Muslims who perform the Hajj or Umra must run in the middle portion of the distance between Safa and Marwa seven times. Safa and Marwa are two hills close to the Kaba. This is a commemoration of one mother’s sacrifice for her son.
That mother was Hajira (may Allah be pleased with her). Her son was the Prophet Ismail (peace be upon him). Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was Hajira’s husband, and Ismail’s father.
Hajira’s example of sacrifice took place when she and her baby was left in the valley of Makkah by Allah’s order as pioneers to start a civilization.
Here was the wife of a Prophet, the princess of the king of Egypt, left with her child in the desert. All for the sake of pleasing our Creator.
As Prophet Ibrahim headed for his next responsibility from Allah, he reached an area where Hajira and Ismail could not see him. At that point, he turned back, raising his hands in Dua and said,
“O Our Lord! I have made of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation by Your Sacred House; in order Our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.” (Quran 14:37).
Hajira returned to her place and started drinking water from the water-skin, and her milk increased for her child.
But when she had used up all of the water, she ascended the Safa hill and looked, hoping to see somebody.
The area was empty.
She came down and then ran up to Marwa hill. She ran to and fro (between the two hills) many times, then went to check on her baby Ismail.
He was dying. And she could find no water for him or herself.
She could not watch her son perish. How could any mother?
‘If I go and look, I may find somebody,’ she told herself. Then she went and ascended the Safa hill and looked for a long while but could not find anybody.
In all,Hajira ran seven rounds between Safa and Marwa, in the hot, waterless valley, where her thirsty baby lay.
She told herself to go back and check on Ismail. But suddenly she heard a voice: it was the Angel Jibreel.
‘Help us if you can offer any help,” she said to him.
The angel hit the earth with his heel and water gushed out. Hajira was astonished and started digging. Allah, as she had rightly proclaimed, had not abandoned them.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), in the Hadith in Bukhari in which much of this incident is narrated, said, “If she (Hajira) had left the water, (flow naturally without her intervention), it would have been flowing on the surface of the earth.”
Today we are bearing the fruits of this mother’s struggle and sacrifice. Many of us drink and have drunk from the well of Zamzam. And those of us who have made Hajj run in a much more comfortable way than Hajira ever did, between Safa and Marwa.
Her commitment to her son, her sense of urgency and her unshakable faith in Allah in such harsh circumstances are all examples of not only what an excellent mother she was, but also what a strong believer in Allah she was.
If you’re going to Hajj this year, Insha Allah, remember this incident and think of that great mother, in whose memory Muslims today run between Safa and Marwa. Also think about your own mother, and how she too, would probably have done the same for you.
By Muhammad ash-Shareef
Arafah 10 Years After Hijrah
The man was standing with Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam when he was thrown from his camel. The camel stomped and the man’s neck was snapped. Dead. “Bathe his body with water and Sidr and bury him with both garments,” said Allah’s Messenger. “Do not cover his head, nor touch him with Camphor … for verily he will be returned (to Allah) on the day of resurrection in the state of Talbiyah! (Labbayk Allahaahumma labbayk)” Al-Bukhari and Muslim “Amr ibn Al-“Aas narrates, “When Islam entered my heart, I went to the Messenger of Allah and said, “Give me your hand so that I may pledge allegiance to you.’ The Prophet spread his hand, but I withdrew mine. He said, “What is wrong “Amr?’ I said, “I want to make a condition.’ “And what is that?’ he said. I said, “That Allah will forgive me.’ Then the Messenger of Allah said, “Did you not know that Islam wipes out what came before it, and that Hijrah wipes out what came before it and that Hajj wipes out what came before it!” – Sahih Muslim
The Ultimate Reward
Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – said, “And there is no reward for an accepted Hajj ” except Jannah!” What is the first verse that you read in Surah Al-Hajj? It does not speak of Arafah, nor does it pronounce the pillars of Nahr day. It simply says …
[O Mankind! Fear your Lord, indeed the eruption of the (final) Hour is a horrific event. On that day that you shall see it, every nursing mother will be engrossed away from that (child) she was nursing, and every pregnant woman will abort her pregnancy, and you will see the people (appearing) intoxicated, while they are not intoxicated; rather it is the punishment of Allah, severe.]
Hajj is not a journey of the body such as one may take to a vacation spot or tourist attraction. It is a journey of the soul and heart. When one pays a careful eye to the verses speaking of Hajj, they will find that verse after verse concludes with a commandment of being conscious of Allah’s presence, or a reminder of Allah’s bounteous favor upon us, or a link between Hajj and the final day.
In the not-so-far-away days of old, whenever a journey was to be undertaken proper provisions had to be prepared. The deserts were long, hot, and harsh. Unmerciful. There were no gas stations to fill up with chips and refreshments, or rest stops to slurp water from a fountain. In fact, there was not a human in sight for miles upon miles of barren sand dunes. Losing the way meant losing your life. Thus, you had to have the provision with you before you made the journey. Enough food, enough water, enough everything to carry you to your destination. From here, in the verses dealing of Hajj, when everyone shall have to make some sort of journey to reach the Ka’bah, Allah tuned the attention of His slaves to another journey, a journey every soul is traveling, whether they know it or care to just remain heedless. Allah turned their attention to the journey to the Hereafter, to Paradise or Hell.
[And take sustenance (with you) for the journey; verily the best sustenance is Taqwa (piety and righteousness).] Al Baqarah 2:197
On the day Buhaym Al-“Ajlee set out with his companion for Hajj, he looked toward the endless desert awaiting them both and wept, his chest soaking from the tears. “This is something,” said Buhaym, “that has made me understand the most certain journey I must one day take to Allah!”
Hajj The Journey Of Hearts
There is debate over whether someone who performs Hajj should be called a Hajji. It is not something found in the Sunnah; rather it has an interesting backround in our cultural history. In antique days, when someone decided to perform the journey for Hajj, it was synonymous with bidding farewell to life on earth. This was due to the treacherous obstacles of traveling in the desert – trials such as sickness, starvation, and the struggles of the separate situations. An entire village might gather to bid those people farewell. When someone would go through such a remarkable journey and return alive, they would dedicate their lives to the worship and obedience of Allah. Gone was the cheating, or the lying, or the missed Salah. He was now a Hajji. Today, with the Jumbo jets and ocean liners and Mercedes busses, the facilitation of performing Hajj has taken away the luster of the title Hajji.
Some might complain that there are no queen-size mattress beds in Mina, or that the air conditioning motor is a tad too loud. But dear brothers and sisters, who is it that provided us with all the blessing that we are living in? It is the same Allah that has tested us here on the plains of Arafah. The slave of Allah can only truly understand the favor of Allah upon him when it is taken away.
[There is no blame upon you for seeking bounty from your Lord (during Hajj). But when you depart from Arafat, remember Allah at AlMash’ar AlHaram. And remember Him as He has guided you, for indeed you were before that among those astray.]
Indeed the greatest blessing that Allah has favored us with is Islam, and it alone suffices as favor. Allah knows we are going to get dusty during Hajj, Allah knows it. So don’t be surprised when that dust blows, instead turn to Allah and hit back with patience and a whisper of gratitude to Allah.
[Then let them end their untidiness, fufill their vows, and perform Tawaf around the ancient House.] Surah Hajj 22/29
Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote a Qasidah about this journey of the hearts, here is only a glimpse of some of the Arabic verses:
[He says, My slaves have come to Me (for Hajj) out of love for Me
And I am merciful to them, bounteous and loving
Glad tidings O participants of that stand (on Arafah)
a moment when Allah forgives all sins and showers His mercy]
Abu Hurayrah narrates: I heard the Prophet say, “Whoever performs Hajj and does not commit any Rafath (obscenity) or Fusooq (transgression), he returns (free from sin) as the day his mother bore him” Al-Bukhari
Getting The Heart In Shape
Many years ago, as the Hujjaj swept through the valley of Muzdalifah, a man remarked out loud, “My look at the number of Hujjaj!” The wise man replied, “Nay, the passengers are many, but the Hujjaj are few.” I once heard the story of a man who was blessed with the opportunity to join the caravan for Hajj regularly. However, his shortcoming was that he could never control his anger during the days of Hajj, and would snap cursing others. Well, one person had an idea for him. His inspiration: Instead of cursing Muslims during Hajj, write all your bad comments on a piece of paper – fold it – and then when you get mad at someone, just hand him the paper. On the top of the tiny envelope write, “Do not open until after Hajj’. The man agreed. As incident after incident assailed him, the man would simply smile, then frown and hand out the tiny envelopes to the provoking party. Everything was going smoothly until the day when he was walking to the Jamarat and someone stomped his toes. He lost all control. Teeth gritting, he snarled and took out his briefcase of envelopes and dumped it on that poor guys head.
In Hajj I have seen people who snatch for patience and the reward of Allah during those trying moments, like a man pan handles for gold. I asked myself, what is different from them and those who spend their breath in criticism and argumentation? It finally dawned that it was not the body of Zayd or “Amr that I was witnessing, but it was the hearts of Zayd and “Amr. Some people come to Hajj prepared financially. Others come with a prepared heart that is what’s essential. Whether the grindstone grinds us to dust or polishes us up depends on what we are made of.
Now – How To Get That Heart In Shape For Hajj?
Firstly: Attend lectures and workshops dealing with Hajj Hajj is one of the pillars that Islam is built on. When someone intends to perform this rite it a must upon them that they learn it well. Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim.” Imam Al-Bukhari writes in his Saheeh, “Chapter: knowledge comes before statements and actions.’ He then quoted the verse of Allah:
[So Know, that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin.] – Surah Muhammad, 47/19
Secondly: Establish Salah and Perform Qiyaam ul-Layl
When Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was preparing his heart for the mission of conveying this Deen, Allah ordered him to prepare using Qiyam ul-Layl. Allah ta’ala says:
[O you who wraps himself / Arise (to pray) the night, except for a little] Surah Muzzammil, 73/1,2
A student once slept over at Imam Ahmad’s house, rahimahullah. Imam Ahmad had left a vessel of water for him, and upon arriving at Fajr time, found the vessel still full of water. He was shocked and remarked, “How can a person be a Talib Al-“Ilm (student of Islam) and not stand for Qiyam ul-Layl!” Some said to Ibn Mas`ood, may Allah be pleased with him, “We are unable to wake up to perform Qiyam ul-Layl.” He told them, “You are distancing yourselves from it by your sins.”
Thirdly: Repentance to Allah and Dua
It was during the days of Tashreeq when Jirbreel alayhis salam came to Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam with the words of Allah:
[When the victory of Allah has come and the conquest / And you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes / Then exalt Him with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of repentance.] Surah An-Nasr
This was the culmination of 23 years of Da’wah, Jihad, and work; here now was the farewell pilgrimage. What did it end with?
[Then exalt Him with praise of your Lord (Tasbeeh) and ask forgiveness of Him]
Subhaanak Allaahumma wa bihamdika, Allahumma ighfir-lana / Glory be to you O Allah, and may You be praised. O Allah, forgive us!
Por Marta Khadija
Contestando a la llamada de Alá en una viaje de Reflexión, Inspiración, Renacimiento, y Devoción, el pasado 25 de Mayo de 2009 seis hermanas, un hermano y yo salimos para el Medio Oriente con el propósito de hacer el ritual de Umra, el cual se lleva a cabo en Meca, Arabia Saudita. La mayoría de nosotros visitábamos Meca por primera vez.
Desde la planeación de este viaje empezamos a experimentar una emoción muy grande, La cual fue creciendo a medida que el día de salida se aproximaba.
Viajamos por la aerolínea Emiratos Unidos (Emirates), vuelo directo de los Ángeles a Dubai, el cual tomó dieciséis horas. En Dubai estuvimos 22 horas antes de abordar el avión para Arabia Saudita. Así que, tuvimos la oportunidad de dormir, y hacer un paseo por carro de los lugares más turísticos de esta ciudad moderna. Afortunadamente la aerolínea nos dió un pase gratuito para dormir en un hotel muy cerca del aeropuerto, incluyendo desayuno.
Salimos de Dubai a Arabia Saudita aterrizando en Jedda, este lugar es la entrada a los lugares de la peregrinación. Antes de salir de Dubai o en el avión y antes de aterrizar en Jedda todos los peregrinos se cambian de ropas y de esta manera se entra en el periodo de Ihram incluyendo la intención de realizar Umra.
El periodo de Ihram es considerado periodo de pureza, no se hablan palabras obscenas, no malos pensamientos. Tal y como se menciona en el Corán el periodo de Ihram es mandatario para toda persona que va a realizar Hach y Umra: “Quien emprenda la peregrinación en esos [meses] deberá abstenerse, mientras dure la peregrinación, del lenguaje obsceno, de toda conducta reprobable y de disputar; y todo el bien que hagáis, Dios lo conoce…”
[Surah al-Baqarah 2:197]
Tan pronto como llegamos a Meca y dejamos nuestras pertenencias en el hotel, salimos para la mezquita más grande del mundo: Al-Haram donde se encuentra la Kaba. Todos recitando internamente el Talbiyah: Labaik Allahuma Labaik â€” Aqui estoy Oh Alah Aqui estoy.
La Kaba en el Coran :
[Al Maidah 5:97]
(97) Dios ha hecho de la Kaba, el Templo Inviolable, un símbolo para toda la humanidad; y [así, también,] el mes sagrado [de la peregrinación] y la ofrendas engalanadas [son símbolos] para haceros de que Dios es consciente de todo cuanto hay en los cielos y todo cuanto hay en la tierra, y de que Dios tiene pleno conocimiento de todo.
La Kaba es la casa sagrada de Allah en medio de la mezquita. La Kaba tiene varios significados: reportado por Al Azraqui de Abu Nuyaih quien dijo: es llamada la Kaaba porque tiene forma de cubo (Kab).
Tambien por su forma de cuadro (Murabba), Ikimah y Muyahid lo dijeron así.
Se dijo que fue llamada Kaba por su elevación sobre el nivel del piso.
Fue llamada Al Bait Al Atiq (la casa emancipada) porque Allah la liberó de caer bajo el control de los tiranos; Abdulah Az Zubair (RA) narró que el profeta dijo: “Es llamada Al Bait Al Atiq (la casa antigüa) porque Allah la liberó (A taqahu) de caer bajo el control de los tiranos, y jamás prevaleció la tiranía sobre ella”
Ver la Kaba por primera vez
La impresión de ver la Kaaba por primera vez es indescriptible. Cada uno de nosotros experimento diferentes emociones, pero las lagrimas empezaron a rodar por nuestra mejillas de manera unánime. Para mi fue una alegría de agradecimiento hacia Alah por darme la oportunidad de estar presente en el lugar mas sagrado para todo musulmán. Me sentí privilegiad por estar presente ante la Kaba. También, sentí la urgencia de pedir perdón por mis faltas intencionales y no intencionales. Durante el Tawaf, las 7 vueltas que se hacen alrededor de la Kaaba, cada uno de nosotros pidió: “Alah concédenos lo mejor de este mundo, lo mejor en el mas allá y protégenos del tormento del infierno.” La primera Umra es ofrecida para uno mismo. Al dia siguiente se pueden hacer Tawaf las veces que la persona desee.
Despues de completar el Tawaf, se rezan dos Rakas atrás del Maqam del profeta Ibrahim (P y B). Aquí es donde se hacen las suplicas por todos nuestras amistades, familiares musulmanes y no musulmanes. Durante mi segunda Tawaf, pude tocar la Kaaba haciendo mis suplicas con gran llanto y gratitud.
Paz, tranquilidad y reflexión se pueden experimentar durante Umra debido a que hay menos multitud de peregrinos durante el tiempo fuera de Hajj. Definitivamente sugiero que todo nuevo Musulmán debe hacer Umra primero antes de hacer Hajj. Umra es como una introducción para el ritual más grande de nuestra vida que es Hajj.
Cada mañana se escuchaba desde el hotel el Adhan para rezar la primera oración del dia, Fajr. Todas las actividades se paran para rezar las cinco oraciones del día. No importa donde la persona se encuentre a la hora de rezar, ahí mismo la persona hará su oracion.
El ritual de Umra es mas corto y se realiza en Meca; no incluye los rituales en Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifa y otros. Solo incluye Tawauf- 7 vueltas alrededor de la Kaaba y el ritual de Sa’i-7 vueltas entre Safa y Marwa
Visita a Medina
Medina fue la ciudad donde el profeta Muhammad (sas) encontró refugio, apoyo a sus enseñanzas, fue defendido por la comunidad con sus vidas. Se establece el primer Estado Musulmán. También, la ciudad donde se encuentra su tumba.
Visitar Medina tiene Bendiciones especiales:
El profeta Muhammad(PBUH)hizo una suplica ( según Aisha):
“O Alah haz de Medina una ciudad muy amada por nosotros así como amamos a Meca o más”
Otra enseñanza (Abdullah Bin Azid bin Asim) que le profeta dijo:
“Verdaderamente Abrahán declaro Meca inviolable y pidió por sus habitantes, y yo Declaro Medina a ser inviolable así como Abrahán declaro Meca inviolable…”
En una narración de Abu Hurayrah menciona que el Profeta Muhammad (sas) dijo:
“La área entre mi casa y mi púlpito (minbar) es uno de los jardines (rawdah) del paraiso”…
De acuerdo con este hadith, todos los peregrinos rezamos dos Rakats en el area de Rawdah, con una gran devoción y emoción.
En los aeropuertos de Dubai y Jedda tienen una sala para rezar y se puede escuchar el Adhan por el micrófono, para que los pasajeros puedan realizar su oración.
A mi regreso, extraño la paz que se experimenta al estar frente a la Kaba y el Adhan, especialmente durante Fajr.
Beneficio personal despues de Umra:
El beneficio más grande a mi regreso es poder concentrarme mejor durante mis oraciones, como si estuviese rezando enfrente de la Kaba. Ruego a Alah que esta devoción la experimente por mucho tiempo.
Mi reflexión sobre la suplica que hicimos a Alah en “concédenos lo mejor de este mundo” me doy cuenta que Alah ya me ha otorgado lo mejor de este mundo lo cual es El Corán y la Suna. No importa cual sea nuestra situación económica, posición social, títulos de profesión y cosas materiales. Solo tenemos que leer el Coran mas frecuentemente y llevar a cabo las enseñanzas y consejos de nuestro profeta Muhammad. (Paz y bendiciones para el).
