I am blessed to be writing this post inside The Prophet's Mosque in Al-Madina, Saudi Arabia, as I await my turn to visit Al-Rawda Al-Shareefa, which is cited in a Hadith from the Prophet ﷺ as being, a part of heaven on Earth. It’s right there, where the Prophet ﷺ had his mosque, his pulpit, his home, and the homes of his wives. He ﷺ passed away in his wife Aisha’s lap رضي الله عنها and was buried there, as Prophets are laid to rest where they pass away. Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq and Umar Al-Faruq رضي الله عنهما are buried there as well, next to their beloved friend and Prophet ﷺ, in Aisha’s quarters.
I usually visit Mecca to do Umrah yearly but this year, I felt a twinge in my heart telling me I missed The Prophet’s Mosque. Shortly after when my sister heard of my plan to visit Mecca, she told me that my mother had not been to Al-Madina yet. Bless her for this message. But then that is my sister ever ready to wisely suggest what brings most benefit both in this world and the next. I thought back on that twinge in my heart and felt that it may very well, have been a premonition or a soon to be answered prayer. I couldn’t believe that I had the honor to take my mother to Al-Madina as I was gifted with accompanying her on hajj 10 years ago. My heart had danced all the way through Hajj rejoicing in my God-Chosen companion.
Funnily, I had started reading recently the much-touted book by Martin Links, on the life of the Prophet ﷺ. And when the date of the visit to the city of Madina and to the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ home and his mosque was finalized, it didn’t feel like a coincidence that I had chosen that time to be reading a book about him ﷺ. My heart missed praying in his mosque ﷺ and longed to talk to God in that most sacred of places. I was since reminded that a prayer in The Prophet’s Mosque is the equivalent of a thousand prayers in other mosques. Well, except for the Al-Haram in Mecca which has the Ka’bah Al-shareefa. How loving and generous is God for honoring his beloved Prophet ﷺ and servant so, and providing us, his community across time, a way to gain blessings and grace by visiting his mosque?
I have been thinking a lot lately about role models and the important part they play in the development of our character and life choices. I came across a powerful application of this concept when I was 14 years old, while I was listening to a course on the psychology of confidence and success. My brother has always bought amazing courses on all kinds of topics. I have long admired the way he approaches learning in a systematic and consistent way. He draws knowledge from a variety of sources: from books to magazines to online credible sources and from courses to documentaries, and even talk shows! As a result of this selective and discerning diligence, he is aware of what is really going on in the world and of the fundamentals of almost every field out there. I aspire to be like him, with that amazing drive and discipline and I love listening to him explaining what he knows with his ever-present and becoming humility.
That course in Psychology was my brother’s wonderful recommendation, bless him. It asked that I choose a role model and I deliberated then for a day or so and decided that my role model was none other than the Prophet ﷺ himself. That was a tall order, as the Prophet ﷺ is only the perfected human being who worships God, without fault. Alas, what to do, as it was my heart that chose him ﷺ, as much as I love Abu Bakr his best friend, his companion Salman Al-Farisi, his wife Khadija and his daughter, Fatima رضي الله عنهم. It felt so right.
I read his life story ﷺ again and again and loved reading a particular book that I was introduced to in school by the title, ‘Men Around The Messenger’. I trace my love for reading biographies and autobiographies to these early years, filled with inspiring tales of chivalry and faithfulness so noble and true. I also remember being deeply moved in high school when I heard a Hadith, where the Prophet ﷺ expressed how he missed us, the Muslims who would come after him ﷺ. Those who not having even met him ﷺ chose to believe and obey his message and emulate his character and actions. He ﷺ even called us his brothers and sisters, versus companions, which is what he ﷺ called those who lived in his time and believed in him, knowing him ﷺ. He ﷺ signaled a union of kinship and family that bonded us to him. How beautiful is that! How can I not, but love him ﷺ back wholeheartedly and work hard for the day that I may meet him ﷺ in heaven in Sha Allah?!
