HAJJ: THE BUILD UP TO GOING IN 2006
In 2005, we learned that it was obligatory to go to Hajj if one has the means, and it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We had enough funds for Aboubacar to go, and our plan was to save again in the next couple of years so that we could go together. Our focus was to go on Hajj before travelling anywhere else. We were determined to make it happen, and a Hajj package was found for Aboubacar. He needed to renew his passport, which was sent off three months before the Hajj season, and we waited. Although it usually took a month or maximum two months for his passport to be processed, it arrived a couple of days before the last Hajj group left. Thanks to Allaah's plan, he was unable to go that year, and we had time to save so that we could go together.
A side story: After hearing about our intention to go on Hajj and our Hajj game plan, my friend and her husband decided to go on Hajj in 2005. I looked after their children, and they looked after mine. They made Hajj that year, and we were happy for them.
Now it was 2006, and our Hajj game plan was in place. By the grace of Allaah, we had the funds to go, and our children would stay with my friend (May Allaah bless them). Hajj fell during the December summer school and university holidays, and I had a few personal wishes:
Finding a Hajj group/organizer that had English lectures and was located within a 5-minute walk from the Haram (the Ka'bah).
A deep, internal wish that Allaah would surround me with people who are good for me and vice versa.
We found the first two before Hajj, and Allaah answered the third, Alhamdulillah.
IN PREPARATION FOR HAJJ:
Four years earlier, I found a website online to learn about Islam, which was a preparation for completing Hajj. It covered many areas related to knowledge and character-building, such as perseverance in dealing with hardships, good manners, the purpose of life to worship Allaah alone, and the importance of Hajj. There was a video on the practicalities of Hajj with Ismail Davids, and an audio series on Riyadh us SaaliHeen, Chapter on Hajj by Shaykh Muhammad Adly. We saved these audios on an mp3 player and packed books related to Hajj from Muwatta and Fiqh us sunnah. I also had a little notebook to write a list of people to make dua for so that I wouldn't forget anyone.
Mental fortitude is essential when traveling for Hajj. Over 4 million people converge in Makkah to complete the once-in-a-lifetime obligation, making it necessary to deal with massive crowds. Prophet Muhammad (Alayhi Ssalaam / Upon him be Peace) stated that for women, doing Hajj is a Jihad (Struggle, striving). Hearing other people's stories like Sister Laila Nasheeba and her reality Hajj story helped me mentally prepare for the worst-case scenario and pray and hope for the best.
We went with the IISNA group from Australia, and the organization was excellent in dealing with the many twists and turns that occur during Hajj. We were given contact details on lanyards, and the women were given green highlighted slashes to wear to be visually distinct from other Hajj groups. Our passports were held by the organizers, and we received regular updates and Islamic reminders throughout. Despite delays and missed flights (in Singapore) and waiting for hours at the first airport into Saudi, everything went well.
We spent about a week in Madina before traveling by bus to Makkah to make Umrah and then have a brief break before doing Hajj. The type of Hajj we made is called Hajj Tama’tu, and it took us 29 hours to reach Makkah by bus, with many stops for visa processing, The Meeqaat (place to start the Umrah), Salaah, and other breaks. There were also many delays, including a hitchhiker who joined our group, went missing for a few hours after stopping at a mosque to offer Fajr Salaah, and then was found sleeping in the mosque. We also had to change a flat tire, which is all part of the Hajj journey. We arrived in Makkah at 1 in the morning and were taken to the Ka’bah to complete our Umrah. The bright lights around made the Kaaba look small, and we completed our Umrah and returned to our accommodation at Fajr.
MY REACTION ON SEEING THE KAABA
Seeing the Kaaba was a surreal experience. The size and the masses of people around in the middle of the night made it feel overwhelming. Completing the task of Umrah on the top level, I focused on Allaah and making our way back to rest. It was a long bus journey from Madinah to Makkah, and being our first time to do the Umrah, we were unsure how long it would take to complete. That was my focus, and everything went smoothly.
EMOTIONS I ENCOUNTERED
I am typically an emotionally regulated person, but there were many emotions that I experienced during Hajj. It is a long and challenging journey to complete and requires significant preparation to undertake. I hoped and prayed that Allaah accepted my Hajj, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Throughout the journey, I felt a range of emotions including patience, tiredness, joy, calmness, tranquility, restraint, determination, focus, and energy.
When our bus got a flat tire or there were delays, I thought back to my childhood experiences in New Zealand during Maori Hui gatherings. People there were laid back, friendly, and dealt with travelling and gatherings with ease. Remembering my childhood and my people's relaxed and easy-going nature helped make the Hajj trip easier.
I also remembered that one of my internal wishes was to have good people around me, which was fulfilled when we were separated into groups (for busses and hotel rooms) by English and Arabic speakers. This grouping helped create a calmer and easier environment, with fewer emotional fluctuations.
During Hajj, we encountered organized chaos at food places and when waiting in line for wudu or the bathroom. People seemed impatient and continuously knocked while someone else was using the facilities. However, remembering that the aim was to have an "Accepted Hajj (Hajj Mabroor)" and the years of savings, preparation, sacrifice, and leaving family behind for this journey helped me stay patient with the impatient people and their stressors. Their stresses and reactions were not my stress, Alhamdulillah.
There were defining moments during Hajj, such as Madinah and Arafah, which was a tranquil, calm, and serene moment for me.
In Arafah I stayed in the tented area, listened to lectures, read books, and spent time in reflection and dua. I had a notebook of names to make dua for, including family, friends, teachers, and the community. Muzdalifah was a unique experience as we moved there by bus and slept under the stars with sisters in the middle and brothers on the outer circle, which was comforting. The tent city in Mina was also interesting, with different hajj groups and their goings-on, eating, resting, walking, quiet, and lectures. Energizing is what I remember most from Mina leading up to the Hajj and Arafah and afterwards.
Throwing stones at the pillars / Ruumi was easier than I expected due to the clear pathways, which were not circular, and wider vast pillars. Kabaa for Hajj was another experience, and we decided to go ahead of the organizers and do the Ruumi before making our way to the Kaaba to complete the other tasks. We caught a taxi there, arriving around Zhuhr prayer. After completing Tawwaaf and Sa-I and offering Asr prayer, we took a break before returning by bus to Mina, where we arrived around 9pm.
Upon returning to Melbourne, I felt grateful to be home, away from crowds and in a tranquil silence.
Hajj was an intense one-month journey of crowds, moving from one place to another, and dealing with large crowds. Although it was a challenging experience, I put a big grateful tick next to Hajj and have no desire to do it again, even now in 2023.
May Allaah accept this Hajj, Allaahumma Ameen.
Side note: Our family are preparing for Umrah in the coming years in shaa allaah (God Willing).
May allaah facilitate ameen.