Life Updates

Umrah 2016: Medina

Medina: The Prophet’s (ﷺ) holy city and final resting place. With it comes immeasurable peace and tranquility, a sacred place of historic, Islamic beauty. The Prophet’s Mosque, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, is said to be one of the largest mosques in the world yet during prayer times, the entire mosque is packed full of people.

We pretty much spent our time doing exactly what we did in Makkah, and the only thing we really wanted to do which was complete our five daily prayers in the Mosque. Whereas Makkah is well known for being sacred, Medina is beautiful in its historical value. Hearing the call to prayer every couple of hours didn’t just reach our hearts, it reached our souls. What’s even more spectacular is seeing such a large number of people come together at the sound of a prayer, in absolute silence, entirely absorbed in worship.

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Al-Masjid an-Nabawi at Fajr

The most humbling aspect of entering Medina is knowing that our beloved Prophet ﷺ is buried there. Sadly, due to the large number of people and short time slots, we were unable to visit the tomb. The organisation of visiting hours for the tomb was terrible, I have to admit; when the doors opened, people ran towards the Prophet’s ﷺ tomb like their lives depended on it. Islam clearly teaches us not to idolise or worship anyone other than God; The Prophet also warned us not to run in an act of desperation, the same way one should never cause harm to a fellow Muslim (i.e by pushing, shoving, crushing) whilst reaching his tomb. It’s a shame that many of those who visited the tomb on the day I went completely discarded these teachings they supposedly hold so dear. My father’s toenail was ripped by men crushing each other to catch a glimpse of the tomb. My foot was run over by a wheelchair. It was absolute chaos, and I urge the Saudi’s to organise their crowd control because it is unsafe.

Nevertheless, the Mosque and the tomb are truly breathtaking in their intricate beauty. Islamic teachings believe there to be an empty grave along with the Prophet’s ﷺ tomb, said to belong to our Prophet Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him) when he returns to the world for forty years. Knowing that the tomb was the closest I could ever get to the Prophet ﷺ not only brought me closer to Islam, it also filled me with pride in being part of such a peaceful, beautiful religion. In Medina, there’s countless opportunities to learn more about our beloved Prophet and his teachings/what he lived for. For example, he spoke of equality within mankind, regardless of their religion or belief. He spoke of gender equality.  He fought for his life, for his religion and for his people, to convey the message of Allah. (SWT)

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Al-Masjid an-Nabawi

Alhamdulillah, it makes sense for the city to be as beautiful as the religion itself.

Whilst in Medina, we also explored historical sites such as Mount Uhud, Masjid Al-Qiblatain and Jannat Al-Baqi. Each site holds stories of the Prophet’s ﷺ heroic struggles to convey the message of Islam along with other historical tales. To be on the same land, in the same place as our beloved Prophet is a truly enlightening spiritual experience. I can only hope and pray that all my Muslim followers and friends experience what I have, because it is like no other.

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View from the top of Mount Uhud

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Mount Uhud

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Graveyard of the Prophets

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Qiblatain Mosque

I want to thank my wonderful grandparents and my parents for making this trip possible. Their determination for us all to experience this and so early in my life has had an immeasurable impact on me and I’m grateful beyond words that they’ve given me this gift. Inshallah my prayers for them were heard.

On a final note, I want to thank Allah for allowing me to experience this trip and everything He has to offer us. Coming back from Makkah and Medina, I spent the following weeks incredibly sick with my ongoing health conditions amidst new bugs I’d picked up along the way. Allah (SWT) looked out for me whilst I was in Makkah and Medina, blessing me with perfectly good health and no pain. Although these past few weeks have been the most challenging yet, I’ve embraced the peace He’s bestowed on me; every time I feel scared, nervous or in pain, my soul goes back to Makkah and I remember His plan for me is still in motion – I just have to wait the worse of it out. When I needed it the most, He gave me strength to go on, to fight my body. Whenever life gets tough, or there are obstacles in the road, I can now embrace the peace my soul has finally found.

And I know I can make it through to the other side.

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Maghrib Prayer on our final night in Medina (Photo: Mama Hamid)

لآ اِلَهَ اِلّا اللّهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُوُل اللّهِ

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Life Updates

UMRAH 2016: Makkah

الحَمْد لله

Having just returned from the most life changing trip I’ve ever had the privilege of going on, I’m juxtaposed in my feelings of heartache at leaving a beautiful city behind and excitement at the prospect of going back again in the near future.

Before I arrived in Makkah, I was nervous and apprehensive at doing things wrong but all the worries of my life back home were washed away the second I stepped foot in the holy city. The night we landed we were exhausted from a long flight and made the decision to begin the pilgrimage of Umrah the following day so we could complete it to our full potential. Driving from the airport to the holy city, we were astounded at how modernised it was; lights and sculptures lined the streets leading up to the Holy Mosque. The roads were packed with cars, everyone travelling to the mosque for Isha (night) prayers.

