Tag Archives: zamzam

Day 18 – Like Clockwork

I recognize that I have to get tested with everything I have that matters to me, to see if I turn to Allah with that threat of losing each thing.

11/8/11Hajj, Day 5

On the way to Sai’y, the adhan for Dhuhr went off. I was on a walkway that passes over Safa and Marwa, on my way to outside, to find a staircase to the roof. The walkway was maybe wide enough for 6 people to stand side by side. When the adhan goes off, people stop wherever they are, throughout the city, and form lines and pray right where they stand. I got stuck on the walkway,  tried going forward to get outside, but everyone in front had already formed their lines, there was no way I could turn back either. So, I stopped where I was too, and just formed a line with those next to me. Others behind me kept pushing through, even after the prayer had begun.

It was so packed, I started weeping in salah. I just had this thought like, “Look, this is what we do, we crunch ourselves into tiny spaces to worship you, Ya Allah. People push past us on their way out, carelessly shoving us while we pray, but we must bear it and continue. This is our nature, this is who we are – small, insignificant. You are truly Magnificent and Glorified. You tell us to come here, to complete these rituals, exactly the way You say and we do our best to follow. Please forgive me, please protect me, please benefit me by what I’ve done for your sake, for I have no power to benefit myself. I have no station by which I may protect my own soul. It is truly all in Your Hands. My existence is completely at your whim, just as I am now, physically, in sujjud (prostration), an inch away from those around me. My face is pressed into the same ground thousands of people, myself included, had just been walking along. Allahu Akbar.” In retrospect, I don’t think I’ve ever felt closer to Allah in prayer as I did then.

I went upstairs and ended up on the roof. The rush everywhere else was unbearable at this point, I was much more willing to brave the hot, midday desert sun and heat, on the uncovered roof, than pushes and shoves. First though, I needed to rest, desperately. I found some shade and sat down, then laid flat on my back. Reminded me of that yoga position, “open and ready to receive”. It felt amazing, like I was melting into the cool marble floor. After a while, I got up and wanted to write for a little bit, so I pulled out my journal…and was horrified. It was soaked. I was like, OMG NO! I went through the pages to see the damage. The edge of every page I had written on so far was soaked..with sweat..? I think I sweat through my bag and soaked the book? Or maybe it’s from being pressed against other people and getting their sweat on it? I’m not entirely sure. What’s amazing is that the pages I hadn’t gotten to yet were dry, subhanAllah. Only pages with writing were wet. That’s purely a test.

The words weren’t bleeding, the ink wasn’t running, which was very, very good. The pages were stuck together though. I didn’t want them to dry that way or they’d rip when peeled apart after drying and maybe mess up the letters and become illegible. I remembered suddenly that I had packed a small hand towel in my tote bag that I still hadn’t used, from the airplane. I actually yoinked it from the first class bathroom, after I snuck in when the lines were too long for the bathrooms in our economy section. Finally came in handy though ;). I put the towel on each page and pressed down with my pocket Qur’an to soak up the moisture. Took me a little over an hour to do each page, 90 in all. It was time-consuming, but it was working, the pages were dry enough that they didn’t stick. Alhamdilillah, I think it worked out, it’s still not entirely dry, at 4:30am, but it’s almost there, and the unused pages are totally unaffected, so I can continue to write without issue.

I would have been so devastated had I lost it, the collection of my thoughts and heart’s reflections and ponderings. Had to get tested though, I understand. I recognize that I have to get tested with everything I have that matters to me, to see if I turn to Allah with that threat of losing each thing. The only other thing I needed to get tested on, the only thing left, was my parents. Suddenly, when this thought crossed my mind during my Sai’y, I realized that I had totally left myself open to be tested there too! We had set such a shifty rendezvous place to meet at after we were all done with our rituals, what if I can’t find them! I went to the edge of the roof and looked over to our meeting spot, the bathroom in the courtyard outside of the masjid. There were like 100,000 people standing around our meeting spot. I had already taken an hour and a half break, what if they get there way before me and can’t find me and freak out and do something hasty?

