Category Archives: Aziziah

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 19 – Brainstorming

“Mess with a man’s money and you’ll see what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

11/9/11

Shah Saab, the tableeqi Santa Claus, showed me how to open a bottle without a bottle opener today. Not drinking in college has left me handicapped in ways. My dad was like, go ask him to help you. I’m like, ”…are you serious? What’s he gonna do, throw a tasbih at it??” Dude did it, opened it on the latch of a door frame. Like a boss.

I implemented the newly discovered technique on my own later, when I cracked open a bottle of non-alcoholic pomegranate malt stuff. It just tasted like fizzly juice, but whatevs.

I was chillin for most of the day today, after I got back from McDonald’s. I was reading this book we got about Mecca’ history & milestones. It was cool, helped me to orient myself better to the larger history, based off what I saw. It confirmed my original theory that all of the original sites for things from the Prophet’s time have been wiped out. Seems like it happened way before the Saudi’s though. The masjid itself covers so much land that used to be the homes of Companions and old landmarks. In fact, what used to be the old city is actually now all encompassed by the Masjid Al-Haram and it’s surrounding courtyard, and they’re still continuing to expand it. In the decision between preservation and adaptation, they clearly chose adaptation. With a vengeance.

My dad’s been really sick since we got back to Aziziah, my mom too. I just have a little cough – I think my immune system’s been able to fend off most illnesses here, Alhamdulillah. Word up for never taking meds and letting your body deal on its own ;). I feel bad for them though. We only have 3 days left in our trip and they’re basically bed ridden now, at least they were all day today. We’ll see how they feel tomorrow, iA they’ll be better.

I wanted to write about a few things I made note of the other day. The first being this littering issue. This is horrible. There’s got to be some solution to this problem. Of course, in these parts of the world, law enforcement is always an issue, so what if a different approach is used? How about a litter eradication initiative – it could even be a program Islamic Relief does and receives funding for. What if people are provided free sanitary disposal kits that can store garbage and be disposed of in specific parts of cities. Wait, they have something similar already for toilet alternatives to prevent open field defecation, human waste kits like the Peepoo bags. They have chemicals inside these biodegradable bags that break down the waste and you can just toss them anywhere when you’re done. So perhaps that could be expanded to accommodate different types of trash? Another approach might be to support the development of improved infrastructure for waste management. You could buy garbage trucks and sell them to areas with waste accumulation issues for example. One of my high school teachers told me about a guy he knew that made his first million that way, sold a few garbage trucks somewhere in South America.

It’s something that needs serious attention, education would be good too. People’s habits would need to change. If there are stories in our Prophetic tradition about how Abu Lahab’s wife would throw her household garbage in the Prophet’s path when she’d see him walking past, and it’s regarded as something vile, then how is it people can litter, inside the Haram, while making tawaf?! Shouldn’t that be a clear sin? Maybe there should be some littering fatwas and some angry khutbahs on that topic throughout the world. Is there a fatwa press release network? That’d be useful. Like a pipeline for new juristic rulings, so everyone gets the memo. While we’re brainstorming some reformations, let’s throw in one of those too.

Alhamdulillah, my feet have gotten alot better. When my shoes were taken in Mina, I had to wear my backup flip-flops, which suck and gave me blisters. I switched up and bought some flip-flops similar to what I had, which saved me! Now I’m back to my New Balance kicks, can’t go wrong there.

Everyone’s been complaining so much these past few days about how much they’re getting ripped off. Especially taxi’s and buses – they’re charging like 10 times more than what they normally would to take people to and from the Haram. I was thinking, it’s interesting, and it makes sense why they would. They’re not going to see this much business for the rest of the year. They have to live off the income they make here for a very long time. It’s so similar to how the economy was for the Quraish, in the time of the Prophet. He was bringing a message which threatened to mess with the Pilgrimage, hence, messing with the money they’d make and live off for the whole year. Mess with a man’s money and you’ll see what you’ve gotten yourself into. For the most part, those opposing the Prophet weren’t against it entirely because of the religious implications, there were huge economic motivators too. Cash rules, nothing’s changed.

Seeing how people would fight to get their money now helps to wrap my mind around the image of the Quraish fighting the Prophet to keep him from stopping their cashflow. It’s a huge blessing from Allah that Hajj was preserved as a tradition in Islam, allowing Mecca to continue to flourish economically. Otherwise, who knows, Mecca could have collapsed. Sure, Saudi’s are paid now, after discovering oil in an industrial age, but even then, most of the people you interact with aren’t Saudi, they’re immigrants. People really do live off of the Pilgrims. The Haram is the economic engine that makes it possible for everyone to generate any income here. This land is blessed by Allah in many more ways than one.

