29 Muharram 1439
Assalamu `Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
Respected Imams, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers;
It is with a humble and grateful heart that I stand here, a daughter of this congregation being afforded the opportunity to share some moments of my recent Hajj experiences with you.
My time in the holy lands was full of emotional moments. My heart was filled with love and gratitude towards my Creator for affording me the privilege to perform the hajj, towards my parents for all their sacrifices they had made for me and towards my husband and children for all their support.
Our first stop was Madinah al-Munawwarah, the city of lights. Madinah is stooped in history and there are many significant places of visitation. I would strongly advise anyone intending to visit Madinah, to educate yourself on the history of Islam. Once you know the history of a place, your visiting experience will be so much more meaningful.
On entering Masjidun Nabawi to pay my respects at the Qabr of Rasullullah, (SAW) and the Qabrs of Hadhrat Abubakr As Sideeq (RA) and Hadhrat Umr (RA) I felt such humility. I worried how I would present my lowly self to Habeebulllah, the Most Noble of Creation, ya Allah was I worthy to stand in his mubarak presence ?
Here I was, conveying my salaams, knowing that this time the Malaikah was not conveying my salaams to Rasulullah but that Rasullullah was himself acknowledging my salaams and returning it. SubhanAllah.
Standing on the Battle Fields of Badr and Uhud was an opportunity to pay homage to all the martyrs who gave their lives fighting in defence of Islam.
A word of advice to female pilgrims is to go to masjid al-Nabawi well before the start of the daily salahs. There is a strict separation of sexes, and the space for females inside the masjid is limited. Due to the large numbers of pilgrims, I found that if I wanted to make a fard salah in congregation inside of masjid al-Nabawi I needed to be inside, two hours before the beginning of that congregational prayer. As I waited for the waqt to begin, I would perform sunnah salahs, read the Qur’an, make tasbih or dua’s. I used this time trying to truly connect and bond with my Creator, to find out who I really was, beyond my roles as a wife, a mother or an employee. My husband Rushdi, on the other hand could go to masjid al-Nabawi ten minutes before a congregational prayer and easily find a space inside.
Just when my bond was at its sweetest with my Rabb, it was time to leave Madinah and go to Makkah. It felt to me as if our time in Madinah was meant for us to each develop and grow spiritually as individuals.
In Makkah we tasted the sweetness of being able to perform our ibadah and tawaf – circumambulate the holy Ka`bah together, and this is where I most needed my husband’s strength to pull me through the crowds and for him to shelter me.
On approaching the Ka`bah for the first time, I was excited, nervous, and my heart was pounding in my throat. The Ka`bah was so much bigger, so much more magnificent than I had ever imagined it to be. The Ka`bah drew me like a magnet. All through my life I have seen pictures of it, turned to it in prayer five times a day, and when I finally stood in front of the Ka’bah a sense of calm and peace enveloped me as I watched the sea of humanity flowing around it. I felt that this was where I truly belonged!
As we began our Tawaf around the Ka`aba, it felt like everything and everyone had faded into oblivion. I was transported to the time when Ebrahim AS, Isma’eel AS, the Noble Prophet (saw) and His Sahabah had stood right there. At times it did not feel to me like I was walking but rather floating. When I become aware of my surroundings again, I found myself in the midst of multitudes of pilgrims performing this ritual alongside me. We were from different countries, different cultures, different languages, but all united by one thing, al-Islam. We all had only one objective; worshipping the Almighty Allah! There was a powerful display of unity in the performance of the congregational prayer.
I have taught the story of Hajar, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and Prophet Isma’il many times to my madrasah learners, but it was whilst performing my Sa’i that I started truly identifying with Hajar as a woman and mother. As I walked in her footsteps between Al Safa wa Al Marwa. I felt her desperation as she ran between these hills, her love for her child, her fear that nothing should happen to him, and the lengths she was prepared to go to see to the needs of her child.
This act of running between Safa and Marwa by a woman, a black slave woman, and a mother was so much loved by Allah that He made the running between Safa and Marwa compulsory for every man and woman who performs the Hajj.
Allah, the most Compassionate, also mentions this rite in the Glorious Quran in Surah al-Baqarah, chapter two verse 158, when he proclaims:
“Behold Safa and Marwa are amongst the symbols of Allah”
I thought of Haajar’s life and the lessons for us as women. For me Hajar’s sacrifices are more than just motherly instinct, it is not only an acceptance of her situation but a willingness and strength to take on the challenges of her situation. A pillar of Islam will not be complete without following this woman. SubhanAllah.
Days of Hajj
As I put on my ihram for Hajj on the 8th day of Zul Hijjah my emotions ran high. It was a sobering thought to know that your ihram was akin to your kaffan, that whilst I was putting on my own ihram today, someone else would be dressing me in my kaffan one day. I entered into Ihram with the chanting of the talbiyyah, the most profound surrender to the invitation and call from Allah, and my response; Labbayk Alluhumma Labbayk “here I come to you my Lord, responding to your invitation.
