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Memoirs of an American Haji, Part II

February 1, 2006

kr’s note: I apologize for the
delay in posting. I just returned back home on Monday evening…
physically, at least, as my spirit is still roaming the halls of the
Haramayn. Sigh, while I’m grateful to God that He returned me safely, I
can’t truly say that I’m glad to be back. Nonetheless, I guess this is
where the real challenge begins right… it’s pretty easy to be
“spiritual” while you’re there, but this is where the game gets
interesting. Anyway, these parts are going to be quite long, as you can
tell, as they were penned down in a stream of consciousness
perspective, with little regards for logical order or distinction
between narration of events and my thoughts on them. The whole point of
these memoirs is to attempt to show readers that what one may read in a
Hajj book or a historical account of the Prophetic Hajj is totally
different from what one will experience when one actually gets there.
While those are quite romantic when one reads them, I think by becoming
aware of the realities of the modern Hajj, it too can be romantic and
sentimental in its own way for those who read this. The selfish part of
me feels that I’ll get some good deeds if people read this and can
better mentally/psychologically prepare for their own pilgrimage(s),
Inshallah. Finally, as for the length of these posts… let’s not even
go there =)….

Thursday, January 5th 
– I woke up around 11:30 feeling
much better and I was able to walk around in the room with ease. Once again, I
felt happy that the worst of it was over and believed that my feet were
actually better (instead of maybe thinking that it was the painkillers numbing
the pain and my feet were still hurt). I was on my usual Madinah/Makkah
schedule, something that Ive used the previous times I was there to maximize
time spent in the Haram while making sure one’s rested enough for the greater
ordeals to come. I’m sure there’s people who have more spiritual endurance than
I do and thus have their own schedules, but the one that I’ve found to be most
beneficial for myself is as follows:

wake up around 3 am, head over to the masjid for tahajjud, read Qur’an, make
tawaf/say salaam (depending on whether I was in Makkah or Madinah), pray Fajr,
read Qur’an again, pray ishraq, then maybe crank out another tawaf, and head
back to the hotel around 8 am. Grab a quick breakfast… I like the “Bayt
al-Donaat” (House of Donuts) establishments they have all over the place.
Their donuts are pretty Dunkin Donut-ish, and a light breakfast is always best
when youre in Makkah or Madinah. This time around, I figured that since I’d
only be in Madinah for 2 days, I could pull off an Imam Abu Hanifah (read
between the lines here) so I restricted myself to bread and water. Back to the
schedule, I’d sleep from about 8:30
to 12, wake up, shower, change and get to Zuhr around 12:30. Usually I’d pray Zuhr in the outer portions of the
masjid so I could leave quickly after sunnah and nafl. After Zuhr, I’d grab a
good lunch and eat it in the room. I’d then grab a quick qaylula (post Zuhr
nap) until about 30 minutes before Asr. Then I’d head on over to the Masjid and
stay there from Asr until Isha. From Asr to Maghrib, I usually crank out as
much Qur’an as possible—I usually try to finish one khatm in each Makkah and
Madinah. From Maghrib to Isha, I usually read more Qur’an, pray awwabeen or
qadah prayers, or make tawaf (in Makkah, obviously…). In Makkah, the Haram
empties out after Isha as well, so that’s another opportune time. I’d usually
get back about an hour or so after Isha, eat dinner, and go to sleep by 11 pm at the latest. For those who want to
shop, I would usually go (with my mom… make sure you go with a female relative
since I’ve found that all women seem to have some gene on the x chromosome that
codes for uncanny bargaining skills) before Zuhr, after Zuhr, or after Isha.

