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Memoirs of an American Haji, Part VIII

March 26, 2006

kr’s note: there is no note this time.

Tuesday, January 10th
(10th of Dhu’l-Hajj)

By the time our bus got through the
mass of people heading back towards Mina, it was already past 12 pm. On the 10th day, the
recommended sequence of rituals is to pelt the devil, sacrifice one’s animal,
and shave one’s head, and then complete the Tawaf al-Ifadah (aka Tawaf
Ziyarah). The recommended time to complete the stoning is before noon (zawal),
but seeing as how we arrived back at Mina at this time, it wasn’t possible.
This is another thing to keep in mind, continuing along the theme of how the
actual Hajj differs from the laboratory Hajj that one reads about in books. In
the theoretical, abstract Hajj that takes place in a perfect world, everything
gets done in order and on time. The reality now, however, is that the situation
will trump one’s desire to follow the correct order. This is not to say that
one should abandon even attempting the correct order according to the Sunnah
(and hence the spate of recent fatwahs that make every convenience possible to
the point that people don’t even try anymore); however, one should be
prepared for these unexpected occurrences and deal with them accordingly.
Unfortunately, one will see others who become somewhat fanatical about the
order/method, fearing that the legitimacy of their Hajj is threatened if they
don’t follow it to the letter. As a group leader, much of my time was spent
trying to put out these sorts of fires: people who were emotionally charged
with spiritual passion that it clouded their reasoning. They constantly feared
that our Hajj was not valid due to prevailing circumstances that prevented us
from following the perfect order. Mashallah, their intention was good, but
unfortunately, they were not able to separate laboratory-Hajj from
real-world-Hajj.

But as I thought about this, I
realized that perhaps this simply reflects a phenomenon found amongst the
modern Muslim living in the West: an inability to separate laboratory fiqh from
real-world fiqh. This perhaps explains how some people may read something in a
book, hear something from one scholar, learn about a historical practice, or
familiarize themselves with one opinion, and then imagine that to be the only
way things can be… forgetting that challenge of the faqih of every generation
is to be able to formulate practical fiqh for his time in a manner such that
the usul (basic principles) remain the same while the furu` (derived rulings)
may differ depending on time and location. This has always been the brilliance
of the distinguished jurist in every generation.  Hm, this has possibilities for a future post.
More on this topic later.

Our bus stopped as close as
possible near our tents since the road (what was left of it) was blocked off by
the mass of pilgrims. For those who may not be familiar with Mina, imagine a
city of tents, organized in blocks according to nationality that stretches for
miles. The sun gleams off the pilgrims and tents, each clad in white, dazzling
the eyes at such an awe-inspiring sight. Hundreds of peddlers selling food,
clothing, and other wares push their carts though this temporary city, hawking
their goods to eager customers. As we trekked our way towards our tent—tent no.
55—we were feverishly praying that our scouts had managed to secure our
rightful tent. The scouts had done their job—somewhat. They had secured half of
our rightful tent; the other half was still hijacked by another group that had
managed to beat them out. Alhamdulillah, the women had their tent, so the men
were left to squeeze ourselves in whatever space we had been given. We got ourselves
unpacked, prayed Zuhr, and were about to head towards the Jamrat when food was
brought to our tent (hehe, “…and He
provides for him from where he could never imagine
”). Hamid Mira had the
responsibility of making sure we were fed while we were in Mina; once again,
this dear man hooked us up, sending over biryani for everyone. Maybe it was
since I hadn’t eaten for three days; maybe it was the barakah of the moment…
whatever it was, it was some of the best biryani I’ve ever had.

