Ramadhan: A Month of Sincerity

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blue Mosque, Shah Alam, Malaysia

Welcome to Ramadhan.

It is the month when we abstain from things like food and water daily from dawn to dusk. The average person would probably find that daunting but us Muslims actually look forward to Ramadhan and we love it for many reasons. For example, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) received his first divine revelation during the month of Ramadhan. It is also when the gates of Hell are shut and the gates of Heaven are opened. Families and communities come together in anticipation of iftar (a meal to break the fast) and then they pray taraweeh (night prayers performed especially in Ramadhan) in the mosque.  However, a Muslim can be exempted from fasting if he or she is physically unfit or unable to fast (e.g. a pregnant or breast-feeding mother) but for the rest of us, fasting is obligatory as it is one of the pillars of Islam. All in all, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar is a time of spiritual uplift because we focus on a personal struggle to conquer our desires and weaknesses.

Fasting is not easy but most of us make a special effort to be better Muslims during Ramadhan because we know the significance of this month and the benefits of fasting. Or do we? While I agree with those who say that it results in spiritual and physical detox, a better sense of self-control and a greater appreciation of simple daily pleasures that we often take for granted, we must always remember that God has succinctly told us in the Holy Qur'an regarding the true purpose of fasting in Islam.

“O you who believe! Observing the fast is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become God-fearing.” {Surah Al Baqarah, verse 183}

What does it mean to be God-fearing or in other words,  to have taqwa? It is to be conscious of Allah swt, the Ever-Living and Ever-Present; because even though we can't see Him, God can certainly see us and He is aware of everything that we are thinking, feeling and doing. He knows our intentions - the ones we make obvious and the ones that are deep within our hearts.  We may not realise it but sometimes we can get our intentions mixed up and in Islam our deeds are judged according to our true intentions.

“When the Day of Resurrection comes, Allaah, Blessed is He and the Most Exalted, will come down to judge between His slaves, and every nation will be kneeling. The first ones to be called forth will be a man who learned the Qur’aan by heart, a man who fought for the sake of Allaah, and a man who had a lot of wealth. Allaah will say to the Qur’aan-reader, ‘Did I not teach you that which I revealed to My Messenger?’ He will say, ‘Yes, O Lord.’ He will say, ‘What did you do with that which I taught you?’ He will say, ‘I used to read it night and day.’ Allaah will say to him, ‘You have lied,’ and the angels will say to him, ‘You have lied.’ Allaah will say, ‘Rather you wanted it to be said that So and so is a reader of Qur’aan, and that is what was said.’ 
When the wealthy man will be brought forth, and Allaah will say to him, ‘Did I not give you ample provision so that I did not leave you in need of anybody?’ He will say, ‘Yes, O Lord.’ He will say, ‘What did you do with that which I gave you?’ He will say, ‘I used to uphold the ties of kinship and give in charity.’ Allaah will say to him, ‘You have lied,’ and the angels will say to him, ‘You have lied.’ Allaah will say, ‘Rather you wanted it to be said that So and so is generous, and that is what was said.’
Then the one who was killed for the sake of Allaah will be brought forth and Allaah will say to him, ‘Why were you killed?’ He will say, ‘I was commanded to fight in Jihaad for Your sake, so I fought until I was killed.’ Allaah will say to him, ‘You have lied,’ and the angels will say to him, ‘You have lied.’ Allaah will say, ‘You wanted it to be said that So and so was courageous, and that is what was said.’” Then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) struck my knee and said, “O Abu Hurayrah, these three are the first of the creation of Allaah who will be dragged into the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.”
{Narrated and classed as hasan by al-Tirmidhi, 2382; classed as saheeh by Ibn Hibbaan, 408, and Ibn Khuzaymah, 2482}

When I first read the above hadith it made me realise that having pure intentions is a matter that is not taken lightly in the sight of Allah subhana wa taala. It's scary to think that riya' (showing off) can nullify our good deeds and that means we have to be very careful with our intentions. So where does fasting fit in the midst of all of this? Fasting is an ibadah (act of worship) which is truly special because only Allah swt knows whether you fasted or not and if you did it with the purest of intentions. Therefore fasting is a really good way of teaching us how to worship God with complete sincerity thus strengthening our relationship with Him.

