In this post: I am sharing my Hajj story today so you know what to expect in Hajj. Have you ever wondered why Hajj is once in a life time? There are many hardships a Hajji faces but definitely lessons that can turn a life around.
What is Hajj
Hajj is pilgrimage to Mecca that every muslim must perform atleast once in a life time. It is the last pillar of Islam and is performed in the last month of the Muslim Calendar. It is obligatory on every muslim to go on the Pilgrimage at least once in his life time if he has the means to do it.
You can read about How to Pack for Hajj and things that help make Hajj comfortable here.
Please Note: This post is NOT from a religious perspective. I am not an Alima. I am only sharing my experience of Hajj.
My Hajj Story – Step by Step
In 2006, I performed my first Hajj (as an adult) with my husband. I am sharing my Hajj story and the lessons I learnt so you know what to expect in Hajj.
How we took the decision to go on Hajj
Three days before the hajj holidays began, my husband came home from office to tell me that he had been laid off. We had been married for 5 months at that time. The Hajj holidays were just starting. At that time, we lived in Riyadh. It was useless to spend Eid wallowing and worrying so we decided it was the perfect opportunity to take our savings and go for Hajj. After all, we had no ‘responsibility’, we were adults and we had the finances to do it. We weren’t sure of the future but at least we had the health to do it now. There was not going to be a time like this for sometime.
The decision to do Hajj
Not for others…Hajj is for you. You are using your money (that you saved after all your responsibility) and you are spending it on yourself… for your future. Your Aakhirah. Nobody else can benefit from it but YOU. (You cannot do hajj with borrowed money. It has to be your own.) Have you saved money to give away in the way of God? For charity? What you spend on yourself or your family is also charity.
Also, my parents were preparing to go for Hajj from Jeddah. They invited us to join them.
Alhamdulillah, we got the permit to perform the hajj quite easily but finding accommodation in a group was difficult. There was only space for one person to perform hajj with my parents’ group. My husband had to make arrangements to do it independently.
Hajj Step by Step from Day 1.
Going on Hajj is not easy. It is not like a vacation or camping. Now that we had taken the decision it was time for us to leave for Jeddah and Makkah.
I had always wondered why Hajj was once in a life time… that year, I found out first hand.
Hajj, even in today’s times is not easy. Living together in harmony with complete strangers, sharing the same amenities, living under difficult conditions even for the sake of God – it takes courage, piety, self control, lots of stamina and a sense of humor. No kidding.
You have to learn to step out of your comfort zone – travel to a far away land, live among strange people. What if you got lost or you lose your money or health… What if you don’t return?!
Until we made the decision, I hadn’t even comprehended that I could have so many emotions!
Traveling from Riyadh to Jeddah
When we started off for hajj, from Riyadh, we couldn’t get on a flight. We had exactly 24 hrs to make it to Jeddah. Unfortunately, they stop all buses to Makkah and Jeddah before Hajj. Our permission letter was with my parents in Jeddah so we couldn’t show them. We took a cab, drove for 12hrs straight with just one stop and made it to Jeddah after midnight.
Leaving for Makkah and Mina from Jeddah
The next morning, after just 4 hours of sleep, we started off for Hajj with our group. We arrived at 6am at the venue for the bus that was to depart at 7.30am but the journey from Jeddah to Mina is not easy.
Can you believe, we reached Mina at 7.30pm that evening?! And all that while we were stuck in traffic. The buses barely moved. All day we sat in the bus talking to the other pilgrims and praying.
We were brought to our tent in Mina. I was staying with my parents in the tent. My husband was to make his own arrangement to get to Mina and join us then. But then he got lost! We had no clue as to where he was. His phone was unreachable.
The dinner and food arrangement was terrible. The committee was helpless. They didn’t know how the mess up happened. Everybody ordered pizza. Alhamdulillah for Pizza in Mina!!
‘Do you know your place in the world. What are you worth?’
From Mina to Arafat
The next morning we started for Arafat at sun break; stuck in traffic for over 6hrs later, our bus driver told us we couldn’t go further. It was already almost noon. You are supposed to be in Arafat by Dhuhr. We set out on foot afraid that we hadn’t entered the Arafat boundary yet.
I will never forget the scene in Arafat. Everyone we met were either lost or looking for someone. We finally made it to our tent and started praying. Alhamdulillah for the shade from the scorching sun. Alhamdulillah for the Kabsa that is distributed to the Hajji on Arafat day!
