Category Archives: Al-Masjid Al-Haram

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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Day 21 – Rearranging Truth

Every hardship comes with an ease, subhanAllah

11/11/11

The theme Surah for this Hajj has been Ash-Sharh, through & through. Every hardship comes with an ease, subhanAllah. It’s also a bit of a relief to find that each soul is only tested with what it can handle. Some people bear such heavy burdens, Allah has also given them broad shoulders, mA. I’m not saying this because I’m in a test now, I’m actually very much at ease, but I do want to preserve these reflections iA. Others around me are starting to face severe tests in trying to travel back home, so something big may come for us too. We’ll see iA.

Translation of Surah Ash-Sharh, #94:

1. Have We not opened your breast for you (O Muhammad)?
2. And removed from you your burden,
3. Which weighed down your back?
4. And raised high your fame?
5. So verily, with the hardship, there is relief,
6. Verily, with the hardship, there is relief.
7. So when you have finished (from your occupation), then stand up for Allah’s worship.
8. And to your Lord (Alone) turn (all your intentions and hopes and) your invocations.

The nature of these tests is so interesting. If you think about it, what is it that’s being tested? It’s whether or not you remember and turn to Allah. That’s it. It’s not a test of whether you overcome obstacles- often you’re in situations you have no power to overcome. That’s not even the point. All you have to do is remember Allah and remain patient. He then supports you, when the time is right, with His Signs and Divine Support and pulls you out of the situations He puts you in. He may show you an open door when you turn to Him and that’ll be your way out. Maybe, the test will be more severe and so the Signs and Support won’t come right away- in those cases, how long will you turn to Allah, especially when there’s silence? How long will you continue to put your faith there? That is part of the test as well. The test is not about winning and succeeding on your own merit. Sometimes, the only way to win is to lose miserably. Success is only in achieving nearness to Him, Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. Turn to Him, you pass, every time. For as long as the test lasts, stay turned towards Him, you pass. Turn away, try to rely on your own abilities, try to show pride and arrogance, you fail- or, the test will stay and endure while your efforts fail, one by one, in hopes that you see your own errors and finally turn to Him. Pass. Or, maybe He’ll allow the test to subside after you’ve made an effort without turning to him, allowing you to believe in your own self, that’s the worst failure by far. It looks like success, but just sets you up for a very, very rude awakening later on when He stops letting you just get by. All success is through Allah alone. Just turn to Him, khallas.

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The Qur’an is a major key, so is Salah. They’re tools that will help me retain this state and improve on it once I return, I know it. How exactly to employ them, I’m not 100% sure yet. Hopefully, I can gain some further insight before I head back tomorrow. Ya Rab, please help guide me in this effort.

I need to look into this further and do more thinking, learning, reflecting around this subject iA. Hearing the imam recite Surah Ta-Ha in ‘Isha and knowing some of the background behind the Surah did things to my heart. After Hajj, I’ve also had more of a strong desire to read and recite Qur’an, so I’ll randomly bust out into recitation and totally love it :). Salah, which uses Qur’an to communicate, is also somehow vital. I’m realizing more and more that there’s an art to it, and I totally want to master it. There’s way more depth to it, much greater than the mindless recitation and empty movements we’ve unfortunately degraded it to. Ya Rabb, Master of All creation, make me a master of salah, benefit me with this most generous bounty, Ameen.

I’ve also been contemplating our time, compared with the Prophet’s. So many of our problems are the same, yet we have to adapt our approach, change/tweak our solutions, to make them more applicable. For example- Qur’an is such a great source of guidance, but so many of us just don’t speak Arabic, even as Muslims. So not only should we learn it to understand better, of course, but we have to consider how we intend to spread the message to those unfamiliar- while presenting it as something native, like the Prophet did. The message, logistically, was always local and organic, very much a Meccan phenomena. Such is the wisdom of Allah- presenting things that are difficult to grasp through comfortable channels of access at least. We have to do the same thing when we present the message- not as an Arab thing, but a natural, relevant, localized thing, that’s the real key.

