Tag Archives: hajr al aswad

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 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 – At Second Glance

That’s what I’d like to see, for Mecca to become a marketplace of ideas & stories as much as it is a marketplace for jewels & cheap, Chinese prayer beads.”

10/25/11

I just prayed Maghrib on mount Safa. I think Shuraim led the prayer & he recited the verse about As-Safa in the 2nd rak’ah :). That was cool. During prayer time, it’s completely silent. Hundreds of thousands of people – everywhere you look – in the same position, reciting the same words, facing the same qibla. It’s awe-inspiring. It’s so much easier to cry in salah here. I teared up in the first rak’ah when he recited “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (Surely, we belong to Him and surely, to Him is our return), but maybe that’s cuz that verse always gets me. Here, at least you just feel it so much more. When he says we all belong to Him, I believe it so much easier – how else would we have all gotten here? How else would we be altogether in this place, in this way, if we were not His slaves & property? So, if we are His property and we are to return to Him, then may our return to Him be as joyous & peaceful as our current union in this wonderful city. Ameen.

Mecca, specifically Masjid Al-Haram, just became my favorite place in this planet. Apparently Medina is even more tranquil than this?? That’s something I have to see. This place is special because it is So busy, just like NYC – but in a 3rd world country, & unified around a single theme – worship of The One. So much more than in NYC can you see every part of the world here, and completely, utterly unfiltered, in its most raw & true form. People make no attempts to hide who they are or be anything else – they are purely themselves, from wherever they’re from. And this place accepts them all, however they are. So beautiful. There’s also tons of Desi’s here – I don’t even need to speak Arabic, so many people, especially workers & shop keepers, speak Urdu. Even the Arabs speak Urdu, probably since so many of their workers do – like Spanish in America.

Speaking of which, for some reason my dad keeps speaking Spanish with the locals. He either speaks in English, or in Spanish. I have to keep reminding him that no one knows what the heck “gracias” means here. It’s kind of funny. He’ll be haggling with a cab driver and randomly bust out with an “Ok! Si, si, si!” and just get a blank stare. Of the many languages spoken here, Spanish, surprisingly, is not one of them – at least not as far as I can tell. I miss Latinos.

Another thing about prayer is, when the imam isn’t reciting, it’s silent. All you hear is birds chirping & people coughing – and ALOT of people be coughing. Everyone seems sick, it’s kind of gross b/c alot of them don’t cover their nose or mouth when they cough or sneeze. Makes me imagine that the Haram would be a great place to do educational outreach – it would reach samples of the entire world’s population.

Mecca could be so much more of a Mecca, to be honest. It’s surprisingly underwhelming. The masjid is the only part of the city that really seems to have it together. There should be institutions here that help to capitalize on the opportunity here – not just from a business perspective, but a Humanitarian perspective. That’s something to seriously consider. I don’t know if it’s something that isn’t being allowed, or is too expensive to manage here, but there’s great work that can come out of such an establishment. So many people come here, but they don’t really connect with each other. We connect with the Ka’aba, with Allah & with each other merely as bodies occupying spaces adjacent to us, not as brothers & sisters from regions throughout the world, facing struggles, hardships, pain, suffering – or even joys & successes – that can all be shared & leveraged.

That’s what I’d like to see, for Mecca to become a marketplace of ideas & stories as much as it is a marketplace for jewels & cheap, Chinese prayer beads.

Before I forget – I wanted to make mention of the look on the face of the Saudi guard watching over Hajr Al-Aswad. He looked overwhelmed, like he was holding back tears, while guarding the corner. Then, I imagined how powerful it must be, to stand where he stands, to look out at the magnitude of the place he’s in. To look into the fervent faces of pilgrims & zealous worshippers, to see them struggling so hard to get closer, to even simply brush their fingertips across the corner he is posted at. And it’s continuous. Never-ending. Perpetual. Until the end of this place. SubhanAllah.

