Journey to Medina


They say lovers become poets
I say love turns poets mad and incoherent
Perhaps, this is why many poets are accused of heresy

But, what about the one who is neither a poet nor a sincere lover? 
How does he even begin to describe the indescribable?
Perhaps, silent tears or trembling gasps 
are more appropriate for such a one
Yet, I write this ode to my beloved Prophet, his mosque, and his city 
To remind myself of what I saw
Fearing my sins will cloud my special memories 

O Prophet, when I first gazed upon your mosque in between mountains
I felt overjoyed remembering your words: 
“Whoever visits me after I pass
is like the one who visits me during my lifetime.”
I thought of the countless pilgrims who have come to visit you
Feeling so honored and humbled to be among them 
The poor of wealth but rich of soul 
who spend their life earnings just to see you
The rich of wealth but poor of soul knowing that you won’t reject them
The sinner, the seeker, the scholar, and the sage 
Coming from every corner of the earth to send their 
salaam upon Mustafa

Entering the marvelous courtyard of your expanded mosque, 
O Intercessor
I repeated the words taught by my teachers:
“O Allah, open for me your gates of divine grace”
Until I stopped at the evocative green dome marking your resting spot 
Built by the Ottomans out of reverence
I wanted to fall down and weep, but so awe-struck I just stood still
Gazing upon the dome as those more prepared began 
chanting their salawat 
Rudely interrupted by the mutawwa who feared innovation
Some tried to explain our purpose and prayers
But, who can explain the action of lovers to even the most sincere lawyer
So, we remembered the words of God and your Sunnah: 
“And, when the ignorant address you, reply to them with peace.” 
I thought of all those during your lifetime 
who were prevented from seeing you
But bore witness to your truth in their hearts
O Allah, how I long to be one of them, may You be pleased with them all! 

As I walked into your mosque, O Ahmed, from the Gate of Salaam 
Leading to the Garden of Paradise on earth and your resting place 
An anxiety overwhelmed me with this thought: 

I have strayed so far away from your path, O Messenger
You were sent to perfect moral character, and how imperfect is mine
You prayed while others slept, and how many nights I prefer sleep
You were the epitome of loving service, and how many in need I neglect
Knowing how much I have disappointed you, 
When I come to send my salaam, will you even look at me? 
On that Day of Rising, when you’re weaving through the crowds
Crying umatiumati
Will you embrace me or turn away? 

Standing before your resting place, though, my anxieties were lifted
I learned why you are mercy to the worlds
As tears streamed down my face, I felt your very real presence
I could feel within my soul your reply to each of my salawat 
I felt your embrace, just as you embraced the least of your companions
“And, know that in your midst is the messenger of God,” says the Qur’an
And, God truly speaks the truth

I was liberated from my sins by your love, O beloved of God
A veil placed between myself and those who would object,
I danced in your courtyard singing salawat 
Every morning between the green dome and the Gate of Salam
As my heart made wudu with tears of joy
A joy previously unknown to my inner being

Your mosque inspires many lovers, O leader of the pious
I, in turn, was inspired by them
The Pakistani villager asking God 
to make him a scholar, preacher, and hafiz
The Turkish woman passing out dates and fruits to fellow seekers
The Iranian preacher who wept like a child before your grave
The West African custodian reciting Qur’an beautifully while sweeping 
The American preacher who offered moving words 
between fajr and ishraq

As the days came closer
I became saddened at the thought of leaving you
There was a restlessness within my heart even when I was resting
I experienced a glimpse of what Bilal must have felt upon your departure
As I walked away slowly in my ihram toward Mecca
I looked back again and again
Wishing I could be with you forever and ever
With silent tears and trembling gasps 
I was left hoping that this was not our final meeting
As I whispered:

“O Allah make me, my family, my friends, my community 
Among those who drink from the blessed hands of Your beloved messenger In the highest stations of paradise.”


Mustafa: one of the Prophet’s names. Literally means the chosen one.
Umati: literally means my community
Salawat: peace and blessings upon the Prophet.
Mutawwa: religious police employed by the government.
Sunnah: way of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (s).
Wudu: pre ritual washing.
Hafiz: person who memorizes the entire Qur’an from beginning to end.
Fajr: dawn prayer. One of the prescribed five daily prayers.
Ishraq: recommended prayer after sunrise.
Ihram: the simple dress worn by pilgrims while performing their pilgrimage in Mecca.
Bilal: the famous African companion and first muezzin (the one who chants the call to prayer) of the community who became grief stricken after the Prophet’s passing until his own.