I have returned
home and I sit now to put the rest of this journal together. Physically I am here, but my heart is very far away. I look for
the simple beauty that surrounds us that is sometimes drowned out by the noise, the pollution, anger, the hatred, by war and
those who would have us believe that they are acting with the goodwill of humanity in mind.
How far away have
we come, when we forget the lives of those who we do not see on TV each day, when the lives of some are of more importance
than others, when we are so consumed by materialism and materialistic needs that the universal truths of justice, peace, love,
respect are ignored. As those with military might show their will, Hajj has been a good reminder of the power of prayer and
the power of the masses of humanity, when we leave our capitalistic trappings, our chauvinistic claims to power and might,
our feelings of superiority and pride.
Perhaps the next
superpower will not be that of military might and power, but of the masses who stand for truth, justice, love, dignity, respect,
and tolerance. It has already been happening, millions of people around the world, standing up and speaking out against the
atrocities of occupation and war.
When we feel no
one is listening, or feel that there is no hope, we must never allow ourselves to forget that the One Who listens, the Divine
Presence is ever near and always ready to answer the calls of those who ask. With this, there is always hope and we will never
allow our spirits to be broken.
`Umrah - Before Hajj
I arrived at the
airport in Jeddah, it was surreal. You look outside and it feels like you are in a star trek movie. It seems like something
of the future, tents almost conical and about a hundred feet high, (sorry forgot the metres) with holes in the middle for
ventilation. After a couple hours of waiting, the Canadian delegation leaves to Makkah. We are guests of the
king (oops did I forgot to mention that to you all) so we have transportation
arranged for us. The cool thing with Hajj is that it does not matter if you are guest of the king or not you are not treated
too differently (at least this was my experience) from the other pilgrims. Here status is not an issue. I would later find
out that we are staying in the same building with the former president of Gambia. He blends in with the rest of us. Unless
I read an article, I would not have known who he was.
We are on our way
to the K`aba, the holiest site for Muslims around the world. All Muslims face the direction of the K`abah when they pray.
We wade through thousands of people sitting in the streets, content and waiting to pray to their Lord. As we wade through,
the call to prayer is made:
Allah is the Greatest
Allah is the Greatest
Allah is the Greatest
Allah is the Greatest
There is no god
There is no god
Muhammad is the
messenger of Allah
Muhammad is the
messenger of Allah
Come to prayer,
come to prayer
Come to success,
come to success
Allah is the greatest,
Allah is the greatest
There is no god
The crowd comes
to a standstill, we cannot move, the doors to enter into the sacred precincts are so close but so far away. We must pray in
the street. The crowd stands to pray- men and women all together obeying the call to remembrance. There are so many people
that there is no room to bow in prostration so we literally have to pray on each other backs, there is no problem because
of this we consider it to be a privilege..
I walk into the
precincts, my heart swells inside, the questions that have pushed me through life are at the forefront, who am I? What is
the purpose of my life? Will I be ready to die knowing that I did my best in life? I see the K`abah, no words can describe,
the sense of awe, there it was, the first house of worship, built by Adam and later by Abraham and his son Ishmael.
Tears well in my
eyes, Thank You God for bringing me as your guest; Thank You for Your invitation. I came here to seek Your bounty and favor.
As the tears pour forth, I pray Lord, "Answer all my prayers that I make here".
Our group, is in
the crowd, circling the K`abah, like the orbit of planets around the sun. I am amazed at how people are careful of each other,
and trying hard to protect each other. I had heard stories of pushing etc but it is not about people being violent, it is
a natural consequence of the thousands of people there at the same time. Some try to stay in their groups and move around,
others may be trying to leave as they have completed their requirements and are moving to the next steps.
As I walk, in awe,
overwhelmed, praying for myself, family, friends and peace in the world.
I feel an arm latch on to me. As I look it is an older man, walking in
his group, in need of support. I don't know him, he does not know me, but he knows that he can count on his "son" to support
him. I am happy that he knows this and I continue with my prayer and he continues with his...
We have completed
the seven circuits and must now move to the Maqam Ibrahim (station of Abraham) and pray there after which we go to the well
of Zam Zam. It is believed to have been a miracle of God, given to Hagar the wife of Abraham and Ishmael as they were in the
desert and she was searching for water for her baby. An angel came and struck the ground at the baby's (Ishmael) foot and
the spring gushed forth. That spring has fed the pilgrims for the past 1423 years and each year millions come and are fed
from it. We next move to do the last component Sa`I, which is where we walk between two hills Safa and Marwah seven times
to imitate Hagar's search for water for her baby. We then proceed to get our hair trimmed. I cannot help but to cry, in gratitude
for this amazing opportunity, being here, the holiest place for me is like coming home. I feel at peace, despite the hundreds
of thousands of people, the United Nations here, the hum of pilgrims in continuous worship, I am at home here.
We have completed
the first part of Hajj and must now wait for the 8th of the lunar month when we will again get dressed in two pieces of unsewn
cloth and slippers. During that time we will not be able to cut our hair and nails until we have completed the final rituals.
I am drained emotionally but feel charged all at once. I could not believe that all this has happened, out of the blue, no
plans and it all came together just like that. I am thankful, after the past six months of my life I feel that I really need
it. I think of my beautiful wife and sons and pray some more. Other than being here, they are the next people on my mind.
7th Dhul-Hijjah (Month of Islamic Lunar calendar in which Hajj is celebrated)
We must begin to
prepare ourselves as Hajj begins tomorrow. I have been asked to be interviewed for several radio, TV and print media. This
morning, I go walking with my friends from Montreal and one who attends McMaster. We go for a walk near to a one of the king's
palaces. We come to a restricted road and I advise my friends not to proceed. But one of us decides to ask the guards if it
is ok. He asks in English, I translate. At first they say No it is prohibited, then they allow us to walk through, as long
as we go straight through and not hang around. It turns out that it is a public road from the other side. We walk through,
I notice that my throat is starting to feel strange. I have to go to the doctors, I think. When I get throat infections they
can get quite bad. I don't even care if l have to take antibiotics. I never want them at home. I wish I had my Apple Cider
vinegar with me. I don't want to get sick, not now, not before Hajj. Allah (God) knows best. We return to the building, I
head to the doctor. He tells me, to stop using the air condition and no cold beverages. He gives me some antihistamines/decongestants
and some vitamin C. I take it right away. I would spend the rest of the day doing television and radio interviews. I did one
for radio and print the night before. Many people are interested in knowing why I became Muslim and why when we live in North
America, we choose to give up certain aspects of life here to conform to Islamic codes of living. The Canadian group, as well
as the American group I would imagine is of particular interest to people. We are all Canadian, but there are many of us who
became Muslim with all kinds of backgrounds Polish, Greek, Scottish, French, Canadian etc.
The drugs are strong
and as we leave Makkah on the way to Jeddah, I go to sleep. We return home later that night after a couple of interviews.
I get home in time to meet one of my Canadian friends in Makkah to film the Hajj for National Geographic. I am happy to see
him. I am starting to feel worse. I need to wear an extra top, to keep warm. I pray that I will be well. We have our group
meeting, to let us know what is going to happen tomorrow as Hajj begins.
