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Memoirs of an American Haji, Part V

February 11, 2006

kr’s note: I guess people do actually read these. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 8 (8th
of Dhul Hajj)

Today was the first official day of
Hajj. Most people that were already in Makkah were now attempting to depart
from there to a place called Mina, a few kilometers away. It was quite ironic
that we were on the road into Makkah, one that was quite empty, and all roads
leading away from Makkah were jam packed with people trying to get to Mina. It
is sunnah to leave after Fajr and arrive in Mina by Zuhr, and spend the rest of
the 8th in Mina until after Fajr on the 9th. However,
since we were making Hajj Qiran, we had to first complete our Umrah, as well as
the Tawaf al-Qudum (a sunnah of Hajj), before heading to Mina. Before we could
proceed to the Haram, we had to first stop at the Mutawwif’s office in Makkah
to complete more paperwork. Our dude’s office was located in one of the
back-areas of Makkah, and after we got there, we waited another hour and half
while paperwork was completed. It is here also, normally, that we are supposed
to receive ID bracelets that we’re supposed to wear during the Hajj that
contains important information about our tents/group location in case anyone
gets lost. Comically enough, our Mutawwif told us that he had run out of
bracelets so we were given his business card. Hajj fees were about $278 per
person this time around… yet we had no bracelets to legitimize (officially) our
status as pilgrims. God is great.

            We finally
got back on the bus and headed towards the Masjid around 10 am. Group morale was quite high; despite the bus
journey and the inconveniences at the Mutawwif’s office, everyone was psyched
that we were approaching the Sacred Mosque. As we got closer, traffic was a
complete mess. If you think that rush hour in a metropolitan city is bad,
you’ve not experienced traffic. Every possible area on the streets was occupied
and filled with a blend of cars, buses, motorcycles, and pedestrians. Sitting
in the bus, it was quite a scene to look down and see a flood of humanity,
dressed in angelic white, all with the same goal in mind. I silently laughed to
myself and thought about how in other parts of the world, events such as rock
concerts or the Super Bowl that might get about 80-100,000 people at the most
require massive security. Here, the police was simply there to keep people
moving; there was no need for color-coded security meters since God Himself was
the security force here. As we trudged against the flow of people, our bus was
forced to stop about a mile from the Masjid since there was simply no road
left. It’s funny how we often use the term “million” in our everyday speech…
but do we really know how much a million of anything really is? When you
actually see a million people, when all you see is people, everywhere you look,
then you have some understanding of what a million really is (yes, I know I
just ended two sentences with “is”…). They say that the Saudis officially allow
2.5 million people in, but the reality is that nearly twice that actually show up,
since many locals and neighboring peoples “sneak” (well, God invites them) in
(and now a sentence with a prepositional phrase).

            We got down
and walked towards the hotel (Makkah Towers,
attached to the Hilton) that we were going to be staying in after the Hajj. We
were to leave our baggage here (how’s that for symbolism) in the hotel storage
area so that we could have our hands free while we made Umrah. By the time we
got everyone to the hotel, put our luggage away, made wudu in the public
bathrooms, and met up again, it was nearly 11:30
am. Since most of the group members were new, we decided to stay
together for Umrah, and thus set out together. As our eyes fell upon the
ramparts of the Masjid al-Haram, we were awestruck by the scene. Whereas the
atmosphere in Madinah had been one of tranquility, the aura of Makkah was one
of majesty and splendor. Whereas the essence of Madinah was one of deference
and respect for the Prophet, the spirit of Makkah was one wherein everything
kneeled in abject humility in the presence of the might of God. The jalālī
attributes of Allah reigned supreme here, and this was brilliantly reflected in
the architecture of the Mosque itself: it appears to be a stalwart and
impenetrable fortress evoking wonder in the heart of every visitor. One feels
even more insignificant than the smallest insect walking into the House of
al-Qahhār (the Subduer), al-Muntaqim (the Avenger), and al-Muqtadir (the
Powerful). But the beauty of this, again amazingly well captured by the
architecture, is that despite its awesome ramparts, as soon as one walks into
the actual Masjid, it is once again an aura of tranquility and serenity. It
perfectly reflects the path to God: one that is outwardly awe-inspiring and
intimidating, making one feel insignificant and incapacitated; but after one
passes the outer boundaries and arrives inside, there is absolute beauty and
perfection. As the hadith says, God is beautiful and loves beauty.

