[Note: before you misunderstand and start throwing a tantrum, know that this post is in no way a comparison between the holy city of Madhinah and the capital city of Maldives (which should be obvious from the title, but the minds of people work weird these days). Rather, my only intention is to give a description of Madhinah from an different perspective that might also make it easy for Maldivians to understand]
Male’ is obviously a very different city than Madhinah, despite both of them being a Muslim city. But that does not mean that all Muslims cities should be one and the same, although it is of utmost importance that there should at least be some similarities that every Muslim city and country should share. Now, one may say that these similarities do exist already, but the focus here is not on just any similarities, but those that every Muslim community, society, city or country should have, but in most cases doesn’t.
Madhinah was the city that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, migrated to from Makkah. The descendants of the Muhaajireen and Ansaar still populates the city, although a lot of people have migrated to it since the migration of the Prophet to this today. It was the capital city of Islamic State (no, not the ISIS) which the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) established 14 centuries ago. The Masjid that he built back than is still here (duh!) and is currently undergoing a huge expansion project.
Unfortunately, today it is not the same Madhinah that was brought up under the guidance of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Those who govern its affairs are nothing like Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) in whose leadership is a great lesson for today’s leaders. Its youth are not like the ones that once asked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to allow them to join him in battle despite their young age. Despite all this, there still remains some (or, from a subjective perspective, a lot of) good. However, the aim of this post is not to describe just the good that is present in the air of Madhinah, but just to give a general description of the city and its people, be it good or bad. By no means is this ‘list’ complete. Feel free to suggest any edits.
Ok, then. Enough jibber jabber. Here is how Male’ would be, if it was like Madhinah, presented in the form of bullet points for clarity and because of the love of a certain individual for them:
• The mosques in the city would be closed (as in you cannot enter to pray) from after one prayer to the beginning of the next, but not without exceptions. They are usually closed after everyone leaves the Masjid, and if there is someone in the Masjid, they will just close the doors and leave. The doors cannot be opened from the inside, but once closed, cannot be opened from the outside without a key. So the last person to exit would invariably lock the doors if he closes it properly. Exceptions include the time between Maghrib and Isha, which is relatively short when compared to other times. I wrote this point inside a mosque, between the said time. Another example of an exceptions is if there is a circle (or let’s say a class) of memorizing Qur’aan (see next point) going on in a Masjid, which happens usually after Asr or Maghrib. In such cases, you might see some masjids with the doors open.
Now, I don’t know exactly why this is the case, but normally most of the people come to prayers on time, so perhaps there is no need to keep them open. Another big exception would be the Islamic Centre, which would be open all day long, except between 11 pm and 3 am, which is the time the mosque would be cleaned. But even then, you can access some part of the Mosque.
• There would be Qur’aan Memorizing Circles held in (some of) the mosques, especially the Islamic Centre. Generally, the participants would be children, but you would not be amazed by the sight of elder people also joining these classes, especially those that would be held at the Islamic Centre.
• The people who misses the congregation in the mosque will almost immediately start a new congregation with a new Iqaamah at the back of the mosque. You can usually hear the Iqaamah as soon as the Imam ends the prayer. One would seldom see anyone praying alone (except the regular Sunnah prayers), even children. They will appoint one to pray as the Imaam and they will make rows behind him. Or if they see someone praying alone, they will just go up to him and join in.
• My grandfather can catch the first unit of the prayer even if he starts walking to the Masjid when he hears the Azaan (because he cannot walk that fast now because of old age—may Allah grant him good health) and the old people—and this is just a figure of speech—who goes to the Masjid early on would have to wait longer than they do now, because the time between the Azaan and the Iqaamah would be longer. For Maghrib it is 10 minutes, which is normal, but for Isha, Noon and Asr it is 20 and for Fajr it is 25 minutes. If you are in a hurry, that is a long time. But in the city life, it is still not long enough most of the time.
• Ameeniyya School would still be a girls-only school. So would be any school for girls. Basically, all the schools would either be for boys or girls. Not for both.
• All the schools for girls would look like a house (or more like an apartment building) from the outside. You cannot see anyone who is inside (unless of course if there is an open window or something). The students would enter the school from the outer most door and close it behind them. They would also have some sort of a barrier outside the door so that no one can see the inside of the school directly even when the door is open. The reason, if not obvious, will be explained in the next point, in sha Allah. The teachers would all be female and no male will be allowed to enter except in, well, exceptional circumstances. My wife related to me of such an incident only a few days ago, where a student fainted at their school, so all the students and teachers were told not to come out of the class and to close the doors of the classes while the medics come and do their business.
• Both the girls and boys would wear uniforms to school (at least all girls would, as far as my knowledge regarding this is concerned). But the girls would wear their jilbaabs (the black dress which covers the whole body including the face) over their uniforms and remove them once they enter the school. This is why you may not see them in their classes. Perhaps their uniforms would be the same (i.e. similar to those in the Maldives), the difference being that they won’t be seen outside the school, the inside of which you would not see either if you are a male. Of course, this depends on whether the students stick to their code of conduct: if they do not—and that happens more often than one would hope—then you can see them lifting their jilbaabs, showing their skirts.
• The traffic problem you face at the end of the sessions? Same.
• Dharubaaruge would have separate entrances for males and females, be it for formal occasions or wedding parties or anything else. There would not be any mixing of men and women in these cases. This would be the generally accepted custom, and how it should be.
• If a family visits another family in their home, the women would be having a separate ‘meeting’. The men would be in a room and the women in another. Even when eating.
• Lemon Grass (and other restaurants) would have an area where people can eat sitting down on the floor and this would be the normal way to eat in restaurants or in homes during gatherings. They place a piece (or two) of plastic cloth (made from a material similar to that of plastic bags) on the floor or the carpet (where you don’t tread or walk on with your shoes, obviously), then place a big plate of rice or the rice itself on this cloth and eat from it. With two to five people sitting around it. All together. From the same plate. Sometimes they wouldn’t need curry, Just rice and grilled chicken would be fine.
I do not know how they eat alone.
Some other points
• The police (or some guys from the Islamic Ministry) would drive around in cars ordering people to pray. They would normally be seen when the times of prayers are near or during the time between the Azaan and Iqaamah. They would also prevent anything that they see happening that is contrary to the teachings of Islam, such as unacceptable behavior between the two sexes.
• People (not all) would look at expatriates with contempt. Same, eh?
• The employees in most offices would drink a lot of coffee (not exactly the coffee you are accustomed to) and tea. And I mean a lot. They also want you to come back tomorrow, or next week, or a couple of weeks later, and they want you to do this everyday. In other words, come back tomorrow everyday. Get it?
• They would (or might, as in very often) send you on a circle, from one employee to another till you end up where you started, probably because it’s not their responsibility or because they are too busy drinking tea.
• People would be seen on the streets (or around places where more people would gather, such as mosques or shopping malls) selling stuff, ranging from toys to siwaak to thobes, often with a very low quality and cost.
• Many people would brush their teeth with siwaak in public, and this would be normal and no one would be grossed out.
• Sometimes children (about 11 or 12 years old or more) would drive their families to places in cars when there is no male adult at home. This is not because it is allowed.
• Private cars will act as taxis. When you need a taxi, you would put up your hand and wait for someone to stop. Then you both will bargain until you reach an agreement. Else, you will thank him and send him away and then flag another car. Officially, taxis do exist, but they are too expensive most of the time.
Hopefully, this would give you an idea how the Male’ would be if it was like Madhinah, Perhaps more points would be added to this later on.