Hajj story

The story of my Hajj begins from the time when I began reading the Quran with translation for the first time. I was strongly inspired by the story of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) and was amazed to know about all his sacrifices for Allah due to which Allah gave him the honour of being his “friend”… I began to dream of going to Hajj… to see and live and breathe in the same city in which Ibrahim (A.S.) built the Ka’ba and the same place in which Allah sent His revelations to our Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) but no matter how much I prayed or planned, the trip to Makkah and Madinah remained just a dream for many years.

Then In March 2010 we were eagerly looking forward to my husband’s promotion. Our relatives and friends were so excited about it that we were getting phone calls and messages of congrats even before the event… everybody was that sure!

But in my heart I kept making just one dua to Allah…

Please Allah do whatever will raise us in faith… whatever will bring us nearer to you. I don’t know anything but You know everything so please do what is better for us and let us remain grateful and patient for whatever comes in our way

But even though I had complete faith in the fairness of Allah’s decisions, it was still a big shock when we came to know that my husband couldn’t make it to the next rank… He is such a brilliant officer and has a spotless career record… so what went wrong… everybody was in a shock and had the same question to ask… why not??

But the only person who took it most positively was the same one who was the most affected… my dear husband! He came home in good spirits and offered prayers of gratitude… gratitude for all the blessings of Allah especially for saving our son Adil on that dreadful day of 4th Dec 2009 when he was injured among many other in a massive terrorist attack on our masjid in Parade lane. This one thought made us truly humble before Allah… could we bear it if the two decisions were reversed? So all thanks to Allah…

And the next morning I got my wonderful surprise when my husband announced: “we are going for Hajj this year InshaAllah” I could hardly control my tears as I realized the power of duas… I had asked Allah to bring us near Him and He had accepted itJ

 

(1)

Thus began my journey eight months before Hajj… because whatever I was thinking or doing, a part of my heart would be constantly planning or dreaming of that ultimate glorious event which I thought will make me a true believer after all… Because I realized that it wasn’t going to be just a journey in the physical sense; rather my soul and heart were going to travel from one life to another completely different world…

And all through this time two loves kept pulling me apart… Love of Allah making me so happy at the expectation of “meeting” Him in Kaaba; And love of my children, piercing my heart like nothing I had experienced before… the mere thought of separation hurt me so much… it seemed impossible to leave them. But I couldn’t take them along so I realized that Allah was teaching me that every precious thing has a price and if we want to have something then we have to give up something too… even if it is painful to do so… Thus the first lesson of Hajj for me was the lesson of sacrifice!

In this world every period comes to an end however long it might appear. Thus our seemingly endless waiting period was over and the day arrived when my heart whispered to me: tonight I am going for Hajj… after all…

 

(2)

We left home a little before midnight. It was a heartbreaking experience to step out of the house at that hour. It was like I was leaving my life behind me not knowing whether I will come back to it again or not. The duas of travelling are a big gift. They let you face reality as it is and yet make you hopeful and optimistic. So when I said the words:

Allahumma antas-sahibu fis-safar wal-khalifatu fil maali wal ahl…

(O my Allah you are my companion in my journey and you are the protector of my property and my family)

I felt like some unseen hand was putting a soothing balm on my heart. Instantly I felt cheerful and it seemed like there was nothing to worry about except for the acceptance of our Hajj. I began to look forward to all that I will see and experience but mostly I wanted to feel the pure faith, the pure love and consciousness of Allah which I had always yearned for…

The flight to Jeddah was comfortable and the best thing was the awesome experience of seeing dawn stripping apart the curtain of darkness. My eyes were glued to this miracle and my heart wondered: does this happen every day? Or is this an extraordinary way of Allah to tell us that a new dawn had come in our lives… which will tear apart the curtain of unawareness?

We reached Jeddah in the bright shining new day, but had to wait several hours before we could move on towards Makkah. By that time I was quite exhausted from lack of sleep and the heat of the desert was also making me very drowsy. Therefore I couldn’t enjoy the drive as I had imagined; rather drifted off to sleep every now and then and would be reawakened by noises and jerks! This went on throughout the drive and so by the time we reached Makkah I had developed a mighty migraine…

Thus I was not able to perform Umrah that night. Feeling immensely sad and disappointed for not being able to accompany everybody to the masjid, I just managed to offer my prayers in my hotel room and fell on the bed… Thus my second lesson of Hajj was patience and endurance. We expect things to happen in a certain way because of our limited knowledge and vision, but we forget that Allah gives us things in a much better way, due to His limitless knowledge and vision. So we must have faith in him in order to protect our hearts from being impatient and ungrateful.

 

(3)

I woke up in the middle of the night at the sound of a most beautiful Azaan which seemed like coming from just outside my window. I realized that it was the call for Tahajjud… and my heart seemed to jump with joy, just to think that I was going to see Kaaba for the very first time in my life. I just couldn’t bear to be separated from it anymore… so despite the fact that the headache and nausea of the previous night was still hurting me, I got ready to go…

The walk to the masjid was hardly 5 minutes but it seemed like a long journey because of my urge to reach there at once! The street was full of people rushing forward… like a river of human bodies flowing in the same direction… I was scared yet thrilled to be a part of that great big family… brothers and sisters followers of the same faith…

so my third lesson of Hajj was of Islamic brotherhood… it was awesome to think that I was not just a mother of three children or the sister of two siblings… rather I was a part of this universal family which transcends geographical or cultural boundaries…

 

(4)

When we entered the masjid I felt so confused because I had expected that the moment I will step inside I will see the Kaaba but all I could see were pillars and yet more people all around. There was a section of women nearby so I went and sat with them because the Azaan of Fajr had started by that time… Although I was a bit disappointed for not having seen the Kaaba so far, but my heart lifted at the thought of praying my first ever salat in this great masjid. But as soon as the prayer ended, I felt a wave of nausea rising in my throat and I realized that in my hurry I had forgot to bring along my bag. I asked the woman next to me if she had any plastic bag but she had none. So I thought with horror… “Is this going to be my first memory of masjid-ul-haram that I am going to throw up on the floor?” And so with all my heart and soul I begged Allah to save me from that helplessness… and Alhamdulillah I got an immediate answer to my prayer… the nausea disappeared like magic and I learned my fourth lesson of Hajj: prayers become powerful when we feel truly powerless before Allah.

 

(5)

Feeling immensely grateful and relieved, I joined my husband and we started walking… step by step I followed him; my eyes glued to the front, looking out for that first glimpse of the Kaaba. And there it was at last… so beautiful, so attractive, so dignified and majestic… like a most magnificent jewel placed in the middle of an ocean of people circulating around it in complete adoration. As my eyes absorbed this mesmerising sight, my heart made its most passionate dua…

 In the very first moment I had this great tide of awareness washing all through my heart and soul that if the house of Allah can mean so much to us… then how beautiful must be Allah…!!! If my heart is moved to such an extent on seeing a building then what will be the state of my heart when I will see Allah in the hereafter?

And so I learned another lesson of Hajj that Allah has kept Himself hidden from us but shown us His marvellous signs so that we might love Him. That is why Allah made Kaaba so special, that is why people love Kaaba so much… no wonder they yearn to see it… they return to it again and again if they can… because it is like a magnet towards which the heart pulls with a great passion…  But the real and ultimate objective of our heart is the love and adoration of Allah.

 

(6)

I was so mesmerised that I felt rooted to the spot from where I was looking at the Kaaba… I felt like I had reached my destination on this earth. I thought to myself that if reaching a destination could be such a heart moving experience then what will be the joy of the victorious souls who will reach the Paradise… but is my life going to lead me to that end? Am I on that path?

