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Open Thread Sunday 11-22-2009

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Bismillah-irRahman-irRaheem. As salamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allahi wa Barakatuhu.

posted by abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

Most of the hujjaaj — the people who have traveled to make Hajj this year — have arrived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alhamdolillah, or they will do so soon, bi’idhnillah.  This week the Hajj begins.  Pray for the hujjaaj, that they have a safe journey (zawadakumullah ut taqwa wa ghafara dhanbikum wa yassara lakumul khayra haythumaa kuntum) and that Allah accepts their Hajj.

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Maybe you have gone for Hajj or Umrah, maybe you have gone many times, or maybe you are still waiting for the chance to be one of the guests of Allah.  Share your experiences, advice, or aspirations for Hajj.  May Allah grant you, the hujjaaj, and me, the best from our prayers and better than that, what we did not know to ask for.

My advice for hujjaaj is a paraphrase of the advice that Allah gave me good fortune to hear before I stepped foot in the Haramain (the two Holy Cities).  The worst distractions in Hajj are those that seduce you into complaining or losing your temper.  You have to have a strategy for actively focusing on the good around you, a game plan for how to be patient when others have already jeopardized their Hajj with anger or frustration.  One technique is making the talbiyyah (Lubbaik…) while keeping a big smile on your face.

What advice, experience, or aspiration would you share?

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Bismillah walhamdolillah. May Allah accept my repentance and yours. I am an attorney, a stepfather, a husband, a son, and a Muslim. Studying Islam is a means, reflecting what I have learned is a must, and to Allah is the inevitable return. If you would like my help, know that Allah is the source of all aid. If you would like to contact me, try tariqnisarahmed at Gmail, LinkedIn, Twitter, or add me as a friend on Facebook.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. ironie101

    November 22, 2009 at 6:58 AM

    I wrote this for a secular nationall daily as soon as I got back from Hajj – way back in 2004. Even though I have been back for Umrah after that, I lost the ability to distance myself enough from the experience in order to write about it.

    HAJJ: A JOURNEY TO THE INTANGIBLE

    “Like locusts, they converge upon a desert land in hordes of different hues knowing not creed or clan to transcend into a unified spirituality.”

    Religion is meant to be a great unifier—it links people of varied ethnic backgrounds, across the far corners of the world to one common ideology. Islam illustrates this truth through the Hajj, a religious pilgrimage undertaken by millions of Muslims every year. People normally associate a place of pilgrimage as a sanctuary to escape in to when one loses interest in the world. Little did I know this escape would radically alter my life and enlighten me about what Islam truly stands for.

    9th of January, 2004, 2 AM, I stood before the Grand Mosque in Mecca, awaiting my chance to glance at the House of God for the very first time. Crowds of people were milling about-some kneeling in prayer, some talking animatedly, some simply stretched out on the white marble trying to rest awhile. Head bowed, we were led into the mosque and in front of the ancient Ka’aba a simple black cube of stone sheathed in black cloth embroidered with verses from the Quran. How one spontaneously bursts into tears at the sight of this simple structure is inexplicable to say the least. Still reeling from my emotional outburst, I set off to perform the Tawaf, which is the circumambulation of the Ka’aba seven times. People clung to its stone walls and wailed, others spoke in native tongues their palms facing upwards, and groups of elderly Turkish pilgrims clung to each other in fear of being lost. Dreamlike, I wafted around the ancient house coming to realize all that it stands for; it is a great sanctuary, the sole point of reference in a faith that disallowed symbols, the constant towards which millions of faithful turned towards five times a day.

    The city of Medina with date palms dotting the ochre desert sand and naked mountains standing around it like sentinels, is the city of Prophet Mohammed. Neither grass grows here nor do rivers flow, yet it is exceptionally beautiful. The Prophet’s Mosque forms the centre of the city and all roads lead to it. Clad in pale pink and grey granite with its towering gold-capped minarets, a lone green onion dome and numerous shallow sliding domes, the mosque is the grandest in the world.