It has been decided
by our hosts that we will not go to Mina tomorrow. It is usually the first place that the pilgrims go to as Hajj begins. Because
we are quite a large group of people (several hundred people invited from allover Europe and North America) they feel that
it will be difficult to get us all to Mina and then leave for Arafat on time, the next day. I think they may have had some
problems before but I am not sure. And the most important part of Hajj is going to Arafat. If you miss that you have missed
Hajj altogether. Going to Mina is considered to be a practice of the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). It
is something that to be done but there is no penalty for missing it. I am sad about this. I want to do the Hajj in the way
it was done and the way it should be done. But we are guests and we have to respect that they are concerned about our safety
.I tell myself that maybe I can use the time to pray and rest since I am not feeling that great and it may help me to get
my strength for Arafat when I will need it even more.
I get up this morning
for Fajr (prayer at the time of dawn before sunrise). The Canadian delegation will be meeting after to iron out all the details.
When we all meet, we are told that our bus is 6 and that we have been assigned seating partners. We will be responsible for
knowing their whereabouts and keeping tabs on them. I have been seated with someone who is one of the Ontario Human Rights
Commissioners. I am not feeling that great. I had a difficult time sleeping last night. We should get dressed in our ihram
by mid morning and declare our intention to perform Hajj.
I get ready after
breakfast. I have my shower, I pray in my heart that as the water washes my body, that this Hajj will wash my spirit of any
sins and misdeeds. I put on my two pieces of unstitched white cloth. Funny, how simple it is. I think of all that I have left
behind, the expensive clothes, the trends and fashions that we are often called to. As I think about it, as I put this on,
I hope that I am leaving behind the arrogance, pride, chauvinism and the other ills that plague us around the world. The realisation
and reminder that life is too important than to be belittled to material items that increase the wealth of a few and leave
many others in their state of social distress. How many times we eat and waste food, while there are those on the streets
sleeping hungry .We try to justify this, there is no way that this can be right. To realise that God is the only One, truly
wealthy and that I am impoverished before Him. That I am in need of God, yet God does not need me. My life can be as significant
or insignificant as I attempt, in the end, success is only by God's infinite mercy. After dressing, I proceed downstairs with
one of my roommates, he is from Mississauga.
I knew him from
before. I had not known he was coming with the same group until I went to the travel clinic for my meningitis shot. As I walked
out the clinic, he walked in.. I was so excited.
We go down to the
basement level to the prayer level and pray our two units of prayer and declare our intention for Hajj. My throat is hurting
even more now and I am coughing now as well. We are now officially in the state of Ihram. We cannot comb/cut our hair or nails
or wear or use anything that is scented. In this way, I will approach my Lord in the most humble of states, coming to him
in a way I would not approach anyone else and to remind myself of my relationship with Him and my need of Him. Anyone who
has been deceived by their wealth or the wealth that surrounds them, this is the reminder of what life is truly about. It
is also a reminder that there will be justice on a Final day when no wrongs will go without justice.
Later on I visit
the doctor, he tells me that to continue taking the medicine that I was and he added a cough syrup to it. I am thankful that
I don't have to take antibiotics but I am wondering if I may need them.
I end up resting
through the day, I hardly have strength. I think the medication is strong and wreaking havoc on my system. In the evening
when I get up, I walk out of my room and straight into an interview with BBC World. I have lost count of how many interviews
I have done now. I do it and then proceed down to the prayer level to listen to a session by a religious scholar who has been
famous for speaking out politically in Saudi Arabia with no fear of the repercussions. His speech is good. I leave and go
upstairs after the talk, I am not feeling well. I seem to be getting worse. My chest is feeling a bit congested now. I am
worried about that. I can't sleep lying down. The guys bring some cushions and I prop myself up a bit and try to go to sleep.
At 2am we were all awakened when some of the workers came to our room to take the rug away. Apparently they will use it in
our tent in Arafat.
During the night
I get fever, my temperature keeps fluctuating and I go from feeling hot to feeling cold.
The day has arrived,
we get up for the dawn prayer and rush to the prayer area. I go early to the prayer area so I can pray before dawn comes in.
I am feeling worse than before, but I cannot contain my excitement, hope and prayer for a successful day ahead. I spend some
time praying and then sit and talk to some guys who are disappointed we did not go to Mina on the day before, but we understand
that they did it with our interest in mind. Ahead of us is the most important day of Hajj. All of the hujjaj (who jaj -plural
all the people making Hajj) stand on this day on the plains of Arafat praying for forgiveness and that their prayers are answered.
This is where Prophet Muhammad peace be on him stood and delivered his farewell sermon, before his death. It is the day Muslims
are taught, that we are forgiven. So we stand on that day and seek forgiveness and beseech the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
Lord, to forgive our wrongdoing and to set our affairs aright.
I see hundreds
of faces of those from places allover the world, places I know and don't know starting to trickle into the prayer area. We
share the greeting of peace with each other and ask each other to include us in their prayer as well. As soon as we finished
praying, we are told to proceed to our buses. I go up to my room and grab my bag that I packed the night before and the umbrella
I got as a gift from Egypt Air when I left Cairo. I head down to my bus, as I get on, I see most of the Canadian group there.
I shuffle around and find my seat and as I am about to sit realise that we were provided with another umbrella. I run back
to my room and return my umbrella and return to the bus. There are about 8 or 9 buses I am feeling ill. Gosh, I did not want
to get ill during Hajj, I wanted to be well so I could exert as much effort as I could. Still, I tell myself that this is
the will of Allah, as nothing happens except by His will.
We receive our
packaged breakfast, small containers with bread, jam, cheese, juice and other small treats. I wish I could lie down. But I
have to eat, I need as much energy as I can to be able to make the most of this blessed day. Just as the bus is about to leave,
the leader of the group comes on board with a tray full of hot tea. I take my own without sugar, as I need my immune system
to work. As the hot tea goes into my stomach, I begin to feel some ease but I can tell it is temporary. Still temporary is
better than nothing.
I looked at the
leader of our group and the other group leaders and marveled at their understanding of leadership. They would be the first
to get up and do the work that needed to be done, first to help any of us out with anything, often would eat last and sleep
the least. Leadership in Islam is very different to other leadership styles. It is based on serving others and remembering
that it is a big responsibility for which God will hold you accountable. In Islam, no one should desire leadership. I try
to busy myself with du`aa’s but I feel very weak. I decide to use my puffers since it is getting a little more
difficult to breathe. Whatever du`aa’s I can get out of my lips I say. I lean my head onto the window and try
to rest while the driver gives new meaning to the phrase “driving like an Arab”
He is furious and
there is a lot of traffic as well. I wonder how he can drive the huge bus in the manner that he is; sometimes I cannot look
out the front of the bus because I can swear that he will hit everything in site. This was one morning I felt like we were
“guests of the king”. We had a police escort and because of this were able to bypass some of the traffic. After
about one hour, we arrive at Arafat.
We descend from
our bus and head to our tent. It is huge but thankfully very simple; though I am sure it must be better than others. It is
literally a tent and the sand ground is covered with mats from our rooms. We lay on the ground with our pillows and try to
get some rest before Zuhr prayer. I am feeling worst than before, I can feel my asthma becoming worse but I refuse to let
it defeat me. I pray and ask Allah to give me the strength to make it through my Hajj. I came so far and this was my one desire-to
complete my Hajj. I keep thinking about the circumstances under which I came and realise that it only happened because of
Allah, He in His Glorious Compassion brought me here. It was only with His help that I came because on my own, I lacked the
ability and resources to get here. I find comfort in these thoughts, as I know that I am the guest of Allah. And who is a
better host than Allah?
After a small rest,
many of us get up to pray, I go to the washroom to make ablution. Every step seems to become more difficult than before but
I keep walking on. I get to the washroom and remove the lower piece of my ihram and hang it securely so that it does not get
wet or dirty. I am used to the floor toilets by now. It was a fear of mine, being so used to our North American styled toilets.
But I know that this way is healthier too. Anyway, I learned over the trip to just “suck it up” and do what had
to be done. Many of them are much cleaner than what I experienced before so I am happy about that.
While I am in the
bathroom, I throw up. I know I am getting more ill, but I cannot think about it. I know if I say anything that I may miss
the rest of my Hajj and I know that I am still strong enough to do what I have to do. I quietly use my puffer and try not
to let anyone see in order not to make anyone worry.
In the mean time,
I am worried about my friend Polish friend from Montreal, Ali, who has a tooth infection. It is very painful and I don’t
want his infection to get worse. He takes some painkillers and says that he is fine. I know that chances are it is worst than
he is saying. But I also understand. Asif, on the other hand is also getting worse and whatever it is that I had (beside the
asthma) he seems to be developing as well.
We pray nafl
or extra prayers, then the noon prayer Zuhr and finally listen to a dars (lesson) by a respected scholar. He speaks
in Arabic and it is translated to English. I try to follow in Arabic and occasionally refer to the translation for help.
After this, we
eat collectively in huge trays rice and meat. I eat mainly the rice so that my body’s digestive system will not be overworking
to digest meat. I need all my body’s resources to focus on my health and well being.
I spend some time
talking to Br. Talha, our leader from Canada and the head of WAMY, who is worried about me, I tell him not to worry and that
I would be just fine insha’ Allah. Just a little “under the weather”.
It is time to begin
praying, the most important time of Arafat, nothing should distract us at this time and we should be busy seeking God’s
blessing and bounty and asking for forgiveness for our human errors. Mistakes and transgressions are features of our humanity.
No one is free from it, no one is perfect and so this opportunity reminds us to always be humble-never arrogant- and that
perfection belongs to God only, and true peace and contentment comes from submission to God. A message that was brought to
all people whether it was by Moses, Abraham, Jesus or Mohammed.
I spend some time
praying inside our tent, because it is on the plains of Arafat and therefore, this is acceptable. But I am enticed to venture
outside and see what it is like. We were told not to go out to pray. So I decide I will simply go and see what it is like.
I have visions in my head from media images that I have seen, of a sea of pilgrims, the sandy brown landscape washed by an
ocean of white clad pilgrims, standing, sitting and prostrating before their Lord.
I go outside and
look around a little, I see people standing all around, and not exactly as I anticipated but still they are there. I want
to stay and pray outdoors, despite the heat and dust but I don’t want to break the rules so I return to the tent. As
I enter, I hear the group leader talking about the option of praying outside. Many of us would like to because it feels more
authentic. Nothing is wrong with staying inside but we would like to do as much as we can, similar to what was done by the
prophet peace be on him and his companions.
A group of us leave
the tent and find a quiet spot in the shade of a tree and begin to pray and make collective du`aa’ (prayer) for
some time. As the brother making the du`aa’ prays out loud and the rest of us following, he begins to cry. A
moment when the heart is truly connected to it’s purpose, focused on the reality of our existence and expressing it’s
true desire to become a focused servant of God, and a source of kindness and mercy to all of His Creation. It is a moment
of recognition of the faults and errors that we have made, the need for the never ending Mercy of the Most Merciful and an
awareness that death is a reality and so too, the Day of Judgment.
We stand and pray,
for some time after which most people eave except one other brother from Montreal and myself. He is half-French/half-Canadian
and he continues praying. I stand and pray, tears streaming down my face, I pray for all those I love, all my brothers and
sisters around the world, my friends and for my Hajj to be accepted. I am at peace here despite the illness and inconvenience,
and the lack of worldly items to assist me. I am at peace. I know that this is where I need to be.
Eventually my brother
Salman (who was also praying outside) comes to tell me that there is a bus running nearby that is spewing out diesel fumes.
That is not good for me right now, we should move because the smell is becoming very strong.
I move to another
spot, but my walking has slowed down considerably and I decide to stop at another spot to pray. He tells me that he does not
want to return to the tent without me- he could tell that I was not in the best of conditions. We begin walking and I stop
to pray again. I pray for a small time but I do not want him to feel compelled to stay with me because I need to consider
his feelings as well and I know he is worried about me. Brotherhood is an integral part of Islam. As much as he should be
concerned about my well-being, and me I was concerned about him worrying too much and being inconvenienced. I knew what he
was doing was out of love and an understanding of his duty as a brother, and I thought about the same thing. We return to
the tent and continue to make du`aa’ there.
Soon we were asked
to take our stuff and return to our buses. I grab my pillow and begin my slow walk to the bus concentrating on each step and
trying not to inhale the diesel fumes from all the nearby buses. As soon as I get into the bus and sit down, I have to grab
a cup and run off the bus because I had to throw up.
I stand across
the street from the bus and try to catch my breath. But I cannot.
Everyone on the
bus is worried about me but I keep telling myself that I will get better. I return to the bus and the concerns of brothers,
many of whom were initially strangers but we shared the bond of Islam. Through this experience we are becoming closer and
I suspect the bonds that are created here will never be replaced by anything else.
Our bus begins
to move to the border of Arafat but there is still about 45 minutes before sunset - the appointed time of departure from Arafat.
It is prohibited to leave Arafat before sunset otherwise your Hajj will not be accepted. Even the police will not allow anyone
to leave until the time of sunset. We sit in our bus and make du`aa’ until we get the time has come.
I hope and pray
that all my supplications are answered and that I can be strong enough to complete the Hajj. But I don’t know what will
happen, we are on our way to our next stop -Muzdalifah-and it is getting harder to breath. Only Allah knows what lies ahead.
We arrive in Muzdalifah
about 20 minutes later, of course the bus was driving as fast as a plane flies. I did not mind though, I knew I would need
to rest, little did I know what would be next.
We got off our
buses at the side of the road at the entrance into Muzdalifah and our hosts started laying out the carpets onto the side of
the road. As our group started moving towards the area, we got split up as people were trying to find a space on the rugs
to lie down. This would be our “home for the night”, the rugs -our floor, the mountains - our walls and the night
sky our ceiling. The night air feels cold, maybe because it is a desert and that is usually what the night is like, maybe
because I am becoming more ill.
I make wudu’’
(ablution) and join the prayer, we are praying Maghrib. There are washrooms relatively close to where we are, that has its
advantages and disadvantages as well. After prayer, I spot Asif and I make my way towards him so that I can re-join my group.
As we start walking, looking for our delegation, I notice both the head of our group and Talha. They motion us towards them
and we try to find a place to sleep. I wish I were not feeling as ill as I am right now, life is funny sometimes, the times
when you really want to be healthy -you become ill. Well, there is a plan and our wisdom and understanding can never comprehend
its divine wisdom.
We get some packages
of food, similar to what we got in the bus earlier that morning. I don’t want anything, I have the juice though. I sit
and reflect on the day…
“How do you
know that Allah has accepted your du`aa’s, your prayers?” As the tears well up into my eyes, I notice our
group leader and I ask him this question.
He reminded me
that Allah is as we expect of Him. That we prayed and asked for forgiveness and we expect that Allah in His infinite Mercy
will be merciful to us and forgive us. We should never doubt that, or never expect less. I sit there and reflect on that and
think back to my intentions earlier that day, trying to review if I did my best to be sincere or not.
I find a place
on the rug next to Asif. Later, though, I realise that Asif is over a small depression so I trade with him. Although he was
fine with sleeping there or I should say trying to sleep there, I knew he would be uncomfortable. I knew he was also thinking
of me and trying to make sure that I was ok. But I also knew that he was getting ill as well. I thought to myself that “I
am smaller and I can fit there”, so I convince him that the trade is fair and ok.
I literally have
to try and curl up into it to try and fit so that I can try and sleep. But I do not mind because I know that I am small enough
to contort my body and fit into the area. The other guys are much bigger and I know it will be a fruitless endeavor for them
to try and sleep there. This gave new meaning to the phrase “packed like sardines in a can” there was not enough
room to turn because someone was sleeping right next to you.
These little exercises
only strengthen the brotherhood and feelings of connectedness and love that we feel towards each other. After all only brothers
would tolerate to be this close to each other and try to each inconvenience themselves a little for the sake of the others.
As I lay down,
I cover my face, we are sleeping on the side of the road and the buses are continuously pouring inn, there is sand and diesel
fumes every where. I am still in Ihram and cannot cover my head. I cannot wear anything more, so the cold feels as if it is
penetrating through my ihram like a knife cutting cheese.
I sleep in spells,
sporadic, the type of sleep you have when you are very ill and you cant find a comfortable way to get some rest. I fall asleep,
wake up, try to move but realise that I cant and then just lay there until the tiredness of my body overcomes me and takes
me into the quietness of sleep.
10th Dhul-Hijjah - The Day of `EID-ul-ADHA
By 2 Am I can’t
sleep, I open my eyes to realise that Asif was not beside me anymore, he and some of our friends were getting ready to go
somewhere. The flow of buses and cars has been constant and the smells of diesel fumes are repugnant. The bros. say that they
are going to climb a nearby mountain. I figure, I am sick and can’t rest, I might as well just go along for the “ride.”
I get up, and I
slowly make my way up. I follow the guys but for me each step is measured by not being able to breathe, as well as the pain
I am feeling in my back and chest.
As I start making
my way up the mountain, my mind flashes back to my ascent of Mount Sinai when I was in Egypt. That was some years ago, and
ironically, I climbed that with some of my friends from Belgium at 8:30 PM with only the moonlight. It was over two hours
long and nothing could prepare us for that adventure. But I bring my mind back to the present. I am here, I am making Hajj
- me, I am the guest of Allah. What an honour this is, to walk on this path.
I make my way through
a Turkish delegation who are all asleep (gee I wonder why?) and finally make my way to the top with the rest of the guys.
As I look over the top, down to the ground below, my heart races, I feel my eyes widening and my jaw drop in awe of the sight
below. An amazing sea of white, pilgrims of every colour, nationality, everywhere. The two roads that run across each filled
with bumper to bumper traffic punctuate this vast ocean of white. Some delegations from different countries have different
colour ribbons to identify themselves, so they wont get lost. You can easily tell the Malaysian delegations, the women have
ribbons tied to them to identify themselves. Some groups have flags and signs. We withhold our breaths in bewilderment, understanding
right then and there that we were just one of millions. One individual who had the honour of being here in the largest gathering
on earth, but still one brother of millions of brothers and sisters, despite all the differences, our hearts are united by
My mind flashes
to Malcolm X and his descriptions of what he saw at Hajj of sitting with men the blackest of black and others with blond hair
and blue eyes. It was the beginning of his transition and transformation. I understand it, I have shared similar experiences,
I can feel it running in my veins.
We sit there and
make du`aa’, sometimes collectively, sometimes individually. We also take the chance to pray some extra prayer.
It is a beautiful time, of connectedness with each other and with Allah. To realise that material possessions, wealth, status,
in the end they mean absolutely nothing. As overwhelming and invigorating as it was to think about this, there was another
sobering feeling that overcame us. Hajj is the closest experience to the Day of Judgement, the gathering off all of humanity,
the crowding, the fear and hope for forgiveness of our Lord.
We decide after
some time to go back down. When we get down, the guys decide to pray tahajjud (optional late night prayer) but my body cannot
handle it anymore, I have to lie down. So I excuse myself and I lay down near enough to at least hear them praying. I know
they are getting more concerned about me; I can see it in their eyes, even when I say not to worry. Our bodies are natural
defense mechanisms; I will get over it, I tell myself.
Soon it is time
for Fajr, I get up and make wudu’. It is hard to make wudu’ in the cool air but it is not too bad,
I have had to do worse in Egypt I remind myself.
As soon as we pray
it is time to leave. Asif stays with me and we start walking towards the bus. As fate would have it, our bus was one of the
furthest away. As we walk through the crowds, Asif falls. He gets up and dusts himself off and he is ok. We finally make it
to the bus and I get on. We are off to Mina.
The way to Mina
is crowded and we have to contend with the traffic. It has been several hours sitting in the bus but we can do nothing. There
is no point to being frustrated as there is nothing anyone can do. When you think about getting stuck in a traffic jam where
there are millions of people, it can give you a clear idea of what it is like. I am happy because I can use the time to try
and rest, curl up on my seat and lean my head on the side and try to rest.
Along the way we
see a Canadian flag, we get excited as we all look to see if we can see anyone in the Canadian delegation that we know, but
we do not. Seeing the flag evoked many thoughts and sentiments. This Hajj, was a training place that spiritually mentally,
emotionally and physically prepared me to return home and serve my society. Despite the ills, the harms, it reminded me of
my connection with God, my higher purpose -to serve all of humanity. All the ills of the world, all over the world, some shared
by the millions present now, others unique to Canada alone.
Hajj was teaching
me to understand my role as a member of humanity for all of humanity- to recognise the distinct beauty of all and the exclusion
of none. That superficial classifications in the end, were just that - superficial. I know when I return home I must be prepared
to role up my sleeves and help the dispossessed and to not only feel that they will benefit from my help, but truly, I am
the one who will benefit. For it connects me to my identity as a Muslim and as a Canadian. It is who I am and when I am who
I am, I will truly be happy and free.
The symbolism of
Hajj can help to transform the societies in which we live and make this experience of unity, love and spirit be shared by
all peoples in all places. The bus driver is getting a little upset; I guess his focus is to get us to our tent as quickly
as he can.
Finally, we make
it to our tent. We get off on the road and walk in to our tent. It is nice, a huge tent, with the same rugs that we had on
the floor in Arafat and Muzdalifah. The workers of our hosts keep picking them up and laying them out in each place that we
go to. I am thankful for all their hard work.
Other than that
there is nothing else that I can notice, at least not right now. Our group leader decides that we should immediately proceed
and stone the Jamarat and return to our rooms in Makkah to have our heads shaven and bathe and change into regular clothes.
Once our heads are shaven, we are released from the obligations of Ihram. I can’t wait to have a shower and put on some
Stoning the Jamarat
is a symbolic gesture that reminds us of the time that Satan tried to tempt Abraham from sacrificing his son Isma`il. When
he appeared to Abraham to try and convince him not to follow Allah’s command, Abraham was steadfast. Because of that,
God commanded him to sacrifice a sheep instead of his son. When we stone the Jamarat, it is symbolic of stoning Satan and
repelling his temptations away from the path of God.
some Muslims, ignorant of the symbolism, become quite emotional -as if they were really stoning Satan. The area where the
stoning occurs is the place where we hear about people being trampled. The sheer amount of people and their movement can at
times be quite dangerous.
But I tell myself
that I will do what is required and place my trust in Allah. My mind travels back to my thoughts that I had disclosed to my
friend Asif earlier - maybe this is where I will die. But Allah knows better than we do and I must do my best. In the end
whatever is to happen will happen. I prepared myself before this journey. I wrote my mom and let her know of my wishes in
the event that anything was to happen to me. For my wife who was away when I left caring for our son who was ill at the time,
I left a long letter. In it I shared with her my thoughts and left her with some advices to keep with her. For my children,
I left several neatly wrapped gifts on their beds. And I asked for the forgiveness of all my friends and colleagues. I had
done my best to do whatever I could and my fate was placed completely in the safety of the will of my Lord.
My mind frequently
flashes to the father of one of my friends who had gone to Hajj the year before. He went with my friend, his son, and one
morning he was making ablution getting ready for the dawn prayer. He passed away while making ablution. He was an amazing
man, wonderful and kind, I remember him in my prayers, him and his family. If this is where I am taken to my Lord then I remind
myself-From God we have come and to Him is our eventual return.
Even though I was
not feeling too well, I feel like I have some energy now, maybe it was the time on the bus. I want to go and stone the Jamarat
and return to get my hair shaven. We leave with a group from our contingent and start proceeding towards the Jamarat. Each
group of us has been assigned a leader, someone who has gone before and we are to follow their directions. Brother Talha gives
us some general guidelines and we decide to enter in to the area in-groups of three.
If you could imagine
it, it is like a two story parking deck. The ground level and the top level. The area where the stoning happens is at three
distinct columns. What was done is at the top level, there are huge openings that were built directly over the columns and
the columns were heightened so that they extended above the top level. All that has to be done is to gently throw seven pillars
into the enclosed catchment area around the pillars. There is no need to throw too high or to even hit the pillars. It is
a symbolic gesture. The pebbles however, must fall into the catchment area around the pillar.
I enter with the
other two members of my group, but because of the sheer size of the crowd and the movement we are separated almost instantly.
Almost like a huge ocean with a multitude of currents, we got caught in different currents. I make du`aa’ and
pray for Allah’s help and guidance.
I get close to
the pillar, not to close because I don’t want to have the pebbles hit my head. I say Bismillah (In the name of
Allah) and start throwing each pebble one by one. Because I am vertically challenged I cannot see where the pebbles are landing.
“I hope they are getting in,” I say to myself. I am tired and trying to keep with the flow of the crowd so as
not to fall. The most dangerous thing to do in this area is to fall. Because people will not see and that is how some people
get trampled. I wade into the sea of pilgrims, walking over the lost slippers, ihram pieces and other articles that have fallen
to the ground. If anything falls there-it stays there, no one dares to try to stop and take it up, it is as dangerous as walking
in the middle of a busy highway.
I throw a few pebbles
and try to stay focused, I get hit in my head by another pebble. I don’t think about it, it was a mistake. All of a
sudden there is a surge in the crowd, all the people around me start falling down to the ground and then without even realising
I fall with them onto my back. “Is this my time?” I ask myself. I keep trying to say the kalimah (word)
in my head and at the same time I keep trying to stand back up. As I try to stand up I can see the commotion and chaos of
the crowd around me. “Keep saying the shahadah” I tell myself.
The people who
are standing immediately around us are holding out their arms trying to pull people up and to hold the people from behind
from moving forward. The people from behind are oblivious to the fact that people ahead of them have fallen and so keep trying
to move forward.
My mind is flashing
on all things, getting up; saying the shahadah; hoping that the people over me will not trample me; my family; knowing….that
this could be the end. I keep fighting to get up but each time I make myself halfway up someone standing over me steps on
my ihram and it pulls me down to the ground. I have lost my slippers and umbrella but I really don’t care, I just want
to get back up. The top of my ihram is long though and as I get up slowly someone over me who is trying not to move forward
is moved forward due to the inertia from behind. It keeps getting caught under peoples’ foot, I fight to try and get
the top of my ihram off, it is the only way to try and save myself from being pulled down again. By Allah’s mercy, I
get it unwrapped and let it fall to the ground. At the same time I hold up the lower part of my ihram so that it does not
get caught under anyone’s feet again.
I stand up - alhamdulillah,
it was a close call. This time is a bit blurry to me, I think I had one or two more pebbles left so I threw it and then made
my way slowly out of there. I come out, disheveled, perhaps with some footprints on me, I only have one part of my ihram left-
the lower part. It is dirty and I have lost everything else -slippers, sunglasses, identification badge saying that we were
with WAMY and guests of the “keeper of the Haramain” and the ihram. But I am alive -alhamdulillah.
I realised that
when these incidents happen, it is not always as portrayed on the media, a bunch of barbaric people just pushing and hitting
each other that eventually leads to people being trampled. It is the sheer size of the crowd and the result of the current
of movements of people. When we fell, the people around us were doing their best to try and get us up and to prevent us from
getting hurt. I am sure that at times there is pushing, that goes without saying but no one is trying to hurt people, they
are simply trying to get in and out of the area.
As soon as the
other see me, they are concerned, I tell them what happened to me. They are relieved that I am out and safe. Br. Shabir rushes
over and covers me with the top of his own Ihram, preferring me to himself. He then buys me a pair of slippers even though
I am content to walk barefooted. Our group leaders ask us if we were able to do the stoning successfully. I tell them that
I am worried that I did not get all my pebbles into the catchment area.
The leader offers
for us to go back and do it so that I can have peace of mind. This time however, they are sending me in between two guys.
Imtiaz was at the front and Br. Talha was behind me. Amazingly the crowd seems to open up and we get close to the pillars,
I say “Bismillah, Allahu Akbar” and begin throwing my pebbles. Each one falls into the catchment area.
Soon I am finished and we exit and return to our group who is patiently waiting on us.
We start walking
back up to our tent. It is not too far, about 7-10 minutes long. I am tired and very exhausted. We return to the tent and
I sit down. I am feeling ill again, not too much though. But I guess I did not have as much energy as I thought before I went
to stone the Jamarat. We sit and wait on the buses to come for us. We missed the first one, so we must wait for another one
to come by. We are told to take any bus that comes and return to the building. There would be barbers waiting there for us
to cut our hair or shave our heads.
I sit quietly,
sometimes talking to my friends other times just focusing on my breathing. It is amazing how sometimes we take simple blessings
for granted. The ability to breathe is one of them. Simple, we do it all the time without even noticing at times, yet it is
essential to our very existence. Thank You Allah for helping me to reflect on this. Which of Your favors can I deny - definitely
none of them.
Soon a suburban
Truck comes by and can take some of us. Our group leader sends me because he is still worried about my health. I sit in the
back with one of the brothers and I rest. We are on our way “home” to complete one of the last rites of Hajj before
we can remove our ihram.
I can feel myself
becoming more ill or maybe I am not getting more ill, maybe the adrenaline is starting to recede. We get to the building to
see some people with completely shaven heads, already showered and changed and others still in ihram. As we get inside, the
workers greet us with greetings of an acceptable Hajj and direct us to the basement to have our hair cut.
For our trip back
to the building where we were staying, I start to feel the tiredness of the past few days setting in. I marvel at the fact
that people come repeatedly for Hajj, despite the hardships that are involved. I don’t know if I could do it.
As we get to the
building, I head inside following the directions of the workers who greet us with greetings of an acceptable Hajj. Although
our Hajj is not yet complete, I know that they mean well. They direct us to the basement. As I get down, I see several lines,
maybe about 50 people waiting to get their haircut. There are three barbers. Everyone is in straight lines and awaiting their
turns. I look at the barbers and how quickly they shave peoples’ heads. They are all Indo-Pak and they speak periodically
in Urdu and other times in Arabic. Urdu was the language of recourse when they did not want people to understand. But both
the English and our own Canadian delegation have Urdu speakers. I wonder about Asif and the others, where are they, are they
safe and how long before they come back.
There are some
guys who are not shaving their heads though, they are just having it cut. I have only shaved my head once before in my entire
life, when I was blessed with going to `Umrah some years before. I had told myself then, that the only other time in my life
I would shave my head would be at Hajj.
I contemplate just
cutting my hair because I am not feeling well and the nights are cool. In Medina (which is where we plan to go after Hajj)
it will be even colder. I know the preference is to shave your head. I tell myself that I can wear a hat. Especially now since
we will be released from the conditions of ihram, I will be able to cover my head. That’s it - I am going to take the
plunge and shave my head. After all, our sins are said to drop from us as much as our hair falls from our heads. J (I need
all the help I can get).
I look ahead in
my line and notice that everyone leaving the seat of the barber, whom I’m headed for, looks like their head was a battle
zone. There are knicks and cuts every where. I show this to some of the guys and the more I notice, I realise that I need
to change lines. So I do. I sacrifice the place I was at and went into another line. The strangest thing happened, the barbers
switched places and the same barber ended up shaving the heads of people in MY line. “Great” I tell myself…what
should I do?
I change lines
back to my original line. At this point the other guys are laughing at me because they realise what has happened to me. Soon
after I move over, the barbers start talking and then they switch again …AAHhhhhh. Forget it, I tell myself this is
not working. You would almost think it was planned, that he wanted to shave my head, but he could not see me where I was.
It was the will of Allah.
I decide that the
lines are too long and I could not handle waiting anymore, I was starting to feel worse. So I tell the guys that I am going
to leave and go out to get my hair cut outside.
As I am leaving
the building, I bump into Talha. He was going to get a haircut outside as well. We both hoped that by doing this we would
avert the line up in the basement. On our way, he decided to stop off at the adjacent grocery to buy a Kiffaya to cover his
head after he has it trimmed. We looked through the entire section of the grocery superstore to no avail. He decided he would
wait until later.
We walked to the
barbers only to see a line up stretching down the street and as soon as we got there, I heard the Adhan echoing through the
air. Well so much for that. We decided to return to the building. We had our won mussalah there and so I could pray when I
we got there.
I lined up in the
line to have my hair cut and eventually it was my turn. Guess which barber I got, yup…exactly. But Alhamdulillah
for me (not for the guys before), by the time he got to me, he had gotten the hang of it, so I got out with barely any knicks
on my now baldhead.
Somewhere in the
midst of all this, I manage to return to see the doctor in the building. I tell him that I am getting worst and I need antibiotics
(I can hardly believe I am requesting it, but I don’t want to get worst). He does not seem to think it is a big deal.
He gives me some medicines, none of which I think will be useful but I resign myself to taking it because I have no choice.
I wish I could get some medicine that will knock me out, I think to myself.
I went upstairs
and showered and then started to layer up, I put on several layers of clothes, unsure of how I made it through the past days
with only my ihram. I started to put on clothes and my sweater and then I went to bed. I remembered earlier at prayer, we
were told that there would be an `Eid party in the basement after the evening prayer `Asr and that we should all attend. I
drank some orange juice and took my pills. I don’t want to eat anything right now, it is too much work to eat. I found
comfort in my bed, a real bed and went off into an instant, deep sleep. I slept right through the party and awoke with just
enough time to pray and to catch the bus to return to Mina for the night.
Sleeping at Mina
is a part of the requirement of Hajj. Many people just stay there for the three days and nights but we were able to return
to our place and then return at night.
Trying to get back
into Mina was a lot harder than before. There was traffic everywhere and thousands of pilgrims in the streets. After numerous
attempts to try and get to our tent, the leaders decide that we are going to have to drop out and walk to the tent. By now
I am weak, it is getting harder to walk and the air is filled with dust and exhaust fumes which are only exacerbating my inability
to breath. I have a dust mask, which I put on and begin to walk. I start slowly walking, someone takes my bag for me and I
begin the trek.
As I begin to feel
worse I remind myself that sickness is purification and this is the best time to go through this process. I also remind myself
that I rather face the trials of this life than the next. I need to be patient and by Allah’s mercy things will change.
I am doing my best, monitoring my diet and trying not to over-exert myself (ok, well…let’s just say that I am
not doing what I would ordinarily be doing if I were well J).
One of the guys
offers to carry me, “no thanks” I say, as much as I am grateful for the offer, I can do this I tell myself. I
continue walking, soon I can barely see anyone from my group except the one brother who stayed with me. I must make small
steps because it is getting difficult to breathe and it hurts. I walk through hundreds of people, men-many of whom are bald,
women and children. All of whom are here to seek the mercy of God. Many are sleeping in any spot they can get because all
of the tents are filled.
The pilgrims are
now out of their ihram and are moving around busily, minds still attached and drawn to their primary purpose of being conscious
of God and seeking forgiveness for their sins.
Finally, I get
to the tent. We make wudu’ and pray `Isha’ prayer and then try to settle down for the night. I am still
taking the meds from the doctor in my building. No antibiotics though, just some other stuff he says that will help me. I
can feel my body convulsing with pain but I keep telling myself to be positive and know that I can get better. I know that
it will be hard to sleep tonight, as I settle myself down some of the guys and I talk for a bit, then we go to sleep.
I sleep in spurts
of one-two hours, but I can’t handle the pain and difficulty of breathing. It was this night that I would see and understand
the connectedness of hearts and understand brotherhood from a different dimension altogether. Hassan refused to leave my side,
he even slept beside me incase I needed him at night for anything. He would wake up and check on me or when I would stir,
check to see if I was ok.
Talha was very
worried about me, he would keep asking about me or if I needed anything. He and I were sleeping in different sections of the
tent. It was one huge tent that was open and we just set ourselves up in rows and went to sleep. He was in the far right corner,
while I was in the middle, closer to the “door” of the tent.
time I would wake up, Talha would wake up as well. I realised after a couple times. When I would wake up, I would have to
sit up to assist my breathing and I would notice that he would wake up as well. I knew he was worried about me and he would
often look over to see if I needed anything. One time, he followed me out of the tent as I was trying to quietly walk out,
I was going to the bathroom and he came and asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital.
I did think about
it, but I convinced him that I was fine and if I did need to go, I promised that I would tell him. By now everywhere was hurting,
it hurt when I breathe, especially my back and stomach. I practiced some breathing exercises that I learnt in Egypt to help
my asthma. I kept trying to sleep but would continue to sleep in short spells.
We got up for Fajr
and prayed. Everyone was becoming more worried about me for some reason J. Soon we would be having some tea and other food
that was pre-packaged and then get ourselves ready to go to stone the Jamarat a second time.
This time, I would
not go to stone the Jamarat, I asked Hassan or ‘Ala to stone on my behalf, something that is allowed in the case of
illness. I got up and collected my pebbles and gave to them and I sat in the tent and prayed for Allah to accept this from
me and for them to be safe. Soon, we were outside waiting on our buses, I got on and got back to the building.
We had to get ready
to make Tawaf and Sa`i at the K`abah. I was very weak but I was happy because there is no feeling that can compare to being
in the precincts of the K`abah. The buses take us to the Haram to make Tawaf. Two of the bigger guys in the group offer for
me to come with them because they wanted to make sure that I would not be crushed because of my breathing. So Ali from Montreal
walked in front of me and Muhammad from Ottawa walked behind me. Muhammad held onto Ali’s arm and I was between them.
The love and concern I felt from these brothers of mine really empowered me to make the best of this experience.
As we entered the
Haram and my gaze fell onto the K`abah, a flood of thoughts and emotions overcame me. I looked and I prayed while trying to
keep count to ensure that we made the exact amount of circuits (7). As we continued to do so in the midst of the crowds and
the people, I begin to feel more and more tired and weak. We finally stop and pray behind the station of Ibrahim, once again,
they both look out for me to make sure I am not squeezed. As we finish we move towards Safa and Marwah, the two mountains
that Hagar, the wife of Ibrahim ran between looking for sustenance for her child, Isma`il peace be on him. By the time we
make it through the crowds and get there, I start to feel exhausted. Still, we make our du`aa’s and we proceed
to walk. I cannot jog when we get to the demarcated areas where pilgrims jog, so I walk as quickly as possible. Soon though,
it becomes a bit too much, I have to hold on to the arm of Ali for support to continue walking. Near to the end, I needed
the support of both of them to finish my Sa`i.
Once we finished
and made our du`aa’s, we proceeded to exit, we exited through the wrong gate. That meant that we had to walk
all the way around the kaba to get back in time to the buses. That was no easy task at this point. Still by the mercy of Allah,
we were able to get back in time and catch our bus back to the building.
There was food
prepared for us but I could not eat that much. I made my way up to my room and sat on my bed. I could no longer lie down as
I would be unable to breathe. I set up some pillows and slept in an upright position. As per the doctor’s advice, I
closed the window and made sure the a/c was off.
As I settled down,
I realised that the reason I was feeling cold was because I had started running a fever. My fever brought with it the accompanying
pain. It seemed to be like a roller-coaster getting high at times and dropping. I tried to sleep through, but as usual my
sleep was intermittent. During the afternoon, Hassan would keep coming to check on me, he would bring damp cloths and put
it onto my head and bring me juice to keep me hydrated. I thank Allah for him, because I can’t do this for myself right
now. As he looks after me, I pray that Allah looks after him and his family in this life and the next. He is becoming worried,
as am I, because I start suspecting that it is more than just my asthma. Finally when I become a bit more conscious, some
brothers from the German delegation come to see me. They are physicians and I am not sure if it was Hassan or someone else
who called them. They come and check my breathing, and listen to my chest.
As they ask me
all the typical questions that doctors ask in Arabic, one of my friends translate for me. Even though I can understand them,
I don’t trust myself right now because of how I am feeling. I am scared that I may not understand and answer the wrong
questions with wrong answers.
The doctors are
convinced that I have pneumonia. When they say this, it all started to make sense, all the symptoms I was experiencing definitely
should have clued me off to that. But I kept telling myself that it was the combined stress, dust, fumes and everything else.
I had not had an attack for years, since I went to Egypt. The pollution and climate in Cairo had combined to re-ignite the
asthma that had left me for some twelve years.
As a child I used
to suffer from deathly attacks of asthma. I could recall at a very early age somewhere around 9-10 when I told my grandmother
that I wanted to die, because it was so hard to live without breathing. Grandmothers never like to hear things like that.
I used to be dependent on my doses of Ventolin and my puffer. Eventually, my mother took me to a homeopathic doctor who radically
altered my doctor and while I was not happy with my new diet, it was the last time I would remember having an asthma attack
until that chilly night in Cairo.
Once that happened,
I decided to keep puffers with me just incase, but I tried my best never to use them. I wanted to train myself to focus on
my breathing and calm myself so that I did not panic when I could not breathe. So when I refused to go to the doctor before,
I was trying to see if I could gain some control and eventually beat what I thought was an asthma attack. Still I was smart
enough to keep my puffers and they did help me. The stresses of the environment along with my asthma had combined forces and
I was not able to do much more on my own. I think about how many things we take for granted, the ability to see, hear, touch,
feel, breath, think thoughts, see colour…so many blessings that we often take for granted. I thank God for all that
I have been blessed with in my life. More than that, I am happy to be here, in the holiest of places - a guest of God.
The doctors decided
to give me some antibiotics that they thought would help me but they are worried. They talk to the head of the Canadian delegation
and suggest to him, without my knowing, that I be taken to the hospital.
comes and tells me that I need to go to the hospital. I tell him that I don’t want to go. In my head I am telling myself
that I don’t have long to complete my Hajj, I want to do it. But Islamically, my body has a right over me as well and
Allah knows my intention was to complete my Hajj. I tell him, I think that the meds that the doctors gave me will help by
Allah’s will. He refuses to listen to my pleas. He has made up his mind and even if I disagree, he is the leader of
the group, I must follow his instructions. Islamic etiquette is very clear on this.
He informs me that
an ambulance is on its way for me. The attendants will come up soon with a tank of oxygen and a stretcher to take me down.
I plead with him to let me go down on my own without the drama of a stretcher. He finally agrees. He says that I should wait
until they bring me the tank of oxygen and then slowly make my way down. I am at least thankful about that. I go round to
the room of the others, all the guys are there. As I stand at the door, they pause and look, I can see the concern in their
“I am going
to the hospital now - please keep me in your du`aa’s.” Hassan is worried. He immediately says that he is
coming with me. I am happy that he is coming, I need his support and I don’t know what will happen. My thoughts that
this could be the last trip of my life are still in my head. I know Asif is worried about this as well. He is the only one
I have told my thoughts.
