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Memoirs of an American Haji, Part VI

February 18, 2006

kr’s note – why do all my juvenile posts get FC and never the important ones?


Monday, January 9th
(9th of Dhul Hajj: the Day of `Arafat)

We woke up quite early so as to get
ourselves ready to leave immediately after Fajr. We were greeted by an intense
chill, one that I had never felt before in my previous trips over; early
mornings during the winter in desert climates are colder than they appear.
Nonetheless, the icy cold water that dripped from newly-washed limbs was more
than pneumonia-threatening: it was a moment like never before, where one truly
feels alive. As we stood for Fajr, I had only our group members praying behind
me, but by the time I finished the prayer, I was amazed to see a huge crowd of
people that had joined in the prayer. I think that’s one of the coolest things
about the Hajj; you start a small congregation, and by the time you’re done, you
wonder where everyone came from–it’s a wondrous sight to see all these people
who have joined. After Fajr, as we gathered up our belongings to quickly board
the bus, Sameer and Anas were nowhere to be found. After fifteen of the longest
minutes ever, they both strolled back calmly, themselves bedecked in ihram.
Sameer laughs and said, “We might as well do Hajj too.” When he said that, I marveled
to myself at how true the adage about being divinely invited to Hajj is true since
here were two people that had no plans of making Hajj until last night, but due
to circumstances and Divine Providence, they were now joining us for Hajj as
well. I then thought about a family from Chicago
that was to have left a day before us—these were people who had planned for
Hajj for months and whatnot, yet as they were waiting to board the plane at the
airport after having checked their baggage, the plane’s landing gear gets hit
by lightning. The flight gets cancelled, and the dozen or so Hajj passengers
are forced to pay exorbitant last-minute rates on other airlines that would
take them through some unconfirmed connections to get to Jeddah. Due to this
uncertainty, this family, who was so ready to go on Hajj, had to cancel their
Hajj plans… and here Sameer and Anas had no plans of making Hajj even until the
night before `Arafat. At such a gathering, it’s invite only.

            We got on
the road earlier than most groups who had to wait for their Mutawwif-provided
bus. As we drove by the slaughterhouse, we saw oceans of sheep that were penned
in massive enclosures, sacrificial animals as far as the eye could see. We
joked around with one another, pointing randomly to a sheep and saying, “Hey,
look, that’s your bakra (goat) that’s going to be slaughtered tomorrow.” We
made good time before hitting the dreaded traffic that was now expected and a
lack of thereof would be an anomaly. I used this time to brief everyone on the
significance of Arafat, especially stressing the following hadith: “One of the
greatest sins of a man is that he should be present at ‘Arafat, but still think that
God Most High has not yet forgiven him.” Thus not only asking for forgiveness
is important, but believing that this repentance has been accepted is equally
important. Another important issue to remember, summarized from a story that
Imam al-Ghazali writes about a saint named Ali b. Muwaffaq, is that you never
know that by virtue of someone else’s pilgrimage that your own pilgrimage will
be accepted. In other words, someone else’s Hajj might be filled with more
sincerity and be more beloved to Allah and thus can be a means for the acceptance
of everyone else’s Hajj; the saint heard two angels conversing in his dream
wherein he learnt that because of the acceptedness of six pilgrims that year,
all 600 thousand pilgrims’ Hajj was accepted. If that isn’t even more reason to
make sure you get along with all the Hujjaj, I don’t know what else is… but
read on. Anyway, we were headed towards the upgraded tents since SU had pulled
some strings and gotten us to be bumped over there.

As we approached the blessed valley
where our ultimate grandparents were reunited, I was disheartened to see this
dense smoke hanging motionless (like the Qur’anic dukhān…) over the valley. I alluded to this earlier, but nowhere
else did it sadden me as much as it did here: due to our own foolishness, we
were messing up this pristine land. Alhamdulillah, there’s a bus system of
transportation manages to get the job done and get people to where they need to
be during these days… but it also creates an asthma-patient’s nightmare. Heck,
everyone had runny noses and was coughing due to the pollution. I think that
something significant has to be done to enact stricter pollution filters on
these buses, but one idea that I’ve heard tossed around in Hajjs before was to
construct a monorail or subway system between these three places. This would
not only cut down on pollution but, if properly constructed, would speed up the
travel time. I’m not sure what the costs would be for that, but I don’t think
it’d be that unfeasible and expensive to build. And yes, it’d only be used for
one week of the entire year, but I think in the long term, this would be a
viable solution. Or there might be some other solution, but either way, I hope
something is done soon. Insert ingenious ideas here.

