Tag Archives: al haram

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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Day 16 – Seeing Clearly

“All you hear is trash being kicked and crushed as people move along in the streets.”

11/6/11 Hajj, Day 3

My feet are gone. I can’t find them. They’ve been replaced by swollen, blistered globs of flesh. Today’s been rough, and it’s only 4:30pm. This morning, we got back to our camp from Muzdalifah, took 2 breaths – shallow ones, not deep ones – then we went to the Jamarat to do our Rami’ (stoning). There were millions of people there, for sure, all in the same place, subhanAllah. It was a terribly long walk from our camp though, like 2 miles, it took about an hour to get there. Seeing the Jamarat was interesting. While you’re throwing stones, on some level, you feel like you’re actually attacking Shaitan, even though they’re just giant stone walls. Feels good.

One of Three Jamarat Walls

Afterwards, our group was like ok, let’s go to the Haram and do our tawaf! I was like, um…what, how about no. I was already tired and filthy, I definitely didn’t want to go to the Haram in this condition. Going to the Haram would’ve meant getting pushed, shoved, stepped on, coughed on, and worn down even more. Not to mention the extensive walking it would’ve taken to get there, to do the tawaf (circling the Ka’aba) and the sai’y (going between Safa & Marwa), and to make the way back to the camp. We easily wouldn’t be back to Mina until like 11pm, given everything goes smoothly, which of course it never does on Hajj.

Based on that, I was seriously resisting going with the group to the Haram at that time, but my parents insisted, just to get the rituals done and over with. In reality, you do have to perform tawaf and sai’y as part of your Hajj, but it can be done in any of the last 3 days of Hajj. We still had 2 whole days to make it happen, there really was no need to rush. I wanted to go back and clean up first, then go to the Haram maybe later today or tomorrow. I ended up getting caught up with the group and continued walking with them towards Mecca. Everyone was so tired, walking in the sun and the heat, wanting to rest so badly. Our group leader kept pushing on, out of his own hastiness, but no one wanted to say anything or protest and just kept slaving on. I got fed up and just sat down on the curb, like “Screw it, y’all keep walkin if you want, I’m resting.” Immediately, everyone around me also stopped, my parents too. People were hesitant to just rest, saying we should inform the rest of the group, which had walked so far ahead, that we were stopping. I was like whatever, go ahead, I’m not budging though. It didn’t take more than a few minutes for everyone to stop and rest too. We desperately needed it.

It was close to Dhuhr time, so after a few minutes of rest, we walked towards an adjacent neighborhood to pray and get some food. We found a pretty awesome Turkish spot just up the street and prayed Dhuhr afterwards at the masjid across from  it. I swear that place stressed me out. There were so many people packed together, in some ways it was worse than the Haram, and it was just some random street mosque. The bathrooms were just gross and muddy – puddles and thrown ihrams all over. People would literally just discard their sheets anywhere and everywhere, after being able to change out of them, even just dropping them into the water drains in the public wudhu areas. I had to navigate a massive crowd the entire time, just to make wudhu, walk to the musallah and pray. I honestly haven’t had that much difficulty doing those simple things at any other place here thus far.

When we got out, everyone started looking for a bus to Mecca. I was like “Nah, I really don’t wanna go.” My parents freakedd out, especially my dad, who was getting upset and paranoid that I’d get lost. I tried reassuring him I would be alright and that they should still go if they wanted to finish their tawaf today. Deep inside my core, I earnestly felt that the last thing I wanted to do at the time was to travel to the Haram. I decided I was going to head back to Mina and split off from my parents and the rest of my group. I was that adamant. Luckily, my parents jumped ship too, to stay together. It was great in theory, but then we had to actually make the walk back, having already gone another 2 miles in the opposite direction, along with the group. That trip was difficult for me, I know my parents must’ve been feelin it. The worst part is, there was absolutely nothing I could do to make it easier for them, apart from insisting on taking breaks periodically. We all had to endure the hardship together, but still each on his/her own. It took us probably like 3-4 hours to walk back from where we prayed Dhuhr, all the way to our tents in Mina.