With these thoughts in my mind, I started doing Tawaaf... the ground floor was too crowded so we moved up to the first floor. For so many years I had waited for this moment and would often visualize going round and round the Kaaba. I had imagined it to be such a great emotional act of adoration for Allah… but now moving on that wide veranda I felt lost… not being able to see the Kaaba, just following people and trying to find gaps to move forward… For the first couple of rounds I just couldn’t understand what I was doing, and why? But then I took a break, drank the pure water of ZamZam and went to the railing to look at the beautiful Kaaba… my heart was instantly cheered by its sight and I resumed my Tawaaf… with a new faith and energy, because I had just understood that although we move around Kaaba but our actual circulation is around Allah. The act of Tawaaf is supposed to teach me how to keep my heart in a state of constant Zikr, my thoughts constantly revolving around Allah. And just like these people bumping into me give me a momentary shock and put me in a temporary state of anxiety and stress, giving the shaitan an opportunity to distract me from my real objective, similarly the problems of life come and go from all directions making me forget Allah for a while. But we can train ourselves not to be negatively affected by people by thinking of them as an extension of our own selves, a part of the same Ummah, and so create a space for everyone in our hearts as well as the floor on which we tread… on and on… round and round… with Allah as the centre of our love and adoration… the nucleus of our lives… the ultimate objective of all our efforts.

So this I think was my most important lesson of Hajj… because it taught me how to move among people while keeping my focus only on AllahJ

 

(7)

My Sa’ee (the walk between the hills of Safa and Marwa) was also an unforgettable experience. Contrary to my expectations there were very few people around at that time of the day and so I had all the space to myself to talk my heart out with Allah. My feet were so swollen and full of blisters by that time that I was just moving at a snail’s pace but I was in no hurry anyway! This is the greatest luxury of being on that journey that you don’t have to worry about any other thing… worshipping Allah is the only objective and you have all the time in the world to spend with Allah alone…

And so walking step by step I poured out to Allah all the thoughts of my heart… all my worries, my fears and anxieties and also my dreams and goals of my life. I asked His forgiveness for all the faults of my past and begged for His help to stay away from sins. Mostly I asked Him to give me true faith and steadfastness … which seems to me the most precious blessing of life.

How great is Allah for giving us these fantastic opportunities of self analysis in that blessed place. In that Masjid He seemed to be so close to me as if listening to my words even before I had uttered them. And the feelings of gratitude poured down my eyes in a flood of tears which seemed to wash away all the rust from my heart, making it clean and fresh and strong!

I had heard that Sa’ee was very long and difficult but Allah made it quite easy for me. And so I learned another important lesson from this experience that just like this long walk became possible for me despite the blisters of my feet; in the same way, even if our lives are full of problems, we can still be at peace, if our hearts are attached to Allah.

 

(8)

Before going to Hajj my biggest worry was that my health was not very good. Even if I had to face a slight change in my routine, some extra work or travelling, it would result in considerable body aches and sometimes it would be followed by fever. And Hajj is no less than a Jihad... so how was I going to bear all the discomforts of this journey? How would I complete my rituals which included a lot of walking? People used to comfort me by saying that when you will be in the way of Allah all your diseases will disappear… but “how”?

The answer became obvious to me when I was doing my Umrah… how was I moving along even though I had been so ill the night before? Where did my headache go? I realized that there was something really miraculous in the water of ZamZam… as soon as we drink it our whole system gets refreshed. Also the other factor is to be free from all worries of the world which otherwise envelop us so much that our hearts are never really free from this sickness of anxiety and stress. Therefore our bodies are also burdened by the weight of our souls. Being in Makkah, going to the blessed mosque time after time, soaking in the sight of the glorious Kaaba… all this spirituality serves as tonic for the soul and consequently the physical ailments begin to fade away.

Thus I learned that even in our day to day existence we can cover a lot of obstacles like illnesses and bad moods, by making Allah’s worship our top most priority and concern. The rest of the things have to be worked at but we shouldn’t get emotionally involved with petty issues. The more we keep our heart involved with Allah’s remembrance the stronger it will become…

The other secret of being fresh and strong in Makkah was of following a balanced schedule. We used to sleep right after Isha and were able to wake up well in time for Tahajjud without any laziness. Maybe the thrill of visiting Kaaba was the real driving force, or maybe the thought of watching the dark sky and reciting the last verses of Al-e-Imran on the roof top of the masjid was the pulling force which made me so eager to leave the bed… but I really think that if I could pick one thing from that journey which I loved the most, it would definitely be the pleasure, enjoyment and thrill of getting up to go to Masjid in the middle of the night…

Watching the night turn into day is always a breathtaking experience but witnessing this miracle from the top of the Masjid-ul-Haram fills the heart with a sweetness which cannot be described in words. It literally filled me with a new life every single day…

Going back to the hotel after Ishraq we would have our breakfast. How good the food tastes after the spirit has received its nourishment!! After that we would rest for a couple of hours and then wake up to prepare for Zuhr. After Zuhr, back to the hotel for lunch and then back to the masjid for Asr. Often we used to stay in the Masjid till Isha. Instead of being tired or bored by this activity day after day, I was always filled with thrill and excitement like going for one adventure after the other.

Here in my own country, when an average woman goes out she has to bother so much with which dress to wear and how to do the hair. And then what about the shoes and bag… do they match with the dress or not… which jewellery to wear and then the make up… but there, in that out-of-the-world place, all you need is a scarf to cover your hair and a gown to cover your dress, a sturdy pair of slippers and a bag to hold your dua books, some dates and a water bottle, not to forget a pouch for your shoes when you take them off at the Masjid… that’s all the preparation you need as far as your appearance goes… And then you realize that the real preparation, which needs our attention, is of the heart… does it have any knowledge of where it has arrived? What are the requirements of this place? Do we only concern ourselves with the rituals or do we also have any awareness of the spirit behind them? Have I forgiven the mistakes of others or is my heart polluted with hatred and grudges? Am I still trapped in my desires or is my heart attached to Allah and the hereafter?

So the journey of Hajj teaches us this very crucial lesson that we should stop being too over concerned about our appearances and start focusing on the conditioning of our hearts… because all our thoughts, all our conversations and all our deeds depend on that one thing… the heart!

 

(9)

The next event which I distinctly remember was my first Jum’ah prayer. I had never experienced it before so obviously I was very excited. When we reached the masjid it was jam packed! I was a little alarmed to think that if I didn’t get any space then where will I go? Anyway I walked over to the women’s section but there seemed to be no place at all, it was so crowded… I thought I should look somewhere else but when I turned back, a woman leaning against a wall said to me in English: “why are you leaving?” I said because there is no space… to this she said “point your finger towards the sky and ask these women that you want to pray to Allah… they will make way for you.” I didn’t really believe that it will work but just to try it I asked a woman, pointing my finger upwards “I want to pray to Allah” And although she didn’t accept my request but at least she allowed me to move to the row ahead of her! Again I repeated my request and this time it workedJ… These ladies were from Indonesia and very generous spirited. Immediately they squeezed aside and made space for me. I was so impressed and filled with love for Allah for creating such beautiful and kind people.

So this was another lesson that if we want to make space for someone then all we need is a will of the heart. The physical aspects are just an illusion. The same space becomes enough only if we are willing to accommodate others for the pleasure of Allah.

Due to their kindness my heart was drawn to them and soon we were enjoying a lively conversation despite the language problem. They shared with me a lot of their experiences and how they were enjoying their stay in Makkah. And then the Khutbah started… and we all became quiet to hear it.  Although I know only the Arabic of the Quran still I could capture quite a lot of things which the Imaam said. It was a unique experience… The cool air coming in drifts seemed to be full of Allah’s love and compassion. I thoroughly enjoyed the recitation during prayer and so I came to know for the first time why Allah has made this weekly prayer so important that even those who otherwise do not pray regularly make sure to attend it.

