My Hajj Diary: Random Reflections, Discrete Memories, and Practical Advice-Part 4

13. Hajj: A trap of trials

If you have never been to hajj, but only read about it in books, blogs, and newspapers, and seen it in TV, it is very likely that you will develop a flowery image of hajj. It is natural. However, hajj is not as flowery as you make it in your mind. The journey of hajj is full of trials. “Do people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? (29:2). Certainly not. The way of Allah is that He will test you and it is no different when it comes to hajj. An accepted hajj erases all the sins committed prior to it, and it is thus naïve to think that we will receive such a great reward without being tested.

During hajj, trials come from directions and in forms that you least expect. However, what is trial for me may not be trial for you. Personally for me, a huge challenge was dealing the otherness with patience. Hajj is a gathering of Muslims from all parts of the world (I even saw a pilgrim from Burkina Faso), and it is only natural that they will bring with them traditions or ways (in other words, otherness) that you will find hard to accept or overlook. For example, I would easily get angry at women sleeping on the floors of the grand mosque, who would normally pay little or no attention to keeping themselves properly covered. However, if I had remembered that I was being tried, dealing with my anger would have been easy. May be these women had no other place to sleep. So, instead of getting angry, I should have simply lowered my gaze (which I did), and made dua to Allah to bless those women with a private place to sleep and a better understanding of hijab.

I will recall another incident where I was again tested by otherness. During hajj, you will often find gangs groups of Indonesian brothers and sisters, who do tawaf and saee together, with each member holding the hands of two other group members. Such groups, especially the saee groups, clog up the masaa lines. Whenever I found myself behind any such group, especially when doing saee in the narrow masaa floors that are designated for handicapped people (FYI: these floors are hardly used by handicapped people) I would be really frustrated, as I could not trespass them and regain my natural pace of doing saee. My frustration was legitimate, yet it cannot be justified if I consider that I was being tried. Why? Because there was a subtle manifestation of ego in my frustration. Ego cannot be justified. Why should I expect that situations would always be tailor made for me? Why should I expect that I am doing saee in an unobstructed masaa line? Should rather not my expectation be that things will always be as Allah wills? So, BEWARE of your ego. It can eat up whatever good you earn, and may even destroy your hajj. May Allah protect us.

Another great trial for me was keeping my intention pure. With so many distractions like food, shopping and so on, it is very easy to forget why you are there. When the physical challenge of hajj pushed me to the boundary and I felt that I cannot take it anymore, Shaytan came to me and whispered, “What is the point of going through all these hardships?” Then I had to remind myself that I am going through these troubles only for Allah.

I have listed some tips below that will inshallah make enduring hajj trials easy for you:

Tip 17. Have patience. Do you have to wait before long lines? Is your hajj agent not serving you as they have promised? Say Alhamdulillah. No matter what happens, bear it with patience and praise Allah. Are you not among the selected three million to be hosted by Allah? The honor of being hosted by Allah should humble you enough to bear all the trials with a smile.

Tip 18. Look at the big picture. The brothers and sisters who are troubling you today will inshallah be your companions tomorrow in Jannah. We are one ummah, with one God, one Messenger, and one goal. You have been hit by a wheelchair? May be you are hurt at the moment, but tomorrow in Jannah, you will recollect this incident fondly with the brother who hit you. How do I know? I suffered severe headache continuously for about a week during my hajj, and yet today when I am writing my hajj story, I seriously yearn those moments.

Tip 19. Always check your intention. If you always remember that you are doing everything for Allah, enduring the trials will be easy.

Tip 20. Be forgiving. Allah forgives those who forgive His slaves.

Tip 21. Check your ego as it can damage your spiritual gain. If you can control your ego, adapting to any situation will be easier.

 

An Egyptian hujjaj. During hajj, you will commonly see pilgrims who have their national flag embedded in their ihram.
A Bangladeshi hujjaj.
Although the otherness that you suddenly find yourself in during hajj could be a trial, it is also a proof of the prophethood of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). Allah said in the Quran:

And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform Hajj) [The Noble Quran 22:27].

