I felt exultant after Fajr prayer the next morning. Everyone headed back to the hotel but I was still restless. After I was sure everyone was well asleep and they would not be disturbed by my leaving the room and shutting the hard mahogany door, I made my way and left the hotel.
I walked all the way up to Al-Masjid un-Nabawi and looked for the Badr Gate and quickly slipped inside. It was 8am and I was seated in the masjid with the nearest human being some 100 yards from me. I sat at peace and tranquillity and felt calm and then I remembered. I still needed to complete the 200 raka`ah that I had made as an oath to Allah for going to Hajj.
I stood up and over the course of a number of hours was able to complete some 78 raka`ah, leaving me with another 100 left to complete. I had done the first one hundred in Makkah and al-Masjid ul-Haram and hoped that I would have received the 100,000 reward for each prayer.
After I completed these 78 raka`ah, I decided to rest and stay in the Masjid and wait all day up until `Asr but a steady stream of people going in the same direction piqued my interest. I followed them and within ten minutes was at the Rawdah and could see the golden gates bearing the bodies of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and `Umar al-Faruq, the two Shaikhs of Islam, may Allah be pleased with both of them.
Heaven and Earth stood still and I could hear the same dull rumble as that which I had witnessed at Al-Masjid ul-Haram in Makkah. However this was more of a hum, as if the inhabitants inside were making a low dhikr that was almost imperceptible to those gathered around.
I thought of how far I had come in my life in 20 years, everything I had done and not done. Names of dead friends, believers and unbelievers, ran through my head and I doubted myself. Why was I the one to be allowed all of this honour? Khalid `Abdur-Rahman, a Sudanese friend of mine, was by far more intelligent, had been through more and deserved more to be at this place.
What of Guy Washington, Raymond, Hiram, Caspar, Jose Flores and his wife, Gloria? Why should I be honoured by Allah and these people died as unbelievers or are alive and still not believers or are Muslims and have not been called yet?
And with all of this said and thought, I realised I had to turn back. I was not ready to be in the presence of these people. I would have to come back when I was ready. I did not know when, but not now. I slowly backed away and headed away from the area and briskly made my way back to the hotel.
“Brother Abu Ja`far,” one of my roommates called. I did not want to speak so I made my way around the corner and quickly disappeared up one of the back streets. I had to gain my composure and then I could speak to him. I did not want him to think something was wrong and have to explain my own inefficiencies in detail.
Some day when I was ready I would be able to make my way there…but not today. I didn’t even know if I would be able to do it during this visit. It was Thursday and I gave strong thought to cancelling the lessons on Imam at-Tirmidhi as I just did not feel 100% at all.
If I did not feel that I had the strength to visit the greatest human being that had ever lived, how could I do any other teaching? Although saddened by this, I still felt the great need to go there and visit at some point in the future.
I walked along the arcade area outside of the fencing of the compound of Al-Masjid un-Nabawi and pondered for a period of time. There was a shop that Allah directed me to and I stumbled inside the area.
I just looked across the bookshelves and notices that they had a good selection of books on the madhhab so I began looking. I had lost one volume of Al-Furu` that a brother had loaned me and was resolved to buy another.
The shopkeeper saw me and remarked, “Mauritania?” I smiled and chuckled. “No,” I replied in Arabic. “But you’re a student here? What are you looking for? I’m sure we have it.” “Kitab ul-Furu` by Imam Ibn Muflih.” He scanned the shelves and then went in the back.
“Ah, yes. Here it is here. Now this is a very good edition. They have included both the Furu` but the Tashih that Imam al-Mardawi did on the work to correct any rulings that might have been out of sync.” He and I then had the most interesting discussion about the text, its’ history and the Muqni` and its’ best commentaries.
“Are you on al-Muqni`?” I nodded. “Good, so you’ll memorise it?” He seemed very enthusiastic. “Just make du`aa that I do so,” I sort of half shrugged. “You’ll need this one and also the other commentaries to get a proper understanding once you are done. Are you using the Zad or the Dalil?”
“My framework is the Zad. That’s what I know best. I prefer the Zad.” He nodded and stacked the three volume set of Al-Furu`. Normally appearing in 11 volumes, this edition had small print but was also more expansive in terms of Al-Mardawi’s notes.
This would be very important as Imam al-Mardawi belonged to the last generation of Murajjihun so his understanding and also layout would be of the utmost use. I possessed his al-Insaf, so I had no need to be convinced of his genius.
I was given a discounted rate as the man said he would discount a student. Then after that I headed out the door with the jewels and sat on a stoop and looked at the sun go from a soft yellow to an angry red as the day progressed.
Now back at the hotel room, I added the books together. The brother would be happy once I presented the books to him. I could not find the fifth volume of al-Furu` I had lost and had given my personal word that I would return it in full if I could not find the other volume. A student of knowledge has to return his trusts, I thought.
I thought back numerous times, trying to remember where I might have put it but I had no idea. I really had lost the volume. When food time came, Al-Hajj `Ismah and the others insisted I come with them and enjoy some of the goop that was gazing back at us in the food pans.
I resolved to eat only things I could identify, pronounce and that were not submerged in a swamp of oil. Looking at the oily mixture, my heart warned me that it would trigger angioplasty signals immediately unless I backed away.
The other brothers at the table spoke while I continued to sit and reflect over my own life. I had thought about everything before, but being in Madinah amplified things. I had made it. I had survived; but why had I made it versus others who were more worthy? I knew I had to trust Allah in this regard.
Al-Hajj `Ismah chose me as the man to take him back to the room and look after him and observe his health. I saw no problem with this and enjoyed his company immensely. I sat on the bed and read, immersed in my own world. “You know, the main thing you have to understand is that you must not worry. Allah is in charge of all things.”
The words flowing from this white bearded sage about al-Harith al-Muhasibi, Bishr al-Hafi and others gave me food for thought but also encouraged me. Allah chooses whom He wills and uses any vessel for what He pleases, irrespective of how unworthy such a vessel may be in reality.
Once my mind was at ease, I made my intention to visit the sacred place on Friday. It was Thursday night before sunset and I read the dhikr and salam upon the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
I was going to try to go see him tomorrow and I would still go ahead with the Tirmidhi dars. Let’ s get moving, I thought. I have to get moving. In the excitement of everything, I somehow managed to fall asleep.