Ruego a Alah que me permita realizar Hach en un futuro muy cercano.
By Jesus Villarreal
I got an email from a friend of mine about an Islamic studies program in the United Arab Emirates. To be honest with you, it sounded too good to be true. The program would consist of six weeks of Arabic and Islamic studies with the chance to go to Hajj. With an announcement like this, I sought more information. What I found out was that there was going to be a limited number of seats available and the prospective students would have to submit a biography of themselves and an essay stating why they should be chosen.
At the time, I had just graduated college and was about two months married. I discussed this opportunity with my wife who in turn discussed it with my mother in law. My mother in law, being the religious women she is, provided the leverage necessary for me to go and explained to my wife this would be a great thing for us.
I submitted the necessary paper work and my essay. About a week later, I got the news through an email that I was accepted! I would be leaving San Antonio, TX on October 21, 2007 and would fly to Washington, D.C. to meet with officials from the United Arab Emirates Embassy; afterwards, we would fly to the UAE.
I got word from the brother who organized the program I would be flying out of San Antonio with another brother from Austin, TX who was Puerto Rican. I was glad to know there was at least one other Hispanic attending the trip. A few days before my departure, I had exchanged numbers with the brother via email. As I waited in the terminal, I was looking around for the brother. It was easy to spot him; he emerged from the crowd at the terminal wearing a kufi and a thin beard.
I am sure he recognized me because at the time, my beard was getting long enough that I could hide a pencil in it and only see the point and the eraser. We formally introduced each other; his name was Julio Colon, an aspiring lawyer. So there you had it, Julio and Jesus, embarking on a journey that was definitely going to impact the rest of our lives in a positive way.
We arrived in Washington, D.C. with no one to greet us at the airport. I don’t remember exactly why that was but Julio and I got a Taxi to the hotel we were going to be staying at. When we arrived at the hotel, I immediately spotted the other group of brothers, by their kufis.
There was an eclectic mix of mostly African American brothers, one Bangladeshi, a lonely Caucasian brother, and to my surprise, there were three other Latino’s in the group, making it a total of five! There was Yusuf Maisonet, a Puerto Rican brother who traveled the world as a merchant marine and was now residing in Alabama, Dr. Julio Pino, a Cuban professor of history at Kent State University, and Rafael Jara, a University of Florida student whose father was Chilean and mother was French.
This concoction of Latino’s from three different countries was sure to represent the other’s who were not fortunate enough to be selected and let the world know Islam is alive and well in the Latino community! We spent a few days in Washington, D.C. visiting the Smithsonian, the Museum of Natural History, and various other sites at the mall. We had welcome dinner at the UAE Embassy with a brief history of the inception of the country.
We took the almost 18 hour flight from Washington, D.C. all the way to Abu Dhabi. When we arrived at the airport, we had a royal reception! Instead of immediately going to pick up our luggage, we were escorted to a very regal looking waiting room fit for a sultan. There, we sipped on fresh juice and were introduced to representatives from the Zayed House of Islamic Culture, our hosts.
After about an hour drive from Abu Dhabi, we arrived in the middle of the night at Al-Ain, the fourth largest city in the Emirates comprised of mainly Emirati nationals with several expatriates from the Indian Subcontinent. We went into the ZHIC complex and were greeted with an awesome meal from Kentucky Fried Chicken! I was amazed on how an American restaurant chain could set up shop half way across the world in a city surrounded by a desert.
I was not naÃ¯ve to the fact that McDonald’s is located around the world but I never would have believed KFC existed in the desert! It was amusing to see the Arabic writing on the box of chicken spelling out KFC and it finally hit me that I was not in Texas anymore. After the meal we picked our roommates (in my case it was brother Ali Kennemer, the lonely Caucasian from Dallas, TX) and headed to our dorms.
Honestly, I cannot remember every detail or daily occurrence during my trip as I cannot find my journal, but I will do my best insha Allah to narrate my story from memory.
The next day I was woken up by the sweet sound of the athan coming from the masjid in the ZHIC property. It was awesome! I got up made my wudu and followed the call to prayer. What a sight it was to see the number of Muslim’s attending to Fajr prayer! There were at least twice as many attending Fajr, than there has ever been for the Isha prayer at my masjid back in San Antonio!
After the prayer, some people left but the majority gathered around the Imam of the masjid (a tall Azhari trained young Egyptian) as he gave his morning talk. To be quite honest, even though I did not understand anything of what he was saying save “salalahu alayhi wa-salam”, I felt privileged to be in the company of Muslims. I was not even sure how many of the brothers from our group understood what he was saying, but that did not matter, I was able to pick up bits and pieces of what the Imam was saying.
By Shariffa Carlo Al Andalusia
As a former Catholic, one of the things that has helped to strengthen my faith as a Muslim is the fact that everything in Islam is so clear and so protected. If we really want to know Allah and His deen, all we have to do is look. It is all here for us, preserved. As a Catholic, I did take my priest as a Lord above Allah. I would obey his edicts, no matter how contradictory because I believed he has some connection to God from which he was able to dictate right from wrong. I was truly from what Allah calls the misguided in Surat Al Fatiha. Now, alhamdulillah, thanks to the guidance of Allah, I know better. I recognize that all men are fallible, but Allah is Perfect. Inshallah, I no longer do as Allah warned us to not do and I try to do as He commanded us to do,
“They have taken their rabbis and their monks for lords besides Allah, and (also) the Messiah son of Mariam and they were enjoined that they should serve one Allah only, there is no god but He; far from His glory be what they set up (with Him).” (9:31)
Now, I try to base all my knowledge on the Quraan and the Sunnah of our great prophet. I recognize that I can not do this alone, I need guidance from someone who knows more than I do, but I do not accept that any man is infallible. I recognize that other than what comes straight from Allah or what was taught by His Prophet, the rest is all subject to mistake.
For you see, Allah promised us to make the Quraan and the Sunnah clear, easy and protected. He told our beloved Prophet,
“Do not move your tongue with it to make haste with it, Surely on Us (devolves) the collecting of it and the reciting of it. Therefore when We have recited it, follow its recitation. Nay more, it is for Us to explain it (and make it clear):” (5:16-19)
Here, Allah has promised not just to preserve the Noble Quraan, but also the hadith. How do we understand this? Well Allah Promised to collect it, recite it and to explain it. The explanation is the hadith. The explanation was achieved by making the Prophet an example of the Quraan.
The explanation was achieved by making nothing come from the Prophet himself. The prophet was the example of the Quraan, and we, as Muslims, have been commanded to obey him.
“And obey Allah and His Messenger; and fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere:” (8:46)
“The answer of the Believers, when summoned to Allah and His Messenger, in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: they say, “We hear and we obey”: it is such as these that will attain felicity. It is such as obey Allah and His Messenger, and fear Allah and do right, that will win (in the end),” (24:51-52)
Obeying Allah and His messenger is the foundation of the words La ilaha il Allah, Muhamadur Rasool Allah. (There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His messenger) . It is the essence of the deen. To the extent that when we receive a command from the Quraan or from the Prophet, we are just to say, “we hear and we obey.” An example of this is:
Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Mu’alla: While I was praying, the Prophet called me but I did not respond to his call. Later I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I was praying.” He said, “Didn’t Allah say: ‘O you who believe! Give your response to Allah (by obeying Him) and to His Apostle when he
calls you’?” (8.24) Sahih Bukhari: Volume 6, Book 61, Number 528.
This is Islam. This is true faith. We recognize that our own personal desires, our rationalizations, and our understandings are all limited and flawed. We recognize that we do not know it all, and that if what we wants contradicts with what Allah and His messenger have commanded for us, then what we want is incorrect and Allah and His messenger are correct and we defer to their judgement.
Having said this, I know I am often asked what is the first thing any Muslim should learn or do. My answer is that we should all begin by learning Islam. The best way to do this is by going back to the original sources. We will never achieve true knowledge or true success in our deen until we make these two sources, the Quraan and the authentic sunnah, to be our foundation. I recommend that we all start with the basics, read and study the Quraan. Then, pick up Sahih Bukhari or Sahih Muslim and start reading and studying them too. These three books will give you about 75% of your deen. Now, can we just read the books and think we know it all? Of course not! No more than a man can pick up a set of medical books and be a doctor. We need to understand how all this was applied. We need to know how the companions and the scholars understood and understand it. We need to be sure that we understood what we read.
At this point, however, we will be ahead of the game. We will recognize most of the sahih hadiths and be careful about that which we do not know. We will know that there is a possibility for error, and we will be careful. This is very important. Actually, this is critical. We will not be so easily mislead, inshallah, because we will have a small arsenal of knowledge from which we have armed ourselves. So when someone teaches us, we will call to him/her to
“…Bring your proof if you are truthful.” (27:64)
We will insist on learning from a pure fountain of knowledge, not from one tainted by conjecture, rationalization and personal desires. We will have a healthy foundation.
The next thing we need to recognize is that since we are limited and also flawed. We can read something and understand it completely differently than it was intended, like the following companion:
Narrated Anas ibn Malik: When this verse: “O ye who believe! raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor shout loud unto him in discourse, as ye shout loud unto one another, lest your deeds should become null and void, while you perceive not” (xix.2-5), was revealed,
Thabit ibn Qays confined himself to his house and said: I am one of the denizens of Fire, and he deliberately avoided coming to the Apostle (peace_be_upon_ him).
The Messenger (peace_be_upon_ him) asked Sa’d ibn Mu’adh about him and said: AbuAmr, how is Thabit? Has he fallen sick? Sa’d said: He is my neighbour, but I do not know of his illness. Sa’d came to him (Thabit), and conveyed to him the message of the Messenger of Allah
(peace_be_upon_ him). Upon this Thabit verse was revealed, and you are well aware of the fact that, amongst all of you, mine is the voice louder than that of the Messenger of Allah, and so I am one of the denizens of Fire.
Sa’d informed the Holy Prophet about it: Therefore the Messenger of Allah observed: (Nay, not so) but he (Thabit) is one of the dwellers of Paradise. Sahih Muslim: Book 1, Number 0214.
This companion heard the words but did not fully understand its meaning.
It was refering to voluntary lifting of the voice, not what comes naturally. Another companion misunderstood the commands about the time for fajr prayer.
Narrated ‘Adi bin Hatim: When the above verses were revealed: ‘Until the white thread appears to you, distinct from the black thread,’ I took two (hair) strings, one black and the other white, and kept them under my pillow and went on looking at them throughout the night but could not
make anything out of it. So, the next morning I went to Allah’s Apostle and told him the whole story. He explained to me, “That verse means the darkness of the night and the whiteness of the dawn.” Sahih Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 31, Number 140.
So, we should avoid being arrogant and always leave the door open for understanding and learning more. Islam is not stagnant. Allah guides us as He wills when He wills and makes things clear for us when we are ready for it. We never know what will happen to us or when, so we
always need to recognize that right now is always the best time. We need to take just a few minutes a day to review our basics, salat, fasting, zakat. We do not have to be extreme in it. Just take a few minutes to read one page – or if you are real ambitious, one chapter. Then, we need to be sure we understand it correctly, that bida (innovation) or culture or personal desire have not tainted our understanding. We need to be sure that all that we do and practice as Muslims is correct, and we need to make sure that we hold our scholars to a higher standard. Make them provide us the sahih evidences. Don’t follow blindly. Recognize that there is a margin for error, and that the scholar has an obligation to present the sahih evidences. But once it has been made clear to us, once we see the sahih evidences, once we have been given what we asked for, then we must say, “I hear and I obey.”
May Allah make us good knowledgeable slaves and increase our faith, knowledge and practice of this great deen. Ameen.
By Imam Yusef Maisonet
I will remember this Hajj for the rest of my life. In my forty years as a Muslim, I have never expected anything like this. Hajj 2007 was my third time on hajj. The first was by myself and the second time was with my wife. However, this time, hajj had a special meaning to it because I was making a historical hajj with brothers from the Latino community, and I was making this hajj for a friend that had his intention on making this hajj and died before he could accomplish his goal.
We spent the last six weeks in an Imam Training Program. I was already an Imam but I wasn’t certified. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi sponsored the program. This beautiful gift of hajj was a wonderful reward for finishing the program. We started our journey from Al Ain, UAE, where the Imam Training Program was held. As we arrived at the Abu Dhabi airport, we were all in a state of anxiety on making this historic trip. We were busy checking our bags that were giving to us. We had just enough clothes and toiletries to make this a pleasant trip.
We boarded on Qatar Airlines on one of their latest airplanes. It was beautiful just seeing all of these brothers and sisters going on hajj from the UAE. Our first stop was at Medina, the city of the Prophet (SAW). When we arrived, we were welcomed like royalty. The rest of the brothers who were attending hajj for the first time didn’t notice. Because I had come to this side of the world many times, I already knew what to expect -the waiting, the lines customs, and sometimes the dislike for Americans.
By Allah’s mercy, we were treated well with plenty of love. When we arrived at the hotel in Medina, we were the first occupants for the Hajj season. This brand new hotel was named Al Kareem Hotel. After putting our bags in our rooms, we headed to the Prophet’s Mosque to offer two rakat. We had time to visit the Prophet’s (SAW) tomb along with the tombs of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab (R.A.). Al-Masjid an Nabawi was built by the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) himself next to his own house and now contains his tomb. After a well-deserved rest, we made Fajr prayer at the Prophet’s Masjid. After eating breakfast at our beautiful hotel, we took a tour to some of the historical places in Medina.
The first place on the list was Masjid Al Qiblatain. This mosque has two Qiblas and is situated in Madinah just a few miles from Masjid an-Nabi. It is one of the oldest mosques in the world, and it contains two mihrabs. One is in the direction of Jerusalem and the other towards Makkah. In this Masjid, the Prophet Muhammad received revelation to change the Qiblah from Jerusalem towards the Ka’bah in Mecca.
“Verily! We have seen the turning of your face towards the heaven; surely we shall turn you to a prayer direction (Qiblah) that shall please you (Surah al-Baqarah; 2:144).
Then, we went onto Masjid Quba. It is also about two miles southwest from Masjid an-Nabawi. It is the first mosque of the Muslims. It is said that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions built it with their own hands on their migration to Madinah. While at the mosque, we made two rakat nafl. Doing so is said to be equal to one Umrah.
Then, it was on to Jabal-e-Uhud, which is about four miles north of Madinah. The battle of Uhud was fought in 3 A.H. The Prophet’s (SAW) uncle, Hamza, and other companions are buried here. Afterward, we returned to Madinah. We had time to shop for some extra clothes before getting ready for hajj.
Labbayk Allahumma labbayk
Labbayk la shareeka laka labbyk
Innal hamda wan ni’imata laka wal mulk
La shareeka lak
Here I am at your service O Lord, here I am
Here I am. There is no partner to You, here I am
Truly, the praise and Favor is Yours, and the dominion.
There is no partner to You.
We headed towards Mecca to perform our Umrah. We went to a miqat outside of Madinah to take a shower. We put on our ikrams and made two rakat. We were performing Tamattu Hajj, which combines Umrah and Hajj with a break from our ikram in between. It took us three hours to drive to Mecca in the SUVs that had been contracted to drive us there. On our arrival, we went to the hotel to take our bags. Then, it was on to the masjid to make our Umrah, which consists of seven Tawafs, two rakat at the station of Ibrahim, drinking Zam Zam water, seven times back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, and then getting your hair clipped.
As we were making our tawaf and at the end of each circuit, we would say:
Rabbana atina fid dunya hasanatan wa fil akhirati
hasanatan wa qina adhaban nar.
Our Lord give us good in this world, and good in the hereafter,
and save us from the torment of the fire.
After the Umrah, we returned to our hotel and change into our regular clothes. We relaxed a little while we made every salat at the Kabah. Finally, the big day came on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah. We washed our bodies, put on our ihram, and made our intention by saying the talbiyah.
Labbayk Allahumma labbayk
Labbayk la shareeka labbyk
Innal hamda wan ni’imata laka wal mulk
La shareeka lak.
Here I am at your service O Lord, here I am
Here I am. There is no partner to You
Here I am
Truly, the praise and favour is Yours, and the dominion.
We went to Mina, and again we had excellent drivers. One of the drivers who was named Abdullah was an English student. During the hajj season, many students volunteer their time helping the Hajjis. We performed our Dhur, Asr, Maghrib, Isha and Fajr prayers at the proper times, shortening prayers from four rakat to two, but we didn’t combine our prayers.
On the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, we proceeded to Arafat at sunrise and made Dhur and Asr. We shortened the prayers. We combined them during the time of Dhur with one adhan and two iqamas. One iqama for each prayer. We stayed in Arafat until sunset making dua all day for our friends, family, and members of the Latino community but mostly asking Allah (SWT) to forgive us and have mercy on us.
Afterward, we proceeded to Muzdalifah where we combined the Maghrib and Isha prayers. We shortened the Isha prayer to two rakat. When we arrived in Muzdalifah, we couldn’t find the place that was reserved for us. Fortunately, we saw some of the brothers from the UAE, and we decided to camp with them after receiving their permission. After the Maghrib and Isha prayer, we laid out our sleeping bags and rested. Let me tell you it was cold.
Before sunrise, we proceeded to Mina where we picked up our seven stones to throw at Stone Pillar of Aqabah, which is the Jamarah closest to Mecca. With each throw, we would say “Allahu Akbar.” This year you could see the improvements made to make it easier to perform. From there, we went by SUV to the biggest surprise. We went to a slaughterhouse. Each of the fourteen of us had a sheep ready to slaughter. Some could not see themselves doing it, so they gave others permission to slaughter for them.
After we shaved our heads, we returned to the hotel to change from our ihrams into our regular clothes. Then, we performed the tawaf’s and sa’y. We would return to Mina for another two days to finish our stone throwing and to get to know each other better. After returning to Mecca to perform our farewell tawafs, we flew back to Al Ain UAE to pack our bags for our return to the USA. Meanwhile, we had gotten so close to one other during our stay at the school and from performing Umrah and Hajj together. It was hard saying goodbye, but I can safely say that this entire experience has given us all a sense of accomplishment. YES WE CAN!
By Imam Yusef Maisonet
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Allah blessed thirteen Muslims from the United States and one from France to attend a historical pioneer Imams Training Program in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently, after being randomly selected.
All Praise is due to The Creator that I was among those selected to be a participant in this program.