Surely the opportunity of going to Hajj and praying among such a huge congregation of Muslims is the greatest gift of Allah but very few people realize that it is not just for accomplishing personal rituals… rather the whole point of gathering muslims from all over the world is so that they develop a bond with each other. Worship of Allah was definitely my primary goal but every time I visited the Masjid, I made it a point to interact with my fellow sisters. I specially looked out for the ones sitting alone or seeming to be in some sadness… and my aim would be to cheer them with some light talk or even with dates or bringing them a drink of Zamzam.  The smile of delight and surprise would light up their eyes and would be reflected in my own spirit too… It was such a pleasure to bring a smile on a stranger’s face that I wished I could just spend my whole time there serving people… especially the ones on wheel chairs and too helpless to move. Or the women with small children… talking to them, hearing tales of their countries and their relatives, I began to understand the whole theme of Islamic Brotherhood. Why Allah made it so important for us to be united… because we cannot be really and truly happy if we just live selfish, self centred lives… the fact is that we are incomplete without others and so our spirit finds peace only when we share ourselves with others.

Alone we stand nowhere but together we can conquer all obstacles and attain the position which Allah had bestowed on us… but then why aren’t we united? What was the binding force which we have lost? It was, and still is, the Quran and the Sunnah of our Prophet (s.a.w). We have to join on this common ground… only then will the differences be resolved. But it cannot happen by magic… we all have to realize its importance and work towards it.

Therefore this lesson went deep into my heart that each one of us has to be responsible for the revival of true knowledge which will connect us to Allah as well as to our brothers and sisters in Islam. Together we must realize our responsibility of being Allah’s representatives on this earth and regain the honour which was given to us… inshaAllah

 

(10)

We had entered Makkah on the night of 3rd Nov and after spending ten most profound days of my life in this glorious city we started off to Mina… the real Hajj journey had finally begun!

It was the night of 7th Zilhajj when we boarded the bus that would be taking us to our first destination i.e. Mina. I felt like an excited child going on some unknown adventure! Countless memories flooded my mind… I was reminded of all the instances where I had envisioned about this journey which had always seemed like a dream and which was now to become a reality with the will of Allah…

Carrying a small case with the fewest possible necessities, I realized that we really need so little for our sustenance… so why do we keep collecting so much stuff? And then I remembered that according to a Hadith of our Prophet this was how we were supposed to live our whole lives… like a stranger or a traveller on his way… why? Because our purpose is not to accumulate material objects but to worship Allah… And also because the more things we have the more we have to take care of them and the more occupied and distracted we become… too busy to learn Quran or Hadith, too busy to think about its implementation, too busy to prepare for our ultimate journey towards Allah…

It was a little past midnight when we entered our tent in Mina… it was fairly clean and tidy with cotton mattresses lined up on both sides. Putting aside my bag and trying to fit on to the narrow mattress, I thought to myself “How am I going to sleep with so many ladies crowded together… and my back is really going to hurt…” but my thread of thought was interrupted by the sound of wheezing… I looked to my side as the lady next to me started having a fit of coughing… breathlessly she whispered “sorry for the disturbance but I have asthma…” Immediately I searched through my bag for some soothing lozenges. Luckily I found one and gave it to her. It seemed to give her some comfort. I asked her if she would allow me to do “dum” on her? She said please do it and so I read all the duas of healing which I could remember and blew on her. She was immensely relieved and was asleep in an instantJ

This incident gave me so much satisfaction that I forgot where I was and was soon drifting away to sleep…

How crystal clear are the lessons from Allah but alas we spend so many years of our life not realizing the truth and running after illusions. We think that comfort can be found in creating a world of luxuries around ourselves. Whereas the truth is that comfort is found in removing the pain of some other human being. Happiness in found not in fulfilling our own desires, rather by making others happy. This is how we connect to one another and create life long bonds of love and friendship. But when we are focused only on our own selves then the result is restlessness and loneliness despite having all the treasures which we collect…

 

(11)

When I used to listen to lectures about Hajj before actually going there I would always wonder about the significance of spending the first 24 hrs in Mina. It is my strong belief that nothing in our religion is without purpose… but there are some things which one does not understand until one actually has the opportunity to experience it. And so when we spent that one day in Mina I realized that it was a sort of orientation for us…

With nothing to do except the five prayers, we could absorb the enormity of the blessing which Allah had bestowed on us in the form of Hajj… Although we were a group of twelve or fourteen women in that tent, there was complete peace and harmony as everyone was busy doing zikr or reading Quran. So I felt like Allah had brought us there to think and contemplate and to prepare ourselves for the great day which was the climax of Hajj… the ninth of Zilhajj… known as the Yaum-e-Arafah (the day of Arafat).

I was happy that I had come so near it and yet afraid too… will I be able to perform all the rituals in the right way? Will my hajj be accepted? So it was a good opportunity to pray to Allah for his help because it became so clear to me for the first time in my life that nothing can be achieved without Allah’s assistance. He alone has all the power and might. And he has given us these limited intellectual and physical abilities as a test through which we prove our sincerity and obedience towards Allah…

Soon the day turned into night and we went off to sleep knowing that in a few hours time we will get up and leave for the plains of Arafaat… our final destination. The most amazing thing about Mina was that it used to be so easy to fall asleep and equally easy to wake up… while here in my own comfortable bed these are the hardest things to do. Maybe it was the happiness of being in Allah’s home or maybe the excitement of camping and travelling!! But anyway it was a sight to see everyone getting ready in the middle of the night for that most awaited journey… the drive to Arafaat.

I had envisioned that place as an open ground but instead there were tents all over that place. Ours was just a little distance away. Walking towards it with all the ladies, I felt like a child… out on her first such adventure! And then I thought to myself that it is our attitude which makes all the difference… some people say Hajj is so difficult… they elaborate the hardships so much that it feels like a heavy burden; although the real thing is the feeling which it inspires in our heart. If you feel happy and excited by the realization that it is a meeting with Allah… if you feel honoured that Allah has chosen you to be his guest on this most special occasion… if you feel thrilled to look forward to what will come next… then all the “hardships” are pushed back into the background. But if the heart is focused on other things then you will only hear complaints, both inside and out.

As I thought about these things I felt that this lesson is not just relevant to Hajj, rather it can be stretched to our whole life. Allah has not made this world a paradise. It has both good and bad things. If we enjoy the good things and be grateful for them then Allah will bless our hearts with the energy and wisdom to deal with the things which are not so good. But if we keep focusing on the bad things then we will not be able to do any good at all.

 

(12)

The memories of those days are so crystal clear in my mind that I can simply close my eyes and see everything as if it was happening right now. The images, the sounds, and most of all the feelings and emotions of the heart have been engraved on my soul forever… most probably due to the extreme consciousness I had of being in the presence of Allah on that most important day of my life. The moment we stepped down the bus and started walking towards our tent in Arafat, I suddenly became aware of the word “pilgrim” because I could feel how for the first time in my life I had nothing to distract me away from Allah… how empty handed I was… how “free” my heart was…; wanting nothing else except forgiveness and mercy of Allah.

How amazing is the fact that on the day of Hajj we have no special ritual except to make duas… even the two prayers of Zuhr and Asr are shortened and joined together so that the time after that can be completely devoted to talking to Allah… this is the beauty and simplicity of our religion which very few people understand or appreciate.

I wished I could be all alone with only me and the blue sky, to share with Allah all my thoughts and my duas but again I learned that Allah wants us to be united in our devotion to Him. It’s no big deal if you climb a mountain or walk off alone in a desert and remember Allah, but the real test is to be cramped together in a hot and stuffy tent along with a crowd of talkative/noisy people and still be able to whisper to Allah… still be able to focus on Him. This will show your real level of consciousness!!

And when I got out of the tent to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w), of making duas while looking at the sky, I realized the wisdom in this Sunnah… that we can achieve maximum focus and concentration when we look at the sky… so vast and “uncluttered” and infinite… making me feel like Allah was right there in front of us listening to our words, and counting all our tears, weighing our truth and sincerity…

I wished if I could just keep standing there forever and ever, but time moved so quickly. The sun was almost close to setting when we were told to pack up and walk towards the bus because it was time to move on… the cool breeze and the puffy clouds here and there, seemed to say goodbye and I felt like my life was only of this one day and it was ending with the sun… the feeling of helplessness is hard to describe… I wanted to hold on to the sun… please don’t go yet… I have not even begun to pray… I have so much to say to Allah… I have so many sins to ask forgiveness for… I don’t want to go yet… but time never waits for anyone… At that moment of intense awareness, when tears were blurring my eyes and sadness seemed to crush my heart, I remembered the verses of the Quran in which Allah says that when the time will come for us to leave we will not be given a single moment more… the angel of death will neither come a moment earlier nor a second late than its appointed time. I don’t think my heart can ever forget that lesson as long as I live…

 

(13)

It was a long and slow drive to Muzdalifah; people were congratulating one another on having done the Hajj… cell phones were constantly ringing as relatives and friends from Pakistan were calling to give “Mubarak”… but my heart was still aching with sadness as I looked into the deep blue sky turning black with the coming night… knowing that this day will not come again.

As the bus crawled its way through the mighty ocean of traffic and pilgrims on foot, I wondered how we can go on living the same old lives after going through such an unforgettable experience. Surely we must all be transformed into better people… But then why the condition of the Muslims does not change even while every year millions and millions of them were doing Hajj…?? The reason lies in the fact that these honoured places or acts of worship cannot do any magic on us if we don’t seek any positive change with a conscious heart. Allah guides only those who seek guidance… it is not automatic… And so I prayed to Allah again and again to forgive me and to guide me…

After about four long hours the bus finally came to a halt and we got off on the grounds of Muzdalifah to spend the night under the sky. I had been looking forward to this ritual with great excitement because it had always used to fascinate me to think how it would feel to look up at the sky while lying down on the open ground without the normal comforts of life. But nothing had prepared me for the actual moment when it came upon me… because I saw that instead of an open ground, our group was going to camp on the road…!! Along one side of the road our men began to spread out the mats and along the opposite edge a never ending trail of buses and pilgrims who were walking briskly towards Mina to avoid the rush of next morning…

I just couldn’t understand how I could possibly lay down in the middle of all that noise and activity… but as I lowered my exhausted body on the mat, I could feel Allah’s mercy entering my heart, making it calm and peaceful. I looked into the depths of that mysterious black sky and felt like Allah was smiling down at all His obedient creatures who had left all their worldly comforts behind and were sleeping on whatever space they could find… like homeless beggars… only and only for His sake…

How awesome is Islam… How infinitely wise are Allah’s commands… could we do these things if Allah had not commanded us? Would we have experienced a night like this if it was not to follow the Sunnah of our Prophet (s.a.w)? As I felt the hardness of the earth beneath me, I thought of how the Prophet (s.a.w) must have lay down on the same place more than 1400 yrs ago and my heart began to overflow with love and happiness that I am His follower… And then like a miracle I could feel the gentle hands of sleep closing my eyes and I drifted away to the land of dreams…

 

(14)

The next morning we went back to our camp in Mina. Even though we had been gone for only one day and night, yet it seemed like ages had passed in that one cycle of time… Because of the extraordinary journey which my heart and body had been through. Anyway I felt my heart to be completely humble and subdued… because finally it had “seen” the infinite Majesty of Allah and recognized its own status as Allah’s humble slave. Quietly I settled back on my small mattress which seemed like a royal bed as compared to the mat of the night before! All around me people were chatting merrily among themselves and on cell phones with their families back home… and I realized that today was Eid… the day of joy and gratitude… of praising and thanking Allah for all His favours…

In the afternoon we went off to do “Rami” which is to throw stones at the pillars called “Jamraat” which symbolise the devil. This was one ritual which I had dreaded because I had heard many horrifying tales of stampedes due to the large number of disorientated crowds. But I had been assured that things had been improved and so it was quite safe now… still I was a bit apprehensive but when we reached there the spaciousness of the bridge and the cool breeze removed all the worry from my heart. Thus we moved towards the wall encircling the pillar and as we were about to throw our small pebbles towards it, I heard an awful sound behind me… like thunder… and when I looked back I saw hundreds of people running forward, shouting slogans against the devil as if they were entering a battle with the devil himself… Hurriedly we completed our ritual and got out of the way before being drowned by the ocean of people. As we reached safely to the side of the bridge, I heaved a sigh of relief and thought who was going to teach these people? Do they really think they are going to destroy the devil? Can’t they see that they are only putting their own lives in danger with such wild behaviour? Once again I felt the burden of responsibility which we have forgotten… the responsibility of learning about our religion and teaching it to others… because if we don’t do our job then we are going to face the consequences too…

With these thoughts in my mind I followed my group who were now headed to Makkah to do the “Tawaf” and “Sa’ee” which would complete our Hajj. Now again this was something which I had been afraid of… the long walk… and the immeasurable crowds… both seemed like impossible things to endure but then I assured myself that we were doing it for Allah so surely He would help us…

The first help came in the form of a soft, cool breeze which gave me all the refreshment I needed. And secondly when I thought of seeing the Ka’ba again, I felt a new hope and happiness filling my heart, making it a pleasure to walk for the sake of Allah.

And so it seemed like within no time at all we had reached our destination. The sight of the beautiful Masjid made me feel like I had come back home! And so with extreme pleasure and relief I sat down to enjoy the delightful water of ZamZam which not only quenched my thirst but also seemed to wash away all the tiredness and exhaustion… indeed it is a miracle that can only be understood when you experience it…

Just then the air was filled with the sound of the most beautiful Azaan… As I stood to pray, I thought to myself that I had got the best gift from Allah… being right in time for the Maghrib prayer!

After that we went to our Hotel to freshen up before going for the Tawaaf. Again it felt like I was entering that room after a lifetime, although just two days had gone by… How far I had gone? And for how long? Maybe we just count time by the physical motion of the clocks but our souls travel in a different time zone and cover distances which we don’t even know….

 

(15)

The “Tawaaf-e-Ziarat” which is the final ritual of Hajj seemed to me as the most difficult test of patience because all the five million pilgrims would be doing it on the same day and I had heard that normally if it takes half an hour to do the seven rounds, it can take up 2 to 3 hours on this day… Well I thought to myself that it was my Rabb, Allah, who had enabled me to walk all the way from Mina to Makkah, and He is the one who would give me the energy to go round His house which I loved so much! 

And then I thought how great it would be to do this Tawaaf close to Ka’ba; but of course tonight it wouldn’t be possible… therefore I was all set for going on the rooftop. So imagine my surprise and delight when my husband said “let’s do the Tawaaf on the ground floor…” Of course I accepted the offer most eagerly because it was like an impossible dream coming true! A small voice of fear rose inside me “but what if we get stuck in the crowd?” Immediately I looked at the sky and felt assurance of Allah’s love and mercy… Isn’t He always looking at me…? Isn’t He the one who made this wish of mine come true? At that moment I recalled the words of a friend of mine who had given me lots of advice about this journey of Hajj… “Ask Allah for everything that you want because there in His house, you are His guest and He will shower you with His blessings and you will see that quite often you will express to Him a wish and it will be fulfilled instantly.”

Thus we entered the ocean of people flowing in complete adoration and harmony around the house of Allah… just like electrons around their nucleus. It is a miracle of Allah that despite the unbelievable number of people there is for each and every person, enough space to walk, and air to breathe! There in that specific time and place, I actually felt the pull of Ka’ba on my heart and my whole being… No matter how much I tried to focus on my path, my eyes were glued to the sight of Allah’s house… so near to me and yet so far… I yearned to touch it… to feel my face against the black cloth… to kiss the black stone… to feel what the Prophet of Allah must have felt and all those righteous people after him… who followed his example in every little step of their lives… and without even realizing I would find myself getting closer and closer to the inner circle of people and a word of caution from my husband (who was walking right behind me) would remind me to stay on my line! Praying and talking to Allah, I would look at the sky from time to time, almost expecting to see a glimpse of Him, but all I could see was the beautiful moon of Zilhajj shining like a jewel in the great black sky… how could one not be absolutely mesmerised by all this splendour and majesty of Allah shining from all directions… Just writing about it makes my heart yearn to reach back to that place where me and my heart were joined together in Allah’s love and nothing else mattered except Him…

But then of course, being a human being, one cannot be totally oblivious to the irritations of life… and so on an almost parallel line of thought I kept imagining how the experience could be made a million times better if people had some education, some training… so that they would realize that Allah cannot be pleased with us if we push other people to get our way. How nice it would be that everybody knew the etiquettes of praying in public… of keeping their whispers for Allah… of not shouting their duas aloud and disturbing everyone else… of walking with extreme care lest anyone be hurt because of their movement… because the basic principle of our religion is that you cannot be a Muslim if people are not safe from your speech and actions.

Again Allah showed me His miracle that in less than an hour we had done the Tawaaf! And as we went ahead to drink the Zamzam and offer the two nafl… I realized how perfect was the sequence of these rituals… what better way to come out of such profound experience of love and devotion, than to satiate your thirsty soul with the most fulfilling water which seems to go instantly to revive each and every cell of your body… and then to put this body in front of Allah… bent and humble… totally helpless yet empowered through the connection with the most Supreme Power… SubhaanAllah… how perfect is he and how perfect his religion!!

So you see this is the reason how people get the energy to walk so many miles on Hajj… we are being carried not on these weak legs but on the wings of passion… the passion of love:)

 

(16)

As we moved towards the other side of the Masjid to do the “Sa’ee” I could feel the delicious waves of relief and happiness flowing from my heart to the whole body… because of having gone through the most awesome experience of Tawaaf with so much ease and tranquillity… Logically I should have been too exhausted to even take a single step but through some miraculous way, I felt like I could even run if I wanted to!! Thus we started moving step by step through the long course between “Safa” and “Marwa”. There were thousands of people walking on that path, yet I did not feel suffocated… my heart and soul were at peace and totally absorbed in talking to Allah. I felt like this was my last chance to say to Him everything and get rid of the burden of all the scattered thoughts, desires, fears which were so deeply rooted within my soul that I could not deal with them on my own. And then there was the long list of “duas” which my friends and relatives had given me… Plus my own duas and the long, long list of cherished dreams, ideas and aspirations which I could only share with Allah; the ONLY ONE who could understand and the ONLY ONE who had the power to turn them into reality.

Previously I used to think of how difficult and monotonous it must be in “Sa’ee” to walk all the way from one point to the other and then back… Not so in Tawaaf because after all it is so different, with Ka’ba being the centre of attraction… but what would be the source of passion in “Sa’ee”?

But on that memorable night I understood that when you are walking, walking, walking… straight ahead without any corners… without any other thing to attract your attention… then it is your time with Allah in which there is so much to share that there is hardly any perception of the passage of time or distance.

Thus we completed this ritual in no time at all… and as we came out of the masjid and sat down to wait for our friends who had accompanied us from Mina; I felt like I had just come back from another world… tired but happy…

It was past midnight when we finally started on our journey back to our camp in Mina. We went in a taxi but it dropped us midway… because it couldn’t go beyond a certain point. Well normally I get very anxious and annoyed at such disappointments but that day I felt like the real “me” had come to life and this “me” was willing to take on any challenge whatsoever… So I thought of this “difficulty” as an opportunity… after all when will I ever again get a chance to walk at 2 a.m. on the roads of Makkah?!! And so I cherished each step of the way, which took us through a tunnel, then over a bridge, and finally into our camp…

I had thought that I would be dying to sleep after the 12 hour long adventure but my heart was wide awake because of the extreme pleasure and relief of having completed the Hajj… as if I had found a treasure which I had never expected!! I wished to hold that moment forever but this being the temporary world, nothing is permanent except change… and so I went into a deep sleep and time moved on…

 

(17)

When I had gone to bed at 3:30 am I had been somewhat anxious about not being able to wake for Fajr but again I experienced the miracle of Allah’s love and energy flowing in my body which was refreshed and ready to pray even with such little time to rest…

Everyone in our tent was wide awake and after praying and reciting the Quran, we shared our stories of the previous day… we were all so happy at the completion of our Hajj but everybody realized that its acceptance depended only on Allah’s mercy and forgiveness… because none of us could claim to have made no mistakes. We were all human beings and prone to error and forgetfulness but this realization added even more to the love and gratitude that we felt for our Allah who is such a generous Lord that He accepts our sincere efforts and also accepts our heartfelt repentance, no matter how many times we slip…

And then I understood why we are recommended to return back to Mina after completing the rituals of Hajj and spend a couple of days there. Apparently there seems to be no point to it… specially after doing that long journey of Mina to Makkah plus the Tawaaf and Sa’ee, one would expect to spend the night in Makkah… but no! You have to move back directly after doing all these rituals, no matter how tired or worn out you might be… why?  The reason is that completion of Hajj is such a mighty spiritual experience that Allah does not want us to lose its effect in the luxurious surroundings of city life. Therefore to strengthen and nurture our new found spirituality, we are made to stay in that camp where we have no other distraction at all… and the only thing to do is to eat and drink the simple food and remember Allah’s great favours on us… specially the favour of Hajj…

And so it is not just a word but the true feeling of the heart and soul when we say again and again… Allahu AkbarAllahu Akbar…Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest 🙂

I remember that it was in that short stay of Mina that I wrote my most heartfelt feelings in my diary which I had been carrying along all the way. I also discussed a few things with my companions and shared with them the awesome experience of learning Quran and Hadith. They were very keen to learn too so I told them how they could do these courses even at home.

Surely Islam is not just a set of rituals but a way of life which encompasses our whole existence. But this fact is only understood when we learn it in the words of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w) May Allah guide us all to discover and benefit from this treasure of knowledge and wisdom… ameen.

 

(18)

The stay at Mina was over and we packed up to go back to Makkah. My heart was so full of happiness and excitement as if I was going “home”. This delight was expressed in the way I walked; in the way I offered to carry the handbags of my “over-loaded” companions, and in my eagerness to push the wheelchairs of elderly people. Although it was very hot that day with the sun shining directly on us, I was almost oblivious to it and my heart was overflowing with love and mercy which I wanted to shower on all the people around me… was it happiness? Was it a new found energy? Or was it Allah’s love? Anyway my purpose to write about it is to record forever the feeling which the Hajj inspired in me… because from day one I had learned that the Hajj was a journey of love and devotion… so I guess that the destination would be to feel that love cruising through your body like blood and no doubt it would be expressed in your behaviour with others.

As we walked and walked towards Makkah, we were not alone but a whole world of men and women moved along us and instead of feeling my usual irritation with crowds and that phobia of being crushed, I was amazed to feel that childlike joy of being part of an enormous group, swimming in great waves towards our common goal… And so my heart sang out “real” praise for my Allah who had made this a part of my destiny… otherwise I could have spent my whole life without witnessing these awesome miracles.

Out of all the memories of my journey, this day is most clearly etched in my heart and soul because with each and every step of mine I was recalling all that I had done so far, evaluating my deeds, pointing out my own weaknesses and asking Allah’s forgiveness from the depth of my heart for the errors I had committed. The sadness at the realization of my weakness and lack of good deeds; seemed to flow side by side with the happiness of realizing Allah’s perfection and greatness. 

As we entered the tunnels which were to lead us to the Masjid-ul-Haram, I wished that I could run towards the Ka’ba… and inwardly I laughed at this idea… and just then I heard a strange sound, like a roar of thunder from far behind and gradually coming nearer and becoming louder and louder…. and as I looked back I had barely enough time to move aside before a huge crowd of African men and women went running past us, yelling with happiness and singing with joy…

The tunnel seemed endless but finally we were out in the sun and looking at the minarets of my beloved Masjid. As we entered it and my feet tasted the smoothness of its floor even in my comfortable joggers, I looked towards the sky and began to thank Allah for bringing me back once again to my most favourite place and I just don’t know what went wrong but suddenly I felt the ground rising up towards me and the next moment I realized that I was falling… with a loud scream of shock and fear, I fell flat on my face, arms extended, My backpacks pushing me further so that my knees, nose and forehead scrapped for a few inches more on the cold marble floor and even in that shocking moment, my heart whispered to myself with utmost clarity: surely this is the most perfect prostration anyone could ever make in the house of Ka’ba!!

 

(19)

It took me a few seconds to gradually pull myself together and get up… people were gathered around me… shocked and concerned… “What happened to you? Are you alright?” My mother was giving me water to drink and a friend was taking off my bag from my shoulder… but the cutest gesture was from a complete stranger… a black African man… holding out his palm with some sugar in it… 🙂

The good news was that I could still walk although I felt hurt and bruised all over… but what hurt the most was a feeling of shame and guilt… was Allah angry with me? Had I displeased him in some way? But then I thought that we put so much emphasis on what happens to us in this world. If something good comes to us we feel that Allah is happy with us and vice versa… Whereas isn’t it true that everything that happens to us in this life is just a test or a reminder? So maybe Allah was reminding me of the Akhirah and preventing me from being careless. Because it is quite possible that after doing some great acts of worship like Hajj, a person gets this idea of being Allah’s beloved and thus loses all virtue due to arrogance.

And so I understood why our pious predecessors used to thank Allah even when they faced calamities… because they believed in Allah’s mercy and wisdom. And their goal was not the comfort of this world but to get an outstanding result in the hereafter.

Therefore this incident will always serve as a great reminder for me that if one little “fall” can be so humiliating and painful, both physically and emotionally then what will be the pain of falling from Allah’s grace on the day of recompense? We read the verses of people being thrown into the hellfire, and we casually pass them by, without even thinking… “What if it is me?” And even if it is not me, even then, is it human to be so unaffected by the falling of other people? If I am not concerned about it then I must worry about my heart because surely if it feels then it must feel something…

 

(20)

As we walked towards our hotel, I could feel a terrible pain in both my knees and my lips and nose felt swollen too… God knows how long it will take to heal… will I be even capable of praying properly? Anyway I started doing Istighfaar (seeking forgiveness) because I suddenly remembered that the most important thing was to be forgiven by Allah. The rest of the issues are in His hands and only He can cure me of whatever damages I might have done to my body or soul…

I don’t know why but every time I get hurt, I am reminded of my beloved Prophet (s.a.w) who was so badly hurt on his way back from the city of Ta’if. It gives me a moment to think of how beloved he was to Allah yet he went through so much pain, not for any personal interest but to deliver the message of Allah… so what is my pain compared to his ordeals? And what have I done for Allah so far?

I was thinking of all of this as I took a hot bath, prayed while sitting on my bed and thanked Allah that I could perform all these actions without any unbearable difficulty. Greatly relieved but also feeling totally drained and exhausted, I prepared to go to sleep; but just when I was about to lie down, my husband announced that he had a surprise for me! I looked up in amazement as he held towards me a plate full of the most beautiful red grapes I had ever seen:) my pleasure was not just because of getting my favourite food so unexpectedly but also because of the amazing coincidence… which again reminded me of our Prophet… because He had been offered grapes after he took refuge in a garden all hurt and bleeding from the stones that were hurled at him on the way back from Ta’if… all those centuries ago…

How amazing to think that the same Allah who took care of Him, was now taking care of me… and it was that rare moment of heightened clarity of vision in which I understood our innermost need of loving the Prophet (s.a.w) just as we need to love Allah and be loved by Him.

My heart was so much soothed that I went into a deep, deep sleep and when I woke up a few hours later I felt almost healed… what a miracle indeed that I was now performing my Salat on the floor!

The other surprise which I received was that it was raining… it was a real downpour with thunder and lightning! Through my bedroom window I looked down in delight to see the throngs of people walking in the pouring rain towards the Ka’ba… some with umbrellas but most of them had none… yet they seemed totally oblivious to the rain… what a beautiful sight… the expression of complete love and devotion!!

I imagined that it was like a farewell gift from Allah because the next day was going to be our last in Makkah and the day after that we would be going on towards the much awaited visit to Madinah… the city of the Prophet (s.a.w)

 

(21)

The last day of our stay in Makkah will remain etched in my memory forever and ever because I was so deeply aware of seeing it probably for the last time… And so when I walked towards my beloved Ka’ba well before dawn, I consciously absorbed all the sights and sounds along the way, because I wanted to remember each and every detail… the endless flow of the people… the sounds coming from the shops… the sweet lyrics of some Arabic nasheed coming loud and clear from one of these shops still rings in my ears as if I am standing right there!

In the Masjid I had the pleasure of sitting beside an African woman who had deeply engraved scars on her face. She told me in broken English that it was a sign of the tribe to which she belonged. She didn’t seem to be very educated but I was amazed by her beautiful accent of Arabic as she answered the Azaan. So very softly as if talking to herself, yet completely clear and understandable… In the prayer also I could hear her voice and I loved to hear these precious words from her because it made me feel how closely united we all were in spite of the vast differences of language and culture. I wished in that moment that Muslims all over the world could understand this deep relationship and so get together and get to know each other so that this mutual love could give us the confidence and strength that we need to move forward in this world. We are all gifted in one way or the other but we need to join one another and share all our gifts and talents and other resources which Allah has showered on us so that we can fulfil our honourable role of being Allah’s chosen nation.

I can never forget the state of my heart when the Imam started reciting one of my most favourite verses from Surah Al-Anfaal (20-29) as one word after the other penetrated my heart, it just felt like cracking and a stream of tears sprung out…

O you, who have believed, obey Allah and His Messenger and do not turn from him while you hear [his order].

And do not be like those who say, “We have heard,” while they do not hear.

Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason.

And then the most precious Ayat came along which had moved me so much the first time I had learned it that I had written my first ever article on its theme, so many years ago…

O you, who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered.

 And I stood there in the blessed mosque, mesmerized by the absolute truth of Allah’s words coming to me as if to remind me of my great responsibility… tears flowing in an endless stream, all my past mistakes seemed to come together in front of my eyes and my heart begged for Allah’s forgiveness and acceptance as never before…

After the prayer I heard a soft voice calling to me “Assalamualaikum”… it was a young girl from Sri Lanka… “Why were you crying?” I told her that the words of Quran were so powerful and reminded me of so much… she looked at me incredulously: “did you actually understand it all?” And as I nodded my head and looked at the amazement in her eyes… I wished so much to transfer all that Allah has taught me to her and all the Muslims standing there or even those who had not come or even those who were not muslims because the Quran is a message of Allah to the whole of humanity… and they have a right to listen to it… and it is my responsibility to share it with them.

I got up to take a last look at the Ka’ba. And so walked up all the way to the edge of the wide veranda… and what a beautiful sight Allah had prepared for me… the sky had a deep blue tone and was splashed with beautiful grey clouds… and combined with the whiteness of the sparkle of lights from the minarets, seemed to form a perfect setting for the Ka’ba itself… dignified, black and shining like a jewel…

Allah please bring me back to this place again… please don’t let it be the last time… prayed my heart over and over… as I walked back to my hotel room, to get ready for the next journey…

 

(22)

Our departure for Madinah had been scheduled at around midday but it got delayed hour after hour and so by the time we got into the bus, the day had gone and the city of Makkah bade farewell to us in the glow of twilight.

As I sat in the bus and looked around, I had a strong realization of leaving a place where my heart had found its real contact with Allah… but had I made Allah happy? Had I been truly humble and grateful for Allah’s blessings? Will I come again? Will I see it again? And finally the same question with which all my thoughts began and ended: “Is Allah pleased with me… will He forgive my sins?”

If I hadn’t been so excited and thrilled to be going to Madinah, I would have cried my heart out… but Allah is so great that just on the verge of so much sadness, He had given me something so delightful to look forward to… My heart was trembling with joy… Oh Allah! Was it a dream or really true that soon I will be in the lovely Masjid of my Prophet (s.a.w)? 

After what seemed like ages, the bus finally started moving in the heavy traffic. The first amazing thing which caught my eye was a sign board “Umar bin Al-Khattab Road” and I felt like all the difference of centuries was melting away and that my time and Umar (r.a)’s time had joined together on that specific point… how brave he must have been to openly embark on his Hijrah to Madinah… and no one had the guts to stop him! I smiled to remember all those things I have read about him… all those things which make him so beloved and honoured to all the Muslims.

Was it a coincidence that I was making this journey at night… the same time when our Prophet (s.a.w) had travelled towards Madinah along with His most loyal and steadfast companion, Abu Bakr (r.a)? …. Or was it a special gift from Allah so that I could truly visualize that night 1432 years ago… when the Prophet of Allah left for Madinah. How hard it must have been for him to leave his most beloved place, his birth place, his home, his memories of a lifetime and step forward into a dangerous future…

There was no way I could compare my journey with theirs but still I made those comparisons to analyse my faith and reliance on Allah… I was sitting in a fairly comfortable bus, had arrangements of food and water… there were no people running after me for my life!

So was I being grateful? Had I ever acknowledged or appreciated the fact that it was due to the sacrifices of my Prophet (s.a.w) and his companions that the message of Allah has reached us? It was their firm faith and endurance against all odds that today we can feel so secure on the same road on which he was being threatened at every step… And so with a new awareness and feeling my heart whispered the dua: May Allah shower His peace and blessings on Prophet Muhammad and his companions.

 I also understood the most important lesson of my life that if I wanted to follow the footsteps of my Prophet (s.a.w) then I will have to give up my dependence on worldly comforts and pleasures. Because there can be no achievements without making a “Hijrah”….  which means to migrate from one place to another for the sake of Allah and His religion. Hijrah also means to migrate from one lifestyle to another… from one way of thinking to another. Basically it means to “sacrifice”… to leave behind whatever you have to leave in order to serve Allah… make Allah the most beloved… the most important….

 

(23)

As a child I used to love long drives; but then as life grew into a web of responsibilities, I started avoiding travelling because of too much stress maybe…

Anyway that beautiful night… the most fortunate night of my life… I felt like the child inside me was waking up from its forced slumber… because I could feel the excitement, the totally carefree joy and relaxed enjoyment of a child who does not know any care in the world! All the regrets of the past and the fears of the future melted away from my mind and all that remained was that one feeling… I am on my way to Madinah… the city of my Prophet (s.a.w).

Now that I look back to that beautiful peaceful night, it seems to me like I was almost expecting it to be my permanent destination… as if I will never ever go away anywhere again…

On and on the road went, so smooth that I felt like I was flying… someone put the tape on and the beautiful words of Surah Al-Baqarah began to fill the air… My heart was so tranquil… so peaceful… that I began to wonder: is it truly happening or am I in paradise?

But of course I was jolted back into reality time and time again… sometime the bus would stop at some roadside hotel… people would noisily get out to fulfil their needs. Then would climb back and noisily start complaining about the lack of facilities etc. How can they even think of these petty things on such a night? I mean I was also feeling the tiredness of sitting in a cramped space and other such things but did it really matter enough to be the topic of our conversation…?

We reached Madinah at dawn… someone started reading durood (sending prayers and blessings on the Prophet…s.a.w) and I truly began to feel a new life in the same words which we have been uttering all our lives…

At last the bus came to a stop in front of our hotel. When I got out, I was surprised to feel a sharp pain in my feet… I looked down to find that they were swollen like drums!! Oh Allah… how will I walk now? Anyway I dragged myself inside the hotel and as we were waiting at the reception for the keys of our room… I began to feel physically stressed and exhausted, as if I had walked all the way from Makkah… And just then my eyes found the message from Allah… written bright and clear in the form of a large display of calligraphy… the verse from Surah Al-Inshirah:

Fa Inna Ma’al ‘Usri Yusra… then indeed with hardship is ease! (94:5)

As always my heart lit up with joy at finding Allah words speaking directly to me… reminding me of the same lesson which I had learned at the start of my journey… the lesson of Hijrah...

Surely to migrate from one place to another… from one lifestyle to another… from one set of people to another… from one attitude to another… is never easy… it has to be difficult because it is a test. But with pain comes relief… with difficulty comes ease. Because Allah loves those who make sacrifices for His sake… and so He takes special care of them!

 

(24)

The loving reminder from Allah made me forget all about the pain and swelling of my feet and my attention was immediately focused on making wuzu… How lucky we were that we had entered that blessed city just in time for the Fajr prayer!!

I can never ever forget my first walk to Masjid-e-Nabwi… My heart was full of excitement and wonder… how far is it going to be? What will it be like? The air was so soft and cool… filling my soul with a peace and tranquillity which I had never known before… The streets were so clean and the whole environment felt so friendly and loving… as if I belonged to it… deeply and completely.

And just a few minutes later I was actually entering that beautiful Masjid… which had been a part of my dreams ever since I learned about my Prophet (s.a.w)… But the actual experience of seeing it was totally astonishing… the floor seemed like an endless ocean of polished glass… how clean and shining it was… what a pleasure to walk in such a wide open space… on and on towards the far end which was reserved for the women… what a pleasant surprise! Maybe other people already knew about these things; but as for me, I am not very fond of collecting information beforehand because I don’t want to spoil the feeling of surprise and wonder… I love to feel things as they unfold bit by bit… that is why all these sights and views were totally mesmerizing for me!

Just then the words of the Azaan filled the air all around us… Allahu Akbar!! Allahu Akbar!! (Allah is the Greatest… Allah is the greatest). What a wonderful relief it is to admit our humble reality… how relaxing it is to prostrate before the Almighty Allah and to admit “ONLY you are perfect OUR LORD…” And what better place to worship Allah than these blessed mosques… no wonder Allah has put so much reward for praying in Ka’ba and Masjid-e-Nabwi.

I thought to myself what must have been the condition of the people praying right behind the Prophet (s.a.w) himself? How close they must have been to the reality of Allah’s greatness and the coming of the hereafter… How blessed they must have been to have among them the most perfect role model… Can there be a more precious gift from Allah than the companionship of the most Beloved Prophet (s.a.w) day after day?

On one hand I was on the verge of a deep sadness of being so far from those perfect people but then I reminded myself of Allah’s supreme blessing on me that despite all my sins and all my flaws, He had brought me there and so I could at least feel with my heart, all that I wished to experience… Allah had brought me to the same place where the perfection of Allah’s Prophet (s.a.w) and the excellence of his faithful companions was demonstrated in a most profound way; and standing so close to that same Prophet’s grave, I could at least ask Allah to grant me some of that goodness… to bless me with even the tiniest portion of that splendid character… to at least give me the will to become a better person… and most of all to give me the true love of my Prophet (s.a.w) so that I may follow him in each and every step of my life… For surely there can be no other way of meeting him except by taking the same direction which he took… by travelling the same road on which he went…

 

(25)

Visiting the grave of the Prophet (s.a.w) was another unforgettable experience. All the women were made to sit in separate groups according to the region to which they belonged. So I had a chance to sit next to a lady from India. She described her eagerness to visit the Prophet (s.a.w) in such sweet words that I could feel the stirrings of the same emotions inside my own heart. She also told me about her eight year old daughter who had been so eager to come to hajj with her that daily she would parade around some chair or table, chanting loudly the words of Talbiyah: Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik… Here I am O Allah; here I am!! And she told me how till the last moment that sweet little girl was reminding her elder sister who was to accompany the mother… “Keep holding my mother’s hand lest she should trip or fall…” As I saw her expressions while she was telling me all these lovely details, I thought to myself how beautiful is the feeling of love… and how essential for us to know that someone somewhere cares for us deeply… but we suffer so much sadness in life because of making people the nucleus of our love… and they leave us one way or the other… or sometimes they don’t reciprocate they way we expect them to… and so much of our life is wasted in sadness and tears… Whereas the only love which can truly and everlastingly satisfy us is the love of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w) and that is why Allah has made it a condition without which even our faith is not complete.

Most of the time we are too busy in other things to feel this love but even when at certain times or places we are reminded of it, we just don’t know how to express it… this proved to be true because as soon as it was our group’s turn to go ahead towards the grave, everybody started running…

I had heard a lot about this strange attitude but I really wasn’t expecting such a mad rush of women as they lost all control over their emotions and displayed the true state of this nation’s ignorance and utter lack of etiquettes. I tried my utmost to focus on the spirituality of that most blessed spot on earth… where I was supposed to feel the closeness of my Beloved Prophet (s.a.w)… but all I could feel was shame… what must be Allah thinking of us? Is this the way to express our love for the Prophet (s.a.w)? To push and shove and trample over others?

Surely we need a big change… but a journey of even a thousand miles begins with only a single step… So the first step is to learn… and then we need to convey to others what we learn… even if we know one ayat…

 

(26)

The days and nights in Madinah seemed to flow in such a soft harmony that it felt like a dream. Even the sky had a different colour than all the other places I have ever seen. Especially at dawn and sunset everything seemed to reflect the shades of the Masjid itself. My eyes just drank in all the lovely colours and tones… from the floor to the sky, to the minarets and the enchantingly beautiful umbrellas opening and folding like the wings of some majestic birds…

Altogether I felt like I was somewhere totally out of this world. Even the movements of people had a soft flowing quality… and as I walked to and from the Masjid I never had any fear at all. My soul felt like it was being healed… because for the first time in my life I felt like there was no worry, no tension… just the pleasure of worshipping Allah day and night and best of all to walk to the beautiful Masjid of my beloved Prophet (s.a.w) again and again…

But no matter how much I tried to forget that very soon I was going to leave that blessed place and go back to my “normal” life, the realization of this fact never quite left me… and as the end drew nearer and nearer, my heart became heavier and heavier with an ever growing sadness…

I wanted to share this feeling with others but they were too busy shopping, shopping… and yet more shopping… it seemed like a ritual which HAD to be done… as if the acceptance of their hajj depended on how much stuff they could collect… Allah has not forbidden us to acquire material benefits from this world but surely He doesn’t like us to be so involved in it that it becomes our main objective, our main source of pleasure… our obsession…

Anyway, our time in Madinah came to an end… the last day, the last evening, the last sunset, and finally the last prayer in the Prophet’s Masjid… which was Isha… and we left for the airport in the middle of the night. On one hand was the melancholy of leaving that beautiful spiritual existence… and on the other hand was the sudden awareness of a responsibility that from now on I would have to guard my thoughts, my words and my actions, more than ever before, because I have done hajj… If Allah has accepted it then all my previous sins have been washed and my record has been cleared… my life now is like a brilliant new diary with exactly the same number of pages as the remaining days of my life… what I write on every page is my test…

Will I be able to keep it clean and beautiful? Will I meet my Lord with a diary full of good deeds? Will I be able to proudly show it to others? As Allah describes in the Quran the happiness of the successful people in these heart moving words:

 So as for he who is given his record in his right hand, he will say, “Here, read my record!(69:19)

With these mixed emotions of happiness, sadness and an increased sense of responsibility, I looked out of the window of the airplane, as we took off a little before dawn… the lights below seemed to be saying a silent farewell… and then it was completely dark as the city was left far behind… But soon the amazing miracle of daylight breaking into the dark sky was revealed before me… and it captivated me so much that I forgot all other things and the only feeling which filled my heart was of love and humbleness for the Lord who had created me and to whom I was going to return. I felt like this mesmerising light of the rising sun was indeed a sign of hope for me that even if I was leaving behind the most blessed places on earth, Allah is always going to be with me wherever I might be… and He is the one who really matters after all… what a beautiful feeling it was which I experienced so deeply but can never really capture in words…

Our stopover in Dubai was of several hours and finally it was time for the flight back home. My yearning to meet my children rose up inside me so painfully that I was amazed how I had kept it aside for almost a month… and then I understood that it was also a mercy of Allah that he makes us forget all other things on this journey so that we can concentrate on the actual purpose of Hajj… which is to acquire a deeper connection with Allah… to make His love and His pleasure our ultimate purpose of life.

We reached home a little before dawn… the best thing was to see my children looking so confident and wise… obviously the experience of living without the constant care of parents had been a beneficial training for them as well:)

I can’t find the words to describe the gratitude and happiness of getting together again… flowers and smiles everywhere… so comforting to enter the peace of my home… the pleasure of sitting with my children… looking into their beloved faces as if I was seeing them for the first time… hugging them again and again as if to reassure myself that it was real and not some fantastic dream:)

But my best moment was when I took out my prayer rug and began to pray the Fajr salah… Oh yes! Allah is with me… anywhere and everywhere… He is my constant guardian… my creator, my provider, my lord… what a pleasure it was to “meet” Him once again… and I thought to myself how lucky I was that I had found the real purpose of salah… now I can meet Allah five times a day and even more than that if I want to!! I could almost see the Ka’ba with the eyes of my heart, simply by turning my face to it and by remembering all the times I had seen it with my eyes…

So this was the story of my unforgettable journey to the house of Allah and to the city of His Prophet (s.a.w). The best outcome of this experience is that my belief in the oneness of Allah has become the deepest conviction of my heart… Surely no one else has the right to be worshipped except Allah… no one can give life except him and no one give any meaning to this life except Him. I am so glad He gave me both 🙂 Therefore no amount of gratitude can be enough to express my deepest appreciation for all His blessings which he has showered on me and my family. My only concern is that I might serve Him in the best possible way and convey to the whole world that to seek His closeness and Pleasure is the only way to success. May Allah help me to spread His message in the way that pleases Him… Ameen.

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5 thoughts on “Hajj story

  1. Mahallaha !!!!! I have no words to describe the beauty of this article. May Allah accept your Haj and may he bring you back many a times to his house, May he forgive you all your sins and may he accept all your good deeds ameen.
    I am living in Jeddah from the past 20yrs and have performed Haj 5 times, it was always an easy journey for me, but after reading your article I wish to go once again only to experience what you have emphasized in your article- SPIRTIUALITY.
    We are indeed lucky to be born Muslims, to have the quran as our heritage, May allah guide all Muslims to the right path and may he bless us all with knowledge of our deen.
    Thankyou dear sister for instilling in my heart the love of quran, I have started my hifz class please pray I succeed. Thankyou for introducing me to Dr Farhath Hashmi I love her lectures. They too inspire me a lot.
    Jazakallah khair

    • JazakAllah khairan kaseeran… may all your efforts and duas be accepted by Allah and may he fill us all with the Noor of His guidance. Spending time for Quran is the best investment of your time and may you reap immense rewards by spreading this light to others too… ameen

  2. Assalam o alaikum bhabi. A truly inspiring, sincere and beautifully written account of Hajj that has captured the real essence of what it means to be a pilgrim in search of Allah and His mercy! May Allah Almighty shower you with His endless blessings and grant us all His Guidance. Ameen.

    • jazakAllah khair and lots of duas for you… may Allah bless you and your family and keep you in his mercy always and forever… ameen

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