slip-sliding away…..

Archive for the ‘Hajj-related’ Category

Beyond Hajj: Reflections 3 years later

Posted by Yacoob on October 1, 2014

Sunset on Arafah - Hajj 2012 (Picture courtesy of Shaykh Muhammad Al-Shareef)

Sunset on Arafah – Hajj 2012 (Picture courtesy of Shaykh Muhammad Al-Shareef)

Three years ago, I experienced my first magical moments in Madinah. It was the opening destination on my first and only Hajj, and I was awe-struck and honoured to be in so blessed and peaceful a place…a little piece of Jannah.

As the days passed, Madinah’s glow wore off, and I moved on to Makkah, where, despite being initially underwhelmed, the place soon grew on me. In particular, one special night in the haram stood out – wherein I finally found what my heart was seeking – what I would need, internally, for the upcoming 5 days of Hajj.

Lethargy and laziness followed – my biggest regrets about Makkah – before moving onto Aziziah, which was to be our final stop before the days of Hajj began. There – free of the luxuries of Makkah – I managed to get back on track, preparing for the biggest five days of my life – with the Day of Arafah being the most critical of them all.

Hajj itself was a mixed bag, with incredible experiences on Mina, Arafah, and a misadventure on the way to Muzdalifah (and beyond); but some disappointment on the days of tashreeq that followed: once the intensity had departed after Eid, that spirit of striving was clearly gone – both in myself and in the others on the journey.

At the end of it all, what I was left with was:

  • A (hopefully) clean and pure heart, forgiven from my lifetime of sins and spiritual dirt.
  • Beautiful memories of 6 weeks on this different, separate planet (because it’s a different world, divorced from the realities of life at home).
  • Spiritual ambitions. Intentions for change. Desire for self-improvement. A mission…a lifelong mission to’live’ my Hajj for the rest of my life.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Crashing back to Earth

Like everything in life, Hajj had to come to an end. The beauty of the Holy Lands, the spiritual purity felt after Arafah, and the general goodness of dedicating a portion of your time to this mission – free of worldly work and responsibilities…all of it couldn’t last forever, no matter how much I wanted it to.

The differences between Planet Hajj and the rest of the world were brought firmly into focus as soon as we arrived at our next stop – waiting in transit at Cairo’s airport. Whereas Madinah and Makkah were (relatively) spiritually clean – free of sexually-driven advertising, indecent music, and other vices of the outside world, in Cairo’s airport, these things came flooding back into consciousness – sensorial assaults from the sick, degenerated, fitra-robbed environment that I knew all too well from life in South Africa and other Western-influenced societies.

Over the next week, as we spent time in Palestine and then Cairo again, the euphoria of Hajj continued to fade at a sadly rapid rate. When we got back to South Africa, the world felt even more different, and I braced myself for reintegration into the society I’d known and lived in my whole life.

Gone were the days of building an entire schedule around time in the masjid. Gone was the time to spend in self-reflection and writing. There would be no further long stretches of dua on a consistent basis. And I would no longer have the chance to undertake night-time excursions to the Kabah.

From that point on, the external environment would no longer drive my spiritual ambitions. On the contrary, conditions on the outside would now chip away at my spirituality; so I faced a harder fight to simply maintain focus – let alone build something greater than the state I was in after Arafah.

Hanging on

The first few weeks back home were relatively good. I tried very hard to maintain my levels of spirituality – despite being plunged back into the working world and the rigours of fatherhood (we had a 2 year old daughter). I used the still-fresh emotions of my journey to keep some level of momentum going, with taqwa, dhikr, dua and self-reflection as my companions.

In terms of work, I faced a potential crisis when – a few weeks after my return – news came that the company was at the very real risk of going under, and much of the workforce would have to be cut if they were to survive. I tried to put a positive spin on it for those who I could make some kind of impact on – urging them (and myself) to see the bigger picture, and always have hope that Allah would take care of them.

In the end, I ended up keeping my job – though I knew that it was time to start looking elsewhere. 6 months later, I was on my way to a new challenge – a job that brought intellectual stimulation and variety back to my working life – which had, in my previous job, been largely stagnant.

The years that followed found me getting more and more entrenched in my work – which was a demand of my new position, while conversely, my spirituality sank more and more (as realised in Ramadan 2013).

But there were still good points, with the first year or so being extremely fruitful in terms of my personal writing, and some good habits becoming more entrenched. Subsequent Hajj periods (the months of Dhul Qada and Dhul Hijjah) were also amazing, because following the Hajj via TV and social media always reminded me of my own experience, and helped rekindle the yearning to go back.

Those Hajj periods, in particular, helped to remind me that while the emotion and nostalgia was so strong, and the desire to go back was heightened, I needed to convert those feelings into practical actions. I needed to strive, once more, to ‘live’ my Hajj. To show my gratitude via action, for if I am grateful, insha-Allah I will be blessed with another chance.