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Top level of Masjid Al-Haram

Setting foot inside the exterior of the mosque (expanded to accommodate the ever-increasing capacity of visitors worldwide) the first thing to hit us was the sheer grand scale of the Sacred Mosque. The interior was packed with Muslims trying to get in as fast as possible to visit the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam. The intense rush of people hastily making their way towards the Kaaba is quite overwhelming at first but as soon as your eyes find the Kaaba, everything falls away because at the moment, it’s just you and God. The outside of the Kaaba was packed with circles people performing Tawaaf (one of the rituals of Umrah.) The rest of the visitors were either praying or simply sitting in front of it, making the most of being in the presence of such a sacred part of Islam.

The following morning, after Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer, we made our way to the Aisha Mosque to recite our intention of performing Umrah. From there, we travelled back to the Sacred Mosque and began the Tawaaf which consists of circling the Kaaba seven times, passing the Black Stone at the eastern corner. Following the seven rounds, we proceeded to Maqam Ibrahim (The Station of Ibrahim) where we performed the prayer as mandatory during Umrah. Finally, once this was completed, we made our way to the Zam Zam wells. It’s said to be the purest and freshest water on the planet, with sacred qualities improving health and wellbeing in all those who drink it. I personally believe this to be the truth as my health was the best it has ever been whilst in the Sacred Mosque.

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Sitting in front of the Kaaba

 

From there, we made our way to Al-Safa and Al-Marwah to perform Sa’i – walking between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times. (3.15km) Once completed, we performed the mandatory prayer and thus, completed the ritual of Umrah. Sa’i was definitely the most challenging aspect of the entire pilgrimage, as we were walking barefoot on marble for nearly two miles. Nevertheless, once this was completed, a beautiful feeling of serenity washed over me and that’s when I found an inner peace radiate within me.

For the remainder of our four days in Makkah, amidst performing our daily five prayers, we visited other holy sites in the city. Most of the time I was inside the Sacred Mosque, sitting in front of the Kaaba and it was blissfully peaceful. My relationship with God grew ever-stronger as I know He listened to every prayer. It sounds awfully cliche but this was a life changing experience for me in that it transformed my entire perception of the religion, bringing me closer to God. I embraced everything Islam has to offer and came back an entirely new person, spiritually. Once you enter Makkah, your heart never wishes to leave; being back in London is great for me health-wise, but my heart is still in Makkah and I’m desperately longing to go back as soon as possible.

I can only thank God for making this trip possible.

سبحان الله

 

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Original Writing

LIFE UPDATE: FEB 2016

We’re nearly three months into 2016 and already I feel that this year is going to be a bloody good one.

Firstly, I’m chuffed to confirm that I’ve made it through the second month of 2016 pain free, to a certain extent. There are times when the pain strikes, leaving me relatively incapacitated for an hour or so but I can deal with that. All in all, my health is doing very well and hopefully it stays that way for next few months.

Secondly, I’m furthermore excited that I’ve been offered an unconditional offer to study at Reading University! Three years ago, Reading was my dream uni to study at but sadly I was just too sick to even contemplate it as a possibility. Amidst recovering from two operations and subsequently developing an eating disorder whilst accepting I suffered from social and general anxiety, I was definitely not in the right place to consider moving onto campus at a university miles and miles away from my parents. It was decided at the time that a university in London was a better choice and thus, we’ve ended up here. Not only is the course absolutely perfect for me (THERE’S A MODULE SPECIFICALLY DEDICATED TO POETRY!) but it allows me to explore different career avenues such as teaching and publishing. The university also do a placement scheme and an international transfer scheme which is why I’m absolutely thrilled to be given a chance to go there.

I’ve also been given an absolutely wonderful once in a lifetime opportunity this April: I’m travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah. It’s a necessity for every Muslim to go at least once in their lives and since this is the first time that I’ve been in good health, I’m taking full advantage of it.

On a sadder note, I’m leaving my much loved job just before I go away for Umrah. It makes me incredibly sad to think I won’t be coming back to such a fantastic team but my goodness, it’s been an experience I’ll never forget. Not only have I learnt so much from everyone but I’ve also toughened up a considerable amount since starting! And Aaron, I’ll miss seeing your wonderful face every day. Thanks for being the best manager I’ve ever had the pleasure of working for. It’s onto great, new adventures for me but I’m incredibly grateful for this one, too.

So far, so good 🙂 I hope you’re all having a cracking 2016, too.

A x

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