I should eat right? It’s almost 7pm, I’ve been here for 4 hours – just writing & reflecting. All I’ve had today is ZamZam – and I haven’t really felt hungry. I had some KFC this morning before heading back to the hotel after Fajr – it wasn’t all that. Halal Popeye’s back home is better actually. I’m gonna go peep that Burger King tho, been fienin for it. More later iA, still need to talk about after tawaf & the rest of this morning iA.

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Reflecting on salah. I actually took so long to get out after maghrib that it came time for Isha. So, I prayed before leaving. I imagine the city full of people, stopping at the adhan, turning to the Ka’aba & devoting themselves in salah. The imam recites the revealed words of Allah out over loudspeakers, which resound through the streets, fill the air and are snatched down by the open, devoted hearts of the worshippers. No word goes un-seized.

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Day 4 – The Ka’aba

How one man touched the hearts of so many people is….incomprehensive. It’s a feat only Allah could pull off. This is proof of the Almighty’s Truth.”

10/25/11

That didn’t work out so well. I definitely knocked out, so exhausted yesterday. So, before I get into describing yesterday – I need to state that I’m writing this while seated in the Masjid Al-Haram. If I look up from my page, I am in viewing distance of the Ka’aba. Surrounded by people – literally surrounded. There’s such a soft, cool breeze blowing around – there’s this hum of voices, not overpoweringly loud, but comfortably present in the background. Over it all, there is the sweet chirping of birds, darting & maneuvering through the air inside the masjid & outside, around the Sacred House. It’s bliss. There’s dhikr, there’s laughter, there’s joy, there’s peace here. Serenity. Yes, you can say it’s chaotic & busy, but it’s captivating. Something will catch your eye & I swear you’ll sit for 20 minutes staring w/o even realizing it. When you finally break free of the trance and move to walk away, you turn & see that 20 others were around you, entranced by the same sight. It’s universally magnificent.

I swear the Ka’aba is one of the most beautiful things I have ever laid eyes upon. It’s said there’s reward in just looking at the Ka’aba. When you’re here & you look upon it, no further justification is needed. It calms the heart, the sight of it is absolutely mesmerizing. Seeing waves of people slowly circling it is almost equally as captivating. There is such proof in the Glory of The One in this place. What’s incredible is how many people there are. Haha, I know that’s what everyone says. But, what’s amazing is how many people are devoted to the same thing. Completely devoted. Not passively, not minimally, not conveniently – completely devoted. How one man touched the hearts of so many people is….incomprehensive. It’s a feat only Allah could pull off. This is proof of the Almighty’s Truth. I’m sitting in a random spot & I’m next to people from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Indonesia, West Africa, Turkey, North Africa – who knows what else. It’s spectacular, subhanAllah. What’s great is knowing that this feeling is shared by everyone here. Okay :) I think that does if for me in this place, let me try to recall last night now, iA.

We arrived at the hotel around 1:30am probably. Maybe 12:30 actually. I immediately decided I was going to do my ‘Umrah that night…

Man, I keep looking around & getting distracted. I had to get up and move somewhere else, it was getting too crowded where I was. I’ll just skip to the good parts. We walked to the Haram, about 10 mins from the hotel, very convenient & easy. We get there & decide to rendezvous at a police post near the ‘Abd Al-’Aziz door, South of the masjid, at the end of the night. Once we’d debriefed, our guide gave some quick pointers on what to do & we headed in. As we neared the masjid, I started getting nervous. I slowed & walked separate from the group, so I could collect my thoughts. I almost didn’t want to go, like I wasn’t ready, but I also couldn’t stop myself from pushing forward. We entered the mosque and I see the Ka’aba after a few steps. And, I froze. 2:03am, when I first laid eyes upon The Sacred House. I found the whole group lined up, hands raised, making du’a & I remembered the virtue of du’a when seeing the Ka’aba for the first time. So I prayed for two things first, as I was taught:

1 – Allahuma ja’alni mustajab ad-da’wah [O Allah, make me of those whose prayers are answered]

2 – O Allah, honor this Ka’aba & all those that look upon it.

