Around three years ago, my beloved husband passed away. With him departed his promises of performing Hajj together. We had performed Umrah together and I hadn’t thought much about Hajj, but when he left, the thought struck me – my mehram was gone.
However last year when I was least expecting it, my maternal uncle offered that my sister and I go for Hajj with him. We jumped at the opportunity. I had led a normal life for the most part, but had just recently gotten close to the divine mission. I had started praying and found the kind of solace in prayer that my relatives’ condolences and support didn’t fulfil.
We were to go for Hajj in a group of twenty five. The organisation that was arranging for these groups said that all slots had already been filled and I lost hope. However, Allah (SWT) was especially kind my sister and I, and even though all slots were taken, the organisation made an exception for us. In their 33 years of making arrangements for Hajj, they had never added extra people in these groups. Had it not been for this miracle, I don’t think I would ever have gotten a chance to visit the house of God. On November 9, 2011, we flew for Hajj.
I have travelled to many countries in my life but this journey was one of a kind. I had seen the Ka’aba on television many times and wondered what it would be like to be some feet close to it and perform tawaaf around it. It worried me a little because I am diabetic and my feet and shins hurt terribly when I walk too much. I also get near-death feverish when I’m exhausted. I wondered if I would be able to fulfil my obligation the way I wished.
Hajj is very different from Umrah in more than just the ritualistic ways. There is a lot of elbowing and nudging during Hajj, and honestly, you don’t get the calmness of contemplating in silence, like you do with Umrah.
We stayed at Mina and our journey to Arafat and Muzdalfa was on foot. We opted to walk the way through because we knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance and we wanted to avail its full potential.
We began walking at Maghrib and reached at Fajr. We were carrying our entire luggage and it was difficult; we even had to sleep on the road a couple of times. It was a more peaceful sleep than I have slept in ages. During our rest breaks, I would see people in their seventies, walking on their old feeble legs with their backs hunched. This motivated me and I’d get up and get going again.
On our way, strangers offered us snacks and drinks. They weren’t workers but people like us, who had travelled from far-off lands. Language barriers didn’t stop us from communicating and no one thought twice when it came to helping others.
When we reached Arafat, all of us began to weep and plead to Allah (SWT). It was a congregation of Muslims from world over, all asking the Lord to forgive them. My dupatta was soaked in tears and my hands rose up in prayer. I naturally thought of my husband and almost everyone I have known and prayed for them individually.
I was beginning to realise how little worldly things begin to matter in life. Everything seemed insignificant. When I saw the Ka’aba, my eyes welled up with tears. You only realise your true insignificance when you are in front of the Ka’aba and you fall in prostration when you realise how much He has given to someone as common and unimportant as yourself. He is the Only Friend you have, who despite all your mistakes, forgives and embraces you. He is your Best Friend.
No one was thinking about anyone else, but talking to the Lord. They were in a magnanimous crowd physically, but busy conversing with their Lord as if Allah (SWT) was the only Being there apart from themselves.
One Pathan woman sat reciting something on a rosary. Upon asking her, she told that she was reciting “Bismillah”. I asked,
“Why not something else, like the Kalimah?”
To my surprise, she had never learned the Kalimah. I sat with the woman and her son and taught them the first Kalimah. She wept in gratitude and thanked me by sharing her food with me.
On my way back, I had blisters on my soles. I was also 41 degrees Celsius and I felt like I was going to faint. Inside my mind, I wished I would.
Could there be a better way to die, than at the foot of Allah’s (SWT) house?
I survived. I was glad that I did, because there was so much I was yet to do before I faced Allah (SWT). We dodged death a few times and my sister was almost trampled to death, too.
I found that my journey on foot was the essence of Hajj. It taught me more things that I can mention here.
For everyone performing Hajj, or planning to perform Hajj, I have some advice to sum it all up:
Kissing Hajr-e-Aswad is not obligatory. People don’t know how to behave and you could be squeezed to death attempting to touch the Hajr-e-Aswad. If you are a woman, I suggest that you don’t go near it during Hajj.
During Rami (stoning the Satan), I saw people actually swearing at the symbolic devil and even throwing shoes and soda cans at it. This is just a ritual in the remembrance of something. You only have to throw pebbles at it. Remember, it is the devil inside you that you must slay. You don’t have to break this stone figure.