slip-sliding away…..

Posts Tagged ‘Hajj’

Living in the past…hoping for the future

Posted by Yacoob on September 21, 2015

Mina on the final morning of Hajj 1432 (2011)

Mina on the final morning of Hajj 1432 (2011)

Here follows a ramble of thoughts, on the eve of tomorrow’s Hajj…

I’m immersed in memories. Memories of four years back, when I was on the cusp of my first and only Hajj. We were in Aziziah, doing last-minute stuff before we’d leave for Mina the next day.

Trying to find a shop that sold airtime was surprisingly difficult – but I eventually did. Walking around the massive Bin Dawood and being tempted by the confectionary delights – yet settling for just a little, as I hoped to restrain myself on the 5 days. Waiting in that line to pay, hearing a man use his time wisely – his tongue wet with the remembrance of Allah. It hit home with me – that particular act. An act we’re advised to always do, yet something I’d never witnessed before, nor thought – often enough – of doing myself whenever I was faced with a queue.

The Day of Tarwiyyah – 8th Dhul Hijjah – is the first of the five days. For us, it fell on a Friday. As usual, we were rushing to get done on the morning. We ended up being late to join our group and missed everyone pronouncing their niyah for Hajj in unison…so we did it on our own, hurriedly, when we got there.

Walking, in my ihram – which I had by that time mastered – up that hill, next to the highway, and into the tunnel that led to Mina. That tunnel with those massive air vents on the ceiling, which tin cans had somehow gotten stuck to.

Arrival at our tents, and the choice of who to sleep next to – brought up familiar childhood insecurities – yet I still had a companion.

Reflections from that first day – self-restraint, busying myself in acts of worship, and noticing how the tent was a lot like a graveyard: each of us having our own small, confined space with no luxury. All lined up in rows. All wrapped in 2 white sheets – the same ones that will cover us when we enter our next homes…the hole in the ground that we’ll occupy until Qiyamah.

I’m more familiar with that hole now. Late last year, and earlier this year, I entered those graves for the first time – participating in burials of family members. The impact of death was strong on me back in Madinah – when I witnessed a burial in Jannatul Baqi. But that faded soon after.

Now, again, the burials at home reminded me of the Reality that I will face – at any time, with no notice.

The time in the grave worries me, yet I’m cautiously optimistic…optimistic that if I try to live properly now, despite my character flaws and habitual deficiencies, insha-Allah my grave will be a place of peace, and not torment.

Moving on from Mina, there are parallels between Qiyamah and the Day of Wuqoof. Both days in which we stand before our Lord – utterly poor, utterly desperate, in the most need of His Mercy, Forgiveness and Kindness. Hajj is a journey to Allah in this life, which prepares us for the journey to Him in the next life.

The morning of that day, on Arafah, we just made it onto the bus – but I had to stand. The car-sickness that hit me – nauseous for most of the ride. Then the tents on Arafah. Red carpets, I remember. A looser seating arrangement than Mina.

The seriousness of the men around me. We were all serious. We were all focused. This was the biggest day of our lives. In a few hours, we’d be in the very essence of our Hajj. 5 weeks, 4 weeks, 3 weeks…however long our trip had been up till then – it all built up to one afternoon. One period of a few hours – when we would stand out in the sun, or sit in the tent…pouring our hearts, minds and souls out in dua. Dua. Begging, pleading, bawling our eyes out. Our special moments with our Rabb – Who comes so close to us in that time. Who boasts to His angels about us. How we have come to this place, in this dishevelled condition, seeking His Mercy.

And how they bear witness when He confirms that He has forgiven us.

My own wuqoof was cut short. A few hours only, because the group left hours before sunset. My frustration at having to zoom through most of my extensive dua list because of time pressure. A laundry list of a lifetime’s worth of pleadings – reduced to a thick pile of papers, which I couldn’t even read through to the end, let alone make each dua with sincerity or concentration.

If I ever came back, I told myself, I wouldn’t cut my time short. I would take as long as I needed and leave only at Maghrib…even if it meant inconvenience of being late to Muzdalifah.

Then, of course, came my biggest test of Hajj. A logistical mix-up leading to the next 9 hours being all alone – walking from Arafah to Muzdalifah for half that time, then all over Muzdalifah for the other half…yet never finding my group. The night when a famous hadith mirrored my life: Part of it being:

“…And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you.”

All those police officers, soldiers, group guides, taxi drivers, my wife, her companions….all tried to guide and help me, but none succeeded. And so that was my time alone, with only Allah as my companion. And just when I reached my emotional breaking point – a little after midnight, on that packed – yet lonely – land of Muzdalifah, was when Allah guided me to what would finally re-unite me with my wife and those I was supposed to be with all along.

Only, I wasn’t supposed to be with them. We plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners. His plan was always for me to do it alone. And, me being a creature of solitude, I see His Wisdom in that. Despite the stress, anxiety and physical discomfort, I actually enjoyed that whole experience.

It was the highlight of my Hajj, and a real-life, custom-made lesson in tawakkul – reliance on Allah.

Walking under the monorail track back to Mina; then another while of wandering around (feeling like an idiot); before finally getting back to my wife. It was maybe the happiest we’d ever been to see each other, other than on our wedding day.

