slip-sliding away…..

Archive for August, 2012

Leaving for Hajj soon?

Posted by Yacoob on August 27, 2012

Kabah

One of the most important objectives of this blog is to share beneficial knowledge and advice – whether that comes from experts or just my own (or other people’s) experience. And with Ramadan completed, the months of Hajj have now begun. That means that for the many prospective hujjaaj who are going this year, things will be getting rather hectic from this point (if it hasn’t already been).

Whether it’s getting your logistical stuff sorted out, making the social arrangements for your departure (the greetings etc before leaving), or – most importantly (but sadly neglected sometimes) – your own personal mental and spiritual preparation, there’s plenty to do…and it can be overwhelming.

On this particular blog, the Hajj Chronicles series aims to share my own Hajj experience from 2011 – as well as extract lessons and advice gained from the trip. But because I want to really give my best to that series, it means the posts aren’t coming as fast as I’d initially hoped. So it’s turning into a long-term series, rather than one that would be finished in a year.

But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to offer this year’s hujjaaj. While I hope that the posts so far have, to some degree, been helpful for anyone going this year – I also know that it’s a lot to get through in terms of reading. And when preparing for a journey such as this, time isn’t on your side.

So insha-Allah what I hope to achieve in this post (and maybe one more to follow) is to provide a very summarised, point-form list of important tips and advice. Something easy to read, covering the complete trip: from departure to Madinah, Makkah, and the days of Hajj itself. And if you’re planning to go to Al-Aqsa afterwards, something for that too.

I know that you’ll be getting advice from many, many sources. And it can be difficult to figure out what to remember (/write down) and what not to. I don’t intend to complicate that process, but would just like to offer my input on it. If you’ve read and enjoyed the Hajj Chronicles series so far, I hope that this list will be something particularly useful to you, and that you can – at least – just print and keep a copy for once you’re on the move. (There’ll probably be plenty of time waiting at airports etc, so the shortage of time now won’t prevail for too long I hope.)

This list is in no way completely comprehensive, and not everything will work / be suited to everyone. But – like any advice in life – it’s important to be open, analyse what you receive, then take  of it what you think works for you, while discarding the rest.

While much of these points are from my own experience, I’m also sourcing tips from other places too – such as Muhammad Al-Shareef and Muslimahlifestyle.com. So jazakAllah to them as well.

With that, you can download the Hajj tipsheet part 1 document here: PDF format | MS Word format.

Note: Since this post, I’ve subsequently done more detailed tipsheets, which you can access as follows:

Madinah tipsheet | Makkah tipsheet | 5 days of Hajj tipsheet or

Visual presentation of all 3 tipsheets

JazakAllah for reading, and I hope this is of maximum benefit.

Yacoob

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27th Night Syndrome

Posted by Yacoob on August 15, 2012

Here in South Africa, it’s the 27th night of Ramadan – popularly referred to as ‘Laylatul Qadr'; even though there is absolutely NO certainty that the 27th night is indeed this auspicious occasion.

ANY of the odd nights of the last 10 may be Laylatul Qadr – so it’s wiser to treat each odd night as if it were the night of Power (i.e. ‘seek’ the night – as the ulama so often advise). Yet year after year, the mindset of many of us is that it’s the 27th night. The calendars all say so, and everyone talks about it as being this way. And so, despite a lull in masjid attendance even into the last 10 nights, the 27th is the night when the masses flock to the masjids. It seems that popular opinion disqualifies any other night from this honour – it’s ONLY the 27th night.

And to make things worse, some people even begin to bid farewell to Ramadan at this point.

With attitudes like this, it’s easy to then let the last few days and nights fall by the wayside. Relax, put your feet up, and now channel most of your energy into preparing your wardrobe and kitchen for Eid. After all, it’s human nature to want to wind down after a period of intensity. And it really is important to prepare for Eid – since Eids are our only legitimate days of celebration in Islam.

However, in the fervour to get ready for Eid (and thereafter a return to ‘normal life’), many of us seem to forget that the month actually isn’t over yet. There’s still much to be gained from Ramadan, and it’s hardly likely that our ultimate role models (the Prophet s.a.w. and sahabah r.a.) took the attitude that many of us fall victim to – which is to spend the last days of Ramadan obsessing over outfits and Eid lunch.

Such pre-occupation is not going to help us gather up the final drops of barakah that so abundantly shower us in Ramadan. (In fact, it would be wiser to get your clothes and plan your food stuff well in advance so that you’re not spending Ramadan’s last days and nights on these things.)