I got dressed and headed downstairs about 20 minutes before
Zuhr. Imagine my surprise as I open the elevator, walk into the lobby, and
happen to see none other than one Altamash Iftikhar and his mom and sister
standing at the front desk. I had to do a double take cause this punk said that
he was going to Pakistan
when I had spoken to him a few days before I left. We both saw each other and
were shocked to see the other person there. I said salaams to his family and
then he and I walked (well, I hobbled) to the masjid along with SP. We found a
place under the mechanical-tent/flower area for Zuhr. Hudaifi led the prayers,
God bless that man, I love his deep voice and perfect pronunciation of letters
and how he always says the tasbeeh loud enough to hear it on the mike; the way
he says “al-tahiyaaaaaatu lillahi” is
simply awesome. Sadly, he only led Zuhr as some of the young imams, such as
Imam Thubaiti and Imam Salahul Badeer, led Maghrib and Isha. After Zuhr, we
were quickly hussled out by the innumerable custodians as they set up the
partitions to allow for women to visit the Tomb. I’ve always admired these
guys, dressed in their blue or khaki uniforms (which read “Majma`at Sharikat
Bin Laden” on the back…I’m sure there’s no need for translation there) because
they have the greatest jobs in the world. From the first time I saw them in ’98,
I’ve wanted to be one of them. I mean, these guys are the janitors of the
Haramayn, how great is that when someone asks you what do you do for a living… “Me,
oh, I clean God’s House, what do you do?”. Can you imagine the reward these
guys are getting for simply coming to work each day? I bet that’s one job where
no one ever calls in sick. I’ve been so impressed and envious of these guys
that I hope when I get older, after I’m finished slaving away as a doctor for a few years, I can
retire in anonymity as a janitor of the Haram… that’d be the greatest thing
ever. But I’d have to learn some skills, since these guys have mad skills,
especially the ones working in Makkah. When they have to clean a portion of the
masjid, its poetry in motion to watch some of them wall off a portion of the
masjid while the others quickly ski on their squigee mops (yes, they literally
jump on the mop and ski across the floor… like I said, these guys have crazy
mad skills, mashallah) and clean off an area within a minute. The ones in the
Masjid al-Nabwi also work quickly and seamlessly to assemble and dis-assemble
the partitions to create a path for the women to approach the Tomb of the
Prophet. As they set up, others quickly herd men out of the way, so we were
herded out as well. Alti took leave of us at this point, saying he’d back to
his room, so SP and I headed towards the back door. We then headed towards one
of my favorite places to eat in Madinah, a little known corner tea shop called “Al-Tayyibah
Tea Store” which is located to the north-east of the masjid, about 7 buildings
east of the Dallah Taibah hotel. This place doesn’t look like much, but makes
some of the best burgers I’ve ever had. SP and I each got a burger, and while
we waited for our food to be made, a Turkish couple came to the stand to
purchase some juice. What was interesting about this particular scene, one that
played itself out many times during hajj, was that neither the store workers
nor the Turks spoke any common language that they could understand. Yet,
through signs and speaking in their own languages, they were able to
communicate enough such that each side understood what the other was saying,
nonetheless. This might seem like a trivial thing, but I’ve always been
personally amazed at how people can not understand each other’s tongues and
still manage to communicate effectively, and often times other groups of people
will understand the other’s tongues but fail to communicate at all.

After lunch, we walked back towards our hotel to catch a
quick nap, and again, I realize that perhaps the trek to lunch wasn’t the
smartest thing to do since it only increased my pain again. By the time we got
back to the hotel, my feet were in agony once more, and I stumbled upstairs,
hoping the hour of sleep would cure me (as half a doctor, I should know better…ugh,
doctors make the worst patients). I immediately went to sleep, and when I woke
up for Asr, I felt the worst pain that I’ve ever felt as I couldn’t even stand,
let alone walk. I tried to gut it out, but to no avail. Reluctantly, and
pathetically, I had to remain in my room and pray Asr there, missing the jamaat
and its 1000 times reward. The same story played itself out for Maghrib and
Isha, as I just lay there in bed between the prayers, hoping that my feet would
feel somewhat better for me to go, but to no avail. I was popping naproxen like
candy at this point, but sadly, while I heard the amazing recitation of Salahul
Badeer (I think) for Maghrib and Isha, I was forced to pray in my room.

