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)”

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)”

“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)”

15. “One foot in the grave” (The Hajj Journal)

Baqi graveyard in Medina

September 13, 2015

I started this day with a reminder of death. After Fajr prayer there was a janaza (funeral) prayer. I then made my way to Baq’i, the graveyard near the Prophet’s mosque. It’s so big; you could probably fit West Edmonton Mall in it. The graves are marked by gravel mounds, with a bare rock at the head of the grave. Some graves have 2 stones, one at the head and another at the foot. I went to where the grave was dug. There’s a section of empty plots pre-dug with boards over the top. I joined the group who gathered silently to pray for the deceased. I’d never met them, and didn’t know if the person was a man or woman, adult or child… After saying my prayer, I stepped off the first mound surrounding the grave and onto a board. A man in front of me said to stop. I looked down. The board was sagging where my foot was. I literally had one foot in the grave. I stepped off and the red dust covered my feet. I looked out at the barren field of graves, at the stones marking each one.

Somewhere out there, my stone is waiting for me.

“…and no one knows in what land he will die.” (Surah 31: 34)

Continue reading “15. “One foot in the grave” (The Hajj Journal)”

12. “…Without seeing me.” (The Hajj Journal)

The grave of Prophet Muhammad in Medina
The graves of Prophet Muhammad (p), Abu Bakr and Umar

September 13, 2015

After Fajr, I decided to stay behind and gradually make my way to the graves of The Prophet (p), Abu Bakr and Umar. I had no idea where they were in the mosque. I saw a large hall across one of the inner courtyards and surmised that must be it. The gathering throng of people confirmed my assumption. However, the security guards were blocking the area off. One of the guards, a mustachioed fellow in the standard beige military garb, directed us to go to the west side of the mosque. I followed the river of people, not able to understand what was being said, but only knowing that they were all going towards a common goal. It was a good practice for Hajj. Continue reading “12. “…Without seeing me.” (The Hajj Journal)”

Much Ado About Death

Dead roses in a vase

 

I remember the first time death touched my life.

It was my seventh or eighth birthday when Stevie, the family cat, died. Prior to that, death was just a minor inconvenience in a video game, or something that happened in movies. I knew what death was, but I didn’t fully grasp what it meant until that day. I lay in bed crying because I had finally realized the finality of death: Stevie was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.

Death came into my life many times after that.

Continue reading “Much Ado About Death”

Homeward Bound

Skyline of Edmonton
Edmonton, any time between September and April

“Where you are was circled on a map for you.” (Rumi)

Two weeks in a strange land, with strange customs, strange currency and strange landscapes. I may not have traveled across the globe to China or Bangladesh or deepest darkest Peru, but the two weeks I spent traveling through California with three friends was the closest I’ve come to being in another world. Despite being Canada’s neighbor, everything about it felt so different, strange and exciting. But in spite of all that, I eventually found that the place I looked forward to most was home. Continue reading “Homeward Bound”

God-centric

One of my friends posted something on Facebook that made me pause and ponder. In her post, she said that “As backwards as it might sound, my faith comes from God’s strength, not mine… I’ve seen more so lately than ever before how He’s using me and the impact He can have through me. It’s overwhelming and beautiful.”

What I found fascinating was that she had a perspective of God that eludes many. Rather than us carrying out the will of God, God carries out His will through us. It’s a complete shift into a different mode of thinking, and not nearly as backwards as one might think. It got me thinking about my own perspectives on God, from what it means to live a God-centric way of life. Continue reading “God-centric”