Asalamu ‘alaykum dear readers. It has been a couple of weeks since I have returned from my journey to the most blessed of places- Al Haramain (the two blessed sights of Makkah and Madinah). I won’t exaggerate in my words with regards to this place, and in shaa Allah, I hope that this will inspire my readers to go and live the experience of hajj themselves.
Before I left, I had glamorized what Makkah and Madinah would be like. I fantasized in my head of the stories I had heard earlier about this blessed land. I promised myself to enjoy myself whilst my time there, and that I would focus on my ‘ibadah as much as I possibly can. Another goal I had in mind was that, since this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and since the prayers prayed in Makkah are worth plentiful rewards, that I would in fact try as much as I can to pray in the Haram. Abu Ad-Dardaa’ reported on the authority of the Prophet , that the reward for praying at the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) is equal to the reward for one hundred thousand regular prayers; the reward for praying at the Prophet’s Mosque (in Madeenah) is equal to the reward for one thousand regular prayers; and the reward for praying at the Al-’Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) is equal to the reward for five hundred regular prayers. [Al-Bazzaar] This is an authentic narration.
I knew for sure that I did not want to waste my time sitting in a hotel room occupied with gossip, as I had heard was the case with many women who had gone to hajj. Armed with all of my fanciful thoughts about the blessed land of the Prophet peace be upon him, I stepped foot first into Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The airport was a hassle, as is with many travels across the globe. Fortunately, for myself and my loved ones who were going to this pilgrimage with me, we only spent about three hours waiting to get out of the first part of the airport, and a few more hours once we passed the immigration services desk. All in all, it wasn’t as horrible for us as it had been for many others. I kept in mind that this journey required patience, and that anger and frustration would not aid me in any way, shape or form. With that reality check, we walked out of the inside of the airport to the waiting area of the buses. If you have heard of the term, “scorching hot,”- this was nothing short of the truth in this place. It was hot and humid, and the heat of the sun was of the type that helped produce headaches. Our clothes were wet from the sweat, but again, patience was a key to this journey and complaining would be of no use. As we traveled to Makkah, I began to be filled with disappointment as I had started to see vast areas of land of which nothing lay but sand. It truly represented a barren desert. I scolded myself for the disappointment, as I had known from history that this blessed land was once a complete desert with no oasis. I overcame my disappointment once we landed in our hotel. Before we could make it to the hotel, our bus trip from the airport of Jeddah to the hotel of Makkah was filled with stops, in which the Ministry of Hajj in Saudi Arabia as well as other religious organizations were handing us well packed boxes of food to eat along the way. Organizers themselves came inside the bus to serve us water and other sweets. My heart filled with joy from the acts of kindness that were present in these people.
After settling in our hotel, and unpacking our belongings, we washed up and took long naps because we were to complete our ‘umrah that night. We were all excited about the upcoming ‘umrah and prepared ourselves to see the beautiful Haram. Night time came, and ready we were. We boarded the bus to the Haram, and went with our agency. I wasn’t mesmerized at first whilst walking towards the masjid; to be frankly honest, I hadn’t felt much at all because I was feeling numb at heart. Was it the fact that it had been a long tiring trip, or was it simply that my eman was deficient? I couldn’t really tell. However, all of that had changed when we passed the gravel and sand on the road. As soon as I had stepped foot into the haram, as soon as my foot touched the cold tiled floor of the Haram, and as soon as the sweet breeze surrounding the Haram touched my skin, I felt like crumbling from the peace and joy I felt at heart. This sweet feeling, this calming breeze was unlike anything I had experienced. Everywhere else outside of the Haram, even as much as five feet was hot and humid, and this feeling of peace and the sweet breeze became a common factor that I had enjoyed every day that I had spent time in that beautiful place (Haram). My heart felt as though it was expanding, and at times I had thought, how much more can my heart expand? This feeling of expansion and peace filled my heart so much, that if at all possible, my heart would have exploded from this over expansion. When the days of hajj began, we had scholars, both male and female come and speak to us. we spent sometime in ‘Arafat, Muzdalifa and Mina. Out of the three, Mina was the hardest. Bathroom lines were long, and people were impatient. Mina however had some faces I would never forget. On one of the nights we returned from the Jamaraat (throwing stones), I met a young boy- approximately 14 or 15 years old. He had this glow on his face and I felt in my heart that he was a young pious boy. As I walked by, he offered me rice and chicken, and I felt so touched by this kind act. We had a bit of an exchange, and for the offer he made, I in return gave him a gift. He asked me where I was from and I asked him where he was from (He was from Burma). He was grateful for the gift and raised his hands to make dua for me, as I also made dua for him. I have a feeling he may one day end up as a scholar of Islam, and I pray that he remembers that encounter as I remember it and that he mentions me to Allah.
Kindness and giving came hand in hand. If you wanted an opportunity to donate, there were so many in need you could give to. If you wanted to earn some rewards, the opportunities were endless. During one of the days we were leaving the Haram to go home, a woman gently called out to a few of us passer-byers. All I could tell was that she was a Muslim woman from one of the Muslim European countries -Bosnia perhaps, or Tajikistan- I was not sure. She stood under the hot sun with scarves to give out. Not having a common language to communicate, I thought it was for sale and wanted to buy one from her out of respect. She however said only one word which we both understand, “hadiyah”- gift, gift she kept repeating. I was overwhelmed by her act of kindness, and her determination to stand under the hot sun in order to earn reward from Allah. Another day, as we made tawaf around the ka’bah, I noticed folks reaching out for a kleenex box that was being waved in the air. A simple tool, yet a much needed one that day for many of us who were sick and constantly coughing with runny noises. For those who truly wanted to earn reward, they found it in giving the most simple of things. Subhaanallah. The zamzam water in tanks nearly everywhere in the Haram was something else I found to be amazing. Those serving the pilgrims- the cleaners of the Haram, both men and women, worked hard to keep everything in order.
After our beautiful and heart lifting stay at Mecca, we headed to madinah- the beautiful city of the Prophet. I fell more in love with madinah than I could ever imagine. The atmosphere was calmer, the people were all very kind, and the masjid nabawi became a symbol etched into my heart. I entered from the gate of Uthman, as was the name of one of the gates. Uthman being one of my favorite from the companions of the Prophet peace be upon him, it warmed my heart. Zamzam water again was in every row that people prayed in. I was in awe of the women workers at the masjid. Although I am not one to believe the lies of the media, I never knew of women working at the masjids in Makkah and Madinah. They were phenomenal and inspirational. They became my instant role models, as I too love charity work and volunteering. I asked the sisters that worked there how many hours of the day they spent working daily. One of the sisters (in Madinah) said they worked six hours and then someone else would come and take their shift. How amazing must it be to work on a daily basis in the Haramain and to drink as you wish from the blessed water? How magnificent must it feel to be walking in the same footsteps of the Prophet? We lived very close to the Masjid, in a hotel named, “Al Madinah Harmony.”I silently prayed that Allah grant me many more chances to either live or return to this beautiful place because I developed a love for it that words cannot explain. My hajj memoir is not complete. There are many details I left out so as to keep this post simple, but know that to go there is worth all the money and difficulties you may face along the way. It is a blessing in disguise. Words and images can never do it justice. Go! look for the opportunity and hasten towards it. Let the love of this place settle in your hearts.