    The visit to the Prophet’s tomb is best described as an overwhelming experience. It is not carried out to worship him, but to celebrate his role as the messenger of God. As I stood outside the sanctuary or the Rawda, waiting to be granted audience with the Prophet, I was approached by an old Egyptian woman. She made pleading gestures with both hands and I gathered that she wanted to go inside with me. The large crowd of people would make it impossible for a frail old woman to go inside without company. As people scrambled to enter, I held onto my adopted grandmother and carefully steered her inside. I was suddenly pushed against a column, one hand desperately holding onto her. I dislodged myself from the column as people continued moving and we advanced further to the place from where we offered salutations to the Prophet and prayed for peace and blessings to be showered upon him. My adopted grandmother stood guard for me preventing people from falling over me as I prayed, as I did for her. A few more exhilarated moments later, we were outside the Rawda, and as I turned to go, she kissed both my hands and there were tears streaming down her cheeks. With my feeble knowledge of Arabic, I understood she was calling me her daughter and that she would pray for my well-being and happiness. Hugging me she bid me farewell, and I was truly touched at the powerful reaction a simple gesture evoked in another person. I met an Iranian diplomat, a scholar and energetic university students who gave me the truth of life under the strict theocracy. They expressed the freedoms they enjoyed as women under the regime and not one need for grievance. I was shocked at how extreme the world view of Iran was from picture that Western media paints. Leaving Medina behind felt like foraying into the unknown from a hometown. The sense of attachment fostered over ten days tugged at my heart prompting me never to leave.

    The Hajj itself began with the donning of the ihram, which comprises of two unstitched pieces of white cloth for men and long flowing robes with only the face and hands visible for women. This denotes a state of purity and simplicity. From a place called Aziziyah on the outskirts of Mecca, we proceeded to the tent city of Mina which was the vision of an advanced refugee camp, with row after row of white air-conditioned tents to accommodate all the 2.8 million pilgrims. There were common toilets inside to be shared by a number of tents. This kind of system fostered a sense of tolerance and patience towards our fellow pilgrims.

    On the 8th day of the Dul Hijjah month of the Islamic lunar calendar, we proceed from Mina to the bare plains of Arafat to spend the night there. Set up on the ground were simple tents offering only overhead protection. On the bare desert plains we slept, a community of believers ready to endure any hardship to obey the orders of our God. We were up long before dawn broke to fulfil the duties of the most important day of the Hajj– the day of Arafat. The significance of Arafat is that it is a recreation of the Day of Judgement where all of humanity would stand and beg of forgiveness from their Lord. It is said the sun never shines on any day like it does on the day of Arafat and truly enough, the heat on that day sent needles through my skin. I was oblivious to the heat and the possible danger of dehydration; sobbing uncontrollably like a child, I slowly blacked out and fell to the ground. Regaining consciousness, I relapsed into a bout of tears as my entire life flashed past my eyes. The plain around me and the hill on top of Mount Arafat called Jabal-e-Rahmah (Hill of Mercy) was covered entirely with the white of the pilgrims as helicopters circled above to ensure safety of the pilgrims.

    At sunset, the entire lot of pilgrims set off from Arafat to Muzdalifah. As I sat inside a rickety bus for hours, I could not help but be awestruck by the sight of the millions of pilgrims making their way in every conceivable form of transport—battered SUVs, vans, jeeps and buses of various sizes. People were everywhere—on top of vehicles, walking beside them, inside, hanging onto footboards and ladders.
    Muzdalifah was plain rocky surface sans tents or any form of shelter. From 5-star comforts at Mecca to air-conditioned tents in Mina to plain tents in Arafat to open road in Muzdalifah, we had come a long way. From Muzdalifah we proceeded to Mina the next morning from where the ritual of the stoning of the Satan could take place. Tragedy struck as it does every year as 250 pilgrims were stampeded to death during the stoning ritual. The Hajj finally culminated in the sacrificing of an animal, and I could then proudly call myself a Haji.

    I found myself devastated at the notion of leaving this land to my own world of familiarity; I was unable to tear myself away from the ancient house and the magical land that had housed me for the past month. Never have I experienced such humility, generosity and the overwhelming spirit of unity that I experienced amongst people I am so vastly different from. This birthplace of Islam truly renews and refreshes the faith of millions every year. As I saw people from the poorest of countries bent and broken-toothed having saved up their entire lives for this one trip, I realized how fortunate I was to have made the dream journey at 20. I saw millionaires and paupers, old and young, black, white and yellow share meals and praying shoulder to shoulder, bringing once again to the fray the unifying and equalising nature of faith. Crowded and noisy, but intensely alive and the most exhilarating experience of my life– that would sum up rather inadequately my experience of the Hajj.

