Category Archives: Hajj

Interview of a Hajj & Umrah Bus Driver

Syed Newaz driving our bus to Madinah.

I have always been fascinated about the hajj and umrah drivers’ ability to drive for more than 24 hours without any sleep, and about their ability to smoothly drive huge buses in the narrow streets of Makkah. Therefore, during my Ramadan 1433 umrah trip, I interviewed our bus driver to learn more about their lives. Here is the interview:

What is your name?
Syed Newaz.

Where are you from?
Pakistan.

How did you come into this profession? What do you used to do before you joined as a driver for hajj and umrah campaign?
I am in this profession of driving heavy vehicles for 25 years. I used to be a trailer driver. I drove trailer for ten years for a private company in Qatar. Then in 1997, I got an opportunity to bring a hajj campaign for the first time. I was very eager about hajj, and I am very grateful to Allah for that opportunity. After I successfully drove back that hajj campaign to Qatar, I was appointed as a full time driver for Al-Ali Hajj and Umrah Campaign. I have done 15 hajj so far and have lost count about the number of umrahs I have performed.

In the beginning when I used to drive for hajj, I would drive for 52 hours without any sleep in the middle and I would be the only driver of the bus. I would stop only for prayer and food.

Has it ever happened that you slept for a minute or a few seconds while driving?
No, it never happened in 15 years.

Mashallah, that is great. Has your bus ever broken down in the middle of a journey?
Yes, it happened once. On 27 July, 2000 we were about three hundred kilometers away from Riyadh when the engine of my bus broke down. We arranged a bus from Riyadh to transport the pilgrims. Later, my bus was taken to Riyadh and the engine was repaired there.

For my job, I have to go to Ras Laffan everyday and it is about 77 kilometers from my house. Initially the drive to Ras Laffan used to seem a very long travel for me. However, after driving there for several months when I become familiar with the road and its surrounding, 77 kilometers seem nothing to me now a days. Since you have been driving for hajj and umrah campaign for 15 years, does the road from Doha to Makkah also feel very short to you?  
My experience is opposite to yours. Definitely the route between Doha and Makkah is a long route, but in the beginning, I used to be so eager and so excited about hajj and umrah that my excitement and eagerness would make this distance seem very short to me. After so many years, however, I have got little bored and now I feel that the road is actually very long.

How many times normally in a month do you drive a campaign from Qatar to Saudi and from Saudi to Qatar?
On average three return journeys every month.

I have heard from people that there are tablets that long distance drivers take to remain awake and drive continuously. Does such tablet exist? If they do, do you take these tablets to remain awake while driving?
Yes, there are some tablets like that but they are not legal. Some long drivers who drive in Saudi Arabia take them. But I do not take them because they are harmful for health.

When people go for hajj and umrah, especially those who go for the first time, they feel very excited about seeing the House of Allah and visiting Mosque of the Messenger of Allah (S). As a bus driver, do you feel this excitement and joy of your passengers?
Definitely. I fully understand and share the excitement of my passengers. I get very excited when my passengers come and ask me questions like, “What will I have to do there?”, “When will we reach the miqaat?”, “How far are we away from such and such place?”, “What is our next stop?”, and I meticulously answer to each question. I enjoy my job.

Do you need a visa like us every time you enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? Are you given some kind of special pass?
Yes, we need visa but drivers are given three months or six months multiple entry and multiple exit visas. Sometimes we also come with single entry and single exit one month visa.

Since you have been driving for so many years, what changes have you observed in the roads?
No change, except that a new road has been built to bypass the city of Hufof. Previously we had to go through Hufof but now we can bypass the city. Also the first five hundred kilometers of Madinah-Riyadh highway used to be single carriageway, but now it has been converted to dual carriageway.

However, roads are taken care of and maintenance is done year round.

How many times do you visit Pakistan each year?
I stay eight months in Qatar and four months in Pakistan. After hajj, I take my vacation.

Thanks for your time, Newaz Saab.
Thanks for interviewing me.

My Hajj Diary: Random Reflections, Discrete Memories, and Practical Advice-Part 5

19. In Madinah

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was sent as the mercy for the whole universe.

For t-w-e-n-t-y t-h-r-e-e years, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) did his utmost to emancipate the humanity from the darkness of disbelief and polytheism and save them from the fire of hell.

Whenever we are assigned with a responsibility, the first question that we ask is, “What do I get from it?”

In other words, we are selfish. On rare occasions we may put others before us, but we are never completely selfless.

However, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) never asked, “What do I get if I save the humanity?”

It was never his concern how he would benefit.

Rather, his only concern was how he could save a human being from the fire of hell. He had no other concern.

Every Prophet was given a dua with certainty that Allah would accept it. Every Prophet used his dua in this world except for our Prophet (ﷺ). Our Prophet (ﷺ) will use his dua in the hereafter. And he will use it in the hereafter to make intersession for the humanity and for his nation.

Even on the Day of Judgment, when everyone will be thinking about himself or herself, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) will be thinking about others. He will be thinking about ‘us’-his nation.

Since he was commissioned as the Prophet, he stood before Allah every single night to pray the night prayer. He never missed a night prayer. He would stand for long hours before Allah, cry profusely before Him and ask Him to guide and forgive his nation.

Such was his love for his ummah. Such was his worry for his ummah.

Because of his struggle, selflessness, tears and dua, we are blessed with Islam today.

When I finally entered the Mosque of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), I was humbled tremendously.

But also a sense of shame and guilt grew in my heart.

How much did I strive to guard my prayers?

Didn’t I give in when Allah tested me?

How many sunnahs of the Prophet (ﷺ) do I follow?

How many times did I stay away from sins thinking about the sacrifice of my Prophet (ﷺ)  for me?

