Book Review: Guide to Visiting Makka and Madina

Guide to Visting Makka and Madina

Title: Guide to Visiting Makka and Madina
Author: Abdul Aziz Ahmed
Foreword: Imam Zaid Shakir
Publisher: Kitaba Production 2011 (only the plain text version was reviewed in this blog post)

The back cover of this book offers a goods summary of the book’s contents:

This book follows a request by two blind sisters for a handbook on the historic sites of Makka and Madina. It is a brief guide describing significant historic and religious sites in the two Holy Cities. It does not describe the rites of the pilgrimage or offer a detailed history. However, it does contain useful information about significant places in a brief but clear manner. This version has full colour photographs and there are plain text, Braille and audio versions for blind pilgrims.

The plain text version that was reviewed for this blog post was no different from any other book. The aspect that has made this book accessible is that it is also available in braille and audio versions in addition to the plain text version. Those are purchased separately.

The book’s introduction also offers a glimpse of its contents:

It does not aim to explain the rites of pilgrimage of offer a detailed history of the sites. The rites are described in the manuals of jurisprudence and historical detail can be found in the biography of the Prophet, upon him be peace. However, each site is described briefly and some information is given about its significance.

Writing this book has not been a ‘creative’ process as there is nothing new in what is written here. Most of it is a summarized translation of Arabic texts or what has been transmitted to me from my teachers. I have added a few footnotes so those who are interested in sourcing the references can undertake further research if they wish. A glossary, bibliography and brief biographical notes of persons mentioned in the text have been compiled.

The book is split into two parts or sections, one for Makka and one for Madina. Under the section of Makka, there are the following subheadings: The Ka’ba, Its Names and History, The Ka’ba Through the Ages, Its Current Dimensions, The Interior of the Ka’ba, The Shadharwan, The Black Stone, The Yemeni Corner, The Multazam, The Mizab, The Hijr of Ismail, The Station of Ibrahim, The Mounts of Safa and Marwa, The Well of Zam Zam. After this section, there is a section titled ‘Historic Sites in and Around The City of Makka’ which has the following subheadings (partial list): The Banu Hashim district, Birthplace of the Prophet, upon him be peace, The House of Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, The Cave of Hira, Cave of Thawr, The Ma’la Cemetery, The Mosque of the Pledge, Arafat, Muzdalifa, The Muhassir Valley and Mina.

The second part of the book is about the Radiant City of Madina, and this book has the following subheadings in this section (partial list): The Prophet’s Mosque, The Hujurat, The Rawda and its pillars, Aisha’s Pillar, The Repentance Pillar, The Pillar of the Bed, The Pillar of the Guard and the Pillar of the Delegations, The Perfumed Pillar, The Suffah and the Ahl al-Suffah, Extensions to the Prophet’s Mosque, Houses of the Companions incorporated into the Mosque Precinct, The Baqi Cemetery, History of the Baqi, Importance of al-Baqi, The Graves of Baqi, Graves of the Prophet’s Household, Daughters of the Prophet, upon him be peace, The Wives of the Prophet, upon him be peace, Imam Malik Ibn Anas, The Prophet’s son, Ibrahim and those surrounding him, Uthman ibn Affan, The Mosque of Abu Bakr, The Mosque of Ali, The Mosque of Umar, Mosques that no Longer Exist in the Musalla area, Other Mosques in the City, The Mosque of Quba, The Jum’a Mosque, Battleground of al-Khandaq, The Mosque of Victory, the Mosque of Salman al-Farisi, The Mosque of the Two Qiblas, Uhud and the Mosques and sites in the vicinity, The Mosque of Uhud and grave of the Prophet’s Uncle, Hamza, The Dome of the Molar, Archer’s Hill, The Cave. Lastly there is a section on the wells and gardens in and around the city of Madina containing the following subheadings: The Well of the Ring, The Well of Uthman, The Well of Suqya, The Well of al-Ghars, The Garden of Salman al-Farsi.

Under the section of the Ka’ba, Its names and history, the author writes, regarding Prophet Ibrahim:

He built the Ka’ba on the foundations laid by Adam after being shown them by Jibril (Gabriel). The Ka’ba had two pillars, the Yemeni and Black Stone corners, with the Hijr of Ismail as a semi circular structure at the opposite end. It had no door. There was a gap in the wall between the Black Stone and the Yemeni corners to enter the building.

