Monthly Archives: September 2013

Day 23 – A Proper Sendoff

“Home. Feels as foreign as Jeddah did 3 weeks ago.”

11/13/11

Our journey, it seems, is never complete without some wholesome, hearty tests of patience. It’s 3:30 am. Our flight back to DC is at 8:25 am, in Jeddah, which is an hour and a half from Mecca. We’re still in Aziziah. We’ve been waiting for hours on the front stoop of our building, with no sign of our bus to take us to the airport. This whole day has been one long waiting game. The anticipation has been killer. The patience here is almost entirely run out, I feel like people in our group are on the verge of snapping. Some people – men and women – have actually broken down into tears out of anxiety about potentially missing their flights. I’m totally calm myself, accepting of the real fact that we may very well miss our flight. Our trip organizer is basically BSing us, saying the bus is coming. But, we’ve been hearing this for over 2 hours. I’ve winded down over the past 2 days. I’m ready to go, but there’s just nothing to do but let the mind wander. This is a test though, like all the others we overcame these past 3 weeks. Who knows what we’re meant to do? I’m going to continue sitting here and waiting patiently for My Host to reveal His Plan to return us home. Or, if we are meant to stay, we must accept our fate. Allah is the best of planners. La ilaaha illa hu.

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We waited from 1 am until 4 am, when our bus finally showed up. We actually stopped a large cargo truck that was passing by before our bus came, and decided to start packing the whole group’s luggage into it to save time in loading our bus, in anticipation of there not being enough space on our bus to hold all of our bags. The wait for the bus and the drive to the airport were both very nerve-wracking. Alot of people just couldn’t take it, the fear of missing the flight was too much. We’ve always been told to arrive at the airport here at least 12 hours early, to even have a chance of getting through to flights on time. Our bus arrived at the airport in Jeddah at 6 am. Our flight was scheduled for 8:25 am. SubhanAllah, by 6:40, we were all done checking in and just went straight onto the plane. We got there and the clerks were like hey! we’ve been expecting you guys. It was so smooth it’s not even funny. Allah is indeed the best of planners, that’s real. We had one final scare when even this bus driver didn’t know how to get to the airport. I mean, really? How all yall drive buses and don’t even know how to get to the major airport? That was it for some people. Luckily, the truck driver we hired to carry our luggage had our group leader with him, so he called us to guide our lost driver. Did I mention I unloaded this truck full of luggage single-handedly? 36 people, close to 70 pieces of luggage, all by myself ,with not so much as a thank you or look of acknowledgement. Alrighty then. That’s not why I did it, but just surprised at how quickly we forget patience and how seriously committed we are to self-service. I’m no exception. Truly blessed is he who, on that Day, will call out for his Ummah, while all will cry out only for themselves. May Allah guide us and bless us to be amongst those closest to Al Mustafa.

I’m on the plane now. I just set my watch to D.C. time :), we have about 10 hours left. I just watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes – pretty dope, 4 stars. Gonna keep watching these flicks till we show up, just killing time now. Alhamdulillah fil kulli hal. Allahu Akbar!

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2 hours left til landing. Everything’s nice and smooth Alhamdulillah. Also watched Super 8 – 3.5 stars, and Henry’s Crime – 4 stars. Started watching Green Lantern, but it sucked so I stopped after half an hour. I wanna also watch The Help, Wrecked, Smurfs, The Beaver, and Source Code. Thank God for in-flight entertainment.

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Home. Feels as foreign as Jeddah did 3 weeks ago. Within 5 minutes, I knew I was back though. We arrived at 1:20 pm. We got through immigration by 2:10 pm and were outside with our bags by 2:40 pm, Alhamdulillah. We waited in line for a while at Customs. Hold up. Let me say that again. We waited. In Line…like…civilized Human beings. It was so simple, but so relieving. I kept fighting the urge to push through and shove my way to the front. It had become second-nature over the past 3 weeks to behave this way, just as a matter of survival. Ironically, many of the people that you would tussle with in crowds to get somewhere were standing calmly and peacefully in the same line as you. Suddenly, we all have etiquette again. Way to go, America.

I was also thrilled to see Latinos! I haven’t seen a Latino in 3 weeks! White people too. You don’t understand how good it felt to be around some European diversity again. Sure, they stare at you funny, something I also miss ;), but at least they behave! mA.

The sight of that flag too, Allahu Akbar. Never have I really felt a sincere appreciation like this for this country. We truly are blessed to live here. Allah blessed mankind with something uniquely magnificent with this nation. What a great opportunity, what a blessing to be here. I was happy to see officials that speak English too! Shooo, question me all you want, I’m home papa, that’s all that matters. Alhamdulillah, no problems though, got right through.

My uncle and aunt picked us up, we’re riding back now from Dulles Airport, almost home. It’s about 20 more mins. My parents are going on about all the problems they faced – complaining so much. I’m like yo – can we mention some good things too. Khair, iA. Hajji’s don’t always realize the affect their stories have on others, and the appalling things tend to stick out more.

If you ever go for Hajj, try to share the good experiences you had too. The next stage is adjusting, conveying those messages and stories – finding focus in life, learning from the experiences, and sharing them with others. Alhamdulillah wa Shukr. Ya Rabb, please continue to help me through and to keep focus. Thank you for bringing us back safely. Now begins the real journey.

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Day 22 – Myself Again

“3 Weeks can change everything”

11/12/11

Finished our tawaf al-wada’ last night, at 4 am. It went pretty smooth, no real issues. Alhamdulillah, Allah made it easy. We got to the Haram around 2 am, found a taxi right outside the house. Found one to come back just as easily, from beside the Library of Mecca, aka the Birthplace of the Prophet, right across from Marwa.

My mom wanted to get close to the Ka’aba, so I took her in during tawaf. By our second round, we were only 2-3 rows away from the walls, but it started getting very cramped and hot and reckless, just like it normally does that close. She freaked. My dad panicked. They immediately wanted to get out. My mom said it was the closest she’d ever been and was happy to see the door of the Ka’aba from that close, but was thankful to be out of the intensity. She claims she got so squished that her feet actually came up off the ground, and she was being carried by the crowd. I was there, I don’t remember it being that way. I still think she could’ve made it all the way, but she honestly just got really scared of how dangerous it was and panicked.

My dad started yelling at me, he got straight scared and grabbed my mom and started shoving people to make his way out. I was like yo, I just brought ya’ll this far for mom, not cuz I wanted to be all up in this, I already did all this. That’s when things get ugly of course, when you panic and freak out. There was such a contrast between them and me. I was fairly relaxed, going with the flow, and they were super tense, afraid they were going to die. My mom heard about two ladies that died there a few days earlier, they got crushed in tawaf. That thought scared her, even though I had her shielded.

It was definitely a different experience to do tawaf with my parents, not as exciting, but more calm once we got out and did it where there was more space. I wonder if my dad has no peace in his heart and that’s why he couldn’t let go and be at ease in the tawaf. Maybe, he was just super protective about my mom and didn’t trust me to look after her. He also yelled at some people doing group call & response du’as during tawaf haha! He was like, “Shut up! You’re disturbing the people!!” Me and my mom were like, wow…really? Just chill outttt. The look on his face was pure horror, right when he started pushing his way out. I think my mom could’ve been convinced to go further, but my dad’s panic escalated it. I just didn’t want her feeling like she missed out on anything. She said she was happy now, so Alhamdulillah.

I’ve been so exhausted since coming back to Aziziah. I actually missed Fajr cuz I knocked out. Seems things are returning to normal, even in ways I had hoped they wouldn’t. It’s almost 10am, I’m still in bed. People have been doing their packing and prep work for the return trip. We head to the airport tonight iA.

It was sad saying goodbye to Mecca last night. I looked upon the Ka’aba as if I may never see it again. I pray that isn’t the case iA. I’m glad to be going home though. I miss America and…civilization. And my mom’s cooking! :) I told her that yesterday, she was like, “pshhh, you don’t eat my cooking anyways!” I’m like, “yo! whatevs! I totes be crushin that joint…whenever you *actually* cook, that is.”

Real life is coming back, vacations almost over. I’m supposed to go back to work on Monday, let’s see how that goes, I know it won’t be a problem if I need to take off a few more days – perks of working for an Islamic organization ;)

My head has been shedding like crazy though! It’s kinda gross. I got crucial sunburn last week on my bald head and now it’s peeling. Hopefully, it clears up before people see me, or that’d just be unsightly. I also haven’t touched my beard since leaving home, super scruffy status. Haven’t cared much about my appearance here, it’s all a buncha old people and niqabi’s really. Not really my style :P. Soon as I get back, I’ma clean up nice though, freshen up all that. How funny would it be though if I stayed this way? Thobe, sandals, beard, kufi – I look straight Salafi actually. I should go back and be like hey, I’m Salafi now, I just went to Mecca bahaha! Here, it’s normal to dress like this, it makes sense and it’s more comfortable. There, there’s no point in it, I never wore a thobe til I got here actually, never had a real reason to. It really is just a Salafi costume there – trying to overly embody the outward of something without grasping the wisdom that’s underlying.

It’s past 10 now, I should get up and get ready to start the day, get everything packed up to go. It’s truly been an eventful adventure, a very memorable trip for sure, Alhamdulillah :).

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I was just reflecting on my first time in ihram a few weeks ago and at my complete loss of identity while in that state. It’s part of the magic of this place, in contrast with other “vacation” spots. Those places disconnect you from the world to help you get more in touch with yourself. This place disconnects you from the world and from your own self to connect you with Allah SWT. It is its own microcosm of the Universe. You live lifetimes here in just a few days. Allah progresses the mind and expands your experiences, giving you a full stock of inventory to call upon for the rest of your life.

3 weeks can change everything. Even if nothing changes, it shows change needs to happen, everything still changes. No change is dangerous in this case. Lives need reform after a journey like this. Hearts need protection, the soul needs a shield. Ya Rabb, please protect my heart, please guard and nurture it…

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