“Sarah, how many years do you think Zul spent in Medina?” Grandpa Aki asked testing his granddaughter who he saw sitting still barely ever moving.
“Erm…it’s 4 years, right? You said so last time, don’t you remember?” Sarah answered proudly, winking at his grandfather. “Yes… that’s right. Good thing you remembered. I was just testing whether you’re focused on what I’ve been telling you since the beginning.” Grandpa Aki said, before continuing, “Today, I’m going to tell you about the last few weeks before Zul returned back to Malaysia. Do you want to know what happened?”
“Of course, but I bet it will sad, wouldn’t it? After returning to Malaysia, did Zul get a job?” Sarah asked excitedly. “Woah, wait, be patient… Let me finish each part of the story properly,” Grandpa Aki said tickling her and Sarah laughed loudly.
“My child. The knowledge that you learn throughout your study here for your Bachelor degree is just here,” He motioned towards his waist with his hands. “If you continue your studies further, only then it will increase. Consequently, if you stopped here, then it will stay here or be lower due to one’s forgetfulness which is natural for people.” Such is the advice of Zul’s lecturer after the class of Turuq al-Tadris (Methodology of Teaching).
“I’ll study until PhD, insya-Allah…” Zul decided determinedly in his heart.
His life throughout his stay in Medina, felt as though it passes by in the blink of an eye but was filled with beautiful and colourful memories. The land of “Madrasah for the Scholars of Hadith”, verandah and pillars of Nabawi mosque is full with halaqah, and every corner of Medina is bursting with knowledge and history because scholars have lived there since the time of the Rasullullah PBUH, the companions, tabi’in followed by generations of scholars afterwards which create an indescribable feeling for those who go there. Moreover, it is also stated that Imam al-Bukhari completed his Sahih al-Bukhari in the holy land of Medina.
It’s as though we can just see Imam Malik walks to Nabawi mosque for his immense respect and love for Rasullullah PBUH. “All my life, I’ve never ridden on a horse or camel in the city of Medina. It’s because I’m ashamed to do so, riding high whilst the most honourable body of Rasullullah PBUH is underneath it.” Such was his confession. In a corner of Nabawi mosque, Zul could imagine how busy Imam al-Zuhri would be writing and finishing the bookkeeping of hadiths which he directly narrates from Anas bin Malik.
“We don’t know how the Nabawi mosque was during the time of Fuqaha’ al-Sab’ah. Can you imagine, way over there, Sa’id bin al-Musayyib sat. In front of him, al-Qasim bin Muhammad. At his side, Sulaiman bin Yasar. And way over there is Urwah bin al-Zubair. At the back, Kharijah bin Zaid, on his left sat Ubaidillah bin Abdullah while on his right is Abu Bakr bin ‘Abd al-Rahman. It would be awesome, right?” Zul said to Khairul. The custom of having halaqah to learn is an inherited tradition from previous generations till this day.
This is the land Zul begins to learn the basis and introduction to dalil and issuance of rulings from masyaikhs he learnt from both on campus and in Nabawi mosque. Students are trained to produce research papers, introduced to maraji’ (public reference source) and masadir (specific or authentic reference source). They are taught research methodology and the art of tarjih. Foreign scholars from al-Azhar, Sudan, Syria, Mauritius, India, Pakistan, Africa and other countries across the globe will always visit Medina bringing along the multifarious lines of thoughts, political leanings, giving him wide exposure to the realities of Islam’s world, just like how it was described in a book Zul read titled Hadir al-‘Alam al-Islami written by Dr Jamil ‘Abdullah Muhammad al-Misri, lecturer of Kulliyyah of Dakwah and Usuluddin, Islamic University of Medina. Access towards reading materials is boundless regardless of whether it was given for free by the university or bought at a cheap price through wakaf projects which can be found everywhere. The custom of knowledge is so rich amongst the students and the masyaikhs. In the early 90s era, the book al-Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuh arranged by Syeikh Dr Wahbah Mustafa al-Zuhaili was just published. Throngs of students will queue in long lines outside the bookstore. Likewise, small pamphlets regarding rulings were countless, written by Medina scholars who are very productive. The only question is whether a person does want to learn or is just comfortable lazing around as his time continue to get wasted.
Prayer is a greatly emphasized instrument by the university’s management. Zul once read a note on the notice board of the Islamic University of Medina, a list of final year or final semester student names list, who was expelled for leaving the congregational prayers. Yes, it is the most effective tarbiah in moulding the hearts of students in maintaining and performing the five obligatory prayers in congregation punctually. This is the ‘money can’t buy’ experience and education of the Islamic University of Medina.
From Ibn ‘Abbas radhiallahu ‘anhuma, he said:
كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَجْوَدَ النَّاسِ بِالخَيْرِ، وَكَانَ أَجْوَدُ مَا يَكُونُ فِي رَمَضَانَ حِينَ يَلْقَاهُ جِبْرِيلُ، وَكَانَ جِبْرِيلُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ يَلْقَاهُ كُلَّ لَيْلَةٍ فِي رَمَضَانَ، حَتَّى يَنْسَلِخَ، يَعْرِضُ عَلَيْهِ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ القُرْآنَ، فَإِذَا لَقِيَهُ جِبْرِيلُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ، كَانَ أَجْوَدَ بِالخَيْرِ مِنَ الرِّيحِ المُرْسَلَةِ
“The Prophet (ﷺ) was the most generous amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel visited him, and Gabriel used to meet him on every night of Ramadan till the end of the month. The Prophet (ﷺ) used to recite the Holy Qur’an to Gabriel, and when Gabriel met him, he used to be more generous than a fast wind (which causes rain and welfare).” 
A part of the generosity of the Prophet PBUH is adopted in the character of the scholars and people of Medina who are all extraordinarily generous. It is as though there is a ‘competition’ amongst themselves of who is the most generous. There were several places in Median where free food is prepared for the poor and needy daily. “Insya-Allah, one day, I want to do the same in Malaysia. I wish I could provide delicious food for the poor and needy. I’ll name the food donation program as It’am Kitchen.” Zul thought in his heart.
The annual journey for hajj during his time spent there as a student gave him a truly unique experience. Zul’s experience of travelling on top of a van, getting to know and learn first hand the customs of the Bedouins, communicating and socializing with the lower level society and the ‘controversial’ move Zul made when he contradicted the opinion issued by Tabung Haji in the issue of throwing the jamrah before zawal are just some of the ups and downs in his life which helped construct a much larger paradigm in his thought. Historical sites in Mecca and Medina which he visited throughout the 4 years he spent in the holy land during the hajj season, gave him a real-life experience of what he had always read in Fiqh al-Sirah by Syeikh Said Ramadhan al-Buti and Fiqh al-Sirah by Syeikh Muhammad al-Ghazali.
If asked, where did Zul studied for his Bachelor degree, he will proudly answer, “I’m a student of two universities, both the Islamic University of Medina and ‘University’ of Nabawi Mosque!”
 Sahih Bukhari, no.1902