A false prophet cannot make a prediction and do it boldly. Pre-Islamic hajj was limited between Arabs and their neighbors, but the Quranic verse here is telling us with absolute confidence that for sure there will come a time when mankind will flock to the House of Allah from every corner of the globe. Isn’t this happening exactly? As I have already mentioned, I saw a pilgrim from Burkina Faso. Did you know that there existed a country named Burkina Faso?

14. 8th of Dhul Hijjah- at Mina

Before fajr on the morning of the 8th of Dhul Hijjah, we took our bath in our hotel room, put on our ihram clothes, pronounced our intention, and entered into the state of ihram for hajj.

We reached the tent city of Mina by our campaign bus. We reached there at around 10 AM. As usual, the sun was shining brightly and it was a very hot day.

After reaching there, I took a look at the tent city. The city has been designed carefully. The whole city is criss-crossed by a web of roads, fly-overs, and tunnels, which are spacious enough to enable easy movement of huge crowd and smooth traffic flow of amubalnces or civil defense vehicles during emergency. The whole tent city is divided into tent groups called camps, and each camp is surrounded by panels of iron grills. Each camp is given a unique identification number. Normally the hajj campaigns put their campaign posters around the grill panels and at the entrances of the camps to help the pilgrims easily identify and locate their tent. Each camp is provided with toilets, ablution facilities, and kitchens in proportion to the number of tent it accommodates. Even outside the camps, you can find water coolers and public toilets, which have been built for the pilgrims who come to make hajj without registering to any licensed hajj campaign.

Our camp was located right under the King Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz fly over, and was only fifteen minutes of walking distance away from our hotel at Aziziyah. This camp was shared by several hajj campaigns from Qatar. They were Hamla (the Arabic synonym for campaign is hamla) al-Hammadi, Hamla al-Shaheen, Hamla at-Taqwa and Hamla Dar as-Salam.

The tents of Mina have been built from fire proof materials. How long can these inflammable materials take the merciless heat of the desert sun? Considering that the Kingdom has spent 25 billion Saudi Riyals to develop the current tent city of Mina, the durability of these tents should be a critical factor in determining if the investment was a wise and calculated one. I hoped that the engineers had carefully considered all other alternatives and had done their cost-benefit analysis correctly.

The tents of Mina are fully air-conditioned. The floors of the tents are covered by carpet. The toilets and ablution facilities are not as horrible as people tell you. At least I have not felt that way.

Our hajj campaign provided two meals on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah. The lunch consisted of rice, chicken, and vegetable whereas the dinner consisted of fried fish and rice.

Two meals, carpet, air-condition, a shade from the desert sun, bathroom, ablution facilities—when I compared the amenities that present day pilgrims enjoy compared to what pilgrims could afford only 40 years ago, my heart shrank. And yet after such luxury, we manage to complain about the services provided by the hajj campaigns and the Saudi Government. The children of Adam have never been known to be grateful.

The pace of the day was slow overall. We prayed Dhur, Asr, Maghrib, and Isha shortened. After Dhur and Asr, our campaign imam delivered lectures. Because of not knowing Arabic, I could not grasp what he said, but from the verses that he recited during the lectures, I was able to understand the topic of the lectures at least. The lecture delivered after Dhur was mainly about the importance and greatness of the day of Arafah. The lecture delivered after Asr focused on the importance of financing hajj by halal money.

Some tips:

Tip 22. Write down your camp number as soon as you arrive at Mina. If you get lost, the police or the guides at Mina can help you to locate your tent if you can provide them with your camp number.

Tip 23. Do not take a lot of things with you when you go to Mina. Although what should be taken varies from people to people, I am in favor of keeping things simple. Make a small bag pack and take only the things that you will actually need.

Tip 24. Even if you have not controlled your diet during your stay in Makkah, do so at least for the first two and half days of hajj. Going to toilet when you are wearing your ihram garbs is a real challenge as you will have to take every possible precautionary measure to keep your body and your ihram garment free of najis (impurity). Help yourself with only a few bites and with fruits if necessary. Keep your body hydrated by drinking water.

Tip 25. The toilets at Mina, Arafah, and Muzdalefa are OK and functional, but personally, I would not consider taking bath in these toilets unless absolutely necessary. That is why you should be very careful when you use toilet during the state of ihram. To prevent water or najis from splashing into your ihram, open the water tap slowly. Finish your task at a measured pace and do not be hasty.