When the following verse was recited to the Prophet (ﷺ), he cried:

So how [will it be] when We bring from every nation a witness and we bring you, [O Muhammad] against these [people] as a witness? [The Noble Quran 4:41]

Wouldn’t it be a sad incident if my Messenger (ﷺ), who strove so hard to save me from the torment of Allah, has to become a witness against me because of my transgressions against Allah?

With mixed feeling of gratefulness, humbleness, guilt, and shame, I sent my salam to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).

On the way to Madinah, our bus had to stop at a checkpoint to register all the hujjaj.
The Mosque of the Beloved Prophet (ﷺ).
The pillers of the Prophet's (ﷺ) Mosque.
The Mosque of the Prophet (ﷺ) is indeed aesthetically complete.
Air conditions at the Prophet's (ﷺ) Mosque.
Roof of the Prophet's (ﷺ) Mosque
Door of the Prophet's (ﷺ) Mosque. They are really beautiful and majestic.
The Green Dome.
The platform from where meuzzins now give adhan.

Did Bilaal (radi allahu `anhu) used to give adhan from the place where the platform of the muezzin is now located in the Prophet (ﷺ)’s mosque?

I do not know.

Nonetheless, the adhan of the Prophet (ﷺ) mosque still stir the memory of Bilaal (radi allahu `anhu).

He was a slave of Abyssinia.

However, Allah honored him with Islam. Bilaal (radi allahu `anhu) upheld that honor.

He had a firm faith. When he was served with ‘torture upon torture’ for believing in the oneness of Allah, he would still keep proclaiming the oneness of Allah.

Allah honored him again. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) made him his muezzin.

What a great honor it was to be the muezzin of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). What a great honor it was to be the first muezzin of Islam.

For more than a decade, Bilaal (radi allahu `anhu) would proudly and happily give adhan for the Muslims. However, when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) died, giving adhan became a difficult matter for him.

Whenever he would say, “Ashadu anna Muhammadar Rasool Allah- I bear witness that Muhammad (ﷺ) is the Messenger of Allah,” he would cry and fall unconscious.

So deep was his love for the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). So deeply he was agonized by the death of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).

According to history, he migrated to Syria during the caliphate of Umar (radi allahu `anhu).

When Caliph Umar (radi allahu `anhu) visited Syria, he requested Bilaal (radi allahu `anhu) to give adhan.

Bilaal (radi allahu `anhu) acceded to the request of the Commander of the Believers. He gave adhan again.

Hearing his melodious voice after a long time, the heart of the believers shook greatly. They remembered their fond times with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). All the Muslims cried profusely. Caliph Umar (radi allahu `anhu) wept most strongly.

That adhan was the last adhan of Bilaal (radi allahu `anhu).

The mimbar (pulpit) of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).

A short history of the blessed mimbar of the Prophet (ﷺ): Cross posted from Muslim Youth Truth:

When Prophet (ﷺ)’s mosque in Al-Madinah was first built, its roof was supported by palm tree trunks. The trunks were spread out around the mosque. They had leaves coming out from their tops which protected people from the heat of the sun and the wetness of the rain. Light entered the building from the spaces between the trees and the leaves, illuminating the corners of the beautiful mosque.

The Prophet (ﷺ) used to address the people of Madinah in the mosque. When he gave a speech he would place his honorable hand on one of the tree trunks. One day the Prophet said, “Standing is becoming difficult for me.” So the Prophet (ﷺ)’s companions suggested building a mimbar, a place where the Prophet (ﷺ) could sit and address the people. The man who would build this mimbar was called Maymun. He was a carpenter who worked for a Muslim woman named Fakiha bint Ubayd. She was from the Ansar, the people who supported the Prophet (ﷺ) upon his immigration to Madinah.

The Prophet (ﷺ) sent a word to Fakiha to tell her carpenter to build the mimbar. Fakiha hurried to fulfill the orders of the Honorable Prophet (ﷺ). She ordered Maymun to go to the north of Madinah where he would find a kind of trees called Tarfa’. He used that to build the mimbar.

Maymun built the mimbar with three steps. The highest step was very wide, allowing space enough for the Prophet (ﷺ) to be able to stand on it when addressing the people. Also, it was large enough for the Prophet (ﷺ) to pray on the step while he led the people in prayer.

On the day the new mimbar was placed in the mosque, the Prophet (ﷺ) ascended its three steps to address the people. After a couple of minutes the people in the mosque heard what sounded like the crying of a small child. They looked to one another, not knowing what was going on. Then they realized where the sound was coming from: The tree trunk that the Prophet (ﷺ) used to lean on when he was giving a speech was moaning and crying, longing for the Prophet (ﷺ).

The sounds of crying kept increasing. It started to sound like the sound a camel makes when her young is taken away. Then the Prophet (ﷺ), peace be upon him, the one with a merciful heart, descended from his mimbar. He went to the crying trunk and hugged it as a father would hug his child until the trunk became quiet. This was a great miracle for our Prophet (ﷺ) who said, “Don’t you wonder at this piece of wood that yearned and cried?” The people came closer to the trunk and heard its soft whimpering and they too began to cry. Then the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Had I not hugged it, it would have continued to cry until the Day of Judgment.”

It is narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) said to the trunk, “You have a choice. You can be replanted in the place you were originally, where you will return as you were a solid non-feeling tree trunk, or you can be planted in Paradise where you will be watered from its rivers. Your fruits will improve and the pious servants of Allah will eat from you.” The Prophet (ﷺ) continued to say that the tree trunk chose to be in Paradise. So the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered that it be buried near the mosque. After a period of time, the Muslims wanted to enlarge the mosque and they dug up the trunk. Ubay’ ibn Ka’b (radi allahu `anhu), took the trunk and kept it in his possession until it split into many pieces.