As we got near our tent, Anas
stopped the bus all of a sudden and jumped out. We were worried that something
happened, but then noticed him go and meet a friend of his that he spotted
walking on the road. Imagine the scene: a bus full of pilgrims on the road to
Arafat and our guide has stopped the bus to meet his friend… it was such a
moment of human-ness that it was beautiful. We were the first ones to arrive at
the tents around 9:30, and got
settled in. There was a cushion in the corner that the group members offered
me, their “leader” (hah), to sleep on… I had no problem with that (hehe), so I
napped for an hour. When I awoke, the other groups from American Hajj Union
were filing in. I saw that rascal Alti again, as well as finally meeting Shaykh
Amin, Mawlana Aziz, and Shaykh Abdur Rahman Khan (affectionately known as
SHARK). My feet felt a lot better too, so I was walking around (much to the
dismay of my mom) and my spirits were up. There were at least 6-8 American
groups that had joined together in the tent. The scholars decided to hold
consultation to map out the program for the day, and when Shaykh Musa (from
Michigan) asked if there any other group leaders so they could join in the
discussion, I remember joking around with Alti that I was craving the Red
Lobster bread with some warm butter when I hear SU point and indicate towards
me. Like a deer in headlights, I was frozen, and I kept insisting that I’m not
a scholar or a group leader and that the real scholars should take shura and
figure out a plan for the entire tent. Nonetheless, they all insisted that I
join them; I marveled at the humility of these shuyukh, to invite some idiot
like me to join their discussion. I reluctantly and nervously joined in the
discussion of these big dawg shaykhs; since they were both desi and Arab, and
to keep the rest of the people in the dark, I think they resorted to conversing
in fushah Arabic as to figure out who should give the khutbah, make du’a, give
a talk, etc. I kept my mouth shut since I didn’t want to say anything stupid.
After deciding a few matters, there was some disagreement amongst the scholars
about whether or not to combine Zuhr and `Asr. I silently laughed to myself
because this always seems to be an issue amongst people; the staunch Hanafis
insist that unless one prays behind the imam at Masjid al-Namirah (the masjid
of Arafat), one cannot combine the two prayers. Thus, the two desi scholars
were insisting that we should not combine, whereas the Arabs were trying to get
everyone to agree to combine. They decided to ask everyone their opinion, so
they go around in a circle voicing their opinions and it’s my turn. Alti’s
sitting next to me, so he can attest that I was probably the most nervous I had
ever been in my life, but I managed to say to them that is written in the famous
Hanafi text of Mukhtasar al-Quduri, that Imam Abu Hanifah said it’s not
permissible (the dominant opinion), but the Sahibayn (ie, Qadi Abu Yusuf and
Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani) allowed for it (the lesser opinion). I then
suggested that since the desis were in a minority in this tent and that it’s
not against the Hanafi madhab to go with this opinion, that we should combine
for the sake of istihsān. I was shocked when they all agreed to my suggestion: here I’m just an ignorant kid sitting with
these shuyukh yet they’re agreeing with my suggestion… subhanallah, what
humility
. I think that gained me street cred in this elite circle, because
they then asked me to give adhan and address everyone after prayer as well.
Anyway, SHARK gave khutbah, and mashallah, old boy busted out with one of the
best talks that I’ve ever heard from him. He stressed the main points of the
Prophet’s last sermon, especially focusing on concept of equality, and not to
let racial and ethnic differences be grounds for self-righteous superiority. After
prayer, Shaykh Musa addressed the people about the significance of Arafat and
led us in a short du`a. I was about to gather my du’a booklet and head on
outside to start my personal du’as when he asked me to say a few words. I did,
and then Alti’s mom (God bless her, she’s like my mom too) sends a message from
the ladies’ side insisting that I too do a group du’a. Reluctantly, I did, Alti
held the mike, and Alhamdulillah, I think people benefited.