Our solo pelting of the jamaraat; shaving my head in that crazy-packed barber shop on Mina. Then our lengthy detour throughout Aziziah – getting lost on our way back to our hotel. It characterised us. We’re not the most geographically-inclined couple.

Fajr in Aziziah in an almost-empty masjid – the residents had gone to the Haram of Makkah for Eid salaah. A little sleep, then waking up – to the most liberating, beautiful, pure feelings. The feelings maybe others felt after Arafah. But ours – mine – was delayed until the next morning.

I’ve never felt that good. That clean. Words cannot describe it…nor should they, because some things cannot be encapsulated in the mere confines of human language.

Spiritually, things went down after that. How could the spiritual and emotional intensity remain so strong after Arafah?

But there remained benefit in those final few days.

My misadventures continued, though – to the extent that each day I expected something to go wrong.

I learnt, the hard way, not to take a phone into an Eastern toilet cubicle. I learnt, the hard way, that it’s better to wait to cross the road for 10 minutes – rather than risk crazy Arab drivers running you over (even if the one that hit me was a wild youngster…the older ones sometimes aren’t much better).

And then, that epic, final departure from Mina. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it. 6 weeks in these blessed lands, all culminating in these 5 days…now over. The last time walking out of Mina. Sun growing stronger in those early hours of the day. Streets still filled with signs of the millions that had been there with us. A sad, sad walk for me…yet one I still took lessons from.

The yearning to go back still remains. It’s faded each year, but is strong again this year.

Is it normal to want to go back this soon, even though I’m still relatively young? It’s not that I want to make up for anything. I don’t regret anything. But just that this trip is one that made such a deep impact that my naturally nostalgic self can’t help but want a repeat. It’ll never be the same, of course. You only get your first time once.

But who’s to say that subsequent times can’t be even better?

The news that the haram expansions are almost done, and quotas will be relaxed, give me a renewed sense of hope. Maybe it will be possible to be back within the next decade. Possible, but probable? Rationally, there’s so much against that possibility. But I’m a dreamer, and with Allah, all things are possible. In the hadith I quoted earlier – about all the people gathering to help, but not being able to – the converse part of that hadith is that no matter what anyone does, if Allah has prescribed something for you, nothing can stop it.

As I’ve said before, it perhaps comes down to gratitude. If you’re grateful, He will give you more. In this case, I take gratitude as meaning there needs to be sincerity. Sincerity in trying to live the Hajj you’ve already had. Prove to Allah that you’re worthy of going back.

And then – no matter what factors appear to be against you – insha-Allah it’s only a matter of time before He invites you to be His guest once more.

May Allah make this year’s Hajj the greatest experience for those honoured guests this year. And may He help them, and all of us who have been before, truly live the Hajj for the rest of our earthly days.

Posted in Hajj-related | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Beyond Hajj: Reflections 3 years later

Posted by Yacoob on October 1, 2014

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

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

Three years ago, I experienced my first magical moments in Madinah. It was the opening destination on my first and only Hajj, and I was awe-struck and honoured to be in so blessed and peaceful a place…a little piece of Jannah.

As the days passed, Madinah’s glow wore off, and I moved on to Makkah, where, despite being initially underwhelmed, the place soon grew on me. In particular, one special night in the haram stood out – wherein I finally found what my heart was seeking – what I would need, internally, for the upcoming 5 days of Hajj.

Lethargy and laziness followed – my biggest regrets about Makkah – before moving onto Aziziah, which was to be our final stop before the days of Hajj began. There – free of the luxuries of Makkah – I managed to get back on track, preparing for the biggest five days of my life – with the Day of Arafah being the most critical of them all.

Hajj itself was a mixed bag, with incredible experiences on Mina, Arafah, and a misadventure on the way to Muzdalifah (and beyond); but some disappointment on the days of tashreeq that followed: once the intensity had departed after Eid, that spirit of striving was clearly gone – both in myself and in the others on the journey.

At the end of it all, what I was left with was:

  • A (hopefully) clean and pure heart, forgiven from my lifetime of sins and spiritual dirt.
  • Beautiful memories of 6 weeks on this different, separate planet (because it’s a different world, divorced from the realities of life at home).
  • Spiritual ambitions. Intentions for change. Desire for self-improvement. A mission…a lifelong mission to’live’ my Hajj for the rest of my life.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Crashing back to Earth

Like everything in life, Hajj had to come to an end. The beauty of the Holy Lands, the spiritual purity felt after Arafah, and the general goodness of dedicating a portion of your time to this mission – free of worldly work and responsibilities…all of it couldn’t last forever, no matter how much I wanted it to.

The differences between Planet Hajj and the rest of the world were brought firmly into focus as soon as we arrived at our next stop – waiting in transit at Cairo’s airport. Whereas Madinah and Makkah were (relatively) spiritually clean – free of sexually-driven advertising, indecent music, and other vices of the outside world, in Cairo’s airport, these things came flooding back into consciousness – sensorial assaults from the sick, degenerated, fitra-robbed environment that I knew all too well from life in South Africa and other Western-influenced societies.

Over the next week, as we spent time in Palestine and then Cairo again, the euphoria of Hajj continued to fade at a sadly rapid rate. When we got back to South Africa, the world felt even more different, and I braced myself for reintegration into the society I’d known and lived in my whole life.

Gone were the days of building an entire schedule around time in the masjid. Gone was the time to spend in self-reflection and writing. There would be no further long stretches of dua on a consistent basis. And I would no longer have the chance to undertake night-time excursions to the Kabah.

From that point on, the external environment would no longer drive my spiritual ambitions. On the contrary, conditions on the outside would now chip away at my spirituality; so I faced a harder fight to simply maintain focus – let alone build something greater than the state I was in after Arafah.

Hanging on

The first few weeks back home were relatively good. I tried very hard to maintain my levels of spirituality – despite being plunged back into the working world and the rigours of fatherhood (we had a 2 year old daughter). I used the still-fresh emotions of my journey to keep some level of momentum going, with taqwa, dhikr, dua and self-reflection as my companions.

In terms of work, I faced a potential crisis when – a few weeks after my return – news came that the company was at the very real risk of going under, and much of the workforce would have to be cut if they were to survive. I tried to put a positive spin on it for those who I could make some kind of impact on – urging them (and myself) to see the bigger picture, and always have hope that Allah would take care of them.

In the end, I ended up keeping my job – though I knew that it was time to start looking elsewhere. 6 months later, I was on my way to a new challenge – a job that brought intellectual stimulation and variety back to my working life – which had, in my previous job, been largely stagnant.

The years that followed found me getting more and more entrenched in my work – which was a demand of my new position, while conversely, my spirituality sank more and more (as realised in Ramadan 2013).

But there were still good points, with the first year or so being extremely fruitful in terms of my personal writing, and some good habits becoming more entrenched. Subsequent Hajj periods (the months of Dhul Qada and Dhul Hijjah) were also amazing, because following the Hajj via TV and social media always reminded me of my own experience, and helped rekindle the yearning to go back.

Those Hajj periods, in particular, helped to remind me that while the emotion and nostalgia was so strong, and the desire to go back was heightened, I needed to convert those feelings into practical actions. I needed to strive, once more, to ‘live’ my Hajj. To show my gratitude via action, for if I am grateful, insha-Allah I will be blessed with another chance.

Game over?

A little over a year ago, my life changed significantly once more, with the birth of our second child – another little girl who immediately captured my heart, attention, and time.

By then, I had already slipped far from the standard I’d hoped to live after Hajj – in terms of personal character and behavioural changes I’d wanted to implement. Old habits die hard, and in the absence of immense striving, my habits were resurrected, dusted themselves off, and made themselves comfortable in my life once more.

And if I thought I had hope of making a comeback to the standard I’d aspired to, the demands of fatherhood quickly shattered those illusions. Along with the new baby, there was also the older child to see to – with her adjustment to being a big sister (and no longer the centre of attention) being relatively difficult.

When things let up a bit, I fell into an old addiction of mine. Nothing haraam, of course, but something very time-consuming which – I first rationalised – I needed as a means of de-stressing from the burdens upon my shoulders. A new, potent enemy which I’ve been fighting – on and off – for the last year.

My problem is that I’m extreme in indulgence. I don’t know how to be moderate; balanced. It’s a quality that can be very beneficial if used in productive pursuits, but detrimental when applied to self-satisfying, otherwise-useless initiatives.

We also went through an extremely traumatic period earlier this year, which really drained us and for me – personally – strengthened me internally, but also knocked out my hope of an internal revival. That may seem a contradictory statement, and because I’m being deliberately vague here (since I won’t explain the details publically), it might not make sense.

Essentially, it strengthened my imaan – so there was spiritual growth; but at the same time, it took its toll mentally and psychologically – such that I felt like I was in too weak a state to build up again, to strive for the lofty ambitions I’d held after Hajj. Like I was now too far away from those days of Hajj – both in time and inner purity – to seriously think that it was possible to achieve what I wanted to achieve.

And on top of that, my life was dramatically different now as compared to those days after Hajj. There was the more hectic job, for one. But there were also the challenges and demands of two young kids now: a baby and a school-going child….instead of just one toddler (which was the case when we got back from Hajj).

Thinking of all of this, it seemed hopeless.

What’s next?

But was it, really? Does it mean I have given up all hope? That ‘living my Hajj’ is now just a distant, beautiful-sounding dream that was just a foolish ambition of my younger self?

I hope not. Because if that was the case, I would be throwing away much of what I gained from the journey.

I can’t just confine my Hajj to good memories and long-gone spiritual achievements.

So, what I needed to realize – and it took me a long time to figure it out, despite it being SO obvious – is that I can no longer see my life through the lens that I’d envisioned it three years ago. I can’t look at myself and my life in the same way, because my life has shifted. So I have to shift my gaze too.

Now, three years later and in very changed circumstances, I need to start my post-Hajj mission again. I need to start fresh:

  1. Analyse what I want, in my overall vision of my life (both worldly and beyond).
  2. Look at the demands and challenges I face now and in the coming years.
  3. Redraw that list of ambitions, pulling it into a realistic, measurable plan of how I will get from here to there.

And even if I don’t succeed in some or even all of those plans, the most important quality I need to apply is persistence. For so long, I’ve let myself be deceived by the idea that if I can’t achieve success in a plan, or if I can’t at least be consistent in a certain initiative, then it’s not worth even bothering with that initiative.

Perhaps that attitude is a reflection of my perfectionist tendencies. Or perhaps it’s from the whisperings of the devil – who doesn’t miss an opportunity to try to impede my spiritual growth and success.

