October 1, 2015
I’m sitting on the porch in my parents’ back yard, and I’m reminded just how many signs of life there are here. The green grass; the yellowing autumn leaves; the occasional ‘plick’ of water from the garden faucet; insects—butterflies, ladybugs, spiders, and more—going about their business; birds getting ready for the coming winter; the wind chime gently ringing soft notes in the breeze. I feel, for the moment, tranquil. I feel like a new phase of my life is about to start. I remember [being asked] once: “What stage of your life do you think you are in?” And the question didn’t seem weird or strange to me. It made perfect sense. Looking back on my life, I can almost section it out into chapters. Definitely for the past 8 years that I’ve been a Muslim. Reversion. Marriage. Divorce. Work. School. Graduation. Career. Engagement. Hajj. At certain points I feel that a phase of my life is ending just as another is beginning. Now there’s my life post-Hajj.
I remember at the start of my journey I was afraid of who I would be when I got back. But I’m still me. Me, just better than I used to be. Someone taught me a beautiful dua once: “God, guide me towards who You want me to become.” I’ll try to remember to say that more often.
[My friend has] already made the inevitable “Hajji Aaron” comment. I knew that was going to happen sooner or later, so as long as no one starts calling me that seriously, or out of some sort of title of recognition that’s ok. I don’t know where that practice came from, but I do understand that people took it as a serious title of merit because of the difficulties of Hajj and that it was more dangerous than it is now. Some even legally changed their first name to “Hajji”. If anything, I see it as a responsibility. A reminder to try your best to live and learn from the experiences you ad during Hajj, and apply them to your life today. A reminder that life isn’t stagnant. After all, you can’t expect the world to change for you. You have to do that yourself.
The fifth and final pillar of Islam is Hajj. It is a once-in-a-lifetime duty on every physically and financially capable Muslim to journey to Mecca and visit the House of God, and undertake the rites of Hajj. But while Hajj ends when you finished the Farewell Tawaf and leave Mecca, your journey must still continue.
Perhaps we have our own hajj to go through in life. Perhaps we’ll have to face moments like Mina, the sadness of leaving home, and the joy of coming back. We’ll have to face moments like Muzdalifah, where we are reduced to our most basic existence and face a long, dark night. We’ll experience moments like wearing ihram, where we break down the artificial and material barriers of our own making and realize our place in the greater human family—and with the rest of creation. We’ll experience moments like Arafat, when God is so close to us, so ready to hear us as long as we call to Him with whatever it is we need, and then realize that, at all times, “He is with you wherever you are.” We’ll experience moments like tawaf, moments that can be both terrifying and beautiful, depending on how we react to it. We’ll stone our own jamarats when we’re tempted to do evil. We’ll walk our own Sai’ when we’re putting in our effort to make a living, and leaving the result to God.
All this, and more, as we continue our own lifelong journey towards God.