Updated: May 17
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Copyright © 2023 by Hadiza Bagudu.
Alhaji Suleiman Yahaya was nostalgic as he walked into gate 36 of the Prophet’s Mosque (Peace and blessings of Allah be with him), for Magrib and Ishai’ prayers, together with his roommates, who were just as amazed as he was. It was his second visit, and even though things were significantly different from his last visit, twenty-two years ago, it still felt the same. Everything was modern and sophisticated. There were a lot more buildings and skyscrapers in the city than before. And even the flight was
more luxurious than the previous one, and the pilgrim service was more organized. Everything has changed, but the feeling remained the same.
There must have been hundreds of people trouping into this gate, which is one of many, adding to the unbelievable number of people already in the mosque, and yet, it is not full, yet. The mosque had gotten a lot bigger and fancier from the last time he prayed in it, and the feeling of joy overwhelmed him as he got lost in the past. He had been just twenty-seven the last time he was here, but he was already rich, though he was ashamed to admit that the money was not clean. He was a thief and a fraudster. He did everything from petty theft to highway robbery to the ever-so-common 419 duping of people. He did everything to make money, and he made a lot of it. He was so good that aside from a few minor brushes with the law, he never went to jail or even got caught.
He got wealthy through his trade and even married one of the most beautiful girls in his neighborhood. Her name was Surrayya. He had had a long-standing crush on her but was never in her league until he became rich, and then she fell for him. Her parents were thrilled to let her marry him and even defended him when people called him a thief. They had two children. She was with him when he came here for the first time. It had been just a mere formality then, but it changed him. The whole experience, the imam’s sermons, and the devotion all got to him, and he began to rethink his choices in life. He realized he was wrong and needed to stop and change and make amends. No amount of repentance that he would do at that time would make any difference unless he did those things first.
As soon as he returned home, he returned all the stolen money. He did his best to track down some of his victims, give them back their money and property, and apologize. The ones that he couldn’t track, he gave away to charity. Some forgave him, while others beat him and called the police. He was arrested and thrown in jail. His wife left him and took the children with her. She said she couldn’t stand the insults and finger-pointing from people and that her parents threatened to disown her. He begged and even refused to give her a divorce, but she took him to court and was granted an annulment for being defrauded into marrying him. He was devastated.
As luck would have it, however, he was released early from prison for good behavior after spending just a few years. He went straight to his wife to apologize and hopefully have her take him back, but she was already happily married to another man. There was nothing he could do about it. He had no money, a job, or a house of his own. He couldn’t even afford food to eat. The temptation to return to his old ways was very high, but he could resist it.
He prayed over it one night, and in the morning, he knew what to do. To be genuinely remorseful, he knew he had to start from the bottom, so he went to the market and began helping people to carry their loads for a meager fee. He didn’t have a wheelbarrow, so he had to carry it on his back. It was strenuous work, and he felt like dying by the end of every day. But it was honest work, and that gave him some comfort. He saved most of the money he made, and within a short time, he could buy a small wheelbarrow.
That took the weight off his back, literally. It also made his job easier, so he could double his work and money. In a few months, he bought a larger wheelbarrow, and a few months later he bought his first Jincheng motorbike, which he used to transport people around in the popular Achaba style. Today, fifteen years later he has a successful transport company boasting of a fleet of minibusses, keke-napeps, and Achabas that comb Kano city daily. He recently added a dozen trucks to his business and, Alhaji Kura, who had heard of his stellar business reputation, hired him as the leading transporter and distributor of his cement and textiles. He uses his trucks to transport and distribute Kura Cement and Kura prints throughout the country. His wealth and influence doubled overnight, and he became the undisputed king of Transport of Kano.
He has since married another woman and had more children with her. Her name is Walida, and he had met her during his struggle years, and she was there for him. She was the daughter of Malama Jamila, popularly known as Maman Walida by her customers. She was the woman who sold Koko and Kosai, which he ate every morning and evening. She would sit for hours and listen to his stories about his old life and fears for the future without judgment and advise him whenever he needed it. When he asked her to marry him, she said yes. Today she is a housewife living happily in the lap of luxury. He provided her with whatever she wanted or her heart desired within his capacity. He ensured she never had to work again, and her mother also. She is his queen.
He cried as he prayed for forgiveness. Every part of his body and soul years for forgiveness, and he believed in his heart of hearts that Allah would forgive him. He prayed for protection against all temptations and that his whole family would be protected against the devil. He thanked Allah for all his blessings and even felt ashamed for having so much after the kind of life he had lived. But he knew that Allah was forgiving and merciful, and wise. So, He wouldn’t have blessed him if he couldn’t handle it.
Malam Buba, Malam Shata, and Munir were also crying with him. He could tell that this journey meant just as much to them as it was to him, and he prayed silently that Allah answered all their prayers.
When they returned, they were treated to a
buffet in the hotel’s restaurant. It was incredible. There was all kind of assorted food, meat, drinks, and fruits, and he couldn’t help but salivates. The menu consists of both Middle Eastern and international dishes and desserts. There were hot and cold-water dispensers together with those dispensing fruit juices. There were also smartly dressed chefs waiting and ready to prepare anything you wanted to eat that was not already on the table, and the pilgrims were already going up and down, helping themselves to the food. All these are new to him. His first visit could in no way compare to this. The luxury and comfort this time are on a whole other level.
