VISITING MEDINA

The resting place of the Messenger of Allah in Medina, which pilgrims visit either at the beginning or at the end of their pilgrimage, is spiritually a very important place for the believers. Believing hearts feel the Divine love there. This is why when we walk around and breathe the air in Medina, we should remember and think about the act and the breaths of the Messenger of Allah. When we visit his tomb, we hope to be filled with his spirituality and we should never forget that this is the last resting place of the most valuable gem of this universe. We need to show the utmost respect and the appropriate excitement of being among his ummah.

The Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) said that:

“…I have declared sacred what is between the two lava grounds of Medina just as Abraham (Peace Be Upon Him) declared Mecca as sacred and prayed for it…”(Bukhari, Fada’il al-Madina, 6; Muslim, Hajj, 462)

We have to love the Messenger of Allah more than ourselves, our wealth, our children or more than everything we have; because he is the only person whom Allah the Almighty praised with the complement of Habibi or My friend/beloved” and also ordered the believers to love Him. In this context Qadi Iyad (may Allah show mercy on his soul) interpreted the following verses:

“Say: If your fathers and your sons and your brethren and your friends and your kinsfolk and property which you have acquired, and the slackness of trade which you fear and dwellings which you like, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His way, then wait till Allah brings about His command: and Allah does not guide the transgressors”(al-Tawba 9; 24) as:

“Allah the Almighty made obligatory to the Prophet’s ummah to love His Messenger along with loving Him.”

Love felt for a being will spread and get reflected on everything which is committed to it. For instance, what makes Uhud different and lovable than the rest of the mountains on earth is the Prophet’s special love for it. This is why when someone comes to Medina he or she should look upon Uhud with love. Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) stated  that: “Uhud loves us and we love it, too.” (Bukhari, Jihad, 71)

What made this city called Medina to be loved by the believers, even though it was known as the city of Yathrib before the migration, is its connection with the Messenger of Allah and the rich memories of him that abound there. The believers’ unique love for this city is  a result of being reminded of Allah’s messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) whenever we hear the cities name.

Similarly loving Allah requires love for His Messenger and showing obedience to him. This is why Allah the Almighty ordered in His Holy Book:

“Say (O Muhammad!): If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you…”(Al-i Imran 3; 31)

Endeavoring to follow and love for the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) will also give us the honor of being among the servants loved by Allah the Almighty.  The Companions of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) paid the utmost attention to the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) so as to get closer to his reality and benefit from his spirituality. Consequently they were blessed with endless Divine blessings. This is why the most effective cure for our sick and heedless hearts is to love the Messenger of Allah and “to obey and follow his Sunnah.”

Nothing should come before the love for the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him). Neither our house, nor our family, nor our children, nor our jobs and responsibilities!

Saying “my ummah, my ummah” the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) spent all his life in love for his followers. He tried to protect them like a compassionate mother protecting her children. He (Peace Be Upon Him) once told his Companions:

“Beware! I am a security for you in my lifetime and after my death, I will say in my grave “my ummah, my ummah …” until the first trumpet of the Day of Judgment is blown…”(Ali al-Muttaqi, Kanzu’l Ummal, v. 14, p. 414)

In fact he (Peace Be Upon Him) went to his Best Friend repeating the words “my ummah, my ummah …” In his final breaths, he was expressing his love, compassion and fondness for us saying: “I will be waiting for you by my pond of Kawthar in Paradise…”

In short as it is stated in the Holy Qur’an:

“Now has come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that you should perish: ardently anxious is he over you: to the Believers is he most kind and merciful.”(al-Tawba 9; 128) Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) thought about us in his crying, laughter, sadness and happiness, prayers and supplications. Even in very special times like the Ascension to Heaven (Miraj) he did not forget us and struggled for us…

He was such a vast sea of mercy that, for his sake, Allah the Almighty did not send disasters and calamities upon the people of Mecca even during the harshest times of oppression, disbelief, and disobedience. It was because the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was among them they were spared. This fact is noted by Allah the Almighty as follows:

“But Allah was not going to chastise them while you were among them …”(al-Anfal 8; 33)

However the situation changed after the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) migrated from Mecca to Medina. Disasters from heavens began to be sent upon the polytheists of Mecca. There occured an outbreak of famine and infertility. When the Meccan people looked up at the skies, they felt dizzy from hunger.

