slip-sliding away…..

Hope

Posted by Yacoob on April 4, 2014

Sabr (Arabic for patience and perseverance)

Sabr (Arabic for patience and perseverance)

“Just as the most beautiful rainbows are born from rain, the most beautiful lessons are born from trials and pain.”

(Quote source unknown, but posted here.

Image is a painting which can be purchased here.)

Posted in Inspiration, Quotes | 4 Comments »

Guess who’s coming?

Posted by Yacoob on March 3, 2014

Masjid Al-Aqsa - seen through festive Ramadan lights (2009 - AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – seen through festive Ramadan lights (2009 – AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

In the Islamic calendar, two major events stand out: Ramadan and Hajj. Both of them are seasons of barakah, wherein the sense of community is high, and on a personal level, our good deeds can be multiplied exponentially.

In terms of timing, these seasons are close together – occurring in the 9th and 12th months of the lunar year. Outside of that, there’s an 8 month gap wherein it can be especially difficult to stay motivated and strive to better ourselves. It helps to be surrounded by good company, but even with that in place, the grind of day to day life can wear down even the best of us – weakening our resolve and making it easier for us to fall into bad habits (both spiritual and worldly).

Coming alive in the dead zone

At this moment, we find ourselves in the midst of that ‘dead zone’ – more than halfway between the last Hajj and the next Ramadan. In times of difficulty, it’s good to look for inspiration, and for the Muslim ummah, we need only look to the best generation among us: the sahabah (r.a.).

Their connection with Ramadan was so deep that it’s reported that they looked forward to it 6 months in advance, and once Ramadan was over, they’d spend the next 6 months asking Allah to accept the deeds they did in that month.

The work starts now

We may not have the same enthusiasm and level of commitment as our pious predecessors, but that’s no reason to be despondent. Each of us knows our own level of spirituality and connection to Allah, and with ample time left until next Ramadan arrives, we can slowly but surely start building ourselves up to the coming month. Early preparation will, insha-Allah, enable us to hit the month of Ramadan already on a spiritual high – which will better equip us to make the most of the amazing opportunities ahead.

To give you a practical roadmap to your Ramadan prep, check out the Ramadan early bird challenge. The series, which is built upon the foundation of gradual change, gives you a personal, step-by-step path to looking at your own life and improving – little by little.

Each instalment focuses on a particular area, and you can choose the one(s) you feel most pertinent to you, working at your own pace to identify your challenges, come up with viable solutions, and ultimately overcome your weaknesses in small but consistent steps. Also included are valuable resources – such as audio and video lectures – that can help you in your path to improvement.

So if you’d like to make the coming Ramadan your most productive one yet, give the series a try. Areas covered are:

May Allah fill the coming months with barakah, help us to take advantage of the time available to us, and bring us to the coming Ramadan in the highest state of eman and taqwa.

Posted in Ramadan preparation | 1 Comment »

Let it flow (part 1)

Posted by Yacoob on January 9, 2014

River-Long-exposure_photography_2

With poetic inspiration returning to me at the end of last year, I thought it would be a good time to look back at some of the more creative posts on this blog over its history.

Since there’s nearly 7 years to cover, I’ve split the selection over more than one post – hoping to not pack too much in each time. This one covers almost 2 years: from 2006 to mid-2008:

Though the blog started back in June 2006, it took me more than 4 months to actually publish my first poem (A bird’s eye view) – an ode to my favourite hangout spot, which I’d often go to, to escape the rigours of everyday life. World-view was a rant against the consumerist, information-flooding tone of society, and that was followed by One year on – which reflects much of my perspective towards the youth – and their future – at the university I was working at during that period.

Reliance is – by far – my favourite piece ever, because it perfectly encapsulates the multi-year struggle I went through in my quest for love and marriage. I hope the message is timeless, and hope that it can continue to inspire all those single people that are still trying to find their other halves. The sequel, Dedication, came 5 months later – when I was on the verge of marriage – hence ending the most emotionally-difficult period of my life. Childhood also came in that period – a reflection on how innocence was corrupted, yet hope remains for the next generation.

Rise was inspired by my time watching sunrises from outside my home – a beautiful, peaceful habit that unfortunately has become a thing of the past. Rooftops was a pleasant surprise, coming to me in a few minutes I had to wait in the car for someone; while You suck! was in the same vein as World-view  –  in that it was a rant, though this time against the news industry.

The inspiration doesn’t come much anymore, but with this post, I just wanted to highlight what’s come to me in the past. Hopefully, by reading these pieces, it’ll inspire you to express yourself in whatever way is best for you (while also perhaps reminding me of the ability that was once so central in my life).

Feel free to give your feedback either in this post or in the individual pieces linked from here.

<Image source>

Posted in Meanderings | 2 Comments »

Summer Daze

Posted by Yacoob on December 31, 2013

summer-sky-wallpapers_33758_2560x1600

The last day of the year, in the heart of a South African summer.
I’m at work now (sadly), but this time of year brings back fleeting memories of childhood summers gone by:

Hours and hours in the back yard playing soccer and cricket;
Still more hours and hours on the tennis courts,
pushing ourselves to the limits in best-of-5-set matches –
always with the end reward being an ice cold cooldrink
plus chocolate treats to accompany.

Sunny Durban days are the enduring memory of my past life;
Those school holidays where responsibilities were non-existent,
and pleasures were all we lived for:
Movies, video games, staying up late,
Not a care in the world
until the looming dread of the new school year crept back into our thoughts.

Stationery and uniforms,
Haircuts and shining those shoes for the first day back…

Oh, the horrors of educational imprisonment –
early morning rising to get to school on time,
assemblies and new timetables,
finding out whose class we’d be in –
wishing to be with our friends,
who shared the struggle with us –
making the torturous daylight hours more bearable.

Science lessons and Maths tests
(the latter of which still haunts my dreams),
academic pressures and extra-curricular bothers…

School was never a ‘home away from home’ for me,
yet those years –
while stifling my freedom within the system –
gave rise to the foundations of adult life,
and provided the best memories.

And now
as my own child approaches her first year of ‘back to school’,
I feel the dread for her;
I know the anxiety she’ll face over the years,
Yet somehow, some way
I’ll need to put a bright face on it all;
so that she can be more positive than I,
and enjoy her coming occupation in ways I never did.

For just as she’ll face the seemingly never-ending grind of school life –
year after year –
so too will these years be her platform for her future,
and her treasure chest of precious childhood memories.

School doesn’t last forever,
nor does childhood;
But while we’re young,
we live through both –
a microcosm of life,
perhaps,
good and bad – all mixed together.

So, my child,
appreciate both sides,
take it all in,
and then move on to the adulthood that awaits beyond these endless summers of youth.

<Image source>

Posted in Meanderings | 2 Comments »

Second time around

Posted by Yacoob on November 14, 2013

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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.

Relief

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.

Posted in Hajj-related | Leave a Comment »

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).

Confusion

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?

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering? | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

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.

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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