Tag Archives: hardship

Day 20 – An Unwitting Descent

I have a feeling it’s going to be even more difficult from here. What follows is real life.”

11/10/11

Long day. Productive though, not hard at all, Alhamdulillah. I’m back in Aziziah now, it’s about 10pm. Gettin ready to knock out soon iA.

It took me about 40 mins to climb back down the mountain. I felt so boss afterwards, like I accomplished something significant. I need to do things like this more often. Though it wasn’t a complete retreat, I got a little taste and saw benefit. I’d love to try a bit more :)

I caught a packed taxi to the Haram. Only 10 riyals, and I got to sit in a complete stranger’s lap. Win-win, I say. On the way, coming in from the North, I saw Masjid Al-Jinn, and a few other places I recognized from the book I was reading. Interestingly, Masjid Al-Jinn was established in the place where the Prophet met a group of Jinn, outside the city, to teach them about the Message. This place is now 2 blocks away from the Masjid Al-Haram. That’s how much the masjid has expanded since then. It was cool to be able to pick stuff like that out. Masjid Al-Jinn itself actually seems pretty ordinary, with a little retro-futuristic design on the minaret. Otherwise, looked like any other neighborhood mosque. Maybe I can check it out inside at some point and get a better look iA.

Masjid Al-Jinn

I got to the Haram just in time for ‘Asr and prayed in the street. Afterwards, I went up to the roof of the Massa’, the distance between Safa & Marwa, and took an awesome nap, next to a group of West African brothers. I slept for like an hour in the shade, with the cool breeze blowing. I got my fill of ZamZam too, Alhamdulillah. Started to feel so refreshed. It’s been a good day, all in all. I did a lot on my own, went around and saw things I had been meaning to see. Glad I got all that done, Alhamdulillah. I’m basically ready to leave, at least mentally. After Maghrib in the mosque, it settled on me that I’d be leaving soon, and I got so sad. I miss home and my loved ones there, but this place has reached such a special place in my heart – comparable to none. I felt like a void was filled partially in coming here and experiencing this place.

It seems like the tests have…stopped. The burden is lifted, but the connection also seems to have faded. I felt so much more in tune with my Lord while I was on Hajj, being tested by Him. Hardship truly does bring one closer to Allah, that reason alone makes it an immense blessing.

Engulfed

The Sun Setting on Mecca

My life actually feels normal again. I feel like I’ve always felt. Not sure I like it, how do I get back the bliss and the insight from The Most Near? For that feeling, I would try to come for Hajj again and again, subhanAllah. Here is a virtue that has its place in the world. I didn’t even realize the blessing I had, and now that it’s passed, I feel its absence sorely. I’m going to have to continuously look out for other ways to draw near. I have a feeling it’s going to be even more difficult from here. What follows is real life. Hajj is so much of a vacuum, a controlled environment, chaotic as it was. Here, the test and the ease come hand in hand. In real life, it takes time to pass from one to another. Decades pass before resolutions can be conceived. Those are real tests, they require real patience, subhanAllah. Ya Rabb, please continue to guide me and show me how best to proceed from here.

After ‘Isha, I left the Haram and walked towards ‘Aziziah. I walked for about 40 mins, also saw the birthplace of the Prophet, which the Saudi’s have turned into a library. I also saw the mountain pass the Muslims were exiled to during the boycott years. Everything’s right there, North of the Marwa side of the Masjid Al-Haram.

I missed the line of cabs outside of the Haram. I kept passing up guys offering rides because they were charging way too much. Before I knew it, I had walked well beyond the limits of the masjid and ended up in some dark back alleyways. It’s my own fault really, for always ending up in these situations. I thought I was heading in the right direction, I tried using the enormous clock tower as my guide. My navigation skills were terrible. I only ended up further and further into some slummy looking neighborhoods. The interesting thing is that they were all Hajji housing and hotels still, they were just really shady looking. Everyone there was Indian, with their flags posted up everywhere. I had no incidents in Little Hajji India, Alhamdulillah, but I was trying so hard to not look lost or out of place. Eventually, going down the dark alleys, trying to find my way up to the main road, I hit a series of dead ends and decided to just backtrack to the masjid again, to regain my bearings.

