“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.” (Surah al Maa’idah 5:3)
Before leaving for Hajj so much preparation is done, but really all of the preparation is to make your journey as comfortable as possible but in this day and age we are so fortunate that so many things have been invented with the Hajj journey in mind. It really does make you think about the journey that would have taken place in the past and really appreciate the comforts we have now, these almost certainly didn’t exist before.
This part of the journey has taken me five years to write because it is so personal and I am not entirely sure how much of it I wanted to share. I remember the night before Hajj laying in the apartment and the most surreal things kept happening. We kept noticing things go missing and then reappear exactly where we originally looked, we all kept thinking we can hear someone calling our name and when we would respond you would discover no one did. This happened a lot while we were doing dhikr. We were informed that this is part of the Hajj process. After all we will be completing Hajj by symbolically pelting shaitaan in Jamarah. Don’t let him distract you from your main goal, after all it is just showing the fear he has of you being amongst those whom Allah has chosen to forgive of all sins from past and present. Insha’Allah.
The morning of the Day of Arafah arrived and we were told that we could be requested to leave for Mina any time from 1am to after Fajr, we just wait when the call comes we will have to prepare and leave. We spent the day preparing our bags for the things we will need during the different stages in Mina, Arafah and Muzdalifah and by night rested waiting for the call to begin the biggest journey of our life. Morning dawned and we became a little anxious at this point half the group had already left, we heard that the tent that was originally assigned to us had been occupied by a group (they had read their map wrong) so therefore the group that had left earlier had to reverse the map and we claimed the tents that belonged to the other group. This worked out in our favour as subhan’Allah the tents we had were really long and spacious, there is good in everything with a bit of patience and understanding I guess. Alhumdullilah.
We left after Fajr to get to Mina, alhumdullilah discovering leaving for Mina after Fajr was in fact a Sunnah of our Prophet peace be upon him. At this point we had begun to recite
Labbaik Allah humma labbaik, Labbaik la sharika laka labbaik, Innal hamda, Wan-ni’mata, Laka walmulk, Laa sharika lak.
O my Lord, here I am at Your service, here I am. There is no partner with You, here I am.
Truly the praise and the provisions are Yours, and so is the dominion and sovereignty. There is no partner with You.
I kept reminding myself to continue reading Labbaik under breadth. Keep doing dhikr and using the time I have wisely.
One thing I quickly discovered was how terrible the toilets were, cleanliness is really subjective (putting it politely) and the most embarrassing thing the men’s toilets were far cleaner than the women’s. I didn’t expect this so early on in the trip but I was warned it is part of the sabr you need to exercise. I was so glad I had invested in crocs for the journey, great for keeping your feet clean, comfy, cool and the perfect wudhu mate, as they have holes you fill it up with water wash your feet on the croc and away you go, no awkward falling over and trying to avoid the grates that suddenly become very dirty. (Tip: As a lady, you have the benefit of wearing whichever footwear you want – get some crocs you won’t regret it, they may not look cool but your feet will love you!)
The Day of Arafah began with Fajr in Mina, packing our sleeping bags into our backpacks ready for a day and night away as the coaches arrived to take us to Arafah. As we reached our destination, we discovered our allocated tent had been occupied exactly like Mina and we then proceeded to find tents as close as possible we found three, one the men went into, one the ladies huddled together in and another for the ladies with wheelchairs. I had been to Bin Dawood (supermarket in Saudi Arabia) and invested in a white brolly in the run up to the Day of Arafah and made the firm intention today I would spend the day under the umbrella avoiding distraction praying all the wazifa’s (reciting and meditating in Allah’s name) as much as possible and making dua’a (the umbrella was a great idea it helped keep the heat off and helped me seclude myself in order to concentrate – the whispering distractions still had not stopped at this point). Before I forget another tip: Every tent has a water drum with the coolest water ever, drinking this water will give you a sore throat and eventually due to being in close proximity to so many different people you are likely to fall ill, dose up on vitamins, because you will be so hot that although I would love to say don’t drink it, I know you won’t be able to resist.
What you are used to imagining when talking about Arafah is the Jabal al Rahma (Mountain of Mercy) with many people looking like ants scaling the whole mountain, while many do make their way to climb the mountain, there is also many tents in the surrounding areas where many Hujjaaj spend their time on this day. It is not worth spending your time navigating to the mountain as ibadah is the most important on this day.
As Asr salah dawned everyone made their way out the tent and raised their hands staring to the heavens to make dua’a, with tears streaming down faces and hands shaking asking for whatever hearts desired, the intense power of the joint dua’a by what was rumoured 6-8 million people was truly amazing and you could feel the bond of souls in that moment, regardless of race, creed, nationality, wealth and all the differences you can think of, it was a united moment of pure supplication and praise of our lord. Subhan’Allah as Maghrib dawned the feeling of the biggest day of Hajj leaving us was extremely emotional and sad.
On a lighter note, I can’t forget to mention the biryani that arrived for us as we prayed, we all had plates of biryani handed to us and I can honestly say it was the best biryani we had all tasted, I would say it was on par with my nani’s but that is me being biased. It was truly amazing Masha’Allah.
