Hajj (Part 3)

Hajj (Part 1)

Hajj (Part 2)

::: Still on Day 3: (8th Dhul-hijja, 25/11/09)

Preparing for Arafa:

You know those huge strawberry farms in Europe, where you’re given a basket and have limited hours to collect as much strawberries as you can? That’s Arafa for you, a Du’aa farm. You have 5 hours to spend solely on Du’a in a blessed day, for Arafa is the greatest day the sun has risen on! It’s the day Allah shows off His servants in front of His Angels!

Is that it? A day spent on Du’a? Eeezy Peezy… ? Believe you me, it’s not even close to easy for Arafa is only enjoyed if your spiritual buds are fully awakened!

The day before was spent preparing for the blessed day of Arafa. Remember we need to fill our baskets with Dua’s – the more Dua’s, the better!  I have to stop for a minute to sincerely thank Sheikh Khalfan Al-Esry, for the fine guidance he provided. The channels in which he gave his lectures were simple, easy to follow and creative in every sense. Not once did any of us listeners feel that we were on a different wavelength!

 “Al-Salamu Alaikum Hajjies, we’ve got to prepare our shopping list for Arafa, are you ready? Pens and papers out?” We all sat listening, taking notes and listing down our shopping list for the holy day ahead. Shopping list is what I’ll pray for during those sacred five hours, during which no Du’a is returned Inshallah. I’ll let you peek into my shopping list:

1)Du’a for spiritual connection, for Allah to guide me and qualify me for His acceptance. Also, to purify my intentions and commitments towards pleasing my ONLY savior.

2)Du’a for my bodily organs and all their actions; health, emotions, thoughts.

3)Du’a for family and friends (I did include you my dear blog readers, even you “silent readers”). Plus, everyone who entrusted me with their Du’a.  I had a huge list of names, people I know (and knew) from all walks of life, family from my great grandparents down to my 3rd cousin and beyond. I also had names of school friends, college friends, work friends. You get the picture? Everyone I had the pleasure of knowing! 

4)Du’a for mental growth and wisdom

5)Du’a for financial growth and independence, involving clean and pure earnings.

6)Du’a for the use of gifted skills and talents lawfully

7)Du’a for guidance in social contribution, to help this Ummah in any way!

8)Du’a for lawful leisure and pleasure

9)Others.. With the help of Du’a books and whatever I remembered or thought of.

10)Wrap whatever I pray for with immense thanking, affirming my wrongdoings, repentance of sins and prayers for acceptance! 

It was still raining, raining continually and heavily. We received warnings through SMS from the Saudi government, informing us of the forecast and asking Hajjis to be cautious as flooding may occur. For a minute I honestly feared for my safety and the safety of this whole journey. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Well, flooding could wash us 3.5 million away! The worst is that I may be facing death here. Then I realized, what more could I ask for? Dying in the holy land. In a holy journey. During Hajj. Sounds too perfect a death, don’t you think? Something I’m sure every Muslim would beg for! You know, my dear reader: Hajj frees you from the shackles of life. Your focus is shifted to the hereafter. This life becomes minute, you do not give it much attention!

Death was the least of my concerns (I wish I could bring back that spirit now!). Although and logically of course, some of us had an emergency evacuation plan, just in case!

::: Day 4: (9th Dhul-hijja, 26/11/09)

Solitude in Arafa:

At 4.00 am early morning, buses drove to Arafa. Carrying in them, people from all walks of life, targeting Du’a and only Du’a, people with pure hearts and compromised physical statuses. Remember we had not washed with scented products or washed nor combed our hairs for 3 days! Men, are still barely covered with Ihram wear.

Destination reached at 5.30 a.m. We are now in ARAFA! Prayed Fajr, had some snacks, then recharged our exhausted bodies with a nap until 9.00 a.m. The blessed time starts from Mid-day until dusk! We waited impatiently for the call of Dhuhr prayer. We all made sure we were on Wudhu the whole time.