"Every (good) deed of the son of Aadam would be multiplied, a good deed receiving a tenfold to seven hundred fold reward. Allaah The Almighty said,‎‎ ‎'With the exception of fasting, for it is done for Me and I will give reward for it.’" {Sahih Muslim} {from The Secret of Fasting}

InshaAllah, this Ramadhan will be a month of sincerity for all of us and alhamdulillah, we've been given another opportunity to experience this blessed occasion so let's make the best of it because we don't know for sure if we'll be lucky enough to be alive next Ramadhan, do we?

Ramadhan Mubarak everyone! May Allah subhana wa taala continuously increase our iman and accept our good deeds in this month and the years to come. Ameen.

StyleIn! 2011: Silk Route Fashion Design Competition

Saturday, July 30, 2011

This is a wonderful opportunity especially for all you aspiring fashion designers out there. Islamic Design House is hosting a design competition for its subsidiary, Silk Route Clothing.

Silk Route and What This Competition is All About...

We all know that the Islamic inspired designers from California to Kuala Lumpur and from Istanbul to Johannesburg are brimming with talent, creativity and energy. So, Tower Hamlets based fashion house, Silk Route is back on the search for that special someone who can fuse Modesty with Fashion flare and create an iconic Jilbab/Abaya design for their sensational spring collection.
Silk Route, a Jilbab/Abaya Brand based in London, UK, has been designing, manufacturing and selling a contemporary and innovative interpretation of the long dress worn by many Muslim women for over 5 years. They are now distributing to over 300 sellers around the world and are sold via the Islamic Design House e-commerce websites in UK, USA, Canada, Egypt and Jordan and distributors in Nigeria and South Africa. Their first franchise store partnering with Islamic Design House opened in Jordan, Amman, in Ramadan 2010.

Silk Route pioneered the idea of an online Jilbab design competition back in 2007, the response was phenomenal, with over 100 submissions and 60000 people participating and we recruited the top designers into our design team. Once again, in a pursuit to encourage and support the talent of young aspiring Muslims everywhere, Silk Route StyleIn! Jilbab Design 2011 competition will be launching on a huge global platform. Budding designers from professional and non-professional backgrounds can showcase their designs to millions of people around the world.

Life-changing prizes...

The top prize for the winner is amazing, the winning design will be created and launched in Silk Route’s Spring 2012 collection with a wide press coverage from up to 7 global Magazines and they will win £500 cash. Not only that, but they will secure a 6 months internship with the Silk Route design team and mentoring from our Head designer Adnan Khalid. Second and third place designers will also get a cash prize of £300 and £200 and mention in all press coverage and even a chance of their design featuring in the Spring 2012 collection. Adnan says ‘Being part of the team at SR ever since taking part in the 2007 competition has opened up great possibilities…there is a great deal to be explored, a lot to do and immense success awaits the community of Designers who choose this’.
Silk Route would like this competition to be an opportunity for the designers to come forward and submit their designs and hopefully add their flavour to the future design direction of Silk Route
Important dates to remember...

The competition was launched on 14/07/11 and the deadline for final submissions is 31/08/11, so that’s four more weeks to get out your sketch pads and start creating and refining some iconic designs. Voting begins on 14/08/11 and will continue until the 14/09/11. On the 14/09/11 the top 20 designs, as voted by the public, will be forwarded to our esteemed panel of Judges; Silk Route Head designer Adnan Khalid, Fashion designer and entrepreneur Rabia Z. and pan-Arab T.V personality and fashion designer Muna Abu Sulayman. They will have up to a week to decide on a winner and their Top Ten. The winner will be announced on 24/09/11.

For more information about the competition please visit SilkRouteStyleIn.com

Wow, this sounds very, very exciting. Amazing prizes and amazing judges too. All the best everyone! I can't wait to see who the winners will be. Remember, there are first, second and third place winners so there's a bigger chance for you to win. What are you waiting for? Get StyleIn

Faith Friday: Life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Jumaah Mubarak everyone!

Rageh Omaar of Al Jazeera English has collaborated with BBC to produce a documentary series entitled The Life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I've heard really good things about it and thought I'd watch the first episode today. It brought back so many memories of my recent trip to Saudi Arabia so I enjoyed it, of course. The first episode is a historical introduction to Islam and the role of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in this deen (religion or way of life). It's always good to refresh our memory on the history of Islam so I thought I'd share it with all of you.

A White Sunday Wedding

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I love weddings. I can’t help it. I’m a girl. So when one of my girlfriends unexpectedly announced that she was getting married in July I was very excited. Perhaps a little more than I should’ve been but I didn’t care because I was going to attend the wedding of one of my closest friends for the first time in my life. Sumayyah’s nikah (solemnisation) was a day I eagerly anticipated. On Sunday, I woke up to a freezing morning and drew my bedroom curtains only to see flecks of snow falling down from the sky. 