While I have attempted to describe some
of the events and places of Hajj, I don’t think there’s any way to describe
`Arafat. Wa mā adrāka mā `arafāt? It’s
the highlight of Hajj, the main reason why we spend thousands of dollars,
travel thousands of miles, and endure a thousand and one difficulties just to
spend a few fleeting moments in the blessed valley. This is the place where
sins are forgiven, as the hadith states “there are some sins which are expiated
only by standing on Mount `Arafat. This is the day when Iblis was seen by one
of the saints in the shape of a person whose body was frail, his color pallid, his
eyes tearful, and his back broken. And the Prophet himself said, “Satan has
never been seen as to be more mean or humiliated or miserable or vexed than on
the day of `Arafat. This is a day where the only act of worship is pure, raw,
unadulterated, sincere du’a made from God’s guests to the Greatest of Hosts. It
is a prelude to the Day of Judgment as one sees the vast masses of humanity dispersed
amongst every single possible foothill, tree, and open ground, worried about
only his/her own soul and supplicating paradoxically as individuals, yet
collectively towards their Maker. Time and family have no importance here as
one is obsessed only with earning one’s salvation. It perhaps is no coincidence
that `Arafat is derived from the verb `a-ra-fa,
which means to recognize; in essence, this is a day when those present
recognize with the knowledge of certainty that just as they stand as desperate
and pathetic souls before their Lord, a grander standing and more formidable Day
awaits. This is `Arafat.

After this, I saw the first of two
things that nearly drove me insane and this close to busting some heads open.
Right after the du’as were finished, I saw a whole bunch of the Arab uncles
just lie down and go to sleep… I thought, What
the hell! Every second of today is the most precious seconds that we’ll ever
experience and we’re going to sleep??
Honestly, I think Shaytan was messing
with me because I wanted to administer physical chastisement. Anyway, I went
outside and started my personal du’as (and the 53 page du’a booklet, you
free-loaders who sent me all their du’a requests…). After that, I went to
briefly talk with Mawlana Aziz and Shaykh Amin, since they were in adjoining
tents. Good thing too, because I think Mawlana Aziz would have slaughtered me
if he knew that I suggested to combine since he was staunch about not combining during our sessions before Hajj… Shaykh
Amin was more of the opinion that we should go with the majority, obviously not
combining being better, but for the sake of not rocking the boat with everyone
else if they (ie, other scholars) wanted to combine, then to combine. Anyway, I had to talk to them
about a question that a group member had asked since he didn’t perform the Sa`y
of `Umrah. I was positive that he needed to give a sacrifical animal as damm, but I was hoping to find some
excuse for the poor guy so he didn’t have to shell out the money. Both of them
confirmed what I thought, so I sadly told the guy he had to give damm. I think my medical training of how
to give bad news came in handy here, because old boy was quite depressed about
hearing that he had to give damm. So
it goes.

    The absolute worst thing that I saw during Hajj—and the thing about
Hajj is that you see the best of humanity and the worst of it as well—was when
the food came. The irony was that the food in `Arafat was the best that we got
during the Hajj days: huge plates of rice and meat that were meant to be shared
by 10 people each. The organizers asked everyone to get into groups of 10 so
that everyone would get to eat; there was more than enough to go around as
probably at least 20 people could have eaten from each dish. Yet, in perhaps
one of the worst moments of humanity that I have witnessed with my own eyes, I
saw Arabs and Desis, forming only groups of 6-7 amongst themselves, and they began devouring
the food as if they’ve never eaten before. That’s another thing that bothered
me during Hajj: how Muslims, both men and women, are fanatical about making
sure they get the most food possible, even though they don’t eat half of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the well-made kefta kabob and the perfect biryani
as much as the next person, but I think there’s something inherently wrong with
this pathological obsession that we HAVE to be fed with obscenely large
quantities of food every time we eat. It’s as if Ramadan has taught us nothing.
But the worst was yet to come. The smaller groups demanded a plate each, and
pretty soon all the plates were gone. There was a group of 5-7 Nigerian sisters
from Houston that didn’t get any plate, and when they went to join in with a
given smaller group, both the desis and Arabs turned them away, saying there wasn’t
enough food for them and they should go ask someone else. Of course, these same
groups threw out half their food, but who am I to comment, right… It pissed me
off; didn’t these people remember ANYthing from the khutbah (on that note, do
people remember ANYthing from khutbahs these days…) that SHARK had given? In
this same valley where 1416 lunar years ago, the Messenger of God had
emphatically declared the non-superiority of one over another by virtue of race
or color, this grand display of patheticness occurred. Perhaps Shaytan’s back
was slightly less broken now.