There’s also the case of the inevitable connection with the Arab/Muslim world, the so-called “3rd World” in general. In the West, having to connect to a body that lives in such a state would be seen as regression, not progression. It would be perceived as moving backwards, not forwards. So, our role can be twofold: to present the message in a way that makes it relevant for the people being addressed and to try uplifting and improving the developing world, most especially the Hold Lands, to more modern standards and quality of living. This should benefit all, while keeping touch with the essence of the message of Islam. Ya Allah, please guide us to accomplish these ambitious ends. Please use us to do Your work and guide and bless our efforts at each step. You have blessed us greatly, please help us to show thanks for these blessings and to find ways to spread them throughout Your Dominion on this Earth.

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Day 21 – Fading Bliss

“The little worldly things are starting to settle back into the mind

11/11/11

Right. So my dad is really sick. He’s got a fever and a really sore throat. He’s havin a really tough time right now. We just got back to Aziziah. We went to the Haram to pray Jumu’ah. It was crazy packed. Like…stupid crazy packed. My dad really wanted to go do our tawaf al-wada’ today, the farewell tawaf. My mom & I were like, “um…you know it’s gonna be super busy on Friday, right?” He persisted, so we went. After seeing the rush firsthand, he decided he needed to get out. We grabbed a cab and came back, it’s like 2:45 pm right now.

Man-Made Sea

The jumu’ah was led by Sudais. You could tell it was him by his voice. I guess he only comes out on special occasions. I don’t see what the big deal is personally, I’m totally not a Sudais fan. I like most of the imams that lead prayer in the Haram though- even though I have no idea who they are. I wish there was a way to know who your imam was each time. Do they ever bring my man El-Afasy into the mix? He’s the only Qari I enjoy, mA. I know I prayed behind Shuraim as well, he’s good too. I don’t know who led the prayer yesterday, but it sounded familiar.

This morning was tough for me. I’ve totally returned back to my normal mental state. I barely prayed Fajr and was super tired. I had a hard time getting up to go out for jumu’ah. I’m really starting to miss home too. The comfort of being back in that familiar place is overriding my desire to be here slowly. If only there could be a masjid al-Haram in Washington D.C….maybe we could do like the Mormons & just make one up?

Yesterday was the first day, since being here, that I realized I haven’t driven in 3 weeks. I miss my car.  I don’t miss speeding tickets though. Crap! I should’ve made du’a for a clean driving record! See, the little worldly things are starting to settle back into the mind. Today, while sitting in the masjid, my mind started wandering to worldly problems I would have to deal with when I return. I had to be like, “blah! I’ll deal with that stuff when I get back, I need to focus, I’m still here- in the Masjid Al-Haram!” That’s just something I tend to do. I know I’m leaving soon, so I prepare myself mentally and act as if I’m already gone. So, whatever I miss is what I know to focus on before I actually leave. Even in doing that though, you have to disconnect with the current place and I don’t actually want to do that here.

I think I’ve had a hard time buying gifts and souvenirs for that reason. It’s a way of accepting that you’re leaving or that your time in this place is very limited. I bought some stuff, but I mostly just haven’t been motivated. All the stuff you find here is the same stuff everyone always brings back, you know everyone’s tired of it. Hopefully, the stuff I got won’t be too boring- I know I’ma end up leaving people out. Oh well, this was a spiritual journey, not a trip to the mall. I made du’a for most people I could think of. That’s far greater than a 2 riyal kufi and a cheap bottle of ‘itr, trust me.

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Just got our ZamZam to go, 10L each. We were assured by the shop-owners that they’re God-fearing and only use the real thing. Ok…if you say so.

I haven’t listened to music in a while, since I’ve been here actually. Sometimes, I miss the melodies, but my mind stays so much more clear. That’s so valuable. I actually have creative thoughts and insightful reflections, rather than blasting music and drowning out all brain activity. Too much of my time would get spent like that- putting off thinking and reflecting and just getting by in a mentally vegetated state. There needs to be a balance, I don’t want to cut it out altogether. This will be one of my challenges upon returning.

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It’s close to 6:30 pm, we just did some shopping and prayed Maghrib. I really need to learn how to count in Arabic, like at the very least, in addition to the other basic Arabic I need to learn. Counting to 100 is essential, shopping would be so much easier- so would haggling with cab drivers.