After Isha, I stumbled down to the group dinner downstairs
since I was obliged to give the nightly address. After dinner, I gave a few
more words about the status of Madinah, protocol to follow while we were there,
what to do in Madinah, and a few words about the historical places that we
would be visiting tomorrow (Friday). The Q/A session that followed afterwards
was quite interesting, as all the Q/A sessions during this journey were. One
thing that I noticed, and I say this with the utmost respect and no intent to
hurt anyone’s feelings, is that many people don’t read up very much before they
set out for Hajj. I can understand that coming from people who live in remote
places who save up for 30 years to go to Hajj , can barely read, and have
little/no access to books… if they don’t educate themselves about Hajj, it’s
understandable. But living in the West, where books and sources of knowledge
are abundant, Alhamdulillah, it’s depressing to note how unprepared many people
come. Since for most people, Hajj is a one-time event, I think, especially
living in the west, one must extensively prepare months before Hajj itself.
Nonetheless, I was quite happy to answer these questions and make myself
available for the group since that’s what I was there for, especially since
everyone in our group was so sincere in everything they learnt in applying it,
mashallah. Besides, I felt that if I was facilitating another person to better
worship Allah, there’d be mad ajr in it for me as well.  With
that, a bittersweet day came to an end
and I headed back to the room, praying that I’d be ready to go for
activities of Jumu’ah and Ziyarah. As I went to sleep that night, my
stomach reminded me that in the atmosphere of the dinner meeting, I had
forgotten to eat anything myself. Doh.


Currently Reading: Lubab al-Nuqool Fi Asbab’l-Nuzool (The Best of Narrations Concerning the Circumstances of Revelation) by Imam Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (rahimahullah)


From → Uncategorized

  1. i am the first to comment, woohoo…great post masha’Allah.

  2. hows your foot now buddy?

  3. amazingly, it got healed by the day we left… you’ll find out as the memoirs continue, inshallah, but thanks for asking. it was normal again by the time i got to india.

  4. Sh Hudaifi is the man.

  5. Welcome back KR
    The thing about those janitors was insightful. Now I want to be one too

  6. i wanna be a janitor too!!!!! but i doubt they’ll let girls be janitors. *sigh* be thankful ur a guy.

  7. i like this post mucho.. and your currently reading is hot.. cuz imam as-suyuti (r) is hot… nuf saidpeace,IJB

  8. excellent post, and thanks for the automated props, even though i wish you had actually commented about my post…and about reading up for Hajj, perhaps you can recommend some good books that people should read before going…i know you mentioned one in your last post, the one by Ghazali, but maybe you should compile a list of what you think might be good…just a suggestion =)

  9. Salahul Badeer is awesome, MashAllah
    I like your “schedule”. Good mix of masjid and sleep time.

  10. Anonymous permalink

    great post… and those janitors .. MashaAllah they’re awesome eh… glad to know ur foot is better now .. take care!

  11. Kamran, you are awesome.  Just awesome. 

  12. Interestingly enough, my daily schedule was similar as well.  It’s very easy for residents of North America to be awake that early in the morning because of the time difference.  3 AM Saudi time is 6 PM Chicago time.  Also, early morning is when it’s the easiest to make Tawaf. 
    About those janitors, I heard that most of them are not there throughout the whole year.  The Saudis bring them in from various Muslim countries (mostly Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India) at around the beginning of Ramadhan or a little before Ramadhan.  They have to pay half the total Hajj fare and they get to perform Hajj and they stay a month or so after Hajj.  Food and lodging is free for them.  They stay for about 4~5 months.  They also get paid but Saudis being Saudis, they pay the janitors below minimum wage.  The Saudi Royal family keeps 80% of the countries revenue from what I hear.  Money is need to take care of those 100’s of empty castles right….
    Bro…you better mention something about Shaykh Sudais in your memoirs…

  13. great post! i too must agree that ur automated e-props were ehh….yea..

  14. As salam alaikum,welcome back bro… I hope you made duas for my admissions…Wa alaikum as salam

  15. I don’t know who led Maghrib in Madinah, but ol boy was the biggest tease. He would jam Surah Falaq and Surah Nas, and it sounded absolutely amazing. You wanted to just stand and listen, but before you knew it, the prayer was over.On another note, I could have sworn I saw a hijabi woman driving a zamboni like machine in the courtyard of Masjid-e-Nabawi and cleaning off the tiles.

  16. It is sad that people don’t come to Hajj better prepared. Good post.

  17. There’s a girl janitor at CPSA.

  18. Mashallah Kamran, I could almost feel being with u at hajj myself. you’re an AMAZING writer and speaker Masha Allah. sorry to know that you’re feet were killing line that i loved in your post was “often times other groups of people will understand the other’s tongues but fail to communicate at all.” I think that has a deep meaning. Very nice post.

  19. first rate writing my brother. I could totally visualize all from start to end, even ur face expression when u bumped into Alti after u came out of the elevator…hehe! I can’t wait to read part 3. =)

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