Today is the day of Arafah and I am reminded of my own Hajj experience 5 years ago, when I was still a senior at the University of Connecticut. My parents were planning on going to Hajj, but when they asked me:
“Abeer do you want to go on Hajj with us?”
“What?! Wow!” I thought to myself.
I had never in a million years thought that I would be going on Hajj during college. So when they asked me as bad as it sounds, I was very hesitant in going. I felt there was a lot of pressure on me at that moment. Like a lot of people, I thought that I will have to be a different person once I come back. Am I ready to come back full force with a new perspective on life? What made things even worse was that my younger sister was eager to go!
But who could say no to Makkah? The best place on earth. After quick contemplation, I realized that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I may never get this chance ever again. I knew this would be the golden opportunity to clean my slate and jumpstart my relationship stronger with Allah SWT.
Going on Hajj was the best thing that ever happened to me.
We had made our intention of going to Hajj but our visas did not come until much later. Therefore the fear of not going to Hajj was lingering over us. I had a beautiful dream in which I saw the Kabah. I still don’t know the meaning of that dream, but at the time I assumed that it was a sign that Hajj was meant to be. The visas thankfully came a few days later.
We prepared for Hajj by listening to lectures, reading books, and taking part in Hajj workshops online. We had a long list of little essential things. During Hajj, the people are in ‘ihram’, which requires certain attire and specific rulings such as unscented soap/lotion and no trimming hair/nails until Hajj is over.
It is recommended for those who are going on Hajj that they should return any money or stuff they have borrowed. They must also mend ties with anyone whom they have caused pain or harm to. In our Hajj books we learned that our Hajj Journey would begin the second we leave our house to go to the airport.
We also read that throughout this journey we will be tested in various different ways. My sister and I reminded each other not to lose our patience with one another once our journey began. We got to the JFK airport and read our itinerary and realized that our flight from Abu Dhabi to Jeddah was leaving before we even got there. SubhanAllah, we knew our testing had begun!
On our flight to Jeddah everyone had come into ihram. For men their garments consist of two white sheets and for women they must dress modestly and basically meet the Islamic conditions of dress. I saw the beauty of being in ihram, everyone was wearing similar clothing. We were all equal, whether it be class, education, race or ethnicity, in Makkah we are all the same.
Everyone on the plane was going on Hajj and as Jeddah was coming closer we all started reciting the talbiyah loudly, the feeling was so beautiful and we all recited as one.
Throughout Hajj I felt a sense of unity, belonging and contentment. The eman rush, joy and peace you feel would void out the exhaustion, hardships and obstacles encountered on Hajj.
It was my first time seeing the Kabah and it looked surreal. This is the direction my prayer is made to, this is where it all started. Zamzam, Quran Revelation and Prophets. This. Was. It.
It was a miraculous feeling. My eman was booming, I felt the one on one connection with Allah SWT.
Makkah is a town that normally has a population of two million people, but during Dhul Hijjah close to 4 million people travel to Makkah therefore tripling the population. If a person were to get lost, then the chances of finding them would be nearly impossible. My family decided to keep one of the gates as a place to meet in case we were to get lost.
Props to the Saudi government for doing their best in making the Kabah so clean. They have their hourly cleanings, sweeps
and mopping. One would think the bathrooms would be a mess, but surprisingly they are very clean. It is no easy task to clean a place of four million people.
After completing the Hajj I experienced firsthand the respect ‘Hajjis” got. There were signs all over Saudi congratulating people on Hajj, even Pizza Hut had a sign dedicated to Hajjis. We received free food boxes, gifts and fruits throughout our journey. Once we were leaving the airports we received boxed gifts from the Saudi government that contained kufis, books, tasbeeh and dates.
We took mini journeys throughout Hajj. We had to travel from the Haram to Mina, then Mina to Arafat, then Arafat to Muzdalifah, then back to Mina (with trips to Jamarat in between). Although these mini trips were only 2-4 miles apart, due to the drastic traffic increase, a 10 minute journey would end up taking hours and hours.
On our trip from Mina to Arafat, our bus got stuck in a major traffic jam. The air conditioning was not working, it was over 100 degrees and our clothes were drenched in sweat. A sweet man with a fruit cart on the side of the road came on the bus and gave all of us a tangerine. A fruit never tasted sweeter, I can’t imagine the amount of ajr that man must have received for quenching the thirst of that many muhajiroon (travellers).
Our tents in Mina were actually a lot of fun. Each group varies in terms of what they offer in their tents. They were air conditioned, we had sleeping bags, and there were about 35 women in our tent. We met three college girls, two of them were from New York and one from Georgia. A lot of the aunties in our group were telling my mom that my sister and I should have done Hajj once we got married with our husbands’ money. Count on Desi aunties to butt in with their unnecessary comments even on Hajj. Sigh, but the rules of patience must be implemented at all times.
In those two weeks I had no access to email, friends and obviously facebook. I left the dunya and felt at ease about it and did not miss it one bit.
I met people from every corner of the world. I saw red heads with freckles, massive organized groups of Indonesian and Malaysian people, African women in their Erika Badu style garb and my most favorite were the blond haired-blue eyed folks! It was diversity at its finest.
The people in your Hajj group became your family. You lived/ate/slept with them for so many days. You shared your food, medicines and everything else, gave comfort in times of hardships and most importantly created memories. One of my fond memories of Hajj is of Fajr all 3-4 million people were up and It felt as if there was a big party going on. People would be munching on breakfast, reciting Quran and praying tahajjud. Days began at Tahajjud.
There were countless lessons to be learned from Hajj, but the major thing that a person is forced to have is sabar. You come out of this trip learning to be more patient. I now realize that it is the most essential trait for a Muslim. We need patience when it comes to dealing with our parents, children and especially our spouses. In the darkest moments of our lives it is patience that helps us overcome hardships.
For me the Hajj was quite literally the experience of a lifetime. I remember when Hajj was completed a feeling of sadness came over me. It’s the same feeling one gets when ramadan is over, except a million times worse. I wondered if I would ever get the opportunity to come here again. It was heart-wrenching when I was leaving the Kabah and coming back to the distracting and shaytan-influenced dunya.
On top of all that, I had to hear questions like “Are you not going to back bite any more?…no more movies/music? Are you going to pray tahajjud from now on?”.
First of all we can never be ‘flaw-less’, we’re prone to sin. However, we should strive for better and constantly improve ourselves and repent for our mistakes. We need to make a conscious effort to further ourselves on the siratul-mustaqeem.
I feel blessed that Allah SWT considered me worthy enough to go to Makkah. I would have been a different person had I not gone. Also I am incredibly thankful to my parents who granted me this opportunity. At the time I didn’t realize how expensive and complicated it is to go on Hajj. I pray that Allah SWT blesses my parents, put barakah in their risq and grant them the highest level of Jannah-tul Firdaous, Ameen.
May Allah SWT accept my Hajj and allow me to visit Makkah many more times Ameen!
Something to miss Makkah about….