slip-sliding away…..

Second time around

Posted by Yacoob on November 14, 2013


Where this blog stands right now

If you’ve followed this blog for the last few years, you’ll notice that my focus – since late 2011 – has almost completely been on Hajj-related topics. This was a change from the blog’s first 5 years, wherein the content was a lot more varied. Obviously, the change in direction is a sign of the impact that Hajj had on me – hence most of my writing has focssed on documenting the journey (via the Hajj Chronicles series).

In all this time – and prior to it – my audience has changed, yet I hope the narrow focus hasn’t alienated readers that are looking for other content. And now that the chronicles are complete, insha-Allah this blog will once again go in many directions – some of which will probably remain Hajj-related.

New adventures

In Ramadan this year, I mentioned that my wife and I were expecting our second child. Alhamdullilah – our baby daughter is now 3 months old. I won’t share the birth story (like I did for our first child), but I would like to share some thoughts on these few months.

To be totally honest, our new daughter wasn’t the prettiest sight when she first came out. She was covered in disgusting birth liquid, and was obviously unhappy at being yanked out of the only world she’d ever known (the womb). Her first pictures from the delivery room aren’t ideal viewing, but, thankfully, that all changed once she was cleaned up and with us J.

We got to spend much more time with the baby this time (unlike the previous birth), so I held her for most of the half hour the medical team was sewing up my wife. I probably talked more to the baby than I talk to most grown ups I meet. And in those first (one-way) conversations, I hopefully set a precedent of talking her through the most important aspects of this world. I hope to always be there to guide her as she grow and learns – especially in the critical first 7 or so years of her life.

The days in hospital were somewhat stressful – not because of the baby (though she had her own issues at times), but because we had to manage our other daughter. She’s 4 years old, and I think seeing her mother weak in hospital was a really emotional experience for her. Alhamdullilah – we had all her grandparents to help look after her, but for the most part, she was my primary responsibility. She’s always been very clingy with her mother, and while there were a few days of separation, I needed to be the stable force in her life.

As for the baby’s name, we had one in mind since the beginning – though we weren’t totally set on it. But we had a late request and even other options that came to mind at the time, so it was confusing. Of course, the best route to take in such situations is to consult with Allah, so I made istikhara salaah, and the outcome was the same name we initially wanted. Like our first daughter’s name, it’s a strong name – one whereby the baby has an immensely lofty namesake who we hope will be her role model through life.

The work begins

Once we got home, the real challenges started. It’s an Indian tradition for the new mother to stay with her own mother in the first 40 days of the baby’s life. While we partly followed that last time around, this time, my wife didn’t want to at all. She wanted the stability of our own home – especially for our older daughter. That’s not to say that her mother wasn’t involved. On the contrary, she was extremely helpful in those early weeks, even staying over for one of the nights.

It was still Ramadan at this time – the blessed final ten nights; yet we didn’t have much time for spirituality. Between seeing to this tiny infant that needed so much time and energy, and our older daughter – who was having endless tantrums and really being difficult, it was a trying time to say the least.

We knew it would be hard for our older daughter to adjust to NOT being the centre of attention anymore. She’s always been very spoilt, so it must have been really tough to now be deprived of her parents’ attention. This was exacerbated by the attention the baby was getting from visitors, who up until then, would give her all the attention.


Alhamdullilah – after a few weeks, she eventually settled down. The hardship she faced was perhaps her first major character-building experience. It helped her to adjust – from being someone who was always so clingy with her mother, into a far more independent child that can cope better on her own or with others (though she still is clingy at times). The other blessing is that it was a period in which she and I spent a lot more time together, hence we bonded in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise done when her mother was the focus of her world.

As for the baby, we had an early health scare with her, but alhamdullilah, it turned out to be a minor issue that healed within a few weeks. She still has digestive issues though (i.e. reflux), but it’s not such a big deal compared to what sickness she could have had. That recurring lesson from Hajj came up again: to be thankful for what happened, because it could have been worse.

These last few weeks in particular have found me falling more and more in love with her. She’s an incredibly happy child -finding any excuse to show that sweet smile of hers. She’s growing nicely – alhamdullilah – starting to discover her own hands, and laughing more and more.

Her older sister has also taken to her, and is actually quite smothering at times (think of “Elmyra” from Tiny Toons).

On a personal level, the pace of life hasn’t gotten more hectic; but it’s just become more demanding. But even in that, alhamdullilah, there’s ease. People commonly tease new parents about the lack of sleep, but it hasn’t really been a big issue for me: our new baby is relatively settled in her sleep – getting up just once in the night (other than the nights where she’s uncomfortable and troubles a lot).

All in all, it’s been an interesting transition filled with many challenges but a lot of benefit. And as we go move on, I look forward to the many milestones that she’ll reach insha-Allah, and I hope that the baby’s first 2 years – before terrible twos – will be as amazing and joy-filled as her older sister’s were.