The grave of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)
The mihrab (the position where the imam stands and leads prayer) of the Prophet's Mosque (ﷺ)
Side view of the mihrab.
Walls of the Prophet (ﷺ) Mosque
The view of the Prophet's (ﷺ) Mosque from our hotel.
Carpets and chandeliers at the Prophet's (ﷺ) Mosque
Our hotel at Madinah.
Our hotel room.

I slept in these comfortable beds at Madinah, while the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used sleep in a bed made up of barks of dates palm. When he would sleep on it, it would create marks on his body. One day Umar (radi allahu `anhu) saw these marks on the blessed body of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and cried, “O The Messenger of Allah! The Romans and the Persian Emperors sleep on comfy beds despite being kuffars and you sleep on such rough beds despite being the Messenger of Allah?” The Messenger of Allah became angry hearing this statement. He reminded Umar (radi allahu `anhu) that we have akhirah while the Roman and Persian Emperors had only duniya.

This is the last shot that I took of the Prophet's (ﷺ) Mosque.

Below is an excerpt from the book Biographies of the Companions of the Prophet ():  

Sometime after the Prophet (ﷺ) had returned to Madinah, messengers of the kings of Yemen came to him announcing that they and the people of Yemen had become Muslims. They requested that some teachers should be with them to teach Islam to the people. For this task the Prophet (ﷺ) commissioned a group of competent du’at (missionaries) and made Muadh ibn Jabal (radi allahu `anhu) their amir.

…..

The Prophet (ﷺ) personally bade farewell to this mission of guidance and light and walked for some distance alongside Muadh (radi allahu `anhu) as he rode out of the city. Finally he (ﷺ) said to him (radi allahu `anhu):

“O Muadh, perhaps you shall not meet me again after this year. Perhaps when you return, you shall see only my mosque and my grave.”

Muadh (radi allahu `anhu) wept. Those with him wept too. A feeling of sadness and desolation overtook him as he parted from his beloved Prophet, peace and blessings of God be on him.

The Prophet’s (ﷺ) premonition was correct. The eyes of Muadh (radi allahu `anhu) never beheld the Prophet (ﷺ) after that moment.

The Prophet (ﷺ) died before Muadh (radi allahu `anhu) returned from Yemen. There is no doubt that Muadh (radi allahu `anhu) wept when he returned to Madinah and found there was no longer the blessed company of the Prophet.

By Allah, like Muadh (radi allahu `anhu)’s cessation from the Prophet (ﷺ), “a sense of sadness and desolation” grew in our hearts when we were boarding our bus to leave the blessed city and start our return journey to Qatar. It is difficult to leave the blessed city when you are not sure if your eyes will ever have the chance again to see the green dome.

Tip 35. If you want to pray and make long dua in the rawda (the green portion opposite to the grave of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)), go to the Prophet (ﷺ)’s Mosque right after midnight and stay until fajr. Inshallah you will comfortably manage a place.

20. Some Random Pictures

Couple Salah (The haraam floors may be split for men and women, but people may not like it as it may cause family members to get lost from each other during hajj.)
Serious food, seriously good.
Food waste. It is really sad that we are wasting this much food during hajj.
One day I cooked Maggie Noodles during my stay in Makkah.

22. What you need to take for hajj

I am a proponent of keeping things simple. Below is a suggestive list  that I have prepared about what you should take for your hajj:

SL Item Description
1 Cloth Take about three or four sets of cloths.
2 Ihram + Belt Obvious items. As I have mentioned already, the ihram clothes that I took with me were towel like and they made me sweat a lot. Also if you wear warm garments in a warm atmosphere, it may make your body temperature to rise and may 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 ihram clothes very comfortable.
3 Dry Food It could be dates, biscuits or any dry food. Normally your hajj agent will provide you with food during your whole stay; you may need dry foods only if you prefer to avoid heavy dishes during your stay at Mina, Muzdalifa, and Arafah. I would prefer that you buy your dry foods from the stores at Makkah.
4 Light Blanket Most travel agents would provide you with blanket, pillow, and mattress at your accommodations in Makkah, Madina, Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifa. You most probably will not need to use your personal blanket. However, if you want to take one anyway, bring with you a cheap, light-weight blanket.
5 Mat for Muzdalifa Again it is very likely that you will not need any such mat as I have seen most agents providing their hujjaj with carpets at Muzdalifa. If you want to have a mat anyway, you can buy one in Makkah for less than 10 SAR.
6 Flexible plastic water pipe You will definitely bring zamzam water back home. At Haram area, you have two options: (1) you can buy containers already filled with zamzam, or (2) you can buy an empty gallon and fill it yourself. I preferred option two as I have heard that the pre-filled containers’ zamzam water that is mixed with non-zamzam water. The zamzam water tapes available inside Masjidul Haram are actually designed for drinking; not for filling containers. The pressure of the water flow from these tapes changes frequently, which makes filling even a small bottle a very difficult job. Thus, I would recommend that you bring with you about a meter of flexible plastic water pipe. You can put one end of the pipe in your empty gallon and hold the other end on the zamzam tape, and fill your container quickly and smoothly.
7 Two pin multi-plug It is likely that there will be only one electric socket at your room where you can plug your charger and charge your cell phone. Since you will be sharing your room with three or four other hujjaj, a two-pin multi-plug will enable all of you to charge your cell phones simultaneously.
8 Towel Another obvious item. Bring with you a small, light-weight towel.
9 Beard trimmer, razor, scissor To trim, cut and shave your hairs.
10 Vaseline During hajj, you will walk a lot and you will thus you will sweat a lot. There may be rash in your inner thighs and private areas because of excessive sweating and friction.  Also because of making tawaf on the hard floors of the haram, there may be cracks on your feet. Put Vaseline in the affected areas before you go to sleep and inshallah by morning, your rash will be healed.
11 Shampoo Obvious item.
12 Soap Obvious item. Take with you a body soap and a laundry soap.
13 Paste + tooth brush Obvious item.
14 Nailclipper To trim your nails.
15 Bathroom tissue Obvious item to attain cleanliness and purity.
16 Comb To comb your beard and hair.
17 Pumice stone When you make tawaf and saee barefoot in Masjidul Haram, dirt and germs will go inside your feet. It is therefore imperative that you clean your feet by scrubbing them with a pumice stone when you take your bath, or else your feet will itch a lot.
18 Cell phone For hajj, I would recommend that you carry with you a non-fancy cheap cell phone, which has a battery life of about a week. If you take a fancy one anyway, install azan software and make sure you have GPS.
19 Pen and small notebook You may use them to write down your hajj reflections, address, phone numbers etc.
20 A plastic bag To keep your slippers inside the Haram.
21 A pocket Quran To be able to read Quran anywhere and anytime.
22 Wrist watch To check time.
23 Leather socks Wear them during tawaf and saee. It will make walking on the hard floors of haram easy for you.
24 Slipper Your foot wear during the state of ihram.
25 Prayer mat All the red carpets that you see in the haram are taken away during the hajj season. If you sit in the marble floor of the haram for a long time, especially in cross legged position, it will badly hurt your ankle. So, bring with you a thick prayer mat when you go to haram.
26 Medicine Obvious item.
27 Tissue/handkerchief Obvious item.
28 Bag pack/Waist pouch To take some necessary items to haram.
29 Money+ passport+ required travel documents Obvious item