How cool would it be if organizations teamed up with the Hajj Ministry and worked on delivering aid, or providing education on health, hygiene, etc to Hajji’s, traveling to the Haram? I think that’d be a dope program and would reach millions of people each year- mostly new ones each time. It would also spread awareness about the organizations, in the heartland especially, and relieve some of the burden from the Saudi Ministry. Gives nonprofits a chance to do something right for alot of people, where there’s alot of room for complaint. Maybe something to help prevent people from getting sick too? Just a thought iA.

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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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Day 18 – Like Clockwork

I recognize that I have to get tested with everything I have that matters to me, to see if I turn to Allah with that threat of losing each thing.

11/8/11Hajj, Day 5

On the way to Sai’y, the adhan for Dhuhr went off. I was on a walkway that passes over Safa and Marwa, on my way to outside, to find a staircase to the roof. The walkway was maybe wide enough for 6 people to stand side by side. When the adhan goes off, people stop wherever they are, throughout the city, and form lines and pray right where they stand. I got stuck on the walkway,  tried going forward to get outside, but everyone in front had already formed their lines, there was no way I could turn back either. So, I stopped where I was too, and just formed a line with those next to me. Others behind me kept pushing through, even after the prayer had begun.

It was so packed, I started weeping in salah. I just had this thought like, “Look, this is what we do, we crunch ourselves into tiny spaces to worship you, Ya Allah. People push past us on their way out, carelessly shoving us while we pray, but we must bear it and continue. This is our nature, this is who we are – small, insignificant. You are truly Magnificent and Glorified. You tell us to come here, to complete these rituals, exactly the way You say and we do our best to follow. Please forgive me, please protect me, please benefit me by what I’ve done for your sake, for I have no power to benefit myself. I have no station by which I may protect my own soul. It is truly all in Your Hands. My existence is completely at your whim, just as I am now, physically, in sujjud (prostration), an inch away from those around me. My face is pressed into the same ground thousands of people, myself included, had just been walking along. Allahu Akbar.” In retrospect, I don’t think I’ve ever felt closer to Allah in prayer as I did then.

I went upstairs and ended up on the roof. The rush everywhere else was unbearable at this point, I was much more willing to brave the hot, midday desert sun and heat, on the uncovered roof, than pushes and shoves. First though, I needed to rest, desperately. I found some shade and sat down, then laid flat on my back. Reminded me of that yoga position, “open and ready to receive”. It felt amazing, like I was melting into the cool marble floor. After a while, I got up and wanted to write for a little bit, so I pulled out my journal…and was horrified. It was soaked. I was like, OMG NO! I went through the pages to see the damage. The edge of every page I had written on so far was soaked..with sweat..? I think I sweat through my bag and soaked the book? Or maybe it’s from being pressed against other people and getting their sweat on it? I’m not entirely sure. What’s amazing is that the pages I hadn’t gotten to yet were dry, subhanAllah. Only pages with writing were wet. That’s purely a test.

The words weren’t bleeding, the ink wasn’t running, which was very, very good. The pages were stuck together though. I didn’t want them to dry that way or they’d rip when peeled apart after drying and maybe mess up the letters and become illegible. I remembered suddenly that I had packed a small hand towel in my tote bag that I still hadn’t used, from the airplane. I actually yoinked it from the first class bathroom, after I snuck in when the lines were too long for the bathrooms in our economy section. Finally came in handy though ;). I put the towel on each page and pressed down with my pocket Qur’an to soak up the moisture. Took me a little over an hour to do each page, 90 in all. It was time-consuming, but it was working, the pages were dry enough that they didn’t stick. Alhamdilillah, I think it worked out, it’s still not entirely dry, at 4:30am, but it’s almost there, and the unused pages are totally unaffected, so I can continue to write without issue.

I would have been so devastated had I lost it, the collection of my thoughts and heart’s reflections and ponderings. Had to get tested though, I understand. I recognize that I have to get tested with everything I have that matters to me, to see if I turn to Allah with that threat of losing each thing. The only other thing I needed to get tested on, the only thing left, was my parents. Suddenly, when this thought crossed my mind during my Sai’y, I realized that I had totally left myself open to be tested there too! We had set such a shifty rendezvous place to meet at after we were all done with our rituals, what if I can’t find them! I went to the edge of the roof and looked over to our meeting spot, the bathroom in the courtyard outside of the masjid. There were like 100,000 people standing around our meeting spot. I had already taken an hour and a half break, what if they get there way before me and can’t find me and freak out and do something hasty?

