My brother, his wife, my lovely sister and I went for Hajj this year. From the day we made our niyyah* to the day we returned, every moment was filled with miracles, surprises and realizations. As a result, our hearts now have a yearning to learn more about Islam, as we are ignorant of the ocean of knowledge that has been sent down to us in the form of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Many people have asked me whether Hajj was difficult. The answer is… absolutely not! It was a journey filled with the true realization of the miracle of Islam and its teachings of patience, tolerance, love for your fellow people, humility, and the drive to learn and practice. It was not only spiritual but also humbling. It was miraculous!
And so the journey begins…
The realization that this beautiful journey had begun hit us when we crossed the meeqaat* and pronounced our niyyah. I had butterflies in my stomach with excitement and anxiety, and the words that my lips uttered actually echoed from my heart…
لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لاَشَرِيْكَ لَكَ
“Labbaik Allahumma labbaik, Labbaika la sharika Laka labbaik, Inn-al-hamda wan-ni’mata Laka walmulk, La shareeka Laka.”
“I respond to Your call, O Allah, I respond to Your call! I am obedient to Your orders, You have no partner, I respond to Your call. All the praises and blessings are for You, All the sovereignty is for You,And You have no partners with You.”
The words of the talbiyah expressed exactly the excitement we felt at that moment… Oh my Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), I have reached Your House… I am here, You have brought me here, I am so thankful!!
As the plane landed, we said the dua* for entering the city (“O Allah, grant us good in Makkah” ) three times, and
“O Allah, grant us the fruit of Makkah and create love in its people for us, and create love in our hearts for the righteous people of Makkah.”
As we arrived at the airport, we were cautioned that there would be a lot of chaos and that we would have to be patient. My heart rate increased in anticipation of chaos and harsh treatment from the locals… but to my surprise, we were treated like VIPs with utter respect . We were called as “ya Hajjan” (“O, Pilgrims!”) wherever we went. The feeling was so amazing. The people at the Saudi immigration would direct us in English or Arabic, and would smile and make us comfortable. I even heard a whisper saying “O you of little faith” - yet another reminder to have more faith… for we were guests of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). Subhan’Allah!
As we neared the Haram*, my eyes searched for the beautiful, sacred Masjid. The anticipation to perform Umrah was so great, that as we reached the hotel, we immediately set out for the House of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). The moment I saw the Kaaba, I didn’t want to blink and I didn’t want to think; I just wanted to thank Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) that I was there. It was all a reality and I wanted to pray till my heart was content… it was like a thirst that was being quenched… a soul that was being healed.
We were even able to touch the Yemeni Corner* in such a large crowd.
We experienced the miracle of duas being fulfilled seconds after they were uttered. We learnt to go with the flow and thank Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) no matter what… and we experienced that if one thing at any given moment seemed like a hardship, it would turn out to be a blessing the very next moment. This was an amazing lesson we learnt on this journey… When we displayed patience, the journey kept getting easier for us – Alhamdulillah!
Also, we were blessed with good company, good health and the mindset to perform Hajj for Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) alone in all humility… and He (سبحانه و تعالى) made it easy for us.
Prior to the starting of Hajj, we spent eight wonderful days going to the Haram daily, discussing the Hajj process and enjoying every moment of it. I was able to experience tawaaf* from every floor of the Haram, at different hours of the day. Some tawaaf lasted for thirty minutes whereas others lasted for an hour and a half. I was able to recite the Qur’an and say my duas to my heart’s content… Oh, how greedy my heart was to talk to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى)! We always started our tawaaf with the du’a, “O Allah, make this tawaaf easy for us. Ameen” - and then every tawaaf would be a wonderful experience. We felt protected and safe.
رَبَّنَا لاَ تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ
“Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.”