  2. maryam

    November 22, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    assalmualykum

    the ancient Ka’aba a simple black cube of stone sheathed in black cloth embroidered with verses from the Quran. How one spontaneously bursts into tears at the sight of this simple structure is inexplicable to say the least. Still reeling from my emotional outburst,

    subhanllah!
    sister ur article brought tears to my eyes.
    i hav not been to the blessed land

  3. Sabeen

    November 22, 2009 at 9:59 PM

    The scented breezes of Mecca and Madinah…the Azan that sears the heart as it sears the sky and the pulsating multitudes of the believers…ahh…the heart longs for these. Indeed the Hajj is both an uplifting as well as an excruciating experience. There are two facets to the entire experience of Hajj and the visit to Madinah. One is serene and beautiful and the other is violent and disturbing.
    The sight of the Kaaba carried on the flood of the believers is enough to move any eye to tears. Those that weep with the love of Allah are of varied hues, ages and garbs, yet their Labbayk comes from the heart and pours forth in the never ending Tawaf. Mecca still reflects in its essence a sense of struggle. While there, one seems to be continuously on the move. The desire to pray closer to the Kaaba drives people to go earlier and earlier for the Salah. To pray Fajar in the Mataf you must find your place by three in the morning. The stream of believers pours down the streets of Mecca twenty-four hours of the day heading as if to the center of their souls in search of their Lord.
    The great crowd of people drove us to the roof of the mosque. Nothing in the world compares to the experience of praying Fajar or Isha on that blessed roof. The wind blows gently as the muezzin’s call reaches the crevices of the mountains of Mecca. All of creation seems to hold its breath and the very air resonates with the love of its Lord. Blessed indeed have we been to have lived through it. The memory of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.), Abu Bakr, Umar, Bilal, Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with them all) flashes before the eyes. The recitation of Sudais is like a healing to the hearts, something to carry with you when you go back to the struggles of the outside world.
    Medinah is like a balm to the soul. You are still going to the mosque five times, but the exertions of the Tawaf are taken away. The city still greets you as it greeted the Messenger of Allah (s.a.) and his companion—with open hearts. It encloses you in its breast and soothes the weary and succors the soul. The voices are muted here, the steps are softer and the people gentle and polite. The shutras (or gaurds) reflect this amazing distinction. They are petite and young, in contrast to the older more stern ladies of Mecca. You feel a special love for the city that sheltered the Messenger and its people still uphold the tradition dear and act like Ansari of Rasullallah. Madinah is also the city of the multi-lingual shopkeeper. They all speak at least six to seven languages and can effectively communicate with almost anyone.
    Our trip took us to Mecca, then Madinah and then back to Mina for the Hajj. Whatever spiritual capital you have collected in the preceding days is truly going to be put to use now. May Allah take everyone on this blessed journey and may He accept all our ibadah, but when you purchase your Hajj package remember that Allah has also selected a package for you and it may not be the five-star, special one you paid for. It is He who decides whose company you shall keep in these crucial days, exactly which bed you will sleep in, and which bathrooms you will visit, how many hours will be in the bus and how many on foot. The stress will build to a crescendo of complaints, arguments, delays and illnesses and the very caliber of your soul will be tested. I strongly suggest you write down the following verse from the Quran, memorize it and repeat it continuously:
    “…….. Let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj ….” (2:197)
    It is sad indeed to watch people complete the physical acts of Hajj while bankrupting its soul. Before anyone leaves for this trip, they should receive training in maintaining and perfecting Sabr. It is indeed the most essential item you can take with for the Hajj. I have watched with disbelief as Hajjis threaten to kill each other and women curse in a manner best left unsaid. May Allah be pleased with the Shaykh who came to our mosque to give a lecture on Hajj and spoke of nothing but Sabr for one and a half-hour.
    The journey of Hajj never really ends—not with Arafat, not with the stoning of the Jamarat or the stay in Mina. Allah made the last fard act of the Hajj the Tawaf of the Kaaba. As one goes round the Kaabah it brings home the fact that this tawaf also never ends. We may be thousands of miles from this sacred house and our beloved Prophet, but our life should be an endless Tawaf made in the love of Allah and on the footsteps of the Sunnah of Rasulallah.

  4. Umm Kamal

    November 24, 2009 at 11:02 AM

    Thank you for sharing, I have not made hajj, but this article make me want to go next year Insha Allah.
    May Allah SWT accept all our ibadah amin

  5. awww shucks..

    November 25, 2009 at 7:54 PM

    why doesn’t this cause as much horror..?
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/11/neighbors-shocked-by-finding-of-human-remains-in-back-yard.html
    …hmmm…isn’t as interesting as a ‘mozlem’ dad forcing his girls to cover up?

  6. Pingback: Open Thread Sunday 11-22-2009 | MuslimMatters.org | About Egypt | Egypt Travel Portal | Your guide to Egypt

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