Tuesday, January 21, 2014


May Allah bless him, Ameen.

I had no idea who this Zimbabwe man was, until an encounter with Mawaddah at the college's surau last year. It was the lunch break and being IB students we were, going back to our room would only mean not coming back to class (because obviously, there's the bed and the rest is history),  so we girls, whom the hostel blocks are ten minutes walking distance away, preferred to laze around the Surau's women section instead. I was playing games on her iPhone (temple run, if I'm not mistaken, which is best played on iPhone or iPod touch considering the screen touch sensitivity was way better than SAMSUNG; and no, I do not own either of them hence everytime I meet Mawaddah, I'd spend 30 minutes with her phone alone). Mawaddah was doing something else while I was preoccupied with the game until after what seemed like forever, I gave her the phone back, telling her that there was no way I will be able to beat her high score (she's a real game-junkie, you have no idea).

She could have bragged on about it, at least, that's what I would have done. But no she didn't. Immediately after she got the phone, she began to click on an Eventbrite app and was busy checking a few online tickets. I was of course, impressed; not knowing a thing about the 2D barcode paperless revolution, so I asked her  about it and there and then she spilled on about the gadget info and also about who's-coming-to-town.

"I thought you knew," she said.

Hah-ha. Nope, I don't. Who is this man. Mufti Menk? 
No. Never heard of him.

"Well then, maybe you should come. I'm not sure if there are still tickets, but it's worth checking them out. They're free,"

I said okay and booked 4 tickets to one of the talks that was available for the weekend. Everything else was fully booked. (Whoa, this man must be famous)! 
Honestly, I only considered going because I wanted install the Eventbrite app and see how the barcode thingy works, hehe. 

I don't know what I was expecting when I attended the talk, but my Lord, was I surprised when I listened to his lecture.
Mufti Menk is an incredible speaker.
He talks like he didn't need to catch a breath. Every word was clear, powerful and energetic. His Quran recitation was flawless.
You know how when you listen to talks sometimes and the man in front was  saying something and suddenly three quarter of the room laughs, and you and your friends went 'What just happened?', well you won't have to do that when you listen to the booming voice of Mufti Menk. I tell you, his lecture just snaps. Word-by-word smacking your face, stabbing your heart; and it is all the truth. He was not shouting at the microphone, but it did feel like some kind of Friday sermon. A powerful one that just build you and make you sit upright. Yeah, like it's meant for the army and every word just leave you nodding and shutting up.

He have this thing that makes you disciplined and listen to what he have to say for as long as the talk takes.
And you won't even complain, because it wasn't boring. At all.

So, you could tell, my family and I enjoyed the lecture; very much. It was only about two hours but it was excellent.

I wasn't really into online lectures then, so I didn't bother to look him up on he internet after the talk. I was more like, That was one good talk. super. Which might explain why I had trouble recalling his audio when I heard it at the As-Safwa Mall at Makkah, a few weeks ago. The audio was very engaging. It was talking about one of the prophet and how he was mentioned in the Quran and the story behind it. 
I asked the man in the bookstore and he said that it's the CD collection of Mufti Ismail Menk: Stories of the Prophet, which were daily lectures at a Masjid in South Africa for the Ramadan nights some years ago. 

"You mean all the prophets?"
"All the prophets."

Cool! The last time I bought a book about the prophets, I came home feeling extremely excited and was immediately disappointed about no less than ten minutes later when my Dad tells me that particular book is full of Israeliyat (adds-on that aren't necessarily true), so I had to be quite careful in differentiating what was the truth and what was not. (which of course I thought, how would I bloody know, and decided not to read it anyway and stick to my childhood knowledge)

So, of course, knowing that Mr. Menk here is gonna tell the; story mentioning that it will be in a manner that is deemed to be the truth as agreed by the muslim scholars; this, my friend, is like a gift for all of us seekers.

I've searched online for the lectures. And Alhamdulillah, it wasn't hard to find the mp3 version of it. Although I did stumble upon a few self-recording that wasn't very clear. Hurt my ears a little from all the background noises. Still, the effort to upload it online is very much appriciated mr. whoever =)

Here's the link to the best website (with no background noise) I found that complied Mufti Menk's lecture including the Complete Stories of the Prophet. Right click and Save As and if your internet line have no problem, you can actually download 'em all in a few hours.

p/s: I tried listening to the stories of the prophets in the train once while I was busy instagramming. It didn't work out.Unless you're like a real multitasker, plug in something else if you wanna go double on the gadget.
This guy is no Eric Clapton background music; well at-least, for me. Since I comment and like instagram pictures like anything. haha.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


(you might wanna read the Madinah post first here because chronologically, that was how it went.)
As if anyone reads this.
*      *     *

Anyway, you will definitely notice when you've entered Makkah.
It's a busy city.
Cars were everywhere. Espescially the white Makkah taxis. Man, they occupy 80% of the streets.

