Memories of my hajj


Rounding off one crazy night Written by Brother Yacoob Manjoo

The 10th of Dhul Hijjah is the day of Eid al-Adha. But for those on Hajj, it’s nothing like the Eid we experience back home. There’s no Eid salaah, no special clothes, no feasting, and no visiting friends and family. Instead, it’s very hectic as the hujjaaj carry out three important rituals of Hajj:

 pelting the jamaraat
 getting their hair cut / shaved, and
 performing a tawaaf and sa’ee at the haram in Makkah

(The rituals can be performed in any order, and the latter two may be delayed to the following days.)

When I had just gotten back to Mina after my ordeal of being lost, my group was already outside, about to go pelt the jamaraat (which was close to our camp). I needed a break (as well as the toilet – which I hadn’t used for those last 9 hours), so my wife and I didn’t go with them.

The pelting used to be a major source of fear for hujjaaj because of the stampedes and craziness that would occur there. But with expansion of the jamaraat and improved crowd-control measures, it’s much safer nowadays – hence we didn’t worry too much about going on our own a little while later. I didn’t pick up my stones on Muzdalifah (since I had bigger concerns at the time), but my wife’s relative had kindly collected them for me – so off we went.
The pelting itself was relatively easy since the jamaraat wasn’t too busy at that early hour of the morning. We made it to the front, close to the jamaraat wall, but on trying to exit, I got hit with stones that were intended for the wall – so I had to use the top piece of my ihraam as a shield.

Next up was shaving of my hair, and there were ample barbers further down the road to do the honours. Predictably, though, they were jam packed, so I to wait a long time to get my turn. It was my first time being completely shaved, so it looked and felt rather strange, while bringing an increased sense of freshness (not to mention a cold head).

Having now completed my ‘minor release’ from ihraam (or, as they call it in Cape Town, “die klein verlossing”), I didn’t have the energy or courage to head for the haram to do the tawaaf ifadah and sa’ee – so we decided to do that the following night. So we set off for our room in Aziziah – where we’d spend a few hours resting before we had to get back to the camp on Mina. But my wife and I are a geographically-challenged pair, so we ended up getting lost and walking for close to an hour (whereas the walk should have taken less than half that time).

We finally made it back (grabbing some KFC for breakfast on the way), and I made Fajr in the nearly-empty masjid near our building (it being empty since it was Eid morning, so most locals were probably heading for the haram in Makkah). I was still in my ihraam, and after salaah, one of the brothers greeted me as “Hajj” (i.e. Hajji). It felt good – but not because that title was a superior status (I don’t believe a Hajji is any better than another Muslim). But it was special because I felt genuine love from him in that greeting, similar to the love I felt on the road near Muzdalifah – when bystanders were handing out water to the hujjaaj as sadaqah.

Everybody recognises the value of this journey, and for those who can’t make Hajj (even though they live in Makkah), whatever little they can do to help the hujjaaj is their contribution to an incredible event. So, I pray that Allah accept their efforts and reward them abundantly.

After Fajr, I stayed up a little to do some writing – since I needed to record everything while it was fresh in my mind. And then – a little after 8AM – after the most momentous (and sleep-deprived) 24 hours of my life – I collapsed in bed for some well-earned rest.

Later that day, I awoke to the greatest feeling I’ve ever experienced: one of tremendous inner purity, which I can only describe as a ‘lightness of the soul’. I already knew that Arafah serves as a complete forgiveness for all sins, but now I was literally feeling it. Purity, cleanliness, and like the weight of my life’s worth of sin was now totally gone.
My wife and I both experienced these incredible feelings. In my mind, these were moments to savour and take advantage of, because we would probably never be that pure again in our lives – since we were bound to sin and make mistakes again in future (as all humans do).

I also felt empowered, because I knew that – in terms of sin – I was starting from a clean slate, and for the time being, it would be easy to keep that slate clean: every wudu, every salaah, every istighfaar – all of that wipes away sins.

In normal circumstances, although we know of these cleansing effects, it’s hard to actually feel those sins falling away. But now, because there was no longer a huge backlog of sin, those actions felt so much more effective, because every repentance needed to cover only a short period of possible transgressions – the time from the last salaah to the current one (rather than years and years). To use an analogy, it’s like comparing our hearts to dirty dishes: whereas before, it would be a case of dealing with heavily greased dishes that sat in the sink for days, now it was like washing lightly-soiled dishes immediately. It’s so much easier to clean a few marks quickly, rather than dealing with deeply-ingrained stains.

