April - June 2003, Hajj

My Hajj Experience

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?