The first, I’m told, was a du’a of Imam Abu Hanifa, when he first saw the Ka’aba – basically asking for all of his prayers to be answered – the wish for more wishes :). The second was from Imam Magid’s workshop. Once I had those two, I continued to make du’a for myself & others, & began to tear up. I was standing next to my mother, who was weeping.

We then moved down to begin our tawaf. My parents grabbed hold of me & wanted me to stay with them. After 1 round, we found that it wasn’t busy so I pulled away from them & went on my own, to try & get closer. I think I ended up doing 7 more – but each time I was able to touch the Ka’aba, Alhamdulillah :). I didn’t need to push, though I got pushed, stepped on, crushed, & coughed on. But, honestly, I didn’t care. It didn’t make the experience any less spectacular. The first time I touched the Ka’aba I began to cry & made du’a – or tried to make du’a. The whole event was very overwhelming & made it so difficult to remember anything. All I could think to do was ask for forgiveness & Jannah (Paradise), freedom from Hellfire, the best in this life & the next. It took a few rounds to actually settle my thoughts & to remember others & to pray for them.

So, I was able to touch the wall of the ka’aba, before the Yemeni corner. It was very easy, I was able to do it almost each time around. A few times, I touched the Yemeni corner – where it’s said that wiping the hands clears sins. I touched the corner & moved on.

I did not get to touch Hajr Al-Aswad [The Black Stone, brought down from Heaven by the angel Gabriel and given to Abraham to mount upon the Ka’aba]. I came pretty close, but not close enough. That was the most intense part. I was doing my best not to push anyone, I would only stand my ground against others trying to push me out of their way sometimes. Specifically, while trying to get to the stone, I would move in, hold my ground, & move in, & hold my ground, continuously, until I got closer. I ended up about 5 ft away, but there were so many people, crushing me, that I wouldn’t have been able to go any further w/o pushing. So I left it & moved on. By the way, I loved the proximity. I loved the fact that everyone is pressed together, musty, sweaty, pushing, a bit unruly – it shows the determination & heart of everyone there – shows their passion & persistence – shows their love & need for the Divine. I was honored to be a part of that.

Hajji's Swarm The Black Stone Corner

It’s crazy when you look at that picture to imagine that I actually made it through to the spots that I did. Allah is Generous :)

I was able to touch the door. Well, the ledge [Al-Multazam, where all prayers are accepted] & the door frame – I’m not tall enough to reach the actual door. I grabbed the ledge, and while hanging, I prayed for Allah to release me when I would be forgiven of All my sins…and I was still holding on. I was like, um…ok, so like, now would be good. Still holding on. So, I went ahead & made other du’as. Still holding on. I got nervous, like maybe Allah didn’t want to forgive me? So, I got more desperate, said “release me & forgive me!” and I slowly got pushed to the side…sort of loosened my own grip & waited for the right push to let myself go. Don’t know how successful that was, but Allah definitely has a sense of humor :).

The wall next to the door was also fairly easy to touch. This time, I grabbed it & lowered my head & pressed it to the wall. I wept and made du’a after du’a. My hand trembled, my face was hot w/tears & sweat, but I felt like I had all the time in the world, so I kept making du’a. I don’t even remember what I prayed for, but I know I said everything I wanted in my heart. I pray my du’as are accepted.

I continued around in tawaf a few more times – I think I did 8 rounds total, maybe more – I’m not really sure. I got so caught up at the time, I lost track. It was a beautiful experience. I wanted to live in that moment forever. The angels in the Heavens, making tawaf above the Ka’aba are blessed to be able to do that perpetually. It was also amazing to look up in the night sky, illuminated by the bright lamps of the Haram, and to see birds, flying all around the Ka’aba. They looked so free & beautiful. That is a blessed & envious existence. I made du’a that I could be so free in Jannah. I’m trying to recall if they ever crossed directly over the Ka’aba [they did] or sat on it, & I don’t think they did. Interesting. The birds are always singing here – very vocal, chirping away with their sweet songs as they help themselves to the skies & airways all throughout the Haram & inside the masjid – to be continued! Maghrib time, be back later!

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