Before sunset, Shaykh Amin was
leading his tent’s group in du’a so I scurried over to join him in a
supplication that was one of the most powerful and sincere du’as that I’ve ever
heard in my life. There was not a dry eye to be found after he was done. As
`Arafat came to an end, I marveled at how quickly time flew by; there were so
many other du’as that I had wanted to do, but with the commitments of
leadership and whatnot, I didn’t get around to everything. Khayr, whatever I
did get to, it gets accepted; quality always wins over quantity. As we prepared
to leave, I could see Iblis hard at work already, since the AHU leader (let’s
call him “MA”) wanted to commander our bus to take the “VIP” package
people to Muzdalifah, even though we paid privately for it. As the sun
set, we literally had to run out of `Arafat to get onto our bus before MA and
his posse got on. Stupidity. Of course, even though we managed to get everyone
on board, one elder gentleman (“IB”) apparently decided to “go for a walk”
before Maghrib and didn’t make it to the bus. So we’re sitting in the bus,
ready to go for Muzdalifah and IB isn’t back. And we just can’t leave him there
because he was a little senile and elderly, so we sent out some people to look
for him… of course, no luck. We ended up waiting for 2 hours and still he didn’t
show up. Finally, we decided that we had to move on, otherwise we’d never get
to Muzdalifah.

As we got on the road, we looked back as twilight encompassed
`Arafat. The main rite of Hajj was over. Once again, the chant of “Labbayk,
Allahumma Labbayk” filled the bus and the night air as we headed towards our
night’s accommodations in the
valley
of
Muzdalifah.

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28 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    I saw that rascal Alti again, as well as finally meeting Shaykh Amin, Mawlana Aziz, and Shaykh Abdur Rahman Khan (affectionately known as SHARK).
     
    I remember joking around with Alti that I was craving the Red Lobster bread with some warm butter
     
    Alti’s sitting next to me, so he can attest that I was probably the most nervous I had eve been in my life
     
    I did, and then Alti’s mom (God bless her, she’s like my mom too) sends a message from the ladies’ side insisting that I too do a group du’a. Reluctantly, I did, Alti held the mike, and Alhamdulillah, I think people benefited.
     
    man that was a long post…i read some of it as you can see…well only the parts where im mentioned…but yeah mash’Allah man your dua’a was real solid…and for those who would like to see uncles “scandalously” sleeping during arafat…please visit (at your own discretion) http://www.xanga.com/lt786 (thats right…i took pictures…i have no shame…)
     
    *shameless plug for his own xanga*
     
    nigger-ul-haq

  2. i’m just gonna prop this w/o reading b/c i anticipate it will be good (it better) 😛
    FC to the haji posts, iA!

  3. after reading this post, i feel disheartened, and ashamed, that these kinds of things would go on even during hajj.  not sharing food? come on, you learn to share when you’re like 2 years old…and back in the last post, when other people hijacked your tent..no one seems to give a damn about their fellow muslim brothers and sisters anymore..it’s so selfish it’s disgusting
    “Imagine the scene: a bus full of pilgrims on the road to Arafat and our guide has stopped the bus to meet his friend… it was such a moment of human-ness that it was beautiful”…but moments like these in the post make me feel better

  4. you should publish this after its done. really. maybe with a compilation of other ppl’s memoirs

