September 27, 2015
Back on the rooftop of Aziziya. Tomorrow we will got to Mecca after maghrib [prayer], do our farewell tawaf, then head to the airport for the long flight home. Though I’m ready to go home, I’m still sad to leave. Sad that it’s over. Amazed that it’s over. I don’t know how I’m going to explain it to people when I get home. When I walk into the office and [my co-workers ask], “So how was it?”, how will I respond? How do I sum up a life changing spiritual pilgrimage in only a few minutes?
Hajj has indeed taught me a lot about myself. I’ve seen within me the capacity for selflessness and selfishness; hope and fear; tranquility and anxiety; trust and suspicion; calmness and irritability; and many other polar emotions. But through it all, I feel like I came closer to God than ever before. I know I’m not the same person I was sitting in the Edmonton airport. Now it remains to be seen how well I adjust to my everyday life back in Edmonton. This Hajj came at a time when I am sitting on the cusp of a new life. In sha Allah, I’ll be a husband in a few month’s time. Then I’ll be a father. One of the duas I made was to be the best version of myself when I get back.
Now I have to put my effort in, and try and live up to my supplication.
We carry with us the places we’ve been, the experiences we’ve felt, the people we’ve met. I keep thinking back to Sheikh Munir’s talk about how everyone has their own individual Hajj package. Everyone experiences it differently. My struggle at Muzdalifah may have been easy for someone else. Perhaps the tears flowed for them as they stood in front of the Ka’bah, as they did not for me. And it may have been that their hearts were so attached to this holy land that their life changed and they decided to never leave it.
I once attended an Islamic lecture, and the speaker said that each of the five pillars of Islam is a reflection of your commitment to the faith. The first pillar is the testimony of faith, and it’s the opening to your life as a Muslim. Prayer, the second pillar, is your daily commitment to the faith. Zakat, the obligatory charity, is paid on one day out of the year. Fasting in Ramadan is a month-long commitment to following your faith. And Hajj, the final pillar, is a once-in-a-lifetime commitment where you ask yourself “Am I committed to following this for the rest of my life?”
As I sat on that rooftop, I felt like a new person. Hajj is a journey of change. Many times I feared what kind of change the events in my life would bring. Moreso after I became Muslim. I feared that I would learn something or experience something that would drive me into the extremes of overzealousness. I feared that I would abandon much of who I am in an attempt to become more religious. And there were times when I came close to that. But after having been through Hajj, I realized that I’m still me. I’m still a Canadian. I’m still a nerd who loves cooking, writing and LEGO. When I first converted, I gave up creative writing, thinking that it was incompatible with Islam. But after seeking answers, and finding inspiration, I got it back. Shortly after, I was told by an angry, shouting sheikh that I couldn’t have friends who weren’t Muslim. And I pushed back, in my own way, with my own struggle, and navigated my way through differences of opinion, learning more about my religion in the process. I remember a sheikh once saying that if you find something in Islam that doesn’t sit well with your heart, there’s a reason it doesn’t. This is a call to learn and seek answers.
In all the years I’ve been a Muslim, I never had to give up who I am, what made me me. It took some refining, some adjusting. I worried that Hajj would turn me into someone unrecognizable from myself. I hear stories of how Hajj changed peoples’ lives and , in some corner of my mind, I wonder what parts of themselves they had to give up to get there.
Yet as I sat on that rooftop, I felt like I was still me. Me, but better.