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Day 19 – Recovery

“The city appears to be in recovery. The wheels and gears have begun churning to purify the streets back to their original state.” 

11/9/11

I just slept for 12 hours. I feel completely rested and restored Alhamdulillah. I got up at 9 am and started reading my journal. Everything seemed so distant, like it happened months ago, that’s how renewed I feel right now. The rest of my time here is probably going to be different, I can feel it.

It feels like this big burden has been lifted, but not a bad one. It made me feel closer to Allah, though it was intense and heavy. I think that was the Hajj connection. Now, it’s gone. I pray for there to still be a connection. Ya Allah, keep testing me, as I can handle, and keep me close, please. Do not let me slip back into the outskirts, further away from You. This has been an experience for me like none other.

When I was reading my words this time, it felt like I was learning everything for the first time.  Though mental images would appear, conjured by the stories I was reading, they just felt so distant. Before, I used to try reading and had no interest. Everything felt too repetitive, it was all too fresh in my mind. Now, I’m so thankful to have this journal, I already feel benefited by it.

I’m going to step out for a little bit and try to pick up a few things from the store, iA. There are some things I still need to write about, I’ll do that when I get back iA.

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Did some leisurely exploring today. Went on a little mission to find McDonald’s. I found it, Alhamdulillah. SubhanAllah, the most amazing thing happened actually. Everyone was giving directions for me to go a particular way, then when I got to that point – I looked in that direction and was like…nah, that doesn’t feel right, and I headed in the opposite direction. From there, I just followed some hunches and things started looking familiar. It was awesome, I felt like I was being guided and felt inclinations towards a particular path. Ok, so it was just a trip to McDonald’s, but even that was made so much more thrilling because I had myself a little divine GPS backing me up. I really hope this is something that lasts, I think this is called firaasah? They say Believers have firaasah, or insight, that’s divinely inspired, allowing them to see more than what’s on the surface. I think there’s a hadith actually that says to beware the firaasah of the Believer, because it is true. I hope it’s firaasah :) I could already feel that it wasn’t going to last though. That makes sense too. My firaasah was telling me that my firaasah wasn’t going to last. How ironic.

I left around 11:20am and ended up right outside a street corner mosque at Dhuhr, so I dropped in and caught the jama’a. It was so dope to be able to do that, neighborhood mosques are such a huge blessing, and they’re always full! Every prayer is packed like jummah is at our mosques, Alhamdulillah.

I’m getting so used to carrying my shoes in my bag when I go to pray too. Just carrying this small tote bag is pretty awesome, it’s so convenient, I can keep essentials with me and put it all out of my mind that I won’t have what I need. I carry that joint everywhere. I may start carrying stuff with me like that when I get back home too, who knows? I’m definitely going to try to keep journaling, doing so has been hugely beneficial so far. It’s really helped me to track events and developments and see everything more clearly, to analyze them in a deeper light.

So, I prayed at this mosque, kept on my way and eventually found the McDonald’s. It was about an hour walk from where we’re staying in Aziziah. There was a big line inside, but not as crazy and reckless a crowd as there usually is at Al-Baik. This was a more civilized breed. Some Brits, and Frenchies, by the sound of their speech. I got outta there with some chicken nuggets, a spicy chicken sandwich, a quarter pounder with cheese, and 3 big macs with fries. All of it was sub-par. McDonald’s in general is sub-par, so I suppose it was on-par with McDonald’s standards. The prices were the same, just converted over. I felt gross again after eating – I had the chicken sandwich and a big mac. The meat didn’t even look real. I still miss that Quattro’s burger.

I’m so disappointed. Granted, American food is best in America, I get that, but I can’t even get a decent shawarma in this country! Yall suck. I’m living off laban from now on, that’s it. That joint is my crack. Laban is the only saving grace here, I’m gonna miss that when we go back. I wonder if Arab stores sell it in America, as a yogurty drink? There’s an Arab grocery near my work I’ma hafta holla at insholla.

On the way back, I tried taking a shortcut and ended up face to face with a giant mountain like…wth, where’d you come from…? That’s the thing, this city has a grid, but then there are mountains dropped throughout the whole city, randomly spread around. I found the way back though, Alhamdulillah, just tapped into that firaasah GPS…which was already fading by this point :/

I also managed to find a new memory card for my camera. 2GB for 30 riyals, not bad sir, not bad.

Things have slowed down around here, the city appears to be in recovery. The wheels and gears have begun churning to purify the streets back to their original state. It’s not as busy, not as hectic, though still very much Mecca.