The Imams Training Program was put together by a brother with vision, Bro. Khalid Ahmed, who spent the last two years back and forth between the U.S. and the UAE, getting the logistics worked out. Dhabi sponsored this program, including the Hajj.
This historical trip started with a visit to the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC, where we were treated to first class hotel accommodations and given a meeting at the UAE Embassy with their Ambassador, who treated us with a taste of the UAE via a beautiful and tasteful dinner.
After the UAE Embassy’s presentation and the question and answer session, we were ready to embark on this educational journey of a lifetime, which culminated with the true journey of every Muslim’s lifetime Hajj.
From Washington DC, we flew to Doha, UAE, and then to the Abu Dhabi airport, where we were greeted by the Director of the Program, Khalid Marzouqi, and by Dawud Yasin, one of the instructors.
The Arab hospitality was exceptional, only made grander as we did not have any problems with Customs. A special bus took us to Al Ain, where the school was located. We lived three to a Villa in state-of-the-art facilities with great technology and Western modernities.
At the Oasis Hospital, we were given health checkups for the purpose of issuing health insurance and for any medial attention required while we were there.
The first three days were “getting to know you” days and introduction to this beautiful country and its people. We were treated to a local tailor for UAE-style thobes and sandals; we were made to feel at home.
Program participants included:
Imam Khalid Shaheed, Resident Imam of the Dallas Masjid of Al-Islam
Hannibal Shabazz, Masjidullah, Philadelphia
Abdullah, Madyun, Chicago, Illinois
Adil Woods, Wilmington, Delaware
Curtis Sharif, Houston, Texas
Omar Huda, California
Ali Carl Kenemer, Dallas, Texas
Julio Colon, Austin, Texas
Yusuf Maisonet, Mobile, Alabama
Rafeel Aleandro Jara, Miami, Florida
Jesus Villarreal, San Antonio, Texas
Dr. Khalifah Ramadan, Buffalo, New York
Jeloni Musa Shabazz, New Haven, Connecticut
Bilaal Mbee, France
Before leaving for the UAE, we were warned by Bro. Khalid Ahmed to expect to gain a bit of weight because we would be “invited to many receptions and Arabs love to eat. It is nothing for them to slaughter several sheep for a reception in your honor.”
We were featured at a reception honoring Ms. Michelle Siston, US Ambassador to the UAE, at a richly appointed traditional Bedouin tent on the campus of the Zayed House of Islamic Culture. The Ambassador and other dignitaries toured the new, beautifully furnished villas that house the program participants.
We had an opportunity to meet the US Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to U.S. Congress, before we left for the UAE. We not only had brunch together but we got to ask him about his views on different subjects. And, it was a wonderful feeling knowing that he is an American you can be proud of.
The welcome at the UAE was given by Khalid M. Al Marzouqi, Director of the Zayed House of Islamic Culture, who said, “Most welcome. Your participation adds much to the sincerest of our delights.”
“We are pleased to welcome you to the Zayed House for Islamic Culture, where you can take pleasure in our fully furnished villas, equipped with all necessary facilities and amenities for your utmost comfort. We are looking forward to seeing our services meet your convenience.”
On November 3, 2007, the classes started first with tajweed classes and Qur’an memorization, held after each Fajr.
These classes were held at the Masjid across from our Villas and held for about an hour. We then would go back to our Villas to get ready for school after going for breakfast. Classes were held in a location about 15 minutes from the Villas.
Classes there covered Aqeedah, Fiqh and Basic Arabic. The courses consisted of a six-week program that focused on Moderation in Islam, Fiqh for Muslim Minorities, Islamic Family Law, and Principles of Islamic Banking and Finance. Our teachers were from all over the world (English speakers) South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Canada and the USA.
We were regularly treated to events and activities outside the classroom to familiarize us with the history, culture, traditions and lifestyle of the UAE Gulf region. We traveled all over Al Ain and have made trips to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and a traditional desert tribal village.
We participants organized into an ummah and elected Curtis Sharif to the position of Amir to facilitate efficient communication between the group and Zayed House administrators. The group would hold weekly meetings and make every important decision using Shura and Consensus. Following each meeting, the Amir would meet with Zayed House director to review progress, goals, and resolve any outstanding issues.
The Zayed House of Islamic Culture is located in Al Ain, which is one of the cleanest cities that I’ve seen in all of my travels throughout the world.
Al Ain is a fertile oasis city located approximately 160 kilometers east of the Abu Dhabi capital. Its name (“the spring” in Arabic) derives from its originally plentiful supply of fresh water, which makes its way underground and across most of the plain that lies before the Omani mountains.
There are numerous farms of all sizes around the city, which produce an astonishing amount of salad crops tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces and even strawberries. To describe all of the beautiful cities of Al Ain would require a book, of which I’m in the process of writing.
Our experiences have included tours of the Fort Museum, the Presidential Palace Museum, an oasis and date orchard, a livestock market, the traditional open souq market, a picnic at a mountain hot springs park, and prayers at Masahid all over the UAE, including the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Masjid in Abu Dhabi, which is under construction.
On one memorable outing, the group was treated to a one hour Safari over desert dunes in large four-wheel drive vehicles. One guest described the adventure as a “one hour roller coaster ride.”
In the open air with my fellow American brothers, I became the first Latino Muslim to give a Khutbah in the desert between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. It was a wonderful day with clear skies; clear minds did not have the disruptions of the cars and buses found in the big city life.
Before leaving the US, we were told by Bro. Khalid Ahmed that some aspects of the program would be as follows:
* You will visit a mortuary to see the proper way of preparing the deceased for Jannaza.
* You will separate and visit secondary and colleges to lecture students about Islam in America and your personal journey to Islam if you are a revert.
* You will spend the night or weekend in the desert with camels and Bedouin Arabs. They have an interesting life.
* Each of you will peer up with a UAE citizen. He will take you around, introduce you to his family and friends and just expose you to his world.
* For those interested, you are welcome to deliver the Jumah Kuttbah at an English Masjid.
* You will be visiting Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Dubai Islamic Bank to discuss and learn the principles of Islamic banking and finance.
* You will visit the Zakat Authority to discuss and learn about rules of Zakat and how to establish a wafq (endowment).
* You will be meeting with the rulers or deputy rulers of the various emirates (states) within the UAE.
In addition to being an academic religious studies program, this was also an Islamic cultural exchange program, so what did we, as Americans, exchange with them? We exchanged the love that we have for Islam from us, an American people, and the knowledge that we have received as students of Imam W. Deen Mohammed.
At least one-third of the group, including me of Latino heritage and a Muslim for 40 years, was from the community of Imam Mohammed. As students of Islam, we have learned that Muslims have to be about action. People get what they strive for, and if they don’t strive, they will receive nothing at all.
As such, we did not go there empty handed. And in my estimation, we did a fantastic job in representing the Muslim American Ummah.
Program participants received a certificate from the UAE Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs. The closing ceremony was held on December 14. I spoke on behalf of the group.
“O mankind!e have created you from a single (pair) Of Male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you . And Allah has full knowledge and is well- acquainted (with all things).” – Al -Hujurat 49:13.
First, we want to thank the Zayed House of Islamic Culture for their unprecedented hospitality and also to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi for his support of this historical program, the first of its kind and all the teachers that took a lot of patience and time in dealing with us.
And, we would like to thank the Director of the Program Khalid Marsuoki, our good friends Saeed, Hammod, Ahmed and Rasheed, and also Sheikh Habib for his input with the program, and a special thanks and salaam goes out to our American Brother Khalid Ahmed, who with his patience and knowledge was able to see this program finalize.
We want to point out the cultural exchange that took place between the UAE and the American students. We brought something through our diversity as students, in general. Students were from or descendents of people from Bangladesh, France, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Chile, and African American brothers from all over the United States participated.
We know that you were not expecting this diversity. But Alhamduillah, although we have our different cultures, we were able to get along by Allah’s mercy. And, I want to thank the students for allowing me to speak for all of us. We hope that this Imam Training Program will continue and that you will allow other students to partake of this rich and hospitable program.
We want to thank you from our hearts. May Allah (SWT) bless every single one of you. And, now we have to get ready to make this Hajj which will be a new experience for some of us and a blessing for those who are making this trip over again.
Again we thank you. As Salaamu Alaikum.
Based on the article with the same name that was originally published in “The Muslim Journal.” MuslimJournal.net. 22 Feb. 2008. Vol 33. No 21.
By Su’ad Abdul-Khabeer
A recent college grad shares her thoughts on the beginning of the journey.
It’s been confirmed. I’m on my way to Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the holiest city of Islam. All Muslims are required to perform Hajj at least once in their lives, if they can afford to. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam–devotional acts required of all Muslims.
I was beginning to wonder if this Hajj journal would ever get written. The Saudi embassy was reluctant to grant me a visa because I would be traveling as a single woman. According to Saudi laws, Muslim women are supposed to travel with a mahram (an uncle, brother, or father) for safety considerations, but I think their interpretation only serves a certain class of Muslim women–which I find to be un-Islamic. After much frustration, I finally received the visa. I had truly been invited by God.
On Hajj, one visits the Ka’bah, the cube-shaped structure Muslims call the house of God. A hajja/hajji (pilgrim) has been invited on this journey by God, the Ultimate. Therefore, a hajja is literally a guest of God. Imagine that.
The pilgrimage started for me as soon as I got to the airport terminal at JFK. I felt a luggage cart biting into my ankles. I turned my head and an Egyptian woman was motioning for me to hurry up, as if there was anyplace I could move. I gave her the common Egyptian signal for patience and thought to myself, “I am still in America, but it’s started already!”
“It” is the chaos and disorder of traveling in Arabic-speaking Africa and the Middle East. The Egypt Air boarding area was already like I’d entered a foreign country: the clamor of colloquial Egyptian Arabic, people pushing and shoving, cutting the line, trying to convince the agents to let them check just one more box, even though they had already checked eight pieces. Slight annoyances, but ones I was determined wouldn’t annoy me; if I can’t deal with a hundred people in an airport, how will I ever deal with millions of people on the Hajj?
As my mother and I boarded the plane, well-wishers, some of whom I’ve known since I was young, began chanting the Hajj supplication: “Labbayka Allahuma Labbayk, Labbayka la shareeka laka Labbayk, Inna al-hamd wa an-ni’mata laka wa al-mulk, La shareeka lak!” (O my Lord, Here I am at Your service, Here I am, There is no partner with You, Truly, the praise and the blessing are Yours, and so is the dominion, There is no partner with you.) As we went through the gate, the crowd continued waving good-bye and chanting, “Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest)!”
We were off first to Cairo, where we’d catch another plane to Saudi Arabia. There are several stages of the Hajj, including a ritual cleansing and the circling of the Ka’bah. But the most important stage occurs on Mt. Arafat, or Mount Mercy. Arafat is a sacred site for several reasons: Adam and Eve are said to have reunited there, Abraham went to sacrifice Ishmael there, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) gave his last sermon there, and Allah descends to the lowest heaven to hear the prayers of His servants who gather on the mountain. If you can’t make it there to pray yourself, you definitely want someone else to appeal to God on your behalf.
In my luggage, I have quite a few index cards with prayers to say while on Arafat. I am carrying them for those who aren’t able to make the trip with us. For most, the Hajj is something you do after 40, at the earliest. Most people have bills, families, jobs, and debt–responsibilities that are not easily taken care of or put on hold for the three weeks or so it takes to make the Hajj. Yet at 22, I am making the trip. It’s a thought that really humbles me. Allah has basically said, “Su’ad, come to My house,” and I replied, with tears streaming down my face, “Labbayka Allahuma Labbayk!”
Su’ad Abdul-Khabeer, a 22-year-old recent graduate of Georgetown University, performed the Hajj, a pilgrimage that all Muslims are required to do, in early March. She is the daughter of Shaykh AbdulKhabeer Muhammad.
Copyright © 2007 Beliefnet, Inc. All rights reserved.
By Syed Abul Ala Maududi
Excerpts from his book, “The Fundamentals of Islam.”
Nature of journey for Hajj
The people of the world are usually aware of two kinds of journey. One journey is that which is made to earn livelihood. The second one is that which is undertaken for pleasure and sight-seeing.
In both [of] these journeys, a man is impelled to go abroad by his need and desire. He leaves home for a purpose of his own, he spends money or time for his own requirements, therefore, no question of sacrifice arises in such a journey.
But the position of this particular journey which is called Hajj is quite different from that of other journeys.
This journey is not meant to gain any personal end or any desire of Nafs. It is intended solely for Allah, and for fulfillment of the duty prescribed by Allah. No person can prepare himself to undertake this journey until and unless he has love of Allah in his heart as well as fear of Him, and feels strongly that the Fard (obligation) ordained by Allah is incumbent on him.
Therefore, whosoever sets out for Hajj parting from his family and relatives for a long period, allowing his business to suffer, spending money and bearing the rigors of the travel, he furnishes by his act of devotion a proof of the fact that there is in his heart fear of God and love for Him as also a sense of duty. [It also indicates] that he possesses the strength to leave his home, when called upon to do so, for the cause of God, and that he can face hardships and willingly sacrifice his wealth and comfort for the pleasure of God.
Inclination towards virtue and piety
When the pilgrim gets ready for the journey with this holy intention, his disposition assumes a different color.
His heart, which is aflame with exuberance of the love of God and which is pulsating with a longing to visit His House, starts harboring only virtuous thoughts.
He does penance for past sins, seeks forgiveness from people whom he might have wronged, tries to render his due to others where necessary so as not to go to God’s court trammeled with the unfulfilled rights of his fellow beings, shuns vice and develops fondness for virtue.
Then, as he steps out to begin the journey, the more he proceeds toward the House of God, the more keen he becomes to do good deeds. He is careful to see that nobody is harmed by him, while he tries to render whatever service or help he can to others.
His own nature desists from abuse, indecency, dishonesty, squabbles and bickerings because he is proceeding on the path of God.
A man may be making [a] journey towards the Divine Haram and yet indulging in bad habits? How can such a shameless thing be possible [for] anybody? Thus the entire journey of his constitutes a complete Ibadah.
Oppression and vice can find no place in contrast to all other types of journey. This is the one which continuously keeps on purifying man’s Nafs. It is like a great reformatory course to be compulsorily gone through by every Muslim who sets out to perform Hajj.
Blessings and effects of Hajj
From all the details you have heard you can judge that during the period of two to three months, from the time of deciding and preparing for Hajj to the time of returning home, what great effects are produced in the heart and mind of man!
The process entails sacrifice of time, sacrifice of money, sacrifice of comfort, sacrifice of several worldly relations and sacrifice of many corporeal desires and pleasures.
And all this simply for the sake of Allah, with no selfish end. Then, together with piety and virtuousness, the incessant remembrance of God and the longing and love of Him pervading the mind of the pilgrim, all leave a firm impression on his mind which lasts for years to come.
[On] reaching this sacred land he witnesses at every step the relics of those who sacrificed everything [of] theirs in servitude and obedience to Allah. They fought against the pagan Arabs, suffered tortures, became migrants, suffered unbearable hardships, but ultimately did raise aloft the Word of God and did not rest content till they subdued every such false power which wanted man to become subservient to other entities than Allah.
A lesson in courage and determination, which a devotee of God can draw from these clear signs and sacred relics, can hardly be available from any other source.
If the attachment developed with his focal point of Deen (religion) through the circumambulation of [the] Kaba [and] the rehearsal of a Mujahid’s life [through] the rites (Manasik) of Hajj (such as running about, and repeated departures and halts) are combined with Salah, fasting and Zakat, and they are all seen conjointly, you will realize that these processes constitute a training or some big task which Islam wants Muslims to execute.
For this reason, Hajj has been made compulsory for those who are solvent enough and are capable to undertake the journey [to and from the] Kaba so that, as far as possible, Muslims in the largest possible number remain equipped in every period after having fully gone through this training.
Hajj: a collective Ibadah
[You] will be unable to appreciate fully the benefits of Hajj unless you keep in view the fact that each and every Muslim does not perform Hajj individually but that only one single period has been fixed for Hajj for the Muslims of the whole world, and, therefore, [hundreds of thousands] of Muslims jointly perform it.
What I have stated before has only brought home to you the effect produced by this Ibadah on every Haji individually.
Now I shall explain to you[…] how these benefits have been enhanced 100,000-fold by appointing one single period of Hajj for all the world. The excellence of Islam lies in this very fact that by one stroke it achieves not only two but 1,000 purposes.
The advantages of offering Salah singly are by no means small but by making it conditional with congregation, enforcing the system of Imamat in Salah and by enlarging the congregations of the Friday and Eidain [the two Eid] prayers, its benefits have been increased to a limitless extent.
The observance of fasting separately by each person is also a very big source of reformation and training but by appointing only one month of Ramadan for all Muslims, these benefits have been increased so much that they cannot be counted.
Zakat too has many advantages even if dispensed individually. But with the establishment of Bait-ul-mal (Public Exchequer of the Islamic State) its usefulness has been increased to such a great extent that you cannot estimate it till such time as an Islamic government is formed and you witness with your eyes how much goodness and plentifulness result from collecting the Zakat of all Muslims at one place and distributing it among the deserving persons in organized form.
Similar is the case of Hajj. If every [person] were to perform Hajj singly, even then it will bring about a big revolution in his life but by formulating the rules for all the Muslims of the world to perform it together at one time, its benefits have been increased to a limitless degree.
Growth of piety and virtuousness
When every intending Haji [decides] to perform Hajj and immediately with this intent the virtues of fear of God, piety, penance, Istighfar (seeking forgiveness from God) and good morals begin to cast their influence on him; [when] he starts [saying] farewell [to] his relatives, friends, professional and other associates; and [when he] settles all his affairs as if he is no longer the same man as before (his mind is now pure and clean because of the newly-kindled spark of love of God), you can imagine the effect of the changed condition of the Haji on so many people around [him].
And if every year in each of the different parts of the world 100,000 Hajis at an average get prepared for Hajj in this manner, their influence will improve the moral state of a vast number of people.
Then the hearts of [a] large number of people [will be] warmed at places through which the Hajis’ caravans pass, by seeing them, meeting them and by hearing from them the [sound] of Labbaik, Labbaik. There will be many whose attention will be diverted towards Allah and Allah’s House, and the eagerness for Hajj will create a stir in their slumbering souls.
And when these people, filled with the thrill of Hajj, return from the Center of their Deen to their cities and towns spread over all parts of the world and [are] met by numerous persons, then this [interchange] and the accounts related by the former of their Hajj experience enliven religious sentiments among countless circles.