While on the plains of Arafah I decided to make an intention of trying to keep my hijab on when I return, I had worn and removed it a few times in the past, struggling to keep it on as a permanent part of me, I made the intention and subhan’Allah I am still wearing it five years later.
The excitement of the next leg of the journey took over, we were heading to Muzdalifah to spend the night and I had heard that this night in Muzdalifah equals the best sleep you have ever had in your life. Little did I realise awaiting us was our biggest test of our Hajj so far.
When you go Hajj, you will learn that you pray certain salah in certain parts of your journey, part of this is praying Maghrib and Esha salah joint in Muzdalifah once you have reached, just remember this point as I continue, as the day drew to a close and night came, tent by tent left the plains of Arafah for Muzdalifah as per the order the authorities of Hajj had allocation. The wait began and we continued to recite Labbaik as we waited, sabr is a key factor as part of your Hajj no matter what trials are placed on you, the whole journey is about discipline as much as it is about spiritual enlightenment. A few hours went by and Arafah began to empty and sadly a lot of rubbish was left behind and mosquitos began to arrive, at this point it was midnight and we had been there for many hours waiting to leave, we looked up and could see the moon through cracks in the tents as we continued to pray, sleep and rest as much as possible while anticipating our next destination.
Time began to tick on and couple more hours had passed and it was now nearly 1.30am and we had still not left for Muzdalifah, this started to create some panic between those who were left as we had to still pray Maghrib and Esha before Fajr which was 4am and collect stones and try get some sleep. It did become a test towards the end as the conditions in Arafah began to become difficult and very dark by night. We still continued to wait patiently, at this point we were told the next coach was for us, we moved up to the barriers to catch the coach, at this point there were more people than places in the coach and the tension was mounting and impatience had grown, the atmosphere became intense. Still trying to keep calm as possible we continued to wait, we tried to work out how we would get everyone onto the coach as we had three wheelchairs to contend with and elderly to ensure they got on coach safely. As the coach pulled up and we prepared the wheelchairs to take up the steps and help my grandma’s up, a sudden surge from behind caught us by surprise and I got jolted forward by the weight of the crowd, as the men tried to calm the group I remember using the bus as leverage to push back to avoid being crushed against the bus but even worse crushing my grandma’s who were still in the process of climbing up the stairs, lots of screaming and shouting began around with a sense of panic and dread, there were many stories of people being crushed at different stages of the Hajj pilgrimage where impatience took hold. All I remember is creating the way for my grandmas to get on board while taking the brunt of weight onto my backpack and then being able to break free enough to jump on just in time, as the doors closed.
This cued frantic shouting by my own family and many other families to ensure everyone was on board, my mum in a panic was looking for my 12-year-old brother, as the coach drove off, I spotted my father and two brothers outside who had missed the coach and been left behind, I reassured my mum that he was okay and with my father as we started a very squashed journey to Muzdalifah that left many of us in the group a little stressed. Still wondering how they would find us when we reached Muzdalifah we arrived and began to find a spot to camp, this proved to be very difficult as we arrive so late many places were already taken and it took us a while to find a resting place, with wheelchairs and elderly this was not easy, but Alhumdulillah we managed and it wasn’t a worry because my father, brothers and the others who got left behind found us and joined the group. We quickly scrambled to lay our prayer mats and pray Maghrib and Esha and once the rest of the men had caught up with the group the men prayed in congregation.
We than began to collect our stones for pelting, I had three to four lots to collect for my grandma’s as well as my own. This became a scramble walking around amongst people sleeping who had already taken their slumber for the evening, we moved towards the Mountains and began collecting. (Tip: Have a bottle which is about quarter full of water with you, collect your stones into this bottle and then shake them into the water as what you may feel are stones may turn out to be some rubble, this way you can count and collect any remaining to ensure you have the correct amount, a torch is helpful at this point to, help you see as you collect and count). Just about finished collecting at 3am and we lay our sleeping bags and huddle together in the small space and went to sleep. I won’t deny it was the best sleep I have ever had, the one hour sleep was like we had slept days and the deepest sleep I have ever had, sleeping under the stars was beautiful. As dawn broke we woke up did wudhu and prayed Fajr, and began our journey back to Mina. We were the last to leave and were asked would you like the coach or to walk the 5km, at this point after the journey we had in the evening we decided to join the procession of people and walk the 5km. This was an amazing walk bumping into people of all cultures from all walks of life and flags lining the walk from all different countries around the world.
We pushed the wheelchairs in turn and continued our Labbaik as we headed back to our tent in Mina, enroute I was tapped on shoulder by African lady dressed in white from head to toe she gestured if I had stones, I nodded and thought the poor lady had not collected enough and needed some, I took the bottle out of my backpack and proceeded to count out the 7 stones she had requested into my palm and held my palm out to the lady to take, she then closed my palm with the palm of her hand and intently looked me in the eye and said you ensure you pelt shaitaan hard, make sure you make it count and ensure you get him. Although very little was said the gesture alone spoke volumes, shivers ran through my spine I nodded emotionally and walked away, knowing deep down that symbolic gesture was going to be way more for me and an anger brewed, knowing deep down why the gesture was so significant for me and how much trouble I had faced on the journey (sorry this is the part I will keep to myself) let’s just say shaitaan definitely needed a good pelting at this point.