Game over?

A little over a year ago, my life changed significantly once more, with the birth of our second child – another little girl who immediately captured my heart, attention, and time.

By then, I had already slipped far from the standard I’d hoped to live after Hajj – in terms of personal character and behavioural changes I’d wanted to implement. Old habits die hard, and in the absence of immense striving, my habits were resurrected, dusted themselves off, and made themselves comfortable in my life once more.

And if I thought I had hope of making a comeback to the standard I’d aspired to, the demands of fatherhood quickly shattered those illusions. Along with the new baby, there was also the older child to see to – with her adjustment to being a big sister (and no longer the centre of attention) being relatively difficult.

When things let up a bit, I fell into an old addiction of mine. Nothing haraam, of course, but something very time-consuming which – I first rationalised – I needed as a means of de-stressing from the burdens upon my shoulders. A new, potent enemy which I’ve been fighting – on and off – for the last year.

My problem is that I’m extreme in indulgence. I don’t know how to be moderate; balanced. It’s a quality that can be very beneficial if used in productive pursuits, but detrimental when applied to self-satisfying, otherwise-useless initiatives.

We also went through an extremely traumatic period earlier this year, which really drained us and for me – personally – strengthened me internally, but also knocked out my hope of an internal revival. That may seem a contradictory statement, and because I’m being deliberately vague here (since I won’t explain the details publically), it might not make sense.

Essentially, it strengthened my imaan – so there was spiritual growth; but at the same time, it took its toll mentally and psychologically – such that I felt like I was in too weak a state to build up again, to strive for the lofty ambitions I’d held after Hajj. Like I was now too far away from those days of Hajj – both in time and inner purity – to seriously think that it was possible to achieve what I wanted to achieve.

And on top of that, my life was dramatically different now as compared to those days after Hajj. There was the more hectic job, for one. But there were also the challenges and demands of two young kids now: a baby and a school-going child….instead of just one toddler (which was the case when we got back from Hajj).

Thinking of all of this, it seemed hopeless.

What’s next?

But was it, really? Does it mean I have given up all hope? That ‘living my Hajj’ is now just a distant, beautiful-sounding dream that was just a foolish ambition of my younger self?

I hope not. Because if that was the case, I would be throwing away much of what I gained from the journey.

I can’t just confine my Hajj to good memories and long-gone spiritual achievements.

So, what I needed to realize – and it took me a long time to figure it out, despite it being SO obvious – is that I can no longer see my life through the lens that I’d envisioned it three years ago. I can’t look at myself and my life in the same way, because my life has shifted. So I have to shift my gaze too.

Now, three years later and in very changed circumstances, I need to start my post-Hajj mission again. I need to start fresh:

  1. Analyse what I want, in my overall vision of my life (both worldly and beyond).
  2. Look at the demands and challenges I face now and in the coming years.
  3. Redraw that list of ambitions, pulling it into a realistic, measurable plan of how I will get from here to there.

And even if I don’t succeed in some or even all of those plans, the most important quality I need to apply is persistence. For so long, I’ve let myself be deceived by the idea that if I can’t achieve success in a plan, or if I can’t at least be consistent in a certain initiative, then it’s not worth even bothering with that initiative.

Perhaps that attitude is a reflection of my perfectionist tendencies. Or perhaps it’s from the whisperings of the devil – who doesn’t miss an opportunity to try to impede my spiritual growth and success.

Whatever the case, I need to change that mindset. I need to consciously realize that such thinking is false and actually counter-productive.

I need to just keep trying, because all that I’m responsible for is intention and action. The results are in Allah’s hands.

So now, as I sit here three years later, with this year’s Hajj due to begin tomorrow insha-Allah, I feel a renewed sense of purpose. A re-commitment to the mission I accepted, and was so excited about, all that time back.

I ask that you, my dear reader, please make dua for me in this road ahead; as I make dua for you too.

JazakAllah

Yacoob

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Leaving for Hajj soon? Download these tipsheets

Posted by Yacoob on September 19, 2014

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. For prospective hujjaaj who are going this year, it can be hectic getting your logistical stuff sorted out, making the social arrangements for your departure (the greetings etc before leaving), and – most importantly (but sadly neglected sometimes) – your own personal mental and spiritual preparation.

There’s plenty to do…and it can be overwhelming.

Drawing from my Hajj Chronicles series (which covered my own Hajj experience from 2011), I’ve extracted lessons and advice gained from the trip and compiled them into tipsheets which I hope will be useful for this year’s hujjaaj.

Please download, use, and share with all who you feel would benefit – whether they’re going this year or just hope to go in future years:

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

Note: 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.

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It’s almost time…

Posted by Yacoob on August 22, 2014

Approaching the masjid

Three years ago, I was preparing for the journey that would take me to the most serene place I’ve ever been. May Allah bless, guide and protect those who have been honoured with the invitation this year.

