The SUV’s clock reads 11:40 AM. It’s Tuesday and we are headed to Medina.
I hear the melodious recitation of Sudais softly coming through the speakers and the sporadic Urdu translation after every few verses. The road is smooth and the air conditioner is just right. I can see rolling hills of sand and rock stretched on both sides of the highway. Sweltering heat rising in fumes creates a mirage in the distance. Not a person in sight, except for some tents dotting the hot landscape with lone camels grazing on God knows what.
As I sit here, in this cool air-conditioned car, writing in a trembling manner, I am in awe of the rugged, dry beauty of these rock and sandhills – the same rock and sandhills that, perhaps, the beloved prophet traversed upon on his bare feet (God’s peace and blessing upon him). It is on these dry deserts that battle fleets marched and victories spoken of hundreds of years later were had.
A large, luxurious bus passes by. Free WiFi on board, it boasts.
The horses galloped in hoards and left clouds of dust behind. Rigour and vigour ran in the blood of man, then. There existed love and fear of God. As the consciousness of such a higher power fuelled the wills of men, the very sun-baked sand under their feet gave them push, made them spring and welcomed the thump of their coarse feet. This was grandeur. This was ferocity and love at play, all led by the one man, the man, Muhammad (God’s peace and blessing upon him), under the guiding light of God and His grace.
Medina – 224 km. A Chevrolet Suburban passes us by in all its black and cold, desert eagle glory.
But glory was more glorious back then. It was humble and bare, not metal clad or air-conditioned. It was exposed to the desert winds, embracing the desert sands. It was white cloths waving in the wind, proclaiming servitude to God alone – and not luxury tycoons that make contraptions on 4 wheels with WiFi.
The road is still 2 hours long. My little brother wants me to pour him some mango nectar. After I give him his drink, I will continue to gaze wistfully out the window, at the rolling hills of sand, the rundown shacks and tents, the grazing camels. I might spot a bedouin, living his centuries old life. My eyes water at the sun-kissed land that plays a movie of history custom-made for me as my alphabets on this paper become multi-directional pencil movements in this moving car.
I yearn for the glory of those days – glory that was bare, glory that was humble.
We are from dust, and to dust we shall return. Oh would that I had been the dust of this land, oh would that I had been a particle of this sacred earth.