As for the older one, she’s still a handful, and can be immensely stubborn at times (with the latest big problem being a recurring refusal to eat)…but we hope to navigate those stormy waters too, and in the end, come out with a well-developed, balanced child that’ll teach us as much as we hope to teach her.

As always, your duas would be most welcome :) .

Posted in Meanderings, Milestones | 4 Comments »

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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The great Eid debate

Posted by Yacoob on October 10, 2013

Eid is coming...

Eid is coming…

Picture courtesy of Saaleha

The days of Hajj are almost upon us, and since the moon wasn’t sighted in South Africa this past Saturday, it means that Dhul Hijjah officially started here on Monday. This contrasts with Makkah, where the month started a day earlier – on Sunday.

Every other month of the year, this difference isn’t much of a big deal (although for some, it matters in Ramadaan). However, for this time of year, it means that the South African Eid-ul-Adha will not be synced with Makkah’s Eid-ul-Adha.

Growing up in Durban, I don’t really remember there being much fuss over this. But here in Cape Town, it’s been a contentious issue for quite a while, apparently. When the local date doesn’t match Makkah’s date, we have some Muslims who celebrate with Makkah, while others celebrate a day later.

There seem to be sound arguments for both opinions, yet the tragedy in all of this is that it still divides the community. In what should be a time of unity and great blessings – given the significance of the Hajj underway in these days – there’s argument and division over which opinion is right.

For all the years I’ve lived in Cape Town, none of this really affected me. I just put it down to difference of opinion, and carried on – celebrating Eid on whatever day it was officially announced by the local authority (MJC).


However, this time around, it’s a little more concerning. The day of wuqoof – when the hujjaaj stand on Arafah – is one of the greatest days of the year (if not the greatest). And for those not on Hajj, it’s a highly recommended sunnah to fast that day (with the reward being the fast wiping out the sins of the previous year and the year to come).

This year, wuqoof is on Monday 14th October, insha-Allah. Thus, if you want to fast on the day of wuqoof, Monday is the day. Yet the announcement from the MJC is “Those wishing to fast on the day of Arafat, fasting takes place on the 9th of Thil Hijja, according to our local calendar, coinciding with the 15th of October.”

Following that logic, those wanting to fast on the day of Arafah will actually not be fasting on the day of Arafah! (Since the 15th of October is already Eid in Makkah.)

But as I see it, those who want to fast on the actual day of Arafah should do it when the hujjaaj are actually on Arafah – i.e. Monday 14th October.

What then, of the day of Eid?

If you fast on Monday, then Eid should be the next day – Tuesday.

So you’d be in that group which takes Eid with Makkah.

But I’ve also heard very sound advice that in cases of such disputes, the correct thing to do is to follow the consensus of the ulama / authorities of your country – i.e. take your Eid with the majority – the of the community.

And that makes sense not only on a societal level, but also lower down, on a family level. You can’t really choose to have Eid on your own – the day before – while your family is taking it with the community the next day. So, even if you disagree, for the purposes of social harmony, it’s better to stick with the majority.

Thus we have a situation of fasting on the day of Arafah, having a ‘normal’ day after that, and then having Eid the next day.

Some may call that inconsistent – saying that you either go with Makkah completely or go with your local ulama completely.

But really, when you face a situation like this, there’s no way to reconcile the 2 positions. It’s a compromise that has to be made in order to preserve both personal belief and social harmony.

Or do you see things differently? What’s your view on the 2 Eids issue? Does it happen in your community, and if so, how do you handle the issue of fasting the day of Arafah when your local calendar doesn’t match Makkah?

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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).

Posted in Hajj Chronicles | 2 Comments »

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.

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

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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.


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.

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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

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Hajj Chronicles Part 27: Return to Mina

Posted by Yacoob on September 9, 2013

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 26


Just another face in the crowd

After getting some much-needed rest on Eid morning, we returned to Mina that afternoon. While I thought that my experience of being lost was unique, speaking to others about their experiences on that walk helped put it into proper perspective. I may have had an extreme case, but it was by no means the only ‘survivor story’ in our group. Everyone had their own special tests and trials. The chaos of that walk was so bad that many who were with the group even got lost – so I wasn’t alone in facing hardship. Alhamdullilah, I was grateful to learn these things, as they helped eliminate any element of pride that may have arisen from my experience.

 United hearts

The spirit back on Mina was amazing. There was a special closeness between the hujjaaj, with everyone wishing the others well. I had some good conversations, sharing thoughts, experiences, and lessons – with reminders about gratitude, repentance, and the equality of humanity.

