بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الْحَجُّ أَشْهُرٌ مَّعْلُومَاتٌ فَمَن فَرَضَ فِيهِنَّ الْحَجَّ فَلاَ رَفَثَ وَلاَ فُسُوقَ وَلاَ جِدَالَ فِي الْحَجِّ وَمَا تَفْعَلُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ يَعْلَمْهُ اللّهُ وَتَزَوَّدُواْ فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُونِ يَا أُوْلِي الأَلْبَابِ
“Hajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do – Allah knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah . And fear Me, O you of understanding.”
[Al-Qur’an – Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow):197]
Whenever anyone has asked me about Hajj and how my trip was, I find myself giving one-word answers, simply because I feel whatever answers I give simply cannot do justice to the actual experience. As a result, I simply say “Good Alhumdulillah,” and smile. However, since many have asked about it and continue to do so, I thought I’d share the following highlights about my Hajj experience.
First off all, to be very honest, I was not even thinking of doing Hajj. I thought I’d do it when I am in my 40’s. I didn’t think I was even ready to do Hajj. Alhumdulillah, it was meant to be. Now I can say I am very grateful to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) that I went at this age, and not any time later.
After Hajj, I realize why Hajj is a pillar of Islam and why it is meant to be carried out as soon as possible and not left for later.
For a person who is neither very emotional nor sentimental, I would say Hajj is an experience that is filled with emotion. To begin with, you leave everyone and everything behind set out for Hajj. You leave children, parents, and your job committments. You just leave. You don’t even know whether you will return.
We and the millions of other pilgrims left on the most important journey of our lives, for only one reason…faith.
Hajj is Not Glamour Packing Time
I know whenever I travel, I always do my “Glamour” packing. This includes the good clothes, the best makeup, and the bags that match perfectly with every outfit that has been packed! However, for Hajj, there was no glamour packing. Men wear ihram which essentially is very similar to what one will wear after death.
I have attended Islamic Conferences in America. At the ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) gathering, I remember packing my coordinated clothes, matching shoes and makeup. At Hajj, you don’t pack that stuff. You’re not ‘single and available’. You’re focusing on seeking forgiveness, getting an internal makeover. For men wearing their ihraam, for women it’s being simple.
Hajj is not a competition to see whose clothes are the best, or whose makeup is the best. It’s simply not done. That’s how I saw women as equal. Everyone looked beautiful and simple.
Moments I will Never Forget
On the plane, when we reached the miqaat, when everyone started saying their talbiya (Labbaik…) all in unison, the same time, all together, I could not help but feel awed. It didn’t matter where anyone was from, everyone recited the Labbaik in Arabic. To know and feel exactly what I find difficult to put in words, one has to experience it themselves. The echo of Ameen vibrated in my heart. Hence, that is why one has to experience Hajj themselves and not just listen to stories of others who have gone.
The Instant “Fix” of Hajj
I am into beauty magazines and tend to pick all those up that tell me there is a “an instant beauty fix.” The main motivation in going for Hajj on this 10 day tiring journey for me was that all your sins are forgiven as a result! This is the beauty of Hajj! This is the instant fix one seeks. You are like a new-born baby when the sun sets at Arafat! A new born baby! If you look at new born baby in front of you, you feel the wonder and innocence. I remember telling my sister in law that I’ve become better than her fifteen month old baby Amira.
Initially, when I had heard about the idea of going for Hajj, I hadn’t given it much thought. I was too busy teaching, doing my masters, and was very busy in my life. But then the idea of all my sins being forgiven if I went really hit me. It stayed in my mind for days, almost haunting me.
Some people are attracted to the idea of plastic surgery, or constant makeovers. But can you imagine a better makeover for your heart, or soul? It has to be the best makeover in the world! No wonder so many people plan Hajj early on in their lives. Being with millions of people, with the same focus of pleasing Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) is amazing.
During Hajj, I met an elderly lady called Fakariyah, who told me as she pointed to her heart, that she came again to Hajj to get rid of her “Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!” She had truly understood the purpose of Hajj.
Also, one of my favorite parts of the trip was Muzdalifah, where you camped on a roadside. At Arafat, where all of our sins are forgiven, I remember being sad as we were in a gated camp. I honestly thought we’d get to be in the valley, like the books showed, seeing millions of Muslims seeking forgiveness. However the next day, Muzdalifah- there you were. Bam! You slept on the road not in a gated area. Rather, everyone, slept on the middle of the road. This was not something that I was used to. In Pakistan, I had servants. I am sure there were others who were millionnaires or maybe even some were servants themselves. But all were equal at this time. Because of the ihraam, one couldn’t differentiate.
Also, as a woman, I felt the safety of being in an ihraam. For example, in Muzdalifah we were sleeping with our group, next to millions of other groups, both men and women. I remember sleeping close to us was a group of men. But it didn’t matter. I felt safe. I remember asking my sister in law, “Would we ever do that back home in Atlanta?”
My cousin Amena would comment on the different people from different nationalities that she saw during Hajj. Indeed, going to Hajj was almost also like traveling the world in 10 days. I saw people from Russia to Australia to Indonesia.
Now I’m back, and everything seems weird. I remember coming back and opening my wardrobe and thinking, “Wow I have so many clothes, and so much makeup! Will I ever use that stuff again? I’m sure I will one day, but for now, it feels good being simple, and refreshed, and made over.
About the Author:
I grew up in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, and moved to Atlanta, Georgia as a teenager. I am Pakistani and enjoy visiting family in Pakistan. I became a teacher and taught 2nd grade for four years in Atlanta. I am currently a Stay-At-Home-Mother to a toddler who is exploring my creative outlet via freelance photography and writing. In my photoblog www.reemfaruqi.com, I enjoy referencing the Qur’an and am amazed at the Qur’an’s descriptions of nature.
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