            As we set
foot inside the Masjid, I told everyone to lower their gaze until they came
close enough to see the Ka’bah. It is reported that supplications made during
one’s first gaze at the Ka’bah are definitely accepted; thus it behooves one
not only to not look until one is close enough to get a good look, but to
practice holding one’s eyes open while making every single possible du’a that
one can imagine =). Sadly, since I was in the wheelchair, the guards said that
I would have to go to the second floor, since wheelchairs weren’t allowed on
the ground floor anymore. I think that was a great change they made, since in the
years past, the footrests from the wheelchairs would hit the back part of
others’ feet, particularly the Achilles’ tendon… SU said that there were even
cases of people’s tendons getting completely severed because of these
footrests. With a heavy heart, I had to leave the group; since I was in the
chair, some of the men offered to push me around on the roof, but my mom (may
Allah bless her forever) refused, saying that they should enjoy their Hajj and
that she would push me herself. I felt terrible since the distance is greatly
increased when one walks the upper levels, and with her age and health, I
didn’t want her to do this and risk herself. Yet she insisted, saying that
Allah will give her strength in His House since she was her guest and He was
the best of hosts. Subhanallah, how amazing, my mom is pushing me around so
that I can do Umrah. Before we left, I had joked with her saying that she
should be nice to me since I’m her mahram and without me she couldn’t do Umrah…
and now, because of her, *I* was doing
Umrah. God is great. Someone would later tell me that I am now indebted to my
mother because of her pushing my chair… I told them, When you’re already in debt to someone for eternity, what more can you
owe them
?

            My mom and
I then proceeded to the upper levels to start with our Umrah. We saw that there
were people who were offering to push wheelchairs for a small price; when we
inquired about the price, we were hearing offers of 300-400 riyals.
Subhanallah. My mom said she’ll do it herself, so we started our Tawaf. It
wasn’t too crowded today (as opposed to what one might expect during Hajj
season) since most people were leaving Makkah. We had completed two circuits
when the Zuhr adhan went off, so we immediately stopped in order to find a
place to pray. I was feeling pretty bummed out at having been relegated to the
second floor, having to be pushed around… the whole deal. But then as the
iqamah finished, I heard a familiar voice announce: Istawwww, istawww, aqīmū sufūfakum, wa sudda’l-khala, `itadilū… and
then the greatest Qari of our time, the MAN himself, Shaykh Dr. Abdur Rahman
al-Sudais, in his often imitated yet unrivaled and incomparable voice goes, allaaaahu akbarrrr! Man, even though
that was a silent prayer (since there was no audible recitation), just hearing
the MAN himself say the takbirs brought a smile bright enough to light up the
Siberian tundra on my face. God bless that man amongst men.

            After Zuhr,
we continued with the Tawaf. Since the tawaf consists of seven circuits and
sometimes one might lose count, I’ve found that one effective way to keep track
of which circuit you’re doing is as follows. Note that there is no scholarly or
hadith backing for this; this is just something I came up with to help me out
and might help others out:

1st circuit: praise Allah, especially reciting
the third kalimah
2nd circuit: prayer on the Prophets, especially
on Prophet Muhammad (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam)
3rd circuit: forgiveness of sins; Qur’anic,
hadith, and scholarly du’as of forgiveness; special use of the Sayyid
al-Istighfar
4th circuit: Du’as for one’s worldly needs
5th circuit: Du’as for one’s death, grave, day of
judgment, afterlife
6th circuit: du’as for one’s family and relatives
7th circuit: du’as for the Muslim Ummah; end with
praise and prayer on the Prophet.
*from the Rukn Yemeni to Hajr al-Aswad, in each circuit,
recite Rabbanā ātinā fi’l-dunyā…