How do you manage all these items during hajj? Here is the solution:

Luggage: Keep item 1 to 8 and item 29 in your luggage, which you will always keep in your hotel room. Take the items from your luggage only when you need it. Once you are done, put them back in the luggage.

A polythene/shopping bag: In this bag, keep items 9-17, which are the toiletries. Take this bag with you whenever you go to toilet.

Backpack/pouch: In the bag pack and pouch, keep items 18-27. Whenever you go to haraam, take your backpack and pouch, and you will have with you all materials that you may need during your stay in the haraam.

Finally, do not forget to take the essential item that Allah mentioned in the Quran:

And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah (taqwaa). And fear Me, O you of understanding. [The Noble Quran: 2-197]

 

23. Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to say that my hajj was indeed a tremendous learning experience. In the hajj diary that I have posted here, I have documented only a few of the numerous reflections that crossed my mind during my hajj.

For those who are aspiring to make hajj, I would like to remind you that hajj is a means (to get closer to Allah) and not an end. That is why the real test begins after your hajj ends: how long can you sustain your hajj? Do you change after hajj or do you go back to your old ways?

For those who have not made hajj yet, I pray to Allah that He gives them the ability to make this journey of lifetime soon.

I hope that you have found my hajj diary useful. May Allah accept my hajj and this write-up about my hajj. Ameen!

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….. 

My Hajj Diary: Random Reflections, Discrete Memories, and Practical Advice-Part 3

10. Tips to make your stay in Makkah better and more effective

The following tips are applicable while you are staying in Makkah or visiting the haram.

Tip 2. Bring with you a thick prayer mat. All the red carpets that you see in the haram are taken away during the hajj season. Therefore, if you sit in the marble floor of the haramfor a long time, especially in cross legged position, it will badly hurt your ankle.Tip 3. If your accommodation is very far away from the haram, it is OK to stay in your hotel room when you are not feeling well. You can say your prayers in a local mosque.  While it is understandable that we want to worship Allah as much as we can in the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, it should nonetheless be remembered that our health is equally important. Hajj is very demanding, and you thus need to save a lot of energy for that purpose.

Tip 4. Watch over your tongue. Normally after isha when everyone gathers in the hotel room, gossiping starts. Everyone shares his or her experience. Although seems innocuous at the beginning, indulging in such talk is always tricky. May be you will end up talking about how bad your agent is serving you, and you will later regret your impatience. May be you will say a geebah, which will be the cause of great remorse later. It is thus better to avoid such gossiping as much as you can, and if people force you to participate in their discussion, use some intelligent ways to stay away, or politely refuse.

Tip 5. We used to go to the haram in groups because of the fear that we may get lost. This practice has both advantages and disadvantages. Yes, if you stay in group, you will not get lost. Also sticking with a group helps when you hire a taxi and pay the bill, as the fare will be shared. However, going in groups also has some disadvantages. It makes decision making difficult. May be you want to sit on the first floor and your group partner wants to sit on the second floor. May be you want to come home right after isha but your partner may want to do some shopping before coming home. After first few days, we avoided going in groups, and I would advise the same for you too. Haram is easy to navigate, and have tawakkal in Allah.

Tip 6. In the haram, always try to find a place from where you have a clear view of the ka’bah. Gaze at the House of Allah as much as you can, because you will miss it dearly when you come back. Also, by merely looking at the House of Allah, you can earn reward!

Tip 7. Do as much tawaf as you can, but understand your body and make sure you save adequate energy for the hajj rites. The tawaf crowd is usually light on the roof top of the haram after dhur. However, put an umbrella over your head if you do tawaf after dhur, and keep with you a bottle of zamzam water. It usually takes 50 to 55 minutes to complete seven circles at the roof top, given that you can move freely.

Tip 8. Make lots of dua. I cannot emphasize it enough. When I say making dua, I mean you raise your hands to Allah and sincerely make dua for at least 20 minutes. I used to make only one dua each day, and now I regret why I did not make 3-4 such duas each day. Make sure that you do not regret like me when you come back from hajj. Before you go to hajj, learn the etiquettes of making dua.

Tip 9. It is OK to go for some shopping but make sure you keep your focus (why you are here) right.

Tip 10. Lower your gaze. Yes, you have to lower your gaze even in the haram! Because I have seen many women there who were not wearing hijab properly. You will also find many women sleeping in the haram, and you may find them not appropriately covered in their sleeping state.

Tip 11. Eat less. While you are at Makkah, I would recommend you to have only breakfast and dinner. Skip lunch altogether. For lunch, few dates and zamzam water should suffice.

Tip 12. Pray the funeral prayer. For each funeral prayer that you pray, you earn virtue that is equal to two uhud mountains. And multiply that with 100,000. Do you want to miss that much of reward? Learn how to pray funeral prayer before going to hajj.

Tip 13. Take good care of your feet. I would recommend that you put leather socks while doing supererogatory tawafs. Also every night before going to sleep, scrub your feet with a pumice stone, wash them with soap and warm water, and finally put some Vaseline. Your feet during hajj can make you suffer a lot (my feet made me suffer a lot) if you do not take care of them.

Tip 14. Always keep tissues—you will have to take them when you go to toilet.

Tip 15. Try to learn some basic Arabic. It will help you a lot during your stay in the Kingdom.

Tip 16. How efficiently you use your time in Makkah depends on how prepared you are. Make a good routine. It can be something like this: after dhurtawaf and dua, after asr quran recitation and dua, after maghribdhikr and dua. If you have a good routine combined with mental and spiritual preparation, you will make the most of your stay at Makkah.

11. Some photos of Masjidul Haram and its surrounding

The ka'bah at midday.
The Fatah Gate.
The lights of the Fatah Gate minarets coming up.
Fatah gate seen from a window grill
Right to the main entrance of the Fatah gate, there is another entrance through which you can directly reach the second floor the haram. The woman in black abaya is my mom.
The roof top of the haram. This shot was taken from the roof top of the massa.
The roof top of the haram. This shot was taken from the roof top of the masaa.
From floors to wall-you will find marbles everywhere in the grand mosque. This is probably the greatest marble structure on the earth.
From floors to wall-you will find marbles everywhere in the grand mosque. This is probably the greatest marble structure on the earth.
These white domes which roofs the protruded portion of the first floor are really beautiful.
These protruding portions of the haram include studio elevators and escalators.
A beautiful chandelier.
A zamzam sink.
Expansion of haram.
All the minarets of the haram have been built in pairs except this one. If you do not know where you should begin your tawaf from or where the mountain Safa is, simply find this unpaired minaret. This minaret indicates the position of the mountain Safa and the black stone.
The masaa.
The roof over the Marwa.
The inside view of the mount Marwa dome.
The rooftop of the masaa.
The three domes over King Fahd wing of haram
The three domes over King Fahd wing of haram.
This is how a dome over King Fahd wing look like from inside.
Round shaped chandelier in King Fahd wing.
Another type of chandelier in King Fahd wing.
The LEDs of the Makkah Royal Clock Tower coming up before maghrib.
An evening shot of the grand mosque

Dar at Tawheed hotel.
The Abraj al-Bait shopping mall.
During prayer times, people inside the mall pray in the open space area. The tiles layout of the mall floor resemble a mosque carpet, which makes straightening of the rows easy.
A ready-made garments shop inside the Abraj al-Bait shopping mall.
Saudis love their coat of arms. You can find it almost everywhere. They are there even in the carpets of the Prophet's Mosque. The two swords represent the kingdoms of Nejd and Hijaz. These kingdoms were united by King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud and the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed.
Saudis love their coat of arms. You can find it almost everywhere. It is there even in the carpets of the Prophet's Mosque. The two swords represent the kingdoms of Nejd and Hijaz. King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud united these two kingdoms in 1932 and formed the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
12. Face of people

When we made umrah in 1995, my father met a cleaner of the Grand Mosque, who was having a khubz (Arabic bread) and a cucumber for his breakfast. Only khubz and cucumber-nothing else. At that time, their monthly salary used to be only 300 Saudi Riyals, which was a nothing money even in 1995. This is why when I went to hajj this year, I was eager to talk with these brothers to know if their situation has improved. I interviewed one such brother, and alhamdulillah, their situation actually improved. An English translation of this short interview is given below:

[You can listen to the interview here; but this is in Bengali]

Q: What is your name brother?
A: Nahid Majharul Haque Rubel.

Q: When did you come to Saudi Arabia?
A: In 2003.

Q: Have you been doing this work in the Grand Mosque since you arrived here?
A: Yes.

Q: How many hours you are required to work every day?
A: Eight hours.

Q: Can you work overtime everyday?
A: No. We can work overtime only during Ramadan and during the hajj session.

Q: How is your salary?
A: 750 Saudi Riyals.

Q: Are you provided with accommodation?
A: Yes.

Q: Does your company also provide you with food?
A: No, we have to manage that ourselves.

Q: How often are you allowed to visit your home country?
A: Once every two years.

Q: Does your company give you airfare allowance?
A: Yes.

Q: What is your home district in Bangladesh?
A: Chittagong.

Q: Are you married?
A: No.

Q: Don’t you miss your family?
A: Of course.

Q: How is life in Makkah?
A: Alhamdulillah, life is going great here.

Q: So you can pray every day here at the haram.
A: Not every day, we can pray when we are at work. Our camp is about three to four kilometers away from the haram.

Q: How many siblings you have?
A: We are two brothers and two sisters.

Q: Does your other brother also live in Saudi?
A: No. He is studying back home.

Q: Are you the eldest of all?
A: Yes.

Q: So, what do you cook normally?
A: Normal items-meat, fish, rice.

Q: Is fresh water fish available here?
A: Rare. Available fresh water fishes are mainly exports of Thailand.

Q: So, how much you have to spend for your food monthly? Can you manage within 100 riyals?
A: No, we need to spend around 350-400 riyals (I thought he was exaggerating here, food is cheap in Saudi)

Q: What is the name of the place where your camp is located?
A: The place is called Rusaifa.

Q: Alright brother. Assalamualikum!
A: Wa alalikumus salam.

12. Live Recording

I was really hoping that I would be lucky enough to pray behind Shaykh Saud Shuraim and Shaykh Abdur Rahman Sudais and hear their beautiful voices live. However, that did not happen. Shaykh Sudais did not lead any prayer during my stay. Shaykh Huamid and Shaykh Talib used to lead the Fajr and the Isha prayers, respectively, whereas Shaykh Gazzawi and Shaykh Ghamdi used to lead the Maghrib prayer interchangeably. Shaykh Shuraim led the istisqa and the eid prayer, but I was not in the haram when he led those prayers.

Here are some live audio recordings of adhan and salats of masjidul haram. I recorded them with my cell phone. The audio quality is not very good.

Adhan 1

Adhan 2

Adhan 3

Emotional Shaykh Ghamdi-Maghrib Salah

Superb recitation by Shaykh Talib-Isha Salah

My Hajj Diary: Random Reflections, Discrete Memories, and Practical Advice-Part 2

03. Wisdom behind social classification

After the completion of the formalities at the Qatar-Saudi border, we started our marathon journey of about 1400 kilometers.

At every 100-150 kilometers interval along the highway, there is a petrol station. Majority of the petrol stations are accompanied by a rest house, a mosque, toilets, a supermarket, a car repair workshop, a coffee shop, a restaurant, and accommodation for the people working there.

Our bus would stop at these stoppage points either to take fuel or to allow the passengers to go to toilets, perform salah, and take lunch or dinner.

Whenever we stopped at these stoppage points, the lives of the people working there would make me think. Many of them working at these stoppage points have been living in the middle of deserts for years. Can you imagine living in a desolate place for years, a place from where you would probably visit the nearest city once a week or once a month?

The lives of these people often force me to reflect on the wisdom behind social classification.

That people will be of different social and economic status is the divine plan of Allah. Had Allah willed, He could have made all the children of Adam equal, but He did not will so. Of course we will never fully grasp the full divine wisdom for anything that Allah does, but I will mention one reason of why Allah wanted this social and economic gradation to exist among human beings: Allah wants to test his slaves through this classification. It is the sunnah of Allah that He tests His slaves through different kinds of trial. Thus Allah made any group a trial for its opposite group. For example, children are trial for parents and parents are trial for children. Children are trial for parents because parents have the responsibility to take care of them and teach them properly. Similarly, parents are trial for children because children are required to behave respectfully with their parents, and should look after them during their old age.  This analogy is applicable for any two opposing groups, and it is also applicable for the rich and the poor.  Through classifying His slaves into rich and poor, Allah wants to see how each party reacts when they look at the opposite party.

How does a man working in the middle of a desert react when he sees a rich man driving a land cruiser? Because of his economic situation back home, he may have no other option but to work in the desert to feed his family, but if remains patient, and remains happy with what Allah has blessed him with, and remains steadfast in earning in halal way, and asks from no one but Allah, he will win his trial of being put at the bottom of social ranking.

On the other hand, how does a man who has been blessed with wealth react when he looks at a man picking trash from the streets? Does he become arrogant thinking that he is better than him, or does he immediately remember how much Allah has blessed him? Does his heart look down upon that man or does it get filled with gratefulness? Does he ignore poor people or does he try to spend as much as he can? How he reacts will determine if he has failed or won the trial of being put at the top of social ranking.

I will recall one unfortunate incident here: after we came back from Jamarat al-Aqabah on the Eid day this hajj, we lost our way.  We were very tired and we wanted to go back to our hotel to take shower and catch some sleep to gain energy before doing the tawaf al-ifadah. I asked a brother, who was picking trash, if he could direct us to our hotel location. He could not. Makkah is a big city and it is completely natural to be ignorant about some areas of this city. However, one hujjaj who was making hajj with us, remarked, “Ohhh…may be he never went to school…”

What he meant to me was, “Oh…you are asking an illiterate. What does an illiterate trash picker know?”

The arrogance expressed in this comment made me fuming inside, and at the same time, it made me felt crying.

How can you make such rude comment during hajj?

Isn’t the trash picker also a Muslim and thus your brother? How can you make such a remark in the face of your brother?

How can you even comment about his education? Just because you are educated, do you think you know all the locations of this world? Why could you not remember the location of your hotel, despite living there for more than a week and despite armed with education?

How can you even think that education is something that you have achieved yourself? If Allah wanted, He could have deprived you of your education. Had He willed, He could have put you in the shoes of that trash picker. Where is your gratefulness to Allah?

How can you look down upon a trash picker? If these brothers had not picked trash or built these roads, would you have been able to do hajj? Are you also not dependent on them? Did your wealth and your education cease you from being dependent on other human beings? It did not. So, where does your arrogance come from?

Above all, do you know the status of that trash picking brother in the sight of Allah? How can you be so sure that your status is greater in the sight of Allah than that of that brother?

Allah said in the Quran:

O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious)]. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. [The Noble Quran 49:13]

Nothing is of any avail in the sight of Allah, except piety and righteousness.

Our beautiful religion makes us humane. When we look at the brothers working under harsh conditions through the lens of Islam, there cannot be any reaction in our heart other than a rise in humility and thankfulness to Allah. When we look through the lens of Islam at them, it is simply impossible for a sense of sadness to not grow in our hearts. Because believers are like a family, and when I see a member of my family in poor condition, my heart will move.

So, alhamdulillah, these roadside stoppage points and the brothers working there are actually a mercy for the people of wealth both in worldly and spiritual sense.  In worldly sense, their service facilitates us to make hajj and umrah from the Gulf countries by road. In spiritual sense, their condition is a means for us to get closer to Allah by remembering His favors upon us.

