Travel log: Iktikaf in Medina

Ramadhan 1433 Travel Log in Makkah and Medina
Monday  6/8/12 

Departed to Mekkah by Saudi Air from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Departure time: 4.00 pm . Travelling party: T Sidek , Rosly , Mustaffa and Hj Mad.

We arrived in Jeddah just after maghrib local time, 12.30am Malaysian time. Ifthor (break fast) on the plane just before it landed in Jeddah.

Today I fasted 19 hours instead of normal 14 hours, because of time difference . Jeddah is 5 hours behind KL time.

Arrived at Masjid al Haram after solat tarawikh had already finished , past 11.00 pm.

Iconic Clock Tower @ Masjid al Haram

Finished umrah -tawaf and sai at 3.00 am , minus tahalull . Stayed back in the mosque until Fajr prayer.

Came back to the hotel, performed tahalul at barber shop near the  hotel. Charges: 10 rial for machine cut and 15 rial for razor cut. What a roaring business for barbers.
Tuesday 7/8/12                                                                                       

Day 1- in Makkah

Recital of Al Quran by the imams for tarawikh was most beautiful and eloquent. Every word pronounced distinctly .
Wednesday 8/8/12  
At 9.15 am left for Medina.  Arrived at 2.00pm in Medina. Came in a hired car driven by an elderly Saudi man.

The driver scared the sleep out of  Rosly , our amir who was seated in front besides the driver, with his some erratic driving.

For the rest of us , we slept soundly through out the journey which took 4 1/2 hours.

Our driver didn’t seem to know where to drop us , at which funduk (hotel) in Medina.

It took countless calls  between Ismail, our tour leader, in Mecca with our amir Rosly in the car to explain to the driver where to deliver us. It seems communication or the lack of it is a problem here.

So happened we were sent to funduk Fairuz Shatta , the same hotel we stayed in last year.

Our hotel room is on 9th floor, room no 901. This room for four is huge , a studio sized room.

A shame that we can’t stay long in this room as we have to go Masjid Nabawi for iktikaf.

Went for ziarah Rasulullah s.a.w soon after finishing zohr prayer in Masjid Nabawi.

The Magnificent Masjid Nabawi

Entered iktikaf before maghrib on Wednesday 20th Ramadhan.
Objective of iktikaf: follow sunnah of  Rasulullah s.a.w in Ramadhan.
Length of iktikaf: continuous stay in the masjid for ten straight days and nights without leaving the masjid except to meet basic needs such as to answer nature’s call and eat.
Start time: before maghrib of 21st Ramadhan
Finish time: after maghrib of last day of Ramadhan
Place: Masjid Nabawi in Madinah Al Munawwarah

Mohammad Sodiq

There was nobody happier than our ole T Sidek as he was greeted in the masjid by an old friend from last year , Mohammad Sodiq. The old friends hugged. Sodiq met Sidek.

The chandelier-the spot

Now our spot in the masjid  is the same spot as last year, behind a pillar , a third chandelier away from Babu Badr or Badr gate, one and a half chandelier away to the right.

Well that’s the best I can do to describe our location in the masjid without stating the gps coordinates.

This spot was ‘booked’ and ‘secured’ in advance by Nuh who came a day earlier.

Soon Abu Yusof walked in. Yes Abu Yusof , with his family members and tahfiz students in tow.

When he saw us, he recognised us immediately. Every one was happy to see each other again. 

Khamis (Thurs) 9/8/12 (21 st Ramadhan)
First day of iktikaf.

Last night the imams led the prayer maghrib, isyak  and followed by 20 rakaat tarawikh . The tarawikh finished at 11.00 pm.

Barely 2 hours later, at 1.00 am the imams led 10 rakaats of solat tahajjud and finished by 3 rakaat solat witr until 3.00 am. Had a quick sahur or suhoor (meal before dawn) before solat fajr at 4.40 am.

Masyaalah the qiam , ruku and sujud were infinitely long. My spirit was strong but my flesh was pretty weak.

My mind loses focus pretty quickly, switching off totally at times . The knees go wobbly. Despite that, I swear I remember I had to prop up somebody else who was heavily leaning on me on my left side during the long qiam.

Recital of Al Quran by the imams however was beautiful.

Spent iktikaf with solat, reciting al quran, doa , istighfar , solawat , zikrullah and contemplation.

Ya Allah berilah untuk ku kemampuan meneruskan amalan sepanjang
iktikaf  ini dan berterusan diluarnya sehingga ke akhir hayat ku. Begitu juga untuk sahabat-sahabatku yang lain.
Friday  10/8/12 (22 Ramadhan)
Second day of iktikaf

Had sahur or suhoor of rice , chicken , cooked veg bought from a turkish restaurant sat in the corner of  a  hotel building. Fruit juice and laban (yogurt drink) for good measure.

Enjoying Sahur in sidewalk

Unwittingly ordered two portions of rice, a portion the size  fit for three men.

In hindsight should have ordered just just a single portion if we were any wiser of local serving size.

Had to give out a portion to a person sat not far from us, who gladly accepted it .

The food for sahur doesn’t go well with my bowel this morning. May be not so much of the food itself but more because of its extra large quantities consumed.

Sat 11/8/12   (23 ramadhan)                                                              

3rd day of iktikaf.

Had sahur of chicken kebab, fruit juice and laban .

Just after Fajr prayer a boy , a young Pakistani boy came to borrow my mobile phone battery charger. He promised to bring it back in 2 hours.

9.00am: More than 2 hours elapsed.Ya Allah I have fear for my charger. Ya Allah safeguard my charger so that I can continue using my phone over this iktikaf.

11.00am: Alhamdulillah the boy came back with the charger.
The boy is honest after all, my fear was unfounded. He came back, but rather belatedly.
Sun 12/8/12 (24Ramadhan)
4th day of iktikaf.

Had sahur of round bread with chicken curry and chicken beriani from ‘sabil’ (food hand out as an act of charity to fasting men and women outside the masjid).

After maghrib Dr Ibrahim from Riyadh came to say hello to us. He just arrived.
Some my notes or diary written over the last few days have disappeared off the screen of my iphone . Copious notes which have been written so far, just vanished for no apparent reason. So it seems I have to rewrite parts of it all over again.

Mon  13/8/12 (25 Ramadhan)                                                                                 5th day of iktikaf.

Today is the 25th day of Ramadhan, here in Madinah. Back in Malaysia its 24th Ramadhan, a day back.

What beautiful rendering of Al Quran last night by the imams in solat tarawikh and tahajjud. I notice every imam has his own personality stamped  in reciting Al Quran.

Last night in the small hours during sahur Rosly gave a eye witness account of a couple of guys fighting , coming to blows over sabil handouts.

Fighting broke out because some guys refuse to stand in line while waiting for their turns.What they fought over was not for anything major  , just a matter of whose hand gets to a small kebab first.
In contemplation , this kind of incidence is uncalled for especially in the month of Ramadhan. It seems trivial but becomes much more sinister in Ramadhan.

Standing in a line while waiting is not yet a habit among the fellow muslims who have come here.

Standing in line for sabil

By the way our sahur last night was also from sabil. But we certainly did not resort to  fighting over it.

The generosity of the people of Medina really shows here.

Just walk around a corner of a building , every where you’ll see people handing out sabil.

This is not to mention food being served inside the masjid itself for ifthor.

Abu Yusof is one of these generous people of Medina who prepares and serves food for ifthor in the masjid, of which we are the beneficaries.

He is basically our host here in Masjid Nabawi.

The first thing he says when he comes in to layout food on plastic saprah for ifthor is “Is there anything you need brother?”. We , in turn being polite gracious guests didn’t respond by saying “We want rouz mandi (nasi mandi) “

Abu Yusof with Al Quran in one hand directing operations in getting food ready for ifthor

Abu Yusof always says “Pray for me , especially for me , brother”

“Eat this zabadi (yogurt) so that you become strong to perform ibadah”. He said that to T Sidek actually.

He is as gracious a host and a person as can be. May Allah bless  Abu Yusof.

While waiting for solat isya:

Typical menu served by Abu Yusof-consisting of bread, dates, yogurt , tea and zamzam water

On the subject matter of generosity in Ramadhan I can relate one hadith from Rasulullah s.a.w “He who provides a fasting person something with which to break his fast will earn the same reward as the one who was observing the fast without diminishing in any way the reward of the later”.

The imam cried and sobbed while reading ayats from surah Al Rahman and surah Al Waqiah in solat tarawikh . Allahu Akbar.

Tuesday  14/8/12 (26 Ramadhan)                                              

Today is the sixth day of iktikaf.

More or less we have crossed over the half way line. I told T Sidek that time moves faster beyond the half way line. It’s a principle of relativity.

Sleep is a premium while doing iktikaf.

From solat asr to fajr, one can manage just a little more than 1 hour’s sleep that is between 11.00pm (after tarawikh finished) to 12.15 am , with barely enough time after that to get ready for solat tahajjud which promptly starts at 1.00 am.

After fajr one can pull the shutter down for a 4 or 5 hour sleep until 9 or 10 o’clock. Then an hour sleep after zohr may be. That’s all. On average just 5 hours of sleep over one day. Can have extra by dozing off while sitting upright.

The idea is to conserve wudhu for as long as possible.

For wudhu or qhada hajat, one has to go outside to a public toilet outside the masjid or go the hotel room . In iktikaf one can only go out of masjid for basic personal needs.

Caught in a traffic grid lock coming out of hammam in rush hour

There are many public toilets (hammamaat) being provided. Enough in non rush hour. If one needs to do things quickly the hotel room is the only option if the hotel is within a striking distance.

In rush hour , going to the toilet can be your worst nightmare.

Rush hour occurs within 30 to 45 minute period before prayer time.

Wedn  15/8/12 (27 Ramadhan) 
7th day of iktikaf.

Was last night the “Lailatul qadr”?

The turn out in the masjid last night was bigger than usual. There was also a big crowd outside in the mosque square as well.

Still thinking about how fortunate Abu Yusof is . He and his family
feed about 70 people in Masjid Nabawi daily for the whole month of Ramadhan.

How much rewards from Allah s.w.t for his deeds of feeding fasting men  is only for me to conjecture, but it’s certainly immense , I figure as big as Jabal Uhud.

Among the fellow iktikaf members within our vicinity are a one local Saudi family , consisting a father and sons -one young one and two grown ups.

My own niche. Notice the shoe rack

They brought along blankets and pillows and created a little nich between a pillar and a shoe rack, just to the front of us.

The father didn’t seem too friendly at first but warmed up to us more as time went on. Once in a while he would come to us to say hello.

On one occasion he proudly introduced one of his grown up sons who is doing a doctorate in the US.

The population inside the masjid stands like this : India-Pakistan 9 : Rest of the world 1.  For some reasons , the people from the Indian sub-continent outnumber everybody else , Arabs or non Arabs alike by 9 to 1.

Wait a minute , this is Medina, where has everybody else gone? Actually there’s an explanation for this.

The Indians and Pakistanis currently form the majority of workforce in Saudi Arabia. In the nineties it was the Yemenis providing the workforce. Then the Yemenies left . Now it’s the Pakistanis.

Food being served in the streets outside the mosque

Coming from major cities in Saudi Arabia, they would converge on Masjid Nabawi  in the month of Ramadhan.

It’s not difficult to see why, because Masjid Nabawi has a lot to offer in terms of people space and food.

Outside the mosque, fruits-bananas, oranges and apples at the ready to be served for iffhor

Masjid Nabawi is certainly less congested than Masjid al Haram, and it offers a lot of free food or sabil.

After asr while waiting for ifthor.

In contemplation of this ayat in surah al An’aam

وَإِذَا جَاءَكَ الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِآيَاتِنَا فَقُلْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ كَتَبَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ الرَّحْمَةَ أَنَّهُ مَنْ عَمِلَ مِنكُمْ سُوءًا بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ تَابَ مِن بَعْدِهِ وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَنَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
When those who believe in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) come to you, say: “Salamun ‘Alaikum” (peace be on you); your Lord has written Mercy for Himself, so that, if any of you does evil in ignorance, and thereafter repents and does righteous good deeds (by obeying Allah), then surely, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Allahumma forgive all our past sins in this month of yours.