We continued to our tent and took rest for a few hours before we left to pelt the big Jamarah, we left just before Maghrib to do the pelting after being advised things would be a little calmer, we descended to join the people heading up through the tunnels, the prayer of Labbaik grew louder and louder.
As we got to the big Jamarah the walk was incredibly difficult, but what was worse was looking over the flyover footpath and seeing absolutely litter everywhere you looked. People camping as close to the Jamarah as possible in order to avoid having to do the daily walk from the tents in Mina. This was difficult to see and there was rubbish everywhere.
Once we reached the Jamarah I felt a rush of anger go into me and I ensured I did pelt the shaitaan using every ounce of spiritual energy I had. I then turned in the direction of the Kaaba and made dua’a. There are many times where you can hold your hands up and ask your lord, use the time wisely.
At this point my nani had fallen significantly ill and we were concerned about her, the rest of the pelting’s for the next few days were done by the family on their behalf.
The ritual re-enacts Ibrahim’s (as) pilgrimage to Mecca as explained by the Muslim historian al-Azraqi:
When he [Abraham] left Mina and was brought down to (the defile called) al-Aqaba, the Devil appeared to him at Stone-Heap of the Defile. Gabriel said to him: “Pelt him!” so Abraham threw seven stones at him so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Middle Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: “Pelt him!” so he pelted him with seven stones so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Little Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: “Pelt him!” so he pelted him with seven stones like the little stones for throwing with a sling. So, the Devil withdrew from him.
All three jamarah represent the devil: the first and largest represents his temptation of Ibrahim (as) against sacrificing Ismail (as); the second represents the temptation of Ibrahim’s (as) wife Hajar to induce her to stop him; the third represents his temptation of Ishmael to avoid being sacrificed. He was rebuked each time, and the throwing of the stones symbolizes those rebukes.
The day of Tawaf of Ziyarah came, this is compulsory for you to complete and all the Hujjaajj make the Ziyarah to the Kaaba from Mina to perform the tawaf to complete the Hajj. This tawaf was one of the most difficult tawafs we had to perform, as many of the Hujjaaj are in the haram all at the same time, every floor was full with people completing tawaf and with wheelchairs this tawaf proved to be difficult. On this occasion, I went ahead and as it got busier I clung on to a lady in our group as we went around, when I had completed the tawaf I waited for the rest of the family to finish in order to make our way back to the apartments. My father had gone with the group leaders to witness the qurbani’s and we were waiting for word from them to let us know it is complete and we are able to cut our hair and come out of the state of ehram. Due to the wisdom of the group leaders they had advised us to do a nafl tawaf and do the sa’ee for our tawaf of Ziyarah before we started our Hajj journey, this was due to the wheelchairs and elderly we had in the group. This really did help us as we only had to complete the tawafs when the haram was at its busiest.
This is the point I managed to get a wheelchair stolen! – in the Haram you’re thinking – YES! It was stolen in the haram, I had to take my grandma back against the tawaf to complete her two raqah after completing her tawafs which was going to prove difficult with a wheelchair so I walked her back thinking we can leave it for two min and it will be back when we returned, by then it was taken and gone.
As we all completed the tawaf we headed out to find a taxi, this proved to be even more difficult at this point we lost another wheelchair, it was so warm the wheel melted and we had to abandon the wheelchair. We then just about managed to find a taxi that would take us back, we decided to head to the apartment, we had received the call that we can now come out of ehram as qurbani is complete. As the car headed back, the traffic jam was absolutely crazy, we got close enough to the apartment after nearly hour of sitting in car, paid the driver a hefty amount for a short journey and decided to walk the remaining distance. There was rubbish littered across the street so we were stepping in and out to avoid at which point I was deceived by the rubbish on floor and as I put my foot down it landed on a bottle which led me to roll back and land on my back under a truck practically. I was surrounded by people at this point with concerned looks, it did hurt my back a little unfortunately but the journey had to continue, so up I got with a clumsy laugh and continued to the apartment.
Coming out of ehram and being able to shower refreshed everyone and we were very fortunate to be able to do that in the apartments rather than in Mina at which point the shower area had become increasingly disgusting. We all changed and headed back to Mina and prepared for pelting all three jamarat thereafter. At this point I started to get super ill, the cold water and being in middle of big crowds of people had begun to take its toll, but Hajj by this point was complete.
I can honestly say it was the most beautiful, difficult, spiritually awakening journey that instilled discipline, the love of deen and a new sense of appreciation for the Eid al-Adha. It is a journey that leaves you with tears, laughter and a zeal for the hereafter.
The Hajj group you go with will always leave a special bond and part of the journey is discovering the stories behind all the other people in the group, in our case was a mix of elderly, young couples, parents who had left their children behind, pregnant woman, mother and son, you never forget your Hajj group they remain people you have bonded with for life.
May Allah answer the Labbaik of those who sincerely want to go. Ameen.
I will look at writing a blog about Madinah and Ziyarah in Makkah at some point in the future inshaAllah…