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Memoirs of an American Haji, Part I

January 24, 2006

kr’s note – What follows below and in the next several posts is a narration of daily events as the unfolded during this past Hajj. It is arranged in somewhat of a haphazard order, since I didn’t have the time to arrange it logically. It is hoped that through my sharing of my personal journey, others may get a glimpse into the realities of Hajj in a modern context, one that differs quite significantly from an abstract or historical one. It is also hoped that by reading this, one may gain an appreciation for this sublime experience and a fervent desire and passion to undertake their own pilgrimage(s) as soon as possible.

kr’s note #2 – I’m currently contemplating on permanently living in India. I find it quite ironic that everyone from the motherland wants to come to the West, whereas I, having lived most of my life there, want to live here and enjoy all the perks of being a slacker. Oh, and I don’t have the best of internet connections here, so forgive me for not returning props and/or visiting others’ xangas. I’ll try to amend that when I get back, inshallah.

To proceed:

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006: Since Saturday morning, I’ve been experiencing pain along the lateral side of my right foot. There is considerable fascial inflammation that doesn’t seem to be improving, most likely due to my not resting it and continuing to run around in the past three days for various chores. I have only myself to blame for this, since like an idiot, I decided last week to run 5-6 miles a day for 4 days in a row. Looking back at it, I’m not sure why I did this; I think I was trying to quickly get myself into shape for Hajj — the irony, of course, being that alhamdulillah I was already physically healthy to undergo the rigors of Hajj. I even went and got some x-rays done last night: thankfully nothing was broken. This morning, I went to an orthopedic surgeon and had him take a look at it. He told me the same diagnosis as above and said to take naproxen for 3-5 days, ice it, and not to put any weight on it. Great idea doc… too bad it’s not possible. As the day went on, finished up all the other random chores that I had to do, including compiling the du’a booklet. It turned out to be 53 pages long (gee, thanks guys); nonetheless, I was quite confident that I’d get through it. The tragedy of the day had to be my not getting a digitial camera, since with all the pain and the last minute stuff, there wasn’t any time to get the camera. I shoulda bought it on Saturday itself, and as I’m typing this, I regret not having it to capture some of the amazing things that I saw. We made the plan to leave after Maghrib, at 5, but of course, we’re desis, so even by 6 pm, we were still scrambling around while having to catch a 9 pm flight. Good ole Isaac Qureshi (aka Shaykh Liber Ali) came with his suv to transport us to the airport. We got to the airport and saw the Royal Jordanian check-in line was out to the door. So began the first of many tests of patience, as we were in line for 2.5 hrs since they only had two people working the check-in thing… and of course, none of them knew how to use the computer. Several people came to the aiport to see us off, including Imran Khalique and Sa’ad and Suhaib Quadri… may God bless them for their seeing us off. By the time we cleared security and bid farewell to Rehan and my aunt, it was 9:20. Thankfully, the flight didn’t leave till 9:45. By this time, my feet were getting worse, as my left foot too was killing me, possibly in an effort to join its counterpart and share in its agony. Nonetheless, the 12 hr flight did wonders, since I sat in one place and finished the rest of Imam al-Ghazali’s Book on the Secrets of Pilgrimage. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Ghazali’s the MAN; his insights, particularly on the visit to Madinah, were incredible that I’m certain they were inspired from the unseen. I also spent some time meditating and anticipating all the possible obstacles that we might encounter over the next two weeks; since this was to be my third Hajj, I had somewhat of an idea of the long waits, pollution, lack of busses, people getting sick, etc. in terms of the challenges that would await. But the verse is certainly true: “…and make provisions, but the best provision is God-consciousness/piety (taqwah)…”, as we were about to shortly find out.

