Epilogue: “hajj” (The Hajj Journal)

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. Continue reading “Epilogue: “hajj” (The Hajj Journal)”

38. “Home” (The Hajj Journal)

September 29, 2015

It’s been a long, grueling day of travel.

It started with a hectic rush to the airport in Jeddah at 1 AM—I’d only gotten an hour of sleep after tawaf. People were just clamored together. There were 7 of us on the flight back to Edmonton: myself, Ahmed, Lubna, Husnain, Abdulrashid, Loreen and Fatima.

I got a seat near the back [of the plane], and didn’t have to share it with anyone. Score! That meant I could lift up the arm rests and sprawl across the three seats to sleep! Except the arm rests in this particular row of chairs were locked. And try as I might, I couldn’t lift them. I spent at least an hour or two (at intervals) trying fruitlessly to maneuver myself into a comfortable sleeping position.

But I just couldn’t do it. Continue reading “38. “Home” (The Hajj Journal)”

37. “Farewell” (The Hajj Journal)

The Ka'bah

September 27, 2015

My Hajj has officially ended.

The final rite of Hajj is to do one final Tawaf before leaving Mecca. It’s a way of bidding farewell to the House of God; after doing it, a pilgrim isn’t allowed to engage in commerce until they leave Mecca.

It was a bit stressful. We (Abdulrashid and I) were on the second level [of the Haram] when suddenly, out of nowhere, there was a stampede. We never found out what caused it. But one minute we were walking and the next there was a mob of people running toward us. It only lasted about 5-10 seconds, but it was terrifying. I saw Abdulrashid in front of me, and he stopped for a second, then turned and ran as the crowd came closer. I immediately ran to the edge of one of the indoor balconies and pressed myself against the balcony, gripping the stone ledge for my life. Some brave security guards jumped in and stood with their hands in the air, shouting at the crowd to be calm. Thank God nothing bad happened and no one got hurt. Continue reading “37. “Farewell” (The Hajj Journal)”

35. “Last days in Mina” (The Hajj Journal)

Rows of large white tents near the base of a small mountain.

September 26, 2015

It’s currently the second last day of our stay in Mina. Most of Mina is leaving; God says in the Quran that pilgrims can leave after 2 or 3 days, so most of Mina is filing into busses or going to stone the Jamarat then going back to the hotel. We’re close to the road, so the dull hum of busses remains almost steady, as well as the mix of voices outside. An announcement continues to play in a loop, advising us not to go to the Jamarat between 10 AM and 2 PM for safety. People keep trying to come into our tent through our back door. It’s locked, but I pushed one of our big water coolers against it for extra protection, after an overly eager person almost shoved the door right off. I can only hope this is the closest I get to being in a refugee camp. Continue reading “35. “Last days in Mina” (The Hajj Journal)”

34. “What better place to die…” (The Hajj Journal)

A field of burial mounds, with a small pathway to the left and the Prophet's Mosque in the distance.

September 26, 2015

I’ve been thinking about death quite a bit while I’ve been here. More specifically, I’ve been afraid of death. It’s easy to say you’ll have the attitude of, “what a better place to die than in Hajj”—I know I used to think that way. But almost every day has been a reminder of death. There was the crane accident that happened in Mecca when we first arrived, killing about 80 people, and just 2 days ago there was a major accident at the Jamarat—the cause of which is only hearsay at this point—which ended up with reportedly 700 people dead. Then after nearly every prayer in Mecca and Medina, there has been a janaza (funeral) prayer for someone who has died. Continue reading “34. “What better place to die…” (The Hajj Journal)”

33. “Unity” (The Hajj Journal)

September 26, 2015

[When] we were going to stone the jamarat, on the Day of Eid, I noticed something incredible. Many groups were carrying a flag as a way to keep [everyone] together, and to find them if someone got lost. Some groups used their country flag. Since we were still in a state of ihram, it was recommended to repeat the Talbiyah (“Labayk Allah huma labayk…”). So as we were going through the tunnels, I saw a mass of people, with the flags of their countries raised, all chanting the same praise to the same God, a praise that echoed through the tunnels and increased in volume. It was this moment where the unity of Islam really sunk into me. I can’t remember who said it, but I once heard that religion is the only thing that can unite mankind. Things like nationality, language, ideals, even the UN (for all its efforts) are all subject to our own biases and prejudices. But religion is the one thing that transcends all of those things. It is submission of our own wills, laws and desires to a higher power. Continue reading “33. “Unity” (The Hajj Journal)”

32. “Eid” – P3 (The Hajj Journal)

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

We saw Abu Bakr walking right beside us, and so we caught up with him. After exchanging laughs, Abu Bakr said to follow him to one of the hotels, where a guide from the falcon Travel group was waiting for the bus to show up. After losing us at the washrooms, Abu Bakr was just one step behind us the whole way. He even went back to Aziziya shortly after we were there. Then he came across the Falcon Travel group and hitched a ride on their bus back to the Haram. Now we were just waiting for the bus to return. I had been praying that we find a safe way back to Mina, and SubhanAllah, here it was. Se we waited. Continue reading “32. “Eid” – P3 (The Hajj Journal)”

32. “Eid” – P2 (The Hajj Journal)

Read Part 1

I wish I could tell you how long we were walking for. It felt like 2 hours.

I checked my phone occasionally, but only to see if Sheikh Tamir texted me Abu Bakr’s number. The time didn’t seem to matter much. We weaved through crowds and traffic and narrow alleys until we made it back to our hotel. My feet were sore and everything around me was hot. Continue reading “32. “Eid” – P2 (The Hajj Journal)”

32. “Eid – P1” (The Hajj Journal)

September 25, 2015

Yesterday was the longest day of my life. It began after Fajr in Muzdalifah (about 4:00 AM), [and after that] I was crammed into a bus to get back to our camp in Mina. We had the option of walking, but it’s a good thing we didn’t walk—we had a whole day of walking ahead of us. We got back to the camp around 6:30. It was the Day of Eid which, everywhere else in the world, meant a day of celebration. For us, it [was the beginning of the Days of Tashreeq, which means] it was a day of sacrifice and hard work. Sheikh Munir said that there’s no Eid prayer for pilgrims, because the world is praying Eid prayer for you. On this day, pilgrims do 4 things:

1.      Sacrifice a sheep, to feed the poor (this was done on our behalf, so we didn’t have to do it [ourselves])

2.      Stone the largest Jamarat pillar

3.      Shave the head to leave the state of ihram

4.      Perform Tawaf and Sa’i

Continue reading “32. “Eid – P1” (The Hajj Journal)”

31. “Imam” (The Hajj Journal)

September 24, 2015

One amazing thing happened in Muzdalifah. At one point, I was washing my hands, and heard one of the groups behind me praying. The imam had a very, very familiar recitation.

“No way,” I said out loud.

I turned around and, surely enough, leading the prayer was Imam Mohammed Raqih, the imam of the Wetaskiwin mosque. SubhanAllah, at the exact same place and time, across the world, we were there. Continue reading “31. “Imam” (The Hajj Journal)”