We checked in the hotel around 1am and this time, we can put the sweaters away. It was 24 degrees Celsius which served as a perfect temperature to complete our umrah (the tawaf, saie, and tahallul).

The difference between Madinah and Makkah is vast.
At Madinah, everyone was more calm and contented. I didn't get to see that much drama as I was hoping. But Makkah, masyaAllah, I saw different types of people with struggles, difficulties and pain. 
You walk into Masjidil Haram and you see the faces of these people, praying and bowing and looking at the ceiling with palms spread against their chest, thanking Allah that they've arrived and you just knew it....
It wasn't that easy for everyone to come.

For us, Malaysians, things are more procedure-like.
You have the money, you obtain the visa, you go through agent or what not, you argue for a reasonable hotel, they arrange your catering service, your transportation and all that- then you're good to go.

For some other people, it wasn't that easy.
I was told that some of them rented rooms as far as 5 km away from Masjidil Haram; and that is all they can afford. So they had to walk over to masjidilharam before suboh, stayed until isya' and walk back to the hotel then. Some other bring bundles of clothes and sleep on the roadside or wherever possible because obtaining the flight ticket alone is a major struggle. I saw old men and women, with scribbles of how to perform the Umrah guide on crumpled paper, penciled.

Since the hotel where we stayed at required me to climb this 500 m hill, I would usually stay back at the mosque (masjidil haram) in between prayers escpescially between maghrib and isya;.  For one, if you leave your spot, there's no guarantee you're gonna get it back because the Masjid is cramped for every fardhu prayers. And for two, this is the time where you could actually sit back and talk to one another for the timing is just right.

I got the opportunity to sit beside a beautiful 32 year-old South African lady once and we chatted non-stop. I don't really remember how it started. She was asking me where I was from,, I guess. And I asked her back and it was that simple to break the ice. It was her first time doing Umrah and she kept on and on about how amazing the experience is. We went on talking about random topics, about Makkah, Madinah, her early marriage, my study plan, the Prophet, -everything,  until her two kids arrived and my God, were they cute. They were adorable. Her 11 year old daughter's name was Zulaikha. Her youngest son, around the age of four was very cheeky, asking me to go to sleep and wanting to pull my shawl. Somehow we managed to make him sleep, holding my hand. (CUTE, RITE?!) The subject of discussion went deeper after that. The lady told me she lost her 5 year-old son a few years ago. His name was Muaz and he was the most beautiful boy with long eyelashes and best behaviour. He suffered from an unknown disease that made his mouth swell and later died in his mother's arm. She held back her tears telling me this and shared with me pieces of verses in the Quran mentioning that He knows best. Then, I shared with her some of the disappointments I had in life and we discussed them together where she brought forward her personal opinions on some of my matters. Before we parted, we said salam, hugged and did not exchange contacts or what not. It wasn't necessary. We both kinda know that this kind of friendship remains.

Another time, I was getting ready to pray maghrib when the lady beside me spoke to me in Arabic, asking me where did I buy the 'telekung' (LOL). I told her that I'm from Malaysia and she immediately apologized. After maghrib, she said 'Barakallah' (May Allah bless you) to me and I rummaged my brain for an answer. 
It took me more than a minute to answer 'Wa iyyaki' (And to you to) ; only that I don't think I answered that. I said 'Minna wa minkum' (To us and to you) LOL! 
She was impressed anyway. It turned out that she's from Palestine and had brought along her 3 daughters and son. (The son was with the father so I didn't get to see him). 
Her daughters were all very beautiful. The oldest one is around 14 years old. The middle one was eleven. And I can swear she looked like Lindsay Lohan. With the brunette hair and all that. 
The youngest one is only 3 years old, blonde, hazel eyes, uncombed ruffly hairs and insisted to pray without her hijab on. My Lord, I wanted kids there and then. 
The Mum turned out to be an English teacher and that was why she could converse in English. I asked her about the situation in Palestine, and she could only sigh and said that she is lucky enough to come over to Makkah. Most of them, espescially in Gaza, would not even be allowed to step outside the massive wall Israel has built. She then mentioned that she had no choice but to send her kids to school in Isarel for education purposes. She had to educate the children about Islam herself and made sure they know what they should. The kids have to put up learning Hebrew and Jewish history and it worried her that their identity may float so she had to remain firm in teaching them what was necessary. And her savings, most of them are so that her family can perform Umrah.
It sounded very complicated. 
Yet, the lady sounded happy and contented.
Her kids were shy since they knew only the basic English so I got a lot of "What is your name?" and "How old are you?". I tried speaking to them in Arabic and mehhhh, I shouldn't have tried. I sounded like some computer, all with proper verb and noun and pronounciation; like I was reading the Quran.
Their Arabic is all different with short forms and slangs and so, they taught me a few.
For example, for fiftteen, I'd say. Khomsata 'Asyr. They'd go 'Khomstaj'
See what I mean? 
Dude. There was no way I could catch up.
Besides, it took me more than three minutes for a sentence, so in the end, I'd relay my message through their mother and she'd translate it, they'd get excited, babble babble babble in Arabic, and I'd get the translation a minute later. We did this until Isya' (Lol!). And once again, we hugged before departed. And her kids asked for my facebook account.