I am not sure what happened in the years since I was 14 as I had lost that precious focus, but this trip assured me that I am back on track. It sealed my vow to renew my knowledge and understanding of the Prophet’s ﷺ life and the life of his companions, and to honor what he ﷺ stood for and manifested in his ﷺ life. It’s not like I haven’t been to Al-Madina before. This was my 4th visit but I felt the impact of my connection to him ﷺ now, more than ever before. I am also aware of my personal connection to him ﷺ as our family trees are intertwined, through his grandson, Hussein رضي الله عنه. The Prophet ﷺ is literally my great grandfather through his ﷺ beloved daughter Fatima رضي الله عنها. How blessed am I to add the ties of family to this great love. With it though comes a responsibility to not fail him and to make him proud, or at least content with me and my life choices. I see this bond in my siblings and pray it is passed on strongly to the generations to come.
My reflections during this time in Al-Madina that made me reconnect to the importance of the Prophet’s ﷺ place in my heart and life as a role model and a teacher, also had me thinking on change and how to manifest my intention to become more like him ﷺ. The thought of change highlighted how, during these past two years of long and frequent travel, not keeping to a set routine and not being around the same group of loved ones, I have matured and embraced the gift of growing self-awareness. I started to take a deeper and more honest look at my self, its intentions, fears, needs and reactions. And what self-help books say about self-awareness being the start of change is ever true.
However, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the truth about the self. Awareness alone is not enough. It must be coupled with a maxim of change, a point that my coach and dear friend repeatedly brings to my attention. The gap between my understanding of where I am, versus where I want to be, needs to become quite painful to compel me to move. It’s hard to be aware of the beliefs that led me to the repetitive patterns of behavior over the years and, to again and again face the challenge of breaking them, in order to complete my intended transformation. Yes, I want to live wisely with kindness. Even in adding this bit on kindness, I am emulating the Prophet ﷺ who from his weakest moments where God could avenge him or his strongest moments where he ﷺ could seek vengeance, he ﷺ only showed love and mercy. The verse in Al-Quran states that he ﷺ has been sent but a Mercy to the worlds. And I love the definition of wisdom as translating knowledge into action and of placing everything in its proper place. May we be blessed with being both kinds of wise!
Of course, a most important catalyst for change is Dua. Turning to God in total acknowledgment, and the truth that nothing happens except by His Will. It places the intention and work in our hands, but the success and results in His. We are safe in the knowledge that what happens is for the best. I recently started noticing that making Dua is such a powerful multifaceted ritual. I observed that Duas helped me focus on my goals, as in essence, they were but a list of those goals in the form of requests for Divine Guidance and Grace to achieve them. I recognized that anything that arose in my Duas was serious enough that I was asking for God’s grace, and I must pay attention. I also started to witness that when I asked God to ease my pain from a state of complete surrender, knowing there is no one to turn to but Him, God would answer me quickly and show me His Love and Mercy. Truly, He is Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. Both words are aptly exaggerated forms of the the word Mercy.
During our trip, the Bint Battuta part of me also found ways to learn more about the city of Al-Madina in greater detail. I hired a car and a driver from the hotel and went exploring, and I am so excited to share with you what I discovered about Al-Madina Al-Munawwara and the life of the Prophet ﷺ. I loved how many of the mosques had stories you would not hear anywhere other than where Islam began and it’s Prophet ﷺ started to build a community of brothers and sisters.
I also tried the double decker tour bus so that I could tell you about it, lol. The idea is that a bus comes to each site on the route every 30 minutes for most of the day. The staff were very courteous and there is an audio guide that talks you through the landmarks around you. One point to look out for is that if you want to be dropped off at a certain stop on the tour route, you need to actually tell the driver, or he will just keep driving through some of the sites without stopping. And you definitely need to set time aside to go on this exploration, as there is a lot of traffic in the heart of Al-Madina, as is usually the case in big cities.
I hope you find what I shared in this post of my explorations and what inspired me in them useful to you. Please share your experiences with us when you visit Al-Madina, to continue this precious chain of discovery, love and connection.
READ the books in this post
RIDE the City of Al-Madina sightseeing bus
Here are all the details for the Al-Madina city sightseeing bus, but do make sure to have a look at the route and research which sites you would like to visit before getting on the bus, so you can ask the driver to make sure that he stops there.
I would also recommend going when you have plenty of time as the bus can sometimes take it's time to wind through the busy traffic in Al-Madina.