On the topic of food, I observed
what I thought was a miracle: in this land of sun-blasted and weather-beaten
deserts, Allah has provided such abundant quantities of food for the Hujjaj
that everyone gets fed. And it’s not just one type of food: nearly every type
of food from every corner of the globe is available to suit the culinary
preferences of each pilgrim. It was mind-boggling to imagine that in this mass
of humanity, three million strong, every person had food to eat and could
actually choose what to eat. Not only was this a testament to the power of
Allah, but it was a lasting testament bearing witness upon the power of a
Prophet’s supplication. When Prophet Ibrahim (may God’s peace be upon him)
settled his family in that blessed and barren valley thousands of years ago, he
made a simple yet powerful du’a to God: “O
our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without
cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish
regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and
feed them with fruits
: so that they may give thanks
(14:37)”. I looked
around and saw that all this food and provision that was available in this
blessed place… leave aside meat and grains, but the fact that one could get
mangoes, strawberries, cherries, and any other fruit imaginable shows the
potency of a Prophet’s dua. I believe that everything the Saudis have been
given, materially, is due to the effects of Prophet Ibrahim’s du`a. Now, if Ibrahim
was the Friend of God (khalilullah),
then our beloved Prophet (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam) was the Beloved of God (habibullah); if the effect of the former’s
dua still lingers, thousands of years after it was initially made… what then
can be the power of the Prophet’s supplication and intercession for his nation?
Allahumma salli `ala sayyidina Muhammadin
wa `ala alihi wa sahbihi wa sallim
.

After we had eaten, we split the
group into two to proceed towards the Jamrat. Our animal sacrifice was
scheduled to have been done by 1 pm
so we couldn’t have gone before that time anyway. The first group went ahead, due
to my foot pain, the second group took some extra time getting ready to leave.
It was a good thing too, because shortly thereafter, three West
Indies brothers barged into the tent, claiming that this was their
group’s tent. By this time, there was only SU, myself, and perhaps 5-6 other
people left in the men’s tent, and these were three physically-imposing men
demanding that this was their tent. SU and myself proceeded to show them our
permit and badges that clearly stated this was our tent. The leader of their
group, however, refused to listen to us, saying that he and his people had
spent the 8th night in this tent since they were part of the
Egyptians that had originally hijacked our tent. After they had taken our tent,
it turns out that they had left this smaller tent to the West Indies
brothers’ faction, since apparently the Egyptians didn’t want to be with the West
Indies guys. In reality, we later find out that the Egyptians and
the West Indies were all part of the umbrella American
organization, American Hajj Union, that Discount Travel was also a part of… in
other words: AHU groups were shafting other AHU groups based on nationality.
Subhanallah. Anyway, SU asked them to their badges and if they properly
belonged in this tent, we would leave. However, they refused to show us their
badges and permits, saying that this was their tent, and they were Allah’s
guests, and we had no right to take their tent. I told them this was not their
tent, and their leader replied, “This is not your tent. This is Allah’s tent.”
I responded, “Yes, but He’s temporarily placed this tent in our hands…” By this
time, SU and he were going at it pretty intensely; old boy then shouts out, “Wallahi,
I will sleep in this tent tonight and there’s nothing you can do about it” He
heads over to one of the beds (that he claimed he had slept two nights ago) and
said that he had slept here, had placed his bags here… and then all of a
sudden, in sheer rage, he starts picking up our bags and beds and begins to
hurl them out of the tent. SU, also whipped up into a frenzy, takes that guy’s
bags and hurls them outside even further. Both men nearly came to blows (it was
a good thing they didn’t cause SU would’ve gotten OWNED) before cooler heads
prevailed and the rest of us had to separate our respective leaders from each
other. After sending some people to collect the “discarded” luggage, I sat both
of them down, made them drink some water and got them to calm down. After a few
minutes of silence, the West Indies leader apologize for
his behavior, saying that he was out of line and he was just extremely angry at
how the Egyptians and Arabs were treating them as if they weren’t even part of
their group. By the time we sorted that mess out, SU had contacted the head of
AHU and demanded that the West Indies brothers be given
a tent since they were entitled to one. But the discussion between the two was
quite interesting; one of his comments was, “All these Arabs are looking down
at us because of our skin color… all they do is own gas stations in America,
I have a PhD and am a tenured professor at a university.” We Muslims love to
complain about being racially profiled and treated unjustly because of our
religion; how pathetic that we show the exact same behavior that we condemn to
our own co-religionists. In the end, perhaps, we are the most racist people of
all.

