A Flashback to Medina
Ramzan 2019. It was exactly 3:30 am when I looked at the time. I was not able to sleep; perhaps it was too hot, perhaps I was over anxious, or perhaps I had inadvertently consumed caffeine. I opened the door to my veranda hoping for some fresh, albeit hot, air to clear my stuffy room.
The silence outside was soul enriching, and some minutes later the call for prayer which marked the beginning of the roza, or the Fajr azaan that wove its way through the stillness of the moment complemented emotion to the tranquillity, and transported me back to the holy city of Medina, which I visited a few weeks ago.
My husband and I had always intended to travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, either to perform Umrah or Hajj. After much deliberation, we decided to experience Umrah first, so without much ado, we set off for Medina, as we were novices and hoped to familiarise ourselves with the rites and rituals before undertaking the aforesaid pilgrimage.
Medina was described to me as the most peaceful place on earth, and as we approached the city by car, and as I saw throngs of people walking with deliberation to and from the Mosque, I wondered how to reconcile crowds and peace.
As we checked into the hotel, I learned that the concept of time in Medina revolved around the prayers; therefore the guide told us that we could get something to eat after the Zuhr prayers and that he would collect us after Asr and drop us back to the hotel by Maghreb, or alternatively we could meet after Esha.
It was a 24-hour city, with people coming in and out of the Masjid al Nabawi all day and all night; and though parts of the mosque became very, very crowded, I soon realised that Medina was indeed very peaceful.
As life orbited the prayer times and the opening and closing of certain parts of the mosque, there was a comforting regularity there, and thousands and thousands of people with the same or similar intentions, creating a space of synchronisation and of belonging and hope. In a few hours, I felt that I had been there for days.
Considering it was my very first visit to Medina, I felt a surprising familiarity that I was unable to explain. I waited over four hours to be allowed into the Riadhul Jannah, and experienced a near stampede en route, but for a highly impatient easily irritable person like me, that was no matter. I suppose I had imbibed Medina’s peace.
I also absorbed a lot of its history as we took a tour—Ziyarat as it was referred to, of the holy sites, and gradually much of what I knew about the Prophet (pbuh) gradually became so very significant and relatable.
As the Fajr azaan came to an end, and the last echo of the call to prayer faded into the silence, I realised that I was back in my veranda, in Dhaka; but for a few minutes, I experienced the same peace that I felt in Medina.
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.