Whatever the case, I need to change that mindset. I need to consciously realize that such thinking is false and actually counter-productive.

I need to just keep trying, because all that I’m responsible for is intention and action. The results are in Allah’s hands.

So now, as I sit here three years later, with this year’s Hajj due to begin tomorrow insha-Allah, I feel a renewed sense of purpose. A re-commitment to the mission I accepted, and was so excited about, all that time back.

I ask that you, my dear reader, please make dua for me in this road ahead; as I make dua for you too.



Posted in Meanderings, Hajj-related | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

It’s almost time…

Posted by Yacoob on August 22, 2014

Approaching the masjid

Three years ago, I was preparing for the journey that would take me to the most serene place I’ve ever been. May Allah bless, guide and protect those who have been honoured with the invitation this year.

Madinah beckons…

Posted in Hajj-related | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted in Hajj-related | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a 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

Posted in Hajj-related | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ready for Hajj series: Part 1 (Madinah)

Posted by Yacoob on August 31, 2013

Inside Masjid-an Nabawi

Inside Masjid-an Nabawi

Hajj season is upon us, and with hujjaaj leaving soon, I thought it would be an ideal time to finally revamp and complete the Hajj tips series I wanted to do last year.

So, while Hajj Chronicles (blog series here | e-book here) is a set that described my own Hajj, the full story may be a bit too detailed for practical purposes – especially for those that are leaving soon and want to-the-point tips.

With that in mind, I’ve gone through the entire series and extracted the related lessons from each of the 3 main sections (i.e. Madinah, Makkah, and the 5 days of Hajj).

Each document is still relatively long, but it’s intended to be comprehensive reading that you could look at when you have a few minutes to spare (which will probably come up during those long travels ;) ).

First up, we have the Madinah tipsheet – which you can download here.

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: I’ll post the Makkah and Hajj tipsheets later, insha-Allah, but if you need them immediately, you can get them here: Makkah tipsheet, and 5 days of Hajj tipsheet. For a more visual version of these tips, check out the slideshows at

Posted in Hajj-related | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hajj Chronicles Part 25: Not your average Saturday night

Posted by Yacoob on August 15, 2013

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 24

Hujjaaj spend the night at Muzdalifah

Hujjaaj spend the night at Muzdalifah

Marathon man

For most of the walk from Arafah, I drank minimal water – since there were no toilets on the road (and my water was warm anyway). As I neared Muzdalifah, I started to feel a bit like a marathon runner. At the side of the road, people were popping up handing out cool, refreshing water. I gratefully took some and continued – now sure that it was only a matter of time before I reached my group.

When I got into Muzdalifah, I was still lost. As was the case throughout the walk, I spent quite a bit of time and energy on the phone, trying to find my group. And, just like all the other times, my conversations with both my wife and our sheikh served only to confuse and frustrate me more. When I told them I was in a park, and could see some hujaaj walking with shopping bags (presumably from a nearby supermarket), the sheikh thought I had become delirious!

But I was just fine, and was experiencing a side of Muzdalifah that my Hajj group never got close to. Realising it may still be a while until I’d be reunited with the group, I decided to give the search a break and settled down in that small park to make my Maghrib and Esha salaahs (which are combined and made on Muzdalifah – as per sunnah).

Wandering soul (part 2)

After a brief rest, my search for familiar faces resumed. I regularly spoke to my wife and our sheikh on the phone, and at several points, the sheikh asked to speak to the Arabic-speaking locals near me – hoping they’d have more success trying to direct me to the group.

I walked up and down trying to find the landmarks my wife and the sheikh described. I must have walked from one end of Muzdalifah to the other several times, but to no avail. Whether I asked policemen, military personnel, or taxi drivers – nobody seemed able to help. They either waved me off in a vague direction, or called others to escort me. But every single time, the end result was failure.

The entire search was both tragic and comical, especially the point where I saw a bus from my cousin’s Hajj group approaching. South Africans at last! But, as was the theme that night, it was hopeless. They were too far away for me to go and seek their help.

Night-time at Muzdalifah

Night-time at Muzdalifah

In all of this, I still took the time to observe the scenes around me. Muzdalifah is basically a massive space of just tarmac and gravel, with a few hills around. Aside from toilets, there wasn’t much infrastructure at all. The hujjaaj settled down in just about every space available; many sleeping on mats under the stars, in tents, or in the luggage compartments of busses, while others made salaah or walked around. Vendors also covered the area, selling torches, drinks, fruit, and food (Al Baik being a popular choice).


In all that time, I didn’t let tiredness get to me much. I was running on adrenaline, with my priority being to find my group – rather than worry about the strain being put on my body. Psychologically, I didn’t panic for a long time, but the fear eventually overcame me. What if I never found my group? The next day – Eid – would be a hectic one, with pelting and other activities. I couldn’t go into that day alone.

My feelings of desperation intensified. I felt like crying, and actually did cry a little. I felt hopeless – like I wanted to give up. I just wanted to go home and forget all this. So what if it was Hajj? At that point, I hated the experience of being lost. I didn’t care if my Hajj would be ruined – I just wanted to get out of there, to a familiar and comfortable place again…even if I didn’t fulfil the remaining rituals I needed to do.

I felt like my wife and group had abandoned me, and this Hajj – this particular part – was a horrible, horrible experience. Why would I ever want to come for Hajj again?

And what if I fainted or had some medical emergency? Being totally alone, I’d become some anonymous statistic on the side of the road – possibly never found by my wife or Hajj group.

These were all bad thoughts, Desperate, anxious thoughts.

While still seeking help from others, I turned to Allah time and time again in dua. And time and time again it seemed like I was going in proverbial circles – like a hamster on a wheel. Doing nothing but walking and walking and walking, but making zero progress.

By that time, since leaving Arafah, I’d been alone for more than 7 hours. And still I had no idea where I was and where my group was. My wife and others sensed my desperation and were encouraging on the phone, but it wasn’t too comforting at that point – because they weren’t with me in the moment. I was utterly alone – with all these foreigners who didn’t speak English around me. I had no one. No one but Allah.

It ends

When I reached my breaking point, Allah finally saved me: it was nearly midnight – which was the time when my group and many others would be leaving Muzdalifah to head for Mina and the Jamaraat. The Hajj group brother who I was in contact with on the phone advised me to head for Mina and meet them there. It was a logical order, but given the various roads out of Muzdalifah, and the night’s predictable pattern of everything going wrong, I didn’t have much hope in that plan.

But I had nothing to lose, so I started walking in what I thought was the right direction. I figured I was on track because I was walking under the monorail – which went back to Mina.

It was a relatively quiet walk, with not many people or Hajj officials around at all. I later found out that my walk to Mina was a stark contrast to my group’s experience, where they had crowds as well as crazy Hajj officials that ripped bags off people (which is what they do if you have too much luggage with you). Turns out I was on a different route to them.

Alhamdullilah, I ended up back on Mina, but then took a while to find my group’s camp (which I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t memorise the camp number beforehand). I eventually made it to the camp at 1.30AM – a full 9 hours after I’d started walking from Arafah. Our sheikh was happy to finally see me, and apparently everyone knew my story by then.

My wife was ecstatic, and despite being in ihraam, we shared a beautiful reunion (without violating the romance prohibition, of course!). Gone were the negative feelings I’d held against her earlier on; all was forgiven. The 9 hours of almost non-stop walking and wandering wore down any anger and blame I was keeping inside, and I was just relieved to finally be ‘home’ – with my wife and in familiar surroundings again.

In case you’re wondering, I never made it to my group because I was on a completely different route to them. On the Arafah-Muzdalifah stretch, there’s a bus route and a pedestrian route. My group took the pedestrian route, but I completely missed that turnoff – hence I was with the busses (which didn’t seem wrong because there were so many people walking on that route with me.) As for Muzdalifah, I still have no idea where my group had camped – despite the fact that I probably walked the length and breadth of Muzdalifah that night.

Regarding the time of leaving Arafah, one year after our Hajj, I found out that the group leaders had in fact announced the departure time during the collective programme. But, of course, I’d skipped that programme as I needed to be alone during wuqoof. And it just so happened that when I asked everyone, they all neglected to mention this. Not on purpose, I believe, but perhaps just because that was Allah’s plan to ensure that I wouldn’t end up making the walk with them (and hence have this whole adventure).

Additionally, I was blessed to leave when I did. Apparently, some time after I left, there was a stampede in the crowds leaving Arafah, and some hujjaaj lost their lives. So despite the initial perception that my timing was bad, it was actually perfect – because it would have been worse had I been in that crowd.


There’s a hadith that goes:

“…Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allah [alone]. And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” (Related in Tirmidhi)

The Prophet s.a.w.’s words came to life that night. They came true in my life. I had sought help from so many different people that night – my wife, our sheikh, the policemen, military, taxi drivers, and others – yet absolutely no one could help. All their efforts came to nothing. Allah had not intended for them to help me, so despite their efforts, they couldn’t make a difference to my plight. And it was only when I turned so utterly and desperately to Allah alone that He opened the way for me and guided me out of my misery.

That was my lesson in this whole ordeal. That was what Allah wanted to teach me:

Tawakkul. Reliance on Allah alone.

On Arafah, I had made a strong dua for exactly that: for stronger eman and true tawakkul on Allah. And immediately after that, Allah put me through this trial – which brought that dua to life.

Personally, the whole experience was incredibly trying. But it was the highlight of my Hajj. I prayed that – because of that experience – Allah would elevate my Hajj and grant me more reward than what I would have otherwise gotten.

And in terms of other people, it was also valuable because it gave me a more interesting story to tell, whereas without it, I wouldn’t have had much to say, other than talking about how I was stuck in the toilet that morning, or complaining about being rushed during wuqoof.

So my final thought to wrap up this segment is: if Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it. Put your complete trust and reliance in Allah, and watch the miracles that occur before your very eyes.

Related lessons:

  • While you’ll want to get some rest on Muzdalifah, do take some time to walk around and observe what’s going on, how people are spending their time, etc. Unless you perform Hajj again, you’ll never experience an open-air camp this big – so take it all in and appreciate the moments you have there.
  • Long before, if you end up walking from Arafah to Muzdalifah alone, know that there’s a pedestrian route and a bus route. Keep an eye out for a turnoff (or ask others where it is), since this is probably the route your group will take if they’re walking.
  • Whatever seemingly-unfortunate experience befalls you, know that it’s Allah’s plan for you. So go forward with confidence that this is not a disaster, but something you’re meant to benefit from – even if you can’t see the lessons immediately.
  • Also remember that no matter how ‘bad’ your misfortune may seem, it could be worse. So be thankful that it is what it is, and not even more difficult. (This is also a good general principle for life: look at those less fortunate than you, as it’ll help you to appreciate what you have – rather than envying those that have more / seem to be better off.)
  • Be mindful of Allah, and He will be with you. Always.
  • Turn to Allah alone, having complete and utter reliance (tawakkul) on Him. Put your complete trust and reliance in Allah, and watch the miracles that occur before your very eyes.