Madinah beckons…

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More than just memories

Posted by Yacoob on October 16, 2013

Sunset on the day of Arafah 2013 (Pic by Muhammad Al Shareef)

Sunset on the day of Arafah 2013 (Pic by Muhammad Al Shareef)

Alhamdullilah – this year’s Hajj will be wrapping up very soon, and for those who didn’t get to go, I hope that the live media coverage has been a source of inspiration for not only the journey of Hajj, but also the intention to want to become better Muslims.

Every Hajji has their own unique story to tell of the days they were blessed to spend on this sacred journey. And despite the struggles and discomfort they may have faced, those who have been yearn to go back and do it again – particularly when this season comes around each year.

As I mentioned last year, one of the best ways to get that invitation again is to truly appreciate the experience you already had. If you’re grateful, insha-Allah Allah will give you more.

It’s always emotional for former Hajjis when we see, hear, and communicate with those who are there right now. We remember our own experiences – what we were doing on this particular day or night; what we felt; what we learned; and hopefully, we reflect on the plans we made back then, and see how faithfully we’ve managed to follow through on them – taking into account all the unexpected events that have come our way since that time.

And when it seems that we’ve strayed so far from those plans, and that ‘normal life’ has just buried our Hajj dreams under the dust of life, we’re blessed with this sacred season to remind us of those aspirations. We’re re-invigorated by the experiences of this year’s honoured guests of Allah. We feel it again. We want it again. And we make the intention that, insha-Allah, we will try again.

So my message to myself and all other former hujjaaj is a plea that we don’t waste these feelings. That we use the momentum of this season, take these emotions, and turn them into something practical that will benefit us on our mission to live the Hajj until we die.

Whether we had planned to make major changes in our lives or just aimed to be a little better, let us remember those goals we had when we were in our purest state after Arafah. And let us do what we can to inch forward towards those goals.

As the beautiful and encouraging hadith tells us, the most beloved deeds to Allah are those that are CONSISTENT – even if they be small.

So, let us renew our commitments and find something small – at the very least – that we can do; whether that’s the adoption of some new good deed, or the dropping of something bad / non-beneficial.

With sincere intentions, dedicate efforts, and the help of Allah, insha-Allah each passing year – each passing Hajj season – will see us getting better and better. And insha-Allah when we get another chance to go back for Hajj, our next ambitions and plans for life after Hajj will push us to even greater heights for our remaining years on this dunya.

May Allah grant all this year’s hujjaaj a Hajj maqbool and mabroor, and give them the towfique to live their Hajj until they die – despite the challenges they’ll face once they return to their normal environments and lives.

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Hajj Chronicles Part 30: Farewell

Posted by Yacoob on October 7, 2013

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 29

Tents line the valley of Mina

Tents line the valley of Mina

 

Ambassadors of Hajj

Hajj consists of 5 days, but those wanting to exert themselves even more can stay an extra night – taking the total to almost 6 days. Some of our group opted to go back to Aziziah after the 5 days, but my wife and I would not miss the chance to extend our Hajj – so we stayed.

On that final night, we did our pelting after Esha, and the walk back gave me food for thought. I spoke to an older uncle – probably 60-odd years old – who was on his first Hajj. He was wealthy and had been for umrah four times in the past – but, strangely, had never made this particularly journey before. His brother had been the year before, and only after that was he inspired to make the trip. The conversation just reinforced a theme that one of the alims had been drumming into our heads throughout the trip: when you go home, you don’t just return as ‘Hajji’; you go back as an ambassador of Hajj. After experiencing this yourself, your job is to now inspire others and encourage them to make the journey themselves – so that they may not only fulfil an obligation of the deen, but also experience the immense gifts that Allah gives to Muslims via Hajj.

The last night

Dhikr in Mina - Hajj 2011

Dhikr in Mina – Hajj 2011

We had a group dhikr on our last night in Mina. I wasn’t really into it, but I attended anyway because I knew these were precious moments that I should spend with the larger group. As I sat there, I was moved by watching my fellow hujjaajj. I reflected on how we were all brought together for this trip: Allah had specifically picked each and every one of us to be His guests at these holy sites in this year. I thought about the bonds had grown between us, and how united we’d been. And soon, this would all end. We’d go back to our own lives at home and our Hajj would fade into history as fond memories – flashes of a past experience that we would so dearly love to hold onto, but wouldn’t be able to, since life would move on, and time would erode the highs of our spiritual peak.

But, just as we were all together on that last night, I made dua that we would be re-united in the same way in Jannah. And, in that future bliss, we would remember this Hajj, and look back on these times and remember all we went through in the dunya – but at that time, being eternally safe in Allah’s Mercy of the akhirah.

