Love Notes P1: Lessons about Love from the Qur’an

A cluster of hand-drawn red hearts

February is marked as the month of love, with Valentine’s Day falling right in the middle of it. It’s also the month of confusion, as it’s the only month in the Gregorian calendar that has 28 days with a leap year every 4 years. Fittingly, both traits complement each other nicely. Continue reading “Love Notes P1: Lessons about Love from the Qur’an”

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)”

7 Female Role Models in the Quran and Sunnah

A stained glass window with 7 flower-like arabesque patterns.

A Queen. A powerful business woman. A scholar.

These titles aren’t what you would expect to hear when you hear the phrase “Muslim woman”. However, the Islamic faith is rife with examples of women who defied the conventions of their time, and were praised for it. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us about 4 women in history who had perfected their faith, and were guaranteed Paradise, and among them were:

  • a single mother
  • a woman who defied her husband
  • a businesswoman
  • a daughter who was forced to grow up too soon

If you’re a Muslim, you’ve probably heard names like Mariam, Asiyah, Khadijah, Fatima, Aishah, Bilqist. But sometimes we get wrapped up in the history of these great figures and forget to see the very human side of these great women. Continue reading “7 Female Role Models in the Quran and Sunnah”

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” – 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)”

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)”

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)”

Hajj: One Year Later

Kaba at day

Hajj is often touted as a life changing journey. It marks the final act a Muslim must fulfil that is owed to God. Completing it by no means makes you a complete Muslim. But it does complete the 5 pillars you owe to God as a person who submits to Him.

A year ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to go for Hajj. During my time, I documented my experiences in my Hajj Journal; I’ve also spoken about it on the radio. Hajj was a journey that is impossible to fully describe. It’s an all-encompassing spiritual and physical and mental journey where each event that occurs is tailored to you, personally, by God.

What terrified me most about Hajj was the notion that it was going to change me into a different person. Change, in general, is frightening. Spiritual change is terrifying. My fear was that I would become a super-strict, ultra-hardline, everything-is-haram Muslim. I remember standing on the roof of our hotel on the eve of Hajj with both fear and excitement, wondering who I would be at the end of Hajj.

Well, it’s been a year now. And here is who I am. Continue reading “Hajj: One Year Later”