Within an hour it went from this... 

To this...

And it didn’t get any better with time.

The roads can be treacherous when it snows and I’ve never seen so much of it in Dunedin for a couple of years. As I live up a hill I was quite worried I wouldn’t be able to make it to the mosque for Sumayyah’s nikah. The first few taxi companies I called said they wouldn’t be able to send any taxis up my way but alhamdulillah, I finally found a taxi company that was willing to do so. The ride downhill was kind of a thrill and when we made it to the bottom of the hill the taxi driver breathed a sigh of relief. What would we do without such brave taxi drivers? Thanks to him I arrived the masjid safely and early. My friends and I kept ourselves busy while waiting for everybody to arrive.

My toes were frostbitten in those heels. Beauty is pain, sometimes!

Not long after the bride-to-be finally arrived and she looked absolutely stunning mashaAllah! Soon after, the groom-to-be as well.

The rest, as they say, is history. Thus, it begins... their happily ever after, inshaAllah

Love how he's carrying the train of her dress.

Dunedin was breathtaking after being transformed by a blanket of whiteness. It looked and felt like a special and blessed day. At times the whole thing seemed so unreal. "Is Sumayyah really married now?" I thought in a moment of disbelief last night as I browsed through photos of us together taken from over the years. But I can't be happier for our darling Sumayyah. She deserved to have a beautiful wedding day and that’s exactly what she got. I pray that she will have a marriage that Allah swt will shower with lots of happiness and barakah because she deserves nothing less. Ameen

Umrah 2011 {Part 4} Being In Love with Masjid al-Haram

Monday, July 18, 2011

In a post I wrote almost a year ago, I told you guys about a question that I have asked myself many times since my Umrah trip in 2009/2010.

If you could be in front of the Ka’abah every single day to ask for God’s forgiveness and blessings, would that be enough to make you happy for the rest of your life? Or would you still want more?

I could never bring myself to say 'Yes' and completely mean it until my recent Umrah pilgrimage last month. I remember sitting inside Masjid al-Haram after performing a prayer in congregation and I said to myself, "If I could, I'd be in this mosque everyday so I could feel this way all the time." Masjid al-Haram has a very special place in my heart. There is no other mosque in the world that can bring together Muslims of different sects, ideologies, cultures, tribes, races and nationalities the way this mosque does. I can see the beauty of Islam shine through Masjid al-Haram like sun rays filling up a dark and empty room. You know, I can go on and on about Masjid al-Haram because I don’t think there is any other mosque in the world that is quite as majestic both in terms of its aesthetics and its significance in Islam. I think this particular mosque has a very special place in my heart because of the level of tranquility it offers me. I can’t explain what it feels like but all I know is this: I will always yearn to go back there just to feel that way again.

[Moments before Fajr (sunrise prayer) on the day we left Mecca. So many people, mashaAllah!]

Don't get me wrong. Masjid an-Nabawi is special in its own way, most definitely. My experience of being in both Masjid an-Nabawi and Masjid al-Haram is like that instance when you're asleep and you know you’re dreaming but you don’t want to wake up because then the dream would end. For me this is especially true in the case of Masjid al-Haram. I’m not saying everything is perfect inside the mosque. Yes, it’s very spic and span due to the constant cleaning that is done throughout the day, and alhamdulillah, there is a never-ending supply of Zam Zam water. However, you will still have to bear with some people’s bizarre behaviours such as fighting over a prayer spot when it is very close to the congregational prayer time (I have to admit, sometimes I am very close to losing my patience when it comes to people who are rude, inconsiderate and pushy). I think people have different experiences when they go to Mecca for Umrah but I personally believe that Mecca is a place where your faith and patience are constantly tested in the strangest of ways. The difference lies in you being aware of it or not.

Fortunately, in the times I’ve been in Masjid al-Haram I have never experienced anything particularly terrible (may God keep it this way, inshaAllah).  There are moments I know I will never forget. For example...

....While performing Tawaf during mid-morning my sister and I felt a cool breeze coming from above us. Strange but pretty amazing because it was hot by then and we were no where near an air conditioner as we were out in the open air.