These were the kind of deep, spiritual talks that would be pretty much impossible in any other circumstance. Yet here – in the simplicity of this tent, after the incredible 24 hours we’d just experienced – such topics flowed so easily and without inhibition. We were pure hearts connecting with each other on a level that was most unique, and I still treasure those moments and long for that kind of God-conscious companionship now – in the environment and times where I need it so much more than that day on Mina.

I imagine that this kind of bond, and this level of purity, will be the state we experience in Jannah; thus I regard these few moments as a sneak peek into the bounties that Allah is keeping in store for us, if we pass His tests in this world.


I’d written earlier about how dying on Hajj would be the ultimate way to go, yet it wasn’t what I wanted for myself at that point in time. For one of the old ladies in our group, it was time, and Allah granted her that tremendous gift of dying on Hajj. At 3AM that morning – which was the day after Arafah – she passed away. She was in a wheelchair, and had apparently been surprised to even get so far in Hajj – yet she did, and Allah granted her that amazing mercy of leaving this world completely pure. I later learnt more about her (via this news article), and it just deepened the awe of the situation, proving again how merciful Allah is.

The Janazah salaah was held at the haram in Makkah that night, but on Mina, we held salat al-gha’ib (Janazah salaah in absentia) in our tent, and were reminded of the glad tidings for those who die on Hajj. They’ll be raised in that state – still in ihraam, and still chanting the talbiyyah (drawn from a hadith about the one who dies on Hajj). May Allah grant the sister the highest place in Jannah, and help us all to live righteous lives which end in the most beautiful circumstances.


After a group programme of naseehah, dua, and collective dhikr (the latter being the classic Cape Town format – complete with bad tajweed ;) ), I settled down for the night – with a trip to the toilet as my last action for the day. Little did I know that yet another valuable experience awaited me:

By this time, I was out of the state of ihraam and in normal clothing again – so I was wearing a kurta with pockets. For some reason, I decided to take my valuables with me to the toilet: my mobile phone was in my pocket, and my ID cards were in a pouch around my neck. I did my business in the stall (an Eastern toilet), and when I was finished, something slipped out of my pocket…my phone.

Now, to me, those toilets are so filthy that whatever falls on the floor there can stay on the floor there – I have no inclination to clean it up and keep it, even if it’s a phone. Well, I didn’t even need to ponder that option. One piece of the phone fell straight down that dreaded hole (from which there is no return). Then another piece fell next to the hole, before sliding into it. The phone battery fell next, but stayed put on the floor. I figured I wouldn’t need that bit anymore, so I pushed it in too – to finish the job.

It was a strange feeling – realising what had just happened. Normally, losing a mobile phone would be a disaster. But I felt no anger or frustration. I felt this immediate acceptance of what had happened. It was Allah’s will; and I accepted that.

The phone had served its purpose (especially for that long walk the previous night), and now it was time for me to part with it.

I quickly saw Allah’s tremendous wisdom in the situation: 2 days before we left home, my mobile phone suddenly broke – meaning I couldn’t take it on this journey. That phone held all my contacts, calendar information, and other valuable stuff on it – so if I’d had that phone with me on Mina, this story probably wouldn’t have had a happy ending. But Allah knew what would happen, and made the circumstances such that I had to leave my phone at home and take a cheap, practical model without any valuable information on it.

The motto of ‘it could have been worse’ also repeated itself here: I had only lost a phone, which I wouldn’t miss much anymore now that the main parts of Hajj were complete. But I had also taken 2 other very important items with me in the stall: my Hajj ID card (which is essential to direct you back to familiar faces if you get lost), and my camp admission card (which was my only way into the camp, and worth a staggering amount of money – given that this was a special services camp). If those items had fallen down that stinky black hole, I would’ve had major problems for the remaining few days of Hajj.

So, once more, what outwardly looked like a bad situation was actually a positive experience that Allah had put in my path to teach me important lessons.

Related lessons:

  • Never let your own experiences fool you into thinking you’re special. No matter how extreme your circumstances, others also have their own challenges. Learn from other people’s stories and share your own story – but don’t consider your trials as more worthy of attention.
  • Unless you have deeply religious friends / companions, or attend some pretty special spiritual gatherings back home, you may not get another chance to discuss life, Islam, and other things in the way you can on Mina. Take advantage of the special conversations in this period, share your thoughts with others, and take lessons that you can apply with you in your ‘normal’ life back home.
  • The ulama teach that the way you live is the way you’ll die; and the way you die is the state you’ll be resurrected in. Strive to live a righteous, God-conscious life and always make dua that your moment of death will come at a time when Allah is pleased with you.
  • In Mina (and around any Eastern toilet), DO NOT take anything of value to the toilet. Leave it all behind in the tent. Your possessions are usually safe there.
  • When unpleasant things happen, let your first (and instant) reaction be one of acceptance. It’s Allah’s will that’s transpiring, so thank Him for it and be grateful – whether you initially see it as a calamity or not.

Coming up next, insha-Allah: Boom

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.

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