Wedneday, January 4th: We essentially lost this day by flying east. We arrived around 7 pm in Amman, and thankfully, my feet were quite better. I immediately discarded the athletic shoes (we’ll see how this immediacy of mine haunted me later on) and switched into a thobe and sandals. I learnt in Amman that our group was being joined by a group from Houston to round out the group number at 49. I spent the two hour layover mingling and getting acquainted with the group members, introducing myself to them as well. Everyone seemed to be interested in logistics, and I kept telling them (another common theme of this journey) that I have no clue about logistics, since Mr. Sultan Papa was in charge of all those things and had already gone ahead on Saturday to make sure all those things were taken care of. Everyone and their mother was smoking in Amman, irritating my allergies, and we were forced to sit on the floor in some corner to avoid the foul smoke — another common theme in the Arab world, sadly. After a three hr layover in Amman, we got our boarding passes for Amman to Madinah. My mom and aunt somehow got first class seats… hehe. The plane ride to Madinah was filled with anticipation, as we were all hoping to catch a glimpse of the Prophet’s Mosque from the air. As we approached his City, alhamdulillah, our plane flew close enough for us to witness an illuminated Masjid al-Nabi against the backdrop of the Arabian midnight.

Thursday, January 5th: We arrived in Madinah the Illuminated around 12:30 am. Thankfully, we completely avoided the Hajj terminal this time around by not flying into Jeddah. In the past, the Hajj terminal is basically a dimly-lit, open tent of an airport that infuriates the first-time Westerner due to its complete lack of organization. Say what you will about America, but nothing beats American bureaucracy in terms of getting things like customs and tickets done. In the past, we’ve had to stay at the Hajj terminal for 20+ hrs waiting for a bus to Makkah or a plane to Madinah. Alhamdulillah, this time around, we landed directly in Madinah. The people of Madinah are simply outstanding and hands down are the best people in the world. Customs here took less than 30 minutes, and alhamdulillah, everyone’s luggage arrived safely. My foot pain was somewhat better, so I felt that by virtue of being in Madinah, the worst of it was over. As we exited the airport, they took our passports… I fervently prayed that two weeks later, we’d see those precious documents again. I later heard that US passports are worth an easy $10-15k on the black market =). The rush outside Madinah airport was maddening, complete chaos, as everyone was trying to scramble onto a bus with their luggage to get to their hotel. I was quite nervous as we exited the airport, since I had no idea how to get our group from the airport to the hotel and was hoping that Sultan Uncle (hereby SU) would be there to handle all those details as people were getting quite antsy. Thankfully, he was there with a separate bus for us, and we managed to get everyone on board. The driver was Yemeni (I love the Yemenis, despite how they’re hated by most Arabs) he and I hit it off pretty well. He seemed to be quite fascinated with how an American desi spoke Arabic, hehe. The bus had a mic, so I spent the bus ride introducing myself to the group and also giving a few introductory remarks about Madinah. At the end, I told everyone to throw down a few riyals as tip for the driver, as this was a customary thing to do during the Hajj season. I found it amazing that while most people gave freely, there were certain members of the group who didn’t throw anything down (and didnt for the rest of the trip either) as they felt the bus fare was part of their Hajj fees. I mean, one dollar equals 3.75 riyals, throwing down 3 riyals times 50 people makes it 150 riyals, and the driver(s) get extremely happy and make a ton of du’a for you since for many of them, the hajj season is the only time they have a chance to make decent money. Anyway, we arrived at the hotel (Rawdah Mubarak, which is located to the south (ie, front) of the Masjid) around 2:30 am. We got checked in and settled in our rooms without a hitch, alhamdulillah by about 3:15 am. Since the masjid was to open around 3:30 am, none of us wanted to sleep, so instead we hurriedly showered, changed, and went to the Masjid immediately. Many of the group members decided to go off on their own, but one family (comprising of a couple,Sikander and Tina Pasha, and his mom, Azra Aunty (hereby SP, TP, and AA respectively)) came along with my mom, my aunt, and myself. My feet were still hurting, but as we came closer to Masjid al-Nabi, a euphoria and ecstacy came over me and I was oblivious to the foot pain. Sikander and I separated from the ladies (since they have their own special times to bid salaam, after fajr and after zuhr) and we immediately went to the Tomb of the Prophet and said our salaams. I think I managed to convey the salaams of all those who asked by name as well at this time. Since the crowd was quite light at this time, I was able to go closeby and steal a few glimpses inside. Words can’t describe one’s emotions that are evoked at this sight–possibly because such emotions are manifest only at witnessing these three blessed places of rest. After finishing our salaams, we were emotionally moved, especially Sikander (as this was his first time). Though I’d been there before, it once again felt like the first time there, and I felt such bliss that I’d never experienced before. I think thats the beauty of both these Sacred Mosques: each time you go there, it’s like the first time, and each visit only brings about increasing levels of joy and serenity. We then proceded to Riyadh al-Jannah, which is demarcated by a green carpet between the Prophet’s mimbar and his house. There is a hadith that states “That which is between my house and my mimbar is a garden from amongst the gardens of Paradise.” Some of the scholars comment on this hadith and point to this as proof that Madinah is even more esteemed than Makkah, since no place in Makkah has been given this status — in fact, another hadith states that when Allah intends to destroy the world, He will begin with His Own House. Walking into Riyadh al-Jannah is always personally my second greatest feeling in the world (the first being standing at the Multazim, the Door of the Ka’bah, where no du’a can be rejected) because it always makes me feel humbled and ashamed that despite my personal inadequecies and sins, I’ve been given a chance to walk and pray in Paradise itself. We hadn’t prayed Isha yet, so we prayed Isha and tahajjud in RJ, and then left as the crowd was increasing with Fajr around the corner. We found a place quite near to the Imam and awaited Fajr. I forget the name of the Imam who led Fajr, but he was pretty slammin’, mashallah. After Fajr, I took Sikander a little behind to the section of the masjid that has these flower-tent like things that open up after sunrise (I don’t know how else to describe them), but the sheer engineering and beauty of those things opening up always fascinated me. As we sat there, we got approached by some tableeghi brothers (heh) who spent a good half hour talking to us and trying to get us to sign up for 40 days. Thankfully, they were from Pakistan so when I told them we’re from America, they backed off and told us to make sure we joined American jamaats. I told him that “we’ll see”, and took leave of them, returned to the hotel around 8 am with SP, had breakfast, and went to sleep.

