As Salamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu
I cannot describe my joy and happiness whenever we visit Al-Madinah, the City that welcomed our dear Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam). The warmest of Al-Madinah makes up for the coldest of Makkah. The peace and serenity of Al-Madinah is not found anywhere.
Before the recent expansion, women prayed in what is today the men’s section. We went to offer our Salams to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) facing his grave behind the men today we don’t even see that section except in pictures. Offering our Salah in the Rawdah was not restricted like it is today except during the prohibited times of Salah and we prayed behind the men, there being a small barrier between the men and women.
After the expansion, the Saudi authorities put up partitions twice and now I believe thrice daily- (365 days without exception) so that the women can get a chance to pray in the Rawdah and what was the original Masjid during the time of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam). Remember, we visit the Prophet’s Masjid not to visit the grave but to pray in his Masjid. It’s a challenging task, and only those who have visited the Masjid will appreciate the efforts of the Saudi Government.
They are sisters who work in the Masjid to help and guide the pilgrims. I’m not talking about the guards at the doors, who check your bags when you enter but those sisters who walk around to help and guide the pilgrims. I nicknamed them the custodians of the female pilgrims. Except for the few weeks before and after the days of Hajj, whenever you enter the ladies section you will find small groups of sisters learning the Qur'an together or studying some aspect of Islam. Anyone can go and sit and listen to or join in. If you wish to learn to recite the Qur'an with tajweed, Alhamdulillah, Masha Allah there is someone there to help you. All you need to do is ask. There is a library in the ladies section where you can find Islamic books in many languages.
During Ramadan and Hajj there are sisters who give lectures in different languages. During these busy periods, especially during the Hajj these sisters are in charge of pilgrims from different countries. They all have their own allocations and speak to the pilgrims under their care in their language. Masha Allah! They take the pilgrims in an orderly way to the Rawdah and in this way they make sure everyone gets a chance to pray even two Rakat in the Rawdah. But the impatience of some causes stampedes sometimes.
One sister I need to mention is Umm Ayesha. She is a very dynamic speaker. She gives her lectures in Urdu and English and has a marvelous way of explaining things. I always look out for her and even if she speaks in Urdu I stay to listen to her. If I don’t understand anything she will explain it in English.
If you go to Al-Madinah before going to Makkah, and speak Urdu or English, ask around about her and listen to her lectures. Masha Allah you can ask any of the sisters to explain to you any aspect of your visit to Al-Madinah or Hajj and they will most definitely have an answer for you or will find out for you. You can also form your own groups and ask these sisters, the custodians, to explain to you any aspect of Islam. Although their main aim is to prevent sisters from doing Bid’ah in the Masjid Al-Nabawi they have knowledge of the rituals of Hajj as well.
Unfortunately with modernization Hajj has become too commercialized and lost its’ spirituality. Even with the high costs of airfares, accommodation etc, compared to 10-15 years ago the people going for Hajj has increased 7-10 fold, I think. Hajj is still difficult despite the modernization as the crowds make it more difficult and longer to get from one place to another.
The disheartening part is today at least ½ of the pilgrims miss many the Sunnan of Hajj, for example like staying the 1st day –
(the 8th of Dhul Hijjah) – the day of Tarwiyah in Mina they go directly to Arafat on the 9th . For many or most it is their first Hajj and only Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala knows if they will get a chance to come again.
If you are taking your children with you, make sure that they are dressed nicely; not as if they are going to a party or on picnic. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala has invited you to visit His House, respect its sanctity. This also applies at the Masjid Al-Nabawi, especially when you go to pray in the Rawdah.
Wear proper Hijab; don’t cover your face and show your neckline. I am always saddened by the way my dear sisters dress.
And the real menace of our times the mobile/cell phone. People just cannot do without it anymore. Audho Billahe minash Shaitanir-Rajim. When you enter either Haram, switch off your phone or at least put it in silent mode, if you feel you cannot miss a call. Every make of mobile phone has a silent mode, so there is no excuse. If you still feel that you cannot miss a call then at least put it in silent mode during the Salah. Anyway, you cannot answer the phone while in Salah, so why disturb people with the ringing. You are in the holiest places and instead of cashing in on the rewards you are earning sins. During Tawaf and while praying in the Rawdah in the Prophet’s Masjid are other times when the mobile phone should be switched off or put into silent mode. Audho Billahe minash Shaitanir-Rajim.
Hajj is definitely an journey one has to experience. Pack Sabr, more Sabr and lots more Sabr as you will need Sabr more than anything else on this journey of a life-time.
May Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala accept our Hajj and may we return to our loved ones as new born babies. Ameen