Friday, October 7, 2016

Hajj Adventures ~ Makkah and Performing Hajj!


Hajj is an experience of a lifetime. You're truly blessed if you get the opportunity more than once (hope I do!). It is tough and consumes a lot more than just your time. Regardless of that it is a journey so beautiful and an adventure so memorable that I could only come back with the sweetest memories. We had spent a beautifully peaceful stay in Madinah when we flew to Jeddah. A few minutes into the flight Sheikh Reda was speaking on the mic and telling us we were to recite the Niyyah (intention) for performing Hajj Qiran (Hajj and Umrah combined) and my emotions went out of control. I can't explain what I felt when I repeated the Arabic words after Sheikh intending that I was going to perform the biggest religious obligation of my life. It was a deep feeling ... somewhere deep within me. Then we continued reciting the Talbiyyah until we reached the Kaabah. "Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik (Here I am at Your service oh Allah, here I am) ..." With each Talbiyyah the anticipation of witnessing the Kaabah in all its glory kept increasing. It was sinking in. I was going to perform Hajj. I had reached Jeddah from where our bus took us to the Makkah Fairmont Clock Tower and I finally saw the Kaabah for the first time ever. It was beautiful and the most unreal-grand sight ever!

This is how I first saw the Kaabah, from one of the restaurants of the Clock Tower.


The first Tawaaf I performed around the Kaabah was too good to be true. Thanks to brilliant planning on our travel group Dar El Salam's part we reached at a time when there was comparatively very little rush and so we performed the first Tawaaf of our life super close to the Kaabah - right under its shade. It was beautiful, being there, seeing Kaabah actually standing in front of me instead of just seeing it on TV or in pictures in some magazine or on a website. I'd been one of the chosen few who would get to perform Hajj this year ... I was just too lucky. Up close Kaabah was even more glorious than I had imagined. It was HUGE. Certainly larger than what I imagined from the pictures I'd seen and it was stunningly beautiful. The black cloth it was draped in wasn't as plain as it seemed in the photographs. There was shadowed embossing all over which looked so gorgeous. The gold work on it was shining in the sun. It was the simplest structure ever yet the most glamorous one.


The Kaabah gives you an idea of His might, His presence, His awesomeness! It is the most glorious place! We got to perform our first Tawaaf so close to the Kaabah that we even touched Maqam e Ibrahim and prayed right behind it. Sheikh Reda, who performs Hajj almost every year (blessed he is!), said we were really lucky because he'd never seen a Tawaaf this close and this easy with any other group. Yayyyyyy!

The real Hajj is Arafat - the stay in Arafat where you pray your heart out, cry in Sujood, and ask for forgiveness for whatever you've intentionally or unintentionally done in your life. I hadn't expected the day in Arafat to be so soul shaking. It was the strangest day, I swear. There was nothing and nobody between you and Allah that day. You could ask for anything, you could pray for anything, you could say anything to Him in your prayers. The Arafat experience was like being the closest possible to Allah. It was a direct connection literally. I shed a gazillion tears as I prayed for forgiveness and for a blessed life after death and the million other things I wanted to ask Allah for. It was blazing hot despite the air conditioned tents we were blessed enough to be in. There was a strange fear of what would happen when I died, a strange peace of being directly connected to Allah and praying to my heart's content, and a purifying feeling that washed over me during my stay in Arafat.
We were tired, we were not in the comfort of our homes or hotel rooms, we were away from our life basically but none of that mattered. There was still peace and the sense of achieving and having everything! I think no matter how hard I try I cannot recreate in words what went about in that tent that day until sunset when we departed for a night stay in Muzdalifa by train. The train station has got to be the toughest part of my entire Hajj trip by the way. They didn't open the entrance gates until past sunset and this was where people became dehydrated and fainted. A couple of people had to be rushed inside to be given help and aid because it was hot, they were dehydrated, and standing. We were separated from our brother for a while and it became tough driving mama's wheel chair in the muddy areas of the station until brother Arif, a Dar el Salam (DST) volunteer, helped us (bless that man!). Regardless of it all we were still much better of compared to others thanks to how well organized DST was.
When we reached Muzdalifa I knew the worst part was over (that train station!). As Sheikh Reda had mentioned in one of his lectures preparing us for Hajj we had come from our seven star stay at the Clock Tower to the 'All Star Stay' in Muzdalifa. I found a lot of people around me complaining about their discomfort but to be very honest I was actually fine with it. I was actually happy. I was enjoying being under the night sky until midnight, eating dinner close to family, praying under the stars ... this was my moment to realize and appreciate everything God has blessed me with, most of it without even my asking. DST had planned everything out very well for us. There were people right outside the DST area who didn't even have a mat to spread on the floor where they would lie down and sleep. I could find absolutely no reason to complain. I was in the best of conditions possible thank God and I was loving it. I collected the sixty stones from Muzdalifa from right under where I sat. It was exciting! *laughs*

Abbie and I collecting stones! The picture is just a picture, we only picked up stones that were the size of chick peas! Seriously people, that's all you need!

With the stones we proceeded to the train station and got dropped off at the Jamaraat where we stoned the largest of the three Shaytaans before heading to our camp in Mina. Stoning is actually fun if you think about it. You get to witness some folks who are going absolutely crazy with stones despite being told to behave. On our last day of stoning later during our trip I almost missed being the target of a plastic bottle full of stones that somebody had launched at the shaytaan *laughs*! Seriously, what part of chick pea sized seven stones do people not understand?

Once again in Mina I found people complaining about being uncomfortable in various ways when I was thoroughly enjoying myself. We had beautiful talking sessions by really well educated Sheikhs, prayed in peace, enjoyed fabulous food (like seriously awesome!), and even had a sleepover! I loved the sleepover. I did not grow up doing sleepovers with friends so this was (sort of) the first sleepover for me and I was enjoying myself! I loved being nestled close to each other on mattresses, chatting away happily until we fell asleep. It was awesome and one of my most favorite memories from my Hajj trip. 

So I missed the details but somebody from the Dar El Salam Travel Group had completed thirty years with DST and they were celebrating in her honor with this gigantic cake. Seriously, a giant chocolate cake that tasted really good and people could still find reasons to complain ... no sir, I was loving it! 

 
Being at The Makkah Fairmont Clock Tower which is right next to the Kaabah was a blessing. The hotel is part of the Haram (what is included in the Kaabah area) and a floor called S2 was dedicated entirely to prayer areas. Praying here was counted as praying right around the Kaabah so even when mama was really tired and not feeling well or when there was way too much rush around the Kaabah making it difficult to get inside we could still pray here and enjoy the same virtues.

And the view of the Kaabah from S2 was breathtaking!

We also prayed various times directly next to the Kaabah, outside the hotel. One of the beautiful memories I've brought back is that of going for the Kaabah in the middle of the night, praying Tahajjud there, and then reciting the Quran with Kaabah in my direct view until Fajr prayer came in. Oh and let me not forget ... listening to the Azaan right at the Kaabah. Couldn't be more perfect.

Of course we tried the oh so famous Al Baik. EVERYBODY talked about it and it was something we just had to try otherwise we couldn't possibly come back home. My verdict: I liked it! The chicken is too juicy and huge and it was super tasty before and after our Tawaaf e Wida (the farewell Tawaaf).

I was really blessed, really fortunate for I even performed Tawaaf e Wida close to the Kaabah. The place was packed with people that evening yet we found ourselves going around the Kaabah right in the Sehen (the marbled area right around it). I couldn't have asked for more than Allah gave me throughout this Hajj trip. Everything was perfect, as awesome and convenient as it could be. I visited some of the most sacred, religiously significant, and beautiful places on earth from as close as anybody could imagine. I performed Hajj - truly the most soul shaking, purifying, and the most grand journey of my life!

6 comments:

  1. The most wonderful part of the Hajj, in my opinion, is that you performed it with a generous and grateful heart. How could you NOT be blessed? Remember those days, little sister, and each time you do, may you be filled the peace and love that comes from Allah.

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    1. Aww Suazanne <3 You always have the kindest words!
      Amen! May Allah bless all of us nice people with the best!

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  2. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing your journey. My throat was throbbing at moments reading this. I pray that I can go and complete the Hajj myself very soon!

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    1. Insha'Allah I hope you do :D
      Thank you for the comment!

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  3. It is the most awaiting moment of our life. It's really great to read your Haj experience. My mother and brothers went for Umrah 3 months ago. I went there 5 years ago and I wish I can go back there again and especially, to perform Haj soon. May Allah bless us all with good tidings and grant us the opportunity to perform Haj at least once in our life time to witness this beauty. Aameen.

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    1. Ameen Ameen! :D
      Thank you for writing to me Rat!

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