I’ll continue this in another post, Inshallah.

Currently Watching – India vs Pakistan, Cricket Five Day Test Match.

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30 Comments
  1. I’ll leave off the jokes till you come back to America and just say that I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on the journey. I’m sure it’ll be enlightening. I’m surprised I didn’t catch you in Madinah. That would have been pretty cool.


  2. words are not enough sometimes.  you understand.
    salaamalaikumwarahmatullahiwabarakatu.
    I was hoping to be first, since I realized that I am awake here by benefit of the time zone difference… but someone beat me… haha.

  3. hi salamz hw r ya my name is sally from UK jst wnted to ask u hw did u get that nashed/song o ur site plz let me nw. hve a safe jurny. take care. salamz.

  4. Jazaks for the beautiful post…please pray those who have not gone get the opportunity to go inshAllah.

  5. Assalamualaikum….
    Alhumdulillah…i have been to Madinah, many times…and man…did you capture the moment perfectly, MashahAllah….and yeah those roofs that open up…they are nice…MashahAllah…very pretty…
    …i definately look forward to reading more of these posts…InshahAllah….
    Allah Hafiz
    Wasalaam…
    and…there is a match going on between Pakistan and india?…how come i didnt know….whos winning?

  6. salam ur wolkam thanx alot ya coz i realy realy like nashed/song. ill give it a try. take care stay koooooool. wsalaz

  7. Wow! Masha Allah… that was a very touching post. You’re posts are always so well written Masha Allah, that you made me visualize the whole scene where you went to see the prophet’s grave and sent your salaamz on him (I hope my name was included in the salaamz list here buddy 🙂 ). I EVEN GOT EMOTIONAL. Yes, it is indeed a very special feeling praying at Riyadh Al Jannah. I kinda really regret not making it to madinah this past winter break now :(Can’t wait to read your next posts. Jazaakallah Khair for the detailed explanation of each day.wassalaamz!P.S. You know that India is winning Insha Allah… WOOOO! We’re gonna have some disputes at the rayyan center for the one dayers between the Indians and Pakistanis…hehe!