Together for the last time

The final morning’s fajr was my last salaah on Hajj. My tears fell during that first rakaat, as I realised this was truly the end of the road. This journey that had taught me so much, and had been my life for nearly 2 months…it was ending. It was my last salaah with the group, and probably the last time I’d see most of my fellow hujjaaj.

We were still within the days of tashreeq, so there was the usual takbier after the salaah. This time, I reflected deeply on the meaning of it.

Allahu akbar
Allahu akbar
Allahu akbar
Laa illaaha ill-Allah
Allahu akbar
Allahu akbar wa illahil hamd

Allah is great. Greater than anything and everything. We – having experienced this Hajj – could attest to that. And there, in that Mina tent on our final morning, we proclaimed it loudly and proudly and with sincerity.

I imagined the Eid ul-Adhas to come in my future, when I’d again recite this same takbier. Only at that time, I hoped it would mean so much more to me – because I’d remember this particular gathering. I hoped it would bring back memories of this trip, this tent, this salaah, and this takbier.

Goodbye, Mina

Unlike many of the others, who could stay in Mina until the afternoon, my wife and I would be flying out that evening – so we needed to get back to Aziziah quickly to prepare for the travel. Straight after fajr, we went off alone to do our final pelting of the jamaraat. Afterwards, we got lost coming back to the camp (though this was entirely her fault :)), so our departure was delayed a little.

As we got our stuff and headed out for the last time, we didn’t see too many people from the group – but I did catch ‘the joker’ again. He was much more sombre this time, and seemed to have forgotten about teasing me. Again, I bore no ill feeling towards him. But I’m glad he eventually got over his excessive joke-making mood.

Sunrise over Mina on the final morning of Hajj 2011

Sunrise over Mina on the final morning of Hajj 2011

We left Mina as the sun was rising, and I wanted to savour the last few moments of this experience. However, it didn’t happen as I’d hoped. My wife gets tense when we travel, and on the way back, she was super-stressed about time – especially since our Hajj group hadn’t given us an official departure time from Aziziah (we’d been told 12.30PM might be the time, but nothing was confirmed).

She had valid concerns, but I felt she was overreacting. I was actually sad for her too – because she was so anxious and absorbed in worry that she didn’t seem to take in what should have been beautiful, peaceful final moments on Mina.

I recognised that when she was in that emotional state, it was a test for me – a challenge Allah was putting in my path. So I just tried to stay calm, avoid confrontation, and absorb what I could of my last moments on Mina.

And so, as we crossed the bridge and headed into the tunnel that leads to Aziziah, a beautiful, eventful, and lesson-filled period of my life had just ended.

I’ll be forever grateful to Allah for granting me the experience.

Alhamdullilah. Alhamdullilah. Alhamdullilah.

Mina on the final morning of Hajj 1432 (2011)

Mina on the final morning of Hajj 1432 (2011)

Final words

So, this brings to an end the Hajj Chronicles series. I began writing it just days after we returned from Hajj, and now – almost 2 years later – I wrap up with this post. Through all 30 parts, I hope that my words, descriptions, and pictures have conveyed to you the experiences, struggles, lessons, and ecstasies of the six weeks that the series covered.

For those who have been for Hajj before, I hope the series has helped to remind you of your own Hajj, and that it stirred up those feelings of spiritual elevation and inspired you to recommit to the lofty goals and intentions you made while you were there.

For those that haven’t yet been, I hope that the series will inspire you to do whatever is in your power to make the journey yourself. From your side, you need a sincere intention, followed by dedicated efforts and lots of dua. But ultimately, Allah is the One who invites. So you do your part, and when it’s your time, He will take you there – no matter how unlikely it may look from your present point of view.

I pray that you’ll get your chance soon, and that when it happens, that it’ll be the most incredible, life-changing experience that’ll purify you of past mistakes, and set you on the path to eternal success. And if you do get to go, please share the experience with me – either by commenting here, or emailing me (see contact details below).

JazakAllah to everyone who has followed this series. I hope every reader has benefitted, and I really appreciate the feedback I’ve gotten from some of you. If you do have any other feedback or queries that you don’t want to post on this blog, feel free to email me instead.

The chronicles end here, but my story did continue after that. We went on to Palestine then Cairo, before coming home, adjusting to the normal environment and routine again, and going on with the rest of our lives.

Later on, I may write more about those experiences, but for now, I close with this post. In the coming weeks, I hope to compile the entire series into an e-book (PDF format) – which you can download for free. And because detailed English-language accounts of the Hajj aren’t that common, I am also open to the idea of rewriting the series as a book – complete with new pictures and experiences I didn’t include in this series. If you’re a publisher and you’re interested in the project, please email me to discuss it further.

I pray that Allah accepts this series as my contribution towards that ancient call of Ibrahim a.s. (Surah Al-Hajj, verse 27).