Peoples’ attitudes have changed too. The generosity and patience isn’t stressed so much anymore, amongst Hajji’s at least. All the emotions they had bottled up this whole time are finally being let out by those that are still frustrated. One of the Iranian guys, Nabi, started complaining to our trip leader about not being happy with his entire experience. He was especially upset because he paid $2,000 more than most others in the group and got the same shoddy service. One of the Punjabi uncles tried calming him, saying he would ruin his Hajj this way, something that had become a routine reminder throughout the past weeks, like a mantra of sorts. He said, “My Hajj is complete! I can say the truth now and I’m NOT happy!”

I’m like smh, it’s over man, just give it up. Allah is the one that makes it ‘unpleasant’ so you remember Him, that’s how you find happiness. I’m blissful, Alhamdulillah. Truly at peace. I’m just worried about how things will change when I get back and end up in the same environments again. I pray these states I’ve reached are preserved and I’m able to retain the goodness my heart has tasted. It’s too sweet to just give up for this salty, salty world.

I’m trying to go climb Jabal An-Nur tomorrow iA, to reach Cave Hira. It’s something I’ve always wanted to visit. I’m here, I have the time, I’m going to make the effort and leave the rest to Allah. Please help me to reach this destination tomorrow, make it easy for me and show me what will benefit me, Ya Rabb. Shukran :)

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Day 18 – Rolling Stones

No one can bear the hardships of another, nor are we fit to handle what others face. Custom fit trials for each of us from the Tailor of this Universe.”

11/8/11Hajj, Day 5

Insha’Allah, this is our last day in this 12’x12’ tent, sleeping with 12 men packed together. I don’t mind so much, I’m used to sleeping in cramped spaces with way too many dudes…awkward. Let’s just say I had an interesting college-hood.

There’s a dude with us, I think his name is Sabir. He’s even quieter than I am. I feel really bad for the brother. He’s had it really rough. He’s been sick and injured since he’s gotten here. I feel like he’s always lying in bed, nursing his big toe, which has this big gash, something that happened when he first got here I think, pretty brutal. Now, he has problems with nausea. Poor guy got up so many times last night while I was writing because he felt sick. Dude went to a doctor too, but apparently they have him meds for gas instead of nausea? I read the labels for him and that’s what it seemed like. It was all in medical jargon, which I could barely make out, but that’s what I think it said.

There’s a bus taking people back early, for those who are not going to do their stoning themselves. It’s permissible to have someone to do your stoning for you if you have some difficulty, so it’s mostly women, elderly and the sick that are going to travel back this afternoon. Uncle Bhatti is going to head back too. He’s quite the entertainer on this trip, though he’s so limited in what he’s able to do because of his physical disability. He has a hard time walking and keeping balance because of some issue with his leg, so he goes around in a wheelchair, pushed by his loyal and beloved sidekick, Humayun. The tests are so drastically different from one person to another, despite how much time we spend together in such close proximity. No one can bear the hardships of another, nor are we fit to handle what others face. Custom fit trials for each of us from the Tailor of this Universe.

Bhatti and Humayun are both going to ride the bus back to ‘Aziziah, to the rooms we’re staying in. They were kind enough to carry our bags back with them, so we wouldn’t have to worry about carrying them around on this last day or coming back to the camp later to pick them up. My mom can barely walk now too, yesterday was especially tough for her. She’s going to try making it onto the bus iA and I’ll complete her stoning for her. We’ll see how that goes, there’s apparently 3 buses coming to our camp, for a group of people large enough to fill 6 buses right now, waiting. Crucial. Today is going to be crazy. I’m calling it right now. There’s going to be a mass-migration of Hajji’s out of Mina, millions of people. Millions and millions, traveling a distance of approximately 5-10 miles, by foot, car, bus, train, and motorcycle. Traffic jam from Jahannam is brewing.

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3pm. We’re done. Done. Done. Allahu Akbar. One of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of my life, one of the pillars of my faith, one of the biggest events in the life of a Muslim – Hajj, complete. Alhamdulillah, wa Shukr.

We finished with the Jamarat by 12:30pm, took care of our stoning immediately following the adhan for Dhuhr, which sounded off in the building over loud speakers. From there, we grabbed some Al-Baik. Turns out, the Al-Baik at the Jamarat, where there were epic lines last night, does in fact only serve chicken nuggets. WTF? People pracitcally rioting for some chicken nuggets, that’s wild. There was no rush today though, we were in and out with some food, no problems. Them joints is good, but they’re kinda like fish sticks, but with chicken. They’re like cubes of meat inside this breading that falls off when you pick them up.

I’m gonna rest for a bit, I’ll write more later iA.

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Our trip back to ‘Aziziah was difficult. We had to walk for probably 3 km to get away from the Jamarat and catch a taxi to take us the rest of the way. In the days of Hajj, there’s so much traffic that the local residents jump on the bandwagon and start cashing in on visitors. For example, everyone becomes a cab driver during Hajj. Locals actually offer the best deals on taxi’s too, it’s not their main income I guess so they charge way less. We found a Yemeni guy with a car that was willing to drive us to our place in ‘Aziziah. He actually wasn’t very cheap, but we were so exhausted we could care less and just jumped in.

