I was now back at the hotel room and sitting down with the other Slaves of Allah. The room activities were in full swing with Al-Hajj `Ismah discussing how nice the breakfast was, brother Tanweer saying how greasy the breakfast was and brother Matloob saying he is happy there atleast was some breakfast, greasy or not.
With the jumu`ah upon us, everyone was in the best attire. I decided around 12:30pm, when everyone was leaving, to have another ghusl and get into my best clothing. Putting on another set of nice clothes, I was now prepared for the khutbah and what was going to be given by the khatib.
No sooner had I found my way out of the room, than I noticed that the hotel lobby was empty and the lobby outside, the masjid courtyard and the plaza were ram packed with jumu`ah congregants. I entertained the miniscule hope of getting inside and on every door the guard waved me back. “No, brother. It is too full.”
Subhanallah, I mused. Now what am I going to do? I looked through all other means and there was nowhere to sit and nowhere to bow down. The only option would be to pray at the hotel if there was space.
I would have to do so from the room as the downstairs area was filled with Marlboro and Newport cigarette smoke residue and the najasah would impact upon the validity of my prayer.
My arrival at the hotel was noticed by no one in the desolate lobby. I rushed my way up the steps and got to the room. There must be a channel where the khutbah is transmitted from, I questioned but also hoped. There it was in front of me.
In plain view on the khutbah channel stood `Ali ibn `Abdur-Rahman al-Hudhaifi, medium height with fleshy chubby hands reading from his handwritten khutbah notes. The khutbah he gave warned about the danger of Muslims going back to their perspective countries and becoming as they had been before the hajj.
The khatib warned that to do this would take away from the greatness of what they had seen and how they had been blessed. “No,” he warned. “You must be wiser than that. You must be people of taqwa who waste neither time nor effort.” The Iqamah came after his address like lightning and the people stood.
As I was not physically present and could not hear the Imam’s voice, this did not count as the Imam being hadir, so the ruling in the school was I had to make zuhr. I was still in travelling mode so I would combine zuhr with `asr.
After prayers I read in the room from ash-Shama’il ul-Muhammadiyyah wa Khasa’il ul-Mustafawiyyah by Imam Abu `Isa at-Tirmidhi. Makkah had printed off a brilliant copy and I loved every page of the work. The time before Maghrib brought brother Uwais to my door along with Mumtaz, `Irfan, Saghir and Matloob.
We headed down in a large group and went into Masjid un-Nabawi and made our way in for Salat ul-Maghrib. I ran into two amazing brothers on the way: one cousin of my dear brother Bilal Azad (Raja braderie) and the brother from Curry Nites who delivers the prawn Korma when I order it from time to time.
Just five steps from the Badr door of Al-Masjid un-Nabawi, I was stopped by the guard. “What is this?” I looked down at the snack pack in my hand that the cousin-brother of Bilal Azad gave me.
“It’s just a box. I was going to just put it in my…” “No eating in the masjid,” the religious police man interrupted me. “You cannot go inside with that.” One Morocco behind me, who saw the commotion, became agitated. “Leave the shab (youngster) alone. Let him go inside!”
The religious zealot told me I could go in as long as I did not eat. I gave my word that I would not. “And these…” he pointed to my sandals that I was wearing over my khuffs, both jet black so as to appear as midnight.
“I thought the Salaf prayed in their shoes. There’s a hadith about it,” I looked at him and he shot me a quick look. It was very clear. Don’t get smart, buddy. I walked inside and within eye view of the religious police took the sandals off and jumped on the mats next to the Slaves of Allah.
The Imam that night was Shaikh `Abdullah Al-Qasim, who was known for making huffaz in one year from people who had no previous inkling about memorising. Listening to the recitation, just behind me I could hear light coughing of some of the brothers but I could also hear some hissing behind me.
The words were, “What are you praying for?! Stop it! What’s the point??!!” The hissing carried on through the prayer and I tried to ignore it with herculean presence of heart. Once the prayer had finished I turned to try to look at who was making that racket, but there was no one sitting in the direction where I looked.
“Did you hear that?” I turned to Bilal’s cousin, whose name is Hamid. “There was a guy whispering. I was starting to get angry with all that noise,” he seconded my thoughts. We then prayed the sunan ratibah after the prayer and went outside.
At the dome of Masjid un-Nabawi, we walked 2-500 feet away and sat in the plaza within the gates but far enough so as not to draw undue attention to ourselves. We began the dars of Imam Abu `Isa at-Tirmidhi, may Allah be pleased with him, with his biography and also some notes about how he was the successor of Imam al-Bukhari.
After that point, we read a selection of hadith from each chapter. We had made it through the first through chapters and sat in wonder at what was being recounted by the Imam. The more we read the more we marvelled.
Brother Uwais had also brought his sister and one of the other female Slaves of Allah and altogether there were some seven people there listening to the information that was description of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
We had completed the estimated number I had hoped for and just before closing the book we were speaking gently among ourselves. “Let’s break this thing up. Go pray. Go pray.” I looked up and saw a young religious police man with Doc Martin slippers and a walkie talkie and his name on it.
“Oh, has the Adhan for `Isha already come,” I asked innocently. He looked down at me and asked, “Did you hear the Adhan?” I shook my head in the negative, to which he responded, “Well then. Now you know. Now let’s break this up.” I turned to everyone and told them in English that we had to stop now.
Everyone could feel the atmosphere had changed but I did not want to upset anyone. I just remained quiet and prepared for `Isha. “Doesn’t Uwais look a lot like Usamah bin Laden, you know really Yemeni,” Hamid looked at him and grinned.
Uwais and Hamid traded words of dispute about his looks but I thoughtfully added, “I think Uwais looks like Uwais.” “Thank you!” Uwais was relieved to have put a line under the discussion. We prayed `Isha and upon completion headed back to the hotel room. We then headed to bed.
This was not before Al-Hajj `Ismah had somehow heated and cooled the room simultaneously and then in the aftermath of the atmospheric holocaust turned and seraphically announced that he was headed to Masjid un-Nabawi to great the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
“Does anyone need anything?” His words left us drenched in sweat and fiddling with the climate control on the wall. This was absolutely unbelievable. In the next moment, the room was under control, we were in bed and asleep until two hours before fajr.