Saturday, April 3, 2010

DiSuatu Malam yang Indah dan Hening

"Ustaz Andi, boleh bawa kami mendaki Jabal Nur?"

Jabal Nur was not in the itinerary, unfortunately, so this soft-spoken and nice Ustaz who was our mutawwif had to make special arrangement to take us there. We had seen the Jabal Nur from afar - it didn't look outstanding physically, so I was not the keenest climber. But since we were already there irrespective, I thought we should take the opportunity to see this historic cave and I did not give it a second thought of our ability to conquer this 'small' hill.

Or so I thought.

I was sure it will be just us men, but in the end, it turned to be quite a female-majority congregation. You can't fault their motivation, for on this end, many of them are stronger than us men.

Figuratively and literally.

As the twists and turns took us to the back lane of a small village at the outskirt of Mekah to the foothill of the Jabal Nur, the question of my fitness did cloud my mind; on my ability to climb this hill that was frequented by Rasullullah SAW before his prophethood. (Apparently for some (unknown?) reasons, he did not frequent this cave after his elevation as a prophet.) In the dark under a moonlit night, the hill looked towering and intimidating enough for me.
Akmal on the other hand would go up running, but along the way, even he would be left breathless and stopped at numerous locations along the way to catch his breath.

Honestly, I don't think you want to know about me, but I'll tell you anyway. If I were to do that, within 3 minutes, I would be down on my knees and crawling my way up Jabal Nur. Or more likely I would be crawling back to my hotel room. Or the hospital.

Whichever is nearer!

I had wondered about Ustaz Andi's chosen time to climb Jabal Nur. I thought that he would choose to do it early in the morning, so that we could see the view better, although a better reason would be so that we could see our way to the top of the hill. However, we did not leave the hotel until about 10 pm and probably reached the foot by 11 pm or thereabout. If this was in Malaysia, I am quite sure we would be worried about the 'spirits' roaming, but we weren't sure what to think in al-Haram.

I would not be climbing hills in the dead of the night, if I have my own way. You know, the "cucu tumpang lalu, Tok," stuff and the likes. ;-) Actually I dare making jokes here, after the fact I guess, but I kept my mouth shut while I was there. If I were to see an animal or a stranger along the way, I would ignore them, but not totally as I would still acknowledge them by either nodding my head or waving my hand. If they were to acknowledge me first, that is.

And we did meet a few 'beings' along our way up, some in the form of human, presumably of Pakistani origin, making Jabal Nur as their abode, living on alms courtesy of people climbing this hill. I said presumably since I have no way of knowing then, if you know what I mean. There are of course other forms of beings, like the cat form that's in the picture above, although here I am also assuming it's a cat!

You just would not know when you would be tested, while you are at al-Haram. So you better control your mouth. Or better still, just keep it tightly shut. Very tightly.

You don't want to say anything that you might regret later.
It was a beautiful night though, but even with near full moon, it was still dark at the foothill and we can barely see the steps, as it was unlited by external lighting.

However, there are proper steps constructed for us to climb, when a couple of years ago there was none. Then you would have to find your own way to reach to the top.

As we our ascend, we started to see the flickering light of the streets below us. It was quite a sight (of the lights) since it was a clear night, but I guess it was nothing to shout about if you had been to KL Tower or the likes, anywhere in the big cities of the world.

But still, it was a beautiful sight.
This was just the beginning, I guess, at the early stage of the ascend. And it gets much better as we go up higher.

This was the view as we ascend Jabal Nur. It is a beautiful and hence it gives us energy to climb it in anticipation. But to be honest, this is fringe benefit as far as we are concerned. We were there for the Hira'.
However, soon we were covered in darkness with only the moon as our light. It would be less romantic of course for me to tell you that we did have lights from our handphones as back-ups! Aah, well, modern day amenity. But I guess that's the least of our worries. The climb is tough to be honest, and very soon we were covered in our own sweat. The climb is fast draining our energy. We were more worried about whether we have what it takes to reach the top.