I was with my dad and Saleem, who tried making small talk with the cab driver. When he found out the driver was Yemeni, he joked, “like Osama bin Laden!” To my surprise, the driver busted out laughing, actually seemed really pleased and warmed right up to us. They went on to say some other stuff that I’ve since blocked out of my memory. Being an American, where the War on Terror has completely changed even the way we joke amongst friends in private, I must say I felt a little uncomfortable. I think even Saleem realized this eventually and felt off and made some fake politically correct comment. Force of habit, I suppose. After all, Big Brother is always listening…even in Mecca…? It’s actually not entirely inconceivable.

When we arrived at our place, Saleem and my dad attempted to try bargaining the driver down, seeing as how they were practically brothers in arms now. Dude was not having it. They tried to pull this trick where you hand the guy only the cash you want to pay and start to slowly edge yourself away. They definitely got yelled at and forked up the rest of the fare.

We went inside and I straight collapsed on my bed. Nothing greater than that feeling right there. I’ll write more after I sleep for 3 days..

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Day 13 – Tests in Question

“The ultimate goal is not to “pass” the test – often there is no real way to pass or fail – the goal is simply to return to Allah. 

11/3/11

I was taking a shower, at around 1:30pm, and in the middle of it, all the water in the bathroom runs out. I’m standing there, covered in soap, well I rinsed off some of the left half of my body when it ran out. These little tests crack me up sometimes, cuz they always catch you off-guard, but they’re real and you actually have to deal with them.

So, I stood there like, wth??And I hand-squeegee’d as much soap off my curves as I could…please, ladies, this is a Hajj journal. SMH. Then, I was like ok…maybe I’ll just use the water from the bidet or the hand shower, or the sink, shoot I’ll use whatever, short of toilet water of course. All water sources had run dry – no water in the entire bathroom. Totally forgot I was in a 3rd world country. The water reservoir had probably run out, especially from people doing their laundry across the hall. So, I just kinda stood around…hung out for about 10 minutes, laughed at myself in the mirror. Suddenly, some water came back & I rushed to clean off. Got through it, Alhamdulillah.

That still raises the question: how am I best meant to interact with these tests? Just show patience and wait for them to blow over? Show diligence in the future to plan more efficiently and prevent falling into the same situations? Take advantage of the opportunity and work to fix the situation? Maybe a combination or selection of the options, based on the situation? That’s probably what it is. I have realized though, it becomes much, much easier to deal with the tests once you recognize you’re being tested. It sort of allows you to step outside of the situation and regain your personal identity. You are not your test. The test merely helps you to know better who you really are. All tests are from Allah. Stepping away from the situation, mentally, allows you to connect better with Him as well. He gives you the test, and will give you the answers if you ask Him. I always loved teachers like that :)

Why would He just help you if you ask? Because the ultimate goal is not to “pass” the test – often there is no real way to pass or fail – the goal is simply to return to Allah. To recognize & assert His role in your life. Communicating with Him in the midst of a test or hardship is the way to succeed. With that step, you more forward & prepare yourself for His Divine Support.

When I ran out of water in the shower, I go, “Yo, God – you testin me again, right? That’s funny LOL.” I don’t say, “Oh no! This always happens to me. FML. I have the worst luck, maybe God just hates me.” Tests are not necessarily earned, though they are tailored to you specifically, according to what you’re capable of handling. You don’t necessarily get a particular test because you deserve if, so it’s not personal in that sense. However, The Educator knows His Creation & what pushes your buttons, so tests are handed out accordingly. Similarly, He knows how far He can push you, and stays within the limits when He tests you. This is something that should provide relief. If you face some challenging situation, know that your Creator believes in you, and He has equipped you with the capacity to overcome your difficulties.

Also, if you see others in the midst of a test, be gentle with them. They are facing their own tests, which are according to their own capacities. Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” So much wisdom in those words. Others can not face what you are tested with, nor can you face what they are tested with, subhanAllah.

The Prophets faced the most severe tests, but also turned to Allah & He supported them through their hardships. These tests made them the closest to Allah. So, our tests, though they are smaller and less intense, have the same aim – to garner the support of our Educator & to draw us closer to Him. The constant remembrance of this situation relates to our level of faith. Perhaps, that is the greatest remembrance, to remember our constant connection to Him, to see it in every step. Not just repeating chanted incantations, but seeing their applicability within our own hearts, in the lives we live. May Allah guide my heart & make me of those that remember Him, receive His support and “pass” His tests. Same for you :)

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