September 13, 2015
By God’s grace, I’m still functioning after only about 3.5 hours of broken sleep. I slept for 2.5 hours last night, and woke up early so that myself, Sheikh Tamir, and a group of others could go to the Rawdah. It’s a special section in the Prophet’s mosque where the Prophet (p) said between his pulpit and his house is a garden from Paradise. It was incredibly packed, even at 3:30 AM. People were packing together to try and stand on the green carpet which marked Paradise. And I began to get frustrated, wondering why people were going through such effort to pray inside a space that, to an outsider, would just be a green carpet. But then I looked at it in a different way: this really was an analogy for religion. People of all races exerting themselves, sacrificing their comfort, just to reach a goal that, in this life, they can’t see, with people they don’t know, and what their heart can only feel.
This was the beginning of my religious maturation on Hajj. It was my first real encounter with a sacred space, and to be honest, it was frustrating. There were so many people packing the area that I could barely move. I got separated from the group I was with. I delicately tried to step between and step around the people who were praying or sitting. Sheikh Tamir told us to just go to the Rawdah, pray two units (rakah) of prayer, make your supplication, then leave. He specifically said not to sit and wait there until the morning prayer. But when we got there, most people were just sitting and waiting. After getting separated, I stood just outside the Rawdah, waiting for an opening. Finally, a stranger was gracious enough to give up his spot and motioned for me to go where he was standing. I set foot right on the edge of the green carpet, which marked the beginning of the Rawdah. But again, there were so many people that the most I could do was make a supplication and leave.
Most of the time here, I was frustrated. I didn’t understand why people were exerting themselves so much—sometimes at the expense of others—to stand in this area. To anyone else, it would have just looked like an area with green carpet. And at the time, even I had trouble understanding the significance of it. I had trouble understanding why people would go out of their way and push and shove their way into this space. I was told this was a garden of Paradise, but at the time I couldn’t see beyond the green carpet and packed bodies.
This began a gradual, sometimes painful, process of understanding what it’s like to be face-to-face with the unseen. I would experience it again in my journey, but here is where it germinated.
In the face of unknowing, I chose to learn. I later bought a book on the Rawdah to try and understand it better. With regards to it being a garden of Paradise, scholars have interpreted it several different ways. Some said it was a metaphor for learning, as Prophet Muhammad (p) would teach in that section of his mosque. But the most accurate opinion is that it is a real garden of Paradise, but it exists in the realm of the unseen in a way that we can’t comprehend in this world.
The Prophet (p) said that supplications made in this area are never rejected. I can’t remember what supplications I made while I stood there, but at least I have the comfort of knowing that they were answered.