Some of the greatest treasures that Allah (SWT) bestows on us normally come our way when we least expect them. For me, hajj was one of those treasures, a gracious gift, which I never thought I would receive at the tender age of 21.
My West African heritage’s point of view about the practice of going to hajj is partially responsible for my astonishment. The expectation for elderly Muslims to undertake the pilgrimage has been a time-honoured ideal, linked to the assumption that old age is the best time to shed one’s sins after a life full of many opportunities to commit disobedience. At the same time, many of my countrymen find it difficult to afford going on hajj until old age. Therefore, I feel immensely honoured that Allah (SWT) allowed me to perform hajj at a time in my life undreamt of by my forebears.
My hajj experience reminded me of the beautiful blessing of Islam, its holistic and simplistic teachings and its unique yet brilliant enlightenment for mankind. My personal reflection on this incredible journey has been crucial to savouring and prolonging its fruits. In order that it may not simply stand as a journey that once was, but a journey that is still powerful enough to resonate in me, I resolve to live each and every moment for Allah (SWT).
I performed the recommended hajj tamattu’ which is made up of umrah, a rest period and the hajj itself: “When the Prophet (SAW) performed Tawaaf and Sa’ee during the year of the Farewell Hajj with his Companions, he (SAW) ordered all those who hadn’t brought sacrificial animals to change their niyyah for hajj to niyyah for umrah, cut their hair and disengage from ihram until hajj. He said, “If I had not brought the sacrificial animal, I would have done what I’ve ordered you to do.” (Muslim)
Indeed, tawwaf is to the hajj what pulp is to the fruit, for every pilgrim looks forward to gazing upon their qibla. Performing tawwaf around the Ka’aba was a unique moment, leaving me with a great sense of delight as a guest of Allah (SWT). I appreciate that it also represents the core objective of every Muslim which is tawhid or the belief in the Oneness of Allah (SWT). Prophet Ibrahim (AS) established the House of Allah (SWT) for this very purpose. And so the pilgrim’s tawwaf not only celebrates his service, but can inspire all of us to carry on this legacy in reclaiming tawhid. The pilgrimage therefore redirected me back to the ultimate purpose of worshipping Allah (SWT), where one will find honour and status.
Safa and Marwah
To complete the umrah, I passed between the two hills of Safa and Marwah as did Hajar, the wife of Ibrahim (AS), when she looked for water for her son Isma’il (AS) in the desolate area of Makkah. On the surface, this rite celebrates the status of motherhood. For that, we, the pilgrims, imitated a woman who in desperation to feed her ailing child resorted to her soft, motherly inclinations and ran searching for aid in what was then very dangerous terrain.
Beneath this lies the importance of relying on Allah (SWT). At times, we may find ourselves in circumstances quite like the one that Hajar found herself, anxiously looking for an oasis amidst the scorching heat of our difficulties.
Hajar’s resilience and assurance that Allah (SWT) would not abandon her in her hour of need was beautiful food for thought for me as I trailed across the marble floors inside the Masjid-Al Haram.
Her ultimate sacrifice was greatly rewarded as water appeared at her son’s feet, laying the foundations of a new dwelling place and a new centre of revelation, the city of Makkah.
Standing at Arafat
Having been absolved from the ihram, I re-entered it on the 8th day of Dhul-Hijja and camped at Mina with other pilgrims, enjoying the company of sisters from Somalia, Jamaica, Morocco and Ivory Coast, amongst others. On 9th Dhul-Hijja, we took to the plains of Arafat, and spent our day there under large tents. In those few hours, I realised how Arafat resembled a mini Judgement Day. In our own little way, each pilgrim embodied the cries of each soul on the Day of Judgement – ‘Nafsi, Nafsi’ (‘Myself, Myself’).
Just as all creation will be present on the Day of Judgement, so were all pilgrims present at Arafat. As that fateful day will see all creation frantic with worry, I saw grown men crying and imploring Allah (SWT), while others seated, quietly reflected on themselves. Just as many will plead for intercession, I saw beggars pleading for money from pilgrims who were themselves needy and pleading. I for one busied myself in performing various acts of ‘ibadah (worship), mostly thinking of myself and my status in front of Allah (SWT).
I understood that each and every one of us has to strive for our own salvation and that no one is responsible for this other than ourselves. Every deed mattered on those plains and more crucially this mirrors the short time that we have on this earth.
Eid-ul Adha was a happy and climatic ending to the hajj. Waking up early in the morning, around 8 am, I made my way with other pilgrims to stone one of the three stone pillars. After the stoning, I remember how free I felt and, as I left, I remember turning to a friend stating how I felt that I had left Shaytan behind me.
Leaving the stone pillars, we made our way to the Haram to perform tawwaf and ran between Safa and Marwah again. I witnessed countless pilgrims, some in white cloth, many of whom were crying out ‘Labbayk Allahumma labbayk’ (Here I am O Lord) with so much energy and jubilation. We resembled the rainbow, our difference noted in our languages and ethnicity, but we were unified in proclaiming Allah’s (SWT) greatness.
The day after, we were required to stone all three stone pillars. I remember looking at those same faces I saw the day before. Although, they were all different and the stream of white cloth was no longer to be seen, I remember thinking, “They all look the same, despite their outward appearances!” Indeed, we are the same because this is how Allah (SWT) sees us. Allah (SWT) says:
“O Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know one another (not that ye hate one another).” (Al-Hujurat:13)
I do not really think that any testimony can truly reflect the wonders of hajj, its merits and rewards. Anyone who has been on hajj or umrah will understand this. But, as long as we are living for Allah I, each of us is on an amazing journey towards Him. Each day is in its own right a miracle and a source of reflection. I am grateful to Allah (SWT) that it took hajj for me to appreciate this reality.
Based in London, Adama Juldeh Munu is a History graduate from Queen Mary University of London who enjoys reading and hopes to advance her Arabic insha Allah.