As the beautiful sound of Athan filled the entire region, echoing back and forth in our ears, we knew time has finally come. Sheikh called for Jama’a prayers. We all prayed in unity, men in front, ladies at the back. Then, Sheikh deafened our ears to anything but his voice in an emotional Du’a, it was magical in every sense. This prayer may have been the best prayer I had ever had, for one, I swear to God there were no dry eyes around. Hearts were massaged, blood was cleansed with that specific prayer. In fact, by the time we finished, we had not realized that we had been standing on our feet for little over an hour without feeling tired. This prayer has left unforgettable memories of Arafa. His voice and the words he chose still dance in my ears during Du’a at times of despair.

There onwards, it was complete solitude. No one engaged with no one but himself. Everyone connected to the Divine Power in his very own way. It was as if we wore a sign that said “No interruptions please, I am with my Master, I am with The Lord of The Land”! Spectacular scene… but not easy! Remember, I’m still with my sister and friends for 5 hours, each one of us minding her own business. It’s practically impossible (being among a group of women particularly ;)) but WE DID IT. All talks or chit chats if any, were to share Du’a books or to ask technical/religious questions!

….. and we prayed, prayed and prayed. Our hearts spoke before our tongues..

— 

(Part 4: Muzdalifa, and Eid without the make-up – what was it like?)

Hajj (Part 2)

Click for Hajj: Part (1)

::: Day 2: (7th Dhul-hijja, 24/11/09) 

 -> To Mina

We spent the previous night in Jeddah. In the afternoon, as we left the 5* star hotel in Jeddah, we bid this transient life farewell, kissed luxury goodbye and welcomed the eternal life as we headed to the camp in Mina. In the bus, the Talbiyah chanting continues. It’s just mesmerizing to the eyes and pleasing to the ears to see and hear everyone chant in unity praising the Lord. Everyone was busy preparing in his own way for the journey ahead.

Remember: Hajj is like a miniature performance of a bigger event yet to come, it’s a replica of Judgment day. As we head to our camp in Mina with our Ihram (dressed in the simplest of wear) we remind ourselves of the day we say good-bye to our luxurious life, carried to our graves, in very simple wear, heading to a camp of deceased others. Each to his own grave! It was alarmingly scary to live your death while you’re wide awake!

We arrived Mina at night. We were allocated tents, grabbed our bags, knew where our beds were, had dinner and slept!  

The camp was beautiful, spacious, well-organized, clean and neat (the Manager of our Hajj group is a FEMALE! – hence the outstanding service ;)). Everyone in our group was outstanding, they were all very cooperative, supportive and understanding!

Mina is a reminder of our graves, remember we’re still in our Ihram (simple wear), sleeping in groups, mattreses distributed like graves in a graveyard. We are allocated limited space, with all our belongings far far away (at home)! Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said: “your grave could be a meadow of heaven or a hole of hell fire”. I kept reminding myself: “Today, my money got me to this meadow (in comparison to other Mina camps), tomorrow only my deeds will decide where I end up”!

 

::: Day 3: (8th Dhul-hijja, 25/11/09)

A day in Mina

If you ask anyone about sleep-time patterns in Hajj, they’ll say “we barely slept”. It is exactly that. When we’re there, we only sleep when it is necessary! You think there isn’t time? Wrong. In fact there is so much time, you’re actually tempted to sleep because you spend a portion of the night in prayers. We don’t sleep because time there is a huge investment, it is our only investment and how we spend it counts. We want to maximize our time in Dua’a, Quran, prayers and also listening to lectures and advices by our Sheikh. At times I would sit in isolation, sometimes savoring every moment. Sometimes contemplating. Sometimes thinking of life, and how indulged are we in life!

Clouds started forming, a cold breeze brushed our bodies, it was obvious rain was on its way! We were listening to a lecture when we heard loud noises of what seemed like rain, we started cheering and saying “Subhan Allah”, some were ready to get up and stand before Allah, for Du’a during rain is thought to be mustajab (accepted), well… until the luscious smell of popcorn filled the place, YES it wasn’t rain, it was a popcorn machine! We rolled on the floor laughing 😀

It wasn’t long after this incident that it actually started raining hard with flooding in some parts of the country. Our tents started leaking; it was chaotic in a very nice way! Now we all stood up, in isolation, our faces facing our palms and immersed in our prayers! Our thoughts and prayers went to those with no camps sleeping on the streets with their children. It was such a sad scene, but thought-provoking, you start appreciating every tiny blessing you have over those poor people. What are we without the blessings of Allah? What are we?

——

Part (3) is next: experiencing Arafa. Prophet Mohammed says “Hajj is Arafa”

Hajj (Part 1)

I seem to have lost my pen in Makkah because blogwise, I was stuck. My words flew to no destination; they were just floating around my head. Nadia being the supportive friend that she always is, tried hard (VERY hard!) to help me find my pen again. I really appreciate it and think she has extraordinary levels of patience and determination, believe you me, this lady is unbreakable! It did pay off however, her constant nag and support inspired me, I’m very grateful 🙂

Back to the long-awaited Hajj post. During the past couple of months, I was trying to take you on a pen sketch journey, to drift back to the days in Mina, Arafa and Mekkah and obviously I couldn’t. I wrote a bit, but was jammed in the very first few paragraphs; only to conclude that you literally cannot go back to Hajj in words when the spirit is missing!

The experience is MAGICAL, in fact, many of those who went with me to Hajj this year, including my sister, came back with depression like symptoms. One of them said “It was just like I went to have a taste of heaven and then suddenly dropped back to reality”. It is exactly that. You’re transferred in time, in place, in lifestyle; you’re practically living in a different era.

The dynamics of life in Hajj differed very much than how it has ever been before anywhere in the world. Spirituality is amplified in manner and form: Simplicity, Oneness, Trueness!
Hajj, the rituals and the journey are all miniatures of a bigger scene yet to come, it is a replica of Judgment Day! I have been writing little thoughts and notes as we went along. I know I cannot make you live the moment, I can only try to reach your imagination to re-live some of the experiences that touched me.

I among around 3.5 million others have answered the call this year! From the east and the west, the north and the south, from the richest to the poorest, from the king to the slave, we all have been blessed and honored to be the selected guests of Al-Rahman! We are due to meet in the specified land of Allah, to cover with the same clothes, to perform the same rituals, to eat from the same source and to avoid the same things. During these coming days, only righteousness counts and only faith matters. No wealth or power can get you special discounts or exemptions!

There were so many anticipations, fears, expectations about this sacred journey by each one of us 3.5 million. For all we know, we are embarking on the journey of a lifetime, aiming to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam. In this journey, we are all ONE in faith, pleasing the ONE creator!
Of course each person goes with certain objectives; I personally had an open mind when I first planned to perform hajj. However, my mission started to get clearer as the day of travel approached. I knew I was there to thank Allah for His endless bounties, to seek guidance and forgiveness, to make Du’a on certain matters for myself and my loved ones. I also wanted to seize the opportunity to reflect on my life holistically, and truly connect with Allah.

 

Day 1: Take-off (6th Dhul-hijja, 23/11/09)
::: 6.00 am, Airport. The journey of a lifetime is starting…

Packing for this trip has been very different. You do not pack clothes as much as you pack emotions, spirituality and family/friends’ acceptance and forgiveness. Most importantly, you pack honest repentance from all wrong doings, those you know, and those you don’t. The clothes you take are the simplest you have. All accessories are left home, for this trip; they’re of absolute no use.

The spirits of Hajj are born when we wash for Ihram and thereafter, you are now physically clean and ready for the journey ahead. Your mouth should not utter but clean pure words, your eyes should only indulge in lawful sights! During Ihram, you should not shed any hair or skin purposely and the use of scented products is not allowed. Men are to wear a big white cloth (towel like) that barely covers the body, women are to wear anything that attracts no attention (like accessories and such). Wait..does this remind you of anything? Resurrection, Rebirth. When we’re all awaken from our prolonged sleep, to face judgment, when all materialistic possessions become of no value. You’re just there, on whatever you were buried with; barely covered.

Remember: at this point of time, from almost 80 people, I know no one apart from my husband, my sister and her husband, and a handful of relatives. The rest are strangers that I will live with in a confined space for the coming week.

At the airport, you could see everyone’s excitement, eyes filled with fear, people bidding farewell, others crying. I have never seen this amount of excitement and havoc at the airport during any of my travels. For one thing, we go to this journey, ready to leave everyone behind, we leave and we don’t know if we will ever come back.

The plane takes off, and we start chanting…

::: Talbiyah (Labayka Allahuma Labayk)
“Here I am. O Allah. Here I am. Here I am. You have no partner, here I am. Surely all praise, favour and authority belong to you. You have no partner”.

 

To be continued…

Going for Hajj

I long to glitter my eyes with your sight, I long to stand on your pure soil. I long for the shiver, I long for the tears. Mecca, to you INSHALLAH I am on my way!

Dear readers,

I will Inshallah soon be travelling to Makkah to complete an important part of my religion. I would like to humbly ask you all for forgiveness if I have wronged you in any way and also ask for your kind prayers that my Hajj will be accepted by our Gracious God. I would also like to tell you that I hold no anger nor contempt in my heart for any of you and will be praying for your health and happiness in this life and thereafter.

P.S: I know I have promised a Hajj dedicated post, I know you were expecting something more exclusive, I promise I’ll do it when I’m back. I have been extremely busy preparing for this amazing journey of a lifetime!

Coexist

Dear media, leaders and terrorists,

Other nations throughout history have coexisted, why can’t we! Our ideologies may differ greatly, but our common grounds are much much greater.  We’re physically, emotionally and psychologically “human”. It all goes down to two simple words: Recognise + Accept.

I came across this video below, it’s quite old, but I couldn’t hold it back for myself to enjoy only, so there you go… enjoy his simple yet powerful message:

Kudos to you Moez Masoud, very well said… Mashallah!

Quran through converts!

It’s Ramadhan. “The month whose beginning is a mercy, whose middle is forgiveness, and whose end is freedom from the fire” Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said. Since going online is part of my survival package, I’ve decided to dedicate some of my time online to my spiritual/religious enlightening through websites of concerned fields.

What I find most intriguing to read are stories of converts or reverts (to their original nature) as they like to be called, amid the search I stumbled upon this great website “Welcome Back“. I’ve read 2 stories so far, they send chills down my spine, good chills that is, ones that freeze my heart for a moment while I submerse in the beauty of my religion. Having been born as a Muslim and bred as a practicing Muslim, I was not ever in the journey of discovery to find or smoke out the light of Islam. Light was already within and surrounding me, it was a matter of staring at the light and appreciating it. I can relate to how reverts feel, but I cannot feel it myself! How I envy you reverts, in a good way I promise 🙂

One aspect of this glorious journey of discovering Islam I noticed from reverts, is when they first read the Quran. I’ll leave you with a few words from Dr. Jeffrey Lang (a revert after being an athiest for 10 years):

“You cannot simply read the Qur’an, not if you take it seriously. You either have surrendered to it already or you fight it. It attacks tenaciously, directly, personally; it debates, criticizes, shames, and challenges.”

“I was at a severe disadvantage, for it became clear that the Author knew me better than I knew myself.”

“The Qur’an was always way ahead of my thinking; it was erasing barriers I had built years ago and was addressing my queries.”

“I was being led, working my way into a corner that contained only one choice.”

 Powerful words, read about his journey to Islam here  

Dear readers, do you (like me) envy reverts for their journey of discovery? Do you feel (like I do) miss on crucial aspects of feeling Islam through reading Quran for the first time and realising that this is it, this is the truth?

When Malik talks…

My brother Malik is a confirmed H1N1 case! Not that I’m too concerned, I swing in my theories of H1N1 between conspiracy to hoax, but I think we all agree it has been quite over-rated in the media. Malik is doing just fine; in fact he got rid of flu symptoms even before starting him on Tamiflu!

I love the way Malik views what’s around him, it’s either he reads too much into matters, or he reads way too little, I think it’s the latter. I was the one to break the news over the phone when the swab tested positive. I was acting all serious to tease him, I said “Malik, dear, you’ve been diagnosed with H1N1, you’ll be on home-bound, and you’re to wear a mask at all times. You’ll be starting your medication from today, two capsules daily, one in the morning, one at bedtime, before food. If symptoms worsen or if you feel your face is starting to look more like a pig, give me a call urgently!”. He said “Ok”… now that was a serious calm Ok, like I’ll do that…! He made me laugh; I felt bad and told him it was just a joke 😀

He’s recovering pretty well Alhamdlilah. It’s been almost a week and a half since the start of the symptoms, he calls me today right after Maghrib prayers tells me he had broke the rules “I went to the Masjid today, no doctor will be of use to me on judgment day and gave me this verse of the Holy Quran “يوم لا بنفع مال ولا بنون”  “The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail” (Surah26-Verse88)… I had to admire him but laughed deep inside!

Malik is quite a character, he’s turning all religious these past few years, well religious in his own ways, religious in talks and beards but not when it comes to women! Whoever said that all men are ”caged wolves” must be right. So Malik has decided he’s going to unleash his beard some 2 years ago, I was impressed he was committed, until one day he came back from the barber laughing his head off saying “Hey, check my beard, where has it gone?!” Apparently he’s shaved it off because his girlfriend (?!) does not like it!

I love it when he has his own special interests; it makes him feel productive, unique and special. He feels he stands out. His interests are language (he’s a fluent speaker of Arabic, English and Filipino -learnt through his assistant-) and religion. I must say they’re quite impressive for someone with intellectual difficulties. He quotes Quranic verses sometimes appropriately, mostly not! One day, my little cousin Maryam was saying Salam to us all, so he calmly shook her hands saying: يَا مَرْيَمُ لَقَدْ جِئْتِ شَيْئًا فَرِيًّا (27) يَا أُخْتَ هَارُونَ مَا كَانَ أَبُوكِ امْرَأَ سَوْءٍ وَمَا كَانَتْ أُمُّكِ بَغِيًّا (28) “O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! “O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!” (Surah19-Verse27-28)

Now this was TOTALLY inappropriate and unrelated, but I still am awe-inspired by the amount of learning he is capable of, specially with Quran verses, where quotation is by heart, word by word!  

I do not even know who is the source of this sudden religious upheaval, neither my mother (she is religious, but he doesn’t like to give and take a lot with her) nor my father (moderate, and happens to be his role-model) and definitely not my siblings, definitely not! To make matters even more surprising, his assistant who is a Filipino is a firm new-born Christian.

We’ve been to New Zealand for rehabilitation in 2003, the religious interest had started kicking in by then , so he goes to his physiotherapist and invites him to Islam just like that, without an introduction! I felt awkward; I did not want the therapist to feel we’ve asked him to do that! The therapist joked “Oh NOO, you get up at 4 am for prayers, I can never do that”. Malik went on to say “life is just a farm, you’ve got to work hard to harvest your fruits in heaven!” I was dumbfounded, deep inside I screamed “WHAT????! This is serious good talk, where the hell did you get it from, MALIK” Of course this caught the therapist off guard; he obviously did not see it coming. Blown away, his reply was “I’ll look into it”. Next I know, Malik has given the man an English translation of the Quran.

Now if you meet Malik for the first time, you’ll certainly have difficulty understanding his speech and that’s of course why I’ve become a speech therapist now! His speech is dysarthric, extremely slow, lethargic and slurred. All that accompanied by slow response rate, so you’ll ask a question, it’ll take him a second or two to respond. He’s also got some memory problems, he can repeat a question or a topic over a hundred times in one week, it can get ummm really difficult to take at times. With all these challenges, if you’re talking to him you’d expect a one-word answer and that is why when you hear him say something that makes perfect sense or words that are BIG like the farm-fruit-heaven thing, you’re prone to just sit there staggered and open your mouth wide wide open :O

Well, no wonder he’s made really good friends from all walks of life. Malik is a character of his own!

Sometimes I wonder what would have Malik been like now had the accident never happened. Of course the accident had stolen my 7-year old brother at the time, but it has certainly given us an all-new soul, a new character, it gave us a story, a Malik…

Read about Malik: here