|Al-Baqi Cemetery from the roadside.|
Our mutawwif (umrah guide) led the men, while a lady mutawwif was introduced to lead the women. The split was necessary because the visit included going inside Masjid Nabawi to visit Raudhah, which had separate sections for men and women.
What is Raudhah? It’s an area in Masjid Nabawi, located between the tomb of Nabi Muhammad SAW (used to be his house) and the mimbar (where Imam stands to read khutbah). As narrated by Al-Bukhari, Nabi Muhammad SAW said, “The area between my house and my mimbar is one of the gardens of paradise.”
How big is Raudhah? It’s 22 meters x 15 meters, about the size of 4 badminton courts. Imagine having thousands of people trying to enter the tight space. People running to get inside, pushing one another, shouting at each other.. chaotic!
But to most pilgrims, it’s worthwhile to fight for a chance to perform ibadah in Raudhah. Why? Because it’s one of those places where doa is mustajab (accepted). But even if you make it to Raudhah, will your ibadah still be counted if your hurt other Muslims while trying to get there?
That was exactly what the lady mutawwif wanted to educate us. We were going to Raudhah to say our prayers, to beg for forgiveness, to ask for blessings. We should do it right from the beginning. She told us to continuously say salam to Rasulullah and his companions Abu Bakar and Umar who were buried alongside him. Then she reminded us to perform wuduk as we were about to enter solat area. As we stepped inside, we were told to say niat to iktikaf, so that the angels of paradise would spread their wings over us during the time we spent in the mosque, even if we simply sit still.
Then we proceeded to the waiting area, where the crowd was divided into ethnics. Arabs (Saudis, Egyptians, Emiratis etc.) in one group, Indians (Hindis, Pakistanis etc.) in one group, Malays (Malaysians, Indonesians, Singaporeans etc.) in one group. The race to visit Raudhah officially began.
I looked around me and saw how the mosque staffs – ladies clad in black from head to toe with nothing but a number on their veil to tell them apart – struggled to manage the massive traffic. They released the groups one by one. Some groups were bigger, thus took longer time. Some cheeky pilgrims jumped into other groups to get earlier chance.
Our mutawwif reminded us to stay patient, continue saying doa, for our turn would come eventually. She also suggested for us to donate some money to the cleaners who worked at the mosque. “We are going to a good place, to do good things, so let’s start with good deeds,” she said. So we gathered some cash and handed it to her. She took it to the cleaners and gave them a small sum each. Then we continued waiting, till the time came for us to set foot in Raudhah.
The mosque staffs called for our group to enter. Everyone rushed in. I remembered the mutawwif’s words, “If you want to be sure that you are in Raudhah, look at the carpet. Raudhah’s carpet is green, while the rest of the mosque’s is red.” I looked underneath my feet. Green carpet. I was in Raudhah!
I glanced to my left at saw the golden grills of the tombs. I looked in front and saw the beautiful mimbar. Tears broke down without reason. Despite people pushing me from all directions, I was in my own world. Performed solat, read doa and said salam to Rasulullah and his companions. No time should be wasted. Each group was only allowed several minutes in the area.
A moment later the mosque staffs told us to go out. Our time was up. We needed to give way to others.
We walked out of the green carpet, along the enclosed pathway, back to the women’s solat area. The visit to Raudhah was short, yet it was so meaningful. We performed sujud shukur. Let it be with the long wait, let it be with the people pushing, the blessing of doing ibadah in the garden of paradise was simply priceless.
We left Masjid Nabawi and returned to the hotel. I glanced at my watch and realized the entire event took more than two hours. Did I mind having to wait for so long in the mosque, just to get a short while in Raudhah? Not at all. Because I knew the angels of paradise had their wings spread over me the entire time.
No photos taken of Raudhah because women are not allowed to bring cameras into Masjid Nabawi. But for men it’s totally fine. Why? No idea. Perhaps the authorities just don’t want women start acting like supermodels in the holy place.
If you want to know how it looks like, please visit this blog. You will see some really great pictures, including one showing the green carpet that differentiates Raudhah from the rest of the mosque. For detail diagrams of how to go to Raudhah and its exact position, please visit this blog.
By the way, Raudhah is actually located within men’s solat area, thus it’s only open for women at limited times:
- In the morning, from 7am to 11am.
- In the afternoon, after Zuhur prayer to 3pm.
- At night, after Isha prayer to 11pm.
For men, Raudhah is accessible 24 hours.
The closest door to Raudhah for women is door number 25. The closest for men is Bab Jibril. Anyway, you can actually enter through any door you wish. Once you get inside, I’m sure you’ll somehow find your way to the garden of paradise.