As a final thought, I leave you with the advice of Allah. The advice applies to Hajj, but also to the journey of life, as we move towards the Hereafter:

 “…So make provisions for yourselves; but the best of provisions is taqwa. Therefore keep your duty unto Me, O men of understanding…” (Surah al-Baqarah verse197)

Related lessons:

  • When you go home, you don’t just return as ‘Hajji’; you go back as an ambassador of Hajj. Your job is to now inspire others and encourage them to make the journey themselves.
  • Ever if you’re not fond of group gatherings, spend some time with the group in your final days and nights of Hajj. Appreciate the fact that Allah has specifically chosen each of you to be companions on this journey.
  • In the takbiers after salaah, reflect on the meaning of what you’re reciting. Think through all the experiences you’ve had, and let them fuel the sincerity of what you’re saying: you’re testifying to Allah’s greatness.
  • Also during those takbiers, take mental snapshots of the scene. In later years, when you’re home for Eid ul-Adha, replay those scenes in your mind, and let them remind you of this journey.
  • When other people’s bad moods / anxieties threaten your special moments, don’t react instantly. Rather, see it as a test from Allah, keep calm, do what you can to avoid conflict, and savour whatever you can of the moment.
  • When it’s all over, thank Allah – again and again and again – for granting you this journey.
  • In the journey of Hajj, and the journey of life, try to always be conscious of Allah. Taqwa is the very best provision.

What happened before this?

The entire series (30 parts) is available at this link – post by post. You can also download the complete series as an e-book, either in PDF format or as an MS Word document (both versions are under 4MB in size).

Image sources: All pictures taken by me, except for the dhikr picture (courtesy of Al-Anwar Hajj 2011 Facebook group).

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Hajj Chronicles Part 29: Back to the Kabah

Posted by Yacoob on September 30, 2013

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 28

Mina during Hajj 2011

Mina during Hajj 2011

 

An unfortunate pattern

From Eid day onwards, the atmosphere in the camp on Mina was far more relaxed. We’d passed the climax of Hajj (i.e. Arafah), and now had just a few more days on Mina until it was all over. In a way, it was similar to Ramadan after the 27th night: everyone seems to think that once Laylatul Qadr is over, it’s time to relax. But that’s an incredibly flawed perspective: nobody even knows that the 27th night is Laylatul Qadr; and even if it is, the magnitude of reward in Ramadan is such that we should be striving right till the very end.

Now on Hajj, a similar pattern had emerged. And although I’d wanted to do so much more in the final few days and nights of Hajj, the overall relaxed atmosphere in the camp influenced me, so I didn’t strive as I should have.

Still though, it could have been worse. Others in the tent had their smartphones with them, so they’d spend plenty of time online – which can generally be a time-waster (and more-so on Hajj). My new phone did keep me quite occupied (as any new phone would), but I didn’t have an Internet connection – thus I didn’t waste as much time as I otherwise would have.

A fruitful delay

One of the most strenuous acts of Hajj is the return to the haram in Makkah, where hujjaaj need to do their ifadah – which is a tawaaf and sa’ee (just like Umrah). Many hujjaaj try to get this done on Eid day (right after Muzdalifah), but due to the fatigue we felt after our drama, we opted to delay our ifadah until the following night (i.e. the night between the 11th and 12th of Dhul Hijjah). Our sheikh – who would be taking the group – had advised us that this would be the best time to go, since it was usually quiet at that time. And, because my wife and I would be flying out immediately after Hajj, it would be our last time at the Kabah.

So we left Mina that night and headed back to the meeting point in Aziziah – where we were to catch our bus to the haram. Predictably, the bus took over an hour to arrive – but I used the time productively, reading Quran and trying to be positive. I did speak to others, though, and realised that, while telling my getting-lost-story to others, I need to always emphasise the LESSONS I learned from it. People love stories – especially Hajj stories; and while you have their attention, you need to bring across key lessons so that you’re not just ‘entertaining’ them, but also inspiring and educating them.

I also spoke quite a bit to one brother – who I nicknamed ‘the joker’ – since he took every opportunity to laugh at me and make jokes about my experience getting lost. It was all in good spirits, of course, and I didn’t take offence. But after a while it started getting tiring.

Speaking to him – plus my observations during the waiting period that night – helped me to distinguish three groups of people:

  1. The jokers: People that just look for fun and laughs in everything, and are extreme in that they don’t know when to stop.
  2. The complainers: People who find fault with everything, and are naturally inclined to complain about delays and other things which they should bear with patience.
  3. The people of dua and dhikr: I’ve written before about this group – who I’d observed engaging in this kind of behaviour during earlier periods of waiting. They didn’t indulge in chit chat and time-wasting, but instead used their time wisely in dhikr, dua, and reading beneficial material. These blessed souls inspired me throughout the trip, and showed me first-hand that such people do exist. And I long to be one of them.

