“And proclaim to the people the Hajj (pilgrimage); they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass.” [Al-Hajj: 27]
I remember when my invitation arrived. It was totally unexpected and it came in the shape of a phone call from my elder brother. He said, “I’m taking your sister-in-law on Hajj next year, insha Allah, and we thought you might want to come along too.”
A thousand and one thoughts, feelings and questions swamped my mind; all I could mutter was, “Let me get back to you?!”
Eek! Here was the chance to fulfill my longing of several years. Or was it a lifetime? Often, I had felt like Cinderella where everyone was able to go to the ball except me. I never begrudged them their opportunity, not even my husband’s when his call came a few years earlier, but I was always sad that my turn didn’t seem to arrive. I just wanted my moment and I prayed for it to happen.
Now it was here.
The anxiety and questions flooded in. How was I to finance it? I’d just recently qualified and didn’t have a paid income. I hadn’t even started applying for jobs! Even if I could go, what would I do with the children, they all had school to attend! I wanted to cry.
Whoa! I reigned myself in. ‘Where’s your adab?!’ I rebuked myself, ‘You need to RSVP before you can do anything else’.
With that I let go and whispered a hearty ‘Thank You’ to my Lord, accepting His most gracious offer. And from that moment I didn’t have a single worry. A job came seeking me. My husband gave his permission. My mother-in-law stepped forward to take care of the children in my absence. Alhamdulillah!
And so I began my preparation, I read up about Hajj, attended lectures and I spoke to everyone I knew who had made the journey before me. I readied myself to be with my Creator, my Sustainer, my All.
Off we go
Tickets booked, passport containing visa ready, forgiveness sought, bridges mended, bags packed and this world left far, far behind me. Dhul Hijjah arrived. I felt no sadness as we drove to the airport, only excitement. It was as if I was going home after too many years away. I felt unconcerned with all that I was leaving behind. My heart was at ease. I knew that, no matter what, it would all be okay.
I had been told so many horror stories about the experiences of others, but my own experience proved otherwise. For me, it was beautiful and easy – from start to end! Besides, what complaint could I have? I was in the place I wanted to be in, following in the footsteps of the Prophets and connecting with the Divine. What more could I ask for? Which of my Lord’s favours could I deny?
On my first day in Mina, we had rain, sweet blessed rain. This cooled the ground for our following day in Arafah, which enabled me to lose myself in the serenity of the day and concentrate on my supplications. Tears flowed all around me as people beseeched Allah (SWT) with their du’as. Before too long it was sunset and time to move on to Muzdalifah for a night under the stars. Something I was apprehensive about as I had forgotten to take a warm cardigan with me and it is known that temperatures plummet here during the night. But that night, Muzdalifah was warm and balmy. After sunrise we returned to Mina for the days of Eid.
My ‘like clockwork’ monthly cycle started a week before I was due and I was caught unawares. I worried that I would not be able to complete all the rites of Hajj without missing my visit to Madinah. I learnt not to despair of the mercy of Allah (SWT) and He did not let me down. I was able to return to Makkah after going to Madinah and fulfill my requisite tawafs as well as perform an extra umrah. My return to the city of the Ka’bah also allowed me to meet up with relatives who had travelled from Bangladesh whom I hadn’t seen in almost a decade. I could not have planned it all better myself but then we know that surely, ‘… Allah is the best of planners.’ (Aali-’Imran)
What I’ve learnt
The Hajj is full of lessons to be learnt and much like life itself, to benefit from them we have to keep our eyes and hearts open. The circumambulation of the Ka’bah by throngs of people reminded me of how utterly reliant we are on Allah (SWT). At one point I felt like a human ping pong ball being moved around against my will. I learnt to relax and trust in He who had brought me there. There were moments during the Hajj that I was almost crushed and at other times it was virtually a ‘walk in the park.’ This was reminiscent of what life can be like and brings to mind the words of Allah (SWT): “Verily after hardship comes ease.” (Al-Sharh:94) and also ‘On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear.’ (Al-Baqarah: 286)
Gratitude for my life and all that Allah (SWT) has blessed me with engulfed me during this more wondrous of experiences. I witnessed the hardships that others were enduring to be with their Lord. I smiled when I saw elderly men and women whizz past me in their eagerness to fulfil their tasks; their strength amazed me. I saw fear and panic in people who had probably never seen an elevator before, let alone ride one.
Tempers flared in queues due to people ‘pushing in’ but these brethren more than likely had no concept or understanding of queuing. It reminded me that the Ummah is made up of so much difference and that we need to make excuses for those that may not know rather than mock or insult. They may, after all, be better in the sight of Allah (SWT).
For anyone in the process of taking this life-changing trip, I recommend packing plenty of sabr. One’s patience is often tested to its limits but if you and your companions can remind yourselves and each other of the reasons for your Hajj, there is no basis for you returning without a Hajj Mabrur, an accepted pilgrimage! I pray that everyone is able to experience this journey at least once in their lives.
Khalida Haque was bitten by the Hajj bug at the tender age of 13 when she went on Umrah with her family. After another Umrah, with her husband and very young children, she made the intention that the next time she visited would be for Hajj. Allah I fulfilled her dream and her heart remains at the door of the Ka’bah where she one day hopes to be reunited with it.