We saw the realness. Straight up realness, subhanAllah. We walked back through the camps for other parts of the world, specifically Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and West Africa. It’s interesting though, this place has legit 3rd world filth, straight up. I’m so grimy myself right now, it barely even phases me anymore. I’m so desensitized now that something really has to be extreme to get to me at this point, even then it’s not for sure that it’ll illicit a reaction. For example, walking back through Mina, we’d pass by sewage drains that smelled like death and I’d gag, but that was about it. Towards the end of our walk back, I saw a dead body, just lying in the street. I didn’t even blink. Yeah, we saw a dead body, a man laid down, covered in his own ihram towel, subhanAllah. It was right outside one of the information offices for the camp. An ambulance came and picked up the body and drove off, barely anyone even noticed. I’m not even really sure anyone was with him, he may very well have been all alone. My dad actually walked right past the body, coming out of the info office, without even seeing him. This was right after I was telling my mom how Mina is exactly like what a refugee camp must be like – with the transitional housing and all the people packed in, it’s insane.

It was so sad though, going through the other countries’ camps. People don’t live in a way that’s clean or healthy…or safe. And they’re completely comfortable. They carry their customs and habits with them even to the Holy Land. The streets look like a landfill exploded, not just in the camps, but in the areas around the Jamarat as well. All you see when you walk in the streets is empty water bottles, crushed juice boxes, broken paper cups, and discarded flip-flops, littered across the pavement. If you’re lucky, you can actually see the color of the street beneath, when people kick trash out of the way as they trudge along. Outside of the Jamarat, people are just marching along, in droves, huge numbers. All you hear is trash being kicked and crushed as people move along in the streets.

Men were also able to shave their heads now, but to save money on going to barbers, many would shave their own heads, in the streets. Now, not only did you have garbage, you had thick carpets of cut hair strewn across the streets and sidewalks. I’m not exaggerating, it was disgusting. I was sincerely ashamed and disgraced to be a part of this community when I experienced these things. I know I’m not the only one, based on conversations with others around us. Unfortunately, this is a reality, maybe not one we accept, but for many, it’s what they’re used to. I have major problems with that.

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Day 12 – Lost & Found

“We can never run out of reasons to be thankful.”

11/2/11

10am. Finally got some sleep. The room we’re in had the A/C blasting, with the knob broken off, and we had to sleep in our ihram, so it was chilly. We’re about to catch a cab to go to the Haram and do ‘Umrah iA.

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SubhanAllah! The most amazing thing just happened. I went to the bathroom & was takin my time, you know. I took off my watch & left it on the ledge in the stall, while I was inside. I finish my business and get out, make wudu, stand in front of the fan for a while, dry off, hit the water fountain – just takin my sweet time, chillin, freshening up before I go to make ‘Umrah. This was in the bathroom of the Masjid Al-Haram by the way, which isn’t actually in the masjid, but in an underground area outside the masjid, beyond the courtyard (feels like a Subway station).

When I showed up to use the bathroom, there was basically no one around, just 2-3 other people waiting to use the stalls. There are just hallways, lined with dozens of stalls. The stall I used had a bag of clothes hanging on the wall, left there by someone who used it before. I moved it when I got inside, to hang my bag. Before leaving, I made sure to return the bag to the same place I had moved it from. When I left the stall, there was suddenly like 100 people waiting. There must have been 2 or 3 people waiting in front of each stall. I was like dang, ok. So, I go about my business, and get all ready to go. Then, as I’m about to climb the stairs to get back out, I go to check the time and realize…I left my watch in the bathroom! I was like, “Astaghhhfirullaahhhhh!” and I darted back to the stalls. While I was headed back, I was like subhanAllah, here’s another test – Allah finds ways to test each part of us, in ways we wouldn’t even imagine. I was also like, ok, let’s see how well Muslims revere the Haram – you’re not supposed to take anyyything you find here – you either leave it or you’re responsible for publicly announcing what you’ve picked up, to return it, before you can take anything.