Sure enough, the test came like clockwork :). I finished my Sai’y on the open roof, which wasn’t so bad, I did it in an hour. There were very few people up there, so there was no rush. It was also made more comfortable with the easy access to the cold ZamZam fountains all along the sides, which are normally jam-packed during Sai’y. I moistened the hand towel I had with cold ZamZam and covered my bald head with it to stay cool and to keep the sun out of my eyes. So glad I chose to do this instead of doing this indoors with everyone pushing and shoving and packed tightly together.

View of The Sacred House From The Roof, During Hajj

When I got down to our meeting spot, I walked through and around the entire area in search of my parents. Nothing. No cell phone either, and we had to take a taxi back still, we HAD to go together. Even though I suspected this would happen, I still had to deal with it somehow. I made du’a, and went around a second time. When I was inside, in the shade, I heard my mom call out to me. I saw her and was like, SubhanAllah, this is all Divine Support. Give in, remember Allah when you’re tested and He supports you. It’s real. My favorite thing about Hajj has been learning to trust Allah and how to seek His Help and Support. Hajj is like a crash course in dealing with hardships and tribulations. You need this now, not when you’re old, with one foot in the grave. Go as soon as you can, trust me.

My parents had just gotten there 2 minutes ago, so we basically got there around the same time. We tried to get food but couldn’t make up our minds about where to eat. Not having decent options made it difficult again. We ended up just grabbing ice cream and hopped on a bus to go to the Jamarat. It was 3pm. SubhanAllah, I was so amazed at our timing. I even took a break before doing Sai’y and we still ended up together at basically the same time.

The bus was packed, we had to stand the whole way. We were all so tired, my feet were blistering. We finished our ice cream on the bus and I was looking for some place to set down the empty cups. I placed them in an empty overhead compartment and they somehow fell over and spilled. My ice cream soup fell on the old Indian man sitting beneath the compartment, his seat and shirt got stained. I felt so bad! :/ He didn’t really say anything though, he actually even moved over and offered to let me share his seat with him. How sweet mA. I couldn’t do it though, the orange stains across the shoulder blades of his otherwise pure white shirt made me feel too bad. Another test. That was the first time I’d really done anything ‘harmful’ to someone here, and thankfully it was by mistake at least. I apologized to him and he made no fuss whatsoever.

The trip took an hour, the driver got stuck in so much traffic that he couldn’t take the bus any further. He told everyone that he refused to go on and made us all get off, a mile away from our destination. We got out and walked the distance to the Jamarat and did our Rami’ (stoning) and made our way back to the camp. We had to stop like 4 times on the walk back, we were all in so much pain. We even laid out our prayer rug and just sat down and chilled until Maghrib, outside of the Jamarat. For miles, everywhere you sit, the police come by and yell at you to get up and keep moving. You can’t even rest peacefully when you’re so exhausted and worn. Thankfully, since prayer time was close, they let us stay in our place until after prayer. Off in the distance, you can see the clock tower of the Haram, protruding into the sky. At times for prayer, the tip of the tower sparkles and glitters to show that the adhan is being made. We watched from miles away, until the lights stopped flickering, and then performed our Maghrib prayer. Immediately afterwards, the police officers returned and shooed us all away again, so we set back onto our journey back to Mina.

It took like an hour and a half to walk back, all through the refugee-lookin parts of Mina again. We got back in, that’s when I laid down and just knockedd outt! Now, it’s 5am, time for Fajr. I’m gonna pray and sleep for a bit. We’re gonna catch a bus to leave Mina at 4, so we have to go to the Jamarat one last time between 12-4pm iA. If we don’t leave before Maghrib, we have to stay here one more night and complete the stoning ritual one more day. I’ll continue with more later, good chat :)

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Hajj, Mecca, Reflections, Travel

Day 5 – Contemplating Context

“There’s so much that can be gained just from standing in a landscape that is unchanged, to get an idea of the context for past generations.”

