It was because we were due to meet up with the group for a tour around the important mosques and sites of Madinah. I had nodded - I had about 1 hour before the time we were supposed to meet up with our guide at the lobby of the hotel - I was confident I could make it.
And so I walked with Mr S and the boys - they were going to send me halfway and just wait for me outside the mosque, in front of the men's entrance, as I wont be long. I waved to them once and walked briskly towards the women's entrance of the Masjid Nabawi, towards the back of the mosque.
I was nervous.
I was within the vicinity of Rasulullah SAW and I felt small and unworthy. I am not qualified to kiss the soles of His feet and I felt inadequate - even to ziarah his Tomb.
But I have to ziarah no matter what my feelings were because it would be rude and inappropriate not to if you are in Madinah.
There were no rows and rows of people seated or standing in prayer lines in the mosque as was the norm during solat times. There were some women praying but I could probably count them with my hands - mostly there were small groups of women walking about, all either going towards the Maqam area or coming from it. And there were the Indonesian cleaners too, busy mopping, vacuuming, wiping, cleaning - I can imagine what a huge task they have to do daily or even hourly as the mosque is never empty.
Once I entered the mosque, I had to walk from the women's entrance at the rear end of the mosque back towards the front of the mosque where the Maqam is situated. Of course, this time I get to do it without squinting at the brilliance of the sun and instead, my eyes had to adjust in the cool and dim areas of the fully air conditioned interior of the mosque.
I walked fast - the clock was ticking - I was wearing my stockings and really, I was sliding on the cool marble floors where the carpets were rolled up for the morning mopping. And then, suddenly, I was stopped by a dark skinned female guard in burqa.
"Indonesia?" she asked me.
"Malaysia." I answered.
"Sana ibu.." she said, pointing towards a group of South East Asian women, all sitting down together, some praying, some reading the Quran. I walked towards the women and sat down beside a young woman. I was a little confused. The last time (about 16-17 years ago) I visited the Maqam of the Prophet (pbuh) during the women's visiting hours, when the door opened, it was open season and the women simply, well, charged. There was no segregation of countries, no organisation whatsoever.
I looked around and saw that there were several other female guards holding placards with the names of countries; India/ Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia/ Indonesia and some of the guards were even giving talks in various languages to the groups of women, all seated according to their country of origin. I didn't need to be a genius to figure out the system - we were only allowed to enter in groups according to country and each group will have to wait for their turn to get in.
I glanced at my clock - 40 minutes before our rendezvous with the guide.
20 minutes and I was still waiting.
At that time, looking at the peaceful looking women who were patiently waiting, praying and reading the Quran around me - I thought I would gladly take the pushing and shoving to get in the Raudah any day - especially today when I don't have the time to be patiently waiting. I calculated; it took about 5 minutes to reach the entrance from where Mr S and the boys were waiting. Another 5 minutes to walk across to the front of the mosque to the Maqam. And it will take 5 minutes to walk back to the hotel. So I needed about 20 minutes in all as I had to go up to our room once we reach the hotel to get my bag.
I said my salam anyway to the Prophet from afar, got up and walked carefully over and around the women in the group, careful not to step on anyone and quickly made my way out. As I slid across the cool floor once again towards the back of the mosque, I thought, maybe Allah has decided that I was inadequate to visit His Prophet after all....
But I did not give up and tried again the next day...
To Be Continued.