Tag Archives: sunset

Day 20 – An Unwitting Descent

I have a feeling it’s going to be even more difficult from here. What follows is real life.”

11/10/11

Long day. Productive though, not hard at all, Alhamdulillah. I’m back in Aziziah now, it’s about 10pm. Gettin ready to knock out soon iA.

It took me about 40 mins to climb back down the mountain. I felt so boss afterwards, like I accomplished something significant. I need to do things like this more often. Though it wasn’t a complete retreat, I got a little taste and saw benefit. I’d love to try a bit more :)

I caught a packed taxi to the Haram. Only 10 riyals, and I got to sit in a complete stranger’s lap. Win-win, I say. On the way, coming in from the North, I saw Masjid Al-Jinn, and a few other places I recognized from the book I was reading. Interestingly, Masjid Al-Jinn was established in the place where the Prophet met a group of Jinn, outside the city, to teach them about the Message. This place is now 2 blocks away from the Masjid Al-Haram. That’s how much the masjid has expanded since then. It was cool to be able to pick stuff like that out. Masjid Al-Jinn itself actually seems pretty ordinary, with a little retro-futuristic design on the minaret. Otherwise, looked like any other neighborhood mosque. Maybe I can check it out inside at some point and get a better look iA.

Masjid Al-Jinn

I got to the Haram just in time for ‘Asr and prayed in the street. Afterwards, I went up to the roof of the Massa’, the distance between Safa & Marwa, and took an awesome nap, next to a group of West African brothers. I slept for like an hour in the shade, with the cool breeze blowing. I got my fill of ZamZam too, Alhamdulillah. Started to feel so refreshed. It’s been a good day, all in all. I did a lot on my own, went around and saw things I had been meaning to see. Glad I got all that done, Alhamdulillah. I’m basically ready to leave, at least mentally. After Maghrib in the mosque, it settled on me that I’d be leaving soon, and I got so sad. I miss home and my loved ones there, but this place has reached such a special place in my heart – comparable to none. I felt like a void was filled partially in coming here and experiencing this place.

It seems like the tests have…stopped. The burden is lifted, but the connection also seems to have faded. I felt so much more in tune with my Lord while I was on Hajj, being tested by Him. Hardship truly does bring one closer to Allah, that reason alone makes it an immense blessing.

Engulfed

The Sun Setting on Mecca

My life actually feels normal again. I feel like I’ve always felt. Not sure I like it, how do I get back the bliss and the insight from The Most Near? For that feeling, I would try to come for Hajj again and again, subhanAllah. Here is a virtue that has its place in the world. I didn’t even realize the blessing I had, and now that it’s passed, I feel its absence sorely. I’m going to have to continuously look out for other ways to draw near. I have a feeling it’s going to be even more difficult from here. What follows is real life. Hajj is so much of a vacuum, a controlled environment, chaotic as it was. Here, the test and the ease come hand in hand. In real life, it takes time to pass from one to another. Decades pass before resolutions can be conceived. Those are real tests, they require real patience, subhanAllah. Ya Rabb, please continue to guide me and show me how best to proceed from here.

After ‘Isha, I left the Haram and walked towards ‘Aziziah. I walked for about 40 mins, also saw the birthplace of the Prophet, which the Saudi’s have turned into a library. I also saw the mountain pass the Muslims were exiled to during the boycott years. Everything’s right there, North of the Marwa side of the Masjid Al-Haram.

I missed the line of cabs outside of the Haram. I kept passing up guys offering rides because they were charging way too much. Before I knew it, I had walked well beyond the limits of the masjid and ended up in some dark back alleyways. It’s my own fault really, for always ending up in these situations. I thought I was heading in the right direction, I tried using the enormous clock tower as my guide. My navigation skills were terrible. I only ended up further and further into some slummy looking neighborhoods. The interesting thing is that they were all Hajji housing and hotels still, they were just really shady looking. Everyone there was Indian, with their flags posted up everywhere. I had no incidents in Little Hajji India, Alhamdulillah, but I was trying so hard to not look lost or out of place. Eventually, going down the dark alleys, trying to find my way up to the main road, I hit a series of dead ends and decided to just backtrack to the masjid again, to regain my bearings.