The building had no roof. Its height was 9 cubits (3.84m). Its length and width correspond to the current dimensions but included the semi-circular Hijr of Ismail which is now on the outside of the building. The tribe of Quraysh rebuilt the Ka’ba five years prior to the first Quranic revelation. The Prophet, upon him be peace, was 35 years old. It had been weakened by fire and then destroyed by a flood. Quraysh reduced the size of the Ka’ba because they were unable to raise sufficient legitimate funds and excluded the Hijr from the main part of the building. They placed a wall to mark the Hijr and the pilgrims would circumambulate around the outside of the wall.

Later in this section it describes the Ka’ba’s current dimensions:

From the Shami to the Iraqi corner is 9.90 meters. From the Iraqi to the Yemeni corner is 12.04 meters and from the Yemeni corner to the Black Stone corner is 10.18 meters. The height of the Ka’ba is 15 meters.

In the section of the Cave of Thawr, the author writes:

The Mount of Thawr is larger and more distant from Makka than that of the Mount of Hira. It is about four kilometers south of Makka. Thawr means ‘a bull’ refers to three connected peaks. The Cave of Thawr is on the third mountain. To reach it takes approximately one and half hours and involves climbing and sometimes descending up and down as one progress towards the cave. The cave is a large hollow in the shape of a ship with two entrances at the front of the cave and one at the far end.

When the Prophet, upon him be peace, and his close friend Abu Bakr migrated from Makka to Madina, they were shown a route which took them away from the most obvious path northwards. They then hid in the Cave for three nights while the Makkans sent out search parties, most of whom were looking on the most direct routes. During these nights, The Prophet and his Companion ate dates and water was brought to them by Abu Bakr’s pregnant daughter Asma.

One of the search parties had tracked the Prophet’s route and successfully found the cave. However, by Allah’s command, a pigeon had laid its nest at the mouth of the cave and a spider had speedily woven its web over the entrance. When the Disbelievers saw the cave covered by a spider’s web and the undisturbed pigeon’s nest, they assumed the cave could not be occupied. Abu Bakr had become concerned when he heard the search party approaching. Allah said regarding the miraculous even of the pigeon and the spider:

(Quranic Arabic text present in the book has been omitted in this review)

If you help (your leader), (it is no matter); for Allah did indeed help him, when the Unbelievers drove him out; he had no more than one companion; they two were in the cave, and he said to his companion, ‘Have no fear, for Allah is with us’. Then Allah sent down His peace upon him, and strengthen him with forces which you saw not, and humbled to the depths the word of the Unbelievers. But the word of Allah is exalted to the heights; for Allah is Exalted in Might, Wise (Al-Tauba 9:40)

In the section of Madina, The Rawda and It’s Pillars (following a diagram of the locations) the author writes:

The Prophet, upon him be peace, said, ‘Between my house and my pulpit is one of the Gardens of Paradise’. The Arabic word he used in this description was the Rawda and for this reason, the section of the mosque is called the Rawda. It contains several pillars with historical significance. The six most famous pillars of the Rawda stand at exactly the same place as the original pillars that existed in the time of the Prophet, upon him be peace. They were made of palm trunks. The ones that stand in their places have been covered in white marble and marked near the top with green circles inscribed with gold lettering since the time of the Ottoman Sultan Salim who died in 945AH (1539 CE)

The book references Quranic verses, which are written in clear Arabic script for easy reference, there are full colour photos of many of the important sites, as well as diagrams and floor plans of the Prophet’s Mosque. The book is also printed in a handy- travel friendly size, which is very helpful. The descriptions are short and concise, making it an easy reference guide to those pilgrims who desire to attain a degree of understanding of the historical and religious aspects of the many sites in Makka and Madina.

Overall I found this book to be useful in giving the reader a broad understanding of the important sites of Makka and Madina, thus appreciating the nuanced details of the Prophet’s life and mission. This would make an excellent companion on your trip to Makka and Madina. We pray that Allah calls us back to His House over and over again. I pray that he accepts the efforts of all those who assisted in this publication and increase them in their nearness to you. Ameen.

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