Imagine Laylatul Qadr is on the 29th night, but because you succumb to the popular misconception of ‘it IS on the 27th’, you spend that night shopping for clothes, looking up recipes, or wasting away your time on the Internet or chatting with friends.  So a night in which you could earn over 83 years of worship and reward, you’ll get almost zero – because you just followed the crowd and let your focus drift away from the reality: that Ramadan is NOT OVER YET.

Maybe you had an awesomely spiritual Ramadan so far. Or maybe it’s been very challenging, and far, far from what you’d hoped for. Whatever the case, insha-Allah you still have at least 3 days and 2 nights to get as much as you can from the month. By pushing yourself in these last moments – despite the fact that many others will be relaxing – insha-Allah you can squeeze out tremendous rewards from this Ramadan, and put in place structures that will help you maintain your good deeds (or at least some of them) for the next 11 months to follow.

When Ramadan goes, it becomes much harder to maintain good deeds and taqwa. And if we succumb to the ‘27th night syndrome’, we let our decline start early – which really helps set us up for failure in the 11 months to follow.

So, however your month has been so far, now is the time to consolidate your achievements and make one last push so that you can end the month on a high. And to take the goodness of Ramadan forward, try to plan ahead: look at what you’ve achieved, by Allah’s mercy this month; and what you can take forward. Putting in the effort now will, insha-Allah, help prevent – or minimise – the tendency of falling back into bad habits and laziness once Ramadan ends.

May we all make the most of these precious last hours of Ramadan, and permanently eradicate the ‘27th night syndrome’ from our lives.

Image source

Posted in Ramadaan | 3 Comments »

Hajj Chronicles Part 8: Every soul shall taste it

Posted by Yacoob on August 8, 2012

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 7

Janatul Baqi

Janatul Baqi – the graveyard of Madinah

The certainty

The Prophet s.a.w. reportedly* advised us to “Remember frequently the destroyer of pleasures” – referring to death. It’s the only certainty we have in life – the fact that we will die; and it’s a fact that everyone accepts – even the atheists. Personally, I would love to live by this hadith – but, sadly, I do not. Once in a while reminders (like this one) move me, but those feelings soon fade, and it’s back to ‘normal’ life again.

When preparing for Hajj, you’re forced to consider the fact that you may die on this journey. It’s common to prepare your final will and testament (if you haven’t already), and when you leave your loved ones at the airport upon your departure, you know that it may be the last time you ever see them.

In both Madinah and Makkah, reminders of death come very often – so often that you may become immune to them. You see, after almost every fard salaah in the masjid, there’s a janazah salaah (which is also why it’s important to learn how to pray the janazah before you get there). And if you’re with a Hajj group, someone in the group may end up being one of those janazahs.


The greatest resting place

In a hadith, the Prophet s.a.w. reportedly** said: “Whosoever is able to die in Madinah, then let him die there, for indeed, I will intercede for the one who dies there.”

Janatul Baqi

Those who die in Madinah are buried in its famous graveyard: Jannatul Baqi (translated as ‘The Garden of Heaven’). The virtues of the place are great (read more here), and being buried there means you’ll be buried with many members of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) close family, around ten thousand of the Sahabah r.a., and many prominent, pious personalities. Additionally, the people of Baqi are said to be among the first to be resurrected on Qiyamah, and they’ll accompany the Prophet s.a.w. (full hadith on this page).

Baqee_burial_list

A list of some of the people buried in Janatul Baqi

Making it real

During our tour of the Madinah Multimedia Museum (mentioned last time), our tour leader – who’s extremely knowledgeable and passionate about Madinah – spoke a bit about Baqi, suggesting that we make dua asking Allah to let Madinah be our place of death – so that we could be buried in Baqi. Or, for those of us (like me) who wanted to go home – to be raised with the people of Baqi.

He also told us when the graveyard was open (after Fajr and Asr). And with Asr coming up soon at that time, a relative of my wife (who was with us) and I decided to go in if we could. But we would have to be quick if we wanted to follow the body into the graveyard, because there’s very little time from the time the janazah salaah ends to the time the body goes into the graveyard and is buried – they really do make sure the body is buried as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this meant that we had to pray outside the masjid – quite close to Baqi – and we didn’t pray the janazah, as we didn’t want to risk missing the opportunity. Alhamdullilah – we got our chance.

Janatul Baqi     Janatul Baqi

Going in there, I got tingles when I looked around the first time. Like other graveyards, it was calm and serene – a peace prevailed in the air. But unlike other graveyards, some of the greatest people to walk the earth – of the ‘normal’ people (i.e. non Prophets or Messengers) were buried here. The style of burial was simple – as simple as can be – in the Saudi, Salafi/Wahabi style: just a mound of earth, with 2 stones – one on each side of the mound (or in some cases, just one) – to mark the position of the grave.