  5. 🙂 Finally! I was stalking this page several times everyday in the hopes of reading the next installment… and it does not disappoint. Thanks for writing this.BTW several years back I had heard of hujjaj getting instant noodles around noon and the soup from the noodles later on in the day… in comparison you guys dined like kings indeed! 🙂

  6. I’m wondering how much of the book you actually read during the day of Arafat. I love the irony of people stuffing their faces with food, but then hating the situation of the bathrooms at the same time. I was stuck in a line at Arafat that must have been 15-20 heads deep. Spent the last 45 minutes on the day of Arafat before Maghrib waiting to use the bathroom. Such is life.The rest of the post reminded me of Tuesday night at Pita House. I bet you can’t wait till next Tuesday night.

  7. Assalamualaikum…..
    YAY…they are back…..about time too….looking at you getting FC on that post was ridiculous….you should get FC on this one….MashahAllah it was good….
    “There was a cushion in the corner that the group members offered me, their “leader” (hah), to sleep on” ….this wouldnt have been funny if there wasnt the “hah” in there….
    here I’m just an ignorant kid sitting with these shuyukh yet they’re agreeing with my suggestion… subhanallah, what humility.”……psh….i bet you were blushing with pryde…..
    “(and the 53 page du’a booklet, you free-loaders who sent me all their du’a requests…)” …..hey you asked for it…(and FC)
    “Perhaps Shaytan’s back was slightly less broken now.”….he ruins everything…..
    ….and yeah…nice ending…..
    Allah Hafiz
    Wasalaam

  8. Man, that incident about them not sharing the food with the Nigerians is pathetic.
    I love your descriptions of each place, MashAllah, you allow the rest of us to have been there with you.
    This should get FC, I agree with Ahadith

  9. That was great Mashallah, and I did read it all…I love the name SHARK…that cracks me up
    I don’t quite understand the combining/not combining part.  That is so over my head. 
    And the not sharing food part…that just breaks my heart…do people think their hajj will be accepted with that kind of behavior…

  10. I am craving Devon food……………

  11. SubhanAllah, the story about the family whose plane got cancelled because of the lightning was powerful. And then the bus driver and Anas got to do Hajj… really shows that you have to get invited.

  12. yeah hajis

  13. SubhanAllah…

  14. Masha Allah, that’s an amazing answer you gave about the combining/joining prayers part…well done….

  15. “why do all my juvenile posts get FC and never the important ones?”Because Xanga is by its nature juvenile. One of my most popular posts was about toys that look like feces and urine. Juvenile.

  16. u guys left “IB” behind?… poor guy! nice post…i like how ur so descriptive cuz people can almost imagine and feel wat u went thru

  17. Anonymous permalink

    hey…shaykh musa…i have one of those at home too

  18. i love hajj stories 🙂 and props to you for not expressing your anger at the arab uncles.. i don’t think i could’ve kept my mouth shut!

  19. As salaamu alaikum,Yeah the being greedy-with-food thing is amazing. The heart of Islam is akhlaq and adab, and yet nowadays we see this divergence between the inner and outer aspects of Islam everywhere. It seems like everyone has an “every man to himself” attitude. But the Prophet (sallallaho alayhi wa sallam) has taught us to be better then this:Anas (R.A.) reports that Rasulullah (S.A.W.) once said “I swear by the Holy Being in whose power my life is, any one of you cannot be a true believer unless he desires for his fellow-brother what he desires for himself.””You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the praise of Allah.” (Al-Ahzaab: 21)Imam Ahmad says: Sa’eed bin Mansoor has narrated to us from Abdul Azeez bin Muhammad who narrates from Muhammad bin Ajlaan who narrates from Al-Qa’qa bin Hakeem who narrates from Abi Saalih who narrates from Abu Hurairah as saying: The Messenger said: “Indeed I have been sent to complete good character.May Allah give us the taufeeq to follow Islam fully, not just externally but internally as well, ameen.

  20. yea, very descriptive.  It really makes you feel like you’re there.  Nicely done, mashaAllah.  thanks. 