I get back to the stalls, and there’s even more people than before, it’s packed tight in the hallway. Each stall was numbered, but I didn’t remember to look at which number I was in. I didn’t remember exactly which stall I used, but I had a general idea. So, I camped in front of like 7 stalls where I knew it’d be. Each time someone came out & the door opened, I hustled over and poked my head in to see if it was the right stall. I was thinking, man, what if it takes a while, is it worth it? I’ll be telling everyone how I lost my new watch in the masjid bathroom, is this really how it ends? And I was like, no! I need to try. Within a few minutes, the stalls I was watching were all opening up. One particular stall had a bag of clothes hanging on the wall!! I immediately went forward and saw my watch still sitting on the ledge!!! I excused myself past the man that was going in & grabbed it, and bounced out – a huge grin on my face. Allahu Akbar :) Alhamdulillah wa shukr.

This place has credibility mA. That was a huge relief & a great blessing. I’m so thankful to be able to keep this gift. May Allah shower abundantly with His Bounties & Blessings the one that gave it, the one that wears it, the one that looks upon it, and all those that benefit from that which it measures. Ameen :)

It’s funny, isn’t it? We think the possessions we have belong to us, but Allah can easily separate us from them. Even being able to keep what’s come to us is an immense blessing. We can never run out of reasons to be thankful.

Time for ‘Umrah ;) 1:20pm

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That.Was.Intense. I’m exhausted just from the tawaf. It was so hot & crowded, under the afternoon sun. I still managed to maneuver around, by letting myself go, not fighting the crowd. Going with the flow got me to my destination.

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Finally got some food & a little time to recharge after that grueling ‘Umrah. My parents & I met up around 4:30pm, after I finished. We had lunch at this pretty good Turkish “kebap” joint, just up the street from Marwa. Alhamdulillah, we showed up beat, tired and just outta shape. We found a table and just collapsed down, exhausted. There was another man next to us who was joined by his friend, who came holding three large trays, full of meals. He had brought at least 10 meals, which he and his friend were going to go to town on apparently. We looked at the two of them like…dang, they gon eat all that…? SubhanAllah, without hesitation, the man picked up 3 of the meals – plates of freshly grilled kebabs – and placed them in front of us, telling us to help ourselves & eat. What great hospitality, it was such a generous & pleasant gesture. May Allah show them even more hospitality on the Day where we will be at His total Whim, ameen.

The food was pretty good. I still went up and ordered some chicken for my mom, who typically won’t touch red meat. I also got a rack of cold drinks. We shared sodas with the men at our table and all enjoyed our meals together. Such a huge blessing Alhamdulillah. Another ease to accompany the hardship…starting to see a pattern, aren’t we?

Afterwards, my dad cut/sawed off some of the curls from the back of my head. Ihram complete :) I love being in ihram, but fulfilling the rites & being done with it is such a great feeling too, Alhamdulillah.

My mom & I grabbed some ice cream too – we were serious about recharging :). The ice cream, or “scream” as the store owners called it, was really good. It was just a bunch of different flavors in one cup, all soft-serve. Even the chocolate wasn’t bad, and I hate chocolate ice cream usually. This wasn’t bitter at all. We went on to pray Maghrib & now we’re sitting inside the mosque, waiting for ‘Isha.

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Day 9 – Ziyara! Ziyara! Ziyara!

“…These men and women, so distinguished and dignified, stand in total obscurity now…They are the forefathers of our faith.”

10/30/11

Been takin it easy. For some reason, I slept forever yesterday. I missed ‘Asr & Maghrib cuz I knocked out. Wait…I prayed ‘Asr! Just missed Maghrib. I made up an ‘Asr this morning, oh well. I basically passed out around 5pm and didn’t wake up til 3:15am. No clue why I slept so much.

Yesterday, I got to hang with my parents for a while and go shopping. We hit some wholesale date market one of the guys in the group knew about. There, we got the Desi hookup & my parents copped an unearthly amount of dates – something like 40 kilos. That’ll be fun to carry around…

In The Market For Some Dates?

