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)”

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)”

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)”

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)”

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)”

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)”

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)”