At every stop, our bus would open the air-conditioning unit door for cooling down.
A roadside petrol station. This station is close to the city of Hufof.
Our bus stooped at this petrol station to allow us to eat our lunch and perform our 'Asr salah. You can see the name of the restaurant. It says mat'am bab ar-riyad or the Riyad Gate Restaurant.
Roads through the desert.
Inside our bus at night.
Another roadside restaurant.
 

04. Miqat
After 23 hours of journey, we reached the miqat named Qarn al-Manazil. We prayed fajr in the miqat mosque. Then we took our bath and put on our ihram clothes.

Qarn al-Manazil miqat mosque.
A water sink at miqat mosque.
It was another calm and serene morning when we reached the miqat.
Mountains situated opposite to the Qarn al-Manazil miqat.
 

05. Seeing the Ka’bah
We first checked into our hotel in Aziziyah to put our belongings in our rooms. Then we were taken to masjidul haram.

We entered masjidul haram through the Fatah Gate, which is the 45th gate of the Grand Mosque. When you stand at the entrance of this gate, you can see a portion of the ka’bah. It was about 10:30 AM when we entered the haram. The crowd was huge.

Normally people are advised to keep their eyes down until reaching the mataf (the circumambulation area around the ka’bah). However, I was so excited that I couldn’t keep my eyes down at all. I looked straight from the Fatah Gate and immediately caught a glimpse of the ka’bah.

We then slowly maneuvered through the crowd, and finally, I found myself standing right in front of the House of Allah. After 16 years!!!

Allahu Akbar.

Before going to hajj, I used to fantasize a lot about how I will feel when I will see the House of Allah. Every time I thought about that special moment, I would shed a tear or two.

However, when I was actually standing before the House of Allah, I could not cry. The beauty, the majesty, and the magnificence of the House of Allah shook my inside and out, and left me completely hallucinated and unsure about how I should react.

When I overcame my initial shock after two or three rounds of circumambulation around the ka’bah, its majesty and magnificence gave rise to another feeling in my heart.

I felt that the ka’bah was looking at me and asking me, “So what?”

It was as if the ka’bah was telling me, “So what if you are a king or a president of a big country?”

“So what if you are a billionaire?”

“So what if you are such and such important person?”

This “so what” was like a rhetorical question. The answer of a rhetorical question is never given to you. Because you already know the answer.

I also knew that answer to the rhetorical question that I felt the ka’bah was throwing towards me.

“So what if you are so and so?”

“Absolutely nothing.”

This was the answer.

Before the eternal Glory and Honor of Allah, anything that you can imagine is totally insignificant and meaningless. When I stood before the House of Allah, I realized the greatness of Allah, and simultaneously, I also realized my own insignificance.

This feeling own insignificance in front of Allah’s Greatness is the essence of preparing your heart for the complete submission to the will of the Almighty Creator. Only through feeling your own insignificance and properly understanding your need of Allah, you can completely eradicate your ego, which will then led you to submit to Allah.

The House of Allah exactly generates that feeling. And that is why when millions of worshippers prostrate before His House during prayer, it creates the most powerful image.

The Ka'ba. You can look at the House of Allah for hours, but the moment you depart, you will feel the urge to look at it again. The analogy is like the inhabitants of Jannah, where they will look at the Face of Allah for millions of years, and yet at the time of the departure, they will feel that they have been allowed to look at Allah for a few seconds. Allah is beautiful and so is His House. Unfortunately, any image cannot capture this Beauty. You have go to the Grand Mosque and see the House of Allah with your own eyes to understand that.

06. First day trial
We finished our umrah at around 2 PM. There was supposed to be a bus to take us back at our hotel after isha, and we therefore to decided to stay in the haram until isha.

The bus was supposed to come at the place where it dropped us, but we could not remember that location.

We were waiting for the bus in a wrong place. When an hour or so passed by and there was still no bus, we were certain that we had missed the bus. We were in trouble.

We did not have our hajj cards with us.

We were so tired that we even did not have the energy to walk half a kilometer.

We did not know Arabic.

We did not know the exact location of our hotel.

I cannot explain how helpless I felt that night.

I was getting angry and frustrated at myself for not brining my hajj card, but it was of no avail. Out of my excitement, I forgot to do all these things.

However, this helpless situation taught me a lesson. Am I not as helpless as I was that night even in good times when it felt that trial will never descend upon me? Did I not forget during good times about my helplessness before Allah and committed sins? Allah said in the Quran:

And when affliction touches man, he calls upon Us, whether lying on his side or sitting or standing; but when We remove from him his affliction, he continues [in disobedience] as if he had never called upon Us to [remove] an affliction that touched him. Thus is made pleasing to the transgressors that which they have been doing [The Noble Quran 10:12]

I made a small dua to Allah and He responded. We disobey Allah, but Allah never abandons His slaves.

I suddenly met a Pakistani brother of our group who was also lost. Fortunately, he had his hajj card with him. It had some phone numbers, but it did not include the address of our hotel. We rang those numbers, but no one responded.

Anyway, it was a blessing of Allah that I remembered that our hotel was around Bin Dawood Super Market. So we hired a taxi and told the driver to drop us there. He dropped us there, and from there, by the mercy of Allah, we were able to find our hotel.

Tip 1. As soon as you reach your hotel in Makkah or Madinah, write down its location in a notebook or record it in your cell phone. Record the phone number of you hajj agent. Learn how you can communicate the address of your hotel to a taxi driver in Arabic. If you have GPS in your cell phone, immediately mark the location of your hotel in it.

07. Our hotel at Aziziyah
We were provided with a nice accommodation during our stay at Makkah. It was a newly built hotel. Everything of it was nice, except for its distance from the Grand Mosque. It was about 7 kilometers away from the Grand Mosque.

