much harder. There were a few points at which we had to wait in order to go further, and in the Rawdah I was seriously pushed and shoved around. When I was making the 2 raka-aat, I had so little space that there was hardly place to rukuh, never mind sujood. When I went down for sujood, I was afraid to put my head down because it looked like it could be suicide… a request for death via trampling.
I say afraid, but of course I don’t mean real fear. How can one have fear when you are at the 2nd greatest place on earth? Surely, any injury here would be proud battle scars. And I am never shy to get involved in battles, those who know me well would know that. So BRING IT! I was in the Rawdah again, and that was all that mattered.
The asgari presence was also a lot stronger this time, so I couldn’t dare try to take photos openly. I had to sneak it in when those beady eyes and scolding voices weren’t nearby, but I managed to get a few.