I made my way back to the masjid and caught a cab, Alhamdulillah, after I passed through a tunnel that seemed about 2 miles long. It was the first time in my trip thus far that I was actually, genuinely afraid I might die. People were driving so reckless in the tunnel – making U-turns, reversing, speeding, driving the wrong way…all in a one-way tunnel-  and I realized…I was all alone…with barely any identification on me. If I died, I thought, would my parents ever even find out? That thought freaked me out and kind of made me paranoid. So, when I was finally able to find a cab driver, I was so thankful. The driver that picked me up was actually a young kid, probably no more than 15 years old, definitely not a real taxi driver. He was probably pushin his dad’s whip around to make some extra cash on a school night, but I didn’t care, I needed the ride. Alhamdulillah, he gave me a fair rate and brought me back to my place. He even picked up an Iranian couple along the way and had me translate to them how much money they owed. I speak neither Arabic nor Farsi, so I don’t know how that worked out. Straight gesticular. I later realized I was actually attempting to make a 5.5mi trip from the Haram to ‘Aziziah by foot, with no real idea of which direction to go in.

I’m settled in now, took a shower, freshened up, Alhamdulillah. I’m actually really hungry now though. I think I’m gonna step out and grab a bite down the street. There’s an awesome place across from us, they sell this amazing chicken Sajji from Balochistan. There’s also a really good Punjabi restaurant around the corner that makes fresh lentils and naan that we’ve been crushin on the regular. So convenient :). Then, I’ll head back in and pass out.

Tomorrow is Jummah. We’re planning to go to the Haram and pray there and do our Tawaf Al-Wida’, before coming back to ‘Aziziah. Saturday afternoon, we leave for Jeddah to catch our flight back home iA. The trip is winding down and finding its way to the end. Everything is calming down and collecting itself so smoothly and beautifully, Alhamdulillah. Allah is the Best of Planners.

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Filed under Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Aziziah, Mecca, Reflections

Day 10 – A Day in the Outskirts

“The way the burnt orange horizon flawlessly blends into the dark navy sky above is perfectly seamless…I was awestruck.”

10/31/11
I’m sitting here, contemplating the events I faced so far – with these random dudes being shady in Medina and the guy in Mecca. Such interesting stories, I can’t wait to share them with my friends. I’ve realized something - if someone is trying to talk to you, as an official especially, and doesn’t know Urdu or English, be very, very careful. All officials here, store owners too, know or speak Urdu & English – even if it’s broken & busted up, it’s still manageable. It’s similar to how most Americans can get by with a very broken and super basic level of Spanish.

I need to be quicker to react and more forceful as well. I’m way too passive, waiting for things to just happen in these situations. Ends up taking me so long to react…

I lost my train of thought – I’m sitting in my room & I can hear the men in our group yelling through the wall, from the room down the hall. The group leader is yelling at them & lecturing them about their behavior in the Haram I think, reminding them they’re on Hajj. This tends to happen quite regularly. I’m not really sure what’s going on, I deliberately keep myself out of their continuous squabbles. Whatever it is this time, it sounds heated. Got me all distracted.

Yesterday, we took a tour and saw some sites around the area. We visited Masjid Quba – which is the first masjid of Islam. When the Prophet arrive in Medina after making his Hijra (emigration) from Mecca, he was greeted at that spot. The Prophet used to visit this masjid every Saturday & pray 2 rak’ahs. He said if you travel to it and pray 2 rak’ahs as he did, you get the reward of one ‘Umrah.

Masjid Quba

Main Prayer Hall, Masjid Quba

We also visited Masjid Qiblatain. It was here, while the Prophet was praying with his Companions, during the 2nd rak’ah of Dhuhr, I believe, that the Angel Gabriel came to him. He told the Prophet to turn from the original direction of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and to face the Ka’aba in Mecca for salah (prayer). So, this masjid has two qibla (direction) markings – to the South for Mecca & to the North for Jerusalem.