Sure enough, the test came like clockwork :). I finished my Sai’y on the open roof, which wasn’t so bad, I did it in an hour. There were very few people up there, so there was no rush. It was also made more comfortable with the easy access to the cold ZamZam fountains all along the sides, which are normally jam-packed during Sai’y. I moistened the hand towel I had with cold ZamZam and covered my bald head with it to stay cool and to keep the sun out of my eyes. So glad I chose to do this instead of doing this indoors with everyone pushing and shoving and packed tightly together.

View of The Sacred House From The Roof, During Hajj

When I got down to our meeting spot, I walked through and around the entire area in search of my parents. Nothing. No cell phone either, and we had to take a taxi back still, we HAD to go together. Even though I suspected this would happen, I still had to deal with it somehow. I made du’a, and went around a second time. When I was inside, in the shade, I heard my mom call out to me. I saw her and was like, SubhanAllah, this is all Divine Support. Give in, remember Allah when you’re tested and He supports you. It’s real. My favorite thing about Hajj has been learning to trust Allah and how to seek His Help and Support. Hajj is like a crash course in dealing with hardships and tribulations. You need this now, not when you’re old, with one foot in the grave. Go as soon as you can, trust me.

My parents had just gotten there 2 minutes ago, so we basically got there around the same time. We tried to get food but couldn’t make up our minds about where to eat. Not having decent options made it difficult again. We ended up just grabbing ice cream and hopped on a bus to go to the Jamarat. It was 3pm. SubhanAllah, I was so amazed at our timing. I even took a break before doing Sai’y and we still ended up together at basically the same time.

The bus was packed, we had to stand the whole way. We were all so tired, my feet were blistering. We finished our ice cream on the bus and I was looking for some place to set down the empty cups. I placed them in an empty overhead compartment and they somehow fell over and spilled. My ice cream soup fell on the old Indian man sitting beneath the compartment, his seat and shirt got stained. I felt so bad! :/ He didn’t really say anything though, he actually even moved over and offered to let me share his seat with him. How sweet mA. I couldn’t do it though, the orange stains across the shoulder blades of his otherwise pure white shirt made me feel too bad. Another test. That was the first time I’d really done anything ‘harmful’ to someone here, and thankfully it was by mistake at least. I apologized to him and he made no fuss whatsoever.

The trip took an hour, the driver got stuck in so much traffic that he couldn’t take the bus any further. He told everyone that he refused to go on and made us all get off, a mile away from our destination. We got out and walked the distance to the Jamarat and did our Rami’ (stoning) and made our way back to the camp. We had to stop like 4 times on the walk back, we were all in so much pain. We even laid out our prayer rug and just sat down and chilled until Maghrib, outside of the Jamarat. For miles, everywhere you sit, the police come by and yell at you to get up and keep moving. You can’t even rest peacefully when you’re so exhausted and worn. Thankfully, since prayer time was close, they let us stay in our place until after prayer. Off in the distance, you can see the clock tower of the Haram, protruding into the sky. At times for prayer, the tip of the tower sparkles and glitters to show that the adhan is being made. We watched from miles away, until the lights stopped flickering, and then performed our Maghrib prayer. Immediately afterwards, the police officers returned and shooed us all away again, so we set back onto our journey back to Mina.

