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)”

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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)”

36. “Rooftop” (The Hajj Journal)

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? Continue reading “36. “Rooftop” (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)”

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 – 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)”

30. “Muzdalifah” (The Hajj Journal)

Groups of pilgrims in white cloth sitting on rocky ground under a light in the middle of the night.
Muzdalifah (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

September 24, 2015

After Arafat, pilgrims spend the night in a place called Muzdalifah, which is just south of Arafat. We spend the night on bare ground, without a tent, under the open sky. It’s kind of funny when I look at it this way. We started our journey in 2 high-end hotels. Then we went to the dorms in Aziziya, which made me miss the hotel. Then the tent camp in Mina, which made me miss Aziziya. Then the bare ground of Muzdalifah, which made me miss Mina.

If I could summarize Muzdalifah in one word: raw. Continue reading “30. “Muzdalifah” (The Hajj Journal)”

29. “Arafat” (The Hajj Journal)

Arafat

September 24, 2015

We spent the day yesterday in Arafat.

Whenever I heard of Arafat, I imagined crowds of white-garbed pilgrims standing on a red hillside, their hands raised and their eyes closed as they conferred with God. I imagined a few pop-up tents in the hilly valley with food and drink inside. But a big part of this trip has been managing expectations versus reality. Or, more accurately, imagination versus reality. Continue reading “29. “Arafat” (The Hajj Journal)”

“What’s Mina like?” (The Hajj Journal)

A row of large white tents in Mina.
Courtesy wikimedia.org

Mina is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Imagine a valley between copper-brown mountains, filled with identical white tents, stretching far past the hazy horizon, and behind the slope of an eastern mountain. The tents were all large, like the kind you’d see at an outdoor event. Continue reading ““What’s Mina like?” (The Hajj Journal)”