Category Archives: Mecca

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 :).

————————-

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…

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 'Umrah, Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Mecca, Reflections

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.

————————-

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.

————————-

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.

3 Comments

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

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.

1 Comment

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

Day 20 – Ascension

“These rocks have bore witness to the beginning of revelation and to the opening of something superbly magnificent.”

11/10/11

This entry is being written from inside the Cave of Hira. SubhanAllah, it’s a zoo, even up here. This is no place of retreat. I found a little nook in some shade right above the cave’s passageway, still inside, but above everyone. There’s such a nice, cool breeze blowing. It’s like 20 degrees cooler in here, even at 12:30pm, it’s comfortable. It’s got to be at least 90 degrees outside otherwise. My feet touched the mountain at 10:50am. It took an hour to reach the top, so many people, still so much trash. We have left nothing sacred. Everyone going up was either Desi, Afghan, Turkish, or Russian – lots of those mountain folk. There’s also no rocks left inside the cave. I thought I’d be slick and grab a few to give to people, pieces of the cave of Hira. I found a few in the entranceway, those will suffice, people jacked the rest.

I could totally chill up here for hours, especially since I’m out of the way. I can see how the Prophet would meditate here. If there were no one around, this place would be truly serene.

The view is sick too, you can see all around in every direction. You can’t really see the Ka’aba, but you can see the Haram, especially the minaret and towers. If there was less clutter, and smog, you could probably see better.

Mecca in the Distance

Who knows which part of the cave he would actually sit in, where he would face, where his blessed hands had touched. For once though, I’ve finally come to a place preserved from the Prophet’s life. These are original walls, these rocks have bore witness to the beginning of revelation and to the opening of something superbly magnificent.

This place has become a full-blown tourist spot though. You think, ok, I’m going to climb a mountain, this is going to be somewhat spiritual and enlightening. Instead, along the way, there are jammed routes of people, tea and juice stands, beggars, and chinese tasbih and kufi salesmen. Everyone and their mom is on their cell phone, climbing up. Seriously?

Winding Climbers

You know I even had a dude standing next to me at the Ka’aba, with his hand on the wall, during tawaf, calling someone! He was Desi and spoke in Urdu, so I understood. He was like, “Ah, yeah, ok, I’m here at the Ka’aba, any du’a you want me to make??” I’m like dude…smh.

Ok, I’ve been here for about half an hour, it’s still every bit as crazy. I’m going to pray Dhuhr on top of the mountain iA, that’ll be dope. Maybe, I’ll drop by the Haram afterwards iA.

The cave has graffiti all over. The mountain itself is completely defaced. Graffiti everywhere, people tagging their names, garbage all over the sides of the slopes.

Filthy Irony

The cave itself is just a passageway that goes through a covered area in a series of stacked boulders, to the Southern face of the mountain top. I think I’m actually technically on top of the cave of Hira, but it’s still covered by a canopy. I’m gonna just peek my head into the cave in a few minutes, then head back iA.

There’s no pollution up here at least, finally some clean air – just sand and dust. The cave itself is littered with empty water bottles and crushed juice boxes, subhanAllah. I still can’t get over that. People push, shove and fight each other to get up the mountain and into the cave but they don’t even give these places basic respect and dignity. Allah save us. Guide our hearts. Help me to benefit from my journey to this place and to these Holy Lands. Ameen.

Photogs Chillin

————————–

Close to 2pm. I’m still on top of the mountain, away from the crowd finally, sitting out front, near the edge of the mountaintop. There is sakina finally. I didn’t actually step foot in the proper cave area – not really concerned actually. It’s all about the retreat and I’ve found that. Takes some time for it to settle in, but it’s here. I just prayed Dhuhr on top of Jabal An-Nur, right on top of Hira, subhanAllah. Everything around looks so small and more calm, finally. You can still hear some car horns, smh. Other than that, Mecca and its surrounding towns are put into perspective. The mountains are so much more prominent in the landscape now. The entire area is covered with mountain ranges – great big enormous fixtures. No wonder Allah makes reference to mountains so much in the Qur’an – they’re very much a part of everyday life here, for the ancients at least.

Praying on the Edge

There’s so much peace in climbing to the top of the mountain, facing the Qibla, and making salah. There’s a hadith about the excellence of this act at a time when the world will be so chaotic, such a retreat would better benefit man. Totally get it. Time to go iA, 2:05pm.

       The cave of Hira is located at the top of Jab Al-Nur, The Enlightened Mountain. It is located a few miles outside of downtown Mecca. Before receiving revelation, it was the habit of the Prophet, peace be upon him, to retreat to this cave for long periods of time. He would prepare food and supplies for many days and go to the cave to meditate and ponder on the nature of this life and our existence in this world.

       It was in this cave, at age 40, that the Prophet first received revelation. The Angel Jibril entered the cave and spoke to the Prophet, startling him, commanding him to “Read!” The Prophet, who was illiterate, responded to this mysterious voice that he was unable to read. The Angel squeezed him, nearly to the point of death, and released him, commanding again, “Read!” The Prophet again said he was not able to read, and was squeezed by the angel. After a third time, the Angel began to recite the beginning of revelation to the Prophet, “Read! In the Name of your Lord! Who created man from a single clot of blood. He taught by the pen, taught men what they did not know”

       This was the beginning of Prophethood, the beginning of revelation, the beginning of a great movement that would change the world forever. It all began in that quiet, humble little cave, at the top of this great mountain, overlooking the Sacred House.

3 Comments

Filed under Mecca, Reflections, Travel

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aziziah, Mecca, Reflections

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.

————–

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 :)

2 Comments

Filed under Aziziah, Mecca, Reflections, Travel

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.

————-

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.

————–

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..

Leave a comment

Filed under Aziziah, Hajj, Mecca, Reflections, Travel