We got 3 different kinds – Ajwa, Medjdool and Kalmi I think. We also got a bunch of boxes of almond-stuffed dates. Afterwards, we grabbed a cab to the hotel, to take back all of the dates. Our driver was texting and maneuvering through traffic. My dad was squirming in the backseat, it was hilarious. My mom was like, “See! That’s how you drive! Now you know how we feel.” Never misses an opportunity :P

Textin' & Drivin'

We hit up ‘Asr at the masjid and then went around to grab lunch. Ended up doing a little shopping along the way at some street kiosks, lined up outside the masjid. We went to a shawarma spot and had some dinky, mediocre sandwiches, which we ate on the stoop of a nearby hotel. That’s about as comfortable as it gets. After that is when I came back & just knocked out.

I woke up this morning like “WTF?! What happened…why did I sleep so much?” I took a shower, got dressed and went to the masjid around 3:30am. It was so calm and peaceful. There were still so many people there, thousands for sure, but it was quiet.

I tried getting into the area where the Prophet’s grave is, but they still weren’t letting people in. I went in the masjid, behind the original section of the building and sat down as close as I could. I did some tahajjud and chilled, waited for Fajr.

6am, after Fajr, I walked with the mass of people to visit Jannatul Baqi (The Holy Graveyard), the graveyard where many Companions are buried. It was massive, far larger than I expected. There’s an estimated 10,000 graves there, all unmarked and unidentified. There are only headstones, indicating where graves are, no names. The cemetery is adjacent to the Eastern wall of the masjid. It was so interesting to see those graves with the grandiose minarets of the masjid as the backdrop

Jannatul Baqi' (The Holy Graveyard)

It’s powerful how these men and women, so distinguished and dignified, stand in total obscurity now. They are, however, further honored by their collective identity, as Companions of The Beloved Prophet. They each accomplished much, surely, but that’s been surrendered so they could be a part of something bigger. They are the forefathers of our faith. They are so blessed & honored. May Allah shower them with His Everlasting Mercy & bless us with an end that is equally dignified & peaceful.

I just hung around and took pictures afterwards. The light is so perfect just after sunrise – that “Golden Hour” photographers talk about. It’s beautiful, such a perfect time to be out in Medina, my favorite actually.

Masjid Nabawi After Sunrise

I was on my way back to the hotel when I saw a little scuffle in the street. There were lines of cars, trying to take people on tours. Drivers walk along the sidewalks yelling, “Ziyara! Ziyara! Ziyara!”. I figure ‘ziyara’ means ‘tour’. I have no idea what actually happened, but some drivers were fighting with some Hajji’s over something and a big crowd had gathered.

They grabbed one Hajji & forced him into a little toll booth looking structure on the corner & locked the door. One of the drivers (in the brown thobe, standing against the booth in the picture below) was yelling and pushing people. He went up to some old guy and shoved him hard and the guy went flying! He couldn’t catch himself and fell off the sidewalk, into the street. Luckily, there were no cars coming, he was completely sprawled out. His glasses and wallet go flying, his ID’s scattering out onto the road. The driver was cursing at him and kicked him again as he was trying to get back up. Poor guy. He got up, grabbed his stuff and just hustled off. I still have no idea what it was all about, but it provided some quality morning entertainment.

Hoopla in Medina

I’m back in the hotel now, just had breakfast. We’re gonna rest until Dhuhr, it’s 9am now. After Dhuhr, we’re planning to take a tour of the city.

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Um…ok…change of plans. Apparently, We’re going to some Jinn valley….now!
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That was a waste of time. There is a valley, 30 minutes from the city, that Desi’s have dubbed Wadi-e-Jinn (Valley of Jinn). They claim there’s a supernatural phenomena of Jinn controlling your cars & pushing them while in neutral. They also say, if you pour water on the ground, it runs uphill, metal bottles also roll on the ground when placed still.We went and tried everything. Yeah, these things appeared to happen. I think it’s a load of crock doo-doo. There’s probably a magnetic field that pulls everything. Watta stooopid….

At least we saw Uhud on the way there. It’s to the North of Medina. We also saw the mount where the archers stood during the battle. Uhud itself is massive! It borders the city and gives it that natural defense.