Masjid Qiblatain

Facing Mecca

It’s interesting, in our Islamic Tradition, sites with historical significance get turned into masjids, not museums. They become places where you can pray & remember Allah, not just the events that took place there – which increases the barakah (blessing) of those places.

We also visited Mt. Uhud and the battleground where the war took place. It was really awesome to see first-hand, the place where the war stories took place, contextualizing them completely. We had a guide there give us the whole story, explaining what took place in each spot.

How It All Went Down

The Kuffar numbered 3,000 – against 700 Muslims. 300 more had initially joined the Muslims, but they were Munafiq (traitors) who turned back at the last minute. The strategy was to funnel the army of the Kuffar through the gap on the left, making it easier to attack and defeat them. Archers stood on the small mount and were tasked with keeping the right side protected to prevent the Muslim army from being flanked, which Khalid b. Waleed tried to do continuously throughout the battle. The Prophet instructed the archers not to leave their post no matter what, whether they were winning or losing. During the battle, the Kuffar started to run & the archers thought the war was over, so they ran down to collect the spoils. 40 out of the 50 archers left the mount, though their own commander told them not to move from their positions.

Khalid b. Waleed saw this opportunity and flanked the Muslims with his cavalry. The remaining archers were unable to defend the army and they lost the mount as well. Word also started spreading that the Prophet died, causing morale to drop – because someone who looked like the Prophet had been killed. Some of the Muslims found the Prophet still alive, a group of 9 Ansar (Helpers, locals from Medina) & 2 Muhajir (Immigrants, from Mecca), and they retreated up the mountain of Uhud. Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas was shooting his arrows from up the mountain & the Prophet gave him his own arrows to shoot, saying, “May my father and mother be sacrificed for you, O’ Sa’d, shoot!” It’s said this was the first and last time the Prophet ever uttered anything of this magnitude, greatly honoring his Companion during battle.

The Mountain of Uhud at Sunset

The Archers' Mount

The Muslims were cornered & outnumbered, having lost more than 70 Companions that day – including Hamzah, the Prophet’s uncle. They managed to retreat, having been taught a valuable lesson, to always adhere to the plan & orders of the Prophet. They were shown how giving in to personal desires and self-interests will jeopardize the situation for the entire army. Team-building exercise to the death, I suppose.

——————-

Just had breakfast, feeling a little gross now actually. Food just isn’t the same here. It’s especially nasty when they attempt to make it more Western. Ends up with really weird, mushy textures, with the spices just all off.

You know, last night, as the final leg of our tour, we visited a camel farm in the mountains. Surrounded by mountains actually. Right at sunset. It was such a beautiful sight, completely breathtaking. There’s something so special about a desert at sunset that just doesn’t compare to anything else. The colors of the sky are so much deeper & saturated, probably from the heat in the air. The way the burnt orange horizon flawlessly blends into the dark navy sky above is perfectly seamless. Reminds me of the verse from surah Al-Mulk, where Allah directs the eyes to the sky, challenging anyone to find any cracks or flaws in its construction. I was awestruck. There were no lines, no seams, no breaks – just perfect blending. SubhanAllah.

That Beautiful Desert Sky

We went to these camel farmers, our group was kind of obsessed with getting fresh camel milk for some reason. I watched these dudes milk the camels and walk out holding big metal bowls full of white, frothy milk. They just dipped a ladle into the 10 kilo container full of fresh milk, pulled out a potful, strained it once, and started sipping it. I definitely did not partake. I’m all about being adventurous, but apparently, if you’re not used to it (which I’m not) camel milk gives you diarrhea. No, thank you. Not on a trip like this. From what I hear, the taste is also a bit salty and the texture is thicker, almost yogurty. Sounds pretty good actually, almost like lassi, or dogh, or laban. Still not messin with it though.

I was so exhausted when we came back last night, I just prayed ‘Isha in Masjid Nabawi, came back to the room and knocked out around 8 or 9pm. I didn’t even have dinner in the catering hall where we’re being served breakfast & dinner daily. I went up, saw the food, saw the ridiculous line to get the food, then came back to the room. I had a granola bar and passed out.

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Filed under Medina, Reflections, Travel