 Allah the Almighty will not punish those who carry love for the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) in their hearts. How can Allah, who did not even punish the polytheists when His Messenger had been among them, punish those who love His Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) and follow his path for their entire lives? On the other hand those who do not have this sun of guidance in their hearts will not be able to escape from the Divine punishment.

Responding  to his love with love is the primary task of those who are honored to be among the ummah of this sultan of the prophets (Peace Be Upon Him), who always kept the believers in his words and in his heart.

However this does not mean just saying or thinking that the Messenger of Allah is in the heart.  According to the principle of “those who love imitate what their beloved does and always remember him or her,” lovers of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) should reflect the Prophet’s Sunnah in every aspect of their lives. The believers should also frequently call for Divine blessings for the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and salute him.

According to Imam Malik (may Allah show mercy on his soul) because the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) has such a lofty place in the presence of Allah, the place of his grave in Medina needs to be considered more sacred than the place of the Ka’bah; because the entire universe has been created for the love and sake of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).

Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) also stated in one of his sayings:

“He who visits me after my death is like the one who visited me during my lifetime.”(daraqutni, Sunan, II, 278)

It is very important to pay attention to manners while visiting the Prophet’s tomb, for manners are of the first rank of importance for getting the benefit of the spirituality of such places.

One day when Imam Malik (may Allah show mercy on his soul) was in the pulpit, Abu Jafar Mansur, the caliph of the time, went into the mosque. He asked some questions to the Imam and a scholarly conversation started between them. However when Abu Jafar Mansur had engaged himself in their conversation too much and began to raise his voice, Imam Malik warned him saying:

“O Caliph! Lower your voice, because Allah’s warning came upon those who were more virtuous than you are.”

The caliph asked:

“O Imam! When I say my supplications, should I turn towards the Ka’bah or the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him)?” Imam replied:

“Why should you turn your face away from him? He is the means for you and your ancestor Adam (Peace Be Upon Him) to Allah the Almighty till the Day of Judgment. On the contrary you should turn towards our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and pray for his intercession so that Allah the Almighty may make him an intercessor for you.”[1]

Some people pretend to be blind for this fact and do not let pilgrims turn towards the tomb of the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him).  They say “just salute the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and turn towards the direction of the Ka’bah;” whereas Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) is alive. Just like the fact that the martyrs of Islam continue to live, it is an absolute truth that the prophets and especially the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon them), who have much higher status than the martyrs, are in an exceptional liveliness even as their bodies are dead.

Abida al-Salmani was one of the prominent jurists and scholars of the subsequent generation of the Companions. He converted to Islam two years before the death of the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him), but he did not have the honor of meeting  him. The following words of Abida beautifully manifest the early believers’ love for the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him):

“Having a single hair of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) with me is more valuable to me than all the treasures of the world.” (Ahmad, III, 256)

When the famous Muslim scholar Dhahabi heard the Abida’s words about the love for the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), he described his own feelings as follows:

“Abida’s words expressing his preference of the Prophet’s single hair over the entire gold and silvers hoard of this world are the utmost manifestation of love for the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).  If this great scholar says these words only fifty years after the Prophet’s death, what should we say seven hundred years after his death, if we had found a strand of his hair, or laces of his shoes, or the pot from which he had drunk water?

Would you consider a rich person as someone spending his wealth foolishly if he spent most of his wealth to acquire such an item?

No, No! Do not abstain from spending all your wealth to visit his blessed mosque, which he built by his own hands, and to get the chance to salute him in his home.