VISIT the museums of Al-Madina
The Al-Madina Museum is focused on the history of Al-Madina through artifacts and photos. It also touches on its culture. Al-Hijaz train station built by the Ottomans can be found in Bab Al-Anbariya field. Due to its strategic and significant historical location, it's been converted to this musuem.
The Dar Al-Madina Museum is where people can learn about the life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Islamic civilization and Al-Madina's urban culture. Models in the museum express the history of different eras uniquely.
The Al-Quran Al-Kareem Museum consists of 12 halls that provide useful information about Al-Quran. It tackles how Al-Quran is written and its stages of manufacturing.
STAY in Al-Madina
Dar Al-Iman InterContinental hotel is considered one of the best-branded hotels with a fabulous location in the courtyard of the Prophet's Mosque, close to shopping arcades and a commercial center. The hotel is just 20 minutes drive from Madina International Airport.
The Intercontinental has great apartments for families and long stays, but do note that it is a 10-minute walk to the gate that gives women access to Al-Rawda.
The Oberoi, Al-Madina enjoys an unrivaled position among luxury hotels in Al-Madina, just steps away from the Prophet's Mosque whose green dome marks the final resting place of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
It is the closest hotel to the gate that gives women access to Al-Rawda.
GLOSSARY of Terms
- ﷺ - Peace and Blessings be upon him. This phrase is specifically to be used after the mention of the Prophet Muhammad.
- رضي الله عنهم - May God be pleased with them.
- عليهم السلام - Peace be upon them.The above phrases are usually a du'a (prayer) for the person mentioned. The common groups are:
- Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
- Other Prophets, Adam, Noah, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and others عليهم السلام
- Companions of the Prophet Muhammad رضي الله عنهم
- Scholars of Islam رضي الله عنهم
Specifically for the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the Quran commands us to send peace and blessings on him.
- Al-Madina Al-Munawwara - the-light-filled-city as it was illuminated with Baraka (Blessing) at the arrival of the Prophet ﷺ to it. It was called Yathrib before Al-Hijra (the migration or journey of the Prophet ﷺ and his companions to from Mecca to it). The Prophet ﷺ changed it's name to Al-Madina. It is the second holiest city in Islam.
- Al-Rawda Al-Shareefa - The Noble Garden is the area between the pulpit of the Prophet ﷺ and his home ﷺ and Aisha’s home. In a hadith, he ﷺ said: ‘between my pulpit and grave is a piece of heaven’.
- Hadith - The collection of the actions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, that constitute a major source of religious law and moral guidance in Islam, second only to the authority of Al-Quran, the holy book of Islam. Hadiths have been passed down via chains of famous narrators such as Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim in their Sahih collections. They verified narrators via very stringent rules, i.e. if a narrator who is known to be unreliable then it would not be taken from that person. It is recorded that Imam Bukhari traveled miles upon miles to hear hadith which he could collect for his collection. His book has over 7000 hadiths.
- Al-Ka'bah Al-Shareefa- the noble Ka’bah is a cube-shaped structure that Muslims believe was built by prophets Ibrahim and his son Ismail in response to a command from God. It is the holiest place on Earth for Muslims which they turn to in unison for their daily prayers. All Muslims circulate around Al-Ka’bah when they perform Hajj, Umrah or want to salute Al-Ka’bah. It is in Al-Haram which is Baytou Allah in Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.
- Mihrab - prayer niche which is the area in a mosque that denotes the direction of Al-Ka'bah. Al-Ka'bah is the Qiblah, which is the direction Muslims face to perform salah (prayer).
Quran and hadith references in the post:
- Allah تعالى said: 'We did not send you but a mercy to the worlds' (Al-Anbiya: 107)
- Allah تعالى said: 'God and His angels give blessings to the Prophet. O you who believe, send blessings and abundant salutations upon him.' (Al-Ahzab: 56)
- The Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Prayer in this mosque of mine is better than a thousand prayers. or. is like one thousand prayers observed in other mosques beside it, except that it be in Al-Masjid Al-Haram’.
I am not a scholar nor a historian. I did my best to bring you information that is valid and up-to-date. But, now I fully understand why, in the olden days, a pious author would start any text with the following disclaimer: Please forgive me any mistakes, as they are entirely my own and God Knows best.
To the museums of Al-Madina Museum and Dar Al-Madina Museum for the historic images photographed from their displays.
And, to the owners of the other images, we sourced from the internet.