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Archive for November, 2011

Hajj Chronicles: Part 1: Why?

Posted by Yacoob on November 26, 2011

Previous part: Introduction

Inside of a tent on Mina – the main camp site for Hajj

Inside of a tent on Mina – the main camp site for Hajj

Why?

“Why would a person go for Hajj?”

It’s a simple question, and if you didn’t know enough about Hajj – or have a deep emotional attachment to it – you may struggle to find the answer.

Why would someone leave behind the security of their home, their family, their enjoyment – to go halfway across the world and spend days and nights in a simple, unflattering tent – where the only physical comforts are a mattress, blanket, and pillow (if they’re fortunate enough to get that).

Why would they leave behind the ease of riding in their car for a journey where they’ll be walking for miles and miles on dirty, congested roads, in huge crowds that they’d run away from?

Why would they leave behind the beauty of their clothing to wear nothing but two white, unstitched pieces of cloth – wherein they’ll look exactly the same as everyone else, with no physical adornments to separate them from the others?

Why would they go to a flat, empty plain – in the middle of a desert – to stand in the scorching sun for a few hours, reciting a few words, making a few requests, and crying their hearts out?

It comes down to motivation, and intention.

Intention

Everything starts with the intention, and the journey of Hajj is no different. Hajj starts long before you get to Makkah; and long before you leave your home.

In Islam, we know that the intention is absolutely critical. As the very famous hadith goes, actions are judged by intentions – and you will be rewarded according to what you intended. It’s a beautiful teaching that empowers one to know – without doubt – that every single (halaal) thing you do in life – if done with the right intention – can be considered an act of worship, which you will be rewarded for.

So when it comes to Hajj, it makes sense that the intention must be good – or else you’re wasting your time, energy, and money.

For me, my intentions were threefold:

  1. to fulfil the obligation of Hajj placed upon me by Allah, thereby pleasing Him
  2. to be completely forgiven for my lifetime of sins and mistakes, and
  3. to be spiritually purified and strengthened to such a degree that I could make the important life changes and improvements that I wanted to make – thereby living a better life until my time on Earth expires

Danger

We also learn that intention is one of the most difficult things to maintain. The heart is unstable – always turning in different directions, so it can be hard to remain consistent in your motivations when you intend something.

But on top of that, the sworn enemy of mankind (shaytaan) is constantly trying to attack us – knowing that corrupting the intention would spoil the entire deed.

And the latter is most dangerous. Shaytaan works in the most subtle ways – slowly introducing thoughts, feelings, and temptations into our hearts and minds. And if we allow them in, they act like a slow poison, gradually infecting that intention and polluting it to the point that it’s no longer sincere or pure.

When it comes to Hajj, several things could spoil intentions, including:

  • the promise of a ‘holiday’ from the rigours and responsibilities of everyday life and work
  • the luxury and enjoyment of fancy hotels and good food which await in the hotels and restaurants (which you’ll frequent before the days of Hajj begin)
  • the opportunity to shop, shop, and shop some more – finding Islamic clothing, books, and other items that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity (or money) to get
  • the esteemed status that many people in the Muslim community ascribe to you via the title Hajji (though I’m not sure if this is universal – it may just be a Cape Town thing)

As you can see, it’s a potential minefield to navigate.

So once you make your intention, your work really begins. For Hajj – like many things in life – we’re advised to regularly examine our intention and renew it; over and over – because if we preserve and protect the foundation / heart of the deed – then we preserve the deed itself.

Lessons to learn:

  • Actions are judged according to intentions – so it’s important to always try to make the right intentions
  • Intentions can be easily corrupted, so it’s important to stay on guard against all that which would pollute your intentions – both internal forces and external
  • It’s important to consistently purify and renew your intentions

With this, I end this first part of the series. I realise that this post didn’t actually start on the trip yet – but I felt it important to cover this, since it’s the very foundation of the journey. I have many lessons to share later in this series, as well as experiences – like the nine hours I spent lost after Arafah, the time I got hit by a bike, and the phone that disappeared in a place nobody would venture to go.

But those stories are for a later time – and I hope you’ll stick around long enough to read about it. Stay tuned for the next part – hopefully up in two weeks insha-Allah.

 For now, I welcome your feedback – so feel free to leave comments below or send me a mail.

Later parts: Part 2 | Part 3

Posted in Hajj Chronicles, Hajj-related | 1 Comment »

Hajj Chronicles: Introduction

Posted by Yacoob on November 22, 2011

As salaamualaikum everyone. I hope you all had a good Eid, a blessed 10 days of Dhul Hijjah, and a spiritually uplifting few weeks around Hajj time.

As you may know, if you’ve read the last few posts, I was away on Hajj, and returned a few days ago. And while there, I was able to do a lot of writing – some of which was posted on this blog – but most of which was not, since it was a personal journal.

Many people write Hajj journals or diaries, and I’m no different. Many people also publish those (or extracts from them)– and again, I’m no different.

Without doubt, I can say that this journey was the greatest – and most important – of my life. The experiences and places were amazing, and the lessons and insights I gained through the days and weeks were abundant.

And because of this, I’ve decided that I want to share that with my readers – in the hope of not only passing on what I’ve learnt, but also hopefully inspiring you to make this journey yourself – if you haven’t already been.

And for those who don’t think it possible, I again reiterate that there’s no need to consider current limitations – be those financial, physical, logistical (e.g. visas and quotas) or other – as barriers to this journey. It’s one that happens regardless of any obstacle that we can see or perceive. Allah chooses who goes – and if you sincerely want to go, and you make a good intention and follow that with dua, patience, and the right practical steps and attitude, then insha-Allah your time will come – even if you think it difficult or even impossible.

Hajj truly is the ‘journey of a lifetime’ – one that liberates you from your lifetime of sins and bad qualities. One that gives you a clean slate – a chance to start life again, in the spiritual sense, as if you’re a new-born baby. It’s one that teaches you how to re-orient your focus to what’s really important in life. It’s one that forces you to grow – because it takes you out of your comfort zones; teaching you qualities of character that you know are virtuous – yet you find difficult to practice in everyday life, in the absence of such challenges. And most importantly, it’s one that draws you closer and closer to your Creator – nurturing the relationship that is most important in life, and putting your existence, your purpose, and your responsibilities, into the proper perspective.

I hope that this series will be of tremendous benefit to not only you, but me as well – as lessons and reminders of how I need to live. Because – as the clichés go – Hajj doesn’t end when you leave Makkah and come home. It really begins at that point. Hajj itself is not the main challenge. The main challenge – and life’s mission – is to live that Hajj: to take forward what you’ve learnt; be that better person you were inspired to be; and always be progressing further and further on the path of living the best way you can in this world, so that you’re successful here and in the eternal realm of the Hereafter.

Also, I just wanted to note that the posts on this blog, insha-Allah, will be written for a Muslim audience – in terms of assuming the reader is familiar with certain Islamic / Arabic terms and background knowledge.  I also plan to write another version – which may differ in content – for a non-Muslim audience – where these assumptions are not made, and things are put in a way that someone with no prior knowledge of Islam or Arabic can understand. Details of that will follow later on, insha-Allah.

Later parts: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Posted in Hajj Chronicles, Hajj-related | 1 Comment »

 
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