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Exactly one year ago, I arrived back home after my experience of a lifetime: the Hajj. Not a day goes past where I don’t think about the Hajj; what it felt like, and what we did on the day of Arafat; the night we spent in Muzdalifah; staying at Mina; pelting the Satan and so on. As each day goes past, the yearning to go back increases.
I sorely miss sitting near and gazing at the Kaaba; circumblating the Kaaba; visiting the Rawda of our beloved Prophet sallaAllahu alayhi wasalam and conveying salams; sitting outside the dome of felicity in the middle of the night, feeling the soothing breeze of Madinah and sending salawats upon our beloved Prophet sallaAllahu alayhi wasalam.
I still haven’t quite figured out where I’ve left my heart; whether it’s at the Kaaba, or at the Rawda, or perhaps it’s somewhere in the dust of Madinah- I just don’t know, but I don’t really care, as long as it remains somewhere in the blessed sanctuaries. The yearning will take us all back there sometime soon inshaAllah ta’ala. In the meantime, I guess we just have to keep our experiences alive in our hearts.
When I returned from Hajj last year, I was advised that the best way to keep the spirit of Hajj and experience alive in the heart was to share as many stories of the Hajj experience as possible (not the really personal ones of course!). Therefore I wrote a short journal of my experience. Alas, I didn’t have a blog then, but our beloved aunty Noor very kindly posted it on her amazing blog back at the time.
In spirit and remembrance of the Hajj again, I thought I’d post it here. I pray we all are invited to the blessed lands soon and often!
Amin ya Rabbil ‘alameen!
The Hajj Experience (2007)
The journey begins from home
The much anticipated day arrived, the day we were leaving everything behind to depart to the blessed lands to perform Hajj- the journey of a lifetime. The thought of being chosen and invited by the Almighty Allah to perform the pilgrimage at such a young age was quite overwhelming. By the grace of Allah Ta’ala, I was fortunate enough to attend the Deen Intensive Rihla in Madinah and Makkah last year, where I also had the opportunity to perform my first Umrah, therefore I was confident that I would still be familiar with the Umrah rituals, and surrounding areas in Madinah and Makkah. However, I decided to erase my Rihla and Umrah experience from my mind temporarily, as I knew Hajj was going to be a totally different experience. I wanted to embark on my journey with no expectations whatsoever, and to avoid making comparisons between both experiences.
Although I didn’t have much time to prepare for my Hajj trip, I managed to study the Hajj course on SunniPath with Shaykh Sohail Hanif. The course did prepare me to a certain extent of what Hajj will involve, and the rituals that we must perform in order to fulfil the obligations of Hajj. However, I knew I wasn’t going to fully know what Hajj is all about until I practically experienced it myself.
My heart was feeling really heavy for some reason and I couldn’t decipher why. I embraced my mother and father tightly, and was really sad to leave them, because I knew that they were going through a very tough time. We (my brother, his wife and I) then met up with the rest of the group at Aylesbury Mosque, and we all made our way to Heathrow Airport.
The waiting around at Heathrow airport enabled us to bond with fellow pilgrims. Although I knew some of the people from our group like Mas’ud bhai & family, some fellow companions I met for the first time in my life, which resulted in interesting introductions! By this time, my excitement for Hajj was increasing, I just could not wait to get on board and start my pilgrimage! Furthermore, I was really looking forward to seeing and meeting our beloved Aunty Noor in Madinah again.
We had a rather long routed flight: Heathrow, Cairo, Sanaa (Yemen), Jeddah and then Madinah. The view from the aeroplane when we were flying into Sanaa airport was quite interesting; all we could see were high mountains, which were very dry. We stayed at Sanaa airport for approximately 3 hours. I remember saying to Mas’ud bhai that it would be brilliant if we see any of the Haba’ib Shayukh at the airport. We knew they would be going on Hajj as well, so there could have been a possibility. But sadly, the dream didn’t come true.
When we got to Jeddah airport, we had prepared ourselves mentally to be stuck at immigration for a few hours at least, but by the grace of Allah Ta’ala, we all cleared within an hour. However, there was a change of plan; we were initially supposed to fly from Jeddah to Madinah but due to some complications, we had to go via bus.