10/26/11

I have time, I’m in my hotel room, calling it early tonight, it’s about 10:30pm. I’m gonna try to start from the first day & fill in everything I’ve left out so far, iA.

So, when I got into Mecca, I performed ‘Umrah. I talked about the tawaf & events there already. After the tawaf, I drank some ZamZam, which tasted amazing. Something about it here, at the source, is so much better than how I’ve always had it. When people would bring it back with them, I never really liked drinking it all that much. This was legit though, Alhamdulillah.

It’s really such a blessing to have this well here, in the middle of this desert, right with the Haram, to sustain its people. Its interesting to imagine all the factors that come together to make this place so special, just geographically even. Sure, there’s massive appeal because of the Ka’aba, but even historically, it was a major city before Islam. I think ZamZam was a major cause. It’s this never-ending supply of clean, delicious water in the middle of the desert. It gave people a reason to settle here. Perhaps this place became sacred to preserve the well & access to it – in addition to the spiritual motivators. It’s also situated in between a series of mountains, giving it a natural defense. Tragically, it seems like the Saudi’s have blasted away much of the original mountains around the Haram, to build hotels & shopping malls. There’s so much that can be gained just from standing in a landscape that is unchanged, to get an idea of the context for past generations.

I’m going to try looking at pictures of the landscape historically. I think it’d be really interesting to see everything in its original form. That’s my only major beef with the Saudi’s so far. They’ve taken liberties with the landscape, altering it dramatically, leaving behind very little of what was originally there. That seems to be the central theme here, in the developed areas of Mecca at least: strip everything of its originality & replace it with a flashy, lifeless, contrived placeholder. The alternatives are unnatural, unsustainable. It’s so clearly evident. Take food for example. I’ve been here almost 3 days, and have yet to find a healthy meal. You have either grocery stores, full of pre-packaged & processed foods, or you have street restaurants with fried food or fast food. I know people don’t actually live eating this way. It’s horrible for you. Especially when you’re in a place so holy, trying to eat foods that will support spiritual enhancement. I’ve basically been living off ZamZam, with an actual solid meal maybe once a day. Even then, I end up regretting eating at all afterwards.

I imagine the original landscape being so heavily dominated by the mountains – especially Safa & Marwa. When you step out from the masjid at Safa, you’re faced with an enormous mountain. Isn’t that probably the original mountain? [No] Next to the Marwa side, to the East, is another large mountain, which I imagine was an early Marwa [Wrong]. Unless, of course, they’re both just very small hills & the entire Haram is just surrounded by that many mountains [Bingo!].

So, I completed my Sa’iy. That’s been the toughest part of the rituals so far. Having to walk that much, barefoot, on solid marble floors really takes a toll. You’re feet end up aching so bad. Nevertheless, I got through it, Alhamdulillah. It wasn’t as exciting as tawaf, but I still got my du’as in, so it’s all good :). After Sai’y, I went to find a barber. I wandered around what I learned to be the Northern side of the city, outside of Marwa, & found a barber area, got my haircut for 15 SR [$4].

Leave a comment

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

Day 5 – Blame It On Al-Baik

“Paranoia lingers and brings such unrest to the heart.”

10/26/11

It’s 7:50 am, I just made it back inside my room. That’s right, I’ve been out since 2:30 pm the day before, with only a 45 min power nap in the Haram. I feel fine though – apart from my feet, which currently need amputation. I just had *quite* an adventure. Some excitement, some exploration, some rude awakenings, some failures, & some successes. Yes, all that since I last wrote in the journal. So much to tell, I hope I can get all of it down…

As soon as I walk in to the room, my dad’s like, “Are you ok?? Everything alright? You should have told us you were going for so long…we have a tour in an hour, go take a shower.

Uh…ok…

More adventures I suppose. That’s fine, pack it all in. Before I forget, the search for Al-Baik is the reason I did all this in the first place. I’ll have to start from when I left the room yesterday to really paint the whole picture of my recent adventures.