From Arafat to Mudhdalifa
We got back to our bus to go to Mudhdalifa at Asr but by Maghreb, it was evident we wouldn’t be driving at all. The smoke from the diesel buses was suffocating and nauseating us all. My mom was sick – her BP was very high. We had to get off the bus that was going no where. So we set out on foot again. This time with our sleeping bags and luggage on our back. That is what everyone else were doing too.
Can you sacrifice your comfort. Sleep on the ground.. Gravel… eat whatever… get pushed, shoved… hold your natures call… still be courteous??
We reached Mudhdalifa on foot. The toilets were too crowded. The time when you have to go and there are 20 people in front of you! Many are old, there are children too… and of all temperament and manners. Let’s not even talk about what the toilets looked like. 😐
We slept on the footpath with what we had.
Back to to Mina From Mudhdalifa
The next morning we found Z! And we walked all the way to Mina because the buses were still stuck. The drivers had abandoned them. Our feet were swollen and legs aching. There was no energy left but Alhamdulillah for 2hrs of deep sleep – how it can recharge you to start for the next step!
My father and husband quickly went for the Qurbani (sacrifice). When they returned a few hours later, we set out for Makkah for the Umrah.
We had to walk again but luckily we were able to catch a cab to take us to Makkah.
Alhamdulillah, the umrah even though it was super crowded went well.
The trip back to Mina was difficult though… We walked all the way back from Makkah to Mina because there was just no way any car or bus could make it in the traffic. Our feet were numb and swollen but what other choice was there. We kept praying that God accepts our Hajj as we continued on…
On the way, we pelted the stones to save one more trip.
The rest of the days were easier because by then we had gotten used to the walking.
When we came back from hajj, we were were all sick for a week but at least our Hajj had completed.
What the Hajj experience teaches you
God before everything else – for the love of God. When hardships come can you say,’I did this because God commanded me. I am here because I love God. I spent my money… left my family, my home, my loved ones, my everything because God asked me to come.’
12 years later, when I remember hajj, I recall all the things that I learnt there which I know I would never have otherwise.
On the third day of hajj, when we found Z, I was really at my wits end. Physically exhausted. Almost unsure of how we got ourself in this mess in the first place. Staying in a tent with different types of people, sharing your space, not knowing how and where to go for privacy- like changing your dress you know. The heat…
Not knowing if my husband was safe or hurt…
Then I found him… no I can’t hug him or cry my heart out.
Z took me outside the tent to sit on the boundary to watch the people on the street. ‘Sit here. Watch the people’, he said. ‘Look at them… they come from all over the world…’
Yes they did. They came from all the world saying the Talbiya, ‘I am here my Lord. You called and I came.’
They are from all over the world. Of all colors… speaking all the languages in the world. They are young and old. Have you ever seen people of all ages, class, educational level, sick and old, young and healthy, together?
Do you love your Ummah as ‘one nation before God’. Despite the differences, they are all muslims. Can you love them for that? Unite under that.
You don’t know if the person sitting next to you is rich or poor, educated or not… you don’t know what his struggles in life are… yet… he’s there doing the exact same thing you’re doing. He has come to the call of God.
When I went for Hajj, that year, I saw those people… couples… siblings… friends… strangers… parents… nobody… yet somebody…
Helpers… they were all helpers. For the sake of God, everybody put their differences aside. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from… it doesn’t even matter if the other person can understand you…
When we were walking, people would sit down tired and share water bottles if they saw anyone needed it. Hold someone’s hand if they needed it… show each other directions… make conversation just because they were there together…
That year, when I went for hajj, I met people who became my best friends for life.
You know… there aren’t many opportunities in life unless you travel to know what that feels like. There isn’t any moment in life when you come so much close in contact with so many cultures, colors, languages and feelings.
You may have all the money in the world but will you ever by your own free will choose to go on such a pilgrimage? Would you purposefully choose to stay in the same room as another family… strangers? Or sit next to a complete stranger and share the same meal that he is eating? Will you walk miles, in sweltering heat carrying your bedding on your back with thousands of people just because God commanded you..?
Would you do it all for God? For your belief in a God who you have never seen and whose words are written in a Book…? How strong is your Imaan?
This is Hajj. A pilgrimage to the house of God who is one and who is all Merciful. He commanded and we listen and obey.
This post is part of the Eid al Adha and Hajj Blog hop by Multicultural Motherhood. Join us as we share Eid and Hajj related posts. Hop over to see related posts from other Muslimah Bloggers.
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