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I miss Mecca. I remember reading about the Companions missing their city when they came to Medina & the Prophet had to remind them of this being their home now & that he was with them. I completely understand what they felt and how they must have missed that beautiful place :/

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Just getting on the van for the tour, it’s 3:20pm. Things be like that with this group, everything at its own time. Funny thing, the driver we have is the same exact guy I saw this morning kicking the old guy in the street. SubhanAllah, small world :). No one else knows about this guy, even called him ‘Sheikh’ a few times throughout the tour, and I watched him mercilessly beat an elderly Hajji not more than an hour after sunrise this morning.

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Day 4 – My 2nd Home

So maybe stability is the beginning of serenity. Remove the unknowns & find ease. Provide constants, standards, absolutes…and society will be at peace.”

10/25/11

The Ka’aba just makes me so overwhelmed sometimes. It’s 11:45 pm – for the past 20 mins probably, I’ve been standing here, staring at it. After I woke up, I moved from my spot and wandered back up to the rail to look at it again. It’s just so fascinating, especially from up here [on the roof]. This is a great time to be exactly where I am, Alhamdulillah. I haven’t gotten moved yet, so maybe I’m supposed to be here & enjoy it, this time :P

When you look into the ground floor, you see two completely different phenomenons, simultaneously. The first, all the people there – walking, chanting, praying, struggling, moving – being together. The second, even greater than the first, is the stability of the Ka’aba in the center of it all – like a mountain in the middle of a turbulent sea, unmoved, unwavering, constant. I feel like this structure represents Allah’s role in this Universe. The Absolute, The Constant. Everything else is fluid, changing, fluctuating, temporal. He is the Source of Stability, and we, unstable, desperate beings, are drawn in – seeking to cling to His stability to find stability within. To find peace, tranquility, success.

This place feels like home. Not home in the sense that I’m super comfortable, I can kick back & lounge anywhere I want & help myself to anything in the fridge – though, I do feel like I can rest anywhere & I have been getting my fill of Zam Zam at every opportunity. But, the feeling you get when you’re here is the feeling you should have when you’re home. Serene & peaceful. Allah, The Most Generous, has opened His Sacred House to us all & shown us the greatest hospitality by making our hearts the concern for care. Please repair our hearts ya Rabb. Help me to leave this life with a pure, sound heart & to live in this world with such a heart so I may benefit others.

My experience here last night, compared with tonight, is so vastly different. Last night was like a riot – everything bombarding me all at once, me diving right in, head first. I pushed through, trying to go all the way, not holding back & achieving what I strove for in some cases. But, I poured out everything in my heart. I saw the Ka’aba and I dumped out all my worries, hopes, dreams, wishes, desires, fears – everything I could think of. I poured it all out & now I feel at ease – like I’m ready to receive something new. Ya Rabb, fill my heart with something better – better for me, better for this world, better for the Hereafter. That’s one of the reasons I write as well, to clear the heart & mind. In my struggle to retain my experiences, my mind gets overwhelmed & stressed. Writing captures my heart & allows me to let go so that I can have new experiences & appreciate them fully. Ya Allah, help me to write well always – to convey ideas beautifully, to capture my heart’s words perfectly, and to inspire & move others with these words of truth & expression.

LOL…ok, after I wrote that, I had nothing else to say. I’ve been staring off at random things for the past 5 mins. Maybe I can say more about last night:

After I completed tawaf, I was trying to make my way back out, to do 2 rak’ahs behind the Maqam of Ibrahim [The place Abraham stood in prayer to Allah, facing the Ka’aba]. I managed to get to it, touch it & look inside – you can see the cemented footsteps. [I later learned this was actually a stone from Heaven, brought by the angel Gabriel, for Abraham to stand on while building the Ka’aba. His feet sank 4 inches into the stone, leaving behind clear imprints] I went further back, still on the ground floor, and prayed 2 rak’ahs, directly facing the Ka’aba, not more than 30 yards away from it. That was awesome. It’s such an elegant structure – stands very tall [43 ft] & is very tastefully decorated. I’d say the same for this whole masjid actually. It’s very tastefully ornamented & adorned, very elegantly designed.