Munir assisted as usual, and they all had a wonderful meal. By the time they returned to their rooms, they were exhausted, and as soon as his head hit the pillows, he was out. His luggage was not even unpacked.
They were treated to a breakfast buffet, and the following day before, they hopped on a reserved bus to go for a Ziyarah (tour) around Madina City. First, they went to Masjid Quba, located on the outskirts of Madinah. It is the first mosque built during Prophet Muhammad's lifetime (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Built-in the 7th century, the Prophet himself was believed to have positioned the first stones of the building when he migrated to Madinah from Maccah during the Hijrah. That was also where the first Friday prayer was held. Therefore, it is customary for all Hajjis to visit the mosque and offer two Raka’at prayers when they visit Madinah, the prophet's city (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It is believed that performing wudu in one’s home and offering two Rakaa’t if Nafil prayer there would earn you a reward equal to performing Umrah.
The mosque had seven main entrances, four parallel minarets, and 56 mini domes surrounding the perimeter. The courtyard comprises black, red, and white marble, and the rest is all white. Outside, there were traders and hawkers of various kinds of goods, ranging from eatables like dates and sweets to jewelry and toys, and even clothes. He was surprised to hear some of the overzealous young Arab traders yelling in Hausa language – Jallabiya Riyal biyar biyar!, trying their best to appeal to the Nigerian pilgrims who are known to be avid spenders.
The air conditioning inside the mosque was a delightful contrast to the burning heat of the outside. The women’s prayer area was surrounded by a screen and divided into two parts, and there was a veranda with a roof to protect from the heat. There was a red carpet on the ground, both inside the prayer area and outside in the courtyard, which also served as an additional prayer area. Large chandeliers hung overhead, and bookshelves filled with Qur’an and other Islamic books were plenty. There were also fridges filled with cold Zamzam water for the Hajjis to quench their thirst. There were several other hajjis from all over the world also coming and going, and their buses were parked neatly outside. The mosque is said to have the capacity to hold 20,000 worshipers at one time, and there is never an end to the in and out flow of people.
From there, they went to the Garden of the Prophet ((Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), also known as the first date garden in the world. According to History, a Persian man called Salman came to the prophet ((Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) complaining to him that he was a slave and his master, a jew of the Bani Quraizah would not allow him to have contact with the Muslim community and participate in acts of worship that could earn him great rewards unless if he buys his freedom with 300 date palms and 40 ounces of gold, a price which was far beyond his means. So, the Prophet ((Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), in his wisdom, urged the Companions to donate. Together, they got 300 date palm shoots which the prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) planted with his own hands after Salman dug the holes with help from his companions. The dates palms took root and thrived till this day.
At the farm, there is a single-building mart where several types of dates are sold, and the Hajjis all troop in to buy and take home to their families as gifts. Other sweets and treats were also sold there, but the Hajjis specifically go there for dates. Dates are known to be one of the most nutritionally dense fruits in the world, with healing properties, and the dates that Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) planted with his own hands are blessed. Therefore, no Hajji would agree to leave Madinah without purchasing at least some blessed dates.
Before leaving, they walked around the farm to have a feel for it and were glad for the shade that the trees provided, as the desert heat was palpable. Before leaving, they bought freshly squeezed oranges from a vendor and drank the cool liquid to quench their thirst.
Next, they visited mount Uhud, where the famous battle of Uhud was fought. It was the second battle between the Muslims and the unbelievers and was fought on March 19, 625 CE (3 Shawwal in the Islamic Colander). The Muslims represented the force from Madinah and were led by the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself, and the Unbelievers represented a force from Maccah. Abu Sufyan ibn Harb led them. Many Muslims migrated from Maccah after fleeing prosecution, together with the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and settled in Madinah. Therefore, it wasn’t an easy fight, as they were essentially fighting their own family. However, the persecution was so severe that they had to leave Maccah, their home, and migrate to Madina, and now they face a fierce enemy who is determined to destroy them because of their faith.
The Muslim army was heavily outnumbered but fought bravely and with faith and was almost victorious until a grave mistake was made, which turned the tide against them. when some of the fighters, overwhelmed by the prospect of victory, disobeyed the Prophet’s (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) order, and left their posts, resulting in a surprise attack by the unbelievers, which led to the death of many Muslims and Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) being severely injured. It was a dark day.
Many of the Hajjis attempted to climb the mountain, which was the battle scene, and pray and then take pictures. From there, they went to the burial grounds of some of the martyrs and prayed for them. Then had to quickly go back to Masjid Al-Nabawi to make it for the Zuhur Prayer. It’s not that they couldn’t pray in any other mosque, but there are three mosques in the world in which the reward for praying in them far outweighs every other mosque in the world:
1. Masjid Al-Haram (Maccah).
2. Masjid Al-Nabawi (Madinah)
3. Masjid Al-Aqsah (Jeruselem)
And whenever in proximity to any of them, most Muslims prefer to pray there than anywhere else.
Thank you for reading this episode of 'An Epic Journey of Faith.' What do you think of Alhaji Suleiman? Do you think he will find redemption? Did you learn new things about the Islamic Pilgrimage? Talk to me in the comments section. Also, like, share, and subscribe.
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