            By the time
this mess was sorted out, it was time for Asr. We prayed and then set out
towards the Jamrat. Since we were in the American tents, we were placed at one
end of Mina while the Jamrat was at the other end. Despite my pleading, my mom
was not going to allow me to walk, and hence, once again, I was wheeled along
as the rest of the group walked. During our long walk, it was amazing to once
again witness the masses of people, each of them occupied in different tasks.
Some were going, some were coming… in a sense, it was like life itself. To
maintain order amongst our group, we had an umbrella that we held up as a
standard so that everyone would stay together. If you think that was organized,
then you’ve not seen the Indonesians and Malaysians. The Western Haji is an
independent being, thinking himself to know the best way to do everything given
his social origins; the Indonesians and Malaysians, however, are the very
epitome of discipline. For starters, they all have their national flag and
group name imprinted into their ihram (and when they’re not in ihram, each
group wears the same color clothing); they form orderly lines of four, with two
women in the middle and a man flanking each of them (ie, husbands and wives);
they have numerous flags and appointed standard-bearers; there is a leader with
a bullhorn who chants the talbiyyah and maintains order; most of all, everyone
walks in unison and with complete dignity. I was later told that marriages are
not “culturally validated” (perhaps the one time when culture is useful…)
unless the couple performs Hajj together; hence, one will notice that a vast
majority of pilgrims from these two countries are young, recently-married
couples as opposed to the generally elderly pilgrims from other countries. And
these people are always smiling. SU kept going up to each group that we’d meet
and strike up conversation with each of them; neither man understood what the
other would say, but everything was said with the univeral language of a smile.

            We finally
reached the Jamrat a little before Maghrib time. By this time, most of the
crowd had dispersed, and since we only had to stone one of the devils today, we
were in and out pretty quickly. Alhamdulillah, I was able to walk (after
parking the wheelchair a short distance away from the pillars) and pelt on my
own. I noticed that they improved the Jamrat pillars by making each of them
into long “walls” (instead of just pillars) to facilitate pelting. Whoever
thought of that idea, may Allah bless him/them, because it was ingenious. After
finishing our stoning, we prayed Maghrib near the Jamrat bridge and then
proceeded to a nearby barber shop. It was somewhat disconcerting to see massive
quantities of hair all over the place…but you get used to it. After waiting in
line for a short while, I handed the barber 15 riyals and took a seat in the
chair. The old man worked with the skill of an ancient master as his sharp blade
cut through my hair, like a farmer’s scythe dancing through a field of harvest
wheat. As the strands of hair fell down all around me, I closed my eyes and
tasted a fleeting moment of spiritual clarity—a sense of return. In the past
few days, our bodies had traveled to a barren desert in the Hijaz, while our
souls had traveled beyond this world, witnessing the signs of God. Like all
journeys, that metaphysical one ended with a return back to our point of
origin.

            I had
returned to the world, just as I had 24 years earlier, once again a newborn
child. Once again, I was home.

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32 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    first to prop….
    u in a wheelchair…wow…you are the biggest sissy i know…wow…yeah…
    nigger-ul-haq

  2. So much to comment on. We definitely need to start looking at the spirit of the rules and not the rules themselves. SHARK commented in one of his talks that if only 1% of the muslims in the world decided to attend the Hajj in the same year, then that would be 15 million pilgrims. The rules regarding the times would have be made more lenient, for there would be no way for 15 million people to perform the stoning of the devils within a 6 hour time frame. It would be physically impossible. The comment about the blessing of the Prophet (S)’s dua for his Ummah is an amazing thought. It gives everyone some hope, especially in the light of the dua of Prophet Ibrahim (A) and the fruits of which we see even till today.Unfortunately, we are probably the most racist of people. That’s unbelievably sad and goes to show that we don’t even understand the basics of our Deen.The indonesians and Malaysians are organized and dangerous. Don’t mess with them while doing Tawaf or during Jamarat. You’ll get hurt.