Our hotel building in Aziziyah, Makkah.
We were served with fresh sugarcane juice every morning at the entrance of our hotel.
They used to serve us fresh sugarcane juices in these glasses.
This is not tea, it is sugarcane juice.
This is not tea, it is sugarcane juice.
Our hotel lobby.
407- my room number.
Our room-four hujjaj shared one room. Can you see the sticker under the air condition? It is qibla indicator.
There was a small refrigerator in the room.
Toilet
On the roof of our hotel. We would use this place to dry our clothes.
Can you see the lights on the top of the mountain? This is a palace of King Abdul Aziz. In Arabic they call it 'Kubri Malik Abdel Aziz'.

08. Surrounding areas of our hotel at Aziziyah

The road that connected our hotel with the Aziziyah Street.
Aziziyah street.
Another shot of Aziziyah street.
Bawarith Plaza: you can buy all sorts of clothes here. But the prices are UNREASONABLY HIGH.
When you go to Masjidul Haram through the Aziziyah street, on your right you can see two mountains on your right. This mountain is one of them? Is it Jabal Al-Noor?
A hotel on Aziziyah street.
A beautiful palm tree in front of Bawarith Plaza.
The hotel building of Al-Ali group, which came from Bahrain.
A bill board of our agent Yusuf Al-Hammadi showing direction to our hotel building.
09. Bin Dawood
It is a Hyper Market. You can find almost anything in this shopping mall. The prices of many items seemed to me higher when compared to their prices at Qatar. However, like the Bawarith Plaza, the price of clothes at Bin Dawood was also simply UNREASONABLE.

Here are some pictures of items that are available at Bin Dawood:

Prayer rug.
Home theaters.
From towels to pillow....you can find almost anything you need at Bin Dawood.
Lahm (meat)
Pineapple
Fresh produce.
Some more fresh produce!
To be continued inshallah…

My Hajj Diary: Random Reflections, Discrete Memories, and Practical Advice-Part 1

01. Intention

As the days progressed and I was getting closer to my departure date, I was getting more and more excited. In fact, inside my heart, I was literally jumping up and down.

I was going to hajj!

I was going to see the House of Allah after 16 years!

I was going to travel for the first time in 16 years outside Qatar, the country where I am residing.

I was going to get a break from my work, which had really stressed me out, and could there have been a better escape than a hajj, where you get to spend your time in the sacred shrines of Makkah and Madinah?

I had every reason to be excited. My excitement was valid.

However, my hajj was initiated by my mother. She had long wished to perform hajj, and when the opportunity came, she wanted to take me as her mahram, as my father had already been to hajj before. I happily agreed.

A day or two before our departure, I was conversing with one of my colleagues about hajj, when suddenly a question popped into my mind, “Would I have been to hajj this year had my mother not initiated it for me?”

Most probably not.

The negative answer was an indication that, despite all my euphoria and excitement, I actually did not answer the profound question of why I was doing this hajj or what the purpose was of going to hajj.

Then I remembered the hadith described by Sayyidina Umar ibn al-Khattab (رضى الله عنه), who narrated the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying:

Deeds are [a result] only of the intentions [of the actor], and an individual is [rewarded] only according to that which he intends. Therefore, whosoever has emigrated for the sake of Allah and His messenger, then his emigration was for Allah and His messenger. Whosoever emigrated for the sake of worldly gain, or a woman [whom he desires] to marry, then his emigration is for the sake of that which [moved him] to emigrate. [Bukhari and Muslim]

I did not have a concrete intention. I was honestly excited, but my excitement obscured my intention. I was about to become an aimless hujjaj.

See, Shaitan always tries to fail you from the beginning. He starts his attack from the intention. Because he knows that if he can pollute your intention, his workload becomes much easier.

But alhamdulillah, Allah reminded me about my intention before I stepped into the journey of my life.

I prayed two rakah’s to Allah, and said the following prayer:

“O Allah! Irrespective of how my hajj has been initiated, it is indeed a mercy from You. You are hosting me. It is an opportunity from You. O Allah! Help me make the most of this opportunity and help me perform this hajj only for Your sake and only to earn Your pleasure. O Allah! Make this hajj a point of no return in my life, a point from where I will only tread the path of Your obedience.”

02. Leaving for hajj

A day before I was about to leave for hajj, all my excitement evaporated and a feeling of sadness overpowered me. This feeling of sadness grew from the fact that I have had to detach myself from everything that I loved. My father, my younger brothers, my car, the mosque where I used to pray—I had to leave out everyone and everything to which my heart was attached with before I left for hajj.

Going to hajj thus helped me to understand how it feels to truly go to Allah. It reminded me that no matter how much we are attached to this duniya, this attachment will one day come to an end. We came to this world alone, and we shall have to leave this place alone. When we go to Allah, we cannot take anything from it except our sincerity and good deeds. This feeling of going to Allah leaving out everything is truly a profound and unique feeling that I believe every hujjaj experiences, and it is a blessing of Allah that through hajj, we can experience a feeling that we will inevitably experience during our meeting with the angel of death.

This is the first picture that I took. It was a serene and calm morning when we started our journey. The journey was from Doha to Makkah by road.
The mosque at Bu Samra, Qatar border.
A palm tree at Bu Samra. Bu Samra has been thoroughly renovated; the new buildings and the surrounding landscape now look very clean and nice.
Our bus at the Saudi border.
Our hajj agent Yusuf Al-Hammadi's logo.
The Saudi border.
The Saudi flag proudly showing the testimony of faith; the sword beneath the testimony is probably a silent reminder to the people that their heads shall be chopped off without any fuss, lest they mess up or do something stupid.
Zain sim card 🙂
Our baggage being checked at the Saudi border. It took five hours for the formalities to be completed at Qatar-Saudi border.
To be continued inshallah…