Tip 26. The ihram clothes that I took with me were towel like and they made me sweat a lot. If you wear thick ihram garments in a warm atmosphere, it may rise your body temperature and cause fever. Thus I would recommend that you find ihram clothes that are not very thick. I assure you that inshallah you will find thin ihramclothes very comfortable.

Tip 27. The toilets remain empty most of the time except before the time of salah. So, finish you toilet needs and make ablution about an hour before salah when there is no rush.

Tip 28. Recite talbiya loudly. I found that pilgrims do not recite talbiya as loudly and as zealously as I had expected. I was really disappointed. During the time of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), his companions (رضى الله عنه) would recite talbiyaso loudly and so enthusiastically that their voice would become hoarse within few hours. Such zeal and enthusiasm has definitely become non-existent.

Tip 29. You can be in trouble if you wake up from your sleep and find that you had a wet dream. Therefore, recite adhkars before you go to sleep, seek protection in Allah from it, lay down in the sunnah way (on your right side), and have a cautious sleep.

 

The second night moon of Dhul Hijjah.
A close up shot of the new moon.
Ready to go to Mina.
32/50 - example of a camp number.
Tents at Mina.
Instead of regular mattresses, our hajj campaign provided folding sofa sets: we could sit on them and also use them as beds.
Air condition!
Carpets at Mina tent.
My pillow.
7 day pass for Makkah Metro train.
Water bottles, juices, and soft drinks were always made available in abundance in these coolers.
Folding sofa unmounted and turned into bed.
Lunch (chicken, rice and vegetable).
Dinner (Fried fish, rice, khubz).
Ablution facility at Mina.
Toilet.
 

15. 9th of Dhul Hijjah- the day of Arafah

We prayed our fajr at Mina on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah and then set out for the plains of Arafah.

During this hajj, the Makkah Metro was available for nationals and residents of Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries. Being a GCC resident, I was privileged to move between Mina, Muzdalefa, and Arafah by Makkah Metro.

The metro trains operate at a speed of 100 kilometers per hour and it normally takes less than 10 minutes to reach from one station to another. The trains run very smoothly on the elevated highway, and you will not feel the speed at all while the train is moving. In fact, you can comfortably remain standing in a moving train.

We reached our tent in Arafah at about 8 AM. Hajj campaigns pitch makeshift tents all over the plains of Arafah, and equip them with lights, carpets, fans, and water-cooled air conditions. Navigating this maze of tents and finding out how far you are away from the Mountain Rahmah, the image that instantly flashes into our mind whenever Arafah is mentioned is a challenge. Nonetheless, I wished to climb the nearby rail station to get a bird’s eye view of the blessed plain, but considering I had a terrible fever the previous day, I did not risk the endeavor as the relentless sun could have again caused fever and wreck my precious Arafah day.

In Arafah, I spent the first half of the day in dhikr and the second half in making dua. In the middle, we listened to the khutbah of hajj and prayed dhur and asr shortened and combined.

As for lunch, we were provided lamb kabsa, but I skipped it and decided to survive only on an apple.

The Day of Arafah has a mighty weight and I have felt it in my heart. In fact, I felt this enormous weight right after I recited my first talbiyah on the Day of Arafah. When I said ‘Labbaik’- I am here O Allah, I immediately felt ashamed and humbled.

I felt ashamed because my heart was full of sins, ingratitude, and hypocrisy. It was full of disobedience. I was humbled because despite my disobedience, Allah was hosting me.

I was not worthy of any blessing from Allah, yet He blessed me with everything. He blessed me with iman. He blessed me with Quran. He made Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)  my messenger. He gave me family, parents, job, good heath, and a disease free life. And finally, He was hosting me on the greatest day, the day when He perfected His favor upon His slaves:

This day those who disbelieve have despaired of [defeating] your religion; so fear them not, but fear Me. This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. [The Noble Quran 5:3]

I can never ever be enough grateful to Allah for the smallest possible blessing from Him, and now that He had blessed me by hosting me, what will be my excuse on the Day of Judgment if I still do not mend my ways, and Allah asks me, “O My Slave! How did you dare to transgress my boundary after I have hosted you?”