  8. salaamualaikum,
    your hajj memoirs are beautifully written and enlightening masha’Allah.  I have not gone on hajj yet (although I hope I will have the opportunity to do so insha’Allah) and your experiences give me more insight on what to look forward to insha’Allah…it’s a unique perspective that one does not get from reading the usual hajj guidebooks =)
    w/salaam,
    Sarah
    (in case you’re wondering, i found your blog through Isaac’s xanga..he’s my 2nd cousin twice removed on my dad’s side or something crazy like that)

  9. Anonymous permalink

    love the hajj story :)off of the subject (i emailed you this.. but i guess you’ve been busy trying to catch up)The first weekend of June I’ll be having my mendhi and nikkah reception in Central Illinois. If you will be able to make it email me your postal address (so i can send you an invitation) gulmast@gmail.com :)I hope you can come!! Your family is more than welcome to attend as well :)- Habiba KhanP.S — I would really love if you could recite some verses from the Qu’ran during the reception.

  10. Eee….More hajj stories, I’m loving it KamKam…

  11. May Allah accept your hajj! Ameen.Amazing story, I really enjoyed reading it. Please do continue..

  12. Assalamualaikum…
    “P.S. You know that India is winning Insha Allah… WOOOO! We’re gonna have some disputes at the rayyan center for the one dayers between the Indians and Pakistanis…hehe!
    Posted 1/25/2006 at 10:07 AM by immuak007
     
    sorry bro…but looks like Pakistan won the first one…haha…
     
    Allah Hafiz
    Wasalaam
     
     

  13. yay! well well done! keep the stories comin yobarakallahu feekpeace,IJB

  14. Anonymous permalink

    niice niice stuff man good post it sounds crazy

  15. i fell in love with you before…but now, i’m lost 🙂

  16. Dude, when are u coming back? You’re name was mentioned in yesterday’s khutbah at UIC. Chicago misses you! come back soon and give me your flight details!

  17. may Allah accept.

  18. ameen to saud’s dua. how is the foot coming along?

  19. Michael Wolfe’s was better.

  20. That was a nice read bro…waiting for the next one

  21. Assalamu Alaikum, Hajj Mubarak!

  22. Anonymous permalink

    hajj mubarak.
    india huh…nice, i’m right next door. just moved here for about five years to do med school.
    i hope paki whoops india’s behind in cricket. not like i’m really interested, but hey i live here. just trying to survive

  23. automated e-props?! that is a new level of lameness. i’m so disappointed.

  24. Anonymous permalink

    *Automated message* This xanga does not accept automated e-props. Please attempt again with real e-props.

  25. lol at above comments…
    yo kr…was it a copy and paste job?
    other than that…kr…i’m eagerly waiting for your next post…jazakallah for remembering us in your Duas..

  26. Anonymous permalink

    Assalamualaikum
    haha.. automated eprops.. very cool lol.. im sorry i’ve been sneaky peeking at ur site for so long and i never gave you any props lol… but i was insanely intimidated by you.. yah i know.. haha.. pretty wierd lol.. but inshaAllah from now on.. u’ll get the eprops u deserve kiddo.. take care!

  27. nice stories, mA.  thanks.  keep ’em comin (although i’m behind…)

  28. all hail kr, founder of Keepin it Real!

  29. what a small world, i didn’t know siki bhai and tina were going for hajj and that too on your group…  i saw Rasulullah’s sword and somethign came over me, i can’t imagine what it would be like to be at his grave, subhanAllah…

  30. Dude, you are so awesome mA. these posts from last year are helping a LOT, and will definitely be a good guidance for me during my hajj this year insha Allah. My plan is to finish reading all the hajj posts again in the next week or so insha Allah. Please keep me in ur duas.

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