After the tawaf, we did our two rak’ah of nafl and drank
some zam-zam. One thing that I regrettably noticed this year is that quite
recently, they’ve sealed off the stairway that used to lead down to the actual
well of the zam-zam. I think there was some wisdom in that, since that area
would get extremely crowded and impeded traffic flow… but still, I feel bad for
everyone who hasn’t been there since they probably won’t get a chance to come
close to the original well, since there is only an underground access that’s
restricted to common folk. Nonetheless, they’ve engineered it so that the pure
zam-zam water is pumped to specific fountains that are scattered all over the
Masjid. Note that this is different from the water found in the coolers that
are at every pillar in both the Haramayn; to my knowledge, these contain water
that is mixed with regular water… so if you want 100% pure zam-zam, you have to
go to these specific stations. Anyway, we then headed to Safa to begin the
Sa`y. I’ve always found the Sa`y to be much more difficult than the Tawaf
(perhaps due to the fact that Sa`y is related to the verb sa`ā, which means to
struggle), and this time was no different. Whereas tawaf was quite open, the
sa`y area was packed with people. I felt bad that in this rush of people, my
footrests were hitting people in the back of their feet, despite the best
efforts of my mom and myself not to hit others. By the time we finished sa`y,
it was after `Asr; we had decided as a group to meet up around 4 pm,
so my mom and I thought we could crank
out the tawaf al-qudūm as well. Oh yes, I failed to mention earlier
that SU had
left his cell phone in his backpack that he had left on my chair. We
were about
halfway through when that thing started to ring non-stop; I didn’t want
to pick
up, but since I couldn’t totally ignore these calls, regrettably I had
to pick
up during tawaf. This is in stark contrast to the regular busters who
call up
their entire phonebook while in tawaf and carry on conversations as if
they’re
strolling through the market. While the cell phone certainly has its
advantages,
it’s disheartening to see the length and quality of talk that people do
while
they’re in tawaf. It also drives me insane to hear every possible
ringer tone
while making tawaf (I’m pretty sure I heard “Hit Me Baby One More Time”
as a ringer, with the words…). While a certain about of talk (if
necessary, such as a
question about what circuit number one is in or a religious question
related to
tawaf) is permissible, any useless talk ought to be avoided.
Unfortunately, you’ll
people whose phones will ring, they’ll pick up, and then proceed to
talk about
everything under the sun. One time I overheard one desi guy’s
conversation
which went something like this (translated from Urdu):

Aray yaar, I’m
currently in tawaf right now…yeah, we had breakfast of aloo-parathas today.
Anyway, listen, tell that guy in
Karachi
to buy that land, don’t wait on it, when I come back to
Pakistan we’ll see what to do… so how’s your family…

Reluctantly, I picked up… it was the group… most people were
done and they were waiting on just a few people, including me and my mom. We
had to literally run through the remaining circuits, since we didn’t want to be
the cause for the group’s hold up.