Coming up next, insha-Allah: Euphoria (Check this link in about 2 weeks’ time for the next part, insha-Allah)

Image sources: Opening image, second image.

Posted in Hajj Chronicles | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Your Eid gift: The Hajj Chronicles e-book

Posted by Yacoob on August 8, 2013

Eid cupcakes

On behalf of myself and my family, I’d like to wish you and your loved ones Eid Mubarak – wherever you are in the world, and whichever day you celebrate(d) on. May this day be one of beautiful celebration, togetherness, and happiness – all within the boundaries of halaal, of course :). And may the spiritual gains from this Ramadan be ingrained into you so that you can take them forward into the coming months and at least maintain your spiritual levels, if not improve upon them as this blessed month fades into history.

The primary objective of fasting in Ramadan is to attain taqwa – sometimes translated as consciousness of Allah. The next big event in our Islamic calendar is Hajj, wherein the best provision for the journey is the very same taqwa.

So for those going on this blessed journey, Ramadan serves as a means of building up taqwa – which you’ll need to maintain and build even further as you near the biggest 5 days of your life – i.e. Hajj.

With this in mind, and as promised during Ramadan, I’ve compiled the entire Hajj Chronicles series (the 24 already online, plus the 6 to still come) into an e-book. You can download it here:

Hajj Chronicles e-book: PDF (3.7MB) | MS Word (3.4MB) (Right-click and choose ‘Save as’)

The e-book is provided absolutely free, for the purposes of promoting the Hajj and educating others about it. I encourage you to share it with those who are interested in the journey of Hajj.

Of course, the content is obviously copyrighted – so don’t steal my work ;). If you want to use parts of it for commercial purposes, please contact me to discuss it. Otherwise, you may use parts of it for your own personal or academic purposes, but reference it properly, and link back to this blog.

I hope you enjoy the book and benefit from it. And if you have any feedback or queries, feel free to email me.



<Image source>

Posted in Ramadaan, Milestones, Hajj Chronicles | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Hajj Chronicles Part 23: Arafah (part 2) – Wuqoof

Posted by Yacoob on July 11, 2013

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 22

Wuqoof on Arafah during Hajj 2011

Wuqoof on Arafah (Hajj 2011)

Hajj is Arafah

Zawaal time soon came, and minutes later, we made our Thuhr and Asr salaah combined – as is sunnah (though some disagree on that). Right after that, lunch was announced. For me, it was a really ridiculous time for food to be served. We had entered wuqoof time, but if we didn’t get our food early, we risked missing out completely in case it was all gone (which wasn’t wise, considering there was no food provided until the next day). But we didn’t control the schedule, so we had to accept that time and make the best of it.

To avoid the risk, as well as longer queues later, I took my food early. I was careful to take only a little, since we were advised to not overdo it as we wouldn’t want to be bloated and tired in these priceless few hours (not to mention needing the toilet).

After lunch, I settled down in the tent and started on my own efforts for the afternoon. Any thoughts of talking to others vanished, because now was not the time to talk to any human being. It was my private, most special time with Allah. When I first became more committed to the deen, dua was my first love in terms of ibadah. It was through dua that I took my initial steps deeper into Islam. Dua was what drove me closer to Allah, and Allah used that as the gateway to changing my life so completely – from one of aimlessness and ignorance to one of purpose and knowledge. Now, in these few hours, I had the ultimate chance to make dua. And so I began.

However, as it often happens in life, things don’t always go according to plan. My wife and I had agreed that we’d spend some time together on Arafah making dua. Much sooner than I expected, she phoned to ask that we go and do that – since she wasn’t finding much privacy or dua-conducive conditions in her tent. It’s important to note that doing this was a completely non-romantic thing – since romance is totally prohibited in ihraam. The entire focus was spiritual, but there was still a special, non-physical intimacy to the moment. As a married couple, it was an incredibly beautiful experience, and one that we weren’t alone in (we saw other couples doing the same). For me, it also re-emphasized the sacredness of the bond of marriage. How beautiful it is to base your marriage on the foundation of deen, and how amazing it is to be united in ibadah.

Alone time

After making our duas in a quiet spot, we separated and went off to continue our wuqoof alone. I sought out a private spot – where nobody would interrupt me and the sounds of conversations and loudspeakers would be minimal. After some searching, I found a very distant yet secluded area – in the corner of our section, behind an African camp.

I continued with my own duas, running through an enormous paper list that was already physically worn out from the previous weeks of folding and unfolding. Some of those duas felt very sincere and emotional, but my enduring feeling for most of that time was one of frustration. I figured that my group would be leaving Arafah early – 2 hours before sunset – so I had a very limited amount of time to make my duas. We were told that when we left, for much of our walk we’d still be on Arafah, so we could still make our duas as we walked. But I was hesitant about that, because I’d made many duas on the move in the past and I knew how difficult it is to concentrate under those conditions.

