Monday, January 25, 2010

[a spiritual journey]

this is gonna be a long post, so if u don't wanna get bored, navigate away..heh..

It was a unique way to celebrate our 6th month anniversay, though the date happened more by coincidence. Hubby and I took a trip to Mekkah to do our Umrah ("mini-Haj/pilgrimage"). I felt it was a little too soon to go...being religiously hopeless and all...but I guess hubby was right - do it when we have the opportunity. I was having a slight sore throat after spending a day in air con (body needed to acclimatise..haha) so was hoping and praying I wouldn't fall sick on the trip. Our bosses were pretty nice to give us 3 days off from work "just like that" (seems its a norm here). Great!

So off we go on a Tuesday afternoon, hubby being very kan chiong about being late and yet us ending up being the first ones at the bus interchange, half an hour before departure. And he calls me kiasu! The bus ride was pretty horrendous, buses here are capped at a max of 80km/h, and we were going at that speed for a freaking 10 hours, with cranky babies and loud music (albeit religious songs, which I didn't understand because they were in Urdu...gah). We stopped for dinner in the middle of nowhere and I started feeling breathless cos of the cold. I must've looked so pathetic that the lady next to us asked if I was ok, and later on another lady said something to the effect of "Oh I thought you were sick cos you were pregnant". Bleah. We arrived in Madinah about 4am, checked into our pathetic hotel and waited till it was time for morning prayers. Excites!

First destination: Prophet's Mosque. It was a chilly walk early in the morning, and as we turned the corner hubby said: Prepare to be awed. And awed I was, with the majestic mosque in front of me, the dazzling lights against the dawn sky making the building look even more astonishing. After Subuh we had breakfast and waited till it was time to see the 3 graves - the Prophet's, Sayidina Abu Bakar and Omar (the Prophet's companions). It was a solemn moment though I didn't get emo like I thought I would. I was more emo when I got to pray in the "Garden of Paradise" (Rawdatul Jannah) since well, praying there was equivalent to praying in Paradise itself, and access to women was only between 7.30-11.30 and yet I was privileged enough to do it. We then headed back to the cockroach-infested room (I kid not) for a much needed nap...did I mention the toilet stunk so badly neither of us used it till we had absolutely no choice? I am SO NOT STAYING THERE AGAIN!!! We spent the rest of the day and night praying, so much so I was wondering whether God would be bored of my prayers lol.
first glance of the Prophet's Mosque
Next morning ................Women's entrance:note the mechanical umbrellas!!

By next morning, my stomach was feeling really queasy and was simply too nauseated to eat anything. After morning prayers, hubby suggested that I induce myself to vomit cos it's helped before when I was nauseated due to migraine. A good choice I guess...and so I left some souvenir at the Prophet's mosque toilet lol. I must've thrown up 2 days worth of food and didn't wanna eat anything further so that I wouldn't risk getting sick again. And so I was there, lying miserably in the awful room while hubby went to the mosque alone in the afternoon. I insisted on going for Asar since it was gonna be our last prayer at the mosque and I'm glad hubby let me go. We saw a doctor at the mosque itself and I was diagnosed with heartburn. Got meds for that and my now worsening cough...all for! Armed with the meds, we made our way for a 2 hour trip around Madinah to see some sites like the Quba mosque (first mosque in Islam), Uhud mountains (where the prominent Battle of Uhud took place), the mosque that had two Qiblats (prayer directions, Masjid Qiblatain), the grave of the matyrs of Islam and the remaining/rebuilt mosques that were built during the Battle of the Trench. At each mosque we did voluntary prayers and again I felt like I hadn't prayed so many prayers in a span of two hours lol. It was a good decision going for our tour without the group that night, because by the time we set off (we have notorious members in the bus who do not know the meaning of punctuality), it was dark and cold. And thank God for the meds, I could finally have dinner that night whilst on our journey to Mekkah.

Uhud mountain range

After another gruelling journey, we arrived at Mekkah at about 2.30am, ahead of schedule. We checked into a 5 star hotel which was almost paradise compared to the hotel in Madinah. Hubby was persistant about going for our Umrah (the actual ritual) right then though I felt it was better to nap first. I guess he had a valid point though, with our adrenalin pumping because of the excitement, it would be better to go now and snooze off later so that's what we did. I got more and more nervous as we set out for our Umrah. Would I do it right? Would God accept my prayers? What if I didn't do things correctly?

Hubby held my hand as we entered Masjid Al- Haram ("The Sacred Mosque"). The moment I looked up at the Ka'bah, I started tearing. Masha Allah, truly I was blessed for being given the chance to see the Ka'bah so soon. Never in my life would I have thought I would be in Mekkah at age 27, and here it was, standing in front of me. Words do not do justice to what I felt at that moment. As a matter of fact, I was so overwhelmed with emotions that hubby had to nudge me to pray (I made a long list lol). Wow wow wow - the Ka'bah, in front of me, in this breathtaking mosque - THE mosque. Allah is Great. Allah is Gracious. Allah is Merciful. We did our Umrah rituals including the Tawaf (circumambulating the Ka'bah 7 times), praying our 2 rakaats of prayers, drinking zam zam water and finally heading to Safa and Marwah for the Sa'ee. Might I add here that thanks to my hubby's wise decision, the place wasn't crowded at that time, and these two humble servants of God had the highest privilege of actually kissing the Black Stone at the corner of the Ka'bah (that too after having to wait in line only for a couple of minutes), touch the Ka'bah wall at another corner (Rukn al Yamani) and even pray between the Hijr and the Ka'bah (equivalent to praying in the Ka'bah itself). Although F had been there several times before, he said going with his wife was a blessing since this time he finally got to kiss the stone. Hee :) I must say I was so nervous the whole time, I even forgot what to say at times. Thank God for having F beside me, guiding me everytime I froze up. The 7 laps of Sa'ee wasn't as hard as I expected it to be, and we even managed to complete it before Subuh prayers. Wow, our Umrah was over. Dear Allah, please accept our prayers and forgive our sins and give us the chance to visit Your House again.
................................................................... This Is It!

We went back to our hotel and slept like we hadn't slept in days (which was partially true) and even missed Zohor..oops :P (this was why doing Umrah first thing we arrived was a brilliant idea). I didn't go for Asar because my chest wasn't feeling so good, so prayed in the room instead. And I was like - wow, talk about praying in the direction of the Ka'bah...our room was barely 200m from it. We did our last Tawaf the next day and packed for home. Oh, that was after I did a little shopping of course..hehe. The ride home was slightly shorter but just as painful, with my sore throat and bad cough to manage as well. We did reach home safely though, All Praises to Allah for providing us with a safe journey and a magnificent experience. Maybe my sickness was a way sign God was cleansing my sins. Insha Allah we will return again end of this year for the Haj. Ameen.
The pictures don't do much justice to the splendour of the place, but they will be a good reminder of our first journey the Ka'bah.