This realization was the source of weight that I had felt in my heart. And feeling this weight and the enormity of Allah’s mercy upon me in my heart was the highlight of the Day of Arafah and my hajj.

Tip 30.You have probably heard it many times, so I will keep it short. After Asr time, do not spend a single moment except in making dua. Make dua as if your life depends on it. The Messenger of Allah said, “The best supplication is the supplication on the day of Arafat [at-Tirmidhi and Malik].”

Tents at Arafah.
Planting all these shade giving trees was a very wise move by the Saudi Government.
Some tents at Arafah were dedicated only for dinning.
Inside our tent in Arafah.
Toilets at Arafah.
 

16. Muzdalefa

We were supposed to leave for Muzdalefa right after the sunset, but because of huge crowd, we were not able to catch the metro train until 10:30 PM. We reached Muzdalefa at around 11 PM.

We stayed in Muzdalefa for less than two hours. Within these two hours, we prayed maghrib and isha combined and shortened, finished our dinner (only a few biscuits) and collected stones.

The sunnah is to leave Muzdalefa after praying fajr, but our hajj campaign wanted to leave for Mina at 1:00 AM. We did not resist, because we feared that we may get lost if we did not follow our campaign.

Tip 31. You can collect stones from anywhere; you do not have to collect them from Muzdalefa. I found collecting stones in Muzdalefa difficult for two reasons: (i) the area was dark; (ii) the stones that I found were either too big or too small. We actually broke available large pieces of brittle rocks into small pieces and gathered them as our ‘stones’. So, may be you can collect stones on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah at Mina, when you have time aplenty, and remain free of this concern in Muzdalefa.

The great day of Arafah finally came to an end.
The metro train passing by Arafah.
Inside Makkah Metro.

Metro trains are equipped with digital displays that show the distance traveled and the distance remained between two stations.

17. 10 of Dhul Hijjah- the Eid day

Since we left the Muzdalefa early midnight, we reached the Jamaraatul Aqabah at 3 AM. Consequently, we ended up stoning the devil before dawn.

We were really upset about this issue, as the sunnah was to stone after dawn on Eid day.  But being inexperienced, tired, and scared about losing our way, we were helpless.

Tip 32. If you are not confident about routes, it is better to follow your campaign leader. However, if you have prior hajj experience, physical ability, and confidence, then you may choose to not follow your campaign leader if they force you to complete any hajj rite against the sunnah.

After stoning at the Jamaratul Aqabah, we faced a test of endurance. We lost hold of our campaign guide. But fortunately, after some aimless walking, we found us in front of Shaykh Abdullah ibn Baaz mosque, and from there, I knew the route both to haram and our hotel. Being awfully tired, we chose to go to our hotel room to catch some sleep before the tawaaf al-ifaadah and the saee of hajj.

However, we could not manage any taxi. I was ready to give as much as 300 Saudi Riyals to transport two persons to our hotel, but no one would take us. We resigned to our fate and walked the distance of 2.5 kilometers to reach our hotel room.

Test of endurance: We had to walk 2.5 kilometers despite being awfully tired as we could not manage a taxi (Click to see the enlarged image).

For the tawaaf and saee, we arrived at haram before Dhur. I was feeling fresh and energized because I had a great sleep and was out of ihram. Even though it was the Eid day, the uppermost floor of the haram was not very crowded. We managed to finish our tawaf and saee before Asr.

After Isha, we returned to Mina.

18. 11th and 12th of Dhul Hajj-at Mina

The second and third days of hajj sharply contrast the fourth and fifth days. On the second and the third, you will be riding a roller coaster. During the last two days, you will be riding a camel.

The last two days are relaxed as the only hajj ritual during those days is to stone all three jamaraats.

My tent was about two kilometers away from the Jamaraat Bridge. The distance between the Jamaraat Bridge and the tents located at the farthest end of Mina is four kilometers. So I was lucky!

On the 11th, I stoned on the ground floor. On the 12th, I stoned on the first floor.

The first floor and the top most floors are the best floors for stoning. They remain sparsely crowded most of the time. In these floors, you can stone the devil without any fear of being pushed by people or hit by stones, and make dua anywhere.