——————

Ok, managed to shower and freshen up, sitting on the bus now, waiting for this tour to start. Not really looking forward to it – apart from potentially seeing historically significant sites. This group is the only thing I don’t like about this trip – I can’t stand some of these people. Loud, self-righteous Punjabis just get under my skin like no one else can.

So, about yesterday, I left the room at 2:30 pm, went to the Haram & prayed ‘Asr on the roof. After ‘Asr, I went down & sat near Mount Safa to write in my journal & wrote until Maghrib. I ended up moving around until I was on Mount Safa during Maghrib. The imam, I think Shuraim, recited a verse about Safa too. Then, I headed out to get something to eat, but by the time I made it through the crowd and got outside, it was ‘Isha time. So, I prayed ‘Isha in the courtyard outside of the masjid, in front of the ‘Abd Al-’Aziz gate. I went after ‘Isha to Burger King, had a double whopper, ate with some Algerians and felt disgusting afterwards. I went around to find some water, or a big bottle to fill with Zam Zam. I went to this Super Food Mart & got all kinds of drinks (juice, water, soda). Took it back to the hotel & found everyone but my dad in the room, so I didn’t want to stay. I bounced after a few mins & headed back towards the Haram. Picked up a bottle of water on the way to try & clean out my system, I felt so gross.

I went to the roof and chilled for a while. I eventually left & started to head to the hotel, but got curious about this restaurant I kept hearing about, Al-Baik. Everyone said I HAD to go there, so I wanted to find it. I also wanted to see the other gates to the masjid, so I started walking its perimeter. I discovered the other gates…and went all the way around, to the outskirts in the North, still couldn’t find Al-Baik.

I continued walking around, when I was approached by a random man, just outside Marwa. He looked like any other devoted follower – big beard, head covered with the red-checkered garment, loose robe, warm smile. He came up to me and gave me salaams, with a big smile on his face. He grabbed my hand, gripped it with two hands & started asking me questions. I thought nothing of it & started to answer as best I could. He spoke only in Arabic though, didn’t understand my attempts to get through to him in English or Urdu, my usual backups when my sparse Arabic runs out. I understood enough to get that he asked my name, whether I was here for Hajj and where I was from. Then he asked, “kam auwlad?”, right after I had told him I was from America. I know “auwlad” is baby/child, I didn’t know what “kam” meant. I thought he wanted to know how old I was when I went to America, or how long I had been there. I didn’t know enough Arabic to tell him I was born there…and felt apprehensive about even giving him that information.

He started to insist. While holding my hand, he repeated the same question at least 30 times, very seriously. Why I stood there that long is beyond me. I didn’t want to be rude and pull my hand away and bounce, which is what I should have done. Instead, I tried to be respectful and answer him. To try to help me understand, he would mimic cradling a baby in his arms, and even “wah-wah’ed” like a child to show that he wanted to know how many kids I have. I started to get it…but…why do you care so much about how many kids I have? I started to get creeped out. Then he asks, “wife?”. I go, “No”. He frowns, “no wife?”, followed by an unnecessarily sad, pouty face. “Parents?” He asked if my parents were alive, here for Hajj, or back in America. I’m still staring at him, thinking, ok…why does he want to know all this? Then, I catch him looking up behind me, as if there was someone back there. I look back to see who was there. This felt really shady now. He plays it off, “Ahh, parents..here? Where?”, starts pointing to random spots and looking inquisitively at me. I ask him in English, “What do you want??” He was confused. I ask him again, and he had no idea how to respond. I pull my hand away, say salaam, turn my back and walk away. It only took me 10 minutes to break him off, real smooth.

At this point, I’m super paranoid. I mean…I’ve seen Taken, I know how kidnappings work. I’m thinking to myself, maybe this guy is a spotter, picking people out that look vulnerable – such as myself, a brown dude walking around in jeans & a bright green “Prince William Lacrosse” t-shirt, clearly standing out from the robed majority, all alone at 2 in the morning. So, I’m thinking, if he’s a spotter, there’s gotta be a tracker too, someone that’s going to follow me around until the time is right to babynap me. So I stop about 50 yards down, next to one of the doors of the masjid. I turn and start scanning the crowd to look for anyone suspicious, anyone noticing me. I stood for almost 10 minutes, but couldn’t find anything, there was just too much of a crowd, I couldn’t even see the guy that talked to me amongst the mass. I kept walking, but still felt paranoid.

