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Day 11 – Familiar Faces

The worst thing about the trip was the frustration of being trapped, not being able to go anywhere, do anything…These are events which try your patience.”

11/1/11

The desert calm that clings to the soul. Forcefully grabs hold and enshrouds the heart. There can be no escape, only surrender. It is to this tranquility we retreat. There is no salvation from it, until the desert is left behind – mountains at your back, city streets under your feet. Only then, may you find peace from the Peace. A peace, by which, there is no solace, only yearning – for the perfectly blended skies and warm radiant rays of the brother you left behind.

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2 things: SubhanAllah, nothing compares to the beauty of a desert sunset. I was in total awe, I could have stared forever.

Second, 6:30pm, SubhanAllah, we stopped at a random rest stop on the way to Mecca to pray Maghrib & I saw Ali Hanif! SubhanAllah, that was incredible. Hanif is a good friend of mine from college, I met him and his wife, Nasrin & took pictures together. Allah is the Best of Planners. We may not get to meet again, but I’m grateful to have found a familiar face & extend a warm embrace with my beloved brother. He’s staying at the Al-Massa hotel, I remember seeing the sign, it’s somewhere around the city center. I’ll try to run into him again iA. I made du’a a few days ago to run into people I know, because I was ready to share these moments with my friends & I was finally granted the chance, Alhamdulillah. I was in the prayer area and I saw him standing there. I just rushed up to him and gave him a big, crushing bear hug :) Squeeze first, ask questions later.

I saw Mona Haydar yesterday. Though we don’t talk, I knew she was coming to Hajj from her CNN video, so it was cool to see her. She was in Medina, in the courtyard outside of the masjid, carrying a bunch of shopping bags :) May Allah accept all of our efforts & make our Hajj Mabrur iA.

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That was the perfect ease to accompany this hardship, my heart feels at complete peace. That was, until the slow-boy crew grabbed the mic and started the dyslexic talbiyah, short bus status. The speaker system in the bus needs to get regulated by someone with some courtesy. Can we not have the mic circulate between 4 people with equally horrendous voices that sound like their throats are closing up from peanut allergies? Seriously, man? That’s too much self-confidence, put the mic down, walk away. Take some Benadryl.

Cool thing about the drive from Mecca to Medina is that there are signs posted with different adhkar (reminders of God), periodically along the sides of the road. Reminders to remember The Most Near, Allahu Akbar!

7:20pm, dark, on the bus, not enough light…

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8pm, about an hour left iA. I’m remembering our drive to Medina & how awesome it was. Our driver was something special, subhanAllah, what a character :). That Pathan restaurant was so amazing!! My dad said it was the best food he’d had in years. Not to be taken lightly. I want to remember that whole adventure well iA.
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We got to Mecca at 11pm. It was 11:30 by the time we got out of the Pilgrims Processing Center. The bus ride got much worse before it got better. We hit insane traffic & were stuck for 3 hours. I was also getting talbiyah brainwashed, with it blaring repeatedly, directly over my fatigued head. At least I got to get out at the Pilgrims Center and use the bathroom and blow out some face phlegm (gross, I know – wait till you get here :P). I’m feeling a bit more refreshed, Alhamdulillah. That’s the awesome thing about this journey, I suppose – you get hit with stuff tailored to make you go insane..and want to punch old Persian men in the face…and other group members…sometimes even complete strangers…But, you learn your limitations, your weaknesses and your actual capabilities. Don’t worry, no one got punched. Not by me, at least.

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Allahu Akbar. We finally got to our rooms in Aziziah, just northwest of Mecca. It’s 3am. Our trip from Medina to Mecca really did just take 12 hours. That’s as long as my flight from DC to Jeddah. Normally, it’s only a 4 hour drive between Mecca & Medina. I’m so tired and hungry, but so relieved. The worst thing about the trip was the frustration of being trapped, not being able to go anywhere, do anything. We were caged in on the bus and had to just wait for things to take their course, on their own sweet schedule. These are events which try your patience. The drive to Mecca has been difficult both times now, while the trip to Medina was actually alot of fun & was really memorable. It was so dysfunctional and ridiculous that you couldn’t help but laugh. There was nothing amusing about the hardship this time.

I think things are getting more and more difficult as the time for Hajj nears. I wonder if it’ll be easier once we’re done? I’m *hoping* things will ease up once we’ve completed our Hajj. We’ll see iA.

Things take so long for no reason other than to test your patience.