So funny. I moved a little while ago, I was getting crowded at the rail. I moved back against the wall, where there was no one around. Maybe 20 mins go by, and now there’s a group of 5 men that just came & laid down around me – making me want to move again. Nothing is constant except The Constant. We are indeed transient & ever-shifting, as is our nature. Even the nature of our very hearts, which lead us, is to constantly change & flip. It’s a beautiful contrast, again, to The One, who will always be as He always was. He is The Reason, He is The Source, He is The Absolute. This universe would not function any other way. There would be confusion & conflict – not just the internal & societal discrepancies we perceive to be universal conflict, but actual catastrophes in the cosmos. Celestial unrest. There would be no stability in this Universe. La ilaha illallah (There is no god but Allah).

So maybe stability is the beginning of serenity. Remove the unknowns & find ease. Provide constants, standards, absolutes, relatively speaking, and society will be at peace. That’s a mission I can grasp, something real I can focus on, subhanAllah. Provide everyone with basic standards of living – remove those worries from their minds & hearts, let them find peace. Let them be guided to Allah’s fields & hopefully they will settle in its gardens.

Wow, time flies when you’re at peace & you’re being inspired. It’s 12:45 am. I should go sleep, I need to be here for Fajr in 5 hours. InshaAllah khair.

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Day 4 – Rooftop Bliss

“I had only one desire – to get lost…amongst the mass. To become nameless & faceless…let me be lost to them in hopes of being present with Him.”

10/25/11

That burger was not good. Too expensive too (28 riyals, normal sandwiches are 5 riyals). Totally don’t see myself eating fast food again, I feel disgusting. I bought a big bottle, I plan to drink all the water & then keep it full of ZamZam daily, iA.

BK

I’m on the top floor again, with an awesome view of the Ka’aba & everyone making tawaf. It’s night, almost 10pm, so the weather is nicer – warm, but easy to bear.

I love how we’re all enamored by the crowd. I’m currently watching a man from Kyrgyzstan look completely blown as he’s looking at everyone making tawaf. The crowd itself is so profound. It’s a mass of people – you look at it and you don’t see faces or ethnicities or skin color – it’s just bodies. But when you actually look into it, you see individuals, you see faces, you hear languages – you realize they’re all real people. People are always real, as you know them – never a faceless mass. In reality, there never was such a thing. Everyone carries their customs & their baggage with them – I feel it’s important to stay mindful of that when interacting with them.

When I stepped out of the hotel, not too long ago, I had only one desire – to get lost. Not lost in a directional sense, but lost amongst the mass. To become nameless & faceless– in a place under the Supreme Care of Allah SWT. Let me be lost to them in hopes of being present with Him. I know Allah throws these little tests my way to keep me on my toes. For example, every time I sit down, I’m asked to move, or forced to move, just when I start to get comfortable. Almost without fail. Earlier, I had to move at least 3 times. Just now, I had to move again, someone pulled a wheelchair in front of me & just parked it. Don’t get comfortable? Keep it moving? Interesting.

Mmm…I’m getting tired…I wanna lay down on this top floor & rest, while I look out into the night sky & feel this cool breeze, with this hum of voices chattering in the background.

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That was even better than I’d imagined it would be. It was so comfortable & pleasant, I slept for like 45 mins. The squeegee train (workers with…squeegees, that wipe down the marble floors of the Masjid) is rolling through, so I couldn’t stay in my spot anymore. It’s quite a sight, really. I’m so impressed with how they keep this place so clean. The efficiency of it all is actually astounding – compared to how conditions are everywhere else I’ve seen. Well, no, by any standard, it’s impressive. They got that very right, mA.

[I recorded this from my spot on the roof, but I didn’t realize until watching it now that the workers were wiping their hands on the Yemeni corner. The Prophet said that wiping hands in this spot removes sins. Employee benefits, subhanAllah]

I felt so totally serene in my nap. Being on the roof at night is just so blissful, subhanAllah. Of my favoritest of places in the world, the roof of the haram is one of my favoritest spots at night – napping here is on the top of that list :)

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