One last time

When the busses eventually arrived, it was one crazy ride. One of the group leaders rode on the roof to direct the driver through the various detours, while our sheikh – along with the others in the bus – embodied the Capetonian spirit of joviality and light-heartedness.

At the haram, we split up and agreed to meet again outside when we were all done. Alhamdullilah – the crowd on the mataaf wasn’t bad at all, so my wife and I were able to do our tawaaf right next to the Kabah.

Door of the Kabah

The door of the Kabah

Knowing that it would be my last tawaaf on this trip (and possibly my last ever), the emotions really hit me. My heart opened up in ways I wish it would more often, the tears flowed, and I just can’t describe the feelings – except to say that the way I felt was incredibly fitting for the occasion. As we made our rounds, I counted the number of times with the 7 bead tasbeeh in my hand. Back when we stayed in Makkah, I took tawaafs for granted, and was often lazy about performing them. Now, as those beads became fewer and fewer, I didn’t want the tawaaf to end. I wished this experience could just go on and on…

Then came the 2 rakaats of salaah that’s made after tawaaf. I put my all into this salaah, concentrating like never before, reciting slowly with immense reflection, and exerting myself in dua during sujood. If felt like the most important salaah of my life: my last so close to the Kabah…my last in this incredibly- special place – below the ‘arsh of Allah. Never again would I return here – or at least, not for the foreseeable future.

But despite the sadness, I took hope from the experience. I remembered the verse in the Quran describing how Allah is closer than our jugular veins. I took comfort in knowing that once I went home – far away from this House – Allah would still be with me; He would always be so close. No matter where we are, we should always remember that.

The sa’ee that followed wasn’t quite as touching, but it was still important in terms of duas. We made it on the second floor, and physically, my wife was finished by this time – so it was a real struggle for her to make all 7 circuits between Safa and Marwah. I was also tired, but the immensity of the occasion gave me new energy, and I made my circuits through the fatigue and aching legs and feet.

View of the Kabah from the 2nd floor

View of the Kabah from the 2nd floor

After it was done, just before we left, I went to take one last look at the Kabah, and make one last dua. It was an intense dua in which my emotions again overwhelmed me. I was tremendously grateful that Allah had brought me here and taken me through this Hajj successfully – finally fulfilling the dearly-held dream that I’d so longed for.

Alhamdullilah. Alhamdullilah. Alhamdullilah.

Related lessons:

  • After Arafah and the rigours of Eid day, it’s tempting to let up and relax your way through the rest of Hajj. Relax, but don’t overdo it. You’re still on an immensely spiritual journey, and you still have a few days and nights in which you can gather tremendous rewards and build your spirituality in ways that you wouldn’t be able to any other time or place. Don’t waste the time – even if those around you are doing just that.
  • A mobile phone – while very useful – can also be a tremendous timewaster if you’re not careful. On Hajj especially, be very mindful of how much time you spend using the phone (whether talking, chatting online, or using the Internet). The moments of Hajj are precious and extremely limited. Don’t waste them on things you could do any other time back home.
  • When you’re telling other people your Hajj stories (back home or even still on Hajj), make it a point to emphasise the lessons you learned.
  • At any time while you’re waiting (for a bus or other people), use the time wisely – in spiritually-productive activities. Don’t be a moaner, and don’t turn the wait into a social activity full of idle chit-chat and over-the-top joking.
  • Appreciate what you have before you lose it. Before Hajj, make the most of your tawaafs, because once you hit those 5 days, chances are you’ll only have one or 2 more chances to do it again before you have to go back home.
  • Allah is closer than your jugular vein – so remember that no matter how close you feel to Him in Makkah, He is always close to you – no matter where you are in the world.
  • Before you leave the haram for the last time, take some time to make a last dua while looking at the Kabah. It’s a memory you’ll forever treasure, and insha-Allah the sheer gratitude of the experience will bring your heart forever closer to Allah.

Coming up next, insha-Allah: Farewell

What happened next?

Later parts in this series will be added at this link, insha-Allah. Alternatively, you can download the entire series (past posts as well as the upcoming final one) as an e-book here.

Image sources: Opening picture courtesy of Al-Anwar Hajj & Umrah, Kabah door, 2nd floor shot of Kabah.

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Ready for Hajj series: Part 3 (Days of Hajj)

Posted by Yacoob on September 27, 2013

Tents line the valley of Mina

Tents line the valley of Mina

Wrapping up the Hajj prep series (after the previous Madinah tipsheet and Makkah tipsheet), our final tipsheet focuses on the big event – the biggest 5 days of your life: Hajj.

Download: 5 days of Hajj tipsheet

Here, the tips cover day 1 on Mina, the all-important day of Arafah, the journey to Muzdalifah, Eid day, and beyond. The list also covers important aspects of your final time at the Kabah, along with advice for when you go home and attempt to maintain your Hajj for the rest of your life.