Any Muslim who can afford it and is in good health must perform Hajj. it’s an obligation not an option.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience for most Muslims requires the utmost preparation and planning beforehand.
Below are some tips to help you start preparing today.
1. Ask Allah
Say Bismillah (In the Name of Allah) and make Dua (supplication) to Allah to help you find the resources and time to perform Hajj this coming year. Only He can make it happen.
2. Discuss vacation time
If you work or have other obligations, you must ensure you get the three weeks to one month off needed to perform Hajj. Check the exact dates of Hajj in the coming year, find out exactly what days you need off (once again, you can talk to your travel agent) and talk to your employer or anyone else who needs to be informed about your plans to give you time off.
3. Start saving up and shopping around
Hajj is an investment. You need to shop around to find a travel agent who can give you the best deal. This is where your meetings with others who have performed Hajj can help.
Look for a Hajj package through a travel agent who offers a wide selection of “packages” for Hajj and who can help you with other details relating to Hajj (i.e. immigration, leading a group through the Hajj, etc.).
4. Start asking about the legal requirements
You need a number of legal documents to perform Hajj.
You will need a visa to go to Saudi Arabia. Find out how long before you have to apply for this, what documents to prepare for it, etc. Make sure your passport has not expired. Be sure to get it, or any other paperwork relating to your residency in your country to be complete before you leave.
Start today by calling your local Saudi Arabian embassy to ask about the requirements and preparing the necessary paperwork. Or you can also ask your travel agent (some who offer Hajj packages also help arrange immigration matters for those customers taking their Hajj package).
5. Read about how to do it
There are a number of guidebooks on how to perform Hajj. One of them is A Handbook of Umra & Hajj by Sarwar Alam Raz (which is also available online).
Know the different rituals of Hajj, how and when they are performed, as well as the things to avoid and things that are recommended to do during Hajj.
6. Keep yourself physically fit
Hajj is one pillar of Islam that is physically demanding. Having to walk in the heat, running from Safa to Marwa, these are just some of the rituals someone performing Hajj will have to do.
Start watching what you eat and walking 30 minutes a day or getting involved in any other kind of Islamically permissible activity you enjoy to keep you physically ready for when you go to Hajj, if Allah wills it. Also, get a medical checkup.
7. Make an appointment with those who have made Hajj
Make a formal appointment by phone or in person with someone who has performed Hajj. If you are planning to meet them in person, ask them to bring their Ihram and other things they used during Hajj.
Use this meeting to get tips and practical advice from them which you won’t find in most guidebooks.
8. Read the Diary of a person who has performed Hajj
If you know of no one who lives near you who has performed Hajj, read the diary of a Hajji by Ishaq Zahid (it’s online and it’s free!) to get the inside story on Hajj from someone who has performed it.
By Enrique Raheel Rojas
Many people asked me about Hajj when I returned. My Christian parents were glad that I came home alive. However, I did not expect them to realize the full significance of Hajj.
My brother-in-law did his best to stay awake during my retelling of my Hajj experiences. Alhamdulilah; this is or will be the extra experience that a Muslim revert will go through that a born Muslim will not.
What can I say about Hajj other than what the Prophet (pbuh) said, “GO. Go as soon as you can or eliminate the conditions preventing you from going to Hajj.”
When my group landed in Jeddah, I immediately saw how international Islam was. There were several waiting areas sectioned off for pilgrims of different nationalities.
When we reached Mecca, I was moved to find myself surrounded by Muslims. All sizes races and colors.
In the distance, I saw a wall of the Grand Masjid. I felt excitement because inside was the house of Allah. The house I have seen only in pictures.
As I entered the masjid by the main floor, the Kabaa came into view. Through the pillars and the crowds, I saw the black draped house of Allah.
In its magnificence, the Kabaa stood out more real than anything else in the Haram. Within the bouquet of emotions, I felt I felt a strong gratitude for my Lord for inviting me to his house.
I made my Umra with thousands of others. I performed the rights of Hajj as the multitudes did before me.
The stay in Mina.
The afternoon in Arafat.
Sleeping over in Mustalifa.
The stoning of the Jamarats.
And, then finally the fairwell Tawaaf.
I did not want to leave Mecca.
Out of all the places in the world, Mecca is the only place that felt like home.
My heart longs to return.
Home was not home anymore when I returned.
Like a glass of juice made diluted with water, home was now bland.
For many, you do not return the same from Hajj.
Hajj shows you the strength and brotherhood of this religion.
It shows you that Allah does not care what race you are.
Allah invites to His house from amongst all humanity.
By Ni’mah Isma’il Nawwab
Saudi Aramco World
The hajj, or pilgrimage to Makkah, a central duty of Islam whose origins date back to the Prophet Abraham, brings together Muslims of all races and tongues for one of life’s most moving spiritual experiences.
For 14 centuries, countless millions of Muslims, men and women from the four corners of the earth, have made the pilgrimage to Makkah, the birthplace of Islam. In carrying out this obligation, they fulfill one of the five “pillars” of Islam, or central religious duties of the believer.
Muslims trace the recorded origins of the divinely prescribed pilgrimage to the Prophet Abraham, or Ibrahim, as he is called in Arabic. According to the Qur’an, it was Abraham who, together with Ishmael (Isma’il), built the Ka’bah, “the House of God,” the focal point toward which Muslims turn in their worship five times each day. It was Abraham, too – known as Khalil Allah, “the friend of God” – who established the rituals of the hajj, which recall events or practices in his life and that of Hagar (Hajar) and their son Ishmael.
In the chapter entitled “The Pilgrimage,” the Qur’an speaks of the divine command to perform the hajj and prophesies the permanence of this institution:
“And when We assigned for Abraham the place of the House, saying “Do not associate Anything with Me, and purify My House for those who go around it and for those who stand and bow and prostrate themselves in worship. And proclaim the Pilgrimage among humankind: They will come to you on foot and on every camel made lean By traveling deep, distant ravines.” (Quran 22:26)
The hajj to Makkah is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation upon male and female adults whose health and means permit it, or, in the words of the Qur’an, upon “those who can make their way there.” It is not an obligation on children, though some children do accompany their parents on this journey.
Before setting out, a pilgrim should redress all wrongs, pay all debts, plan to have enough funds for his own journey and for the maintenance of his family while he is away, and prepare himself for good conduct throughout the hajj.
When pilgrims undertake the hajj journey, they follow in the footsteps of millions before them. Nowadays hundreds of thousands of believers from over 70 nations arrive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by road, sea and air every year, completing a journey now much shorter and in some ways less arduous than it often was in the past.
Till the 19th century, traveling the long distance to Makkah usually meant being part of a caravan. There were three main caravans: the Egyptian one, which formed in Cairo; the Iraqi one, which set out from Baghdad; and the Syrian, which, after 1453, started at Istanbul, gathered pilgrims along the way, and proceeded to Makkah from Damascus.
As the hajj journey took months if all went well, pilgrims carried with them the provisions they needed to sustain them on their trip. The caravans were elaborately supplied with amenities and security if the persons traveling were rich, but the poor often ran out of provisions and had to interrupt their journey in order to work, save up their earnings, and then go on their way. This resulted in long journeys which, in some cases, spanned ten years or more. Travel in earlier days was filled with adventure. The roads were often unsafe due to bandit raids. The terrain the pilgrims passed through was also dangerous, and natural hazards and diseases often claimed many lives along the way. Thus, the successful return of pilgrims to their families was the occasion of joyous celebration and thanksgiving for their safe arrival.
Lured by the mystique of Makkah and Madinah, many Westerners have visited these two holy cities, on which the pilgrims converge, since the 15th century. Some of them disguised themselves as Muslims; others, who had genuinely converted, came to fulfill their duty. But all seem to have been moved by their experience, and many recorded their impressions of the journey and the rituals of the hajj in fascinating accounts. Many hajj travelogues exist, written in languages as diverse as the pilgrims themselves.
The pilgrimage takes place each year between the eighth and the 13th days of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Muslim lunar calendar. Its first rite is the donning of the ihram.
The ihram, worn by men, is a white seamless garment made up of two pieces of cloth or toweling; one covers the body from waist to ankle and the other is thrown over the shoulder. This garb was worn by both Abraham and Muhammad. Women generally wear a simple white dress and a headcovering, but not a veil. Men’s heads must be uncovered; both men and women may use an umbrella.
The ihram is a symbol of purity and of the renunciation of evil and mundane matters. It also indicates the equality of all people in the eyes of God. When the pilgrim wears his white apparel, he or she enters into a state of purity that prohibits quarreling, committing violence to man or animal and having conjugal relations. Once he puts on his hajj clothes the pilgrim cannot shave, cut his nails or wear any jewelry, and he will keep his unsown garment on till he completes the pilgrimage.
A pilgrim who is already in Makkah starts his hajj from the moment he puts on the ihram. Some pilgrims coming from a distance may have entered Makkah earlier with their ihram on and may still be wearing it. The donning of the ihram is accompanied by the primary invocation of the hajj, the talbiyah:
“Here I am, O God, at Thy Command! Here I am at Thy Command! Thou art without associate; Here I am at Thy Command! Thine are praise and grace and dominion! Thou art without associate.”
The thunderous, melodious chants of the talbiyah ring out not only in Makkah but also at other nearby sacred locations connected with the hajj.
On the first day of the hajj, pilgrims sweep out of Makkah toward Mina, a small uninhabited village east of the city. As their throngs spread through Mina, the pilgrims generally spend their time meditating and praying, as the Prophet did on his pilgrimage.
During the second day, the 9th of Dhu al-Hijjah, pilgrims leave Mina for the plain of ‘Arafat for the wuquf, “the standing,” the central rite of the hajj. As they congregate there, the pilgrims’ stance and gathering reminds them of the Day of Judgment. Some of them gather at the Mount of Mercy, where the Prophet delivered his unforgettable Farewell Sermon, enunciating far-reaching religious, economic, social and political reforms. These are emotionally charged hours, which the pilgrims spend in worship and supplication. Many shed tears as they ask God to forgive them. On this sacred spot, they reach the culmination of their religious lives as they feel the presence and closeness of a merciful God.
The first Englishwoman to perform the hajj, Lady Evelyn Cobbold, described in 1934 the feelings pilgrims experience during the wuquf at ‘Arafat. “It would require a master pen to describe the scene, poignant in its intensity, of that great concourse of humanity of which I was one small unit, completely lost to their surroundings in a fervor of religious enthusiasm. Many of the pilgrims had tears streaming down their cheeks; others raised their faces to the starlit sky that had witnessed this drama so often in the past centuries. The shining eyes, the passionate appeals, the pitiful hands outstretched in prayer moved me in a way that nothing had ever done before, and I felt caught up in a strong wave of spiritual exaltation. I was one with the rest of the pilgrims in a sublime act of complete surrender to the Supreme Will which is Islam.”
She goes on to describe the closeness pilgrims feel to the Prophet while standing in ‘Arafat: “…as I stand beside the granite pillar, I feel I am on Sacred ground. I see with my mind’s eye the Prophet delivering that last address, over thirteen hundred years ago, to the weeping multitudes. I visualize the many preachers who have spoken to countless millions who have assembled on the vast plain below; for this is the culminating scene of the Great Pilgrimage.”
The Prophet is reported to have asked God to pardon the sins of pilgrims who “stood” at ‘Arafat, and was granted his wish. Thus, the hopeful pilgrims prepare to leave this plain joyfully, feeling reborn without sin and intending to turn over a new leaf.
Just after sunset, the mass of pilgrims proceeds to Muzdalifah, an open plain about halfway between ‘Arafat and Mina. There they first pray and then collect a fixed number of chickpea-sized pebbles to use on the following days.
Before daybreak on the third day, pilgrims move en masse from Muzdalifah to Mina. There they cast at white pillars the pebbles they have previously collected. According to some traditions, this practice is associated with the Prophet Abraham. As pilgrims throw seven pebbles at each of these pillars, they remember the story of Satan’s attempt to persuade Abraham to disregard God’s command to sacrifice his son.
Throwing the pebbles is symbolic of humans’ attempt to cast away evil and vice, not once but seven times – the number seven symbolizing infinity.
Following the casting of the pebbles, most pilgrims sacrifice a goat, sheep or some other animal. They give the meat to the poor after, in some cases, keeping a small portion for themselves.
This rite is associated with Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son in accordance with God’s wish. It symbolizes the Muslim’s willingness to part with what is precious to him, and reminds us of the spirit of Islam, in which submission to God’s will plays a leading role. This act also reminds the pilgrim to share worldly goods with those who are less fortunate, and serves as an offer of thanksgiving to God.
As the pilgrims have, at this stage, finished a major part of the hajj, they are now allowed to shed their ihram and put on everyday clothes. On this day Muslims around the world share the happiness the pilgrims feel and join them by performing identical, individual sacrifices in a worldwide celebration of ‘Id al-Adha, “the Festival of Sacrifice.” Men either shave their heads or clip their hair, and women cut off a symbolic lock, to mark their partial deconsecration. This is done as a symbol of humility. All proscriptions, save the one of conjugal relations, are now lifted.
Still so journing in Mina, pilgrims visit Makkah to perform another essential rite of the hajj: the tawaf, the seven-fold circling of the Ka’bah, with a prayer recited during each circuit. Their circumambulation of the Ka’bah, the symbol of God’s oneness, implies that all human activity must have God at its center. It also symbolizes the unity of God and man.
Thomas Abercrombie, a convert to Islam and a writer and photographer for National Geographic Magazine, performed the hajj in the 1970’s and described the sense of unity and harmony pilgrims feel during the circling: “Seven times we circled the shrine,” he wrote, “repeating the ritual devotions in Arabic: ‘Lord God, from such a distant land I have come unto Thee…. Grant me shelter under Thy throne.’ Caught up in the whirling scene, lifted by the poetry of the prayers, we orbited God’s house in accord with the atoms, in harmony with the planets.”
While making their circuits pilgrims may kiss or touch the Black Stone. This oval stone, first mounted in a silver frame late in the seventh century, has a special place in the hearts of Muslims as, according to some traditions, it is the sole remnant of the original structure built by Abraham and Ishmael. But perhaps the single most important reason for kissing the stone is that the Prophet did so.
No devotional significance whatsoever is attached to the stone, for it is not, nor has ever been, an object of worship. The second caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, made this crystal clear when, on kissing the stone himself in emulation of the Prophet, he proclaimed: “I know that you are but a stone, incapable of doing good or harm. Had I not seen the Messenger of God kiss you – may God’s blessing and peace be upon him – I would not kiss you.”
After completing the tawaf, pilgrims pray, preferably at the Station of Abraham, the site where Abraham stood while he built the Ka’bah. Then they drink of the water of Zamzam.
Another, and sometimes final, rite is the sa’y, or “the running.” This is a reenactment of a memorable episode in the life of Hagar, who was taken into what the Qur’an calls the “uncultivable valley” of Makkah, with her infant son Ishmael, to settle there.
The sa’y commemorates Hagar’s frantic search for water to quench Ishmael’s thirst. She ran back and forth seven times between two rocky hillocks, al-Safa and al-Marwah, until she found the sacred water known as Zamzam. This water, which sprang forth miraculously under Ishmael’s tiny feet, is now enclosed in a marble chamber near the Ka’bah.
These rites performed, the pilgrims are completely deconsecrated: They may resume all normal activities. According to the social customs of some countries, pilgrims can henceforth proudly claim the title of al-Hajj or Hajji.
They now return to Mina, where they stay up to the 12th or 13th day of Dhu al-Hijjah. There they throw their remaining pebbles at each of the pillars in the manner either practiced or approved by the Prophet. They then take leave of the friends they have made during the Hajj. Before leaving Makkah, however, pilgrims usually make a final tawaf round the Ka’bah to bid farewell to the Holy City.
Before or after going to Makkah, pilgrims also avail themselves of the opportunity provided by the hajj to visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, the second holiest city in Islam. Here, the Prophet lies buried in a simple grave under the green dome of the mosque. The visit to Madinah is not obligatory, as it is not part of the hajj, but the city – which welcomed Muhammad when he migrated there from Makkah – is rich in moving memories and historical sites that are evocative of him as a prophet and statesman.
In this city, loved by Muslims for centuries, people still feel the presence of the Prophet’s spirit. Muhammad Asad, an Austrian Jew who converted to Islam in 1926 and made five pilgrimages between 1927 and 1932, comments on this aspect of the city: “Even after thirteen centuries [the Prophet’s] spiritual presence is almost as alive here as it was then. It was only because of him that the scattered group of villages once called Yathrib became a city and has been loved by all Muslims down to this day as no city anywhere else in the world has ever been loved. It has not even a name of its own: for more than thirteen hundred years it has been called Madinat an-Nabi, ‘the City of the Prophet.’ For more than thirteen hundred years, so much love has converged here that all shapes and movements have acquired a kind of family resemblance, and all differences of appearance find a tonal transition into a common harmony.”
As pilgrims of diverse races and tongues return to their homes, they carry with them cherished memories of Abraham, Ishmael, Hagar, and Muhammad. They will always remember that universal concourse, where poor and rich, black and white, young and old, met on equal footing.
They return with a sense of awe and serenity: awe for their experience at ‘Arafat, when they felt closest to God as they stood on the site where the Prophet delivered his sermon during his first and last pilgrimage; serenity for having shed their sins on that plain, and being thus relieved of such a heavy burden. They also return with a better understanding of the conditions of their brothers in Islam. Thus is born a spirit of caring for others and an understanding of their own rich heritage that will last throughout their lives.
The pilgrims go back radiant with hope and joy, for they have fulfilled God’s ancient injunction to humankind to undertake the pilgrimage. Above all, they return with a prayer on their lips: May it please God, they pray, to find their hajj acceptable, and may what the Prophet said be true of their own individual journey: “There is no reward for a pious pilgrimage but Paradise.”
By Rocío Martínez-Mendoza
I am a Latina Muslim from Mexico City who now lives in west Texas. My husband is Moroccan, and, as a result, home is full of Latin and Arab culture alhamduliAllah. My husband and I have been planning our Hadjj trip but didn’t have the chance to do it either because of money, visa, or pregnancy reasons. When we finally thought we were able to do it and started the planning my husband told me that it is inshaAllah going to be a very different kind of trip; it is not a trip for vacation, for leisure, nor for resting. For this same reason we would travel very light, with one bag for both of us. I started preparing myself a couple of months before by reading and trying to memorize Arabic phrases, which I knew were important from the moment we do our intention for Umrah.