The first floor is the most crowded. Among the many paths that connect the Mina tents to the Jamaraat Bridge, there is one path that is shaded. This path is used by majority of the pilgrims. This path is connected with the first floor, and that is why the first floor is always heavily crowded.

Tip 33. Bring with you a water bottle when you go to the Jamaraat Bridge. You will get thirsty and need water. You can always fill your bottle from the sideway coolers.

Tip 34. If you choose to hold an umbrella over your head, kindly ensure that its edges are not poking people around you.

 

The shaded path (Click to enlarge the image).

The Jamaraat Bridge.
Jamaaratus Sughra.
Big Jamarah.
Stairs and escalators of the Jamaraat Bridge.
Al-Khayef Mosque.
Mountains of Mina.
Hospital.
Elevated highway for Makkah Metro.
Palace of King Abdul Aziz.
Everywhere you will only find tents.
I really envied Hamla Al-Taqwa. They would always cook delicious meals for their pilgrims.
Prawn fish being cooked-Hamla At-Taqwa.
Kebab--again Hamla At-Taqwa.
These vehicles were donated by Qatar Government-probably to transport old pilgrims from their tents to Jamaraat Bridge.
To be continued inshallah….. 

12 thoughts on “My Hajj Diary: Random Reflections, Discrete Memories, and Practical Advice-Part 4”

  1. You’re SO lucky to have gone to hajj this year, I’ve been wanting to go since 3 years ago but my university exams always fall on the dates of Hajj… Insha Allah if I get the chance to go this year I’ll put forward a letter to my university to change the dates of my exams … Ya Rabb!

    1. I pray to Allah that He gives you the opportunity to perform hajj soon. However, hajj is not obligatory upon you unless you are able to afford it financially. Also, would it be a good idea to perform hajj in the middle of a semester? Majority of the hujjaj come back from hajj with a sickness, and it usually takes more than a week to regain the full strength.

      1. Allahu a’lam. Depends if I take subjects that only need major projects, then I can do my best to finish them before hajj and come back free from uni work… I’ve been saving up for a while, so insha Allah I can go… insha Allah!!

  2. Asslamualaikum,
    I love reading your blog. It is a reminder to make myself to be closer to Allah. However, i hope you dont mind my commenting your 2nd sentence of 3rd pararaph about the Indonesian brothers and sisters. If you need to put as example, may I suggest you be fair to them by using “I ” rather than “you will” because it is as though you are potraying only them practising such. I have seen worse gang groups of brothers and sisters from parts of the persian gulf, especially during tawaf that clogged and even pushed. I am not Indonesian, but I feel that when you actually name the Indonesian, you are not being fair to them.

    1. Waalikumus Salam Wa Rahmatuallahi Wa barakatuhu.

      Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog.

      It is unfortunate that my mentioning about the Indonesian groups seemed unfair to you. However, I do not feel that I was being unfair to them. As you have mentioned, these Indonesian groups are nowhere as violent as other ethnic groups. Indonesian groups are peaceful and cute: all the group members wear the same badge or scarf. However during hajj, for frustration to creep into your mind, the group do not have to be violent; frustration can creep up from seemingly simple things, and for my frustration, I did not blame the Indonesian brothers and sisters. Rather I have reprimanded myself for my failure to show sabr with my fellow brothers and sisters in Islam.

      Also you have probably missed Tip 18.

  3. Thanks for sharing the link of this blog with me and others on askbilquis. The photos helped put so many things into perspective. In my mind things were as I last saw them in 1997 with my parents at the ramadahn umrah. My parents have been to hajj mashallah 3 times and have performed numerous umrahs, and they would always say on their return of how “things have changed so much since the past 2 years (or 1 or whatever many years later when they would go) we were there”. This would be mind blowing to them as they last went about 5 years ago

    1. Thank you sister for taking the time to read my hajj diary and commenting on it. I appreciate.

      And yes, things keep changing every year because the number of pilgrims have increased over the years and the Saudi Government responded by bringing all these changes for better crowd management.

      May Allah grant you hajj mabroor.

  4. Salam my wife and i are inshallah leaving for Hajj on the 16th of October 2012 and after reading your blog has given us a clearer view of what to expect and how to react, i think your diary is excellent with the illustrations and has taken a lot of misconceptions out of my mind will follow your blog from now on.JZK

    Imran

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