Again, these are practical tips are extracted from the Hajj Chronicles (blog series here | e-book here) – which described my own Hajj 2 years ago.

Feel free to download and share with others. And remember that – like any advice in life – it’s best to take what you think is good, and discard the rest.

My ultimate goal here is to share beneficial knowledge, so I would be extremely honoured if even just one of these tips end up being useful to you.

May this journey be the greatest experience of your life, and the one that will drive you to Allah’s Eternal pleasure and Jannah in the Hereafter.

PS: You can get the Madinah tipsheet here and the Makkah one here. For a more visual version of these tips, check out the slideshows at ProductiveMuslim.com.

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Hajj Chronicles Part 28: Boom!

Posted by Yacoob on September 23, 2013

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 27

The main street in Aziziah

The main street in Aziziah

Why did the Hajji cross the road?

The morning after losing my phone, we were back in Aziziah for a few hours. Despite the fact that the main segments of Hajj were over, communication was still important – thus I needed to get a new phone (even if it would be a cheap one). So I set out – alone – to find one, even though the chances were slim – since many shops were closed during those 3 days of Eid (which are public holidays in Saudi). I took my wife’s phone with me, since I may need it in case of emergency.

Crossing the road in Aziziah was always a risky endeavour. There aren’t many traffic lights, so you had to rely on your instincts and run – hoping that no vehicles would come out of the blue and hit you. This particular time, I was standing at a big intersection, waiting to cross the other side of Aziziah’s main road. Like the walk from Arafah, there were again youngsters on motorbikes / scooters –whizzing up and down, giving hujjaaj (expensive) rides to the haram.

I saw a chance to cross the road and took it. What happened next, I don’t remember in detail. What I do remember is seeing a group of three bikers making a U-turn at this intersection. They weren’t riding one behind the other. They were next to each other – spread out – thus taking up a lot more space than they should have, performing this dangerous turn in unison. I think I froze as I saw them heading straight for me. Then I tried to get out of the way, but I ended up in the middle of them.

Boom!

I got hit hard – on my shin – by one of them. I fell to the ground, and was dazed and confused. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I’d never been in any road accidents before, except someone bumping my car from behind. And here I was, run down thousands of miles from home, laying in the middle of the street.

Alhamdullilah – there was no other traffic on the road at that moment, so I didn’t get hit by cars (or the truck that came soon after that). Once again, the motto of ‘It could have been worse’ played out in front of me.

I was furious at the guy who hit me. I think he had helped me get up, but had then ridden off quickly with no further concern. When I could stand again, I scurried back to the sidewalk I was originally on, and waited to cross again. Witnesses on the other side of the road were concerned, and my one slipper (which I’d lost in the impact) was still in the middle of the road. I was about to go fetch it when one of them threw it back to me.

Next, I cautiously crossed the road – safely this time. The guy who hit me then came back to return my wife’s phone – which had fallen out of my pocket. I didn’t even realise it was gone, but the biker who hit me must have noticed it and taken it, because he came back to give it to me. Maybe his conscience got to him, or maybe he just realised it was a really crappy phone (it was worth 80 South African Rands – probably the cheapest kind you could get), so he had no use for it.

In any case, what came to mind was the words of the always-inspiring Mufti Ismail Menk: make dua for your enemies and those who hurt or wrong you. Hatred and anger against them is not productive, but making dua for their guidance and goodness turns a negative into a positive. So, despite my anger, I followed that advice and prayed for that biker. I’d probably never see him again, but I hope that my dua had an impact on his life; and in the akhirah, I’d like to find out what happened to him after that day our paths crossed.

I was still wearing the same kurta which I’d lost my phone in (so perhaps it was cursed ;) ), but it now had tyre marks on it – which complemented the few bruises and cuts I had gained from this incident. I was in some pain, but alhamdullilah, nothing serious.

I managed to get a new phone eventually, and we headed back to Mina later that day – but fatigue overcame me, so the rest of the day was relatively unproductive. By that time – given the drama and exertions of the previous 2 days – I was feeling achy, battered, and bruised, but I was still loving it J.

It’s up to you – alone

After Eid, each remaining day of Hajj included pelting all three jamaraats. Later that evening, we did our pelting with the group – which was much safer than our first time alone. On the short walk to the jamaraat, I learned a valuable lesson about self-responsibility in the spiritual aspects of life. As we walked, many people were just relaxed and having social conversations.

At this time, we should’ve been at our most God-conscious – as we’d completed Arafah not long ago, and were on our way to another tremendous act of ibadah. Yet for so many people, heedlessness struck: they seemed to be unconscious of the taqwa that should’ve been coursing through their hearts and minds, and were thus spiritually unproductive and neglectful of the great significance of the act they were on the way to do.