            After we
finished, we went to the group meet-up location in the hotel lobby. Nearly
everyone was back except for a few people, but another problem loomed: the
mutawwif’s bus that was to take us to Mina was nowhere to be found. All
attempts made by SU to find out where/when this was going to come were futile.
It was here in the lobby that I also saw a whole bunch of people from other
groups, including Alti, sitting around in the same predicament. Apparently,
they not only didn’t have a bus, but their status as pilgrims was an issue
since they apparently didn’t have the proper ID. I’ll let Alti write about the
ridiculousness of that situation later. Anyway, we had to simply wait in the
lobby for the missing people and our bus. I was somewhat happy that we at least
got to stick around for Maghrib and Isha and got to pray those in the street
outside the hotel since we got to hear Sudais (the MAN recite). This time
around, to me at least, it seemed that he had slightly changed his recitation
in certain places; for example, his Surah Fatihah had some differently pitched
endings to each ayah and his salaam at the end of the prayer was slightly
modified as well. I loved it. As we sat around waiting, SU was frantically
trying to figure out a way to get us to Mina as many of the group members began
to become testy and upset that we had missed spending the day in Mina and
praying 5 prayers there. I tried to reassure them spending the day in Mina on
the 8th is Sunnah and since we were precluded by matters that weren’t
in our hands, there’s no need to feel that our Hajj’s legitimacy is threatened.
Nevertheless, people were quite upset because this was something they were
quite emotionally attached to… one of the things that I personally learnt
during this trip was a lot about Muslim psyche: what things are people
emotional about, what makes them tick, etc. Maintaining group morale throughout
the journey was quite the difficult task; it looks much easier from the
outside. Anyway, SU had the clever idea to call Sameer up and cut him a deal
that if he became our private bus driver for the days of Hajj, he’d pay him a
lavish amount of money. Our travel agent’s contact in Saudi, Hamid Mira (God
bless this dear man), sent a young man named Anas to also stay with the group
and navigate us through logistics. Finally around 9:30 pm, Sameer showed up and we got on the road;
amazingly, and this is something that I never expected since I thought everyone
would be in Mina by now, the roads to Mina were still jam-packed with people.
The traffic was the last straw to many group members, and I began to hear open
complaints and arguments beginning to break out amongst ourselves. Damn, that punk Shaytan knows that tomorrow
is Arafat and is trying to ruin our Hajj
. I thought about remaining quiet,
since I didn’t want to offend people, but this whining was beginning to get on
my nerves. I was sitting in the front of the bus next to SU; I told him, “watch
this”, grabbed the bus’s mike from Sameer, and just went off at people,
stressing not to throw away their Hajj and asking them if they really thought
it would be this easy. We were going to Mina, which some say is related to the
word tamanna (hope): Mina was a place
where the hujjaj used to gather water and prepare/hope for the day of Arafat;
now was the time for us to hope for the goodness of the morrow and not dwell on
the inconveniences that we’ve faced. I really gave it to them for a good 20
minutes and then sat down… the bus was silent, SU leaned over to me and asked, “How’d
you do that?”. I looked at him and smiled: “I have no idea”.

            I fell
asleep in the traffic but we finally got to Mina around 12 am. Thinking that our day’s ordeal was over, we went to our tents, eager to get a few hours of sleep before proceeding to
Arafat after dawn. When we got to our allotted tent, we found that a bunch of Egyptians
(from America)
had, well, for the lack of a better word, hijacked our tents. We showed them
our permit and tried to explain to them that this is our rightful tent… if they
showed us their papers that authorized them to be here, we’d leave. Their
response? Allah has authorized us to be here, we don’t need no papers, and we
have been here all day, we’re not moving, tough. Their leader then just said
that he’s not discussing this anymore and that we should “go bother someone
else, leave us alone.” Subhanallah. With no where else to stay in Mina, since
all the other tents were occupied and most people were asleep, we returned back
to the bus. The only place that Sameer could find to park the bus was next to
the windtunnel leading to the slaughterhouses of Mina where all the goats that
were to be slaughtered for the Hajj were kept.

            What could
we do? We had no other place to sleep. We got down from the bus and found an
empty area near the windtunnel. We spread out whatever mats we had, curled up
in our ihrams to ward off the chill, and lay down to spend the night as the “pleasantly-scented”
breezes of sacrificial animals danced across our nostrils and put us to sleep.

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32 Comments
  1. Salaam. I’m amazed that I’m the first to comment. Maybe you should write a book about your Hajj. I mean you’ve practically written a book already. Just compile these entries into a novel or something.

  2. my favorite one so far well done, mAi wish i could hear the MAN recite live.. some day iApeace,IJB

  3. Jazaakallah Khair for this post. You’re arrival to Makkah is beautifully described masha Allah “the atmosphere in Madinah had been one of tranquility, the aura of Makkah was one of majesty and splendor. Whereas the essence of Madinah was one of deference and respect for the Prophet, the spirit of Makkah was one wherein everything kneeled in abject humility in the presence of the might of God.” I dont think I have seen a better comparison of the two Holy cities before :)Yeah, people misuse cell phones a lot. I have noticed that myself.May Allah Bless your mom for putting in so much efforts to push you around on a wheelchair. It definitely increases the distance big time doing tawaaf from the 2nd floor. The story about your tents in Mina sucks. Its so inconsiderate of such people to put others in trouble for their own convenience. It was interesting how they got away by saying “Allah has authorized us to be here, we don’t need no papers, and we have been here all day, we’re not moving, tough.” Ha!By the way, there are other fans of greats like Shaykh Shuraim around here. So referring to Shaykh Sudais (who’s undeniably one of the greatest reciters today) as the “MAN” aint the best big brother! Let’s just say, “the MEN” from now on…hehehe!