So after nearly three days of travelling, we reached Madinah, the city of our Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Alhumdulilah, we felt like true pilgrims. I reflected on how in the olden days, people would set off for Hajj weeks and months in advance, and the trials they had to face during their travels. Despite the exhaustion, I was really eager to see the green dome of felicity, pray inside the mosque, and visit the Rawdah of our Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. However, I didn’t want to meet our Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, looking really tired and messy! I felt it was really bad adab to go in such a state, so thought it was necessary to look afresh and tidy. I also arranged to meet aunty Noor shortly after; I just couldn’t wait any longer!
As I walked through the courtyard of our Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam’s mosque, my heart was dancing with joy and I still couldn’t believe where I had finally arrived. The place was overcrowded with people from all different nations and cultures. The view was quite extraordinary; I had never in my life seen so many different people, different in their physique and attire, but the fact that we all worshipped the same God, we are visiting the same Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the fact that we are all the same in the eyes of the Almighty Allah, it was a powerful thought and feeling indeed.
I felt really emotional as soon as I stepped inside the mosque, but prayed my 2 rakats and then engaged in Du’a. I really wanted to visit the Rawdah of our Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, but it wasn’t open for the women at the time. Soon after I met up with aunty Noor and we spent hours together. The Rawdah was normally open for women after Isha prayers, so aunty Noor agreed to take me to the Rawdah the same evening after 9pm. When we got to the Rawdah, it was just congested with women, and in order to get inside, we had to go with a group. The groups were allocated according to the country you came from, or language you spoke. There was a lot of pushing going on, and we decided not to proceed further, as we didn’t want to dishonour our Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, by pushing and hurting fellow Muslims. Aunty Noor and I went and sat outside the Green Dome of Felicity instead, and made Du’as for everyone. It was really beautiful sitting there; feeling the breeze of Madinah, and knowing how physically close you are to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam’s, grave, it was all quite overwhelming.
I was unsuccessful in getting into the Rawdah on a couple of occasions, mainly because it was flooded with women, and I did not want to be pushed, or push any one. On one occasion, the female guards refused to let me go with the Pakistani group! They insisted on me to go with the Iraqi group, and would not listen to me when I affirmed I’m Pakistani! I even tried conversing in Urdu with them so they would believe I was Pakistani, but still they were convinced I was of Iraqi origin! I didn’t want to cause any further argumentation, so went to the back of the queue, and sat there. I started conveying my Salams to our Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, from where I was sat. I thought that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is already aware of who is here and who is not, who is at the Rawdah, and who cannot get inside the Rawdah, no doubt he sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, will hear my Salams. Shortly after, they allowed the Pakistani group of women to enter the Rawdah. I thought to myself that there is no harm in trying again; the worst that will happen is that they will refuse to let me go in, but I was prepared for that. By the grace of Allah, and the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam’s, invitation, I somehow managed to walk pass the security guards without being questioned or stopped! As soon as I got onto the green carpet, I started praying my 2 rakats, but I was pushed from women behind me, and from both sides. They continued to do this until I was right at the front! Alhumdulilah I thought, but equally I was sad to have had to broken my prayer because of being pushed. I started reading my two rakats again, without being pushed this time. We were given about 15-20 minutes inside the Rawdah, all of the guards were telling women off for making supplications and saying how it was a ‘bida’ to say Salams to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, but everyone ignored their pleas! Tears were flowing everywhere, the women were conveying their Salams, and showing their love to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Leaving the Rawdah was heart-breaking, I just wanted to spend more time there talking to our Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and making lots of Du’as.
We were in Madinah for only 5 days, we begged our Hajj tour operator to extend our stay in Madinah, but due to logistical reasons, they were unable to. Everyone was quite emotional to leave Madinah, but equally grateful to have visited the Beloved sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, before performing Hajj.
Now it was time to move onto the next stage in our journey: Makkah to perform Umrah and then Hajj after a few days.
We got to Makkah slightly before Fajir, but were faced with some unexpected inconveniences which outraged everyone in the group. I was as equally disappointed and annoyed with the situation, but felt that nothing was going to be resolved any time soon, so decided to go and perform my Umrah in the interim.
I managed to perform the Umrah with ease, although I decided to do Tawaf on the 2nd floor to avoid the crowds, and concentrate on my supplications. When I saw the Kaaba for the first time on this trip, my feelings and emotions were somewhat different than seeing the Kaaba the very first time in my previous trip. In fact, there was a different feeling each time I laid my eyes on the Kaaba, something which is beyond words; a very deep and personal connection which I simply cannot express and share. Its intensity is something which an individual has to experience themselves in order to really know what it feels like, but the feeling should most definitely be treasured.
We had 6 days in Makkah before we were to depart to Mina for the actual days of Hajj. During the 6 days, we were advised to do as many Tawafs as we can around the Kaaba, but at the same time try not to over do it, as we needed a lot of energy and strength during the actual days of Hajj. I found doing Tawaf round the Kaaba downstairs really difficult because it was just overcrowded with people. Also I felt that I couldn’t actually concentrate on my supplications because I would constantly be in fear of being pushed and squashed by people. This got worse as the days of Hajj drew closer; crowds were getting larger and larger, day by day. In order to avoid the crowds, I did most of my Tawafs on the 3rd floor, the roof of Masjid Haram. Initially I thought it would take me twice as long, but in effect it’s the same distance as doing Tawaf on the second floor. I felt doing the Tawaf on the 3rd floor more beautiful because it was less crowded, and the view was just spectacular. I was able to see pilgrims from the top performing Tawaf round the Kaaba downstairs, and at times I couldn’t even spot an empty space! SubhanAllah, you could really feel the intensity of being at such a place.
Just like in Madinah, there were people from all different nations and cultures in Makkah as well. The Malaysians and Indonesians looked really cute as they all dressed the same, according to their respective groups, but no matter what happened, they would not let go of each others hands! This proved to be quite dangerous for the poor souls who were actually trying to get through, but I guess it’s the way they had been trained. I also noticed how they were really calm in their conduct towards others, and displayed good adab, along with the Turkish people. If they accidentally stepped on you, they would come back and kiss your hand (I’m talking about the women kissing hands of other women!). I found this gesture really beautiful, and it showed their compassion for other fellow Muslims. On the other hand, I would bump into people who were really rude and aggressive in their conduct, and I witnessed a lot of selfishness, which was really sad. But then I realised that this is the true state of our Ummah; in the real world, it’s all about me, me and me! Getting through these crowds required a lot of patience. We were taught that no matter what happens, we must not retaliate or show any aggression. This for me was a great lesson in enduring patience, and improving ones character and relations towards others.
I also witnessed people who were not in a good form physically, but I was moved to see their struggle, determination and commitment to Almighty Allah. They were all working as hard as they could, despite not being physically fit/well, just to please the Almighty Allah. It really did make me realise of the blessings Allah subhanahu wa’ tala has bestowed upon me, and how I realised that there is more to life than just the outward form. I know our Shayukh have always taught us this, but to accept it was quite difficult, especially since the culture and society we come from, pays so much attention to the necessity of the outward form being beautiful/attractive.
I was happy to have met up with one of my really close friends, “F” in the Kaaba. She lives miles away from me, and I never get to see her so it was a great blessing from Allah Ta’ala that we happened to be on Hajj the same year and in Makkah at the same time.
I was really disturbed to see all those sky scrapers just outside the Kaaba. I had read articles in the past regarding them, but wasn’t really sure what people were debating about until I witnessed it all myself. For some reason, I was really missing Madinah even in Makkah. The only thing I loved in Makkah was the Kaaba itself. I felt at peace when I was inside Masjid Haram and around the Kaaba. It was really sad to see such commercialism just outside the blessed sanctuary; it kind of makes you lose that spiritual connection you build yourself up to feeling.
On the 8th Dhul Hijjah, all pilgrims proceeded towards Mina. Half of our group went to Mina the night before on the bus as they had children with them, or were physically unable to walk. I decided to walk with the other half of our group. We left after Fajir, and it took us 2 hours to reach Mina by foot. I really did feel like a pilgrim walking to Mina, whilst reciting the Talbiyya! I reflected on how our Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, walked to Mina, and it’s an honour for us to even be following his footsteps.
We prayed 5 Salats in our tents in Mina, before proceeding to Arafat the following day. We then returned to Mina on the 10th Dhul Hijjah and stayed in the tents until the 12th. Although I got along with everyone in our Hajj group, I had spent little time with them as I wanted to do my rituals and Ibadah alone; i.e I would go to the Kaaba or Masjid Nabi by myself, where as other women in the group would go in small groups together. Therefore, in Mina I had the opportunity to spend time and bond with the women from our Hajj group. Everyone got on really well, Alhumdulilah and there were no arguments or fights! Mas’ud bhai’s little daughter and I bonded really well. Masha’Allah she had been a brave and patient little soul throughout the journey, but was missing her brothers a lot. She would often sing songs saying their names. Whenever she would spot me, she would come and sit on my lap and play with me, however she couldn’t say my name so decided to name me Maryam! And what a beautiful name she chose indeed, Alhumdulilah!
