The city of the Prophet (pbuh), the oasis city of Madina! You are very fortunate if you landed in Madina and not Jeddah. Madina Airport is very small, and very few hajj flights land there. It is not at all crowded and you will go through security and immigration in no time, or at least, much less time than at Jeddah Airport. You may be going to Madina before or after hajj; it all depends on your group’s itinerary.
Because Madina is not a central part of hajj, there is far less stress and anxiety in the air. It is more about just taking in all the history, relaxing and praying. Try to be at the mosque for every prayer, where the reward for it is multiplied by a 1000. Don’t forget to pray tahajjad and janazah.
The women’s section is separate from the men’s. It has separate entrances. Close to the time of prayer, it is very hard to go in as the area fills up pretty quickly. The guards check the women’s bags at the gate and are pretty strict about not allowing cameras and smart phones inside. The guards are not as strict on the men’s side.
The most significant attractions here are the original mosque and residence of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) inside the now expanded Masjid al Nabwi. While everything has now been painted, decorated and covered in gold, it still does give you chills of excitement and wonder to see his mosque, where he used to sit and give khutba, and his house where he was buried. Because prophets are buried in the very spot that they pass away, he was buried in the bedroom that he shared with his youngest wife, Hazrat Ayesha. Next to him lie two of his closest friends and companions, Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Omer.
The area between the Prophet’s house and his mosque is known as Riyad-ul-Jannah. The Prophet is reported to have said that this area is a garden from the gardens of Paradise. Try to offer 2 nafal prayers here. Doing this, however, means going through more of the chaos and fighting the mob for a spot to pray on, and to avoid being swept away. Believe me, it is no easy task.
On the men’s side, there is a special entrance and exit for the Riyad-ul-Jannah. This is open all day and night. It will be most crowded around prayer times.
The women’s section is smaller, parts of the area are sometimes obscured by tents, and it is open only at specific times. So, here is what happens. Once you enter through the specified entrances, you will join your country’s group and get into line. When I went, there were a few groups there- Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran. I thought these were the only groups in line and so I joined Pakistan. This is not true. There will be a long queue spread throughout a section of the mosque leading to the Riyad-ul-Jannah. You will slowly move forward as each group is allowed in for a few minutes to pray.
First, tell the guards where you are from. USA will get star treatment and if they believe you, you will be sent to the front of the line. If you are from Pakistan, you will probably be the last to enter. Keep your eyes and ears open. I was ‘rescued’ from the Pakistan group by a guard who was just randomly asking if anyone from the USA was there. Other than this bit of discrimination, the guards do make an effort to be nice and to keep the peace. The lady spoke Urdu and even gave dars while we waited.
Do not push or shove. Eventually, you will get your turn although it can be a very long wait. Once inside, try to get a good look around and of course, offer nafal. People try to do more than two, and some don’t follow the guards’ instructions. I’ve seen women running their hands over the tent and then over their bodies as if it carries special powers. Women also start bawling and don’t move as and when they are supposed to.
Make the most of the time that you get there, pray if you can, or come back again to see if the crowd is thinner next time. Some people happily pray while people are passing in front of them or stepping on them. This does not sit well with me. Watch out for the mob. Sometimes you will get run over by a wave of very frustrated females who are sick and tired of waiting and will ‘gate crash’ before your group has left the area. (I still remember the guard warning us in panic, ‘They’re coming, they’re coming, they’re coming!”) Now me, I try to get out of there fast in a situation like this. I don’t want any kind of bad memories. I would rather come back another time. Some people don’t mind and keep on praying, completely tuning out the bedlam. Do what you have to do.
One option is to make a circle holding each other’s hands, and then pray inside the protected ring, one by one. Nothing really stands a chance against the force of the mob though.
A few other landmarks are the Quba mosque, the first mosque of Islam. Offering 2 nafal in Quba mosque is equal to performing one umrah.
The Qiblatain Mosque, where the Prophet (pbuh) received the command to change the direction of the qibla from Jerusalem to Mecca, thus this mosque has two qiblatain.
The Mount of Uhud, where the Muslims lost a battle against the Meccans because a group of soldiers disobeyed the Prophet (pbuh).
Jannat al Baqi, where many of the Prophet’s (pbuh) companions and family members are buried. You might be given a guided tour, or you can arrange one yourself.