So there I was, walking along the outer walls of the Masjid Al-Haram on my 2nd night in Mecca at 2:15am, convinced that someone was following me with ill intentions. I decided I needed to get away from the crowd, to somewhere more secluded to draw out anyone that was behind me and see what was going on. I walk across the courtyard to the As-Safwa towers shopping mall that loom over the Haram. The shops were all closed, but the buildings were still open. I duck inside. I get in, it’s dark, completely empty. I get on the escalator, directly in front of the entrance, and go to the second level. While I’m going up, I turn to watch the glass doors to look for anyone coming in behind me. When I’m almost at the top of the escalator, I see someone run inside. If there was anyone who was following me, this was him.

I get off the escalator and walk to the wall across from it. Leaning against the wall, sipping from my water bottle, I stare down the escalator to see who was coming up. I see a young African boy, maybe 14 or 15 years old, coming upstairs. He sees me standing there, looks surprised and quickly looks away, turns and goes up the next escalator to the third floor. Doesn’t look back at me. This would’ve been the perfect opportunity for me to find another exit and leave. Too bad I didn’t do that. I went after him. I rode the escalator up to see where he went. I got to the next floor and found him standing in the corner, talking to a group of Saudi police officers that were posted in the mall. I was assuming he was playing off going upstairs by looking like he was trying to talk to them. I stood across the lobby, watching. After a minute or so, the police start looking at me suspiciously and I realize how shady I must look now – posted up on the wall, carefully watching all of them. So I just turn to leave and I see the kid go up another escalator to the top floor. I head back out, through the same front entrance I came in from.

I would say that I still didn’t feel completely settled. Paranoia lingers and brings such unrest to the heart. It was close to 3:30 am now, and I didn’t want to risk leading anyone else that was potentially still watching me back to my hotel room. So, I went back into the masjid. SubhanAllah, I was able to find a spot on the ground floor, 30-40 yards from the Ka’aba. Tawaf was still going strong. I prayed some tahajjud, and made du’a, to feel at ease if I really was clear and safe now. After I finished, I felt a complete calm overcome me. Alhamdulillah. I stayed in that spot, until Fajr, at 5am. I prayed with the Ka’aba directly in front of me, Alhamdulillah. Thank you Rabb, for protecting me & not testing me with more than I can bear.

I left, intending to go back to my hotel to rest. Instead, I went exploring again. I was just captivated by the crowd. At 5:30am there were hundreds of thousands of people pouring out into the streets, in every direction. It’s a spectacular sight. There’s literally a sea of people continuously flowing over every path leading away from the masjid. I’m standing there, looking around, thinking – where is everyone going…?? So I pick a direction, and decide to see for myself. I  just start following the crowd. I ended up heading Southwest, which I thought would lead me towards my hotel. I figured, after I was done exploring I could just turn a corner and be near my room since our hotel was also South of the Haram. Didn’t quite work out that way. I got so mixed up in the streets that I ended up wandering for another hour just trying to figure it all out. I got lost in the real city. I had finally found Mecca. This was what I wanted to see here – real outdoor markets – not air-conditioned shopping malls – massive crowds, street food, the hustle & bustle. Though I was lost, I enjoyed every minute. I was exhausted though. I eventually gave up on trying to route myself to my hotel from where I had ended up and decided to head back to the Masjid, in the center of the city, and to go back to my hotel from there.

——————–

I’m so drained. This tour showed all the places we will be going for Hajj – looks pretty serious. I’m hoping I can actually complete it iA.

I’m back in the hotel now, it’s 1:15pm. I’m going to try to finally get a little sleep. I can’t even concentrate enough to write more. Hopefully, I don’t forget what happened, so I can write everything in detail & not oversleep ‘Asr! Ok, yalla Hajji!

Leave a comment

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