BY MAHMUD UNERA
At first, I was giddy with happiness, I was going for hajj.
Having heard a lot of stories about Makkah & Madina, the Ka’aba, the Hajj rites, the huge flux of people from around the world coming in for hajj, the lights and all the drama, I was going to see this myself, first hand. It’s my turn.
As the time drew closer, I gradually wound down on my daily activities, handed over task to the next best person, wrote my will because of the 0.01% possibility that I might not make it back, provided to the best of my ability for my family for the duration of the trip.
The man is allowed to travel alone to hajj, the woman, with a Mahram (member of her family). When I concluded this, I researched more on the task ahead. This is of course an exam I was going to participate in, a compulsory obligation I owed to my creator.
If I passed, I get paradise and all my sins wiped; I also get approvals to all my hearts desires, and with my prayers answered, I will be on top of the world as I gracefully come back home sinless.
A major requirement I had to take with me was patience, tons of it as the journey was also a test of your person.
Getting a pass means being on your best behaviour, speaking the best words, never getting angry amidst a host of other expectation. We were also expected to come out well groomed, cleaned up, nails clipped and wiped of any nail polish if there was any before.
With all the distractions and noise reduced I packed my things. I was advised to go with as little as possible, wear light rubber slippers that can meet the amount of water for ablution, be easily stuffed away in your bag for safety and also pretty enough to be worn to notable places when the time comes, I could buy anything more I needed there.
The Talbiyah was paramount, I had to cram it, as it was the common words song for hajj.
Here we come our Lord, here we come to serve you
Here we come, no partner do you have, all praise to you
The Universe is yours, here we come our Lord, here we come
With my packing done, I cut ties with reality 98%, and faced my creator squarely. Hajj for me had begun.
We travelled to Madina at first, the Rasululah’s (Prophet Muhammed) beloved city. On arrival I took in the beauty of the town, the dry hot air and harsh heat. I noticed though that the government had stationed water sprinklers everywhere to douse the effect on people.
I just followed the sprinklers to the tent around the Rasul’s mosque, it was beautiful. I couldn’t help but smile on my way there. I sat with an Indian family on my arrival to the mosque. We said salams(muslim greeting) and they quickly made space for me to pray. When I finished I still couldn’t believe I was in Madina, I looked around, sitting and observing the reality before me.
People from different countries praying together, some walking down the mosque with their families, the physically challenged moving through the space specially carved for them by the government, people going for the free government 3 course meals, families walking around, a particular Arabian family caught my eyes, the man held his wife hands in his arm with so much care as they walked together with their kids running around happily.
I noticed a lot of the family’s moved together in this manner, it was a common thing around, I silently wished our Nigerian men wouldn’t be so macho all the time, Nigerian women aren’t averse to this kind of care at all.
The lovely palm tent began to fold up, revealing the clear dark blue sky, the night was gradually upon us, I sat down soaking it all in.
I continued to say my talbiyah and prayed at the mosque. We started on our way to visit the prophets grave to say our salams while praying for him and his closest Sa’abas (disciples) Abu bakar & Umar, Radi Allahu annihu.
After greeting the prophet, we were to face qibla stationed on a place called ‘Rauther’ a place in paradise as the prophet Muhammed had said.
There were a lot of people there waiting their turn to be let in, the veiled mosque staff carefully released our group to the Rauther for only 5 minutes.
I said my salam to the prophet, extended it to his disciples and moved to the Rauther, facing qibla. I said all my prayers knowing I was in a place stationed in paradise. I fervently said prayers for my family, friends, my country and the Muslim Ummah as a whole.
Soon after it was time to leave for Makkah, I had to take a spiritual bath for Hajj and Umrah in Madina because we won’t be able to do so at the stationed place called Miqat, the starting point of Hajj and Umrah right before entering into Makkah.
I did and further divested myself of worries and anything that may break the Umrah & Hajj pilgrimage. We were to wear our pilgrimage clothing called the IHRAM, a white 2 piece clothing for the men and any clean cloth for the women.
The men were to use perfume while the women were not, the onus fell on us to follow the rules for wearing the ihram, e.g wooing, marriage, sexual relations and its advances, hunting uprooting or damaging plant or trees, engaging in sinful acts, picking lost properties except to announce its loss, etc.
We got onto our bus and our talbiyah continued. We said this all the way to the Miqat, where we officially declared our intention for Umrah and hajj before entering into Makkah. Umrah was to come first before Hajj.
Upon arrival, I along with my group headed straight to the grand mosque (Masjid al Haram) where the oldest house of worship is stationed. We moved towards the mosque along with other group of people from different countries. I saw little people from Indonesia, taller people from Europe, dark skinned people like myself from Africa, but with very unique shades, heights and looks. I took my eyes off and continued with the rite on ground till we got to the mosque. We went straight in and behold I saw it! the ka’aba. I couldn’t believe it.
The house built by prophet Ibrahim himself (though rebuilt over the years), It was magnificent. We continued saying it till we joined the stream of people moving round the house, officially began the careful walk at the black stone corner.
I had to blink to confirm it was indeed true, I only saw this on the television now I was here.. We were to move round the house 7 times, notifying our creator we were officially here to serve him as he had promised Abraham. We had come from different parts of the world just like he said we would.
I faced the rites on hand, we touched the Yemeni corner – a corner on the ka’aba that wipes off sins, tried to touch the black stone too and when we finished, we went behind the station of Abraham and prayed 2 raka’ah, after which we went to make our Sai (Safa & Marwa) a walk to and fro the Safa and Marwa hills 7 times, praying and asking our hearts desires.
When we finished, we stayed back at the mosque to enjoy the environment we were in; it was a beautiful sight to behold. We had finished Umrah, and were now free to resume our normal activities in our normal clothing.
We went through the town sight seeing and shopping; those that wanted gold teeth went to the dentist to wear them. The Arabians, Chinese, Indians owned shops while Africans sold their wares on the streets, people shopped.
We would rush to the mosque if were closer for prayers or just pray where we were when we were far off. The disciplined way shops close down when it was time for prayers, using a string of thread to notify would be shoppers of the prayer time, was indeed nice.
Time for Hajj soon approached, and we all donned our IHRAM, we made our intention for Hajj and off we went to Mina, we were taken to a tent and given tiny slim beds. This was a far cry from the conducive hotel environment we were staying in. We stayed for the day.
We set out to Arafat the next day, a lovely dry land, it had a pillar showing the location prophet Adam and Hauwa (Eve) met after being sent down to earth from heaven. Arafat was also the day prophet Ibrahim sacrificed his son, luckily, replaced by a ram. We prayed the noon prayers and evening prayers together, but in shortened form before setting out to Muzdalifa at sunset.
We got to Muzdalifa with our mats, and were given our space in the open desert land. My spot was almost directly under the bridge. We prayed, listened to sermons and then picked 49 stones for the Jamrat rite to be held the next day.
We got up very early the next day and set out to a place called Jamrat. This location was tricky, as it was a place that records most deaths because of the sheer population of people heading towards the place at the same time. Care had been taken to avert overcrowding, and possible suffocation.
We moved in Unison to Jamrat, on getting there we threw 7 of the stones, one at a time at the biggest wall of Shaytan and then headed back to the Mina. We were handed food, drinks, and loads of goodies from different parts of the world on our way back. We rushed at some, almost falling the givers at a point, or gently picking at others as the case maybe, it was just sheer joy.
On getting back to mina, the women cut a little of their hair while the men shaved their heads totally, we were partially free to resume some of our normal daily activities.
Some of our group left to Makkah to complete their rites, of circumambulating the Ka’aba and their Sa’y. They will of course come back to mina for the rest of the stoning, while others like us stayed behind to complete the stoning at mina before heading out back to Makkah.
We stayed 2 more days at mina for the stoning 21 stones a day at the 3 walls of Shaytan and afterwards left to Makkah to complete the remaining hajj rites.
We sang the talbiyya to Makkah, completed our Tawaf and Sai and 95% of the hajj rite was done. Of course we didn’t miss out on drinking the Zamzam water, a key rite in the procedure. We were now free to go about our normal activities.
We prayed some more and shopped alongside, the shopping took more time and was even more stressing than some of the rites.
Soon it was time to go home, we all sat and reviewed our time at the holy city, hoping we had passed the test to gain paradise.
After packing our bags, we went to the mosque to say our farewell Tawaf (circumambulation). It was at this time that the weight of the separation from our lord dawned on us. We needed to start reconnecting back to reality, calling home and getting ready to move back home.
Gradually move back to your normal self, but of course to a better you. Who could withstand grueling situations with calm, avert gazes at tempting situations and of course stay with a higher level of our spiritual self?
A lot of people wished the cocoon (man to his creator relationship) wouldn’t end. We started wishing immediately for our next trip for either hajj or Umrah.
I followed and did my farewell tawaf, with this, 100% of the hajj was done. I packed my things to leave as I also hoped for the next time I will be opportuned to visit the town again.
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