I met more people later. An 89 year-old Algerian grandma who thought I understood Arabic like 'really' understood them, chatted for hours where I guessed most of her words and pretended to understand, and she later gave me her ring (which made me freak out because I didn't want to marry her son or anything (hahahahaha) , but my Dad assured me that it was nothing). A Turkish lady who asked me to change her clock setting (thank God it was NOKIA, none of the words made sense) and later gave me turkish cookies and patted my back when I'm done, an Arab lady who knew not an English word and her Arabic accent from where she came from was so thick and fast, I gave up guessing and in the end we both just smiled awkwardly. Few Malays including my dormmate's mother and her sister. My Mum long lost friend. The daughter of my father's friend. Pak Cik Suzaili from KMB (whom I've silently prayed to meet because Puan Sharidho did mention to me that it might be possible for us to be in Makkah on the same date. and many others; it would take pages to mention how I encountered them and what we talked about.

Among the places we went to while we were at Makkah includes Arafah, Mina, Muzdalifah, Jabal Rahmah, Jabal Nur, Jabal Thur and many other.

We were reminded of Rasulullah's struggle, his final sermon and the do's and dont's of a Muslim. Going to these places was a great experience because we finally get to see how everything looked like. Jabal Nur, where stood the Hira' Cave, was unbelievably steep, we were amazed at Khadijah's r.a, who was then in her 50's, strength to deliver food and necessities for the Prophet. And Jabal Thur, though we could only see it from far, looked very small it was a wonder how the Prophet and Abu Bakr hid there.

On our last day in Makkah, my mother and I woke up early and went over to Masjidil Haram in the dark. We decided to give it a try on entering the temporary first floor tawaaf  deck area for people in wheelchair. It was around 3.30 am so there were not that many people doing tawaf on the deck. The guards allowed us in (which will never be possible during the day time. The rule was only one person with wheelchair could enter).
But we were allowed in anyway, Alhamdulillah.
Maybe because it was before suboh and the rule only started after the prayer or something, I dunno.

But the feeling of being there. Man.
Subhanallah, I've never felt such peace before in my life. I could see the kaabah from above. The tiles were cold, the night breeze was amazing, and everybody around me was either praying or reading Quran or making duas or doing their tawaf. Nobody was chatting around or anything.

Sorry for the blur image. I was walking. This is how the temporary deck looked like.

The guards managed to empty the Hijr Ismail.
For some reason, it was emptied at this hour and there were only 3 people in there praying.
Must be the King or someone.
Look at the crowd at 3.30 am. MasyaAllah.

Peeping for Ka'bah.
. I guess not many people knew
they opened up before suboh for everyone including the non-disabled.
At this time, everyone was preparing for Aazan and finding spots to pray Jamaah.
The women went to the back, the men ascended to front.
It was quiet and peaceful.
The natural 16 degree Celsius air  swept the night and before we knew it, it was dawn. 
The clock tower before and after suboh.

View from where my Mum and I prayed our Suboh

I had a great time here. Many of my worries were gone.
Honestly, my head felt like exploding before Umrah. And I had this troubled period of time where I was restless and thought of unnecessary complexities.
Two weeks of detaching myself from the internet, away from contacts of all form and simply living the life where observing everything around me, it was great.
I think I'm gonna do that more often now. Disable whatsapp or something hahaha.

Truly, I wanted to go back,
Here I am, writing this in Malaysia, and I miss the feeling of being there in Masjidil Haram and Masjidin Nabawi.
And I wonder what it's like to pray in Masjidil Aqsa.

Let's put that in the bucket list. Amin.
Till we meet again, Makkah.


So, let's start.

When my Dad told me the good news that he've booked the tickets for Umrah this year, I didn't know how to react. The 'Angel' part of me was jumping up and down in happiness at the thought that I would finally be able to see Ka'bah again and my 'Devil' part just could not stop listing out all the reason why I shouldn't go.
For one, the guy from IDP just called, insisting that I proceed with the VISA for Australia a.s.a.p (which I'm sure he didn't mean 2 weeks later) and I wanted to settle my shopping list and medical check up and everything which will take up quite a lot of time so I'm not sure if getting them settled after I'm back on January would be such a good idea considering we're thinking of pressing MARA for an early flight to settle accommodation matters.
So, I wasn't exactly ready to go.

