With the 2011 Hajj season not too far away I am onto part 2 of my Hajj experience. In the first post I ran through Umrah and my first few days after arriving in Saudi Arabia. This time inshAllah I will run through the actual Hajj pilgrimage with a lot more photos and videos.
If you haven’t had a chance to look at part 1 you can find that here – My Hajj pilgrimage Part 1
So for anybody not aware, the Hajj pilgrimage is pilgrimage to Mecca that is compulsory upon every Muslim as long as they can afford to go and they are physically capable of doing so. For Muslims that have passed away and were not able to make it, a son, daughter may make the pilgrimage in that persons name, but will then have to make an additional pilgrimage for themselves at a later date. The fact that there is this ruling where it may be completed on someone elses behalf signifies the importance that Islam places upon this journey.
My intention is to break the journey up into several parts to make it easier to read inshAllah. The Hajj pilgrimage is made up of several components that are completed over 6 days. Ill go over the 6 days under the headings below,
Ghusl and Ihram
- Staying at Mina
- Arafat- “a rehearsal for the resurrection of the dead and Judgment Day.”
- Spending the night at Muzdalifa
- Jamaraat – the stoning of Shaytaan (the devil).
- Qurban – a remembrance of Abraham’s obedience in the near-sacrifice of Ishmael and now one of the most sacred of festivals on the Islamic calendar.
- Farewell circumambulation of the Ka’ba in Mecca again
Ghusl and Ihram
I’m normally a bit of an insomniac, so the night before Hajj I had more than enough trouble sleeping. I was listening to the Quran to try and get myself to sleep, I guess it was my version of counting sleep before the big day. It worked, however it worked only to be woken up a few hours later for Fajr (the morning prayer). I got up and made my wudu (cleansing before prayer) and made my way down to the local mosque below our apartments. Once back to the hotel it was time to make Ghusl.
Ghusl in basic terms is a shower. What differentiates it is the intention in which you make that shower and the way in which you make it. The process is seen as a spiritual cleansing and a preparation for what is to come. Ghusl is not only made during Hajj but essentially every time a Muslim has a shower, they should be having a “Ghusl” shower.
We had around 14 males in our apartment, which I believe is actually a tad on the “luxurious” side. You have to understand that according to official counts, 3 to 4 million people in Mecca during this Hajj period, if you look at unofficial numbers, it is reported to be as high as 5 to 6 million people during the 2010 Hajj period. With Mecca having a stated population of around 1.7 million during normal times, add another 5 million pilgrims and you can understand why there are 14 guys in the apartment. saying all that, we had our own beds and there were around 4-5 to a room, which was pretty comfortable.
So when it came to taking “Ghusl”, the wait was a bit like a normal household…..with 10 kids. One after the other everyone was in and out of the shower. Going in as a normal person and coming out as a pilgrim with their Ihram on. The Ihram is the white “wrapping” that all males wear for Hajj. It is basically 2 pieces of white material, mine was similar to a “Terry Cloth” material which was a few meters in length. It has no stitches on it or anything to “beautify” it at all. No scenting is allowed either. Its all about simplicity and humility (as in being humble, not not being humiliated), there are no Armani Ihrams, you are no better than your brother from X, Y or Z country, you are a human being in its simplest form, preparing for the journey of your life. A journey that millions upon millions of believers in Allah performed before you, walking on the ground that you will walk and repeating the same prayers that you will repeat. Your car means nothing here, your house is worthless and your bank account gives you no right over anybody else. As you prepare you can feel the atmosphere change and the mix of nervousness, joy and regret. Regret for those things that I wish I hadn’t done and for those things that I wish I had done, as I knew, soon i was going to be closer to Allah then I had ever been.
A little tip that I was given and I will pass on for anybody that may be going this year or in the future. Vaseline. Yep, Vaseline. As the only thing that you are wearing is the Ihram, one for the lower half of your body and the other for your torso, there are certain….bits, that aren’t necessarily used to abrasion. Well for the next few days there is a lot of walking, heat and walking and more walking. So you Vaseline up and save yourself a LOT of pain for later
Staying at Mina
“Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk”
So finally everyone was ready and we made our way to Mina. Mina is a site to be seen, like most of Hajj really. What makes Mina visually spectacular is that this is basically a whole city a few kilometers from Mecca itself. It is made up of thousands upon thousands of permanent tents. Millions and millions of people, in thousands and thousands of tents. The tents are segregated into mini suburbs, usually broken up into countries. The reasoning for this I believe is so that its is easier to find your group and tent if you get lost. Our group was lucky in that we had our own mini tent. I noticed a lot of others had as many as 50 or 100 people in huge tents, where as ours was just our group of 15 or so. After an hour or so of looking around for ours, we settled in, got wudu (cleansing before prayer) so we could pray and had some afternoon lunch. We had more food than we could eat so like many others we got what was a large amount of food that was left over and went outside to the road to distribute it among those that couldn’t afford to get a tent with food. I noticed many other groups doing the same and it really builds upon the companionship you feel with the other millions of pilgrims that are there. It also reminds you that so many come to Hajj with so little. We were lucky as we had a roof over our head, air conditioning and food, where as I noticed thousands upon thousands of people with just a sleeping bag out on the roads.
That night at Mina as we were preparing for sleep we had some visitors, a few friends from someone in the group. These brothers had arrived without accommodation so our leader asked everyone if it was ok for them to stay with us for the night. Of course no one had a problem with it so they were welcomed into our tent. Space being a rare commodity another friend and I decided to sleep outside for the night and give our space to the other brothers. We took our sleeping bags and headed out to look for a place we could call home for the night. Funnily enough it was hard to find a spot outside around the roads so my spot ended up being just around the corner from our tent anyway
I got to sleep OK but a few hours in I woke up feeling wet? I was hoping what I thought had happened hadn’t really happened… Thankfully I had not wet myself but instead it turned out that I chose a spot close to an air conditioner and the water from the air con dripped down onto my bag. So there I was at 3 in the morning half wet, cold and that swelling feeling in your throat that you are going to be sick in the next day or two. All just tests i told myself and tried to get back to sleep. Soon after the azan for Fajr (morning) prayer began. I got up, got my wudu, we prayed, packed our bags and got ready to head off to Arafat.
A Video of a walk through Mina Tents
The journey to Arafat is approximately 14km from Mina. Many go on buses but we decided to walk it. If you have the option, do it. It is a testing experience in the heat but it was one of the most memorable experiences for me during my Hajj pilgrimage. We tried to head out soon after sunrise to beat the 40 degree heat. It was recommended that you do not have any thing on your head so there were no hats, however many did choose to use an umbrella. We had a brother in a wheelchair in our group and also several sisters with us, so what would normally take a few hours, ended up taking us many more. From what I recall we arrived at around 3 or 4 pm that afternoon.
As we began our walk it was one of the first times I really began to get the feeling of Mahsher.
Mahsher is the name given to the place in which everyone who is resurrected on the day of judgement will gather. People will be questioned in Mahsher with the deeds in their books from their actions in this life. After their deeds have been weighed, they will cross a thin bridge called Sirat; and then make their way to either Paradise or Hell.
If you can imagine millions of people all walking towards the same point, wearing the same basic white cloth (which is very similar to the wrapping that Muslims are buried in) in the 40 degree heat it may give you a sense of what it was like. While I was in a group with others, I really tried to spend this time in solitude. I was making Zikr and dua to myself and just observing those that I passed and those that passed me on their way to Arafat. It is a reminder that everything in this world comes to an end and when it does all of your worldly belongings really don’t mean much, because all that you can take with you is that white cloth and your deeds from this earth. An amazing sight and a reminder for Muslims about the next life.
Around 3 hours in I had one of those life changing moments. Along the road to Arafat there are mini hospitals every 2 km or so to assist anybody that is dehydrated or does not feel well. As I was passing one of them I heard a motorcycle come screaming in. An old, frail man was on the back, barely hanging on together with his son. I ran over to assist him and helped him get onto a bed in the hospital. As I stood by his bed, I got the feeling that the old man was about to pass away. I have never been around to see someone that close to death. So many thoughts began rushing through my head, life, death, money, power, greed, what I had done, what I hadn’t done, why I was here etc. At that moment I broke down. I had never been like that before. I broke down and had to leave the room, I asked if there was anything else I could do to help and gave my salaams.
It was one of those profound moments in which I realised how simple this life is. No matter what you have and what you aim for in life, death is right around the corner. I realised how lucky I am to have the life I do and that all those “stresses” I have back at home around work, life, family are really nothing to be “stressed” about. When I stepped back outside and looked around to see people from all over the world, some obviously very very poor, some old with their walking sticks, hunched over making this walk, families where the father is carrying their child on his back along with the families bags in hands sweating through the trip, there I was with my car, home and job that pays well, yet I find things to complain about instead of appreciate all that I have. That moment changed my outlook on life. Rather than always looking up and complaining about what I don’t have, I knew I needed to start looking down and appreciating how much more I have than so many others. I spent the next hour or so just crying each time I saw somebody that I knew had come to Hajj with so little. My recommendation to any others that are going to Hajj, carry some extra money on you that day, you will see many elderly and poor that are doing that walk, pay the motorcyclists that you will see running around as a taxi service to pick up any old, young or poor person and get them to Arafat.
Once I arrived at Arafat, I got an overwhelming feeling of euphoria and joy. The atmosphere and the site of millions praying to Allah allows you to understand why this is the most important part of your Hajj pilgrimage. The stay at Arafat is called Waqoof, one of the most significant rituals of your Hajj, without it, your Hajj is not considered Hajj and must be completed again another year. While it is called Mount Arafat, it more so a large plain that again has thousands upon thousands of tents. In one section of the plain there is a hill with a pillar to mark the spot in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is believed to have delivered his last sermon. Another important significance associated with Mount Arafat is that it is believed to be the place where Adam and Hawa (Eve) met and recognized each other after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden and were reunited. It is believed that they earned the mercy of Allah on this hill.
Our leader emphasised over and over again how important our time at Arafat is. That no time at all should be wasted on anything but. As you are only there till sunset, each moment must be utilised in prayer and in asking for forgiveness. The scene there is again amazing, the atmosphere is like nothing else. I went for a walk around Arafat and there is only one thing you can see where ever you go. Millions of Muslims all standing on their feet facing towards Kaaba and praying. Many crying, many just silent in thought asking for forgiveness. My apologies as I am trying to explain the feeling and the sight but nothing I can say can put you there to feel the power of those few hours. Experience it is the only thing that could allow you to understand the power of Arafat.
A video of a quick walk around Arafat
After sunset we are once again on our way, this time to Muzdalifa, or what our leader called “The Million Star Hotel”. An open area in which you get your sleeping bag out and sleep for the night. Many decide to walk to Muzdalifa but due to walking to Arafat we chose to get a bus this time. We tried to arrive as early as possible due to 5 million people trying to get to one spot, kind of leaves space at a premium. As our leader goes every year, he knew exactly where we could find a spot and took us to settle down. There are kids who setup little “lemonade stands” with drinks, tea, coffee and biscuits. We sat grouped up and had our Hafiz (someone who can recite the whole Quran off by heart) begin reading for us.
MashAllah he has a beautiful voice and we took advantage of it, asking him to read for us when ever we sat down. All the way through till midnight there are busses and cars with people coming in to sleep at Muzdalifa, so it wasn’t until early in the morning that we finally got some sleep. A few hours later it was Fajr and up we got again. We prayed our morning prayer and we were off to Jamarat. It was time to stone Shaytaan (the devil).
I was hoping to do all of my Hajj trip in this post but it is taking a lot longer than I expected so I thought I would get this up and put the last piece up which will have Jamaraat and the last Tawaaf, together with Madinah in the next Post.
I was hopingI was hoping to use all my own photos but I found there were a lot better photographers out there than me, so thanks to the following for use of their photos http://www.princeton.edu/~humcomp/muzdalifah.html http://www.flickr.com/photos/25322085@N07/ http://www.emaan.com.au/store/index.php/ http://www.cdc.gov http://www.flickr.com/photos/omarsc/ http://theislamicemailcircle.com/downloads/Sky%20kaaba.jpg
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