We started our trip on January 11th at 5:00 am from our city; we needed to stop in four different cities to make different connections. As I knew from previous readings, from the moment we do our intention in the plane and while already wearing the clothes for ihram, the feeling is different. I wondered several times what all the non-Muslims around us might be thinking – about this bunch of weird people with men wearing two huge towels and everybody is reciting out loud the same words over and over again. We arrived on Jan 13 at the airport of Jeddah around 11 pm. By this time, the long trip really convinced me that this was not a normal trip. Because of the amount of people in the airport and the short number of employees the immigration has, the process was very slow.
We arrived at our hotel in Mecca on Jan 14th at 7 am. AlhamduliAllah we traveled with two other couples, friends of ours. When we went to our hotel, we could see the door of Abdel-Aziz of the Al-Haram Mosque. It was no more than 150 feet from our hotel, which alhamduliAllah was such a big blessing. We were eager to go inside the mosque and perform our Umrah. I cannot explain my feeling while being inside the place where our Prophet and other Prophets prayed and more important to see in person the Kaba. I felt an enormous cold air and a feeling of content. I was for the first time in my life, and maybe the only time, in front of such a sanctified place and toward where all the Muslims pray and have prayed five times daily. I thanked Allah many times while being there for this opportunity and for the ease in which we reached our targeted place. The exhaustion and hunger disappeared, and the only thing I could think of doing was performing my Umrah the way the Prophet did and to make dua’ over and over again.
Between the day we perform Umrah and the day Hadj started was around five days. Five days, in which we prayed our five prayers at the mosque; five days, in which we tried to do tawaf (walking around the Kaba) daily or twice a day. We walked around and saw the city and the people. We made friends and shared experiences. It is such a wonderful and peaceful place because of its importance. The only thing a person thinks about doing is visiting the mosque and praying and praying. We performed alhamduliAllah our Hadjj with no major problems. We tried to be careful with ourselves and with others. Hadjj is a test of patience and kindness all along; from start to finish.
One can perceive the diversity in the Muslim community. There are people from every corner of the world. After listening to comments from people who have performed Hadjj, I can see that the Saudi authorities have made wonderful improvements in their planning and organization. I believe they could improve the whole process by adding more employees in order to make the whole process go faster. Saudi authorities should improve their way of moving people from place to place during hadjj. For example from Mecca to Minna, and then Musdalifa and then to Arafat, and then to Minna and so on. These are very short distances. However, because the majority of the people do it by vehicle, it takes hours and hours to get to each point, and people’s lives are put in danger. Sometimes, walking between the smoky, noisy buses and cars is faster. Improved means of transportation would certainly facilitate the hadjj experience. However, alhamduliAllah everybody finds his or her way to get from place to place.
I was surprised to see that the way of building in Saudi Arabia is very similar to that in Mexico and other Latin American countries as well as in Morocco. The houses are made of brick covered with stucco. The arrangement of streets, green areas, and public spaces within the cities are also similar to a Latin American country and in Morocco. Looking outside my hotel window and seeing the mosque, listening to the adan of the prayers and hearing the noise of people was an experience in itself. I cannot emphasize how important it is to stay close to the mosques rather than having a nice, farther hotel. We could concentrate on our prayers better than if we had stayed in a fancy hotel with fancy meals.
Street vendors are not allowed to sell on the streets. Security cars drive around looking for them and remove their merchandise. Vendors in the streets run to escape from the security and look for more hidden locations at times in the day where security does not show up. I noticed that they were all Saudi women wearing all black with niqab as well as their children. All their products were very inexpensive; such as hijabs, niqabs, toys, prayer rags, clothes, fabrics, miswak, and such. One thing that came to my attention is that there are not local craft items, at least not in the areas surrounding the mosques. All their products are from places like China, Turkey, and India. There are not products that are hand-made and made from the local people. Maybe in other parts of the country it is easier to find such products but not in the area of Mecca and Medina.
I couldn’t believe the number of children begging on the streets. Many of them did not have hands or arms. A sheik in our group told us that the children are from Sudan and other African Muslim countries whose hands or arms are removed. Then, the children are sold to become beggars of money from hadjjis as charity. I could not believe the amount of children and teenagers in this same condition. It is very disappointing and devastating. How could we Muslims do such a crime with our own people in order to get money? How can the authorities allow such crime? May Allah guide them.
I also noticed that the majority of the store vendors are Bangladesh Muslims. One of them explained to me that their country is in very bad condition and that moving to Saudi Arabia was a better choice, even if they do not pay them very well and do not treat them as the rest of the people. However, this is very obvious because they are in almost every single store and construction. Very few local people are seen working. Local Saudi people are seen in government positions or in public offices. Other men are seen resting and smoking on the street with no apparent job.
I also noticed the extremes between the wealth inside the mosques and the poverty outside the mosques. Both big mosques are covered with detail, either gold or other colors, or just detail in their walls, ceilings, and columns. I always thought that Saudi Arabia was a rich country where people live in good condition. I was disappointed to see how much poverty is seen on the streets. A couple of streets away from the main mosques, the streets are dirty, the houses are old and not maintained, old cars pollute the air with thick smoke, and beggars are found in every corner. In general, the people from the lower classes seem to be extremely poor and with no education. I could not understand how the mosques could be exaggeratedly decorated while local people live in extreme poverty. I understand that the mosques are very important and holy landmarks for the country but I think that if the Prophet (pbuh) were alive today, he would completely disagree of such contrast. A mosque is first and foremost a place to pray, and thus, mosques should limit distraction. However, the mosques are beautiful, clean, and well maintained. Saudi authorities have security in every door and inside the mosque. You can feel very secure visiting the mosques at any time of the day.
A storm hit the area on the last day of Hadjj while returning from Minna to Mecca. I don’t think that Saudi Arabia gets much rain, and thus, the city was not prepared for that amount of rain. The rain resulted in flooded streets. Traffic did not allow us to return by car. Instead, we returned to Mecca by walking. The streets were rivers. Water was up to people’s knees in certain areas. Trash was everywhere. All along the way to Mecca, we saw car accidents, destroyed streets, as well as ruined business. It was a tremendous disaster for some locals as well as for hadjjis.
I have heard that a person is never the same after returning from Hadjj. I did not pay enough attention to those words until I was there. I immediately felt like a different person, and I thought that I should make a difference with my life. I could not continue to ask forgiveness for the things I do intentionally wrong and then ask Allah swt to forgive me. He is allowing me to live and fulfill all my wishes, and I should not ignore His blessings.
Hadjj has been one of my strongest experiences as a Muslim. I did not realize until after returning from Hadjj that what I have accomplished represents a significant part of my life as a Muslim. I am very pleased with the opportunity Allah (swt) gave my husband and me. May Allah accept our Hadjj, inshaAllah. May Allah give us all Jennah, especially to those who died during Hadjj as a result of the difficulties such as crowdedness or weather conditions.
May Allah forgive me for anything that is included in this article that could offend anybody. My intention is not to offend or insult people, places, or the actions of anybody. My comments are personal, and I tried to express only my opinion. I believe in equality of all people. I pray to Allah that one day we will all live in peace and respect one another.
By Kazi Mahmood
December 17, 2003
Inside Mecca is a nice production depicting the journey of three Muslims from three continents: one from Malaysia, one from the United States and one from South Africa, describing their experiences both before and during the Hajj.
One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj is required of all who can manage it at least once in a lifetime. Each year, Muslims from all over the world travel to Mecca to praise and give thanks to Allah, to ask pardon for their sins and renew their spiritual commitment through an elaborate series of rites and rituals.
National Geographic gained privileged access to the holy city of Mecca, which allowed it to film three Muslims from different backgrounds as they embarked on an epic five-day reaffirmation of faith and quest for salvation, wrote the National Geographic website in its preview to the show.
The program depicts with great insight what goes on in Mecca during the Hajj, and why 2 million Muslims from all over the world gather in the holiest city in Islam during this month. However, the production by the National Geographic Magazine TV and broadcast on Astro Television in Malaysia on October 27th, failed to respect an important issue in the Islamic world. The one-hour telecast showed paintings of what is supposed to be images of Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him) and his family.
While some people may overlook the portraits of Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him) and simply enjoy the journey through the holy cities, many Muslims around the world will definitely launch an outcry against this production. Apart from this, it is a brilliant demonstration of the emotions and sacrifices of Muslims performing the Hajj in the name of Allah in the sacrosanct holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Inside Mecca starts with shots of the three individuals: Malaysian Ismail Mahbob, a successful executive; a religious radio commentator from rural South Africa, Khalil Mandhlazi; and an Irish-born college professor from the United States, Fidelma O’Leary. Beginning with their preparations at home, it lead up to the climactic events of the Hajj; where all had to leave their material comforts and family, as well job or business behind for this spiritual journey to Mecca, and from where they would return to their normal lives, but not as the same persons.
Inside Mecca is a rich documentary, describing in great detail the reasons why Muslims embark on such a mission to turn to their Creator, the Almighty Allah, by following the footsteps of the wife of Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him) in performing the Sa`i. The documentary is also rich with vivid images on how Muslims circumambulate the House of Allah, the Ka`bah; in the Tawaf which has been performed by so many since Adam (Peace and blessings be upon him) built the Ka`bah itself. It also describes the powerful meaning of throwing stones at the symbols of Satan, which Fidelma said was a strong moment of expiating one’s own sins, and that she had no problems with the concept of throwing the stones.
The National Geographic commentator said at the beginning of the program that Hajj as we know it was first performed by Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), whom he referred to as one of the greatest Prophets the world has ever known. The commentator went on to inform the audience that Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him), whom they addressed as Abraham, was the one who instituted the Hajj pilgrimage, whilst it was Adam (peace and blessings be upon him) who built the Ka`bah from a cosmic stone that fell from space.
The program portrays the Ka`bah in some admirable black and white shots and added graphics showing the area before Adam (peace and blessings be upon him) built the Ka`bah and the subsequent rebuilding by Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him), as well as the recent progress made in enhancing the facilities at Mecca.
Obviously the idea of filming the three Muslims performing the Hajj and of putting one Asian, one African and one tall fair “white” lady, who embraced Islam from Christianity, was to show the non-Muslim world another facet of Islam. The program never failed to depict the mental and physical trials the three pilgrims had to go through from day one of their arrival at the airport in Saudi Arabia. It also explained how patient and courageous the three were in facing the constraints and limitations in the city of Mecca, due to the flow of people and for other reasons as well.
Though the journey seemed less troublesome for the Malaysian, Ismail Mahbob, it was a challenge for both Fidelma and Khalil. The latter was refused a place with the South African contingency at Mecca, and struggled to find a group with whom he could associate himself during the Hajj. He finally joined a group of black African Muslims from Malawi who had no problem with him being a black man from South Africa. Khalil insisted that he would not lose his calm and patience as he was in a state of Ihram, and moved on with the Malawi contingency. “God is looking into your heart,” says Khalil, who was visiting Mecca for the first time in his life.
Fidelma had to face the queries of many others who wanted to know whether she was a Muslim or not. Her tall figure, covered, as any other Muslim women at the Hajj, did not convince them that she was indeed a Muslim and that stressed her. “I had some women in my group try to tell me what it’s like to be a Muslim and ask me, “Are you really Muslim?” said O’Leary. “I think they forgot for a moment that you can only be here if you’re Muslim. It gets a little bit tiresome day after day. It can be upsetting.” decried the newly converted Muslim lady, who also prayed for a good husband, caring and loving and who would abide to the Islamic principles.
“If Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) was God, how could he worship God?” asked Fidelma before she embraced Islam. She told the producer that this crucial moment in her life had brought her, for the first time, in front of the Ka`bah; a center point which, like all Muslims, she turns to five times a day for her prayers.
For Ismail, it was a great emotional moment when he sat at Arafat for prayers and asked Allah to let him play a better role with his life. “It all depends how sincere one is when asking Allah for forgiveness,” said an emotional Ismail who cried when interviewed by the producer. “Only Allah knows what is in my heart. At times I am alone.” he added.
Arafat, where Adam and Hawa (may Allah bless them both) met after being sent to earth, was buzzing with souls coming to expiate their sins and find rewards for their good deeds. “Its judgment day at Arafat,” Fidelma commented, showing her deep emotions when she visited the place where Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) made his last sermon. “All reminds you of judgment day, no difference in races, no discrimination,” added Khalil.
Inside Mecca remains an extraordinary insight of what happens inside the walls of the strictly guarded holiest city of Islam, where only Muslims are allowed to go. The one-hour film shows to the external world a city full of life that tells the tale of wisdom like no other city could ever tell.
Perhaps the most striking story in “Inside Mecca” is that of O’Leary. A blonde, green-eyed woman with a faint Irish lilt, she hardly looks the part of the stereotypical Muslim. Born in Ireland to a devout Catholic family, O’Leary converted to Islam whilst in college. Dr O’Leary, a divorced mother of two, had to get a certificate from her mosque to say she was a legitimate Muslim, and her son had to write her a letter giving his permission for her to get a visa for the Hajj. “I don’t know why anyone would want to go and spend a week with three million sweaty people in the heat of the desert unless they were really doing this for the love of God.” She said. Moreover, the love of Allah and of His Prophet was clearly intoned in the production, which also showed the powerful image that Islam is submission to Allah.
Anisa Mehdi, who for over 20 years has reported, written and produced television news and documentary programs, produced “Inside Mecca”. As an American Muslim of Arab descent, Mehdi has a vested interest in the area of Middle East conflict resolution and accurate reporting on that part of the world. She is the first American woman to report on the hajj on location in Mecca for U.S. television and was one of the first reporters to cover the blossoming American Muslim political movement.
Perhaps, Mehdi, who is an award-winning reporter and filmmaker, specializing in religion and the arts, could drop the images of Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him) to make the movie acceptable to a larger Muslim audience.
Kazi Mahmood is a former BBC radio Africa stringer covering the Indian Ocean Islands. He worked as a journalist for the past 20 years and contributed to several London based political and economic magazines. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Damir Ahmad
MOSCOW, January 26 (IslamOnline.net) Up to five thousand Russian Muslims undertake the holy journey to Makkah to perform hajj this year despite high costs.
Many Russian Muslims complained about the highly-priced visa issuance, hajj costs and the hardships faced by pilgrims traveling by buses.
Traveling by road costs about 36,000 Russian rubles ($1300), while by plane around 51,000 ($1800).
According to the Saudi consul in Moscow, Abdal Razek Al-Kashmi, 3500 pilgrims were traveling by road this year.
In sub-zero temperatures, the last 180-strong batch of pilgrims left the capital of Ingushetia Nazran Saturday, January 24, for the holy places in Saudi Arabia.
Ingushetia’s President Murat Zyazikov, the mufti and a number of officials were keen to bid the pilgrims farewell.
The first group of pilgrims flew out of Russian on December 25. The Russian pilgrims will start coming home on February 3 until March 7.
Dagestan makes up the majority of Russian pilgrims this year with 1582 people and followed by Tatarstan with 559.
Russia’s foreign ministry had advised hajj road operators to steer clear of the Iraqi territories in making the journey, saying it put the pilgrims’ lives at risk given the state of chaos and instability in the occupied country.
Saudi Arabia announced Saturday, January 24, that Eid Al-Adha (Eid of the Sacrifice) falls on Sunday, February 1, and the pilgrims would climb Mount Arafat on Saturday, January 31.
The climax of hajj will see worshippers climb Mount Arafat, the site of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) last sermon 14 centuries ago.
More than two million people perform hajj this year. Some 1.1 million Muslims from around the world have already arrived in Saudi Arabia for the holy ritual.
According to the pilgrimage quota set up by Saudi Arabia and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), one percent of the Muslim population of each country can perform hajj every year.
Saudi Health Minister Dr. Hamad Al-Manie said last week that each pilgrim underwent a medical check at the Kingdom’s 24 entry points and received compulsory vaccinations against deadly infectious diseases like meningitis.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can also financially afford the trip must perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, once in their lifetime.
Day 1: January 18, 2004
We’re here at the Novotel Hotel in Cairo where we spent three hours sleeping. Originally, we meant to go straight to Jeddah but our entire group missed our flights. Needless to say, this is my first opportunity to write down a few thoughts. It’s about 5:30am, and I’m waiting for Brenda to finish getting ready. We just washed and entered into the state of Ihram for Umrah. The rest of the group should be already downstairs eating breakfast. My own flight to London the previous night was calm and without much turbulence, Thank God.
I was seated in an exit seat so my legs feel great. And six hours to London is nothing. Got to Heathrow Airport around 11am and had to wait till 3:15pm for Brenda’s plane to get in from LAX. So I basically copped a spot by a terminal and slept on/off. I was waiting by our gate when I saw her hurrying to make our second plane flying to Cairo. I hadn’t eaten since that morning so on this next flight, Brenda and I looked like crack heads waiting for the food to be served.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten airline food with as much gusto as I did that day. Brenda’s doing her Rakkats now so I gotta run!
We ate breakfast and just boarded the bus; we’re on our way to catch a flight to Jeddah. We’re dressed, me in white pants and blue jelbab, Brenda in white pants and beige jelbab. Matching hijabs of course. I met a few of the men and women from our group. Particularly friendly is this couple from California. She’s white; and he’s an Arab, Palestinian, I think. They used to live in Kuwait but recently moved back to the states. First time doing hajj for both. Karen and Rayad (not sure the spelling). Brenda and I seem to be the only Latinas in our group. There’s African, all sorts of Arabs, white, Pakistani, you name it, and no one seems to question anyone being Muslim. We’re all interested in each other’s conversion stories, but I didn’t feel like the woman in the “Inside Mecca” video felt. How she became tired of people questioning her conversion. Despite sleeping only three hours, we’re all very alert. We’ve yet to meet Dr. Omar Khattab, our group leader and organizer, and our guides are trying their best to get us to and from. Nonetheless, I feel a bit lost. Not sure how the others are taking it all. Even our luggage seems to be in limbo.
Alhamdulillah, Brenda and I decided prior to the trip that we’d bring only one piece of luggage and that it would be a carry-on. That way, we could breeze through customs and have our belongings with us.