I get ready and
wait in my room and soon someone comes up with a tank of oxygen and puts a mask on for me. The oxygen helps with my breathing,
my lungs feel more calmed and I sit there thinking that it would have been great to have this a couple days ago. I start making
the trek down the hall. Each of my steps is measured, but I feel slight relief with the oxygen. The man (I am not sure if
he is a paramedic or not) who is helping to hold the oxygen tank is also helping me along. As I get down to the main floor,
the other people who are there notice what is going on. I can feel their eyes trained on me and I am uncomfortable with the
Ala, our group
leader is there waiting. Masha Allah, he is a good group leader, looks out for all of us - I pray that he is rewarded in this
life and the next. As I get to the ambulance, they open the doors; I tell them that I will get in on my own. As I climb up,
just like in a movie, I bang my head. I am ok I tell myself…they ask me to lie on the stretcher. I have not seen Hassan
yet, but I really want him to come. I hope we don’t leave without him. There is a sense of calmness that he gives me,
something that you feel when you know someone cares.
He just manages
to make it before we leave. Ala explains to him that he does not have to come and even if he does he will have to wait in
the lobby because they will not let him come in with us. Ala needs to go because he will be translating from English to Arabic
and vice versa. Neither Hassan nor I can speak Arabic fluently enough. Hassan still wants to come; he will wait in the lobby
if he has to.
They both get into
the back with me and the ambulance starts towards the hospital, sirens blaring. I am happy that they will both be there. This
is strange…so this is what it is like. As I lay there, I am not crying, but tears are streaming down my face. I am lying
in a crouching position, it is the only way I can feel some relief with my breathing and with the pain. The paramedic adjusted
the oxygen levels just before we left. The driver uses the siren intermittently to get us through the traffic (I am guessing).
Through my mask,
I ask Ala if I would be able to go back to Mina for the last day. I tell myself, I couldn’t have made it this far to
miss the last rites of Hajj. Ala smiles and he says, “Do not worry.” For the duration of the ride, the driver
asks Ala about me. He explains to him my story of accepting Islam at the age of 11. The driver shares some of his reflections
on my story and some connections to stories of the sahabah (prophet’s companions). I say nothing, I just focus
Soon we get to
the hospital, I am on the stretcher and they take me out and wheel me into the ER. A doctor comes to talk, Ala speaks to him
in Arabic. Hassan cannot come in with me and so he says that he will wait in the waiting room for me. I know he is making
du`aa’ that everything goes well. The doctor speaks to me and asks me some questions. I answer him briefly, still
trying to focus on my breathing. I notice that all the nurses seem to be other than Saudi - maybe from the Philippines, Malaysia
or other places.
They send me to
get an X-ray, Ala comes with me to the lab where it will be done. Some time after the doctor comes and says that my lungs
look fine. The nurse comes and gives me, what I believe was a cortisone shot and gave me some nasty medicine. After this,
Ala helps me walk out of the hospital and back into the ambulance. What did I have exactly - only Allah really knows. All
I know was that after the shot, it was not as hard to breathe anymore, but I was still very weak. He recommended that I continue
taking the antibiotic cipro that the German doctors gave me. Hassan was happy to hear that I would be ok by Allah’s
The ambulance took
me back to the building, where everyone was happy to see me. I pray and go to my bed to rest and sleep. I sleep for the rest
of the evening and get up in time to have something to eat and then return to Mina for our final night. As I thought about
going to Mina, I wanted to stay and rest, I felt so ill and drained, I did not know if I could make it. But I felt as if my
Hajj had already been different in so many ways and I wanted to complete my Hajj badly. So I “sucked it in” and
told myself that it was one more night for the sake of my Lord.
As we got back
to Mina, we settled down in our rows and tried to sleep. Hassan checks up on me but Asif, decides he will stay with me this
time to help if I needed it. Among the chorus of snores, I tried to ease my mind and get some rest. Alhamdulillah, tonight
was a bit different, I was able to get some more rest and less interruptions in the night. When I get up before fajr, I can
feel some difference. I tell myself that maybe I can stone the Jamarat today. Well I won’t make any decisions right
I walk and line
up in the lines to make wudu’, some of the others notice me and they allow me to go ahead of them so that I will
not be standing too long. I eat something so I can take my medicine and then we pray fajr. I go back to rest and hope that
I will have enough strength to get me to the Jamarat later that day. It is decided by our group that we will go after Dhuhr
prayer. We would pray, then there would be a dars (lesson) and then we would go.
When it comes time,
I decide that it would be better for me not to go. I realise I am not strong enough. I ask Ala to stone on my behalf and he
agrees. I go and collect some pebbles and then give them to him so that he can throw. There are some fears about the crowds
today because it is the last day and we are all worried about possibly falling or getting hurt.
We all meet and
everyone is assigned into teams. Because I will be staying back I offer to keep peoples things for them like $$ and watches
etc. I often marvel at the beauty of Islam in the way that it affects the hearts of so many. People easily handed me (and
Dawud who was also not well) many valuable items, identification, credit cards, cell phones, monies etc without even checking.
Fully knowing that they would receive every cent when they returned. The fear here is not of the other person knowing that
we did something wrong, the understanding is that God sees everything. And God will give all justice if not in this life,
in the next. Before they leave, we make du`aa’ and then they disperse.
As I sit with Dawud,
a former missionary who accepted Islam, we talk about life and Islam and not going today to stone the Jamarat. We can only
imagine what it is like now. I quietly pray for them and for their return.
When they return,
we are told that we need to leave Mina before Maghrib or else we have to stay for another night. Everyone gets their stuff
and starts walking out to the roads. We should take anyone of our buses to leave. There is a good chance with the amount of
people that we may not be able to leave before Maghrib. I am hoping that we can because I am physically drained and I don’t
think I can last another night outside.
with speed, many others are starting to complain that their throats are hurting. That was how I started..I pray that they
are not getting whatever I had. Finally, we hear a fatwa from one of the scholars that as long as we are on route with the
intention of leaving Mina, we can leave even after sunset).
We go outside on
to the street, it is crowded with buses, cars, people and more buses. The stifling hold of diesel overpowers your lungs. I
hope I don’t have to wait in this too long. While we are waiting, I ask the others how things were when they went to
stone the Jamarat. They said that it was the best day yet, there were clear spaces and they were able to go and come easily.
In my heart I wished I went with them, but Allah knows best and is the best to plan.
Finally one of
the buses comes and we are able to quickly get on. Many of the roads are closed for some reason and so we are stuck in traffic.
Every time the driver tries an alternate route, it is blocked. Some of us think that he may be lost. As we continued along,
we had to stop and pick up some guys from our group who were on another bus. Their bus shut down and so the only way for them
to get back was to get on our bus. They climb on and fill up the aisles. Many of them tired and weary from Hajj as well others
are getting sick. I wished I could help some of them but I am too weak to help myself.
Soon I noticed
one of the brothers who had a huge recording camera, he was recording some footage from Hajj. I took the camera from him and
put it on my lap so that he would not have to hold it the whole way back.
My mind was flooded
with many emotions and concerns. I did not have to worry about the sacrifice because I paid for it to be done. Finally, we
get back to the building, I want to go and call Sharon (my wife) but I am feeling so ill that I have no choice but to go and
lay down. That night, by Allah’s mercy I was able to get some rest.
Now all I had left
was to complete the farewell Tawaf. A bitter-sweet feeling….