My dad went down the street and picked up some pizza. It’s actually really legit, I’m totally killing this at 4am. No hesitation. So good…

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Thus far, I’ve seen two things which are amongst the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in my life – the Ka’aba & the desert sunset.

The Ka’aba is a masterpiece. It carries such magnitude & grace that it’s just awe-inspiring. It is significant for so many reasons – it stands as a historical landmark, a spiritual symbol, and a social phenomena, amongst other things. It is the anchor for so many worlds. Gazing upon it will make the heart swell & put one into a trance-like state. The hypnotizing, ceaseless circumambulation of pilgrims penetrates the soul with its beauty. Everyone orbits the Ka’aba in fluid motion, while that structure stands as an absolute pillar, from which we all draw stability. Not only whilst making tawaf, in the Haram, but all around the globe, it is our direction of prayer. It is a metaphor for our Universe in so many ways. We orbit, as celestial bodies in space do, mimicking them in movement & in appearance – joining ourselves to the order of the galaxies. It is also reminiscent of the nature of our very own existence. We derive stability from the only Absolute in the Universe, while fluidly in motion, according to His Whim. This is the epitome of “going with the flow”. Being a part of that phenomena, participating in this analogy, is what makes this place even more fantastic. If only we could carry the lessons with us, throughout the other aspects of our lives.

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Filed under Aziziah, Mecca, Medina, Reflections, Travel

Day 3 – Blank Scars

“The simplest thing will take hours for no apparent reason. THAT is your Hajj, that is your teacher.”

10/24/11

It’s 8:30pm, we’re on the bus now finally, waiting to ride to Mecca. We’re going to go straight to the hotel & eat, rest & I’ll probably head to the Haram (the Sacred Place) to do my ‘Umrah (ritual of visiting the Sacred Place).It’s funny, Hajj is supposed to be a journey that teaches you patience. We often assume we have the chance to learn patience later, as things try us throughout the journey. We haven’t even gotten to the Haram yet & we’ve had to show so much patience. You never know where it’ll come from – the simplest thing will take hours for no apparent reason. THAT is your Hajj, that is your teacher. So far, I think I’ve been keeping up alright, iA I am actually considered patient by Allah & I can successfully endure what else we face.
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The waiting game is real. We’ve been playing since we got here, round after round, subhanAllah. It’s 9pm – still on the bus, waiting to leave, the driver finally got here. Now we’re just staring, hoping to pull out any second!
Sitting here, I looked down at my hands & saw this scar on my thumb & felt like it was so distant & foreign. I sat there, staring as I forced my way through my mind to recall the accident I had, sawing wood to build a float for a Homecoming Parade in high school, almost 11 years ago. It’s like I’m in a whole different world & everything before I got here is but a vague memory I can barely recall. This has become my reality, I almost don’t remember any life before this morning, before this plane ride. I was born when I put on this cloth – who was I before this? Was I before this? All seem completely valid questions right now. I am, or appear to be, a pilgrim, a Hajji, that is how I am called by others. That has become my identity. I have completely lost all other notions of my self. This is not an exaggeration, this is not me dramatizing my state. This is real. I try to remember others, my loved ones, & I can see their faces, but I feel nothing. All I feel is this yearning to reach my destination. I am coming! O My Lord, I am coming! Please accept me! Labbayk Allahuma Labbayk is all I know in my heart right now. Alas, we embark for Mecca, just after 9pm.

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I imagine tawaf gives the ultimate Axé. The concept from Capoeira is so captivating & intoxicating, I’m eager to see if this feeling will compare. Maybe the act of tawaf is the ultimate Roda. Maybe it is part of The Divine’s decree for His creation, for them to be so engrossed & lost in His Orbit. This is such an interesting topic that I have to contemplate further.

Axé (ah-shay) is a term used by the Brazilian martial arts form of Capoeira to describe a feeling of intensity that emerges from within, in the midst of a Roda (ho-da), or demonstration circle. It is the free flow of energy from the members of the circle to the fighters – a dizzying concoction of adrenaline, excitement, fear, ambition, and raw passion. Everyone in the circle claps and sings ancient songs that tell the history of their people and their beautiful art-form. Meanwhile, the fighters throw powerful movements, one after another, at each other – with an aim not to injure, but to flow seamlessly. The most beautiful Capoeira will have little if any physical contact, with fighters constantly moving through the space within the Roda, nearly crippling one another but never actually striking a blow. You could get seriously injured in any second, with fervent voices at your back, thrusting you forward. There is the excitement of overcoming yourself, while finding complete harmony with others at the same time. That rush is Axé.

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