Umrah Tour 2008
There is no God but God, Muhammad is the prophet of God.
Whoever Allah wishes to guide, He opens his heart to Islam. (Al-Qur'an, 6:125)
Introduction / Preamble
Every Muslim around
Departure from Lahore Airport
Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, being a wheelchair user, I was
well-handled and well-supported by the ground staff. They pushed my wheelchair through a long passenger terminal adjacent to the aircraft gate,
transfer me to on-board aisle chair and then picked me up to shift on seat (however with great struggle). Thanks to
PIA for providing this special service to invalids. My seat was far away from the main entrance
so I was taken there with immense trouble as the passages and seat spaces in economy
class are very limited and narrowed. It was due to the PIA flight personnel who don't
consider the nature of my disability while issuing boarding pass.
At the time of departure, we were issued advance boarding passes for our scheduled return
journey on May 7, 2008. When I checked these cards, I was shocked; the month
marked by the personnel was March instead of May 2008. I met the officer responsible for
this blunder and pointed out his mistake. He was very obliged and said, "I
want to salute you for this mistake to bring into my notice".
After having boarding cards in hand, we go on to flight lobby (departure hall). Here we
perform some essentials; wear Ahraam, made intention (niyyah) of Umrah and
offered nafal in the masjid specially built in the lobby. For some technical reasons, our
flight was late by one hour and we left Lahore at about 12:00 noon.
At the time of departure, we were issued advance boarding passes for our scheduled return journey on May 7, 2008. When I checked these cards, I was shocked; the month marked by the personnel was March instead of May 2008. I met the officer responsible for this blunder and pointed out his mistake. He was very obliged and said, "I want to salute you for this mistake to bring into my notice". After having boarding cards in hand, we go on to flight lobby (departure hall). Here we perform some essentials; wear Ahraam, made intention (niyyah) of Umrah and offered nafal in the masjid specially built in the lobby. For some technical reasons, our flight was late by one hour and we left Lahore at about 12:00 noon.
Landing at Jeddah Hajj Terminal
We flew in PIA aircraft Boeing 777-24ER (non-stop special Umrah flight PK-7011). As I was traveling first time on an international route and indoor of an aircraft was a little bit strange experience for me, I was keen to know everything available in the plane. There were individual foldable mini LCD screens attached to each seat with a wire remote control were displaying interesting flight information like; distance traveled, distance to destination, time to destination, local time and temperature to destination, altitude, and speed with a real-time location of the aircraft in a graphical map (supported by Google Earth). After a pleasant journey of 5 hours, we landed at Jeddah Hajj Terminal. It was 3:00 pm local time (5:00 pm Pakistan time; Saudi local time is 2 hours behind to Pakistan local time). I was surprised when aircraft crew left me all alone by saying; being wheelchair user, now Saudi crew will take care of you. They don't allow even my brother to stay with me. This situation was terrible for me and before I protest, there were three Saudi men with a mini-chair (on-board aisle chair). They picked me from seat and shifted to mini-chair with great struggle. Indeed, they were somehow inadequately trained to handle persons like me. suggestion at bottom At Jeddah Hajj Terminal, there is no adjacent terminal to aircraft gate, so passengers come down through stairs and then taken to immigration via buses. For wheelchair users, they have air-conditioned "Passenger Boarding Lift" that docked to aircraft gate and wheelchair users are bringing down to kerbside (floor level) very smoothly.
Emigration and Travel to Makkah
My family members were already in the immigration, surprisingly waiting for me and as we joined in a hall, I noticed there were three counters and almost 450 passengers were divided into queues, waiting for their turn. Saudi personnel were taking photograph of each passenger and computerizing their data. The process was somehow slow and I guessed, it would take hours to computerize whole batch. I asked a young Saudi guy, "Is there a special counter for wheelchair users?" He looked at me from top to bottom, think for a while and said, "Follow me". Thus, we checked out on priority and within 15 minutes we were about to collect our luggage. It's a remarkable and appreciable change in the Saudi Hajj Ministry that they have recruited young guys of 18-20 years of age who can understand English and are cooperative in general sense.
The weather was pleasant when we came out from Hajj Terminal and felt no difference from Lahore. We were delighted and emotional to see the Holy Kaaba as soon as possible but we were shocked and surprised when there was no representative of Al-Tawaf (our tour operator) to receive us. Thanks to my spouse who didn't loose her nerves and contacted to regional representative over cell phone. In fact, he was waiting us at King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah as the flight was scheduled to land there but the Saudi Aviation Authority re-scheduled the flight to land at Hajj Terminal without prior notification. However, we came out of the terminal, counted our luggage and step out to road with great trouble as there were no ramps (slopes) for wheelchair users. There were wagons and buses parked alongside the road waiting for passengers. We talked to a Pakistani driver (from Gujranwala) and shared his wagon with a Pakistani family to Makkah; 73 kilometers in east of Jeddah. At the entry point of Makkah City, there was a huge structured "Rehal" (a rack for Quran reading) across above the road. No non-muslim is allowed to cross this point to enter the Makkah City. It's to be said, if a non-Muslim violate the law and attempt to enter Makkah City, he/she received spontaneous effects (punishment) like; blindness, paralyses etc. (Allah-o-Akbar). To beware the non-muslims, there are separate roads with proper sign-boards a long from Makkah City.
After an hour's drive, we reached Makkah and received by Al-Tawaf's regional representative - Mr. Saleem at Hotel Ufuk Al-Fateh; nearest to the Masjid Al-Haram (The Grand Mosque of Makkah) and the Holy Kaaba. In front of hotel, there was a comprehensive compound where pigeons were flying and eating grains. Around this area, there were a Pakistani restaurant, a money exchange point; called 'Saraaf', two hotels namely Qasr-e-Naseem and Hotel Dar-us-Salam and a goldsmith shop in the corner. click thumbnail to zoom... © ajmalbeig
Preparation for Umrah
we were ready to perform our ever-first Umrah. With great enthusiasm, saying
"Talbiha" - Labbaik Allah Humma Labbaik..., we walked towards Masjid Al-Haram.