  21. Anonymous permalink

    Kr156 asked:why do you think that if someone declares “i love Prophet Muhammad” that somehow that excludes them from loving Allah? why do you think that the two kinds of love or somehow incompatible with one another.To answer your first question, I don’t believe that declaring your love for Prophet Muhammad somehow excludes one from loving Allah. Nope, not at all. Actually me saying that I love Allah more than Prophet Muhammad, proves that I already love Prophet Muhammad… just not as much as I love Allah. I don’t believe that the two kinds of love are somehow incompatible with one another.What irks me and what I find utterly disguisting is that people are quick to declare their love for the Prophet Muhammad more than they are for Allah. Just look at you. You’ve joined blogrings and NOT ONE is a blogring that for the admiration of Allah alone… instead you have joined a blogring that is for the admiration of Prophet Muhammad— for a man. I find that repulsive considering the fact that Propet Muhammad is a religious figure in Islam. I just don’t understand why– when it comes to religion– people would rathar declare their love for people and not God himself, first.No offense to the Catholics, but to this type of behavior reminds me of how Catholics put so much energy in their love for the Virgin Mary… all of the designs, falmboience, etc, etc all in dedication for her… and none of it is making a statement for their love for God. And the funny thing is many Muslims critisize Catholics for this (not saying that you do)… but many Muslims go and do the same thing when it comes to Prophet Muhammad. They go on and on about the Prophet Muhammad, but barely do they go on and on about God.To me it’s just a hypocricy of behavior. I wonder, “Who comes first?” when you compare eachother.You’d rather be in a blogring called “Niggas For Life (NFL)” than be in a blogring called “I Love Allah More than Prophet Muhammad”. I’m not saying that you have to join my blogring, or that your intentions are to purposly declare your love for the Prophet rathar than Allah… but when you look at things… things don’t look right.I’m willing to say that I love Allah more than Prophet Muhammad. I’m willing to say that publicly in front of any Muslim I meet. But I honestly feel that most Muslims aren’t willing to say that, at least without hesitation– because so many Muslims revolve their world around Prophet Muhammad, so much more than they revolve their world around Allah, that it would probably feel strange, no matter how much it may be true.Just look at your reaction to my post. I didn’t say that I didn’t love the Prophet Muhammad, I didn’t say that it was wrong to love him, I didn’t say that if you love Allah you can’t possibly love the Prophet Muhamamd… I actually said you should love him adn that I love him myself… but it appears that you ignored all of that by asking the above questions, and assuming that I was a wahaabi.I don’t believe that saying that you love the Prophet is a shirk, or even borderline shirk. Heck no. But remember that my blog is my blog, so what’s typed is coming from my view and observation…comes from what I’ve seen and heard. And when I look at all of what of what I’ve seen heard… the whole picture… it becomes something absouloutly different from what you may have seen or heard. If you go back and read you would see that my stress is not from people saying that they love the Prophet… it comes from the lack of things dedicated to Allah.

  22. Excellent post bro! what happened to IB? did he catch up later with u guys?

  23. to Shehadmebycesarean: i don’t need to join a blogring to declare my love for Allah. thanks.la ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad al-Rasulullah.^^that’s my only reply to your rambling diatribe.

  24. nice kr nice. i support you.
    who needs to join a blog to express their love for Allah? indeed it is already in our hearts. And this is to Shehadmebycesarean: We love the prophet muhammed s.a.w a lot because he is the one who introduced us to Allah and was the zaria for the love of Allah coming into our hearts. Had it not been for him s.a.w, would we even know Allah and be able to love Him?

  25. that sucks about those guys sleeping. maybe they lived there. but that still doesnt justify them sleeping.
    man, all this sounds incredible. i’m sure it is. i can’t wait, inshAllah, one day when i go.

  26. kr156 wrote:
    “to Shehadmebycesarean: i don’t need to join a blogring to declare my love for Allah. thanks.la ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad al-Rasulullah.^^that’s my only reply to your rambling diatribe.”
    there’s only one thing Beliewar2 can say to that: SUPAR DUPAR PAWAR!

  27. I finally got to catch up on your memoirs, Alhamdullilah, what else can I say…

  28. I like the presentation of the post and helpful for me.Cheap Umrah Packages

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