I left for Mina full of emotions and on the way noticed some hujjaj, who did not have he luxury of camps, tents, mattresses and pillows. They sat in the sun, in temperatures of 50 degrees with no cover and yet they were so patient. They camped out on the pavements, in the streets and wherever they could find a space. My heart went out to them as they lay on the mountainside thousands upon thousands all in white ihram. By the time I entered our tent on Mina I was thankful for the simple comforts we were receiving. I looked at the tiny mattresses thrown side by side on the floor, and I thought of how we would all be laying in our tiny qabrs (graves) side by side one day.
Arriving on Arafat on the 9th of Dhul Hijja, I was unsure of how I would handle the heat and the strenuous time ahead. As the waqt of Wuquf approached we left our tents and stood on the Plains of Arafat, at the foot of Jabal Rahmah, the mountain of mercy, where Adam and Hawwa (peace be upon them) met after being expelled from Jannah, the very place they begged for mercy from Allah. Hajj is Arafat. This was IT!
Arafat to me signified the plain where reckoning will take place. Millions of hujjaj standing on Arafat with the sun shining above begging for mercy from our Lord, fearful of the sins we had committed. I thought of the Day of Qiyamah and how similar it would be, except that Qiyamah would be so much more frightening and horrifying. It was on Arafat that I began to fully know and experience Allah’s Boundless Generosity, and His Limitless Grace.
For me the day of Arafat was doubly special. The Almighty had gifted me with the one in a million gift to celebrate the start of my birthday at sunset on Arafat. It was symbolic to me that the start of birthday would be at the end of the day I was reborn. The two interlinking like that for me was no coincidence, it felt like fate. At 10pm we were still on Arafat and my birthday supper was a scone and small apple juice while sitting in pitch dark on a broken ladder. I was tired, dirty, emotionally spent but it was my most special birthday ever and I humbled by my Lord’s favours upon me.
We had arrived on Arafat in our clean, white ihram but carrying a tarnished heart, but when we left Arafat, we left in dirty clothes, dusty, dishevelled yet carrying a clean heart, scented with the purity of Allah’s forgiveness.
In Muzdalifa as South Africans we were part of Camp Africa. It was wonderful to see all of my African brothers and sisters located in one area. On our walk through the camp in search of a clear spot to perform our Maghrib and Isha salah, we walked past other African hujjaj camped out and they would wave and smile at us. They were so excited to see their South African neighbours and here and there they would call out “Bafana Bafana!” and I would wave back excitedly and greet aloud “Assalaamu Alaikum!” and we would all beam with happiness and joy. We were no longer seeing each other as from different states of Africa but we were one brotherhood and sisterhood.
As we left Muzdalifah for Mina all along the road everyone was walking towards the same place, for the same purpose, with the same powerful cry of the talbiyyah. Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk. Labbayka laa sharikalaka labbayk, Innal hamda wa ni’mata laka wal mulk, la Sharikalak.
With the sounds of the labayk in the air, everyone in Ihram, everyone moving forward with the same purpose, everything I saw was so inspiring…old people, disabled people, people with blisters, people without shoes, people carrying their luggage on their heads, wheelchair-bound people. Rich and poor, nobody is distinguishable from one another, because we were all stripped of all symbols of wealth.
Although I had never seen such unity and love as I had on my hajj I must mention that I was sad to see that during the days of hajj there were two camps, a normal camp, known as camp C and a special services camp known as camp A. The special service camp catered for those who wanted some extra comforts during the days of hajj and could pay for it, such as an air conditioned tent, buffet meals, 24hrs coffee, tea, cooldrinks, juices and water, bigger mattresses to sleep on etc. The Hajj is meant to teach the pilgrims endurance and perseverance for higher causes, and to be a unifier and equaliser, yet we still make provision for those who can afford more, to have more conveniences and get better services, and so perpetuating division between the privileged and not so privileged, the rich and the poor, which is sadly visible throughout the hajj journey.
Three days of Tashreeq:
Alhamdulillah, our pelting of the jamaraat went relatively smooth. At the last jamaraat on the last day of pelting, as I took the last of my pebbles I realised that the casting of this pebble would be the last act of my Hajj, my ihram rites would be complete and so would be my Hajj. It was one of the saddest moments of my Hajj. I didn’t want to throw that last pebble, I wanted my Hajj to last forever, I cried as I said Bismillahi Allahu Akbar and cast my last pebble. I prayed that my Lord would be pleased with me.
Our farewell Tawaaf, Tawaful Wida` was carried out amidst a sea of tears. All around me everyone was greeting the Ka`aba one last time. Sadness etched on our faces. In the last round of my tawaf I found myself right against the Ka’aba and as I put my forehead and palms against it’s cool soothing wall, my tears flowed, my heart felt as if it would burst from sadness. I was so thankful for every moment I had been blessed with in this sacred place where worshiping Allah, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth began. I kissed the Ka`aba repeatedly to take with me that feeling of having been here, I did not know if this was the last time I would see the Ka`aba but I pray fervently that Almighty returns me to the holy lands again and again, Ameen.
In conclusion: Hajj is an experience like no other, and no two people’s journey would be alike. Even after you return home your heart yearns to go back. Makkah is one place that keeps calling you again and again. To my mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who have not yet been on Hajj, make your niyyah to go. We all take tomorrow for granted because we believe tomorrow will always be there. Well, tomorrow may be there, but we may not, so rush to obey the commands of your Lord so that He may be pleased with you. The most beautiful journey of your life awaits you.
Shukran for your patience with me.