We followed the body – and we both got the chance to carry a part of the coffin for a while. Alhamdullilah – it was a good experience, and one that every Muslim (male) should try to do. Carrying another person’s body should remind you that one day you’ll be the one being carried.

The body was then lowered into the grave – down a bit, then into a little chamber, then covering it with stones (cement blocks – the space in these graves is enough for the body to sit up at the time of questioning – which it does); then putting sand in to close it. Alhamdullilah – again, we both got to throw some sand in.

Baqi grave

An empty grave in Janatul Baqi

Though I had no idea who the person was, I made dua for him/her – as was fitting for the event. I don’t remember it in detail, but I think I felt a kind of closeness to that person; a desperation for him/her – that he/she was – at that moment – going through a tremendous, tremendous experience, and any duas the still-living could make would, insha-Allah, be helpful. And – of course – it was an immense reminder that I too will be in that position one day (whether sooner or later).

After everything was done and the people moved away, I made more duas – for both myself and my loved ones, including one asking Allah to make this the moment that the remembrance of death finally sinks in permanently. As stated in the intro, I struggle to live by that advice.

Because having knowledge in your brain is one thing, but it’s only superficial if it’s not practiced. For example, a male can know that he should ‘lower his gaze’ when in the company of non-mahram females. But it’s only when that knowledge – that lesson – actually sinks into his heart – that it makes the real impact. So much so that he then lives by that knowledge.

For me, things like this only seem to truly sink into my heart when I experience things that personally teach me the lesson in my own life.  So this experience in Baqi was really a perfect opportunity to let the concept of remembering death really permeate my consciousness and heart. I was on the greatest journey I’d ever take in life, in such a blessed place (Madinah, and Baqi) – with the Prophet s.a.w.’s site of burial visible to me from where I stood (under the green dome of Masjid an-Nabawi). If there was any place for the reality to hit me and stick with me, this was it. So I asked Allah for that.

To further try to reinforce the feeling, I later went to look at an open grave – to give myself a visual of what my final resting place will look like. When I was small, I had a dream in which I was being buried – but I was still alive. I could see the people at my grave, and I think I tried to call out to them – but to no avail. Now – all these years later – I know that a scene like that will quite likely become a reality. I will be buried – but my soul will be conscious and awake. And though my body will be lifeless for a period, it will come alive again – and my questioning by the two angels will begin.

I made dua that I will answer those questions correctly in those moments; and that my soul’s journey after death would be the better of the two options; and that things would be easy for me in my grave.

Another amazing image that struck me was when I saw people in the distance – walking along the pathways in Baqi. What I saw brought to mind what our group leader had described earlier that day: how – at the time of resurrection – the people of Baqi would get up and all walk towards the place of accounting. I saw these people – the people of this current world – walking on those pathways in the distance, and I imagined that this very same scene will occur on that Day.

And again, I made dua to be among them – to be among these people of Baqi, with the Prophet s.a.w.

May Allah grant that to all of us.

Janatul Baqi

*Hadith reported in Tirmidhi, Nasaa’i, and Ibn Maajah
** Hadith reported in Ahmad, Musnad; Tirmidhi, and Sunan

Next up, insha-Allah:

Final post/s from Madinah

Related lessons:

  • Remember death often. Not to be morbid – but as a means of putting this life into the proper perspective, and to help motivate you to live in a way that’ll see you meet Allah in the best possible condition.
  • Learn to pray the janazah salaah. You’ll get plenty of opportunities to pray it in Madinah and Makkah – and you should take those chances. It’s a really virtuous act of worship that will benefit you in both this life and the next, insha-Allah.
  • Make dua to either die in Madinah, or to be raised with the people of Jannatul Baqi.
  • If you can, visit Jannatul Baqi while you’re in Madinah. (And while you’re there, DO NOT carry out any acts of shirk or bidah. Never ever pray TO the dead – only pray FOR them!)
  • If you can participate in a janazah, do so – and make it a means of benefit by remembering that you will be in this position one day.
  • Knowledge is best when it is internalised and practiced upon. If you can find experiences that will help you internalise beneficial lessons in your own, personal life, use those opportunities to improve yourself.

What happened next?

Later parts in this series will be added at this link, insha-Allah.

Image sources: The Baqi burial list was taken by me, but all others are from various Internet sources. 

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

 
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