  4. Anonymous permalink

    man…
    i think the people reading these longgggggggg entries should get the reward of a Hajj…
    hehe…
    nigger-ul-haq

  5. Assalamualaikum….
    start time: 1149 end time: 1207
    MashahAllah, good fifteen minutes spend……i agree with ishiwud..the best one yet, MashahAllah….
    kr bro….you seriously have a way with words…..some words i liked….
    “Here, the police was simply there to keep people moving; there was no need for color-coded security meters since God Himself was the security force here.”
    “the spirit of Makkah was one wherein everything kneeled in abject humility in the presence of the might of God.”
    “Before we left, I had joked with her saying that she should be nice to me since I’m her mahram and without me she couldn’t do Umrah… and now, because of her, *I* was doing Umrah. God is great. Someone would later tell me that I am now indebted to my mother because of her pushing my chair… I told them, When you’re already in debt to someone for eternity, what more can you owe them? ”

    Zam Zam…yup…that thing….MashahAllah..i remember when i went, i think i was seven, we all would go down there and i would fill up a mug and pour the water all over me…and then walk out and let the Makkah Sun dry me….man…memories….Alhumdulillah….
    “(I’m pretty sure I heard “Hit Me Baby One More Time” as a ringer, with the words…). ” hahahahahahahahaha
    …and, uh, SUDAIS ROCKS….mashahAllah
    Allah Hafiz
    Wasalaam
    ps…i wish i could give you more propz….

  6. Sleeping next to the slaughterhouse? That deserves props, MashAllah.
    Britney Spears’s songs in the Ka’bah… is that one of the Signs of the Last Day?

  7. Anonymous permalink

    Assalamualaikum
    MashaAllah.. bro this post was absolutely amazing.. i loved it… my favourite line by far was “When you’re already in debt to someone for eternity, what more can you owe them?”  SubhanAllah, MashaAllah… that deserves an insane amount of props…  seriously kr bro.. i love ur memoirs.. i read them over and over hahaha..

  8. Sameer is the mannnn. Your mom is the head lady in charge. And your the guy that gets people to feel ashamed when they start complaining. I likes.

  9. That’s awesome…pleasantly scented smells of sacrificial animals…
    That Sameer of yours was a thug…mashallah…

  10. Anonymous permalink

    may I suggest that you make your post a LITTLE bit shorter.

  11. good stuff. keep them coming!

  12. Write a damn book!

  13. FIND ME A WIFE FROM CHICAGO!

  14. LIONS GOT MIKE MARTZ

    TAKBEER!

  15. MAKE DUA FOR ME!

  16. So…. I’m like reading your post, and my son Rayhan sitting right beside me goes, “Papa…..how looooong are you gonaa take to read that?….turn it to something else!”….lol….
    Masha Allah, brilliant as always….Your posts bring back many fond memories….

