As the days of Hajj draw to a close…

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. Continue reading

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Makkan Memories…and the future of me

Hajj collage

I think of how my own life has changed in these six years.

When we got back, the desire to “live my Hajj” meant staying highly spiritual: worshipping a lot; being beautiful in character; and just living a good, clean life.

Six years later, my feeling is that that’s not what it means to live our Hajj. At least not for me. Maybe because I’ve failed miserably by my own initial definition. Continue reading

Leaving for Hajj soon? Download these tipsheets

With this year’s Hajj fast approaching, those who are going can find it hectic getting logistical stuff sorted out, making the social arrangements for departure (the greetings etc before leaving), and – most importantly – their own personal mental and spiritual preparation.

What follows is a compilation of tips and lessons extracted from my own Hajj experience – which I hope will be of benefit to those making the journey of a lifetime this year. Continue reading

(Repost) Beyond Hajj: Five ways to maintain your Hajj for life

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

Hajj is now over, and as the pilgrims return home to their loved ones, they take back with them a multitude of precious memories from the journey, lessons they’ll hope to apply for the rest of their lives, and an elevated sense of spirituality.

Back to reality

But for many, those feelings can quickly fade once they arrive home, because the contrast between the lands of Hajj and the ‘normal’ home environment is as striking as day against night.

It’s almost as if Madinah, Makkah, Mina, Arafah, and Muzdalifah are not the real world. Divorced from the responsibilities of family, work, and home life, the journey of Hajj is like an experience in another galaxy – one where everyone is geared towards worshipping Allah; where there’s no crude advertising, music, and images smacking you in the face every hour; and where the only worry each day is making it to the masjid to get a spot for the five compulsory salaahs.

But once you arrive home, you return to the environments of hardship, laziness, and sin. And despite all the wonderful gains from the weeks you’ve just spent as a guest of Allah, maintaining a spiritual high under such circumstances is difficult – if not impossible. And while you know that the real work of Hajj only starts once you get home – in that you need to live your Hajj for the rest of your life – the circumstances of normal life can soon erode all the ambitious plans you had for seeing through the rest of your days as one of Allah’s special people.

Hanging on

In such circumstances, it’s easy to lose hope – seeing Hajj as a temporary high that, in reality, cannot be maintained as the months and years go by. But such an attitude would be incorrect, because with the right intentions, sincere duas, and dedicated efforts – it is indeed possible to remain on a higher level – even if that level isn’t quite as grand as what you’d hoped for.

What follows are a five points of advice which – if followed – can, insha-Allah, help protect you from slipping into decline, so that you can maintain your Hajj for life:

  • Be realistic: According to hadith, the most beloved deeds in Allah’s estimation are those that are consistent – even if they be few. You need not maintain the same levels of ibadah you had on your Hajj journey, but if you can keep just a few small and manageable ones – and do them sincerely and consistently – you’re already a winner.
  • Stay clean: After being totally purified on Arafah, your clean soul recognises your new sins and mistakes much more easily. But you won’t stay that pure forever – and Allah doesn’t expect you to remain that way: all of mankind sins, but the best of those who sin are those who repent and return to Allah. So recognize that you will slip up – but you should follow up those sins and mistakes with immediaterepentance. In this way, insha-Allah you can keep your slate as clean as possible. And even when you don’t recognize sins, make a habit of daily istighfar. It’s reported that the Prophet s.a.w. did it 100 times a day, so following suit not only helps keep you clean, but also gives you more points for following a sunnah.
  • Keep pelting for life: Remember the spiritual significance of pelting the jamaraat. After shaytaan was humiliated on the day of Arafah, he’s even more determined to corrupt you now that you’re back home. So, just as you stoned shaytaan in those days, whenever you notice his whisperings / temptations coming to you back home, repeat that pelting in your mind: you chased him away on Mina, and you can do it again now too.
  • Protect and erase: On Hajj, you weren’t exposed to much of the ‘spiritual filth’ of the rest of the world: the obscene music, indecency, sexual advertisements and perversion, crude behavior in public, etc. But back home, such things are abundant – especially in Western societies. So protect your senses from those things: stay away from sights and sounds that would corrupt your heart, and if you do see or hear them, immediately try to erase their effects by replacing those experiences with something better. For example, if you see a non-mahram of the opposite sex in indecent clothing, immediately look at something else (halaal) and try to make THAT the image that sticks in your mind. If you hear dirty music, recite or listen to Quran immediately and let THAT push the music out of your memory. Remember that shaytaan uses your senses as the gateway to corrupting your heart in a slow and gradual way. Close those gates, be on guard, and have your spiritual eraser ready.
  • Use gratitude to go back: It’s very, very sad to leave Makkah – especially after you’ve made your final tawwaf and left the haram. Like millions of others before you, you dream of going back for Hajj again. But to make this desire a reality, those feelings need to move beyond just nostalgia and emotional yearning. In Surah Ibrahim, verse 7, Allah tells us that if we’re grateful, He will give us more. In the context of Hajj, if you show true gratitude for the journey He has just granted you, insha-Allah you can earn an invitation to go again. Make those feelings practical by translating them into actions: appreciate what you had by striving to live the best you can, as close to Allah as you can.

May Allah accept your Hajj from you, help you to maintain it until you reach the end of your life, and take you there again – so that you may step up to even higher levels of spirituality and closeness to Him.