So I felt like it was now or never. I only had about an hour on my own, and in that time I had to rush through as much of my list as I could so that I would accomplish my goal of making all my duas. Instead of relaxing and giving my duas the time and attention they deserved, I felt pressured and insincere. So instead of savouring the fact that I was on Arafah, able to at least make some duas, I felt short-changed – partially deprived of what was the most precious period of time I’d ever had.

If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have left early. I did have the option to spend the entire wuqoof period in the camp – until sunset – and head off with the last group to leave. But my wife wouldn’t have wanted that because of the logistical complications. We’d planned to stick with our sheikh, and this was the way he managed his group.

But I couldn’t let the negativity ruin the experience. I had to believe that Allah would fulfil all that I’d asked for, and that which I didn’t get the chance to ask for too – even though I’d made my duas so hurriedly and insincerely. Allah knows best why it turned out the way it did, but I just had to appreciate the experience and have faith that it was the best thing for me.

The split

Knowing time was almost up, I made my way back to the camp, where the group had just finished its collective program. Everyone was very emotional – hugging and wishing each other an accepted Hajj. It would’ve been nice to experience that – because it’s a momentous occasion for us all, and it’s nice to share it with others. But because the group program cut through most of the very scarce personal time available, there was no way I would attend it. As I’ve said before, for me, ibadah is personal, and if it’s a choice between being in a group and being on my own, I choose the latter every time.

At the camp, I wandered around, trying to find out if they’d announced exactly what time they’d be leaving. For most of the day before that, they’d been very non-committal – so we had no idea what time things would happen until they announced it. Every person I asked gave the same answer: no; they’d let us know. So I used that time to hurriedly continue with my dua list – which I finally accepted I’d never finish in this wuqoof.

No announcement came, and I wouldn’t have known the time of departure had I not overheard one of the sheikhs tell someone that we needed to start moving. Of course, with a long walk ahead (roughly 14 kilometres in total for the group’s planned route), it was a pre-requisite that you needed to use the toilet before leaving – especially since there were no facilities on the road.

But as was customary on Hajj, the toilets had queues, so I had to wait a while. After doing my business, as I walked back to the camp, I passed my wife’s cousin – who told me that they were preparing to leave. I just needed a few minutes to get my stuff and would then meet them, so I thought they’d wait for me. But when I came back, they were gone.

I spoke to my wife on the phone, and assumed they were still standing and waiting for people – as was the case for most group activities on this trip. She’d failed to tell me that they were already on their way. The group had left, and she hadn’t waited for me.

But I figured I was only a few minutes behind them, so I would catch up. Everyone was walking in one direction, so there wasn’t much chance of getting lost. With a feeling of anxiety mixed with bravery, I made dua for the journey and ventured off alone – among the not-too-many people leaving at that time.

Little did I know, an immense adventure awaited me…

Related lessons:

  • You probably won’t get to choose what time lunch is served, but when it is, make a smart decision as to when to eat – so that you can maximise your dua time while not missing out on the precious food you’ll need to sustain you for the period ahead.
  • Try to eat only as much as you need. Over-eating may make you bloated, tired, and in need of the toilet – which would ruin your chances of making the most of your wuqoof.
  • I probably don’t need to remind you, but DO NOT WASTE EVEN ONE MINUTE of your wuqoof time. Spend it in dua (or whatever other ibadah you plan to do), and steer clear of people that gossip and waste your time.
  • If you’re with your spouse, make some time during wuqoof to make a special dua alone with him/her. It’s an incredibly beautiful experience that will, insha-Allah, bring your hearts closer together and benefit your marriage and family life.
  • As for personal duas, you may have trouble finding a secluded spot to be alone. Don’t spend too much time looking – just get away from the crowds and find a spot where that’s good enough (i.e. minimal interruptions / distractions from others).
  • Your group may start walking to Muzdalifah early, so if you have the choice to stay until the very end of wuqoof (i.e. sunset), do so if you need to (and if it’s logistically possible). It really is an absolutely unique experience that you shouldn’t compromise. You can go anywhere in the world, spend time right next to the Kabah and in the Rawda, experience tremendous highs in Ramadan – but NOTHING is like this wuqoof. And with the quota systems in place, it may be the only wuqoof you ever get to make.
  • If your wuqoof doesn’t live up to your expectations, don’t lose hope and don’t let negativity overwhelm you. Just be grateful for the experience you did have, ask Allah to accept and fulfil all your duas, and be confident that He will do so – regardless of the shortcomings.
  • Before leaving Arafah, make sure you use the toilet (since there are none on the road to Muzdalifah) and pack enough provisions (water and a few snacks).

Image source: Here

Coming up next, insha-Allah: Adventures in the desert

Posted in Hajj Chronicles | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hajj Chronicles Part 22: Day 2: Arafah (part 1)

Posted by Yacoob on July 1, 2013

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 21

Morning on the plain of Arafah

Morning on the plain of Arafah

The biggest appointment of my life

On the first night of Hajj, we slept a few hours on Mina – getting some rest for the day of Arafah that would follow. We had no idea what time our busses would leave the next morning, and because the queue for the toilet was always long, I got up early so that I could be ready to go on short notice. At 3.30AM, we were still waiting – but I wasn’t letting the time go to waste. I made tahajjud salaah, read Quran, prepared my bag, did some writing, made dua, and reflected on the momentous few hours that would await us later that day. It was the most important day of my life, because the upcoming wuqoof period – from Thuhr to sunset – would be the biggest appointment of my life, where my sole mission would be to make all the duas I needed and wanted to make…pour out my heart to my Lord, and beg for His complete forgiveness, and the acceptance of all my requests.