The actual day of Hajj finally arrived. It was manic trying to get onto the bus and get to Arafat, but Alhumdulilah we managed to get there before midday. We went straight into our respective tents as soon as we got to Arafat. A lot of people wanted to go to Jabal Rahma, but we were advised not to go there because it was going to be too crowded, and could prove to be dangerous. The weather was quite hot on the day of Arafat, but nonetheless, we were not going to waste a minute complaining, as it was the most important day. Our Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that “Hajj is Arafat”.
I remember Shaykh Sohail Hanif advising us to find a quiet spot and just engage in making Du’a. I found myself a nice spot underneath a tree just outside our tent, and spent the day supplicating to Allah subhanahu wa’ tala; it was just me and my Lord, and I was supplication to Him. I made my supplications with convictions that they will be answered. It was the most beautiful and special day. Everyone was just immersed in making Du’as, and seeking forgiveness.
Just before Magrib, we had a short speech by an Imam and then he made a Du’a, which really moved us. The Imam then congratulated everyone on becoming “Hajjis”, and asked everyone to embrace and congratulate their fellow pilgrims. Everyone was really emotional, and it was a very touching moment I think in every pilgrim life.
We then moved onto the next stage: spending the night at Muzdalifah.
It took us about 20 minutes to get to Muzdalifah from Arafat. Since our group left Arafat quite late, the view as we entered Muzdalifah was quite amazing. You could just see the flow of pilgrims, where the majority were dressed in white. As soon as we got to our spot in Muzdalifah, we prayed Magrib and Isha in Jamaat with our group Imam, and then the search for pebbles to hit the Satan with began. Collecting the pebbles is a form of Ibadah, as taught by our teachers so it’s something which I did enjoy. After collecting 70 pebbles (you only need 49, but to be on the safe side, it’s better to have extra) we slept underneath the stars. It was a very humbling experience, but the best sleep I ever had, even though I only slept for 2 hours.
Some groups left before Fajir, but I was grateful to be at Muzdalifah after Fajir because I remembered Shaykh Sohail teaching us that we must make a special supplication to Allah subhanahu wa’ tala after Fajir and before Sunrise. The supplication was to ask Allah subhanahu wa’ tala to take care of the rights that we owe to fellow men. It is said that Allah subhanahu wa’ tala will not forgive us until the people we have hurt or offended have forgiven us, but Shaykh Sohail said that, on Hajj at Muzdalifah after Fajir and before sunrise, it is the only time that Allah subhanahu wa’ tala will accept this supplication and forgive you. Allahu ta’ala Alim.
After sunrise, half of our group decided to walk to the Jamarat, where as the other half decided to wait for the bus to come.
Jamarat, Sacrifice, and Day of Eid.
There were 15 of us walking together from Muzdalifah to the Jamarat, and it was quite a long walk indeed. It took us 2 hours to walk to the Jamarat, where as it took the other half of our group, 2 hours to get on the bus and back to Mina. Walking to the Jamarat was the first time in Hajj I saw and felt the intensity of the crowd, and the fact that I was amongst 3 million people! I knew how many people were on Hajj, but didn’t witness the crowds until the Jamarat because everyone was in their respective tents in Mina and Arafat.
The Jamarat was the only thing on Hajj I had some apprehension in my heart for. The Jamarat is notorious for being the place where so many people meet their death, although dying on Hajj would have been such an honourable death*, but the thought still did scare me. As we were walking up the Jamarat, my heartbeat was getting faster and faster. We walked passed the small Jamarat, then the middle one, and then we approached the big Jamarat, which was the only one we had to stone the first day. By the grace of Allah subhanahu wa’ tala, I managed to get to the front with ease and stone the Jamarat. As soon as I finished, I just wanted to get out. The stoning was quite an experience, but what I was really shocked to see was people throwing the stones from such a distance where they were not even hitting the wall, rather hitting the pilgrims.
After the stoning, we decided to treat ourselves to some lovely Al-Baik chicken, which out of convenience was located right opposite the Jamarat. After indulging on yummy chicken, and having regained our energy from all the walking and stoning, we proceeded back to our hotel in Makkah. Once our sacrifices were done, we exited out of Ihram and went to perform the Fard Tawaf. Some people had to do the Saee (walk between Safa and Marwa) as well after the Tawaf. I managed to do my Saee the night before departing for Mina so I would avoid the crowds of people.
It was also the day of Eid for the majority of Muslims around the world, but for the pilgrims it honestly did not feel like Eid at all because we were just so busy trying to complete all the Hajj rituals.
After everyone had performed their Tawaf and Saee, we all made our way back to Mina, which ended up being quite an expedition indeed!
Most of the Hajj rituals were completed by now for most pilgrims. The only thing left was the Jamarat on 11th and 12th Dhul Hijjah. On these two days, we had to stone all three pillars which proved to be really testing, especially on the third day when it was terribly overcrowded with pilgrims. In order to stone all three pillars, you really have to be quick and fast. It’s like playing tennis but your speed has to be 5 times faster! I was amazed to see how the old and disabled people managed to do it; my heart really did go out to them and their struggle, but Allah subhanahu wa’ tala is the one who gives courage and makes it easy. There was an occasion where I felt people would fall on top of each other and I will trip and die with them! Seriously, that’s how intense and difficult it was.
After the stoning was finished, I was really relieved, Alhumdulilah. I was so grateful that Allah subhanahu wa’ tala gave me the opportunity to perform Hajj, especially the Jamarat when they had made the stoning really easy for pilgrims. I really did wonder, and commend the people who did it when the Jamarat didn’t have the one way traffic system.
By the 12th of Dhul Hijjah, everyone was exhausted, and the walk back to Makkah proved to be quite taxing. Fortunately the Saudi authorities have made one way systems for all pedestrian, so in essence it was safe to walk, where as in the past there used to be so many deaths due to the walking traffic coming from both sides.
Since we were leaving Makkah to come back home two days after Hajj was over, it was important for us to get our Farewell Tawaf done as soon as possible. The Farewell Tawaf was quite poignant for me because the realisation of having completed Hajj, and actually going back home really struck me then. I prayed Allah subhanahu wa’ tala accepted mine and all the Hujjaj’s Hajj as Hajj Mabroor- A righteous Hajj, and that we would be blessed and honoured to visit the holy sanctuaries again and again.
Masud bhai, Bhabhi (Mas’ud bhai’s wife), their daughter and I were invited for dinner by our friends Cheikhna and Habeeba in Jeddah, where we were also blessed to meet and give Salams to Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah. It was wonderful to see Shaykh, and he was looking really well despite his accident a few months ago. (May Allah Ta’ala preserve and protect him). So it was a perfect ending to a very fascinating Hajj trip. All praise is due to Allah subhanahu wa’ tala.
The journey back home
The journey back home was slightly easier than the journey there, well I think it was. Then again, I just remember dozing off as soon as the aircraft lifted off in Jeddah, and I woke up a little while before it landed in Heathrow!
Overall, the Hajj is a journey of a lifetime and I pray everyone gets invited, especially when they are young and have their health. Throughout the days leading up to and during Hajj, I was unable to think and reflect on my experience. Everything is just so busy out there and you seriously do not get the time to reflect deeply on what you have accomplished. However, I was told by friends who had performed Hajj that the true realisations and lessons you pick up from Hajj do not actually strike you until you are back home, and have recovered from your tiredness. Allahu Ta’ala Alim.
I personally think everyone is at different stages in their lives and in their faith when they set off to perform Hajj, therefore the realisation and after effects of Hajj is different for everyone. Some managed to determine what directions to take in life whilst they were out there, where as some needed to come back, settle into the daily routines of life before realising the changes Hajj had made for them, and what else they wanted to achieve.
I just pray that the Hajj experience brings good changes within us, and we maintain the spirit of our Ibadah that we had during Hajj in our lives over here as well. May Allah subhanahu wa’ tala continue to invite us all again and again to the blessed lands, and may all the Hujjaj’s Hajj, Du’as, Ibadah be accepted. May we all be united in Paradise without reckoning, where we will be granted the company of our Beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the Awliya, the Righteous, all our loved ones, and with closeness to Allah subhanahu wa’ tala.
Amin ya Rabbil ‘alameen!
(2nd January 2008)