Waiting for solat Isya :
 The Saudi family I was just talking about have just left .They came in about same time as us but leaving sooner. Sad to see the back of them.

O Allah this Ramadhan is ending.

Thurs  16/8/12 (28 Ramadhan)

8th day of iktikaf.

After solat Fajr another lively Arab acquaintance , a mechanical engineer by profession came to say good bye, as he was also leaving. One by one people are leaving.

Today is the 28th day of Ramadhan. Last night the imams finished reciting  juzu’ 29 of Al Quran.
Tomorrow night it will be juzu’ 30 of  Al Quran the last juzu’. Tomorrow night may be the last tarawikh for us here.

11.00 am: Sitting in this blessed Masjid Nabi and its blessed surroundings in this blessed city of Medina, my mind wanders to the distant past and the present.

  • The Messenger of Allah Rasulullah s.a.w (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) lived here more than 1400 years ago.
  • This masjid was built where Allah s.w.t commanded his camel Qaswah to stop.
  • His house was right here by the corner of this masjid.
  • Under the green dome is his maqam.
  • On a quite night one can hear the footsteps of his sahabahs radhiallahu ajmain as they go about their daily lives as ibaadullah worthy “the best of ummah”.
  • On another quite night one can hear the sound of hooves of trotting horses as the sahabahs ride out to another battle for the cause of Islam.For this is not an ordinary masjid. For this city is not an ordinary city.

While waiting for isya: Right now the masjid is overflowing with people , for tonight is ‘khatam al Quran’ night. The imams will finish the last juzu’ of the Quran in solat tarawikh. Outside in the square there are as many people .

10.59 pm :The tarawikh has just finished. In the last rakaat of solat tarawikh before ruku’ the imam made a long doa , long and inclusive . Nothing and none got left out in the doa .The plight of muslims  in Burma, Suria and Palestin got particular mention.

Fri  17/8/12 (29 Ramadhan)

After Friday prayer:
For me in particular , not able to speak Arabic is a distinct disabilitating disadvantage. The idea is to connect with these muslim brothers from all over the world who congegrate in the masjid. Some of them speak English but it is not a preferred language. <

Dr Ibrahim (in white garb) , T Sidek (in dark blue ) and others sitting in a circle  having a conversation over a cup of shai after maghrib prayer.

I see T Sidek is the best arabic speaker among us . So he is able to connect better with the arabic speaking brothers.

Sabil is the word:
Talking about sabil , one needs not worry of going hungry here in Medina even without any money in Ramadhan , because  there is so much of it being provided free.

The generous people of Medina are almost falling over each other to make sabil provisions.

In fact since the 24 th Ramadhan onwards ,  we have got all our rations from sabil. I don’t mind telling you that.

After maghrib:
News filtered through Abu Yusof that Eid falls on Sunday, the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow will be the 30th and the last day of Ramadhan.  Alhamdulilla there will be one more night of qiam.

I immediately sent a sms home informing about the date for Eid . Only to be told that Eid in Malaysia falls on the same day.

What it means for us is that we will only complete 29 days of Ramadhan since our first day of fasting back in Kuala Lumpur was a day later than Saudi. People in Medina instead will complete the whole 30 days .

Sat  18/8/12 (30 Ramadhan)

At 10.30 am the sky is blue and cloudy. In the morning the sun shines warmly but without the usual heat.Was last night Lailatul Qadr?

After ifthor, on the night of the Eid, to our surprise Abu Yusuf presented each of us with one box of dates, sukkary dates. By now our iktikaf is over.

11.40 pm: We went back to the hotel. For the first time since arriving in Medina , we have the luxury of laying our backs in a proper bed in the hotel room.

Sun  19/8/12 (1 Syawal)

Went into masjid at 4.00 am but found it already full. Every one is up bright and  early. Every one puts on best clothes in readiness for Eid.

Fajr prayer was at 5.10am.

Now its a wait for Eid prayer. Nobody leaves the masjid while waiting for the Eid prayer.

The imam leads Eid prayer at sunrise at 6.00am.

I am signing off here with my travel log. Tomorrow we will go back to Makkah and we will stay for another four days before departing for home on the 24th August 2012. It’s been quite a while since we left home.

ps: for further reading on iktikaf in Ramadhan click here


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