  3. 🙂 Lovely post.I feel sad reading about the selfishness and racism of our ummah when on hajj, of all places! I guess we collectively still have a lot of sabr and adab to learn.Re: culturally validated marriage, 🙂 this is the first time I heard of it. In Malaysia, going to Hajj was like the dream of a lifetime. A poor farmer in the village would save up for years before finally being able to go for Hajj. But when the economy got better, and alhamdulillah many people also became more interested in the Deen, we began to realise that it is better to perform the Hajj sooner rather than later. Why put good things off? The younger Hujjaj started appearing about 10-15 years ago. But we still have a lot of elderly Hujjaj as well.Re: organised and dangerous, well I guess we had been on Hajj courses before we left, so we sort of know what to expect and how to behave. Also it doesn’t help being physically of smaller stature in big crowds of our larger brethren. 🙂 During Umrah I lost count how many times I was roughly shoved, bumped or almost felled by people (men AND women) larger than me who, many of them, didn’t care if I got hurt.

  4. I think, though, the Indonesians ae better organised than us, mashaAllah.

  5. hahaha ahy hai tum javan ho, wheelchair ma kyu baita hai?

  6. Anonymous permalink

    the paragraph on the dua’s was so beautiful MashAllah.. the tent stealing is sad..
    MashaAllah ur hajj posts are always the best..

  7. you, are so beautiful, to me…

  8. “Now, if Ibrahim was the Friend of God (khalilullah), then our beloved Prophet (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam) was the Beloved of God (habibullah); if the effect of the former’s dua still lingers, thousands of years after it was initially made… what then can be the power of the Prophet’s supplication and intercession for his nation? Allahumma salli `ala sayyidina Muhammadin wa `ala alihi wa sahbihi wa sallim.”
    That is so amazing.  Your Hajj posts always offer so much to think about, masha’Allah.

  9. Jazakallahu khairan for sharing your insight…

  10. awww… you look as HOT as ever even on a wheelchair Masha Allah =). I got 4 midterms this week bro, and I gotta catch up with ur last couple of posts. Hopefully I should be done reading all of them by this weekend. Till then, hope you get an FC Insha Allah 🙂

  11. The entire fourth paragraph was just beautiful…and the last part “I closed my eyes and tasted a fleeting moment of spiritual clarity—a sense of return…..Once again, I was home.”
    If you edit out the “hehe’s” and a bit of some extra stuff, and get these memoirs published they could truly be a source of enlightenment to so many who only wish to visit just once.
    It is also interesting to read from your memoirs how the places are constantly changing, (for example the ‘shaitan pillars’).
    If you dont mind, I wish to suggest to you that you ‘drag’ these memoirs. Make them even longer. These definitely enlighten those who havent yet visited. But those who have, too see the beauty. And how everything from the past hajj just refreshes in the memory. It is just beautiful. Jazak-Allahu-khair-kaseeran.
    Also if you dont mind, may I ‘copy paste’ your fourth paragraph for ‘future reference’?

