Hajj Chronicles Part 16: Smiles and frowns

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 15


My biggest regret from my Hajj journey was the time I wasted in Makkah. Both my wife and I got extremely lazy (me more than her, I believe). We’d go late to the masjid – and sometimes didn’t even bother trying to get in since we knew it’d be hard to find a spot inside (thus opting for the marble area outside). This was especially foolish, given that Makkah was even busier than Madinah had been – so in fact we should have been extra disciplined in getting there early. The result was that in our 2 weeks there, for most waqts, we almost never got to see the Kabah. The ground floor was always full, and on the higher floors, the balconies were usually covered by people standing at the rails watching the Kabah and the tawaaf. So if you didn’t go early, your best hope of seeing the Kabah was to sit in your hotel room watching it on TV!

Feeding into this lethargy were the distractions of the Internet and TV. There is some good in them, and we did have those things in Madinah too – but my level of unnecessary usage skyrocketed in Makkah, and I wasted far too much time on them. Plus, such activity also hindered my spirituality – since the time-wasting was compounded by the relative lack of beneficial information I was getting from them. Shaytaan laid these time-wasting traps out for me, and I fell for them too often – despite KNOWING it was a trap. And if that was Makkah – which should be relatively free from such distractions – what about back home?

Another regret is wasting so many opportunities for dua while in Makkah. There were so many moments – while walking, waiting, or otherwise – when I could have been making dua, or making dhikr – yet I just didn’t. Maybe that was another ploy of shaytaan – distracting me from using every moment beneficially – and I recognised it.

While I was disappointed by all these things, another first-time Hajji pointed out to me later on that this was destiny. We all have regrets, and we all think we could have done more – but this was the way it was to be. Perhaps these lessons from our first time are meant to inspire us to push ourselves to get there again – so that we don’t make the same mistakes again.

The strangest things…

Spongebob shoebag

Spotted in Makkah

But Makkah isn’t limited to just spirituality and stress. There’s a lot to laugh at too, and in our time there, we witnessed many quirky or unusual events. Among these:

  • It was strangely common to find old Indian men with Spongebob Squarepants shoebags.
  • Some women would sit and speak during the fard salaah, then get up and make salaah once the imam was finished.
  • Some men prayed next to their wives in the midst of all the women, and vice versa.
  • Some people refused to pray on the red carpet of the masjid, insisting that you must pray on a mussalah.
  • The youngsters sometimes pushed wheelchair-bound people for their tawwafs. One time, I watched as these elderly and dignified pilgrims were engaged in dhikr and dua – while the boys pushing them had a game between themselves: racing each other and having fun.
  • For every circuit of the tawaaf, you need to make a gesture (istilam) towards the Black Stone (on the Kabah). On the roof level, there’s a green light indicating where one should do this. I once saw an old man forget his istilam, and when he remembered, he turned around and made it – not to the stone, but to the green light. It was amusing, but it highlighted the fact that we shouldn’t just do tawwaf ritualistically – because we’d then misunderstand the significance of what we’re doing, and hence make a mistake like that.
  • We once saw an old man reading a Quran that had small notes in the side margins. The notes were so small that he read them with a magnifying glass!
  • Many times, you can undergo a name change: when the men want to the attention of other men, they’ll call you by the name ‘Muhammad’ (with tajweed). (Which reminded me of the default Capetonian way of getting a person’s attention: “Hallo!”.)
  • When arguments occur, the Arabs have an amazing way of resolving it quickly: a simple “khalas!” is often enough to just stop things.

Coming up next, insha-Allah: Crowning moments in Makkah

Related lessons:

  • It’s fine to get your rest when you need to, but be careful not to become lazy to the point where you end up being late for salaahs in the masjid.
  • Be aware of the time-wasting traps shaytaan lays out for you. Whether it’s TV, the Internet (including email and social networking on your mobile phone), newspapers, or something else – if it’s not benefitting you spiritually, be very careful of it and try to minimise your usage.
  • Don’t waste the small moments – for example, while you’re walking or waiting in line. Use these moments in beneficial activities, such as good conversations, dhikr, dua, etc.
  • Keep your eyes open for the many quirky things you’ll see in the masjid, shops, and other areas. The incredible mix of different cultures, ages, and backgrounds is sure to provide warm memories of things you’d never see anywhere else.
  • Educate yourself about the reasons behind the acts of worship you’re doing. This will help you avoid mistakes that could otherwise creep in when you just do things ritualistically without understanding.

What happened next?

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


2 thoughts on “Hajj Chronicles Part 16: Smiles and frowns

  1. Salaams,

    I’ve just come back from there and had an amazing trip alhamdulillah. A tip for those going to Haram sharif in Makkah: Try to go an hour and a half earlier than the timing for adhan. You will get space inside in sha Allah and will have plenty of time for dua making and dhikr. I got to see the Kaabah every day alhamdulillah. Also, due to the renovations taking place at the moment, it’s especially important that you do tawaafs at set times like during the day as most people tend to do it when it’s not so hot in the latter part of the day. It’s usually packed at this time with groups and wheelchairs and tends to be a hotbed of people rushing to finish their tawaaf.

    Agreed – I found that walking on the way to and from the mosque was a perfect opportunity for dhikr. For every step you take from your hotel room to the mosque after reciting Bismillah, you will be rewarded.

    I’ve been back a week today and am already having withdrawal symptoms. This website is keeping me going:


    Final tip (sorry to go on!): For those going on their first trip as I did, write a journal and make a note of salaahs which were emotional/moving for you. When you come back, you can go on the above website and watch all the salaahs you performed with the names and numbers of the surahs and ayahs read. Therefore, if you’re not an Arabic speaker, you will know exactly which verses were recited whilst you were there by looking up the translation 🙂


  2. Walaikum salaam, and JazakAllah for the tips and the awesome website. Feel free to say as much as you want here. I welcome advice from anyone and hope that as many people benefit from it as possible.

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