It took like an hour and a half to walk back, all through the refugee-lookin parts of Mina again. We got back in, that’s when I laid down and just knockedd outt! Now, it’s 5am, time for Fajr. I’m gonna pray and sleep for a bit. We’re gonna catch a bus to leave Mina at 4, so we have to go to the Jamarat one last time between 12-4pm iA. If we don’t leave before Maghrib, we have to stay here one more night and complete the stoning ritual one more day. I’ll continue with more later, good chat :)

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Day 18 – The Walls

There’s no way to fight it, the drop of water cannot move the ocean. You have no choice but to let yourself go

11/8/11Hajj, Day 5

When we started tawaf, I was like yo, let’s just go to the ground floor, but my parents weren’t feelin it. We split up and they eventually went back up and made tawaf in the gallery of the first floor, while I went in closer. It took me 3 rounds to get closer. Alhamdulillah, as painful and packed as it was, I managed to make it to the Ka’aba, with Allah’s Help of course. I touched the walls on different sides on my 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds. On my 4th round, I even got to hang on the door of the Ka’aba (al-Multazam) and make du’a, Alhamdulillah. I also got to go to the little half-circle (Hijr of Isma’il) and pray 2 rak’ahs! It was the first time I had done that, Alhamdulillah. That section used to be part of the original dimensions of the Ka’aba, so praying there is like praying inside the Ka’aba, according to the Prophet. It was a great little break from making tawaf, I was dying. I felt like I was gonna pass out, it was so physically draining and tiring today, more than any of my other tawafs have ever been.

On the ground floor, amidst the crowd, the temperature felt like it was no less than 110 degrees. Thousands of bodies are packed together so tight, and you literally have no control over where you go. If the mass sways, you sway, if the mass turns, you turn. There is no separation, only the congealed mob of bodies of Believers, crying out to the Lord of the Ka’aba.

It’s an incredible experience. Phenomenal. So many people, from all over the world, Chinese, Indonesian, Pakistani, Russian, Afghan, Egyptian, Iranian, Malian, Bengali, and more and more…all crying out passionately, weeping as they circumambulate The Sacred House out of complete devotion to The One. It’s so profound to see how touched everyone is, the universality of this experience is amazing. It’s also pretty dangerous, honestly, that many people fervently crammed together, all trying to move through the same space. Many times, I almost fell or would get caught with my body turned so awkwardly, unable to even stand straight from the lack of space. I would be twisted unnaturally and then have to continue to keep walking this way for many yards, while trying to keep my balance so I wouldn’t fall and get trampled. There’s no way to fight it, the drop of water cannot move the ocean. You have no choice but to let yourself go, to submit yourself to it, to the Will of Allah. He it is, who controls the waves. He creates openings you can jump through, don’t hesitate, just go. Jump through every open door, rush at every opportunity. That is how we’re meant to interact with Allah’s Bounties. Take advantage of them and He will show you why. Open yourself up to the openings and receive Him directly into your heart.

Pilgrims Embrace The Sacred House

Pilgrims Cling To The Ka'aba During Tawaf

I got to take some pictures and video at the walls of the Ka’aba. That was dope. I figured, this was a chance not many people have – to be at the foot of the Ka’aba during Hajj, surrounded by record-setting millions. I had to get some footage. My memory card was full though. Also, took some time  to find my camera in my bag, but i wasn’t going to give up. That was one thing I’m sorry for. I was on the wall of the Ka’ba, rummaging through my bag and then scanning through my camera to delete pictures and make space. But, I got some shots up close and some video of me getting to touch the Ka’aba. So dope, subhanAllah. I’m really thankful for it, it’s epic. Definitely gonna run those online when I get back iA.

Placing My Hands on the Ka’aba During Tawaf

You can see from this video how spaces open and close rapidly throughout the path. I wasn’t sure I was even going to get to it while I was recording, but I kept trying until there was a space that opened just for me :). I tried showing the mass of people present that day, from the center of it all. Excuse the shaky hands ;)

Ok, so, it was such a beautiful experience, but it was surrounded by difficulty, like gift-wrapping a Quattro’s cheeseburger in some barbed wire. For example, there’s trash all over the ground around the Ka’aba. You have to be so careful when you walk to not step on anything sharp, but…you can’t even see the ground! Everyone is that packed together. So, every step you take, for the duration of the 7 rounds, has to be delicate and careful. I was pretty much tip-toeing the whole time. I would get so much stuff on my feet, and I’d constantly be reaching down and trying to wipe them off as I was moving along. I came across so many safety pins, you don’t even understand. I would see them and dart down and pick them up real quick, so no one else would accidentally step on them and puncture their feet.