Detained in Cairo. Brenda and I are stuck at the Cairo Airport along with two other Arab women from another tour group. On our first time out applying for visas, the Saudi government deemed that we were too young to be traveling to their country alone, lest we should stir the desires of the other Hajji men. The tour director resubmitted our applications and assigned us a Mahram from the group itself. Brother Ahmed Rahman, a convert from Thailand, whom Brenda chanced to meet at the groups pre-trip gathering in California. Our Mahram along with a few others from the group landed in Saudi a few days prior to our departure. Egypt could not allow us to fly to Jeddah alone because the Saudi Government would impose a fine on them if they found out that the Egyptian government allowed us to fly to Jeddah unchaperoned. So our group left on the original flight around 8:30am, and Brenda and I were left behind.
The guide assigned to us has been trying fervently to get us through. I suggested he call Omar Khattab, our tour organizer in Saudi, but he said he didn’t know who he was. No one has called to inquire about us nor noticed that there are two women missing from the group. We just hope that Imanni, one of the sisters from the group, was able to relay what’s going on. Funny thing is, they’re holding our passports so we can’t walk into the newer part of the airport, nor can we exchange money because we need the passports to do so. Also, we are not allowed to leave the airport. It’s a no win situation. I’m trying not to become frustrated because I’m in the state of Ihram. Boy, didn’t think I was going to be tested this soon. Alhamdulillah, the other Arab girls in our situation are friendly. Tamara and Maison. Poor Maison. Her elderly mother was already checked in, and their luggage was checked onto the plane when she was told she couldn’t go. Regardless, her group along with her mother had to go without her, and she was worried about who would care for her mother.
Here’s a funny story for you. One of the Egyptian customs agents saw me and inquired with Tamara about wanting to marry me. I told her to tell him I was in the state of Ihram and couldn’t discuss marriage with anyone. Can you believe that? I told the girls jokingly that I’d consider the proposal if he could get us out of here. Lolol. Here we are sitting and waiting for our Mahram to fax over a copy of his passport and airline ticket to prove that he was in the country. Why their computers can’t detect that, I have no clue. But whatever.
Hurray!!!!!!!! We just received our fax from the Mahram, Alhamdulillah. The two sisters, however, had to be left behind unfortunately. Their Mahram hadn’t faxed over his paperwork. We took down their info, so we can call their travel director as soon as we arrive in Jeddah. But even worse, I think I broke my Ihram. I got into a tiny argument with Brenda, and I guess I’m still learning to holding my tongue. Perhaps it’s the pressure of being detained and thinking we weren’t going to ever get there. Who knows, but inshallah, Allah (swt) knows what is in our hearts. I showered again and made a new intention.
January 20, 2004
I didn’t get a chance to write yesterday because the incredible delay we witnessed. I think the last time I left off we were flying from Cairo to Jeddah after our Mahram’s fax came through. The flight was great, and when we landed, amazingly enough, we only spent about forty minutes in customs. Gracias a Dios. We had been told to prepare to spend hours there. Because we were the only two Americans among a group of Egyptians bound for Hajj, they processed us through. One agent singled us out and spoke with the others to get us through. We explained that our own group in Cairo left us behind because of our Mahram situation. Prior to processing, we were all herded into a room that reminded me of a concentration camp. I know that’s so bad of me to say, but that’s the feeling I got while in there. Brenda and I received many stares. We looked different, and I guess when we pulled out our passports, the others were wondering what we were doing in their midst. After we were moved to another room that contained customs booths, the young man who checked out passports made sure that Brenda and I sat first. When the processing began, they had no choice but to begin with us. Once processed, we went to another counter to pay the Saudi fees with checks. Those agents were very nice to us. They were genuinely happy to see two American converts embarking on Hajj.
They graced us with smiles and warm wishes for our accepted Hajj. The Saudis in the luggage department were quite surprised to find that we had no luggage other than our carry-on. But hey, we know where our stuff is, thank God. Outside the gates, another customs agent named Mohammad greets us, and we explain our story to him. He was very understanding and pleasant to speak with. He’d even been in the US recently. Mohammad guided us outside to the stadium-like area. Giant canopies or tents cover the outside shop area and gates. He solicits a young boy to guide us to an office where they will provide transportation to the visa agency and to our hotel. I guess we weren’t allowed to wonder around by ourselves. Lol. But here’s where the nightmare begins.
After what seemed like a two-hour wait, we are directed over to a bus where we sit and wait for what seemed like another two hours while they load our bus with luggage. The bus is filled with Afghanis, and we’re the only two American’s amongst them. The drive to Makkah took over two hours because our bus was old and wasn’t able to accelerate to a higher speed. Cars and other buses kept passing us by! Finally, we reach the visa stop, but Brenda and I begin to get anxious and angry because no one is listening to us. We continuously said that we weren’t with this group to which the reply was always “okay.”
Alhamdulillah, we were taken to the American visa stop. Getting out luggage down from the bus was another story. Because the entire luggage was lumped together, a team of youths was told to look for our two pieces of luggage amongst the many. Around 3:40am, we were escorted to the office. The Saudi officials inside were very kind. They offered us water and tea, gifted us with books and treated us very well. Finally, a guide was sent to escort us to our hotel in Makkah. We reached our room at about 5:00am, just in time for Fajr. Most of our roommates were sleeping. Brenda knows two of them from the California Hajj meeting. We carted ourselves off to breakfast and came back to the room for some major sleeping. We were very exhausted from our “trip”; and we slept straight through to Asr prayer. We were dying to see Masjid Al-Haram, but Brenda and decided to wait till we were ready to do our Umrah. That night at dinner, a brother was kind enough to offer to take us to perform Umrah as the rest of the group had already performed theirs the previous day.
At 10pm, we headed over there that evening and even then, the Masjid was packed. We entered and kept our eyes down because we were told you shouldn’t look at the Kabbah till you make a dua. We come upon it, and I feel nothing. It doesn’t resonate with me at all. Brenda begins to cry, and I’m more in awe of the masses of white clothes circling. Hoards of people are pushing you, and I wonder how Allah judges that person. I’m fully aware of their attempts to remain linked in order to keep groups together, but at times, it seems they push on purpose.
Brenda and I also linked arms and tried to focus on our dua’s and brother Ferris. We didn’t want to lose him in the crowd. Prior to going, a sister told us many dead crickets and bugs were on the floor, and so we made a point to walk with socks. At many points during our Tawaf, empty pockets allowed us to walk with relative calm. I tried my best to keep my eyes cast down on the white marble floor because anything can easily divert your attention from your dua’s: a pretty hijab, the color-coordinated groups, the Kabbah itself. It wasn’t until the third or fourth tawaf, after much supplication, that I began to feel anything at all. My eyes watered as I begged the Almighty for his Mercy and thanked him for his invitation. I begged for any hypocrisy to be removed from my heart and that I my iman increase more and more. I realized at that moment that I shouldn’t feel ashamed of my lack of emotion upon seeing the Kabbah. Similarly as Allah (swt) revealed Islam to me slowly and progressively, my Umrah and Hajj might also work the same way.
For the rest of the Tawaf and Sa’I, I supplicated much and through Allah’s grace, I was able to remain focused. My main problem has always been my dua’s. At times, I don’t even make dua’ because I’m too ashamed of having committed sin that I feel he won’t forgive me. And, that is actually doubting the Almighty’s mercy and forgiveness. Once done with Tawaf, we prayed our two Rakat, drank sweet zamzam water, and completed our Sa’i. Again, Allah blessed me with patience and concentration, and I supplicated the entire time I was walking between the two hills. We finished Umrah around 2am and decided to eat some Shwarma. I’m not sure what country this comes from but I think its Pakistani. But it consists of meat that is sort of roasted and then shredded away, mixed with onions and peppers and then put into pita bread. Because our shop ran out of pita bread, they put it in a hot dog bun. The place was grungy and filled with flies but we didn’t care. Back at the hotel, I couldn’t close my eyes and remained awake until Fajr.
January 20, 2004
We finally made fajr prayer at the Masjid Al-Haram today. We arrived almost an hour and a half early and barely found spots at the entrance. Brenda and I sat and read the Qur’an, tried to make conversation with what seemed like Indian and Malaysian women. Not much was understood except they realized we were converts and so were trying to find out if we’d made our two initial rakats. Perhaps they assumed we were beginners and to tell you the truth, I know after all this, I truly am just beginning, Alhamdulillah. After Fajr, we made Janazah prayer for someone who had died, which I’ve never done before. I couldn’t see far enough to see where the body was held. I wonder whom the person was and how lucky they were to have millions of Muslims praying for their pardon.
After breakfast, we took a short excursion with the group to the mountain of Uhud, Mount Arafat, and drove by the Jamarat. We were blessed to meet a Palestinian who had met and married a Puerto Rican woman. He had lived in Puerto Rico for over 15 years and spoke Spanish just like a Puerto Rican. It was amazing. Back at our hotel room, my roommates and I prayed Zuhr together. It was the first time I heard a woman calling the Iqama and a female voice leading the prayer. At that very moment, those women were my flesh and blood sisters. We were together attempting to fulfill our prayer obligations united in one direction, worshipping the same God. Our racial and social status meant nothing as we prostrated shoulder-to-shoulder, foot-to-foot. It was very empowering as a Muslim, alhamdulillah, and I pray for another such opportunity again.
Of course, we shopped at the mall below our hotel, and then we returned to our room for a huge discussion on hijab. We discussed the exact wording and meaning in the Qur’an and the Haddith in reference to the covering of women. In one haddith, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) points to his hands and face after being asked about the required covering for women who have reached the age of puberty. In the end, some of us agreed about the requirement of hijab, and some of us did not. We all agreed that the hijab couldn’t harm us. After sleeping for three hours, we had dinner. I’ve never been big on catnaps, but boy, I tell you, the flight, being in Makkah, and staying awake after Fajr really does take a toll on you.
January 21, 2004
We headed to the Masjid Al-Haram for Fajr today. Brenda and I found spots but we lost the others. Upon sitting, she reveals that the pregnancy test she took that morning came out positive. A Hajji baby. How ’bout that??? After breakfast, Lynn and I headed back to the masjid to make Tawaf. After we were done, it felt like someone had poured cool water all over me. That’s how refreshing and invigorated I felt. By the time we were on our seventh circuit, the sun was peaking through.
Imanni, Lynn, and I headed over to the Tameen Masjid, otherwise known as Aisha’s Masjid, but Aisha is not buried there. The masjid is white with many windows. Because the women’s section is closed off, we couldn’t really see the inside to the main hall. Once we prayed our two Rakat, we stopped by the men’s section and sneaked a peak inside. The masjid itself is a Meeqat point for Ihram.
January 22, 2004
We woke up extra early for Fajr, and we copped a much closer spot in view of the Kabbah. Afterward, we had breakfast back at the Sofitel Hotel. Imanni, Lynn, and I headed out again to the Prophet’s (PBUH) house where he was born. Unfortunately, it was closed off, and we weren’t allowed to go near it. Although we were extremely far from it, this man began yelling at us, shooing us away. At one point, we just stopped to look at it from afar, but he continued to yell at us, even as we looked back while walking away. We think it was closed off because some Saudi official was in the area. While praying on the roof of the Masjid today at Fajr time, Rohanna saw police making room through the crowd for a man near the Kabbah. After the bodyguards moved people out of the way, the official was able to pray right in front of the Kabbah. I guess we are not as equal during the Hajj as the experience means for us to be.
January 24, 2004
I have just settled into bed in our new hotel room at the Movenbeck in Medina. We spent the entire afternoon trying to get here. I was able to make a third Tawaf before I left Makkah. We were able to make Jummah prayer at the Masjid before leaving for Medina. It was my first experience with the pushing and shoving that I’ve seen on television. Many hajjis were trying to push their way into the Masjid while the majority of the crowd was trying to exit. The crushing of the crowd felt like a sporting event. By the time we got outside, rain began to fall, Subhanna Allah. Many people ran back into the Masjid to make another Tawaf in the rain for maximum blessings, although I’ve never heard of that, and some people were quoting ahaddith. After waiting for who knows how many hours in the hotel lobby, we boarded our buses for the airport, and our luggage was soaked from the rain. The airport was total confusion, and we had no clue where to put our luggage.
January 25, 2004
Yesterday was our first day in the Movenbeck Hotel, a recently constructed hotel with two towers housing hundreds of guests. Apparently, because the hotel is only two weeks old, they are working out a few kinks. We had no towels. The phone didn’t work. No one could call in. All the lanterns did not have actual bulbs. Although there are four of us, we were only given two room keys. To top it all off, our keys don’t work! We have to continuously go to the lobby to have our keys reprogrammed. Brenda, Imanni, Karen, and I are sharing this room. Lynn and Rohanna were placed in two other separate rooms with non-English speaking women. The tour director doesn’t seem to be aware of who is missing and who is here.
Medina seems more modern and cleaner than Makkah. Whereas Makkah has mostly small authentic looking shops and apartments built on hills, Medina has high-rise hotels and Westernized looking shops. Regardless, Masjid E-Nabwi is a sight too incredible to describe. Almost instantly upon entering, I was overcome with a feeling of emotion. The blue stripping on the ceiling reminded me of the Al-Hambra in Spain. Gold plate decorations and pillars as far as your eye can go. The Masjid contains retractable domes and retractable shades that cover the top of the pillars in the main area where the Prophet’s body is located. His burial area is closed off by partitions and the crowd of women was a mob scene. Women have designated times when they can enter that area. Imanni and I didn’t even attempt to go near the Prophet’s area. People were crying, pushing, and shoving. We both greeted the Prophet (saws) and his companions (ra) from afar and prayed. At that point in the Masjid, Islam seemed much more real to me, much more concrete. Knowing the Prophet’s body was near added to the reality of Al-Islam.
Brenda and I in front of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina on the morning of the first day of Hajj.
January 26, 2004
I am sitting here in the Prophet’s Masjid awaiting zhuhr. It’s pretty early, but I sit here alone with the desire to be just that, alone. Sometimes the presence of others can have a negative effect on you although it may not seem that way. So today I ventured to the local neighborhood where more of the poorer people live. The flats and stores look more like those of Makkah and the contrast between that area and the surrounding area of the great Masjid contrast greatly. At first glance, I thought Medina looked much more polished and modern than Makkah, but the reality is both of the masjid are rich within their small boundaries. But outside that, the neighborhoods are filled with Souks and dingy buildings. Frankly to be honest, I find that to be more charming and comfortable. Posh hotels and stores that resemble the Las Vegas strip surround the Prophet’s Masjid. The Masjid Al-Haram’s grandeur, however, ends within its walls.
The day is glorious. Gracias A Dios. Where Makkah was constantly warm, Medina is cool. The mornings are very chilly. You need socks and a nice wrap to keep you warm. The afternoons give off a pleasant breeze in the midst of the glaring sun. And, surrounding marble floor outside the Prophet’s Masjid is always cold. Some type of cooling system must be underneath it.
The marble floor outside the Prophet’s Mosque is very beautiful. He’s buried under the green dome. Lynn is with me in this picture.
I stayed at the Masjid past zhuhr. While exiting, I came across a beautiful site, mashallah. Many African women were sitting or lying down outside the Masjid. I remember speaking with the others about how some Muslims during their entire lives save to come to Hajj. Although they can afford the journey, they cannot afford the lodging, and yet here they are. Who knows how they arrive. Whereas we complain on our cushy planes about late flights, they walk miles to get to their modes of transportation.
The women gather around one of the many lamps outside the masjid. They lay down place mats then eat and talk. Many are wearing colorful clothing and headscarves. And one of them smiles at me during prayers; their beautiful smiles seem to be a Salaam straight from Allah. Most read Arabic, and I feel a little left behind in my Islamic progress. But inshallah, Allah quells those feelings. I know that I go through Islam at my own pace. So I sit outside the Masjid now, capturing this picture with words.
While I’m at it, I am reminded of two instances in the past two days that are noteworthy. On our first day at Fajr in Medina, Imanni, and I were walking into the Prophet’s Masjid. The crowd of women was thick. Because we were late, there was no space inside for us. As we walked through rows of women to get outside, one African sister was arguing with security women who wore niqab. The security women stand guard at the women’s entrances and check bags for cameras and what not. They argued back and forth about the African women blocking a walking area. I’m unsure who started it, but they began hitting each other, right at the doors of Masjid E-Nabawi. Yesterday for Fajr prayer, Brenda and I sat in front of this much older woman who handed me a brochure that was lying on the floor. Apparently, she assumed it belonged to me. I motioned that the brochure wasn’t mine. She realized I wasn’t Arabic speaking, and she continued to stare at me. After a small nudge on my shoulder, she hands me some nuts and dried fruit as a present to eat. I thank her adamantly and show Brenda what she gave me. Upon realizing that Brenda was with me, she nudges me again and hands me some more nuts to give to Brenda. Lol.
I am sitting alongside a rail outside Masjid E-Nabawi with my feet sticking out in the sun. A cool breeze combined with the warmth of the sun makes this a wonderful day. Who wants to be inside a stuffy hotel with such beautiful sisters around me enjoying the blessings of Allah. The Masjid itself is a grandiose monument. Not one light bulb is blown out, and I saw a man earlier polishing the gigantic outdoor lamps surrounding it. The lamps are over fifty feet high, and there must be at least fifty or more. Now the rugs are being taken outside, I assume to be cleaned. The women guards are constantly sweeping and mopping. I wonder if they get paid to be there or if they are volunteers.
January 28, 2004
We went to the mountain where the Battle of Uhud took place today. We were told a fascinating story about how the battle wasn’t a defeat as some like to think because the enemy retreated after wounding the Prophet (PBUH). After a few hours later, the Prophet assembled an army to follow them. We prayed Surah Al-Fatiha and made du’a for the companions of the Prophets who are buried there. A small one-level building covers their burial area. While the battle was taking place, Tahud would continuously placed himself in front of the Prophet to protect him. At one point, the enemy shot a spear at the Prophet, but Tahud placed his hand in front of the Prophet, and the spear went through his hand. From there, we headed over to the Quba Mosque. I might be confusing it with another masjid. It is here that the Prophet received revelation to change the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Makkah. The frustrating part about these historical places is that because the women’s sections are completely closed off, women can’t see the original domes or areas where the Prophet once stood. We all pay the same price for this journey, but women seem to get cheated out of the full experience. Thank God we prayed there.