[Al-Qur'an - Surat 'Āli `Imrān (Family of Imran) - 3:8]
Finally, the moment had arrived. We woke up, showered and were ready to do our niyyah from our hotels for Hajj. We helped one another, ensuring that all said the niyyah correctly, trying our best to abide by all the terms of the ihraam. Then we headed to Mina after Fajr and in Mina we shared a large hall with about a hundred other women. My first thought, embarrassingly enough, was… how will we manage? Once again, I decided to be grateful and go with the flow - despite the fact that the toilets were half the size of Aziziya.
Although it is best to arrive at Arafat after Fajr on the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah, we arrived on the night of 8th Dhul-Hijjah due to travel limitations. However, the advantage was that immediately after Fajr, we were able to leave for Masjid e Namirah in Arafat - and because we were so early, we found a place to sit and wait for the Hajj khutbah. We prayed qasr*Zuhr and Asr together with one adhaan* and two iqaamat, and we were back at Arafat by early afternoon. At Arafat, all I remember is facing the qibla*, standing on my two feet and praying from the bottom of my heart in silent connection with my Rabb. Where the time went, I do not know, but when I reopened my tear-filled eyes, it was almost time for sunset and it was all over… the moment about which it is said that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) is so pleased with his ummat* that He greets them and responds to their prayers.
From Arafah we headed towards Muzdalifah, and reached late at night in the open grounds covered by resting pilgrims as far as the eye could see. We said our Maghrib and Isha prayers and then lay our mats on the ground and slept under the open sky surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people. When I woke up, I recall smiling, for I was humbled to realize that all I needed to live in this world was my ihraam and a mat to sleep on … whereas normally, we make such a hue and cry over our demands!
As morning approached, we collected seven stones each, said our Fajr prayers, and headed back to Mina after sunrise. That, perhaps, was one of the most challenging walks of our lives, and a truly miraculous one, as 4.5 million pilgrims marched from Muzdalifah to Mina in solidarity and humility.
After arriving in Mina, we rested and then went to the Jamarat* where we experienced yet another miracle. The time was Zuhr, and although it was the ground floor, we were able to throw pebbles from the boundary wall to right in front of the big pillar. I reminded myself that this exercise is done for three reasons:
1. Because Prophet Muhammed (صلى الله عليه وسلم) directed us to do so, by the command of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) -
2. To repeat the actions of Prophet Ibrahim (عليهِ سلام), who stoned Shaitan when he tried to deter him from Allah (سبحانه و تعالى)’s command.
3. Because stoning the pillars is like us trying to eradicate the evil within us. So next time when we are tempted by some evil thought, we can repeat in our minds the exercise of stoning the evil, and prevail on the correct path.
Once the stoning of the big pillar was complete, we informed the agent who then carried out our sacrifice. Once that was done, we clipped our hair and got out of our ihraam and spent the night in Mina. The next day we went to Haram and completed our Tawaf Ziarat in our regular clothes and headed back to Mina for stoning of all three Jamaraat.
However as we were en-route to the Jamarat, we realized that we did not have the pebbles to carry out the stoning. It is here that we experienced the miracles of miracles. With our hearts pounding we thought we would either have to head back to the camp and collect the pebbles or walk into the jamarat and collect the pebbles that had fallen to the ground…. It was seconds after these thought crossed my mind that I was looking at the cemented area around me and started finding pebbles on the ground. It was almost as if they started to appear from nowhere….. within minutes, I had collected around 21 pebbles when a man approached us and said…. “it seems you are in need of pebbles and we have extra” and he handed over a bottle filled with the most beautiful pebbles we had ever seen. My heart filled with praise and called out, Alhamdullillah and I asked for forgiveness, for at that moment I heard the whisper… “O yea of little faith”…. And it is at that moment that I decided I shall not make this mistake again in my life…… and now if a worry crosses my mind, I turn to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and know He is there for me and am at peace Alhamdullillah. After stoning the pillars the next day and fulfilling all requirements of Hajj, we left Mina back to Azizia. An interesting aspect to share is when I entered the bathroom in Azizia, the same bathroom which I had felt was small in comparison to the Clock tower bathrooms was suddenly so BIG compared to the Mina and Muzdalifa bathrooms. I was so embarrassed that I burst out laughing and asked the other roomies if they had also found the bathroom to increase in size. The bathroom all of a sudden seemed so much larger and it made me realize how it is all about how we perceive things.
Madina cannot be described in words. I think it is one of the most beloved cities around …it emits so much positive energy. We spent most of our time at the Haram, and were able to complete one Ziyarat per day. Praying at Riazul Jannat is spiritually liberating and it is here that I had the best of experiences. At the spur of a moment I asked Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to clear my confusion about Hijab. I had often wondered if Hijab was really required as part of a woman’s attire. I dressed well and was always covered except for my head, so I always thought that covering of the head was simply thrust on women. So whilst in Sajdah (prostration), I prayed to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and asked him if Hijab was just a man made idea that I forget about it and never think of it again…. However, if it was a directive from Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), then let my heart accept it and let it be easy for me to accept it. I felt good talking to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) about this confusion and when I arrived the next day for Ziyarat, and as I went down for Sajda on the green carpet, my lips uttered the words, “Oh Allah I make my niyah to do Hijab in the Mosque of Prophet Muhammed (صلى الله عليه وسلم), my heart has accepted it so please make it easy for me” and I felt a sense of relief and some weight had been lifted off my shoulders. What I learnt was that the acceptance of Hijab comes from the heart and cannot be forced on anyone. It feels wonderful to wear hijab and though I used to think it makes one less confident, I feel full of confidence and happy to represent a Muslim woman. I feel safe and peaceful.
Doing Hajj was relatively easy but now I have to honor the title of hajji and remind myself every day that I need to keep a clean slate till my very last breath and focus my actions to achieve Jannat-ul-Firdous inshAllah. This is what changed my life; the realization that efforts for the hereafter should be driven with far more vigor than for the worldly life and I think I had it the other way round for quite some time without really realizing it.
I will humbly advise all to do Hajj when you are strong and fit to enjoy it and feel it instead of making it just a formality of the religion.
May our Hajj be accepted. Ameen! To all the people who want to do Hajj, may their Dua be accepted and may they be called to the House of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) as soon as possible. Ameen!
-Niyyah: Making/pronouncing of intention.
- Meeqat:The place around Makkah where the pilgrim changes into Ihram and pronounces his intention to perform Umra or Hajj. This place is anchored by different townships and localities in different directions (Zul Hulaifa in the north, Yalamlam in the south-east, Dhat Irq in the north-east, Juhfah in the north-west, Qarn ul Manazil in the east.) For people living inside the Meeqat permanently, their place of residence is their Meeqat.
- Dua: Supplication
- Haram: Sacred/Holy – as in Masjid al-Haram (The sacred mosque) in Mecca and within which is the Kaaba.
- Jamaraat: The three stone pillars in Mina, which symbolically represent the locations where the devil (shaitan) is stated (in tradition) to have tried to dissuade Prophet Ibrahim. The pilgrim stones these pillars on the 10th through to the 13th of Zul Hijjah in commemoration of the rejection of the devil by Prophet Ibrahim and of his steadfastness to the cause of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). The Jamaraat are located within a few hundred feet of one another in a line and are named as Jamrat-al-Kubra, Jamrat-al-Oola and Jamrat-al-Wusta.
- Khutbah: Sermon given during Friday Prayer
- Qasr: Shortened prayer recommended during travel (conditional to duration of travel)
- Tawaaf: Circumambulation of the Kaaba
- Adhaan: Call to Prayer (Five times a day)
- Qibla: Direction of prayer (facing the Kaaba during prayer – from any part of the world)
- Ummat: Muslim nation
- Yemeni Corner: The corner before Hajar-e-Aswad facing Yemen, is called Rukne-Yemeni. Touching it during Tawaf is also masnun an recommended.