Prologue: “2014”

September 18, 2014

Today is Thursday, my flight leaves tomorrow and I still don’t have my visa. This has been nothing short of a test—a real test. All my optimistic “whatever happens, happens” sentiments feel as though they’re falling away as I constantly fight of depression and despair. As stupid as it sounds, I’ve somehow equated “Not going for Hajj” as a personal failure, even though it’s due to factors beyond my control… As the days of uncertainty go on, my anxiety goes up. And living in the present, in the day, has become harder as I try to imagine how today will look tomorrow, how this entry will look when compared with the entries that follow, how this time in my life will look years from now.


 

Commentary

2014 was a rough year for Hajj.

A complicated hiccup in the application process, coupled with a crippling technical glitch, basically brought the process of approving Hajj visas to a standstill. Worldwide, people were left up in the air.

Meanwhile, in Edmonton, a 26-year-old me was eagerly waiting to see if my visa application had gone through. I had applied through a local travel company, operated by a sheikh named Tamir Ali. I’d known Sheikh Tamir already, and he helped guide me through the application process for Hajj. As the days to my flight came closer and closer, I had to constantly battle off anxiety. It was one of those times in my life where I realized that I had absolutely no control whatsoever as to the outcome. The only thing I had was the assurance that I had done the best I could.

So: why Hajj?

I had just graduated from university and was now set free into the open expanse of possibilities of post-school life. In other words, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. I had always wanted to travel, though, and so I had my eyes set on Turkey for a while. Part of it came from my desire to visit a Muslim-dominant country (if only so I could be safely assured the cuisine was 100% halal). I wanted to see ancient mosques, I wanted to walk in the market places, I wanted to drink in my religious heritage.

I applied for an internship to work there for a couple months. However, due to complicated reasons (and an intrusive interview process) it fell apart. I still wanted to see the world, though.

I was praying my noon prayer one day, and saw the answer staring me in the face. My prayer rug had a beautifully embroidered image of the Ka’ba on it, the building in Mecca that acts as the focal point for prayer for over 2 billion Muslims worldwide. I stared at it for a moment.

I realized that Hajj was now obligatory on me. I was physically healthy and financially capable. If I had the money and means to travel the world, I also had the money and means to go to Hajj.

So I saved up my money. I applied for a visa. I researched the rites of Haj. And I waited.

And waited.


 

September 19, 2014

My visa didn’t go through…

Of course I’m disappointed and sad, but it was out of my hands and I entrusted God to do what’s best. So obviously, this is what’s best. It took me a while to reach that [closure], though. What distressed me at first wasn’t so much that I wasn’t going for Hajj—I’d mentally prepared myself for that possibility. It was more the terrifying expanse of “What do I do now?”.

I had planned on tackling that problem when I came back from Hajj. I expected some sort of spiritual revelation while I was there. Instead, the question came barrelling into the here-and-now.

And then I remembered, too, that Hajj is an invitation to the House of God. And I became distressed because I felt like my request was rejected… I realized that, for reasons beyond my capability, it must be better for me not to go this year. Perhaps I’m needed more here, at the moment…

I was reminded of the words of my old imam, who indirectly answered me [during the Friday khutbah] when I was questioning why I was divorced:

“Our prayers are always answered, but now always how we expect them. We are either given what we ask for, or it is held for us on the Day of Judgment, or instead, God gives us something better.”

Something better.

So perhaps the greater lesson is in not going.

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