.... I fell quite sick during this Umrah trip – cough, sore throat, fever, the works. I couldn’t bear going out of the mosque after Zuhur prayer and most times I would stay in the mosque until Maghreb prayer or even Isha prayer without eating lunch or dinner until we got back to the hotel at night. My family would go back to the hotel to catch up on some rest and eat something, at times they’d bring some food for me when they came back to the mosque. I once fell asleep in the mosque due to lack of sleep and a fever and when I woke up I was famished. Minutes later, a lady with niqab came towards me and gave me some biscuits to eat and a cup of water to drink. She didn’t offer them to anyone else. Just me! The drink didn’t taste like Zam Zam water. It tasted like the average mineral water but after drinking it my sore throat went away. Completely.

.... Another time after performing Tawaf in the afternoon, as I finished a little bit earlier than my family I went to pray inside the mosque and waited for them at our agreed spot before proceeding with the Sai’e. While waiting, a little girl around the age of five or six came along and offered me a cup of Zam Zam water to drink. I think she was bored so she decided to make good use of her time by distributing cups of Zam Zam water to the people around her. I thought it was really cute and smart and it made me realise how beautiful a person’s akhlaq (mannerisms) can be when they are raised well. 

[Muslim men and women walking side by side to complete the Sai'e, the second major part of the Umrah pilrimage, which is a re-enactment of a  mother's struggle to find water and keep her child alive. That mother is no other than Hajar, Prophet Ibrahim's (alayhissalam) wife, and the child was of course Prophet Ismail (alayhissalam) . As a result of this, we now have the Zam Zam well that has never ceased to supply us with Zam Zam water until today.]

I tend to contemplate a lot in Masjid al-Haram. Being there was a dream come true for me. I wanted to re-connect with God. I wanted to understand Him and this religion He has given us more than anything else. It was absolutely surreal because it was only last year that I went for Umrah with my Mum and sister. I prayed to return but only silently in heart and I didn’t think God would actually bring me back there so soon. Why me? What have I done for Him to listen to my prayers? No doubt, I am just one person out of the millions that visit Mecca every year but this one person’s life has changed for the better because He fulfilled her prayers. 

Perhaps now you understand with a little bit more clarity as to why I am just so in love with this mosque. After every Umrah pilgrimage I feel like a better person, or rather, I feel like I want to become a better person, inshaAllah. This life that I’m living right now is made of moments that are fleeting past me so quickly sometimes I  can’t even catch up. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is the amount of good deeds I have done and the intentions that I have while I am alive. If the scale weighs more towards the good and I am rewarded with Paradise then what else could I ask for?

A Muslim's life is actually relatively simple. It is to live a life of perseverance, purity and modesty while avoiding the prohibited (as much as we can) according to the guidance of Allah subhana wa taala in the Holy Qur’an and the examples shown by Prophet Muhammad sallalahu alayhi wassalam and other inspiring figures in Islam.

I've always liked leaving the best for last. Here's a video I took of an adhan in Masjid al-Haram. I was quite worried someone would come and stop me from recording so I was very cautious but alhamdulillah, that didn't happen. (Sorry for the shakiness. I don't have the skills of a good videographer... yet!)

Asr Adhan in al-Masjid al-Haram, June 2011
from Shahirah Elaiza on Vimeo.

Sneak Preview of Umrah 2011 {Part 4}

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Salaam all, I'm back in New Zealand now. Phewh, it's hectic travelling between three time zones within a month but alhamdulillah, here I am finally. Thank you for your emails and comments. I'll try and get back to you as soon as I can! 

For now here's a little sneak preview to Part 4 of the Umrah 2011 series. 
(Please note that I am a total amateur when it comes to recording videos so please bear with me.) 

9th July 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

In light of everything that's happening in Malaysia right now... 

All of a sudden everybody has an opinion and they want to voice it out. 
Just don't get so emotional with your opinions until you forget that Allah azza wa jal is listening and watching.
Don't aggravate the situation. It will only make things worse.

One Sunday Afternoon in Kuala Lumpur

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

I cherish every single moment of my holiday. 