As mentioned earlier, I had written an extensive dua list back home – long before we left for Hajj. In the weeks leading up to Hajj, I’d made a few additions – but for the most part, everything I needed to ask for was already down on paper. So that morning on Mina, I waited: my duas pre-written, well-rehearsed, and ready to be made.

I wasn’t nervous, or excited, or anxious. I was just waiting, hoping, and making dua that I would be in top physical, mental, and spiritual condition, and able to make all the duas I needed to make.

Getting there

The busses came just before Fajr, and many in our group waited in the line and boarded – despite the fact that they’d miss Fajr (unless they read on the bus, or somehow made it to Arafah before sunrise – which was unlikely). My wife and I thought there’d be enough time to make our Fajr, though, so we did that – enabling us to follow the Prophet s.a.w.’s example of making Fajr on Mina before leaving. We followed the sunnah, but it came at a cost: we got no seats on the bus and had to stand.

My wife soon squashed in with her cousin, but I was stuck standing. It was a horrible ride for me because I was highly nauseous for most of the drive. I alternated between squatting, sitting and standing – while keeping a vomit bag with me in case I needed it. In some ways, it reminded me of childhood – where I’d often get carsick. One of the tips I’d learnt back then was to face backwards, and I followed that advice to good effect on this ride.

We eventually got to Arafah, and were directed to our camp. The layout was somewhat similar to Mina, with tents all around and pathways between them. However, these tents had no mattresses and no airconditioning – just empty red carpets where each of us found a spot to settle down (again).

An eventful morning

After a little while, I settled down for a nap and managed to sleep for about 90 minutes – which would be a priceless rest considering what would follow that day and night. One of my biggest fears for the Hajj, and Arafah especially, was that I’d have a ‘personal disaster’ that would force me to use the not-very-appealing showers (I’m trying to be discreet here ;). Alhamdullilah, my nap went off without a hitch – unlike this brother, who wasn’t so fortunate.

I didn’t totally escape misfortune, though. At one point that morning, I went off to the toilet and after I was done, the door wouldn’t open. It was jammed quite hard, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t pull it open. So there I was, on the greatest day of my life, stuck inside a stinky toilet cubicle just hours away from wuqoof time. But Allah put calmness in my heart, so I didn’t panic. I made dua for a solution, and I knew someone would save me. Soon after, I was freed (and also made a mental note to avoid that stall for the rest of the day :)).

Later, as I sat in the tent, my fellow hujaaj were engaged in ibadah all around me: salaah, Quran recitation, dhikr, and reading beneficial books. I, on the other hand, just didn’t have the inclination to pack in any more of those activities. I was ready for wuqoof, and felt I needed a mental break – to just stop, relax, and observe what was going on. Generally, I spend my life either being busy or trying to fill the time – fearing I’ll waste it otherwise. But there’s so much benefit in just being still, and I decided this was a practice I wanted to inculcate more from that point on.

Awaiting wuqoof in the tent on the morning of Arafah

Awaiting wuqoof on the morning of Arafah

Another highlight that morning was the experience of equality. In both my tent and the one next door, there were numerous people who were prominent in the community back home (and some internationally too) – ‘celebrities’, if you can call them that. And although they’re held in such high esteem, they were all dressed exactly like me: no special clothing, no special treatment. All in their bare, basic ihraams. It drove home the realisation that ‘celebrity’ is really just a construction of the mind. Strip away all the awe and reverence, titles and acclaim, and we’re all the same: human beings – all equal before Allah. The only ranking is taqwa; and nobody knows the true taqwa of each person, other than Allah.

Related lessons:

  • There will be times when you’re waiting for transport, your group, etc. Don’t waste this time in idle chit chat or other non-beneficial activities. Use it for dua, Quran recitation, or anything else productive.
  • If you haven’t already prepared your dua list by the time you get to Mina, make sure you do it in that first day on Mina (while still getting enough rest that night).
  • Logistical issues can be a nightmare on Hajj, to the point where some travel times may even deprive you of making fardh salaah on time. Try your best NOT to miss a salaah, even if it means you’ll be a little inconvenienced.
  • If you get carsick during the bus rides, try facing backwards. Also, always keep a sick bag with you in case you need to vomit. (Keep the ones from your plane rides.)
  • Get your rest in the morning when you’re waiting for wuqoof to begin. Aside from physical rest, also get some mental rest: don’t force yourself to make constant ibadah and don’t keep your mind constantly occupied; but rather give your mind a break to simply ‘breathe’ and relax.
  • Before wuqoof (and even during it), enjoy the atmosphere on Arafah and savour all the beautiful thoughts and realisations that come to you. Keep pen and paper handy (or electronic versions if you prefer) and don’t be afraid to write down your thoughts and feelings.

Coming up next, insha-Allah: Wuqoof on Arafah

Image sources: Opening picture from here; tent picture by Dr Z. Parker (both taken on Hajj 2011)

Posted in Hajj Chronicles | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 75 other followers

%d bloggers like this: