Salamualeykum and Ramadan Mubarak!
I was thinking about my next post and as going to put a story up about some tech stuff and I decided that with Ramadan 2011 here I would instead post about my Hajj Pilgrimage last year. I am hoping that it will be an interesting post for both the Muslims and Non-Muslims that might visit the site. Having spent a month between Mecca and Medina, I might split this post up over a couple posts so it doesn’t become too long. Also I won’t be going into every detail of the trip, think of this more as a 1 month Hajj trip packed into 10 minutes InshaAllah.
So Hajj, the pilgrimage that must be completed by every Muslim once in their life (as long as they can afford to do it). You hear from so many people about how special it is, how amazing it is and how it can change ones life once completed. In all honesty, it turned out to be so much more than I could have imagined. The saying goes,
"You don't choose to go to Hajj, Allah invites you to Hajj"
SubhanAllah, it’s so true. So many Muslims will want to go but alas, can never make it. You may have millions of dollars and never have the chance, while the poorest of the poor with little to no money will make it to Hajj. “You may have millions of dollars and never have the chance, while the poorest of the poor with little to no money will make it to Hajj.” Personally I had been thinking about Hajj for the last few years and while each year my local Imam would invite me to come along, it always seemed as though my naseeb wasn’t to go. Either I couldn’t get the time off from work or financially I just wasn’t in a position to make it. Working in sales the busiest time of the year is the Christmas period, making it the most difficult time to get off. In 2010 Hajj coincided with the November and December months, making it look like it was going to be another year that I wouldn’t be able to go.
Then SubhanAllah, one thing after another came together and last year I completed my Hajj pilgrimage. I had been having problems with my manager at work and it was reaching the point where I was ready to leave. That week was particularly rough and I was ready to call it quits but like any other family man, you weigh up the mortgage, bills and payments vs. the need for income and you make your way to work because you have to. While some have the advantage of loving their job, unfortunately I was not in that position. So later that awful week at work, I received a call from my Imam encouraging me to go to Hajj this year, with a friendly reminder that there was only 2 days to go till the group had to get their Visa applications into the Saudi embassy.
I spoke with my wife and we had a chat about the situation and decided that enough was enough, this year we were Insh’Allah going to Hajj. I rang my manager the next day and asked if I could get the time off for November, the response very quickly was just a flat out no. He never bothered to ask me why, just a straight out no. Which In all honesty, I can’t really complain about, its work and it’s up to them whether they give me the time off or not. So I got home and spoke with my wife about the situation. We decided that if work wasn’t going to give me the time off, then it was time to have faith in Allah and resign, go to Hajj and come back to look for a new job insha’Allah. “We decided that if work wasnt going to give me the time off, then it was time to have faith in Allah and resign, go to Hajj and come back to look for a new job insha’Allah.”
So the next day I called my manager and informed him that I would be resigning. Soon after I received a call back from the director asking me what was going on? I explained my situation and informed him while I understood that due to the amount of time and the period that I am asking off my manager had refused, at this point in my life my wife and I decided that Hajj this was a higher priority for us and that I would be resigning as a result. Subhan’Allah, I got a call later that day from the director informing me that he would be giving me the time off and that he would like me to stay on.
Have faith in Allah and leave the rest to him
So with a day to go to get the Visa I got my vaccinations, photos and passport organised and I was ready to leave.
Soon I was at the airport with my fellow 27 Hajj’ees. I have heard stories of where the group is so big that there is no attention to individuals or where the group leader will basically drop you off and say there you go, go complete your Hajj. MashAllah our Imam is excellent, he provided courses leading up to leaving, provided reading material and also held classes in Mecca and Medina so we knew what to expect and made sure we completed Hajj properly. With a small and close knit group, alhamdulillah, all went well.
So after a long flight we arrived in Dubai and changed into our Ihram’s at the airport (the white clothing that people going to Hajj wear). We then flew off in a completely full A380 to Jeddah. Upon arrival I had what I thought was a taste of what was to come, the amount of people and heat both in large amounts. Our Imam kept telling us, whatever our weakness is, is what we will be tested on during the trip. Mine is large crowds….
When I got to the airport and was thrust into the large crowds I had a taste of what was to come. There weren’t hundreds or thousands of people there, there were tens of thousands of people inside the airport, outside the airport and around the airport. Friends had prewarned me about Jeddah airport saying that I should be prepared to wait for hours while they process all the incoming pilgrims. Our wait was around 6 hours so we were lucky. I have heard of many waiting for 10+ hours so our 6 was a breeze.
After our arrival in Jeddah and our bus trip to Mecca, we arrived at our Apartment in Mecca. As we were there a few weeks prior to the Hajj period beginning, Mecca was not yet at full capacity, so it gave us time to settle in without the traffic and hustle and bustle.
As we prepared for our first Umrah (a pilgrimage to Kaaba done outside of the Hajj period), the butterflies began to sink in. The place I had been praying to my whole life, the Kaaba that I had seen in photos and videos only, the holiest place to any Muslim, soon I was going to be within metres of it….“The place I had been praying to my whole life, the Kaaba that I had seen in photos and videos only, the holiest place to any Muslim, soon I was going to be within metres of it….”
As the bus pulled up and dropped us off outside the Kaaba entrance I began to feel nervous and overly joyous. We went up the stairs and entered through the doors from the underground entrance, we kept our gaze lowered so as to only see the Kaaba once we reached the inner section and we could see it in all its glory. As we walked in through the main doors and through the initial crowds, our Imam gave us the signal to look up. SubhanAllah. There it was. It was around 2am and the the main floor was around half full with other pilgrims completing their tawaf, thousands of others around praying and making dua, Kabaa with its black curtains half up stood in front of me for the first time. Everyone in our group began making dua (prayers). I could see some crying, some smiling and others, like myself, just frozen. It’s that moment that I won’t forget, while I had prepared the dua in my head prior to getting there, once I was there, I just froze for a good few minutes just looking at its beauty. The Kaaba which was built by Ibrahim A.S, the Kaaba that we all pray to everyday, the Kaaba that is pictured in every Muslim household, was there in front of me for the first time.
After the initial shock and adrenalin had settled in and we all completed our dua, we began our Tawaf (going around the Kaaba). As I began my walk\jog around the Kaaba I began thinkingof how here I am with thousands of others, all in our plain white sheets making Tawaf as millions upon millions before me have. As I kept my eyes on the Kaaba, I thought of my Tawaf, then that of others, then the motion of electrons around atoms, that of of the moon around the Earth, the Earth around the Sun, the swirling look of the Galaxies, the orbits of other moons around planets unknown to us and how from this one action that I was doing, the same “orbit” is followed by so many other objects in the world. SubhanAllah.
The site of tens of thousands of people doing Tawaf is amazing. On my right could be a Brother or Sister from the poorest nation on earth, someone who has saved their whole life and traveled for months to get here, while on my left could be a billionaire who flew here on his\her private jet. Yet there, we all look alike and are all equal, the only one who is higher in Allah’s eyes is the one who is more humble and pious.“On my right could be a Brother or Sister from the poorest nation on earth, someone who has saved their whole life and traveled for months to get here, while on my left could be a billionaire who flew here on his\her private jet. Yet there, we all look alike and are all equal, the only one who is higher in Allah’s eyes is the one who is more humble and pious.”
After completing my Tawaf I prayed my 2 rakaat salaat (prayer) at Muqaam Ibrahim and made my way to perform sa`I (running seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah). As Wikipedia explains, “This is a re-enactment of the frantic search for water for her son Ishmael by Abraham’s wife Hajar. As she searched, the Zamzam Well was revealed to her by an angel, who hit the ground with his heel (or brushed the ground with the tip of his wing), upon which the water of the Zamzam started gushing from the ground…..As part of this ritual the pilgrims also drink water from the Zamzam Well, which is made available in coolers throughout the Mosque.”
After which I was off to shave my head I had never shaved my head before so I was a little hesitant, much like some of the others in my group. But there was no way I wasn’t going to complete this part of my Umrah, so off to the barber I went. There just outside the walls of Masjid al Haram is a section where the barber shops are all lined up next to each other. While it was not that busy that night, a few weeks later it was the place where millions of muslim men would get their head shaved. As you can imagine, these guys have had a lot of practice:) The way in which they wield a razor is frightening, but 30 seconds later, I was bald and with no cuts
With my Umrah completed, I headed off to our meeting point and met with the rest of my group to head back to our apartments for some sleep.
You can continue to read part 2 of My Hajj Journey on the next page.
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