When you get to Medina, gaze fondly at the beloved mountain of Uhud; because the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) loved it very much. Frequently visit his mosque and the places where he sat and try to feed your soul with their spirituality, because you cannot be a perfect believer unless you love the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) more than yourself, your children, your wealth, and all the people on earth…” (Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, IV, 42-43)

The period of the Ottoman Empire, which constituted the most magnificent period of Islamic history after the period of the Companions and their successors, witnessed a society filled with love for the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him). This was true for every member of the Ottoman society from the Sultan to lowly shepherds.

For instance just like today whenever the name of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was mentioned in those times, believers would say their blessings for him and take their hands to their hearts as a sign of respect for him. Poets wrote poems called mawlid praising his life. Whenever the parts of these poems about his birth were recited, people would stand up to show their respect for him. These became customs among the Ottomans as manifestations of their love for the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). There was no Ottoman Sultan who did not refresh his ablution, kiss the letters, and rub them to his eyes, when the mail from Medina arrived. Only after this was done would they would read them, always standing to do so.

During the reconstruction of the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, Ottoman workers paid great care to be ritually pure and to say basmalah (in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful) every time they placed a stone or piece to the building. They tied clothes around their hammers so as not to disturb the spirituality of the Messenger of Allah. These and others are among the most excellent manifestations of Islamic manners.

In this period, Ottomans used to send a procession called “sürre alayı[2] to these sacred places. When the procession arrived in Medina, people would not enter the city. They would camp in a place close to the city for one night and prepare themselves spiritually for its atmosphere. Only after such preparation they would go into the city and perform their rites. On their return to their hometowns, they would take some  Medinan soil with them as a blessing.

When we examine the miniatures of the Ottoman Sultans, we can see a feather like piece on top of their turbans.  Does anybody know that these plumes were representing a broom? In this way Ottoman Sultans were expressing that they were the custodians of those sacred places. They also paid the salaries of the people who swept these sacred places out of their own personal treasury.

For centuries keeping the hairs of the Prophet’s (Peace Be Upon Him) beard in some mosques and protecting them in nicely folded clothe has been a  reflection of the believers’ love for him.

Ottoman respect for those holy places began in the capital of the Empire. For instance when the people of Istanbul set out for the pilgrimage journey from the European side of the city, the first place they passed on the Asian side was called Haram (the sacred place). In this way they were starting to prepare themselves for the spiritual atmosphere of Haramain al-Sharifain (the two sacred places or Mecca and Medina)  at the very beginning of their journey. Then they would not approve of any inappropriate manners or heedlessness for the entire their journey.

In this context, Ottoman poet Nabi’s following memoir of his pilgrimage with some employees of the Ottoman government in 1678 is very remarkable:

On his journey Nabi saw an Ottoman Pasha laying down and heedlessly stretched his legs towards Medina. Nabi was affected by the scene so deeply that he began to write his famous poem praising the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).

When the caravan got close to Medina around the time of dawn prayer, Nabi heard that his poem was recited from the minarets of the Prophet’s mosque in Medina:

Sakın terk-i edebden kûy-i mahbûb-i Hudâ’dır bu;
Nazargâh-ı ilâhîdir, makâm-ı Mustafâ’dır bu!..

“Be careful about your manners in this place which is place of the Divine sight and the town of Allah’s beloved Prophet Mustafa.”

Murâât-ı edeb şartıyla gir Nâbî bu dergâha,
Metâf-ı kudsiyândır, bûsegâh-ı enbiyâdır bu!..

“O Nabi! Enter this place paying attention to your manners. This is a blessed place around which angels turn and prophets kiss (its door step).”

Nabi, who was exited by what had happened, immediately went and found the muezzin:

“How and from whom have you learned this poem?” Muezzin replied:

“Tonight I saw the Messenger of Allah in my dream. He told me:

“A poet called Nabi from my ummah is coming to visit me. This poet is filled with love for me. In return for his love, meet this man by reciting his own poem from the minarets of my mosque.” So I just fulfilled the orders of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).”