Marissa's sashimi boat at Sushi Zanmai, 1 Mont Kiara

Whilst taking photos of each other a random uncle stopped and politely asked if we wanted a photo of all of us together =) 

Tea Forty Two, BV II

Creme brulee tea! 
I call it 'The Minze' featuring Elephantastic by OPI


Umrah 2011 (Part 3) - My Niqab Experience in Mecca

Monday, July 04, 2011

While in Mecca I wore the niqab (face-veil) except when I was in ihram. It was my first time and the experience gave me an insight into what it's like to be a niqabi. Granted, I wasn't as anxious about wearing niqab in Saudi Arabia than I was with the hijab in New Zealand because almost every other women wore niqab in Saudi. I felt it was important for me to wear it there for privacy, safety and health reasons (there is construction work going on in the city of Mecca and around the al-Masjid al-Haram therefore there's a lot of dust and debris). In my personal experience men in Saudi, not necessarily Saudi men because there are many foreign workers over there, are disrespectful towards women who don't wear the niqab. I'm not saying this happens to all women but it's not unusual for them to stare and leer and/or physically harass women especially when they don't see a mahram (male family member) with them. At first I thought this happened to me because these men knew I wasn't an Arab (and therefore had less respect for me? I don't know!) but after reading this I can see it's most likely that it happens to Arabs too but maybe to a lesser extent. 

Umrah 2011 (Part 2) - Mecca

Sunday, July 03, 2011

I'll be completely honest with you. Being in Mecca during this time of the year is no piece of cake. Well, for me at least. To be fair, Mum did warn me about how hot it would be ("It's like stepping into an oven" were her exact words) but how was I suppose to accurately imagine something I have never experienced before? Thank God I brought the strongest sunscreen I had! It was a real life saver after I underestimated the UV rays of the scorching sun and got pretty sunburned.  

Mecca is also probably the busiest city in all of Saudi Arabia and it didn't help that our travel agent placed us in a hotel that was more than 200 metres away from al-Masjid al-Haram. I'm not very used to large crowds and it was pretty scary at first. Walking back and forth from the mosque for at least five times a day was a mission. Not impossible but definitely not desirable. I wasn't allowed to go anywhere alone because my family feared for my safety. I should probably tell you about the time they thought I went missing. My Mum and sister thought I was kidnapped because they couldn't find me at the hotel as we got separated after walking back to the hotel from the mosque. I thought the whole thing was funny because I was eating breakfast at the cafeteria the entire time my Mum, brother and sister were going hysterical at the Lost Children Centre. Clearly, it wasn't funny for them because when Mum called up the hotel room and I answered she was in tears. While they were there lots of people told them it was common for people to go missing in Mecca and that it was harder to find missing young women than children. As you can guess, it didn't make my Mum feel any better!

I find it ironic that the holiest city in the world is not the safest one. I think it's because not everybody goes there with the right intention. Plus, in Mecca you will meet people from all walks of life. From some of the richest to some of the poorest and destitute. You will find them all there but subhanaAllah, I feel very safe once I'm inside al-Masjid al-Haram. It is probably the only mosque in the world where there is no strict segregation between men and women. Of course, there are designated areas for each gender but for most of the part they have been very practical about the mixing of men and women. Many women go to Mecca with their husbands and families therefore it wouldn't make sense to not allow them to be together inside the mosque. I noticed that there are less female mosque guardians compared to before. I definitely saw them around but not many. I'm not sure why. They also don't go through people's bags anymore (it's the total opposite at the Prophet's Mosque in Medina). Again, I think it's because there are just way too many people going to the mosque and it would take ages for them to go through each and every single person's bag. The security is more relaxed hence making its visitors feel less anxious as well.

One of hundreds of prayer halls in the Holy Mosque. This was taken after a prayer when most people have left

Thousands pray in Al-Masjid al-Haram everyday. It is the largest mosque in the world and according to the Holy Qur'an it is also historically the first place of worship on Earth. 
"The first House (of worship) established for mankind was that at Bakkah (Mecca): full of blessing and of guidance for all the worlds. In it are Signs Manifest; The Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith Allah stands not in need of any of his creatures." {Surah Ali Imran, verses 96-97}
Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wassalam conveyed: "A prayer in the Masjid al-Haram is akin to a hundred thousand prayers, a prayer in my mosque to a thousand prayers, and a prayer in the Bayt al-Maqdis to five hundred prayers." {Tabarani} If you want to know more about the Holy Mosque, Wikipedia has good background information about it. The centre of everyone's attention is the Holy Ka'abah. Muslims don't worship it nor do they pray to it. The Ka'abah is the direction of prayer and also where Muslims perform the tawaf (seven rounds of anti-clockwise circumambulation).

The Noble Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah be upon him) has said, "A person who circumambulates this House (the Kaaba) seven times and performs the two Rak'at Salat (of Tawaf) in the best form possible will have his sins forgiven."