I made my way back to the masjid and caught a cab, Alhamdulillah, after I passed through a tunnel that seemed about 2 miles long. It was the first time in my trip thus far that I was actually, genuinely afraid I might die. People were driving so reckless in the tunnel – making U-turns, reversing, speeding, driving the wrong way…all in a one-way tunnel-  and I realized…I was all alone…with barely any identification on me. If I died, I thought, would my parents ever even find out? That thought freaked me out and kind of made me paranoid. So, when I was finally able to find a cab driver, I was so thankful. The driver that picked me up was actually a young kid, probably no more than 15 years old, definitely not a real taxi driver. He was probably pushin his dad’s whip around to make some extra cash on a school night, but I didn’t care, I needed the ride. Alhamdulillah, he gave me a fair rate and brought me back to my place. He even picked up an Iranian couple along the way and had me translate to them how much money they owed. I speak neither Arabic nor Farsi, so I don’t know how that worked out. Straight gesticular. I later realized I was actually attempting to make a 5.5mi trip from the Haram to ‘Aziziah by foot, with no real idea of which direction to go in.

I’m settled in now, took a shower, freshened up, Alhamdulillah. I’m actually really hungry now though. I think I’m gonna step out and grab a bite down the street. There’s an awesome place across from us, they sell this amazing chicken Sajji from Balochistan. There’s also a really good Punjabi restaurant around the corner that makes fresh lentils and naan that we’ve been crushin on the regular. So convenient :). Then, I’ll head back in and pass out.

Tomorrow is Jummah. We’re planning to go to the Haram and pray there and do our Tawaf Al-Wida’, before coming back to ‘Aziziah. Saturday afternoon, we leave for Jeddah to catch our flight back home iA. The trip is winding down and finding its way to the end. Everything is calming down and collecting itself so smoothly and beautifully, Alhamdulillah. Allah is the Best of Planners.

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Day 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 15 – Arafah

“The hardships must always accompany the ease, such is the nature of our existence.”

11/5/11 – Hajj, Day 2

The Day of Arafah. Finally, we are here. It is a beautiful morning, maybe 65 deg, light breeze, clear skies. It’s 6:30am. After Fajr, I was planning on sleeping, but I stayed up to watch the sun rise over the mountains. It’s not as delicious as the sunsets, but it has its own majesty about it.

Minute by minute, the world around me is coming to life as the sky fades from dark to light, blue & black to orange & white. I’m sitting with my mother now. Hugs, kisses, asking about our night’s sleep. Waiting for the sun to break from behind the mountain – just a few more minutes now, iA. There’s sakinah (tranquility) and peace here. It’s so thick in the air, you can feel it in your bones. The Day of Mercy has begun.

Last night was more of a mess, none seemingly worth mentioning anymore – though I will briefly, for the sake of this journal. The hardships must always accompany the ease, such is the nature of our existence. My shoes were stolen, from inside the tent. Someone probably took them by accident and left theirs, which looked similar, but I can’t take those when they’re not mine. I’ve resorted to my backup flip-flops, no harm done. They’re terribly uncomfortable though, I don’t think they’ll be very useful if I walk alot.

We slept, packed in our tent, practically pressed against one another – 15 men in one small tent. We got dinner at least, Alhamdulillah. I took the HajjCoach’s advice and used earplugs and an eye shade to sleep and it worked beautifully, Alhamdulillah. I knocked out around 10pm and didn’t wake up until someone shook me at 3am to wake me. I took off my mask and it felt like I just entered the land of the living for the first time – sensory overload. Right back in the thick of it all over again. At least I got some rest, some time away Alhamdulillah, before everything came rushing back.

This morning, we had to leave before Fajr, which is against the sunnah of Mina, but we had to in order to catch our bus to Arafah. With millions of pilgrims traveling in such a short distance with limited resources, we don’t have much control over our situations. They said there were fatwas saying it’s ok to go to Arafah before Fajr, because of the sheer volume of people traveling at the same time. We were already going anyways, but that made the pill easier to swallow.

I got upset with my dad too, sort of lost my cool for a sec. He kept telling me to “stay together”, said it like 6 times. I would be standing no more than 5 or 6 paces away the entire time. I sort of snapped, and was like, “what are you talking about? I’m right here, where am I gonna go??” This was while we were gathering to board onto the bus to leave Mina this morning. I felt bad afterwards, he was trying to make sure everything would go smoothly, in his own way. So much virtue in keeping your mouth shut. I think I’ve saved myself alot of headaches on this trip by staying aloof and staying quiet. Yesterday was the first time I got involved in the drama – out of sheer curiosity and I regret it. It brought no benefit and just gave me a crucial migraine.