Nearly there. We could start seeing the bright light of Makkah. We are near, yes very near. And yes, in both of the above pictures, you can see the silhouette of the 'beings' that I had mentioned and their abodes on top of Jabal Nur. Whether they are there on a continuous basis, 24-hours a day, your guesses are perhaps better than mine.
This is the view from the top most point of Jabal Nur. It takes my breath away when I saw this, literally, but not because I was out of breath due to the climb. The view is unlike what I have seen elsewhere, that's why. And you would know that there is one central point, or the heartbeat of this holy city.
And this is the heartbeat of the holy city. This is the close up of the Masjid al-Haram with the Safwah Royal Orchid Hotel tower on its side. I was wrong to question Ustaz Andi's wisdom, I guess, totally wrong. The night view is out of this world. Wish I had a 300 mm zoom and a tripod though!

Another View from the top of Jabal Nur. It is a view to die for, so to speak. ;-) Now I can understand the reason why Ustaz Andi had chosen to climb this at this (un)Godly hours, so to speak. It was over midnight by the time these pictures were taken.

Akmal at the hilltop posing with the bright lights of Makkah al-Mukarramah as the background. One can also see the very bright light of Masjidil Haram exactly behind his back. Funnily he looks like as if he was photo-shopped in this picture. I guess the flash of the camera created such shadow that makes his presence unreal.

But we were not done yet I guess. Much as we love the view at the top, our main objective us to visit Hira' cave where the first revelation of the Qur'an occurred. To do that we had to descend down to the other side of Jabal Nur, and it was quite steep.

But this point was the most challenging one. We had to maneuver our way through this small gap or opening that can barely accommodate the size of my body. Fortunately I used to be a gymnast, so I could contort my body to fit in. Haha, yeah right! You believe me, right? Anyway, that's me on the other side of the opening i.e. on the wrong side of the Hira', in blue/purple shirt with this guy in yellow trying to help pull me through the small gap.

Here is the Hira'. It was a small cave that can accommodate say at most 2-3 people, which could be too many. It is basically meant for one.
Bapak-bapak, Ibu-ibu...Ustaz Andi relating the history of Hira to all of us. Ustaz Andi who is from Medan, is a Mandailing. But the Mandailings speak German according to him. May be those studying in Makkah, I guess, eh Ustaz?
This is the view of Masjidil Haram from Gua Hira'. The dark part on the left is the Hira' cave itself. Is it sheer coincidence that the Hira' Cave faces Kaabah? This is something that my simple mind could not comprehend. How did Rasullullah know that at the point in time?

It seems to me that the Hira' was 'made' solely for him and for the purpose of elevating him to the prophethood. Amazing, if you think about it. Allahu Akbar.

Bearing in mind of course during the early days immediately after Israk and Mikraj, prayers were offered in the direction of Baitul Maqdis.
Akmal with Hira' on his right and the Masjidil Haram in the background. You'd wonder how Siti Khatijah RA would come to deliver food to Rasulullah SAW. We did it with modern amenities which included proper steps, lots of water and in the absence of the sun, and only once during our stay.

The descend perhaps is more eventful as were were tired by then. A couple of the ladies did slip and fell. We had to be extremely careful and may take longer time for us to reach the base.

I am most impressed with the ladies to be able to reach the top even tough it was quite an effort for them to do so. I am also impressed with the dedication of Ustaz Andi as he volunteered to take care of this expedition.

May God bless you, Ustaz.
And this is Akmal in a poignant moment after the descend. By this time it is already 1 am in the morning. The road leading to Jabal Nur and Hira' is in the background. It is covered in sheer darkness. It is not pitch black, but still it is dark.

I am not sure how Akmal managed to capture the top most picture of the cat on top of the Jabal Nur with the Masjidil Haram in the background. There are a couple of cats when we were there. I am told that monkeys and goat also frequent this hill, but the monkeys can be quite agressive, as usual I guess. They are after all - well, monkeys. ;-)

But I am also glad to have brought the Nikon DSLR when a few others had not dared bringing them, or so we were told, as we are able to enjoy some higher end pictures. If you are heading towards this direction sometimes this year, please do not hesitate to bring your DSLR, however bulky you may think. It is worth the effort.

But do remember that we are His guest first and foremost, and a photographer/blogger/tourist a very distant second. In fact, make this your No 1000.

Oh and yes, please watch this video taken by Akmal. Enjoy.

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