Which was ridiculous.

Writing this and thinking back of how absurd I was is just plain embarrassing.
I mean, what was I thinking? That all these worldly matters are within my control.
And that this Umrah thing, it can wait.
Please, someone, give me a hammer and allow me to knock my head off.

There is no way, no no no way in the future (insyaAllah)  that I'm gonna think twice again.
And people, please, if you have the chance to do Umrah, go.
Makkah and Madinah are two holy cities that I can't fully describe how amazing they are. You feel like crying all the time, you meet incredible people with different backgrounds and you just, you feel belonged.

It's not like a visit to some foreign land.
It's like going back home.
And everybody acknowledges that. They know that you too, even if you're not from Saudi Arabia, that this is your place. Just as well.

This year, our route was a little different than last time. We spend around 7 days at Madinah first, then we proceeded with the UMRAH at Makkah.

When we arrived at Madinah, it was around 3 am and it was freeezing. My sweater was in the luggage and I only had my black jubah on, so we had to do an immediate check in or I'll die. Not. Lol. The lobby was well heated thank God. (We stayed at a simple 3 star hotel that is within a walking distance from the Women's Door (Babunnisa') of Masjidin Nabawi. The good thing about staying nearby the masjid is that you can go back and forth easily without trouble. And the calling for prayer, the azan, is always loud and clear so you can't miss it. (Not that anybody will, I think, considering the hadith,

Abu Ad-Dardaa’  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him reported on the authority of the Prophet 
that the reward for praying at the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah)
 is equal to the reward for one hundred thousand regular prayers; 
the reward for praying at the Prophet’s Mosque (in Madeenah) 
is equal to the reward for one thousand regular prayers; 
and the reward for praying at the Al-’Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) 
is equal to the reward for five hundred regular prayers. 
[Al-Bazzaar] This is an authentic narration.
(source here)

Here's some pics I took the next day once I was all sober from the long journey of more than 9 hours flight and 5 hours bus ride. The weather was beautiful and the masjid was beyond perfection. Hence, no filter; since I'm too lazy to photoshop anyway.

The pathway to women's entrance. 

 Clean shot with Mr. Ipod. Yes, he came along. Of course.

The umbrella roof closes at night (a genius invention)

The crowd, after isya' prayer on Friday's night

Madinah, is the city founded by Rasulullah   and I couldn't imagine what it must have been like back then 14 hundred years ago when it happened. The people must have been so happy. Their life must have meant more than anything. To be able to walk side by side with the Prophet, to listen to his talks and ask his opinion. To witness the arrival of wahyu and listening to it on the spot. To be known by him. And his family. And his companions.

Walking alone around the masjid area, I came to the green dome where below, was the place where Rasulullah  was burried and as I was saying my saalam to him, it got me thinking. It must have been hard for the Muslims then to lose him. Such a noble leader unlike other. The Last Messenger of mankind. The man who have inspired the world. The chosen one.

I grow up learning about him but I have never such deep feeling of loss than looking at Maqam (the grave) with my own eyes.

I wonder if he knows me.
And I wonder what he thinks of me.
Or the kind of life I've led.

We had a tour around madinah a few days before our journey to Makkah. Among the places were the Quba' mosque, the Qiblatain mosque, the Jabal Uhud (where the second war in the history of Islam, 'Battle of Uhud ',took place), and the Kurma Plantation.

The battle ground.

Jabal Uhud

Quba' mosque

Qiblatain Mosque

Kurma tree =D

After 7 days, we bid goodbye to Madinah and prepared ourselves for Umrah in Makkah. Which was around 5 hours driving distance away. The journey was...long. Particularly because there was nothing except desert and rocky mountains, sands after sands for view. I kept looking out for camels or goats or I dunno, some trees, perhaps, but there was nothing. Just a long road that stretch endlessly. The guys took turns leading the talbiyah on the bus microphone and about 2 and a half hours later, everybody in the bus started to doze off as dusk approached and veiled the sky. And really, it was veiled.
The sky was pitch black. 
Really, really black.

I don't know how the Prophet and Abu Bakr did it. Walking through the desert in pitch black, with limited food and water supply, with no living creatures around, at the state of being chased, all the way from Makkah. They must have had total devotion, their belief and dependence towards Allah must have been throughout that no doubt was crossing their hearts to give up.

I was on a bus, and even that I complained I couldn't sleep properly and that the journey was too long.
If somebody would have told me that I was to walk; or ride a camel, I'd flip.

Before long, we reached Makkah and at the sound of busy honkings everywhere, we know we've reached the city.
The Holy City where stood Ka'bah and Masjidil Haram.
Where Rasulullah was born. Where he grew up.