Nabi began to sob saying:

“The Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) regarded me as a member of his ummah. The sun of both worlds accepted me to his ummah…”

Therefore the most important matter in performing pilgrimage is to have such lofty feelings during ones visit to the Messenger of Allah and circumambulating around the Ka’bah.

Just like all the other acts of worship, performing pilgrimage in a way that will be accepted by Allah the Almighty depends on perfection of faith and spiritual knowledge. Being able to make our pilgrimage a mabrur pilgrimage (accepted pilgrimage) is a means of attaining the contentment of Allah and being purified of ones sins. In other words the expected result of these acts of worship can be achieved only by performing them in the lofty spiritual level most pleasing to Allah the Almighty.

In this regard the following words of Shibli (May Allah Bless his Secret) to someone who recently performed pilgrimage attracts our attention to the spiritual aspect of pilgrimage and they are very valuable advice and a warning for those who are on their way to pilgrimage:

“When you intend to go to pilgrimage, if you do not repent for all your sins and turn to the straight path, you have not really intended to do it.

When you take of your daily garments to put on ihram, if you do not take the useless things off you, you have not really taken your garments off.

When you perform major ablution, if this purity does not cleanse the spiritual impurities and illnesses from your heart, you have not really performed an ablution.

When you enter the mosque in Mecca, if you do not promise to leave the unlawful things and everything which takes you away from Allah, then you have not really entered the mosque.

When you sacrifice an animal, if you do not sacrifice your desires and will for the pleasure of Allah, then you have not really sacrificed an animal.

When you throw stones at the Devil, if you do not stone the ignorance and hesitations hidden in you and if it does not achieve knowledge in you, then you have not really soned the Devil.

As a result of your visit, have the Divine blessings increased in you and has your soul filled with peace and happiness? Because in a prophetic saying it is noted that:

“Pilgrims are the guests of Allah the Almighty. It is a requirement upon the Host to offer things to His guests.” If you have not recognized these offerings, then you have not really visited (those sacred places) …”[3]

What Shibli (May Allah Bless his Secret) tries to express is the duty to obey the following Divine order:

“Perform the pilgrimage and the visit (to Mecca) for Allah…” (al-Baqara 2; 196)

The most valuable gifts, which pilgrims can take to their home towns, should be the beauties of these sacred places and the morality of the righteous believers who already live in accordance with such beauties.

One day Pakistan’s spiritual architect Muhammad Iqbal visited the pilgrims recently returned from Medina and asked them the following exemplary questions:

“You have visited Medina. With what kind of spiritual gifts from the markets of Medina have you filled your hearts? In time all your material gifts, the capes, the rosaries, and the prayer rugs will be worn down and disappear. Have you brought any spiritual gifts from Medina which will never get old and disappear?

Is the  submission and trustworthiness of Abu Bakr (May Allah Be Pleased With Him), the justice of Umar (May Allah Be Pleased With Him), modesty and generosity of Uthman (May Allah Be Pleased With Him), and the knowledge and bravery of Ali.) among your gifts? Are you going to be able to give the excitement of the age of happiness to the Muslim world, which suffers from numerous hardships?”

May Allah the Almighty bestow upon us to be properly enlightened by the spirituality of these two sacred places! May He bless us to perform our pilgrimage with a sensitive and soft heart! May He accept and make our acts of worship praiseworthy that we performed and will perform in accordance with these principles!

Amin!

[1]       See Qadi Iyad, Shifa-i Sharif, Beirut, 1404, v. II, p. 596

[2]       Sürre alayı: it was themoney, gold and gifts which were sent along with a special entourage by the Ottoman Sultans in order to be distributed to the entire Meccan and Medinan people from the poorest to the wealthiest during the month of Rajab (See Münir Atalar, Sürre-i Hümayun ve Sürre Alayları, Diyanet işleri Başkanlığı yayınları, Ankara, 1991, p. 2)

[3]       See Ibn Arabī, Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyyah, ed. by Osman Kahya, Cairo, 1986, X, 133-38