Alhamdulillah, it’s behind us now. We have finally been blessed with Arafah. After all of the tests, hardships and setbacks, Allah has allowed us this magnificent day. May He accept our prayers and make us amongst those whose prayers are answered. Ameen.

Here comes the sun…

Sun Rising Over Arafah

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Day 14 – Settling In

“If it ain’t hard, it ain’t Hajj.”

11/4/11 – Hajj, Day 1

I’m feeling so confident that my du’as may be heard tomorrow – very optimistic and hopeful at least. Especially the du’as that are of major concern to me, those relating to matters closest to my heart. Those are the ones I’m feeling good about. I so sincerely hope my Lord answers them and hears me. Allahu ‘Alam (Allah knows best), I may have to face even more tests and have to be patient with not receiving what I ask for. Such is the nature of my life in this world, I am at the whim of my Master. It is up to Him whether to preserve me or discard me – I have no right to demand either. I can only hope and pray for His Infinite & All-Encompassing Mercy. There is no deity save for The Most High, The Lord of the Worlds. May we see His Infinitely Bounteous Face and receive His Glad Tidings. Ameen.

————–

Somehow, we got wrapped up in a full-blown resistance movement. Ok, maybe not that serious, but definitely just as dramaticized. So, this lady from our Hajj company has been claiming that we didn’t pay for food & beds in our tents. She’s demanding that we show receipts if we say we’ve paid. Right. Let me just pull that right out of my sheet-suit. She’s basically just beefing with our tour guide. Apparently, he disrespected her when he first spoke to her this morning. We later find out that she said he beckoned her with his finger to come to him when he wanted to speak to her. Our group leader denied even having done this, but didn’t put up much of a fight to get us what we paid for either. All this mess because one man wagged his finger at the wrong woman. A group of men actually went to the Ministry of Hajj office and complained about the lady. Of course, this is a bureaucracy, where nothing is done by the people you approach. They suggested we call the cops, put in our claim for having been cheated. The guys were very hesitant though, they wanted to try reasoning with the lady one last time.

They caught up with her at the entrance to the camp and got in her face. 15 men, 1 woman. She wouldn’t budge, they all stayed soft. She basically said what we have is all we’re gonna get. Our current arrangement, with 15 men sleeping in one tiny tent, is the best she was going to do for us. I wanted to just blurt out, “Yo! We boutta call the cops, cuz you’s stealin from us right now!” Of course I didn’t, they were all talking in Arabic, so I had no clue what was actually going on at the time. So, here we are, in this small space, maybe 12’x12’, 15 men, sleeping on the floor, practically pressed up against one another.

I have a killer headache from all the excitement. It’s like 8pm & we’ve been caught up in this affair since we got off the bus this morning. Earlier, I was afraid Mina would be boring. I should know better, nothing is ever uneventful during Hajj ;). My dad was apologizing to me, for this day being so difficult. I reminded him that nothing has been easy so far, and that this is Hajj. It’s supposed to be difficult, that’s all part of the test. This is also the first official day, of course it’s going to be even harder than what we’ve been going through so far. Now, we’re being tested with our money, food, rest – things we have full rights to. No one ever has an easy Hajj – at least, they’re not supposed to. If it ain’t hard, it ain’t Hajj. Alhamdulillah, it’s been very manageable thus far.

Earlier today, I went around tent city a bit. Completely fascinating. I mostly stuck around the area with Western Hajji’s, and even that was enormous. I definitely didn’t even scratch the surface of Mina, there are so many people here, it’s just incredible. It’s very well organized and structured as well. Reminds me of disaster management and refugee sheltering, done so right. The shelters are sturdy, comfortable, efficient, and not to mention dignified. It’s a very impressive arrangement.

Pilgrims Settling Into Their Tents

Pilgrims Gathering In Mina For The Beginning of Hajj

Here Lies Tent City

I know some people in our group are really frustrated & upset. I’m just tired and hungry. I just want to get to Arafah tomorrow. After that, let whatever happens come iA.

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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.

—————-

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 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