The worst part though, is how panicked people get. As they would be moving along, when it would get too intense, some people would really freak out. Don’t panic in the ocean, that’s how you get drownded. Trust me, I know from experience. I almost drownded before, good thing Amer  saved me :). You have to completely let yourself go, no fighting or freaking out. People cling so tightly to each other, looking for support with those they know, forgetting they are with Allah, the best of Caretakers. That’s when it gets ugly. That’s when they start getting divisive and start pushing, and others fight back, self-serving through self-action. The wave guides and provides, the droplet can do nothing for itself, save what the wave allows and facilitates. Be patient, you will be get yours when the time is right. Stick with the struggle until then, that is your role.

The Black Stone Scuffle

This video shows the scene surrounding The Black Stone, where many pilgrims push and shove to get close enough to kiss the stone, as the Prophet would do. There is a guard overseeing the corner where the stone is mounted, he’s the one that put his umbrella out in front of me when he saw me approach with my camera. You can’t actually see the stone, it’s entirely covered by the mob surrounding it. If you notice the man on the left, at the end of the video, wearing blue and leaning down, his face is where the stone sits. It’s the most intense and difficult spot to be in, throughout the entire Haram, nearly impossible to reach without putting up a serious fight. The closest I ever got, was touching the stone with my fingertips, by reaching desperately over the heads of dozens of other pilgrims.

The best technique for moving in and out is to tag along. People are going to link up and fight their way through, you dont even have to do anything physical, just follow. Space will usually stay open long enough for you to pass through if you stay close. As the train of pilgrims passes by you, just jump to the back of the line, and go along as far as you want. Keep looking for openings, keep moving. I imagine that’s how the Sirat Al-Mustaqim is, visually. At each step, the next best step is not always the one directly ahead of the last. Quite often, you’re better suited for reaching your destination by stepping side-to-side, slowing down, speeding up, taking a step back – it’s forever-shifting, never constant. With every step, you have to re-evaluate and strategize the next move, with the ultimate destination clearly in mind. You’re never set for life, along one track. Everyone must always face moments where they have to make decisions to change things up, this world is entirely temporal, and so must be our plans and paths.

Sounds like Sirat Al-Mustaqim to me. It’s so difficult to catch and even more difficult to stay on. You’re bound to fall off and slip, that’s why new openings are always emerging, if you miss one chance, stay alert, stay hungry, don’t settle. Don’t give up on trying to move forward out of frustration or loss of confidence. If you stop, let it be to sufficiently rest, then get up and move on. You’re not defeated or lost until you stop moving and looking for opportunities to grow. Eventually, you learn to recognize when you’re on the path, and you develop the knack for staying on. The quest for balance and the middle way :). No wonder it takes time, you have to fall off so many times before you learn how to keep your feet firm. You must look within and know which of your actions knocked you off track, and stop them before they occur again in the future. Finding that middle ground takes time and patience, but once you’re there, you have experience and expertise to keep yourself, and others, firm, on the right.

I realize I talk alot about tawaf, and talking about tawaf leads me to talking about so many other things. It’s literally one of the most inspiring and thought provoking rituals I’ve ever done, Alhamdulillah.

It took me 2 hours to do tawaf. I did 6 rounds inside, on the ground floor, and I was beyond exhausted. I started to make my way to the outer circles and completed my 7th round in the covered gallery of the 1st floor. That one round alone took me half an hour. It’s tight and uncomfortable, but it goes by much faster on the inside.

Afterwards, I wanted to do Sai’y upstairs, where there were less people. After getting so crushed and pushed around, I didn’t want to be near anymore people. It was so bad that as I was walking from one place to another, people would continuously bump into me or push through, against traffic, and I’d cower and curl up. I had to. Otherwise, I may have gotten crazy frustrated and snapped. I had to push all that way, way down deep inside and just take it.

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Day 18 – Post-Apocalypto

“Trust me, you get the hardships in regardless. A little A/C ain’t gon hurt, go for it, bro.

11/8/11Hajj, Day 5

Before I came for Hajj, I’d always be like, “Yeah, who cares about food?? It’s Hajj! I prolly won’t even eat, I’m all about roughin it out.” Pshhh. I would eat like crazy right now if I could. I end up not really eating much, cuz food here sucks. I miss American food. I’ve been craving a burger from Quattro’s for like 2 weeks. That’s gonna be my first meal once I get back to work and go out for lunch, iA. Already looking forward to it. Literally, every time I’m hungry, it’s like, “crap…what am I gonna do?” I get confused, there’s so little that’s worthwhile, or there’s just 200,000 people at one Al-Baik, trying to get some chicken nuggets. Saw that today too, such a crazy scene, right outside the Jamarat. They had barricades and floodlights out in front of the restaurant for crowd control. There were 2 guys in their fast food uniforms: white shirts with matching maroon pants & visors, and breathing masks. They were standing on top of the barricades, yelling out into the mob to keep order. Spotlights were shining down on them from above, the big, bright, neon restaurant sign lit in the background. That place is crack. It was the most epic I’ve ever seen a fast food place become. People act like they’re in a post-apocalyptic world and it’s the only place left where you can get a piece of chicken.

Parts of this camp look pretty post-apocalyptic actually. The trash…and the smell, good Lord. Rancid, just disgusting. There will be piles and piles of trash, sitting in water, with food rotting in it, and people sleeping no more than 2 feet away. It’ll also be just like that, right next to the entrance of the bathrooms. Just foul, subhanAllah. No human beings should live like that. It’s the 3rd World camp sections that are like that, it’s like they managed to completely recreate their home environments in…damn, only 2 days! I swear, when you walk through the Indo-Pak section, it straight up looks/feels/smells like Pakistan, and not in a good way. More so, in the way that you block out of your mind, and get rudely reminded of only after arriving again to visit the motherland after 7 years of being away, in real civilization – with actual sanitary laws. Too late, you just landed. Enjoy your summer. Don’t get Hepatitis. Or do…who’s really counting anyways? Hepatitis is prolly their equivalent of sugar, water, purple.

Right. So, yeah, food is tough. Conditions overall are still rough, I don’t care how much you pay and think you’re getting luxurious accommodations. You’re on Hajj? Allah finds ways to make this trip…memorable for you.

Before Hajj, I was also like, “Yeah, I’m gonna walk everywhere, screw buses!” That was before I got here. Now, I’m like, “I don’t give a *bleep*, we need to be on a bus, with A/C! I don’t care how much time it takes.” Everything else is tiring enough, trust me, you get the hardships in regardless. A little A/C ain’t gon hurt, go for it, bro.

So, we got to the Haram around 10am. We proceeded to make tawaf. It’s the biggest I’ve ever seen the crowd there, definitely the toughest tawaf I’ve had so far, but also the most rewarding :)

I also found out from my mom what happened to the group 2 days ago, when my parents and I separated from them and went back to Mina, while they went ahead to the Haram. Apparently, they got stuck in traffic on their bus for 4 hours! When they finally got to the Haram…the doors were closed! There were, apparently, so many people there, they had to close off the entire masjid, subhanAllah. It would’ve been a waste of a trip there, had we actually gone. My dad told me that the group turned around to come back, and jumped in a cab, paid 50 riyals each, and the driver went about a mile and got stuck in traffic. Instead of just letting them out there, he turned around, took them back to the Haram, and let them out, and kept the fare. Ridiculous. I think, by the time they finally walked back, it was around Fajr. They had to walk the 5 miles back to Mina from the Haram. 12 hours to travel such a short distance, money wasted and nothing accomplished. That must’ve suckedd! Alhamdulillah wa Shukr, Allah saved us from a really severe test, so thankful for that. Also, so happy I experienced that connection :) Like, in my heart that day, I felt like going there was the last thing I really wanted. I sincerely just wanted to get back and rest. Allah inspires the hearts to guide as He wills, subhanAllah. I pray I continue to receive guidance towards what is good and easy.

I saw a dude at Arafah from Gambia, met him as were were leaving. He was jacked! Djimon Hounsou status, and spoke legit English. He kinda looked like Dr. Sulayman Nyang, on steroids (he’s the only other Gambian person I know of). He said his daughter, who lives in Maryland, surprised him and his wife by buying Hajj packages for them. That’s awesome mA. He was so happy and seemed so proud of her and thankful. Lesson being: those that want to do that for their parents, should, they’ll appreciate it.

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