My brother was pushing my wheelchair and after a few minutes' walk, we were
in the premises of Masjid Al-Haram. As we entered the main compound, we see
women's toilets and a paid
Service (like bank lockers), where safety and security conscious people can deposit
their valued stuff before
entering the masjid. Two glorious minarets were erected at
Bab-e-Abdul Aziz (gate#1); the main entrance to Masjid Al-Haram. A sign
"Wheelchair Users" with a direction arrow and the access symbol attracted me at the gate. By using one step high mini slope
(provided both sides of the main gate), we entered the magnificent
building of the mosque with
beautifully crafted arches and columns. There
were two more access ramps (slopes) to go to the area where the Holy Kaaba is located.
At my first glimpse on the Holy Kaaba, I was uncertain; whether there is actually so
short distance between the House of Mercy and me? But it was bright true; I
was so near to Allah Almighty. Al-Hamdo Lillah! It was about 10:45 pm at
night but there were no signs of darkness. The whole area was illuminated
with high-tech flood lights and the Holy Kaaba was sparkling like a diamond
in the center. Everything was clearly visible. We believed; this area
never sleeps. The heart-felt grace and dignity of the Holy Kaaba wrapped in "Kiswah"
- black silk decorated with gold embroidery on it, was the scene every Muslim wishes to
see at least once in life; which is considered the most sacred place in Islam. It was the mercy of Allah Almighty and no doubt a miracle; I was there. Thank God for granting me this religious opportunity.
At my first glimpse on the Holy Kaaba, I was uncertain; whether there is actually so short distance between the House of Mercy and me? But it was bright true; I was so near to Allah Almighty. Al-Hamdo Lillah! It was about 10:45 pm at night but there were no signs of darkness. The whole area was illuminated with high-tech flood lights and the Holy Kaaba was sparkling like a diamond in the center. Everything was clearly visible. We believed; this area never sleeps. The heart-felt grace and dignity of the Holy Kaaba wrapped in "Kiswah" - black silk decorated with gold embroidery on it, was the scene every Muslim wishes to see at least once in life; which is considered the most sacred place in Islam. It was the mercy of Allah Almighty and no doubt a miracle; I was there. Thank God for granting me this religious opportunity.
About Masjid Al-Haram, Holy Kaaba and Kiswah (cross infos)
About Masjid Al-Haram
The Masjid-ul-Haram (The Grand Mosque of Makkah) has a capacity of approx.
773,000 people at present and its total area is 365,000 Sq. meters. There
are 52 domes in total. It has 95 gates in total including major and minor
gates. Five main gates are "Bab-e-Malik Abdul Aziz" (Journey of Mairaj
started here and the "Buraq" was fastened very near inside this gate), "Bab-e-Fateh"
(Fateh Makkah took place very near to this gate), "Bab-e-Safa" (The place
where Saie starts), "Bab-e-Umrah" (Prophet Muhammad had entered in Haram
from this gate to
perform Umrah), and "Bab-e-Fahad". There are 9 minarets in all, each 92 meters
in height while each Bab has two minarets except Bab-e-Safa which has only one
minaret. Layout of
In Masjid Al-Haram, both men and
women offer prayers, do Tawaf around Holy Ka'ba and perform 'Saei' at Safa to
Marwa together but in the Prophet's
mosque there are separate sections for men and women to offer prayers and
separate hours to visit the Prophet's tomb.
Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul-Aziz, the Deputy Prime Minister has launched six major development projects
(now in progress) worth SR 35
billion around the Haram Mosque in Makkah.
Details of Expansion Plans with Models
The Masjid-ul-Haram (The Grand Mosque of Makkah) has a capacity of approx. 773,000 people at present and its total area is 365,000 Sq. meters. There are 52 domes in total. It has 95 gates in total including major and minor gates. Five main gates are "Bab-e-Malik Abdul Aziz" (Journey of Mairaj started here and the "Buraq" was fastened very near inside this gate), "Bab-e-Fateh" (Fateh Makkah took place very near to this gate), "Bab-e-Safa" (The place where Saie starts), "Bab-e-Umrah" (Prophet Muhammad had entered in Haram from this gate to perform Umrah), and "Bab-e-Fahad". There are 9 minarets in all, each 92 meters in height while each Bab has two minarets except Bab-e-Safa which has only one minaret. Layout of Masjid Al-Haram. In Masjid Al-Haram, both men and women offer prayers, do Tawaf around Holy Ka'ba and perform 'Saei' at Safa to Marwa together but in the Prophet's mosque there are separate sections for men and women to offer prayers and separate hours to visit the Prophet's tomb.click thumbnail to zoom... © ajmalbeig
Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul-Aziz, the Deputy Prime Minister has launched six major development projects (now in progress) worth SR 35 billion around the Haram Mosque in Makkah. Details of Expansion Plans with Models
About Holy Kaaba
(in and out)
Mountains of Makkah are traversed
by a group of valleys and the Kaaba is located in the Abraham valley. The
Kaaba is the holiest shrine of Islam, situated at the heart of the Holy Mosque's central courtyard. The Kaaba is a
large masonry structure roughly the shape of a cube. The name Kaaba comes
from the Arabic word meaning “cube”. It is made of granite from the hills
near Makkah. The most current dimensions for the structure are: 15 m high
(49′) with sides measuring 10.5 m (34′) by 12 m (39′).
Inside Kaaba, there are three pillars, a small table on the side to put
items like perfume, two lantern-type lamps hanging from a cross beam near
the ceiling (no electric lights). There is only one door and no window
inside. The space can accommodate about 50 people.
more about Kaaba...
The Kaaba is covered by a
black silk cloth decorated with gold-embroidered calligraphy. This cloth is
known as the kiswah; which is designed by professionals and produced by a
special factory in Makkah and changed every year.
The cloth is made of 670 kgs. of silver and dyed black. About 129 kgs. of
pure gold and 50 kgs. of silver used in embroidering the quranic verses over
the cloth. The total area of the cloth is 658 sq. meters. It costs
approximately US $ 17 million. It's an appreciable consent of the Saudi
Authorities who recruited PWDs (Persons With Disabilities) for this holy
work and provide them a dignified earning career which leads to their
rehabilitation and self-reliance.
more about Kiswah with Pictures...
Mountains of Makkah are traversed by a group of valleys and the Kaaba is located in the Abraham valley. The Kaaba is the holiest shrine of Islam, situated at the heart of the Holy Mosque's central courtyard. The Kaaba is a large masonry structure roughly the shape of a cube. The name Kaaba comes from the Arabic word meaning “cube”. It is made of granite from the hills near Makkah. The most current dimensions for the structure are: 15 m high (49′) with sides measuring 10.5 m (34′) by 12 m (39′). Inside Kaaba, there are three pillars, a small table on the side to put items like perfume, two lantern-type lamps hanging from a cross beam near the ceiling (no electric lights). There is only one door and no window inside. The space can accommodate about 50 people. more about Kaaba...
About Kiswah(cover of kaaba)
The Kaaba is covered by a black silk cloth decorated with gold-embroidered calligraphy. This cloth is known as the kiswah; which is designed by professionals and produced by a special factory in Makkah and changed every year. The cloth is made of 670 kgs. of silver and dyed black. About 129 kgs. of pure gold and 50 kgs. of silver used in embroidering the quranic verses over the cloth. The total area of the cloth is 658 sq. meters. It costs approximately US $ 17 million. It's an appreciable consent of the Saudi Authorities who recruited PWDs (Persons With Disabilities) for this holy work and provide them a dignified earning career which leads to their rehabilitation and self-reliance. more about Kiswah with Pictures...
Our First Umrah and Injury during Saie
Saying "Talbiha" -
Labbaik Allah Humma Labbaik... we
entered the 'mutaf' - the area where people circle around the holy Kaaba. We reached at green light; from where the "Tawaf" is started. We exposed our right shoulder by re-arranging our Ahraam
(Iztaba'a), moved our face to "Hajr-e-Aswad" for "Istalaam" and started our
first round (tawaf) by mixing up with people already around there. Everyone;
with great humiliation was reading dua'as from handbooks, weeping, and
yelling for God's mercy and forgiveness. At the end of first round, everyone have to repeat the same process until
seven rounds are completed. During rounds, we were continually trying to
adjacent to Holy Kaaba and thank God after fourth round, we availed the
opportunity to hold and touch the Kiswah (cover of kaaba), its ropes and
beg for His mercy and blessings. Some of the people were begging for
forgiveness by spreading their hands high to the door of Kaaba. Indeed, the
Ka'aba is the House of Allah and not the Allah Himself.
click thumbnail to zoom...
After completing seven continuous rounds around the Holy Kaaba,
we offered nafals near Maqam-e-Ibrahim
(where footprints of Prophet Abraham are preserved) and drank cold Aab-e-Zam Zam
provided in thermoses within the premises of 'mutaf'. After this, we moved to Safa and
Marwah for "Saie". This is two storey, long corridor between Safa and Marwah hills and
starting from Safa, everyone have to complete seven rounds; in normal walk
between these two points. From Safa to Marwa; it's counted as one round.
Passing by the green lights (pillars) on both sides,
required a jog. There are two way passages for pedestrians and a separate
passage is provided for wheelchair users in the middle. Due to insufficient
space, divided inadequately, wheelchairs are collided each others and
wheelchair pushers are hit badly from the back injuring their heels. I was
also seriously injured when a wheelchair hit my toe-nail during Saie. It's
also a fact; pedestrians are used wheelchair area if it's empty or there is
no wheelchair coming nearby. Furthermore, hired professional wheelchair
pushers are almost always in great hurry, thus violate the lanes and injure
others a lot. suggestion at bottom
After completing seven continuous rounds around the Holy Kaaba, we offered nafals near Maqam-e-Ibrahim (where footprints of Prophet Abraham are preserved) and drank cold Aab-e-Zam Zam provided in thermoses within the premises of 'mutaf'. After this, we moved to Safa and Marwah for "Saie". This is two storey, long corridor between Safa and Marwah hills and starting from Safa, everyone have to complete seven rounds; in normal walk between these two points. From Safa to Marwa; it's counted as one round. Passing by the green lights (pillars) on both sides, required a jog. There are two way passages for pedestrians and a separate passage is provided for wheelchair users in the middle. Due to insufficient space, divided inadequately, wheelchairs are collided each others and wheelchair pushers are hit badly from the back injuring their heels. I was also seriously injured when a wheelchair hit my toe-nail during Saie. It's also a fact; pedestrians are used wheelchair area if it's empty or there is no wheelchair coming nearby. Furthermore, hired professional wheelchair pushers are almost always in great hurry, thus violate the lanes and injure others a lot. suggestion at bottom
After seven rounds from Safa to Marwah, we completed our Saie - a must part of Umrah or Hajj. By facing toward the Holy Kaaba, we offered 'duaa' collectively and came out of Masjid Al-Haram. To valid our Umrah, we still have to shave our head (Halaq) and women to trim their hair (approx. 1 inch in length) by their respective 'mahrams'. Fortunately, there was a barber shop not too far from our hotel but there were two high steps and it was quite difficult to enter the shop while sitting in a wheelchair. So we find a second one in the adjoined street and at our turn, we got shaved our head (Halaq) against SAR 10 each. Al-Hamdo Lillah, with a new religious face look and satisfaction of mind, we reached back our hotel at about 2:30 am. From Lahore to this point, we were continuously in travel for 16 hours without proper bed-rest or sleep. We changed our clothes, congratulate each other to perform successful Umrah, eat a little, and by reminding today's activities, we fell asleep. click thumbnail to zoom... © ajmalbeig
Road to Madinah and Arrival at Hotel
After a night stay in Makkah, we were scheduled to proceed to Madinah by road, situated 447 kilometers in north of Makkah. We left Makkah at about 11:30 am and traveled on 4 lanes super highway that leads to Madinah. There were ring roads, fly-overs, under-passes, over-head bridges and tunnels in our way with hills, deserts and barren lands along roads. I was so impressed to see all these masterpieces of modern engineering, well-designed, well-crafted and well-dispersed. Without any jerking or bumping, our Toyota wagon was running very smoothly. There were petrol pumps after a certain distance with adjoined masjid and store. As we halt at a masjid for Zuhr prayer; we received an unexpected call from Lahore about the thigh-fracture of my nephew - Jawwad Beig. It was shocking news for all of us but we consoled each other by saying, "it's our trial by the Allah Almighty and we have to bear this grief by all means". My brother called some of his well-wishers in Lahore for the better treatment of his alone son. In spite the road conditions were excellent, it took us 5 hours to reach Madinah; the equal time we reached Jeddah from Lahore by air. At the main entrance of our 4-star hotel Dallah Taibah, we were well-received by the Al-Tawaf regional representative - Mr. Ghulam Nabi who welcomed us and offered juice bottles. Here, as per planned, we met our younger brother who had come from Abu Dahbi to join us and waiting in Madinah for last two days. It was an emotional scene when we; three brothers met simultaneously in a land other than our home-country. Our family-suite in the hotel was well-cooled when we entered in. After taking some memorial photographs, we (now six) were ready to go to visit Masjid-e-Nabvi and Roaza-e-Rasool to pay homage to Prophet Muhammad (SAW). click thumbnails to zoom... © ajmalbeig
Visit to Masjid-e-Nabvi, Roaza-e-Rasool (SAW) and Riaz-ul-Jannah
Our hotel was not too far from the main gate of Masjid-e-Nabvi and it took only five minutes to be there. There are two dignified minarets and seven domes (five in the center and two at both sides) at the main entrance. Like Masjid Al-Haram, there were ramps in Masjid-e-Nabvi as well for wheelchair users to get in. Inside decor of red-carpeted masjid with attractive arches and columns have a magical effect and worth to see. (There are 2,104 magnificent columns and 3,812 beautifully crafted arches on first floor alone). With a startling eye over the structural design of the building, we moved ahead to the old building of Masjid-e-Nabvi, where Roaza-e-Rasool (SAW) is located. At first we entered "Riaz-ul-Jannah" (Garden of Heaven) which is to believed, the most sacred part of the masjid. With attractive carpets, painted columns and golden motifs, "Riaz-ul-Jannah" is the place where Prophet Muhammad (SAW) offered his prayers five times a day. In the same premises, there is another blessed point; "Mehrab-e-Nabi", where Prophet Muhammad (SAW) used to lead the prayers. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, "there is a portion in Masjid-e-Nabvi that Allah Almighty will lift up to the Garden of Paradise at the Day of Judgment, and that is "Riaz-ul-Jannah". Due to such importance, this area has great spiritual attraction for pilgrims. more about Riaz-ul-Jannah with Pictures... I offered nawafals, followed by recitation of few ayahs of Holy Qura'an. There was a long queue of Prophet Lovers waiting to get opportunity to offer prayer at the 'Mehrab-e-Nabi'. We were among them and thank God, we got opportunity after a little wait. Al-Hamdo Lillah! click thumbnails to zoom... © ajmalbeig
As we moved forward, we noticed another long queue moving very slowly towards the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (SAW); originally the house of Hazrat Aisha (RA). The shrine was at our left while the "Qibla" direction was at our right. In front of this area, a painted boundary wall is erected to limit the crowd and security personnel are deployed to maintain law and order. A learned Islamic scholar is almost always present here to interrupt/guide the people saying 'shirk', 'bidah' whenever they act against 'shariah' like raising their hands for dua'a and/or throw their scarf to have a close touch with the fence (jaali). As we got near, I heard, people saying "Assalat o wassalamalaika Ya Rassol Allah", "Assalat o wassalamalaika Ya Habib Allah". There are three shrines (roazas) in the dark chamber, facade with old traditional style golden fences (jaalis) and grills engraved with calligraphy, (from left to right); Hazrat Muhammad (SAW), Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique (RA) and Hazrat Umar Farooq (RA) respectively. It is to believe that, in this chamber, there is a reserved place where Hazrat Isa (AS) will be buried after his eventual death. click thumbnail to zoom... © ajmalbeig
When I look at the Jaali Mubarak of Roaza-e-Rasool (SAW), I intentionally whispered, "Teri khair howay pehraydara, roazay di jaali chumm laindey". This is the view every keen Muslim wishes to see originally to offer his respect and love reserved for the last Prophet of God, Muhammad (SAW). It is to observe that people from Pakistan (in particular) have a special spiritual affection with the Roaza-e-Rasool and Jaali Mubarak and they attempt to be as close as possible in a manner of 'do or die'. In fact, ladies are not permitted to access this area; specially the fences (jaalis); rather in specific times, they are allowed to enter from "Bab Al-Jibrael" to pay their homage to Prophet Muhammad (SAW). To prove our enthusiasm and affection, we shoot this unique close-up in person. History of the photo: As a matter of fact; photography is strictly prohibited in this area. While taking this picture, my brother was noticed by the security personnel and he rushed after him, saying something in Arabic. My brother, using his common sense, quickly handed over the camera to me. The young security personnel yelled at me and snatched the camera. He tried his level best to open the camera to discard the memory card but Allah helped me; he failed. We were continually apologizing (ma'afi, ma'afi), without any argue as this may disrupt our position. At last, he very kindly returned my camera (saying) pointing the camera to hide it in the bag. Thank God! click thumbnail to zoom... © ajmalbeig
We come out from Bab-Al-Baqih; an exit gate from Masjid-e-Nabvi to the compound where one can see the famous green dome of Masjid-e-Nabvi - a typical symbol of Madinah. In my own perception, I felt a soothing effect and enlightened inner-self, when I first saw the green dome (glory of love and respect). The compound was highly illuminated with cool fluorescent bulbs installed in a line of towers while the stunning green dome was glorifying in the background with all due respects. Around the mosque separate gents and ladies underground bath rooms are built where stairs and escalators are available. We took some memorable photographs here and when the 'moazzan' call for the prayer; we entered the masjid from a different gate and offered our Isha prayer. After this religious practice, we shopped some foodstuffs at Taibah Store; the largest shopping mall in Madinah and come back home after a long busy day. As I entered the room, I replaced the SD memory card to preserve the previous photographic record. click thumbnail to zoom © ajmalbeig
About Holy City of Madinah and Masjid-e-Nabvi (cross infos)
About Madinah (City of Prophet)
The Holy City of Madinah, lies 447 kilometers north of the Holy City of Makkah. Madinah is the Arabic for "city". The full name of Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah means "Enlightened City". A visit to Madinah is not part of Umrah or Hajj but the deep affection in which the Prophet held the city puts it on the itinerary of most pilgrims performing Umrah or Hajj. Madinah is the second holiest city in Islam. It was to Madinah where the Islamic era began. Madinah is also the place in which the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was buried. more about Madinah
About Masjid-e-Nabvi (Prophet Mosque)
Masjid-e-Nabvi is the model of unique construction. The whole city of old Madinah has now come in the covered area of Masjid-e-Nabvi. It has a capacity of 650,000 worshippers but can accommodate up to one million worshippers in the Ramadan & Hajj seasons. The total Area of Masjid Al-Nabvi is 400,500 sq. m, while the open area around the Masjid is 235,000 sq. m, the roof is 67,000 sq. m, and the Masjid is 98,500 sq. m. It has 10 very tall minarets, 2,104 columns and 3,812 arches on first floor and 2,554 columns in the basement. There are 8 escalators, 18 stairs and 6,800 stations for 'wudhu'. Parking capacity is 4500 cars within two floors. It has 12 mechanically operated Teflon umbrellas, 27 massive steel-constructed electric domes (sliding roofs), 16.65m high from ground and weighing 80 tonnes each are evenly distributed across the roof. The gold in each of the domes amounts to 2.5 kilograms in weight. These domes are open and close, by remote computer operation. more about Masjid-e-Nabvi with Pictures...
According to the saying of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), "There are only three mosques in the world; a Muslim must travel to offer prayer there" and Masjid-e-Nabvi is one of them, other two are; Masjid Al-Haram, and Masjid Al-Aqsa. According to another saying of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), "Almighty Allah blesses fifty thousand more benefits of a salat offered in Masjid-e-Nabvi in comparison to a salat offered any other place or mosque in the rest of the world."
There are separate entrance gates for males and females. Generally females enter in the mosque through "Bab-un-Nisa". Ladies use "Bab-e-Jibrael", next to "Bab-e-Baqqi" for presenting their Salaam to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) only in two times in a day i.e after Salat-ul-Fajir and after Salt-ul-Asar respectively.
The Masjid's air conditioning network is connected to a huge chilled-water plant, located 8 kilometers away and which is connected to the mosque by a wide, underground tunnel. There are 85 entrances, and 11 gates; Bab Al-Abdul Aziz, Bab Al-Usman, Bab Al-Saud, Bab Al-Majeedi, Bab Al-Umar, Bab Al-Nisa, Bab Al-Jibrael, Bab Al-Rehmat, Bab Al-Siddique, Bab Al-Salam, Bab Al-Baqih. The largest extensions in Masjid-e-Nabvi were made by the King Fahd in year. 1405-1414 Hijrah (1984-1994 CE).
Our Five Days' stay in Madinah
Next day, with great pride, we offered our Juma prayer in the glorious hall of Masjid-e-Nabvi. In fact, like Masjid Al-Haram, the Imam leads only the 'farz' prayers five times a day and there is no dua'a after prayer. It is said and believed; each prayer is a blend of 'dua'as' itself. However, on Fridays, the Imam/Khateeb offered dua'a very impressively after "Khutba" (sermon) followed by Juma prayer. After Juma prayer, it was time to see-off our younger brother who has to go back to Abu Dhabi after completing his Umrah and ziarats.
Next day, it was scheduled to visit "Jannat-ul-Baqqi"; a large graveyard adjacent to Masjid-e-Nabvi. Here companions, wives, daughters and other family members of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) are buried. All the graves are made of mud and pigeons were flying and eating grains in all over the holy graveyard. Pavement and passages are made for easy walking but there is no sign over the graves to know the name of the buried personality. "Jannat-ul-Baqqi" is open to Zaireens only at specific times preferably after Zuhur till Asr prayer. Women are not allowed to enter the graveyard however, they can see the area through fence-like windows (ja'lis) constructed within walls. Iranian persons were greater in number than those from other countries and they were gathered around a special sacred area to pay their homage. click thumbnail to zoom © ajmalbeig
In this area; there are most respectable personalities of Islam are buried. The notable and exclusive graves in this area are; three daughters of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) named Hazrat Umm-e-Kulsoom (RA), Hazrat Ruqiyya (RA) and Hazrat Zainab (RA), his nine wives including Hazrat Ayesha (RA), his closest aunt Hazrat Safia (RA), his little son Hazrat Ibrahim; from his wife Maria Qubtia (RA), his grand-son Hazrat Hasan (RA), his uncle Hazrat Abbas (RA), other Imams like Hazrat Baqar (RA) and Hazrat Jafar Sadiq (RA), his beloved daughter Hazrat Fatima -ul-Zuhra (RA), his milk-mother (daie) Hazrat Haleema (RA) and his companion & 3rd caliph Hazrat Usman (RA).
It's a common phenomenon in Madinah; especially around Masjid-e-Nabvi that every afternoon; there are clouds over the sky regardless of whatever weather was during day. Most often these clouds bring light rainfall, resulting a breezy weather overnight. We undergo the live effect of popular Urdu phrase 'Madiney ki hawaein' that comes true. This everlasting significance is all due to our last prophet Muhammad (SAW).
From time to time, we walked through streets, markets and roadsides in Madinah and made some selective shopping for self and loved-ones. We also bought dates, caps and 'tasbihs' for gifts. A large variety of dates; from 'Amber' to most expensive 'Ajwah' - a Prophet's favourite were available. It is true to be said; stuffs in Madinah are cheaper than those in Makkah comparatively. There were women; wearing black burqas, selling merchandise outside of Masjid-e-Nabvi and streets. They are almost always there before and/or after prayer times. I also noticed, there were some ladies selling things for fund-raising; for their NGO, organization etc. Their rates were more reasonable than shops in streets and markets.
Ziarats of Madinah, way back to Makkah and Second Umrah
April 28th, 2008 was our last night in Madinah, and on next day, we were scheduled to visit historical and religious sites (ziarats) of Madinah in our way back to Makkah. We left Madinah heavy-heartily with a strong desire and hope to come again. Our first halt was at graveyard of martyrs of Ghazwa-e-Uhad where Hazrat Amir Hamza (RA) is buried. There were various prominent mosques beside roads like; Masjid Jinn and Masjid Khandaq (or Masjid Salman Farsi). After visiting Masjid Qiblatain, the mosque with dual Qiblas (left pic), our next stop was Masjid Quba'a (right pic) where we offered our Zuhur prayer. Masjid Quba'a is the first mosque of Islam built in Madinah after migration. It has dignified white erected minaret, beautifully crafted wooden gates and to improve the decor, there were chandeliers inside the prayer hall. There are separate prayer halls for both men and women. With her full intensity; the glory of Madinah city was all around us everywhere we passed through. There were beautiful artificial waterfalls along roadsides that replicate the natural beauty. click thumbnails to zoom © ajmalbeig
After leaving Madinah city, we reached at 'Zul-Halifah' which is the 'meeqat' (the dead end of wearing Ahraam) for the people decided to enter Makkah to perform Umrah. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had worn Ahraam here. The distance between Zul-Halifah Masjid (pic at right) and the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah is 13 kilometers and it is 420 kilometers away from Holy Makkah. It is the farthest Meeqat from Makkah. Here, we replaced our dresses with Ahraam and made intention (niyyah) for Umrah. After completing this obligation, we approached to the highway and traveled at maximum allowed speed toward Makkah. In our way, we confronted a continuous heavy dust storm followed by rainfall until we entered Makkah after a tiring journey of 5+ hours. It was almost Maghrib time when we reached at our hotel Qasr-e-Naseem which had no ramp at entrance. On protest for such an inaccessible hotel, our tour representative explained; due to expansion plan of Masjid Al-Haram; many buildings and hotels have been demolished. Thus there is an ample shortage of hotels around Masjid Al-Haram and available hotels are heavily advance booked so it was too difficult to book a room of your choice. However, he promised to search for a better accommodation.
As we were in 'Ahraam", our first priority was to perform Umrah. So, without wasting time, saying "Talbiha", we proceed toward Masjid Al-Haram altogether. At the right wall of Bab-e-Abdul Aziz, there installed a digital system showing time and temperature in Celsius. It was 33°C (91.4 degree) when we entered the mosque. The significant point of this umrah was the rainfall during our last four rounds. It is said; there are less chances of rain during tawaf and the persons are little bit lucky who avail this exceptional opportunity.
Around the Holy Kaaba, there were Muslims of every fiqah, group, clan, and country. We noticed there were more people from Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan comparatively to Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Yemen, Turkey, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan and rest of the continents. Similarly, Muslims from a certain country were offering prayers with their own traditional style but in fact, they were all believers of One God. Interestingly, we observed a group of people (from Shiraz, Iran) offering their prayer without moving a single hand during prayer. It is a common practice in Masjid Al-Haram (and in Masjid-e-Nabvi as well) to offer 'Salat Al-Janaza' (funeral prayer, to be offered for the 'maghfirah' of a deceased Muslim) after almost every prayer.
After two days, we shifted to adjoined Hotel Ufuk Al-Fateh. Due to non-availability of family suite, we agreed upon two rooms on two different floors because of easy accessibility, swift modern lifts and all of above; nearest to Masjid Al-Haram. We noticed; the most rooms of this hotel were occupied by Indonesian and Malaysian groups. Here we find out two interested and appreciable facts about Indonesia, (a) it's a formal condition for both candidates to perform Umrah before getting married, (b) if a man (with children), decided to divorce his wife; the girl(s) will go to him and boy(s) will go to his wife. Indonesia is the most populous Islamic country in the world with a population of 242 million (2005 est.).
Ziarats of the Holy City of Makkah
On May 4, 2008 we go to visit sacred places (ziarats) around Makkah starting from Jabl-e-Saur. At the time of migration, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) stayed here with Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) for three days in their way to Madinah. At Jabl-e-Saur, information board in five languages, guide visitors not to do things against Sunnah. Next highlighting was the field of Arafat and Masjid-e-Nimra. Here, in the field of Arafat, Waqoof-e-Arafat on 9th Zil-hijja is the essential part and climax of Hajj. After "Khutba-e-Hajj", Muslims offer two combined prayers; Zuhr, Asr shortened and combined with one adhan and two aqama. It is said that the Arafat field will be the ground of accountability at the day of Judgment and the balance of Almighty Allah will be fixed at this mount; exactly on the white pillar.
At Jabl-e-Rehmah, there is a white pillar in the center indicates the exact point where "Hazrat Adam (AS)" and "Hazrat Hawwa (Eve) were rejoined after being separated from Heaven by the order of Almighty Allah. There are 72 steps to reach to the top of this mount. In the bottom of this mountain is the place where Prophet Muhammad delivered his last historic sermon. There were heavily decorated camels and people were enjoying a paid ride with a memorable snapshot while riding. We don't ride but take some superb photographs. click thumbnail to zoom © ajmalbeig
Passing through the 'Tent City' (white canopy water-proof tents for Hujjaj) at Mina and four-storey Jumraat building; where pilgrims throw stones at devils, we stop at Jabl-e-Noor. Hira cave is located on the top of this mountain. This is the place where first "Wahee" was delivered to Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It is situated at a height of forty to fifty minutes climb but there are no proper arrangements to reach there. Saudi government does not encourage people to go up. There is information board; guide visitors not to do things against Sunnah.
Jannat-ul-Moallah (Makkah's Graveyard) was our next stop. Approx. 6 thousand companions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) have been buried here in which the grave of "Ummul Moumeneen Syeda Khateeja (RA)" is the most important.
Countdown in Makkah
It was our utmost priority to offer our recurring prayers in the Masjid Al-Haram. We visited many sections of the masjid; old to new, using ramps and super-fast big cabin lifts to go to first floor. It was indeed a memorable and superb experience to view Holy Kaaba from height at night. It looks more attractive and glorified surrounded by heavy flood-lights. Luckily, we have preserved this unique shot to share. From time to time, preferably after Isha prayer, we were used to walk through various places buying foodstuffs, milk, yogurt, bakery, soda cans, branded juices & flavoured milk by Nada Dairy and dates; specially blended and packed by Etihad Salehia. We also made some shopping at Abraj Al-Bait Shopping Center opposite to Babe Abdul Aziz [view picture] and Bin Dawood Super Store housed in the Makkah Hilton hotel ground. These are replica of European stores, jam-packed with branded and quality products. If there are no Arabic-speaking salesmen, general customers wearing Arabic dress, no Arabic boards/panels; one can imagine himself in a store of New York, London or Paris.
My wife and brother expressed their wish to perform another Umrah independently (without me and old parents). They ride on SAPTCO (Saudi Public Transport Company) bus and go to Masjid Aisha to wear Ahraam. Masjid Aisha (Tan'eem) is the meeqat for Makkans to wear "Ahraam" if they want to perform Umra. Although, Masjid Jurana, 25 kilometers toward Taif is recommended meeqat for Makkahns however, they prefers Masjid Aisha.
It was a difficult and unwanted decision to go for last tawaf but we must do it because it was our final night at Makkah. In fact, for tawaf, there is no obligation to wear ahraam and Saie but it is compulsory if you have 'niyyah' of Umrah and/or Hajj. So we finished our tawaf (seven rounds of the Holy Kaaba) in less time comparing to Umrah. After tawaf, I offered prayer in the premises of Holy Kaaba with maximum humiliation and by raising hands; beg His mercy and blessings by all those means that would be in my favour; especially for health and a subsequent visit. I was continually looking at the 'House of Mercy' without wink and tears were coming down from my eyes. By preserving the scene of Holy Kaaba in mind and with damping eyes, I returned heavy heartily.
Departure from Jeddah Hajj Terminal
On Wednesday May 7, 2008, we were scheduled to fly back to Pakistan. After Fajr prayer and an early breakfast in the morning, we finalized our packing, moved our luggage to hotel lobby on ground floor and checked-out from hotel. Saying 'good bye' to everything, we ride on the wagon and proceed toward Jeddah Hajj Terminal. It took us almost an hour to reach there. Indeed, it was very hot day. The whole area was like a big oven and hot traverse air was patting our face. We hired two potters who drag our luggage to the booking terminal. After a sustainable wait, we reached at counter and were shocked when marked out as over-weighted. We requested the booking officer for a just favour and he very kindly issued us boarding passes and luggage tickets. It's good information to mention here; you can bring a 10 liter can of Aab-e-Zam Zam per person without counting in your personal luggage but it's not booked at same counter (thanks PIA).
After booking our luggage, we thank God and moved to air-conditioned Custom & Immigration hall for further procedures. After a long process of scanning & screening, checking, and immigration, we were allowed to enter a big departure hall. Since our PIA aircraft Boeing 777-24ER was parked at distant, passengers were taken there by bus. For wheelchair user (me the only one), the driver mechanically lowers the bus platform enables the wheelchair to enter the bus with less effort. To board on the aircraft, same procedure was repeated. By using air-conditioned "Passenger Boarding Lift" that docked to aircraft gate, I entered the plane very smoothly; however this time, my brother was with me for a secure handling. Our seats were at front, just behind the Executive Class. We noticed, almost half of the seats were vacant but we were shocked seeing a long queue of deported passengers holding transit (exile) paper in their hands. In this caravan, there were both men and women; young to old, wearing ugly clothes, overall poor condition, penniless and looking like confirm criminals. This situation badly embarrassed me. Again, due to some technical reasons, our flight was late by 1 hour.
Our way back to Home and Landing at Lahore Airport
We were traveling at an average altitude of 30,000± feet and the flight was almost smooth, balanced and enjoyable. For personal entertainment, a collapsible mini LCD screen was attached to each seat with a wire remote control, displaying interesting flight information like; distance traveled, distance to destination, time to destination, local time and temperature to destination, altitude, and speed with a real-time location of the aircraft in a graphical map (supported by Google Earth). There were more multimedia channels available now on different categories i.e feature films, music shows, sports, cricket, panorama and much more but there was no headphone to hear the sound. After an enjoyable flight of almost 4 hours, while entering in Pakistan boundary (near Karachi), the pilot announced; a rough weather ahead resulting an uneven flight. And yes, we experienced an unwanted uneven aircraft swinging from left to right in a strong manner. From aircraft window, we can see heavy clouds floating over the sky and thunderstorm. It was the moment, everyone in the aircraft was reminding Allah for His mercy and protection; saying "Ya Allah Khair". After almost 30 minutes at risk, we crossed over the rough area and the flight became normal.
