Hajj Chronicles Part 20: Reflections before the big day

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 19

Entrance to the haram in Makkah

Entrance to the haram in Makkah

Going home

The same day we climbed to the cave of Hira, we spontaneously decided to go back to the haram in Makkah for Maghrib and Esha. Just the travel there and back was an adventure on its own – including 2 busses each way, being stranded at our former Makkah hotel, a Turkish lady taking my seat on the bus, and waiting in a deserted, dusty parking lot for our shuttle – which seemed to magically appear when we needed it.

It was also challenge for me physically, because I was operating that whole day on 3 hours of sleep. I was tired even before Maghrib, but held on to make the salaah before drifting off into a beautiful, relaxing, and merciful sleep.

Being back in Makkah was nostalgic. I hadn’t fully appreciated it while we were staying there, but now that it was no longer home, I missed it. The familiar sights and sounds of the haram, Ajyad Street, and the crowds all drew me in – making me long to return to what was once home, but would never again be mine. It was a valuable life lesson: appreciate your comforts and surroundings while you have them, because life will move on sooner or later, and you will lose them.

Reflections

The week in Aziziah wasn’t too eventful, but it did provide much-needed time for seclusion, self-reflection, and rest. One of my realisations revolved around how different, and beautiful, this Arabian society was. I’m not saying that all the people were perfect in character, nor that the politics or social trends of Saudi Arabia are admirable. Those are issues for a different discussion. What I mean is, my weeks in the country up to then culminated in the realisation that – despite the flaws – this was an environment and society based on Islam – and I loved it, because it was so natural, and such a huge change from the Western society I’d spent my whole life in.

Here, there was no ideological warfare with blind atheists, arrogant secularists, or misguided worshippers of idols and humans. Everyone knew and believed in the truth of Islam, and we all had the same ultimate ambitions for Jannah. To not be surrounded by such kufr gives you space to focus more intensely on your own soul and relationship with Allah.

In terms of action, people would take time in their ibadah, and would turn everyday situations – like waiting in line at the shop – into opportunities for dhikr. Salaah was central to life – with the day’s schedule revolving around salaah times, and people making the effort to pray – rather than making excuses to miss it. They’d take their musallahs with them and when it was salaah time, they’d pray – out in the open, without self-consciousness. Common folks – like drivers and shopkeepers – would carry their Qurans with them and recite in their shops. If customers couldn’t pay for an item, shopkeepers would let them take it anyway – trusting they’d come back and pay later. Women would dress modestly and cover properly – eliminating the nakedness we’re so used to in Western societies. And on an unprecedented scale (for me at least), men were respectful towards women.

It got me thinking about da’wah on a wider level. Da’wah is primarily important because it invites to Islam – which is what will save each and every individual from eternal failure. But on a wider level, da’wah also benefits the society and the environment – because Islam naturally brings honour and beauty to the communities it dwells within (or at least, it does when it’s practiced correctly). So, while the people in Madinah, Makkah, and Aziziah weren’t all perfect in terms of Islamic character and conduct, being in their society felt so much more natural than our Western societies back home – because the very foundation of that environment was the deen of Islam.

The challenge of tomorrow

Another reflection stemmed from the timing of this trip. At that point, I was 30 years old, and the elders had often remarked about how good it is to go when you’re young. But I didn’t feel “young”. Like I’ve said before, life hasn’t been “too short” for me – because I feel old beyond my years. So now, at this milestone age of 30, I was about to embark on the experience I hoped would define the rest of my life – however much longer that would be.

In addition to that, it was also 10 years since my life changed – meaning that the catalyst had come a decade earlier, and then Allah had used the next 10 years to mould me, refine me, and prepare me for this – the most important journey and event of my life.

And on this journey, perhaps it would be easy to wish for death after the main event – Arafah – was complete. To die right after Arafah means you leave this world in a state of absolute purity – with all sins having been forgiven, thereby making your journey to the Hereafter easier, and your Eternity one free of the consequences of the sins and mistakes you’d accumulated in life.

I wasn’t too attached to the material things of this world, so an ending like that would seem tempting. But I didn’t want it.

Why? Mostly, for my daughter. My parents and others in my life would cope without me. But if my daughter lost me at the age of two, it would have had a huge impact on her. I had missed her tremendously on this trip, and I wanted to go back to her after Hajj – to be her father: to spend time with her; to help her grow up, to teach her and help mould her to the awesome person I pray she’ll become.

And for myself, I viewed the rest of my life as a challenge and an opportunity: the challenge to live this Hajj for the rest of my life, and the opportunity to improve my own life and make an impact on others and this world. If I died, I wouldn’t get the chance to take on that challenge, and my impact on the world wouldn’t go beyond whatever I‘d already achieved in my life up to that point.

Final preparation

The last days before Hajj weren’t as spiritual as I hoped, but it gave us the chance to speak to our loved ones. It also gave me the chance to send one last email to a very special group of people back home; people who I respect and admire very much. Physically, I was so far away from them, but throughout this trip, they’d been in my thoughts and in my duas, and this was my last chance to convey a special message to them before I embarked on the biggest five days of my life.

The final Hajj class also left me with one enduring and most critical piece of advice – which was a reminder I’d written at the top of my Hajj preparation list:

“…The best of provisions is taqwa…” (Surah al-Baqarah verse197)

For everything I would be facing, I had to remember it was all for Allah. Everything difficulty, every sacrifice, every challenge that required patience…the thought I had to CONSTANTLY keep in mind was: “this is for Allah”.

That was it.

Coming up next, insha-Allah: Youm-al-Tarwiyyah – the first day on Mina

Related lessons:

  • Appreciate your comforts and surroundings while you have them, because life will move on sooner or later, and you will lose them.
  • Despite the flaws in the society, it’s refreshing to be in an environment that has Islam at its base. We don’t experience that in Western countries, so appreciate it when you’re over there, and make dua that one day, the beauty of Islam will come to be at the very core of the society you live in back home.
  • Going back home after Hajj presents you with a challenge and an opportunity – both of which must be embraced. The challenge is to live your Hajj until you die, and the opportunity is to make a greater impact on the world.
  • In your final moments before leaving for Mina, reach out to your loved ones. Take advantage of the strong emotions in your heart and convey to them the beauty of what you feel, inspiring them to make this trip, and asking them to make special duas for you in the coming days.
  • One of the most important thoughts to bear in mind on the 5 days is to remain conscious of Allah at all times. Taqwa is your best provision, and all that you’ll face is for Allah.

What happened next?

Update: The entire series (30 parts) is available at this link – post by post. Alternatively, you can download the complete series as an e-book in PDF format. Feel free to share with anyone you think may benefit.

Image source: Opening picture.

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