Much later, Lynn, Rohanna, Imanni, Brenda, and I hit a local Shwarma spot. I think we might have been the only women in there. They all kept staring at us, probably realizing we must be from another country to have such gall to eat where the boys hang out. Lol. At dinnertime, our tour director informs all the single women or those traveling without their husbands that we will need to find a man to throw stones for us if we cannot throw the stones at the Jammart for ourselves. I was amazed to hear this, because when we signed up, we were told someone would be available to help us throw the stones. So far, we have been pretty much on our own, and now, what are we supposed to do if we can’t get inside the crowds to throw? Most of the men were already throwing for other people. Alhamdulillah, along with some other men, our Mahram has offered to help us throw the stones, inshallah.
January 29, 2004
We are onboard a bus heading to Mina. We’re donned in our white Ihram outfits that we bought for 10 bucks in a local shop a block away from our hotel. Our first stop was Ali’s well where we made Wudu and our intention for Hajj. The route to the house in Azizaih truly takes us through the desert. Rolling hills made of pure rock. As far as you can see, one small mountain is after another, surrounded by sand, palm trees, and sun-withered shrubs. I imagine our Prophet (pbuh) riding a camel or horse through these very mountains with his caravan of Muslims following. I imagine the mountains probably crying out to have his feet grace their faces. I still don’t love him as much as I wished I would love him, and I still don’t know him as much as I wished I would know him, but imagining him through this area actually made me cry. I’m sooo confused. Lol. I kick myself for not having spent every single prayer time at his Masjid. May Allah (swt) forgive my laziness and may he liberate me from it.
Our driver is lost in Makkah, and he can’t seem to find the visa office. The other buses must have already reached our private house in Aziza’ah. It’s difficult not to lose one’s temper at the disorganization. I mean, we are all aware that things happen and especially during Hajj. However, being assigned a driver who does not know his way around Makkah is the consequence of our tour director. If we can’t stone the Jamarat because of stampedes and the lack of brothers to help us as promise is also not the result of Hajj but that of our tour company. The fact that two women were detained for over ten hours in Cairo because our Mahram was in Saudi is the result of an unreachable, unsympathetic, and unorganized tour company. But I am reminded that this could be a trial from Allah and that I must stick to my Ihram, inshallah. I just thought I would vent my frustrations out on paper. I wonder if that’s breaking my Ihram.
January 30, 2004
Good news! Alhamdulillah, our group is bunking together again. Our accommodations at Aziza’ah are strange. It’s a privately owned house with many rooms. The house has about four or five rooms on each floor and about five floors. Each room contains about eight to twelve beds covered by the harshest sheets and pillow that I have ever laid upon. The room is completely bare, and there are two bathrooms in our section. We ate downstairs and plopped into bed around 10pm last night. Today we are on our way to Mina.
All six of us along with a few other women we’ve never met have been assigned to tent 163 of camp 41, or the Pakistani camp, next to the King Khalid Bridge in the tent city. The tent city is actually pretty fabulous with the exception of the bathroom and wudu stations. Additional women consist of three Afghanis and two Pakistanis. Rohanna was talking to them. Our rollout cots are more like extremely thick quilts and are actually pretty comfy. Or perhaps we’re just too tired and can’t really tell the difference??? Lolol. The sun is beaming with no sign of a breeze. I sure miss Medina’s weather. We prayed Zuhr in the tent, and we’ll be here overnight. Because our tent is on the other side of a small market and restaurant, we can smell food and hear all the noise of the other Hajjis trying to buy food. This is really camping out. While walking around, all you see is a blanket of white that seems to drain into the horizon.
My roommates and I in our tent which was situated in the Pakistani section in Mina. I’m in the middle.
I forgot who told us about a secret wudu and bathroom area. Well not really secret, just in another tent area. Because the bathrooms are on the other side of the Wudu station and are sort of hidden, they’re not usually packed like our area is. As I was leaving to go wash, I bump right into Tamma, one of the two young women detained along with Brenda and me in Cairo. She was also searching for a place to make Wudu and looked sooo stressed. She goes into her story of her group’s journey to Aziza’ah. Their journey took over twenty hours when it should have only taken seven.
When they finally reached their tents, they were told other people had taken the tents. Apparently this is common, and so they were forced to camp in some of the other group’s tents. We only have about nine to eleven people in our tent. She has over twenty people in hers, and I can’t even imagine where they found the space because the tents aren’t that big. In Cairo, it was Tammara who held onto her cheerful disposition and refused to allow anyone to get her angry. But upon seeing her and making wudu with her, she finally broke down. Not only were they stuck in overcrowded tents, their tour organizer had taken another group back to Makkah to do Umrah and Tammara wasn’t sure whether they were going to reach Arafat with everyone else. She looked extremely tired, and I have to make sure to pray for her. Her kind face and sweet disposition comforted me greatly in Cairo, and I know she was sent as a blessing from Allah. It’s sooooo hard not to become angry. And though I think I’m succeeding at it, I have felt my right eye twitching for days. That means I’m really internalizing my anger. Take it easy sister! Lol.
January 31, 2004
The tent city is quieter now that most people have left for Arafat. From the beginning, we were all designated colored cloth bands to designate us to the buses. The blue team is still waiting for our bus. Brenda, Lynn, Rohanna, and I were given blue bands. Imanni and Karen were given pink. Last night after Isha, Imanni, Lynn, and I set out for the Jamarat. It took about thirty minutes to get there in the breezy clear night. What was even more spectacular was the sight of all the Hajjis who were setting up camp, walking about, praying, and eating. In one area, it looked as if a multitude of white ants were crawling in all directions.
We have just arrived late in Arafat because our bus was one of the last ones to leave the tent city. I think there were three tents; one for women and two for men. Needless to say, the women’s tent was packed like sardines, and so Omar finally gave us a portion of the men’s side. One of the sheiks making hajj with his wife gave a lecture. Many of the women were a bit rude especially when Imanni was handing out food. I am not sure why. The premise of Hajj is to be different: control your anger, be kind, generous, and seek refuge in Allah. May Allah forgive us all.
Imanni, Rohanna, and I headed out for a small hill in view of the Mount of Mercy, which was covered with moving white. I would have liked to climb it but just like that Jamarat, I refuse to put my life in danger. We all separated from each other. We pulled out our prayer rugs and climbed into our individual worlds with Allah. Amazing, how we as humans are very limited. Although we humans can only talk to one person at a time, Allah listens at once to us all who are supplicating to Him. I took out my list of people who asked me to make dua’ for them. Of course, Allah knows what I want to say, but I wanted to officially say to these people that I kept my word through the mercy of Allah.
Here I am at the Mount of Mercy at Arafat before Hajj began.
February 1, 2004
At Magreb, we boarded the bus from Arafat and attempted to go to Muzdalifah. We are still stuck in traffic. I’m not sure if it constitutes spending the night there, but I think we are within its boundaries. We performed our prayers on the bus, and then almost all of us began to venture onto the highway to collect pebbles. Because there was much traffic, we swerved in and out between the other buses to the side of the road to collect stones. Even after collecting all my stones, the buses still had not moved more than a few feet. I mean it sounds funny, but it was scary too.
As soon as we were trying to move in between buses to get to ours, the buses begin to move a little, and some came really close to us. Our boxed lunches were placed below the bus at Arafat hours ago and are being given out now. They were totally inedible. There were stale croissants, deli meats that obviously can’t be eaten now, a caramel dessert that requires refrigeration, warm soda, and bruised fruit. I ate chips and drank the soda, but you could probably hear my stomach from a mile away. Lol. Omar finally gave up on reaching Muzdalifah and directed the bus to go back to Aziza’ah.
After resting for a tiny while in Aziza’ah, we are now on our way to stone the Jamarat, which represents the stoning of Shaytan and the fight against our temptations. Afterwards, we will return to Makkah and make Tawaf Ifada, or obligatory Tawaf and Sai’a. We reached the bottom section of the biggest Jamarat, and we could barely see anything. The hoards of people who were trying to push their way around the circle for an opportunity to throw stones was extremely frightening. Our small group attempted to get in, but we were almost toppled to the ground by the crowd that was pushing from many directions. It was a classic mob scene. We were so compacted in the crowd that it felt like my chest would cave in. There was no air, and the looks on people’s faces were maddening. Some groups linked arms and rammed their way into the area. Huge men would go in and return sweating, bruised, and quite scared.
After seeing a small pocket, Lynn and I took the chance to go in again. I held her while she threw and then she held me as I threw. I am not even sure if I actually hit the thing because my eyes were fluttering with anticipation of a rock crashing through it. Rocks were flying everywhere. Shoulders were pushing you down. People were screaming. It was complete pandemonium. And no one seemed to stop or think that it was wrong to inflict pain on another human being. The complete disregard for human life was in complete odds with what the hajj stands for. The stoning as a representation of Shaytan was not worth the life of a sister or brother.
We clipped a portion of our hair while on our way out of the Jamarat area. Then, we squeezed into a car where we were charged thirty Riyals, or about seven bucks, each to Makkah. Because the vehicle was a mini-truck type car, he got nine of us in the car and then boarded another five to seven people on the roof. Although traffic was a nightmare, we arrived in Makkah within an hour. Brenda, Lynn, and I completed our Tawaf together but we lost the others immediately after beginning the first circuit. We were not near the Kabbah this time because the area was jammed packed. This Tawaf and Sai’a seemed to last forever. Perhaps because we had been stuck for many hours on a bus the night before to Muzdalifah. Brenda who is pregnant opted out of doing the Sai’a, because she was feeling sick. She went back to the Sofitel Hotel to rest while Lynn and I finished our Sai’a.
This Sai’a was amazing because for almost the entire time, we were compressed between people. Lynn and I linked arms many times to avoid losing one another. I could barely make du’a because I was being crushed most of the time and pushed and shoved for the rest of it. At certain points, I am sure I could have lifted my feet and still been moving along with the crowd. Before entering the masjid, the female security guard found my disposable camera in my bag. I had completely forgotten that I had it. Of course, I just left it on the guard’s ledge and told him to throw it away because I had to complete my Tawaf Ifadah. After finishing and washing up at the Sofitel, I decided to return to the entrance. Sure enough, the camera was still there. Alhamdulillah. The roll of film contained my pictures of Masjid E-Nabawi.
We caught another small van back to Aziza’ah. It’s said that you must be in Mina by Magreb. Because we were closing in on Magreb, I didn’t shower or rest in the house. I just kept walking to the Mina tents alone because the rest of the ladies wanted to shower up. We’d been in our ihram clothes since Arafat, and so our clothes were dirty already. It felt wonderful to walk alone to the Mina tents amongst the crowd of people, all different nationalities, in such a strange land. The entire journey has been adventurous, dangerous, and my loneliness at that very moment was comforting. I almost felt that I was on some wild safari in a way. I repented so much on my way back to the Mina tents for having doubted Allah’s invitation. After first submitted our visa applications, Brenda and I were both rejected because apparently we were too young to be wandering around in Saudi. I was devastated and in my sadness, and I took it to be a rejection from Allah. When our applications were resubmitted, I got accepted first and then I was faced with the possibility of going alone without Brenda. Now I repented for thinking that I needed to go to Hajj with anyone. I was there for Allah alone, and He is my ultimate companion, Subhanna Allah. I plan to sleep part of the night in Mina and then go to Azizia’ah to finally shower and partially get out of Ihram.
Hajjis heading toward the tent city in Mina near the Jammart.
I got to the house in Aziza’ah around 1am. It took me that long because I got stuck within groups of people. I felt as if I was at the Jamarat all over again. I assumed that the frenzy of the Hajj rituals would end with there. Apparently, I was wrong. May Allah forgive me but I started getting angry when I couldn’t move through the people and was being shoved in all directions. The word ‘animals’ came to mind but I quickly asked for forgiveness and for Allah to forgive them. The streets were littered with food, containers, dirty diapers, and razor blades that were used to shave men’s heads. I’m not sure whether I’m more perplexed by the people’s attitudes of me or how wild they were acting and how they could allow themselves to allow even a shred of paper to fall on these holy areas. But then again, how could the Saudi government not do more to contain the frenzy.
Although they have restrictions for many things, they have not implemented a system so that not every hajji acts like they have to kill another brother just to stone. And to the hajji’s defense, one must walk a way to find a trash disposal. Because trash bins do not seem to be near the bathrooms, some women are leaving their feminine napkins and other things inside the stalls. It is the one thing that broke my heart many times to witness. We are supposed to be the best nation and look at this. There hasn’t been a time that I felt more frightened then walking alone through that crowd. I felt like I could be trampled on at any moment. But Alhamdulillah, Allah alleviated my fears and allowed me to enjoy the walk when I was able to free myself from the clutches of the mob.
February 3, 2004
At 2am this morning, Imanni, Lynn, and I got up from the Mina tents to stone the Jamarat. We were told we could only stone after Fajr. However, because last night we attempted to stone again through that chaotic scene, we prayed that Allah would accept us to stone at an unusual hour. Imanni’s husband had to stone for himself as well as for the three of us the night before because it was too dangerous. The longer you stay within the crowd, the more dangerous it is for you. The next day, we decided to stone the Jamarat at 2am because we did not want to put our lives in danger. We were able to stone from the ledge surrounding the pillars, and we each did it ourselves! I even took a picture. Within twenty minutes, we were done, Alhamdulillah.
We returned to Makkah for our farewell Tawaf (Wada). We arrived at Masjid Al-Haram around 3:15am and were able to make Tawaf from the ground floor, a few feet away from the Kabbah. The Tawaf was calm and quick, a beautiful way to end the Hajj. We were able to pray our two rakka on ground level. We even stayed for Fajr prayer. The Imam’s voice was so melancholy that I couldn’t help from crying during prayer, Alhamdulillah. As we walked out, we saw the dead brother or sister whom we had prayed Janazah prayer for being carried out and covered in green. We said goodbye to the Kabbah, praying to return one day, inshallah.
Visit my website to see more pictures of my Hajj experience.
By Imam Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyyah
By Him whose House the loving pilgrims visit,
Responding with ihram at the appointed limit,
Uncovering their heads in total humility
Before One to Whom faces bow in servility.
They exclaim in the valleys, “We have responded to You –
All Praise is Yours, and Kingdom too!”
He invited and they answered, with love and pleasure;
When they called upon Him, nearer came the Divine treasure.
You see them on their mounts, hair dusty and dishevelled,
Yet never more content, never happier have they felt;
Leaving homelands and families due to holy yearning,
Unmoved are they by temptations of returning.
Through plains and valleys, from near and far,
Walking and riding, in submission to Allah.
At the Ka’bah
When they see His House – that magnificent sight
For which the hearts of all creatures are set alight –
It seems they’ve never felt tired before,
For their discomfort and hardship is no more.
Now the eye of the Lover drowns in its streams,
It sees through its tears the goal of its dreams;
Now for Allah, how many tears are issued,
Each one being followed by a multitude?
When the eye perceives the House, its darkness clears,
And from the sorrowful heart, pain disappears;
Vision cannot encompass this beautiful sight:
Each glance returns with greater delight!
No wonder at this, for when the Merciful preferred
The House for Himself, it became most honoured.
He clothed it in Majesty, a magnificent garment;
Embroidered it with Beauty, a wonderful ornament!
The hearts all love the House therefore,
Awed and humbled, in respect and honour.
Now to “Arafat, hoping for Mercy and Forgiveness
From the One overflowing with Generosity and Kindness;
Now for Allah is that Magnificent Standing
Like, though lesser than, the Day of Reckoning.
The Irresistible draws near, His Majesty manifest,
Boasting to His angels, for He is the Mightiest,
“My slaves have come to Me so lovingly,
I’ll be Generous and Merciful, willingly.
I have forgiven their sins, to this you are witness
Fulfilled their hopes, and showered them with goodness.”
So joyous news! O people of that standing,
When sins are forgiven and Mercy is spreading;
How many slaves are set completely free?
Whilst others seek a cure, and heal will He.
Now Satan is never known to lose such face:
He’s blameworthy, rejected, in utter disgrace.
For he sees a matter that enrage him must:
He flees, slaps his face and covers it in dust!
Such Forgiveness he never did see
As granted by the Lord, and such Mercy!
He built his edifice from every temptation available
Till he thought it was complete, unassailable;
Then Allah struck his building at its very foundation,
So it fell upon him, tumbling in devastation;
What worth has his structure, this evil ploy,
That he does build, and the Lord does destroy?
Muzdalifah & Mina
Now to Muzdalifah, to spend the night
In the Sacred Area, then Prayer at first light;
Now on to the Great Pillar, which they need
To stone at the time of the Prayer of “Id;
Now to their tents for the sacrifice prepared,
Reviving the tradition of a Father revered.
If sacrificing themselves were Allah’s demand,
They would respond, submitting to the command;
Just as they’d expose their necks in Jihad
To Allah’s enemies, till these stream with blood;
They discipline themselves, presenting the head for a shave:
Bringing humility and happiness to the obedient slave.
The Tawaf of Ifadah/Ziyarah
So when they’ve removed those natural growths,
Completed their rites, and fulfilled their oaths,
He invites them again to visit His House:
What honour and welcome this visit allows!
By Allah, they visit it in so much splendour,
Receiving their rewards and plenty of honour;
There Allah bestows Grace, Favour and Kindness,
Showing Generosity, Mercy and Forgiveness.
Then they return to Mina, each to his tent,
Every minute wish is granted, and they are content;
They stay there a day, then another, then a third,
They’re allowed to depart early, but to stay is preferred;
They stone the pillars daily after the sun’s decline,
With a slogan of Takbir in the presence of the Divine!
If only you could see their standing there:
Palms outstretched, hoping for Mercy’s share!
“O Lord! O Lord! Knowing as You do
That we hope for no-one, only You!
Then grant our wish, O You All-Knowing,
We pray for Your Mercy overflowing.”
The Farewell Tawaf
When they’ve achieved at Mina all their gains,
Once more they fill the valleys and plains:
To the Ka’bah, the Sacred House, by the end of the day,
To circle it seven times, and then to Pray.
When departure nears and they are certain
That the bond of proximity is about to loosen,
There’s only a last stand for a final farewell:
Now for Allah are the eyes that swell,
And for Allah are the heavy hearts that turn
Into cauldrons of desire where fire does burn;
And the passionate sighs whose heat so vigorous
Nearly melts the Lover, ecstatic, rapturous!