I don’t mean to be judgmental at all, because honestly, if I wasn’t the relatively-unsociable person I am, I would’ve probably been doing the same as them. But since I’m quiet, I didn’t speak to others much – and that gave me lots of time to observe them. And, alhamdullilah, seeing their forgetfulness reminded me that I should be engaged in dhikr, dua, and other acts of worship (that are possible while walking).

So my lesson was that people won’t remind you to do good. You have to remember on your own. You have to be so conscious of Allah and of what you’re doing – even if others are not.

It was actually like a microcosm of life: generally, unless you’re around really God-conscious individuals, people will go on doing what they do, and won’t remind you of Allah and the deen. It’s up to you as an individual slave of Allah to remember that consciousness and take action.

Pelting for the future

One of the jamaraat walls

One of the jamaraat walls

As for the pelting, I knew that it wasn’t just a ritual of Hajj for that particular moment. Sure, we’d be symbolically pelting shaytaan – as Ibrahim a.s. had done at these very spots so long ago. But there were also personal, long-term benefits to take from it: in life, shaytaan will often whisper to you – tempting you to indulge in something you shouldn’t overdo, or do some wrong – all of which feeds the deep (but wrong) inner desire you have to take that action.

So when pelting the jamaraat, I knew that each throw would need to serve as a self-purification and a protection – an inner choice to cast away the evils within my own soul, and keep the devils away from me whenever those temptations arose in future. The intention was that in future, whenever I recognised that whispering, I would remember this pelting. And at that time, in my mind, I would ‘pelt’ shaytaan away – saying the same words as I chased away his evil suggestions: “Bismillah. Allahu akbar”.

Related lessons:

  • Be very careful when crossing the road, and don’t assume bikes (or other vehicles) will stop for you. There may be unwritten rules of the road, but just like when you’re driving a car, it’s safer to just assume that others will do something wrong – so you be safe, rather than sorry.
  • Make dua for your enemies and those who hurt or wrong you. Hatred and anger against them is not productive, but making dua for their guidance and goodness turns a negative into a positive. You never know what kind of impact your dua can have on their lives.
  • On the way to the jamaraat, try to retain high taqwa – consciousness of Allah. Don’t waste the time having social conversations or doing other spiritually-unproductive things. You’re about to go perform a tremendous act of worship, with both immediate and long-term significance. So immerse yourself in dua, reflection, and dhikr so that you can make the most of the experience.
  • In life, generally, people won’t remind you to do good. You have to remember on your own. Always try to be be conscious of Allah and of what you’re doing – i.e. whether it’s pleasing to Him or not – even if others are heedless at the time.
  • When pelting the jamaraat, think of the immediate benefits – which include each throw being a self-purification for you. But also consider the long-term benefits: intending your pelting to be a protection for your future – so that in future, when shaytaan whispers to you, you can repel him with the same strength you did here at the jamaraat.

Coming up next, insha-Allah: Back to the Kabah

What happened next?

Later parts in this series will be added at this link, insha-Allah. Alternatively, you can download the entire series (past posts as well as upcoming ones) as an e-book here.

Image sources: Opening image, jamaraat.

Posted in Hajj Chronicles | Leave a Comment »

Glimpses from Madinah

Posted by Yacoob on September 20, 2013

Since most of the Hujjaaj from South Africa are / will be visiting Madinah first, here’s a collection of images from that blessed city to help us visualise the awesome experience they will have.

I took 13 of these, and the rest came from various other sources. Feel free to share with others, and if you’ve been to Madinah and have posted your pictures anywhere, add in your links in the comments, and tell everyone a bit about the impact Madinah had on you.

Posted in Hajj-related, Something to see | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Ready for Hajj series: Part 2 (Makkah)

Posted by Yacoob on September 16, 2013

Door of the Kabah

The door of the Kabah

Following on from the Madinah tipsheet last time, this week’s tipsheet for departing hujjaaj focuses on practical ideas and lessons for Makkah. It includes the road trip from Madinah to Makkah, first sight of the Kabah and first umrah, and a lot of general info about time in Makkah.

Like last time, these are extracted from the Hajj Chronicles (blog series here | e-book here) – which described my own Hajj 2 years ago.

The document is relatively long, but it’s intended to be comprehensive reading that you could look at when you have a few minutes to spare – such as the waiting period in the airport or on busses.

Feel free to download and share with others. And remember that – like any advice in life – it’s best to take what you think is good, and discard the rest.

My ultimate goal here is to share beneficial knowledge, so I would be extremely honoured if even just one of these tips end up being useful to you.

May this journey be the greatest experience of your life, and the one that will drive you to Allah’s Eternal pleasure and Jannah in the Hereafter.

PS: You can get the Madinah tipsheet here, and if you need the 5 days of Hajj tipsheet immediately, you can get it here. For a more visual version of these tips, check out the slideshows at ProductiveMuslim.com.

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