September 9, 2015
Here I am, at the Edmonton airport, closer than I’ve ever been to my dream of Hajj. It’s 9:30 PM and I’m tired. Around me, families are gathering –no doubt part of our group—to see their loved ones off. My Dad dropped me off, hugged me, and wished me a good trip…
Part of me is still in awe that it’s happening. God willing I’ll be on the other side of the world, in the holy city of Medina, in a few days’ time. We leave at midnight, land in Toronto at about 7 AM. Then depart from Toronto at 1 PM and land in Jeddah at 7 AM the next day. After that, a 7 hour wait to fly to Medina. After that, jetlag. However, there’s still many miles—sorry, kilometers—to cross between here and there. Anything could happen in that time.
Am I afraid? Only as much as is reasonably necessary. I think my life post-Hajj is more frightening to me. Who will I be when I come back? Where will my life go? I keep hearing how Hajj is a transformative experience. How it’s a completion of your faith. But what will that mean for me?
Preparing to leave for Hajj is like preparing to leave your life behind. In the days leading up to Hajj, it was like I was planning on checking out of my life for good: I had to eat all perishable food in my place, I tried to see all my friends at least one more time before I left, and yes, it was even recommended to write up my will—which I did. The last thing I did was drive to my parent’s place and drop my car and my cat off. I had to square with the notion that I may never be coming back home. And that’s something that plagued me more during my trip than I thought it would.
But assuming I made it home safely, it was my post-Hajj life is what worried the most. A general fear of change has always hovered over me, especially on the verge of life-changing decisions like this one. I knew that it would take some readjustment going back to my normal life. But the question I wondered was: who was I going to be? Whether it was Hajj or even just attending a conference, one fear that always plagued me is that I would somehow come back as a hardcore, humourless extremist. I didn’t fear so much a change in my life as a change in my personality and, by extension, my identity.