Now you see those bewildered, perplexed in the throng,
Whilst others chant their sorrowful song:
“I depart, but there remains for You my yearning,
My fire of grief is raging and burning;
I bid farewell, but longing pulls my reins –
My heart is encamped in Your eternal plains!”
No blame today for saying what you feel:
No blame for expressing what you used to conceal!
By Yusef Maisonet
I performed Hajj this year. It was the ultimate experience of my life. I am a merchant seaman by trade. I have been to London, Paris, Spain, Amsterdam, Italy, Albania, all of South America, Middle East, Far East, Africa, and all the Caribbean. One of my most memorable experiences was being a witness to the shahadah of an 80-year woman in Barcelona, Spain. I used to go to church but I could not fathom the 3 = 1 doctrine. I was exposed to Islam by a Muslim poet. When he read Sura Ikhlas, I knew that I had found the truth. About two weeks later, I took shahadah at a mosque in Brooklyn.
My family is supportive of my Islam and so are my friends. I am married to a beautiful Muslim sister. We have been married for 23 years. I now live in Mobile, Alabama. Alabama is a beautiful state. I have a daughter who is 20 years old. Although I was born in Spanish Harlem on June 2, 1951, I was raised in Brooklyn and Hastile, Puerto Rico. I had a beautiful childhood. My friends were nice people. We enjoyed going to Coney Island. While living in Puerto Rico, my friends and I enjoyed going to the beach a lot. I also played a lot of basketball. I got my GED in the US Army.
I’m a well traveled man but nothing could equal the joy of Hajj. Hajj is the 5th pillar of Islam. Hajj is required of all Muslims once in a lifetime who are financially and physically able. My first stop was Cairo. We went to a nice hotel in Cairo to have dinner. Dinner was delicious. From Cairo, we went to the airport. At the airport, we got into our Ikrams. Ikram means to be in ritual purity for performing Umrah, Hajj, or both. Ikram is also used to mean the two piece garment that pilgrims wear. One piece covers the upper body, and the other covers the lower body. We also made our intentions, or niya, for Umrah and Hajj. Then, we said a dua, or supplication, called Talbeeyah.
Flight time to Jeddah was two hours. Jeddah Hajj Terminal is an airport built mainly for pilgrims. The airport was packed with people from around the world. I was excited at the idea of performing Hajj with all these different brothers and sisters. Although we spoke different languages, we would soon be celebrating Hajj together. More than 2 million Muslims perform Hajj every year. Going through immigration took us a couple of more hours. But finally, we made it.
From Jeddah, we took a bus to our hotel in Mecca. Our hotel was four blocks from the Kabba. The Kabba is located in Masjid Al-Haraam. The Kabba is a cube-shaped building that Muslims believe was built by the Prophet Ibrihim (pbuh) for worshiping God. After getting our rooms, we went to make our Umrah. Whereas Hajj is required of Muslims, Umrah is not but it is recommended. Unlike Hajj, Muslims can go on Umrah any time of the year except during the days of Hajj. Many Muslims call Umrah the “little pilgrimage.” When we got to the Kabba, I almost fainted because of the beauty of the Kabba and the entire experience of being there. What I’ve been praying toward all of these years was right in front of me.
First, we walked counterclockwise around the Kabba seven times. Each time around the Kabba is called a tawaf. The first three tawafs are walked very quickly, and the last four are walked at normal walking speed. After the seven tawafs, we made two rakats at the station of Abraham, or “Maqam Ibrihim” which means Ibrahim’s stepping stone. Then, we drank water from the well of Zam Zam. Next, we went to the Mes’aa which is a stretch between the hilltops of As-Safa and Al-Marwa.
At the Mes’aa, we made Sa’yi which means we made seven rounds between As-Safa and Al-Marwa. Going from As-Safa to Al-Marwa is one round and returning is another round. Some parts of Sa’yi are walked, and other parts are run. At the end of each round, we stopped to say a few prayers. The Sa’yi commemorates when Hajar was looking for water for Ishmael. It took us about two hours to complete. Afterwards, we ended Umrah by clipping our hair. We were able to take off our Ikrams and get into some regular clothes. We stayed in Mecca for a week. We prayed every salat at the House of Allah.
We went to Medina next. We stayed at the Dallah Hotel. Our hotel was about four blocks from the Prophet’s Mosque. After reaching the Prophet’s Mosque, we prayed two raka there. I almost fainted again at the mosque. We prayed salat there. We visited the Prophet’s tomb, Umar’s tomb, and Abu Bakr’s tomb then we prayed at the Quba Mosque and visited Al-Baqee to visit Uthman’s grave. We also went to Mt. Uhud to visit the graves of martyrs like Hamza. We went on other tours, too. We stayed in Medina for a week. But it was tough because we were not getting any sleep. From here, we went to start our Hajj, which was something else.
We put on our Ikram again. Then, we went to Mt. Arafat where we would spend the day. The day is called the “Day of Arafat.” The Prophet (pbuh) said his last sermon on Mt. Arafat. On Mt. Arafat, we prayed Talbeeyah, asked God to forgive our sins, and made other dua. At sunset, we left from Mt. Arafat to go to Muzdalifah to say prayers and to get our stone pebbles for the Jamarah. Before sunrise, we went to Mina to stone a Jamarah. Each of us threw seven stones one right after another at that Jamarah as a symbolic stoning of Satan. I will never forget this because the crowd lifted me up. I didn’t have any control until the crowd eased up. After the stoning, pilgrims usually celebrate the beginning of Eid Al-Adha with a sacrifice slaughtered. This is done to remember Ibrihim’s intention to sacrifice. Next, we walked to Mecca. Walking to Mecca took us about an hour and a half. Once there, we performed Tawaf and Sa’yi as before. After performing Tawaf and Sa’yi, we got our heads shaved.
We would stay in Mina for two more days. We stoned three Jamarah in the afternoon on those two days. After all this, we returned to the Kabba for the farewell Tawaf. Although that was the end of Hajj, it was not the end of our trip. We stayed in Jeddah for two days. We did a lot of shopping. Alhamdulila, I was able to perform Hajj this year. My goals in Islam are to be a good Muslim, a good father, a good husband, and a loving granddaddy.
Aqui estoy. Can you guess exactly where this picture was taken?
By Betty Hasan Amin
November 4, 2002
This article originally appeared in Azizah magazine.
Locking my electric wheelchair into place behind the steering wheel of my specially-equipped van, I took a deep breath. I was beginning the journey of a lifetime — hajj! I knew that hajj would be a life-altering event. I also knew that, while hajj can be a struggle for an able-bodied person, it would be even more of a challenge for me, a paraplegic in a wheelchair with complex medical needs.
Paralyzed by a fall as a 17-year-old high school senior, through determination I managed to earn two college degrees during a time when curb cuts were unheard of and schools and colleges were fraught with architectural barriers. Now a divorced single mother, I was raising two sons, teaching at an Islamic school and feeling blessed with the Islamic faith that gave me the strength to strive toward realizing my human potential to its fullest.
Driven by love of Allah and a burning desire to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam, I placed my trust in Allah. I also tied my camel! I made numerous and careful preparations for my journey. I attended hajj classes at the mosque, where I heard reports from numerous hajjis. I spoke at length to a brother who had recently performed hajj in a wheelchair himself. I secured the services of a sister and of a married couple who would accompany me on my trip; Sister Rasheedah Id-Deen, with years of nursing experience behind her, would assist me with personal care and medical needs, along with Sister Binta Kareem. Sister Binta’s husband Ocei Kareem would take charge of the logistics of transporting me. Although I would be gone only four weeks, I painstakingly packed enough medical supplies, herbal remedies and energy foods to last me three months. Wary of the availability of an electrical supply on the plains of Mina and ‘Arafat, I opted for a manual wheelchair. As I euphorically drove off with three other sisters that May morning in 1992 to join a group of 40 other Muslims bound for Makkah, I felt amply prepared.
Hand-carried by Brother Ocei and another brother on and off the Dulles Airport bus, I experienced humbling feelings of dependence that I had not felt in years. Fortunately, Saudi Airlines had been apprised of my situation, and had a small chair ready for me that was especially designed to maneuver through the narrow airplane aisles. I was lifted onto the chair, and braced myself for the ride and transfer to my seat at the rear of the plane filled with Muslim pilgrims. Before I could get there, however, a non-Muslim couple who anticipated my difficulty stopped me. Out of the graciousness of their hearts, they offered me their seats at the front of the plane. Their kindness helped to calm me, and with the pilot’s recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah, we took off on our flight to Jeddah.
When we landed 11 hours later, I was loaded onto an elevette lift and lowered onto the tarmac by airport workers. I felt apprehensive during this procedure, wondering about the workers’ abilities to deal with the disabled. I reminded myself to be patient, though, realizing that things would be different here in Saudi Arabia; there would be many cultural distinctions.
As we worked our way through customs, we waited while our tour group’s leaders went to the aid of a stranded sister from Wisconsin. This woman, Sister Zainab, was being refused entry into the country because she was a single woman, traveling alone. The brothers from our group assured the officials that she could join our group. Although I did not realize it at the time, Allah had sent me another helper. Sister Zainab was a registered operating room nurse, and days later, she began to assist Rasheedah with my medical care, exhibiting great skill and concern.
At the crowded airport, the sisters helped me to don my ihram. Then we moved onto a shuttle that took us to the staging area where we waited for a bus to take us to Makkah. The wait was long and hot, but certainly not dull! I watched, astonished and fascinated, the flow of arrivals of different groups of people from all over the world. When our bus finally arrived, though, I was greatly disappointed and saddened at its appearance — it was terribly old, without a wheelchair lift and with doors so narrow the brothers had to turn me sideways to lift me onto the bus.
My wheelchair, medical supplies, baggage and specially designed wheelchair cushion were packed on top of the bus with the rest of the luggage. As the bus took off, so did my cushion; I spent the remainder of the trip sitting on make-shift pillows, diligently trying to avoid dangerous pressure sores.
Upon our arrival at our apartment, I saw that it was at the top of three flights of stairs. For the duration of our stay, I would have to be carried up and down those stairs sometimes two and three times a day as we went back and forth from prayers. The part of Makkah in which we stayed had a large African population, and the neighboring men often willingly came to the assistance of the group’s brothers to carry me. As at the beginning of this journey, I again felt humbled by my dependence.
When our group finally made our way to Masjid Al-Haram for umrah, reverence and awe overwhelmed all of us. Tears flowed. A small voice inside me, however, told me to dry those tears, and soon I realized why — I would need all my strength and clarity. As I approached the masjid door in my wheelchair, a custodian jumped up and blocked my way. He shouted a torrent of angry words in Arabic, and then gestured brusquely. A look of great disdain on his face, he began to make shooing motions and sounds. Hurtfully, I saw that I was being shooed away from the Haram door the way a fly would be shooed away from a banquet!
The brothers in our group stepped forward and attempted to explain the particulars of my situation, but to no avail. We were being refused entry because I was in a wheelchair! I could not believe this was happening. I thought to myself, “He’s kidding! I didn’t travel thousands of miles to be prevented from performing my rites.” But he was not kidding, and adamantly continued to refuse us entry.
I was shocked and angry. Here I was, a woman in a wheelchair, receiving the least possible compassion in Makkah, the place where I had expected the most sensitivity. I summoned the strength and determination that I had learned during my 26 years of life as a disabled person, and decided to try another door.
The guard at the next door refused us in a similar fashion. Undaunted and unbowed, we tried a third door. Again, our entry was barred. We tried a fourth and a fifth door, but were shooed away again. After being turned away from seven doors, and now a great distance from where we had begun, I began to feel disheartened. My inner voice, however, told me to hold on, pray and trust in Allah.
We decided to try one more time, this time at the doors of Safaa and Marwah. At this door sat a quiet elderly man, who looked like he was 80 years old. Not only did he allow us in, but he wrote a note in Arabic and told us, surprisingly in English, to show this note if we should have any more problems. Alhamdulillah, that note was a great blessing, and did make things much easier. (Years later, I had it translated and learned that it said that the bearer was affiliated with the Atlanta Masjid, and should she expire while making hajj, to please contact the American Embassy.)
Once admitted, the brothers with me went off to make their umrah, and I remained in the care of two hired Nigerian men. They lifted me into a large basket, hoisted me onto their heads, and trotted toward the Kaa’ba for tawaf. My exhilaration at finally performing my rites was tempered by a great fear of toppling out of this unsteady device and being trampled by the swirling crowd below! There I sat, so far away from home, and completely dependent on people I did not know, whose language I could not speak nor understand, in an unfamiliar land. At that point, I realized the interdependence of humanity. During sa’ee, relieved to be on the ground in my familiar wheelchair, I repeated my dua’aa in a stronger voice.
During the next few days, the sweltering heat caused moisture to constantly build up on my skin, which meant that my ilo-conduit pouch had to be changed twice a day instead of the usual once every seven days. I was grateful that I had brought such a large stash of medical supplies. I did, however, begin to feel the effects of my lost wheelchair cushion — the pillows I sat on provided only an inadequate substitute. Sitting in our huge tent in Mina, I poured ice water over myself trying to stay comfortable, and rested on an air mattress blown up by sisters in our group. I prayed for dhuhr, when I knew the scorching sun would begin its decline.
When I was lifted onto a bus headed for ‘Arafat, I sat in great anticipation with my two attendants and two older sisters from our group. Unfortunately, as we sat in a three-hour traffic jam, fumes from the other buses exacerbated my respiratory problems, and my seat became increasingly uncomfortable. Then, when we finally reached ‘Arafat, I could not get off the bus. The buses were parked so close together that the brothers could not carry me between them. I sat there on the bus all day, and made my prayers and my dua’aa in my seat. At first I felt annoyed, thinking that I should be making a greater sacrifice, enduring the Saudi desert heat, but eventually I realized that being allowed to remain on the air-conditioned bus was a mercy from Allah.
As we prepared to depart from ‘Arafat, my attendant and his wife left for a quick trip to the bathroom. Meanwhile, the bus driver decided it was time to leave! I was nearly in a frenzy as I begged him not to go just yet, and tried to explain that I could not walk and was waiting on my attendants to come back. Neither the bus driver nor any of the other passengers could understand me, and off we drove. All I could do was whisper desperately, “Lord, I am at Your mercy, here in the dark, driving somewhere I don’t know, with people who can’t understand me and don’t know me. The only two people on this bus I know can’t lift me. Please help me, Allah.”
At Muzdalifah, everyone got off the bus. The driver shouted and gestured to me to get off, too. I tried to make him understand that I could not walk, and would need to be carried. He could not understand, and kept shouting. I knew that the two elderly sisters with me had neither the strength nor the expertise to lift me, so the sisters did the best they could and volunteered to pick up my pebbles for me. The bus driver finally gave up and left, and I slept on the bus alone.
We arrived back in Mina the next morning. When the bus had emptied, the driver again shouted and motioned for me to exit the bus. After some time an African man seemed to understand the problem, and lifted me out of the bus and into my chair. We did not know where we were, and this man kindly pushed me around and around for some time with the two elderly sisters wandering along with us. I began to despair, feeling that we would never find our camp. I told myself, “Allah knows every grain of sand, every leaf that falls. Out of all these millions of people, I know Allah sees me.” I felt a great surge of faith, a great spiritual assurance. I mentioned to our helper that we were Americans. He turned in another direction and pushed me along for some time more, but now with direction. Finally, we rounded a corner and I saw our tent!
What an emotional reunion that was! The sisters cried and hugged us. The brothers hugged and thanked the African brother who had brought us back. Brother Ocei had been completely distraught, and was overwhelmed at my reappearance. Alhamdulillah, Allah is most great.
The next three days were wonderful. My stoning was performed by proxy for me by the brothers. We met many other pilgrims, and shared ethnic foods. During those times, my disability was a non-issue.
Back in Makkah, however, I began to suffer severe chills. Sitting on the hard bus seat for hours without medical attention had taken its toll. Someone suggested that I go to a nearby medical trailer set up for pilgrims, but when we got there, it was completely inaccessible. We decided to go to the hospital, but were greeted, again, by non-negotiable steps. The brothers decided to carry me into the hospital. There, I was examined by a congenial doctor who was thrilled to meet an American Muslim. He told me that I had a large, advanced necrosis decubitus, and that they could not treat it there as it required surgery. My condition was serious.
Our group still had four more days before we were to return home. Leaving the group and arranging a flight out was an impossibility. I realized that I would have to exert mind over matter — I could not die. I had two small sons to whom I must return to raise as Muslims. Sister Rasheedah and Sister Zainab cleaned and packed the decubitus with gauze. I prayed to Allah and begged Him to spare my life and to return me safely home.
Sheer faith and determination kept me going. I accompanied the group to Madinah, endured the long bus ride, and felt elated to feel the warm peacefulness of the Prophet’s city. We prayed in the Prophet’s Mosque with a great sense of tranquility. But when we left, I made the terrible discovery that the bag containing all of my medical supplies was missing! All of the bags had been left on a security dolly outside the mosque. My bag was the only one missing. Everyone in the group searched high and low for that bag, on other dollies, inside other bags, even in the trash. There was no sign of it; it was gone!
I returned to Makkah ill, having chills and without any medical supplies, but still filled with determination to complete my remaining rituals of hajj. This time, I learned that I could circumambulate on the top floor of the Haram. The brothers took turns pushing me, and I managed to complete my farewell tawaf.
On the shuttle to the Jeddah Airport, I endured one last difficulty. When the bus attendant placed me in a space beside the door, I quietly wheeled myself to a safer spot. The attendant came back to roughly and rudely fling me back to where he thought I should be. That area by the door was unsafe for even an able-bodied person, and certainly no place for a person in a wheelchair! With defiance born of my human dignity, I moved back into the safer place, locked my chair into position and stared the bus attendant straight in the eye. There I stayed.
Alhamdulillah, I made it safely back to Atlanta where I underwent two surgeries and remained in the hospital for eight weeks. My trip to Makkah had increased my gratitude to Allah for His loving kindness and mercy. I realized how difficult it is for disabled people who live in countries without legislation in favor of the disabled in areas of education, employment or housing. With a new appreciation for American technology and medical advances, too, I sense an obligation to share our knowledge with the rest of humanity. Insha’Allah, I pray that I might be instrumental in helping the Muslim community, both inside and outside of America, to be inclusive of everyone in the Islamic community.
Betty Hasan-Amin is a teacher and a board member of the Interfaith Disabilities Network in Atlanta.