  17. Anonymous permalink

    As Salamu Alaikium warahmatulahi wabarakathahu…beautiful post…and it was too short, at the end of the post i was sad because i wish it would go on. your reflections are amazing….especially your memory (SUBHAN’ALLAH) to remember all the details and put it into words is a dream for a person like me…my sisters thought i was missing out on not having a cell phone…well i am a senior in college i have lived away and without a cell phone for 3 and half years and i loved it..now i have it,..its nice to talk to my ami way more often then i used to but it was very nice not having one…my life felt so ‘free’ and my relationship with Allah(swt) became much more closer since i didnt have anyone to turn to but Him..and i loved it…now a person is at the touch of my finger just click “Talk”…this sounds so stupid but yet it is so true..my father agreed with me so we both did not have a cell phone but after he left back to Allah(Swt) my sisters felt that i needed a cell phone…when in reality im noticing that i need Qur’an more…well anyway i still think it is a waste of money as well 40 dollars i mean you can feed a kid with that for an entire month..why waste it on a phone? a phone used for what? gossiping? or saying hey man u wanna eat dinner? ok i can understand it for a business man but even that kills a relationship if you are married. I’ve seen one of my uncles and we are having a family get together and hes in the corner on the phone and his wife gets upset…cell phones stink! i can see how they are very useful…u are stuck on the road..well u can call triple A much faster then walking a half a mile for the next phone and it beats hitch hiking. A few years ago people were without cell phones…we all lived life…maybe even a better one..full of richness and quality…anyway back to Guyton -Physiological Systems . As Salamu Alakium warahmatulahi   

  18. so….. i hope you know that no one actually took the time to read this except girls. and i thik they lie about it too, cause its so freekin long. i mean did you even write all of it, or did you cut and paste. i mean i think you just meant to say that hajj was cool. See how easy that was.

  19. I bet he even wrote a statement in the post saying, ‘I know no one is actually reading this, except maybe hot women that want to marry me because I am such a stud (points to self with both thumbs)’. . j/k.

  20. dude, i heard about the hijacking of your tent and you guys having to sleep near the slaugherhouse. May Allah bless you guys for exhibiting such great character under those hard circumstances…i guess that’s the essence of what Hajj is all about….for the sake of Allah!

  21. poo on everyone who complains about the length of the posts. they’re like a good book that you can never put down..and you want them to go on and on. masha’Allah..they’re extremely well-written and insightful…your ability to create beauty through words is impressive masha’Allah
    …it must be amazing to hear Sudais recite, he IS the man, masha’Allah…my favorite line as well was “When you’re already in debt to someone for eternity, what more can you owe them?”
    Subhan’Allah, 2 props don’t do your posts justice

  22. lol @ msapirate and mrpharmasist’s comments..

  23. it is said that one can feel the JAMAAL in Madina, and the JALAAL in Makkah.

  24. Props for sharing what to read during the 7 “chakkars” of tawaf

  25. Anonymous permalink

    Too many people have ADD here. Don’t you people ever read? Even I’m told my posts are too long and they’re only the size of the first 2 paragraphs of this post. Quit whining. Now I bet if this post was titled “KR’s Guide to Training your Wife” and talked about how to get your wife to flip channels for you while you eat the food she’s been preparing for you all day, all of you would’ve read every single word of it.
    Anyway, mashaAllah this was great. You’ve described everything so well that the reader can almost feel what exactly it was like to be there. But of course, nothing close to the real deal. And mashaAllah it seems like you took advantage of everything and your hajj went really well despite your injury and other hurdles along the way. Good job.

  26. “Now I bet if this post was titled “KR’s Guide to Training your Wife” and talked about how to get your wife to flip channels for you while you eat the food she’s been preparing for you all day, all of you would’ve read every single word of it.”mannnn, way to ruin my super-secret post that i’ve been working on and was gonna unveil next month….

  27. lol @ falooda….you rock….

  28. Anonymous permalink

    LOL to falooda’s comment.. so true! ppl should learn to appreciate

  29. in allaha ma’as-sabireen. if only i knew that going into hajj when i did. the part about not being able to go to your tents at the end of the trip to mina made me remember that.
    also, big props to falooda.

  30. hahaha, ms. falooda… well stated.  Like she said, excellent descriptions, so much so that u almost feel like you’re there, mA.  Nice statement about your mom too… very true.  And mashaAllah may Allah (swt) infinitely reward you all for your many hardships, in this life and the hereafter inshaAllah.  Surely after every difficulty, there is relief.  Ameen.

  31. im a little behind so i just read this one. keep it coming. really awesome stuff alhamdulillah.

  32. I like the memories of haji doing tawaf together.Cheap Umrah Packages

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