And if repentance alone wasn’t enough, by following up a bad deed with a good one, you totally wipe out the bad deed. That concept – which is actually a hadith – was another example of how the Prophet s.a.w.’s words were being practically manifested in my life (like the hadith that characterised my main lesson from the previous night).
Mountain of deeds

By this time, we were halfway through Hajj – with 2.5 days left (actually, a little more than that for us, since our group would stay the extra night on Mina). I wanted to make the most of that time, having made abundant dua and planning to do so much. In my mind, the importance of the coming days was perfectly crystallised in the analogy of building a mountain:

At this point, we were completely pure – forgiven of all sins, and starting from a clean slate. My ideal, for the rest of my life to follow, was that I wanted to live a life of dua, connection to Allah, reliance on Him alone, reciting Quran, making frequent and abundant istighfar and dhikrs, living with taqwa, remembering death often, being careful in my speech, and many other good deeds and aspects of good character. At this point, such things were so easy to do, and they felt so natural, beautiful, and amazing – probably because we were back to our fitrah (our pure state of birth), wherein our souls take true delight and are well-nourished by these actions. (For an explanation of this nourishment, read this post.)

But I knew that in the time to come, especially once we left those blessed lands, we’d face challenges: hardships, the evils of the devils (both of mankind and jinn), and our own bad inclinations. Though we’d leave Hajj with clean souls, all of these things would dirty our souls again. So in the upcoming days, while we were still on that incredible, blessed journey of Hajj, it was time to build a mountain of good deeds – which would act as spiritual provisions for the rest of our lives.

By gathering these provisions, we’d build our own personal stockpiles – or mountains – which would serve as a stabilising force and a protection against the spiritual erosion that would occur once we got back to ‘normal life’ and lived the remaining years or decades of our lives. I hoped to use the remaining days of Hajj to build my mountain so that once I left Mina, I would never, ever get ‘low’ again in terms of spirituality and the purity of my soul.
I dreamed – perhaps foolishly, but still optimistically – of remaining at this spiritual peak for the rest of my life, and getting even higher, making slow and steady progress over the rest of my life to eventually reach my full potential in this world.

Related lessons:
 For men, if you start getting hit with stones at the jamaraat, the top piece of your ihraam makes an excellent shield.

 If you’ve got a room in Aziziah and are heading back there right after pelting, make sure you know the direction to go. After pelting, you won’t be able to turn back and exit Mina through the same tunnel where you came in – you’ll be walking quite far and then exiting through an unfamiliar place. So, make a special effort before Hajj to find out the route from that exit to your accommodation in Aziziah.

 Just because you’ve completed Hajj (Arafah being the main part of it), doesn’t make you better than other Muslims. Don’t ever let the title “Hajji” make you arrogant or delude you into thinking you’re somehow superior to others. If anything, you should be even more humble and even more fearful of slipping up – because Allah has given you this incredible experience, so you now have the added responsibility of living up to the high standards your Hajj for the rest of your life – whereas those who haven’t been aren’t in that situation.

 Many people live in or near Makkah, yet they cannot make Hajj with you. Accept whatever help they try to give you, and make dua for them. You have this amazing opportunity to perform Hajj whereas they don’t, so appreciate what you have and ask Allah to reward their contributions to the event.

 If you’re keeping a journal of your Hajj, write your experiences and feelings as soon as you can – even if it means you’ll miss a few more hours of sleep. Capture everything while it’s fresh, because you never know if you’ll get another chance, and with so much happening, the important memories may fade sooner than you think.

 Savour the feeling of purity and lack of sin after Arafah, but remember that you can’t retain that feeling forever. You will slip up and sin / make mistakes, but now, it’s so much easier to wipe them away – via wudu, salaah, istighfaar, and good deeds. Stay clean by performing these actions regularly and abundantly in these days, and make it a habit to repent immediately after you do something wrong, and beyond that, regularly – even when you can’t explicitly recognise any wrongs you’ve committed.

 The soul loves to worship Allah, and is nourished by these acts of worship. While your soul is in its pure state of fitrah, feed it abundantly via these actions, and savour the beauty of worshipping Allah without the baggage of sin.

 You may feel like you can now relax, since Arafah is over. But don’t fall into that trap. While you’re on a high, and still on this sacred journey, use the remaining days and nights of Hajj to build up a mountain of good habits, good deeds, good character, and other spiritual provisions – which will serve as a much-need protection for you once you get back to the challenges of normal life back home.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are those of the writer and not that of Channel Islam International.