I can't explain how it feels to see the Ka'abah right in front of your eyes and to be in its presence. As you can see it's a very simple building but it has grandeur because Allah subhana wa taala sends blessings upon it everyday.

There is a part of the Ka'abah that is reported to be a stone from Heaven. It's called the Hajar al Aswad and to kiss or touch it would mean the expiation of one's sins. It's extremely difficult to physically get near it and I definitely don't envy its guard's job.

The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “The black stone descended from Paradise whiter than milk, but the sins of the descendants of Adam made it black.” {Musnad Ahmad and at-Tirmidhee no: 2577}

Ibn Umar (radhi allahu anhu) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) say: “Touching them both [the Black Stone and al-Rukn al-Yamani] is an expiation for sins.” {(Hasan) by at-Tirmidhee, no: 959 and (Saheeh) by al-Haakim, vol: 1, no: 664} (source)

... to be continued

Faith Friday: Umrah 2011 (Part 1) - Medina

Friday, July 01, 2011

Abu Hurairah (radhiallahu anhu) reported: The Messenger of Allah (Sallallaahu 'alayhi wasallam) said, "(The performance of) `Umrah is an expiation for the sins committed between it and the previous `Umrah; and the reward of Hajj Mabrur (i.e., one accepted) is nothing but Jannah.''
{Sahih Bukhari and Muslim}
When I last went for an Umrah pilgrimage in late 2009/early 2010 I had never dreamed that I would be going back to Saudi Arabia so soon. As usual, our travel plans were very last minute as my original plan was to spend my winter holiday in Australia but subhanaAllah wa alhamdulillah, God had something better planned for me. This was in fact my fourth Umrah  trip but I was a young child during the first two times. All I can remember from those trips are vague memories with my family.

My previous visit to Medina and Mecca was in winter and the weather was pleasant and cool. The crowd gradually subsided as people completed their Hajj pilgrimage. This June my family and I went in the midst of an Arabian summer and a school holiday. Boy, oh boy, nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to experience. The weather was extremely hot, dry and dehydrating as temperatures reached up to 45 degrees celcius.  There were also tons of pilgrims especially from India, Turkey and Iran. I have never seen so many of them in one place in my entire life! Nevertheless, it was an honour to be a guest of Allah subhana wa taala and we were more than determined to do our best.

Our plane to Saudi Arabia flew directly to the second holiest city in Islam, Medina, also known as al-Madinah al-Munawwarah (translated as the radiant city). This is where the Prophet's Mosque (al-Masjid an-Nabawi) is located which is where Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wassalam and his Sahabahs (Closest Companions and Khalifahs) radhiallahu anhum were buried. Everyday thousands of people visit the mosque to pray there, hoping to have the chance of praying inside the ar-Raudah (area surrounding the Prophet's tomb) because it is known that all prayers made inside the ar-Raudah will be accepted (provided that the prayers are not evil in nature). The significance of this special area is explained in the following hadith.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The space between my house and my pulpit is (raudah) one of the gardens of Paradise, and my pulpit is at my Fountain." {Sahih Bukhari, v.5, p.135}

Ar-Raudah is not very large and there are specific times for women to go. There is usually a wait of 30 to 45 minutes during non-peak seasons. The time sessions for men are more flexible and it seems that they are given more priority because relatively more men go to the mosque.

One of many gate entrances to al-Masjid an-Nabawi

A vision of serenity outside the Prophet's Mosque

Although it is the norm for people to spend most of their time in this mosque it is also part of the journey for one to visit the Quba Mosque while one is in Medina. It was reported that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) used to frequent the Quba mosque every Saturday to offer two optional prayers there and he once said, 

"Whoever makes ablutions at home and then goes and prays in the Mosque of Quba, he will have a reward like that of an Umrah." {al-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah} 

Women's entrance at the Quba Mosque

A young man selling fresh dates outside a tamar market we visited

After prayers it is common to find street vendors selling various items ranging from the Holy Qur'an to siwak to cheap abayas and jewellery outside the Prophet's Mosque. They receive quite a bit of attention when some of them start singing in Arabic in order to attract customers.

Since I have a new and better camera this time around I managed to record a HD video of a walk I took towards al-Masjid an-Nabawi for Maghreb prayer. Have a listen to the adhan. Doesn't it sound amazing?

Maghreb adhan in Madinah al Munawwarah from Shahirah Elaiza on Vimeo.
(not sure why the video playback seems to be lagging on different laptops, sorry!)