27. “Pilgrims” (The Hajj Journal)

A wide view of the tent city of Mina, with rows of white tents in between streets.
Source: Wikipedia

September 22, 2015

We’re pilgrims now.

We’re all staying in Mina now, a city of tents that stretch as far as you can see. I continue to be impressed at how the Saudi Government has been able to handle the logistics of moving 2 million worshippers and ensuring the facilities are organized accordingly…

[H]ere at Mina, the camp is sectioned off by continent, and then broken down into streets and sections… Our tent has about 30 people in it, and is air conditioned. Today is mostly about resting up for tomorrow. We’re close to the washroom stalls—most are squat toilets, which are actually not that bad, and preferable in my ihram. The cushions are ironically more comfortable to sleep on than the beds in the Aziziya dorm. They’re pretty tightly packed though. Continue reading “27. “Pilgrims” (The Hajj Journal)”

26. “Rooftop” (The Hajj Journal)

September 21, 2015

I’m here on the rooftop of our hotel, between the shadow of a mountain and the lights of Mecca. In just a few hours, I’ll put on my ihram and, God willing, start my Hajj. The evening breeze is warm and agreeable. Lights of different colours illuminate the rooftops yellow, blue, purple. Strings of lights hang from the roof of a nearby hotel. Around me, Mecca hums with the sounds of evening life. Mecca. The Holy City. The Mother of All Cities, as it’s mentioned in the Qur’an. The city where, for 1400 years, Muslims have journeyed to in order to answer the call made by Abraham millennia ago. Tonight is the last night of the old me. Whoever I’ll be after the journey is done is, right now, known only by God. But I pray that I’ll be the best version of myself when I return home.

Continue reading “26. “Rooftop” (The Hajj Journal)”

25. “The ‘Why’ of Hajj” – (The Hajj Journal) (Long Post)

Kaba at day

September 20, 2015

I think a reoccurring lesson of this journey has been learning and understanding what it means for something to be sacred. What it means for something to be favored or blessed by God. To believe and seek what is beyond our explanation, to understand the sanctity of the deeper meaning of things, and to come closer to the Divine and answer the call in our hearts. It’s so far been a journey of self discovery, and Hajj hasn’t even started yet.

Part of the journey has been understanding the things my faith holds sacred. One of the things that stuck in my mind and troubled me was the fact that my first moments with the Ka’ba weren’t the unforgettable spiritual event I thought it would be. I had hyped the moment up so much in my mind, replaying how it would be and how I should feel, that when reality struck I felt guilty because I wasn’t living out the thoughts and feelings I told myself I should have. A thought kept coming to my head, which I had to fight off: it’s just a building… But I knew that it reflected a lack of knowledge on my part: a lack of knowledge of the history, purpose and sanctity of the Ka’ba. And by extension, the other rituals of Hajj as well. Continue reading “25. “The ‘Why’ of Hajj” – (The Hajj Journal) (Long Post)”

24. “Homesickness” (The Hajj Journal)

A man sitting in a chair, writing in a journal.September 19, 2015

Dealing with a small bout of homesickness. Not surprising; ever since going to Camp Maskepetoon when I was 11, I’ve had to deal with varying degrees of homesickness when I’m away from home and everything that’s comfortable. But this isn’t Camp Maskepetoon. This is Saudi Arabia. I had to help one of the brothers in our group recharge his pre-paid phone, and I found myself just listening to the automated voice explain menu options in English. The pre-recorded lines were comforting… On top of that we’re leaving our hotel and going to some place called Aziziyah which is like an apartment and then Hajj starts in just a few days so now things around me are changing… Continue reading “24. “Homesickness” (The Hajj Journal)”

22. “Jummah” (The Hajj Journal)

Minarets at the Haram

September 18, 2015

The sun is blazing above me and I’m drenched in sweat as I sit in the outside courtyard of the Haram. It’s Friday, so the shops are closed and the people gather for Jummah prayer. I’m wearing my prayer rug on my had to protect my nearly-bald scalp from getting any more burned than it is—a tactic I learned from seeing people doing the same… Continue reading “22. “Jummah” (The Hajj Journal)”

21. “My center” (The Hajj Journal)

September 17, 2015

I returned to the Haram today, intent on doing tawaf again. I stood outside the whirlpool of people, mentally preparing myself to go in. I was on the ground level. The Ka’ba towered over the crowd before me. I began walking towards the entrance into the centrifuge of people (check analogy), ready to just dive in. I felt the same way one does before diving into water. I paused, listening to the roar of footsteps, sounding like a water fall. A deep breath, and I was in. Continue reading “21. “My center” (The Hajj Journal)”

What’s Mecca Like? (The Hajj Journal)

IMG_8098

If Las Vegas is the city that never sleeps, Mecca is the city that never stops praying. At all moments in the downtown core, you can find people heading to Masjid Al-Haram (or just “The Haram”), the mosque that contains the Ka’bah. In addition to that, it’s also a bustling economic powerhouse with international franchises setting up shop just a short walk from the holiest site in Islam. It feels surprisingly close to a metropolitan city in Canada, like Toronto; people are always moving, always trying to get somewhere or get to something. Mecca never stops.

One of the people I met summed up Mecca brilliantly: “Medina is tranquility; Mecca is the power.”

Continue reading “What’s Mecca Like? (The Hajj Journal)”

20. “Clothes” (The Hajj Journal)

Me after umrah

September 16, 2015

I went back to wearing my Canadian attire. Jeans, cargo shorts, t-shirts, hat. I feel like I can just present myself as I am now. God doesn’t look at the clothes you wear, or the colour of your skin. He looks at your heart. You can have the nicest thaub with the most rotten heart; you can wear rags and have a heart of light. Perhaps my Umrah had something to do with that. Sheikh Tamir said something powerful: with ihram, you can have the nicest hair, but for a while, you have no hair at all. You can wear the nicest clothes, but for a while, you’re wearing the simplest and most humble clothes imaginable. Ihram puts everyone on the same level. It lowers you into that state to remind you that you are a servant. Continue reading “20. “Clothes” (The Hajj Journal)”

19. “The locus of humanity” (The Hajj Journal)

The Ka'bah in Mecca

September 15, 2015

When I woke up the morning after [Umrah], I was afraid to go outside. I was afraid of the crowd. But more than that, I was afraid that I would look at the Ka’ba with an empty heart.

[However,] I knew that sitting and stewing in my hotel was not only a waste of time, but wouldn’t help me find the answers or understanding I was seeking. So I got dressed and headed out. I went into the [Haram] and found a spot to pray… I felt like I was having a crisis of faith. After prayer, I walked over to the railings overlooking the Ka’ba (I was on the third floor). And this is what I saw: people. People moving steadily, as if the crowd was water, all at once fluid and solid. I continued walking around the second floor, the Ka’ba always on my left, like I was performing another Tawaf. And as I walked, I kept glancing to my left. It’s not like I was expecting it to be gone, but everytime I did, I could see it from a different angle. And always, always the people. Continue reading “19. “The locus of humanity” (The Hajj Journal)”