My Hajj

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.

Estimated 3.4 million people made Hajj this year masha’Allah!

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

The men mopping the floors

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).

Tents in Mina

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.

Inside the Mina tents

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….

A Preschooler’s Understanding of Hajj

Humza started in an Islamic preschool in our community almost a month ago. We had heard great things about it so we had registered him a year prior to him attending to ensure his spot (it fills up fast.)

During that year I was in Pakistan for an extended period and so I enrolled my eldest son in a nursery school in Karachi. My experience in the nursery was great. I was amazed at the professionalism of the teacher, the staff and the kinds of activities that the kids were exposed to. The facility although at a private residence was spotless, inviting and very kid friendly.

I came back from Pakistan and it was time for Humza to start school. I began to have doubts about my decision of enrolling Humza in ADAMS Radiant Heart Academy. The preschool was not as clean or inviting as the nursery in Karachi. My friends were astonished to hear that a Pakistani nursery was so amazing and I kept comparing the two institutions in my head.

Initially the great thing about ADAMS was that my son was extremely happy going to school everyday. He would wake up excited about going to school and would be very eager to pack his snack. Sometimes as punishment I would threaten him by saying, “If you don’t listen to me than I won’t take you to school tomorrow!” He would be in tears! But it wasn’t till a week ago that I saw the “magic” of an Islamic preschool,

Humza had been learning Surah Al-Fatiha for a few weeks but just last week he came home and just recited the whole surah with almost no mistakes. I was stunned. I had not done anything really to help him learn it except for reciting it with him a few times at night or on the way to school in the mornings. But it gets better, I had been thinking of Hajj and Eid-Al Adha but I didn’t even think to explain the significance  of both these events to my 3-year old.

I was too busy thinking about important things like:  What I’m going to wear on Eid? What should I cook for Eid? And Where is the party this Eid?!?

On Monday afternoon while quietly eating his vanilla yogurt Humza looked at me and said, “Momma, Hajj has mountains.”

Totally shocked in a good way, I nonchalantly answered “Oh really? What else is there in Hajj?

My three year old broke it down for me: “Hajj is where the Kabah is and there are mountains and their is Zam Zam which we can drink. We run between the mountains because their was a baby who had no food. The baby was kicking because he was hungry and his mommy was running back and forth to the mountains to find food.”

WHOA! I was blown away!!! How do the teachers explain these concepts while still keeping the kids engaged and happy? Hats off to them.

The ADAMS preschool is not the most well-equipped and certainly is not very glamorous but the school has a lot of heart. It has just been a month and  now I  realize why parents love Adams Radiant Heart academy, the teachers instill in their students the love for Allah (SWT) and all of Allah’s creations. It also makes life for parents easier by introducing the students to concepts that we may not have been able to explain. On the other hand it may be challenging  parents to open up their Islamic books so that they can keep up with their kids. I know I certainly need to!

10 Best Days

Growing up I didn’t know much about the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah.  I knew about Hajj and that was about it.  Later on in my life I found out about the importance of fasting on the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah. Recently I found out the importance of the 10 days.  I have included some notes taken from ‘I got it covered’ and IslamQA (link provided) and have also included a 10 minute lecture on the virtues of the 10 days.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: “There is no deed that is better before Allah or more greatly rewarded than a good deed done in the (first) ten days of al-Adha.” He was asked: “Not even jihad for the sake of Allah?” He said: “Not even jihad for the sake of Allah, unless a man goes out himself for jihad taking his wealth with him and does not come back with anything.” [Al-Daarimi, 1/357]

Thus, the ten days are better than all other days of the year, therefore, whoever is not able to go to Hajj should use this blessed time to complete even more righteous deeds than usual. These can include anything such as giving charity, honouring one’s parents, upholding the ties of kinship, and enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil. Fasting and remembrance are particularly recommended:
1. Fasting Nine days, especially on the Day of ‘Arafah
It is Sunnah for the Muslim to fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah, because fasting is one of the best of deeds. In a hadith qudsi, Allah says: “All the deeds of the son of Adam are for him, except fasting, which is for Me and I shall reward for it.” [Bukhari, 1805] The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The Prophet used to fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah and the day of Ashura, and three days each month, the first Monday of the month and two Thursdays.” [Abu Dawood, 2/462] The ten days of Dhul-Hijjah include Yawm al-`Arafah (the Day of `Arafah), on which Allah perfected His Religion. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Fasting the day of `Arafah expiates the sins of two years: the past one and the coming one.  Fasting on the day of Ashura expiates the sins of the past year.” [Muslim]
2. Remembrance
It is Sunnah to recite remembrances known as the takbeer, tahmeed, tahleel, and tasbeeh during the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, saying these words out loud in the mosques, homes, streets and every place in which it is permissible to remember Allah.
Takbeer: Allahu akbar (God is most great)
Tahmeed: Al-hamdu Lillah (All praises be to God)
Tahleel: Laa ilaha ill-Allah (There is no god but Allah)
Tasbeeh: Subhaan-Allah (Glory be to God),
The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained how, “There are no days that are greater before Allah or in which good deeds are more beloved to Him, than these ten days, so recite a great deal of tahleel, takbeer and tahmeed during them.” [Ahmad, 7/224]
Here is a detailed explanation on the virtues of the 10 days


Please watch this short video by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi