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)”

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)”

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)”

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)”

31. “Imam” (The Hajj Journal)

September 24, 2015

One amazing thing happened in Muzdalifah. At one point, I was washing my hands, and heard one of the groups behind me praying. The imam had a very, very familiar recitation.

“No way,” I said out loud.

I turned around and, surely enough, leading the prayer was Imam Mohammed Raqih, the imam of the Wetaskiwin mosque. SubhanAllah, at the exact same place and time, across the world, we were there. Continue reading “31. “Imam” (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)”