  12. Mashallah good post; is this the end of the Hajj memoirs?

  13. Great work again KamKam…such Hajj violence…scary…even in the holiest place, a little shaitan is always in us…
    Poem on raita was good too…made me hungry.  I shall go eprop that now, ’cause I know how greedy you are for eprops…

  14. kenakelayan: both the indonesians and malaysians are so cool, mashallah. i want to go to hajj in one of their groups =)maulanamuscles: idiot, you know that my feet were messed up =)poetichermit: i love you morequeen, imran: thanks for the kind wordseerieenigma: wow, thats the first time someone has actually said to me “make your posts longer” =). sure, inshallah i can spend even more time to paint the scenes for the remainder of the memoirs. of course, you are more than welcome to copy/paste the fourth paragraph (and any other post i’ve written)… the price, however, isn’t cheap. you have to make du’a for me, that’s the only way i’ll sell these.asad: nope, we’re about 3/4th done

  15. Assalamualaikum…
    sigh…you gotta do dua that i go back and figure out where this violence comes from…i think if i go, there wont be hatred there…
    mashahAllah, the ending was beautiful…
    wheelchair..sigh…i have a memory with that thing…..during Hajj….
    lets start of with a fact: A&E HATES grasshoppers, especially stepping on them….ok, so we had done the Tawwaf and we had to do Sa’ee…it was too crowded downstairs, so we decided to do it on the roof….so when we get there, i see thousands (not exagerating) of grasshoppers up there….i started crying and telling my mom that i couldnt do this….my mom then tried to look around for a wheel chair..i think we found one, but for some reason didnt use it….so all this while we were doing the sa’ee…but in the middle, i guess, i became unbearable, so my mom got mad at me and we decided to finish the sa’ee downstairs….later we were told that that doesnt count…so we had to do it again……i was so scared cuz i had made my mom angry at me during Hajj…but hey, i was only seven….and it was the grasshoppers’ fault….
    May Allah forgive me…and May Allah help you in writing more of these and compiling them into a book and making a lot of money off of these and then giving me 50% of the profit cuz i suggestted this….
    Allah Hafiz
    Wasalaam

  16. For each of the HAjj Memoirs so far, I always love the last sentence… it’s always so powerful and leaves a lasting impression on the reader as he or she finishes.

  17. Anonymous permalink

    Very nice post as usual.
    I second what kwkkz said. Those Indonesians and Malaysians may be tiny, but they can be feisty. I got beat up by a group of teeny tiny Indonesian women during tawaf.

  18. I would really like to read your thoughts on this difference between abstract-fiqh and real-fiqh. It is something that I have been thinking about for a while as well.
    The near-fight between SU and the West Indies leader goes to show that human beings are human beings… in any circumstances, each one of us can be angels or devils. Mashallah that you got both of them to settle down.

  19. We had the same issue about people taking over our tent…and funny enough…they were the same type of people you mentioned in your post….
    That’s JS (wallet guy) pushing you on the wheelchair right…

  20. shaykh nazim: yep, thats JS alright =)

  21. mashallah…once again great post and u bring up very important issues that everyone needs to keep in mind. i hope we can all learn from them inshallah

  22. well now, i’ve never seen that ^^ happen before! i’d like to see an elaboration of paragraph two…

  23. Anonymous permalink

    Fabulousness. I have heard the abundance of fruits present at Hajj described before… iA one day me and Sal can experience that, plus the rest of Hajj of course.
    – Saima

  24. kamran, are you speaking at spring camp? haha…

  25. “wow, thats the first time someone has actually said to me ‘make your posts longer'”
    I beg to differ…
    from memoirs part V comments:
    “they’re like a good book that you can never put down..and you want them to go on and on” –me
    =)

  26. ^indeed, i stand corrected (it’s rare, but it does happen, kinda like a solar eclipse).. you were the first one to say that =)

  27. powerful ending, mA.  you know, recently I was listening to a group leader talk about Hajj accounts and this time around it made SO much more sense to me.  I almost felt like I could relate to it because of reading stories such as these.  So thanks,  and well done mashaAllah.  Keep ’em comin.

  28. Sad that it’s ending, I really enjoyed reading your Memoirs especially since I never really got to do it myself, and never read such a detailed acount of the hajj before on a personal level.

  29. inshallah i think lotsa people r goin this year cuz hajj will b decemberish

  30. I completely agree with youtubelite memories are always their with you.Cheap Umrah Packages

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