Day 10 – A Day in the Outskirts

“The way the burnt orange horizon flawlessly blends into the dark navy sky above is perfectly seamless…I was awestruck.”

10/31/11
I’m sitting here, contemplating the events I faced so far – with these random dudes being shady in Medina and the guy in Mecca. Such interesting stories, I can’t wait to share them with my friends. I’ve realized something – if someone is trying to talk to you, as an official especially, and doesn’t know Urdu or English, be very, very careful. All officials here, store owners too, know or speak Urdu & English – even if it’s broken & busted up, it’s still manageable. It’s similar to how most Americans can get by with a very broken and super basic level of Spanish.

I need to be quicker to react and more forceful as well. I’m way too passive, waiting for things to just happen in these situations. Ends up taking me so long to react…

I lost my train of thought – I’m sitting in my room & I can hear the men in our group yelling through the wall, from the room down the hall. The group leader is yelling at them & lecturing them about their behavior in the Haram I think, reminding them they’re on Hajj. This tends to happen quite regularly. I’m not really sure what’s going on, I deliberately keep myself out of their continuous squabbles. Whatever it is this time, it sounds heated. Got me all distracted.

Yesterday, we took a tour and saw some sites around the area. We visited Masjid Quba – which is the first masjid of Islam. When the Prophet arrive in Medina after making his Hijra (emigration) from Mecca, he was greeted at that spot. The Prophet used to visit this masjid every Saturday & pray 2 rak’ahs. He said if you travel to it and pray 2 rak’ahs as he did, you get the reward of one ‘Umrah.

Masjid Quba

Main Prayer Hall, Masjid Quba

We also visited Masjid Qiblatain. It was here, while the Prophet was praying with his Companions, during the 2nd rak’ah of Dhuhr, I believe, that the Angel Gabriel came to him. He told the Prophet to turn from the original direction of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and to face the Ka’aba in Mecca for salah (prayer). So, this masjid has two qibla (direction) markings – to the South for Mecca & to the North for Jerusalem.

Masjid Qiblatain

Facing Mecca

It’s interesting, in our Islamic Tradition, sites with historical significance get turned into masjids, not museums. They become places where you can pray & remember Allah, not just the events that took place there – which increases the barakah (blessing) of those places.

We also visited Mt. Uhud and the battleground where the war took place. It was really awesome to see first-hand, the place where the war stories took place, contextualizing them completely. We had a guide there give us the whole story, explaining what took place in each spot.

How It All Went Down

The Kuffar numbered 3,000 – against 700 Muslims. 300 more had initially joined the Muslims, but they were Munafiq (traitors) who turned back at the last minute. The strategy was to funnel the army of the Kuffar through the gap on the left, making it easier to attack and defeat them. Archers stood on the small mount and were tasked with keeping the right side protected to prevent the Muslim army from being flanked, which Khalid b. Waleed tried to do continuously throughout the battle. The Prophet instructed the archers not to leave their post no matter what, whether they were winning or losing. During the battle, the Kuffar started to run & the archers thought the war was over, so they ran down to collect the spoils. 40 out of the 50 archers left the mount, though their own commander told them not to move from their positions.

Khalid b. Waleed saw this opportunity and flanked the Muslims with his cavalry. The remaining archers were unable to defend the army and they lost the mount as well. Word also started spreading that the Prophet died, causing morale to drop – because someone who looked like the Prophet had been killed. Some of the Muslims found the Prophet still alive, a group of 9 Ansar (Helpers, locals from Medina) & 2 Muhajir (Immigrants, from Mecca), and they retreated up the mountain of Uhud. Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas was shooting his arrows from up the mountain & the Prophet gave him his own arrows to shoot, saying, “May my father and mother be sacrificed for you, O’ Sa’d, shoot!” It’s said this was the first and last time the Prophet ever uttered anything of this magnitude, greatly honoring his Companion during battle.

The Mountain of Uhud at Sunset

The Archers' Mount

The Muslims were cornered & outnumbered, having lost more than 70 Companions that day – including Hamzah, the Prophet’s uncle. They managed to retreat, having been taught a valuable lesson, to always adhere to the plan & orders of the Prophet. They were shown how giving in to personal desires and self-interests will jeopardize the situation for the entire army. Team-building exercise to the death, I suppose.

——————-

Just had breakfast, feeling a little gross now actually. Food just isn’t the same here. It’s especially nasty when they attempt to make it more Western. Ends up with really weird, mushy textures, with the spices just all off.

You know, last night, as the final leg of our tour, we visited a camel farm in the mountains. Surrounded by mountains actually. Right at sunset. It was such a beautiful sight, completely breathtaking. There’s something so special about a desert at sunset that just doesn’t compare to anything else. The colors of the sky are so much deeper & saturated, probably from the heat in the air. The way the burnt orange horizon flawlessly blends into the dark navy sky above is perfectly seamless. Reminds me of the verse from surah Al-Mulk, where Allah directs the eyes to the sky, challenging anyone to find any cracks or flaws in its construction. I was awestruck. There were no lines, no seams, no breaks – just perfect blending. SubhanAllah.

That Beautiful Desert Sky

We went to these camel farmers, our group was kind of obsessed with getting fresh camel milk for some reason. I watched these dudes milk the camels and walk out holding big metal bowls full of white, frothy milk. They just dipped a ladle into the 10 kilo container full of fresh milk, pulled out a potful, strained it once, and started sipping it. I definitely did not partake. I’m all about being adventurous, but apparently, if you’re not used to it (which I’m not) camel milk gives you diarrhea. No, thank you. Not on a trip like this. From what I hear, the taste is also a bit salty and the texture is thicker, almost yogurty. Sounds pretty good actually, almost like lassi, or dogh, or laban. Still not messin with it though.

I was so exhausted when we came back last night, I just prayed ‘Isha in Masjid Nabawi, came back to the room and knocked out around 8 or 9pm. I didn’t even have dinner in the catering hall where we’re being served breakfast & dinner daily. I went up, saw the food, saw the ridiculous line to get the food, then came back to the room. I had a granola bar and passed out.

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Filed under Medina, Reflections, Travel

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