At a certain distant, the aircraft start to loose altitude and speed gradually. And it was indeed a good news when air-hostess announced; "We are about to land Allama Iqbal International Airport...". I cannot explain my inner feelings; how happy, and emotional I was, when I heard this announcement. Everyone coming from abroad and landing at his/home country have the same feelings that are hard to explain. However, one can say these feelings are a highest level of their love toward their country. At landing, with great passion, some express their patriotism by bowing their head, while others show their sentiments by kissing the land. All the way, Pakistan Zindabad. We appreciate the pilot skill, when he landed as smoothly that we didn't feel even a slight jerk or jolt. I whispered, "Thank God for a safe trip and safe landing!". It was about 11:30 pm local time, when we landed at Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore.
We confirmed via cellular phone, whether our loved-ones are present outside there or late by any means and thank God, they were waiting for us. We have to wait until the exit is free and relevant staff came with wheelchair to evacuate me from aircraft. We came out through a long passenger terminal adjacent to the aircraft gate. After checking and immigration, we collected our luggage and proceed to the exit gate. My eyes were full with tears and I was very much excited and emotional to see our loved-ones, waiting outside. (Again, these feelings are hard to explain). As we came out from lobby, they rushed towards us, embrace, hand-shake and offered rose garlands and flower bouquets saying "mubarak ho". After this formal reception, we came out of the airport building and moved on the way to parking lot, where our vehicles were parked. The porters loaded our luggage and without wasting a moment, we proceed to home. The weather was pleasant due to an earlier rainfall, while a light breeze was blowing. I heard, city of Lahore whispering, "Welcome Back Home". After 30+ minutes drive, we reached home safe and sound. Al-Hamdo Lillah!
Remarkable Aspects about Saudi Arabia
Top Most Business:
According to my observance, there are four rapidly growing business in Saudi Arabia and one can quickly prosperous to invest/join in one of them. (1) Construction (2) Transport (3) Hotel (lodging) (4) Food and restaurant.
If you need more updated information about Hajj and/or Umrah, read Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) approved by Ministry of Hajj, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Special Guidelines for People With Disabilities, planning for Umrah
Honest Suggestions for PIA and Ministry of Hajj, Saudi Arabia
Suggestions: It is advised to PIA; a seat nearest to the entrance gates must be allotted to wheelchair users (persons with disabilities, old & infirm) on priority basis for easy in and out of the aircraft. Similarly, at the port of landing, at least one personnel must stay with the wheelchair user (if personal attendant is not allowed to stay with) until he/she securely evacuated from the aircraft by the airport staff. At booking counter(s), personnel must aware and double-check; what he is writing and issuing to the passenger(s) to avoid blunders. Sweeper(s) must be dutiful and present on the location during duty hours for an urgent call/help. It's expected, in future; such negligence will not occur.
Grievance: On April 23, 2008 (PIA special Umrah flight PK-7011 to Jeddah), being a wheelchair user I personally noticed; in departure hall, the special toilet for wheelchair user was locked and the sweeper was absent. When we trace out him, he was without key and searching for a tricky coin to open the door.
Grievance: Being a PWD, using wheelchair, my seat was far away from the main entrance, so I was taken there with immense trouble as the passages and seat spaces in economy class are very limited and narrowed. It was due to the PIA flight personnel who don't consider the nature of my disability while issuing boarding pass.
Grievance: At the time of departure, we were issued advance boarding passes for our scheduled return journey on May 7, 2008. I was shocked to see the month marked by the personnel was March instead of May.
Grievance: When we landed at Jeddah Hajj Terminal after a long travel of 5 hours, I was shocked when PIA crew left me all alone in the aircraft by saying; being wheelchair user, now Saudi crew will take care of you. They don't allow even my brother to stay with me. This situation was unexpected and annoying for me.
Suggestion: Saudi concerned authorities are highly requested to allow personal attendants of wheelchair users (if they are traveling with) to remain with their dependents until they evacuated from plane; as they better know how to precisely handle them. This compromise will eradicate difficulties and possible mishap(s) to be occurred when insufficiently trained Saudi workers handled them with different manner and different language.
Suggestion: It may be a better solution for the consideration of Ministry of Hajj or other concerned authorities; to install electric conveyor-belts from Safa to Marwah with erected side walls for wheelchair users to ride on (as in airports for luggage scanning). It will eliminate collisions, injuries, lane violation, hassle, congestion, and all of the above saving labour and time a lot.
Suggestion: It is advised; only push-type wheelchairs; equipped with small rare wheels (left pic) should be allowed to invalid pilgrims during "Tawaf" and "Saie". It should be a technical point to note that self-propelled wheelchairs; equipped with large rare wheels and hand-rims (right pic) occupy more space (both width-wise and depth-wise) than those of push-type wheelchairs. In this way, accumulating the total numbers of wheelchair users, equipped with push-type wheelchairs, thousands of sq. meters may be saved per session at Kaaba and Safa Marwa. This observation strongly encouraged the above suggestion; there are less than 1% wheelchair users who can propel their chairs themselves during Tawaf" and "Saie". click thumbnails to zoom w/chairs
Grievance: I have been observed in person; more than 50% wheelchairs are not being used by genuine wheelchair users (persons with disabilities, old & infirm). Due to effortless availability, it is being used for bogus purposes by normal persons; especially to avoid walking. People are using them as shopping cart, baby cart, easy-go-ride, fetching and selling Aab-e-Zam Zam containers on them etc. This malpractice should be monitored strictly to ensure the genuine use of wheelchair.
Grievance: There are no sufficient ramps between pavements at Jeddah Hajj Terminal which arise certain hurdles for wheelchair users to move independently. Similarly, non-availability of wheelchairs for genuine PWDs, old & infirm at parking lot is regretfully noted on May 7th 2008 (PIA flight). While our old mother was forcibly transferred to Custom & Immigration hall on a luggage cart.
Response from official Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj
on Wed 18-06-2008 they wrote... (Thanks!)
Thanks for being with me in this spiritual tour of
Makkah and Madinah.
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