Lab Bayk … – answering the summons – I

Lab Bayk, Allahumma labbayk – I

They came, in response to the summons!Hajj is made obligatory at least once in a lifetime for every one who is able to perform it. And the ability includes monetary, mental, health, etc.So they came:
male and female,
young – some even infants, and old – some so old their back is bent so they are doubled up
_____

outside the toilets in our Mina camp, an old man comes up behind me

after a while, he says:
hamri baaree hai
(it is my turn)
note: hamri, not hamari

I smile and say: well it isn’t but don’t worry, you can go first
He is speaking the village dialect of UP or Bihar, so I ask: are you from Bihar

No, I am from UP
I say: Subhanallah

After some interval of time, he beams: I am 106 years old
Amazing, wonderful! I say, Mashaallah

Then he confides some more:
Hukamat ney hamein aik khitmatgaar diya hai
(The government has provided me a helper/servant}
good for the government, I say. I am happy for him

Now he becomes talkative: The big doctor came to see me with the top government officials. He checked me himself and asked me if I am fine.

wow! you are a celebrity, I say. I know he is refering to the Director of his country’s Medical Mission.

Imagine the publicity value of an 106 years old man performing Hajj.

His name: Salamatullah, if I remember correctly.
______

So they came:
black, brown, white, ash-colored, brunettes and blondes,

every nationality, from all over the world, places you did not know of where Muslims are present

where are you from?
Combodia
Masha`Allah

and you?
Mauritius
Subhanallah

you?
alMaghrib
you mean Marakesh, I smile
you know Marakesh? – this said with a beaming smile

you?
South Africa
Subhanallah

Maaldeep (the Maldive Islands)
Canada
Iran
Republic of Guinea
China

so we greet each other with duas, and hugs
______

A boy in early twenties approaches me;
can I ask you a question, he says.
Sure, go ahead.
well, we are from Kazakhistan, and we weren’t allowed to pray. Now we are allowed to do so, and I want to make up for lost prayers. How can I do it? My uncle says it isn’t possible in the Haram.

I explain that the best way is to say extra salaat with every Salah, like four extra rakaat with asr for the missed asr, and three extra ones with Maghrib for the missed Maghrib.

He has good command of English, but after struggling with his vocabulary for a while, he wants to know what the sister of his father is to be called.
aunt, paternal aunt, I tell him.
Yes, he smiles a big smile, that is what I want to say. My aunt is having an argument with me over this. Then he turns and speaks to his aunt in his native language. Their argument continues.

I feel a tinge of remorse. I never thought of making up for lost prayers, although I ws never prevented from praying. Rather, I was encouraged.

My cousin’s husband who lived near us, a couple of empty plots away, asked me to pray regularly in the mosque, which was just opposite his house.

I just smiled, and went my way, away from the mosque.

I heard him lament: the son of a Hafiz, and from such a family, and he doesn’t pray!

I was 15, an orphan for 3 years, mother also asked me to pray, but did not press me too much, perhaps afraid of being too demanding, just in case this teenager rebels; elder brothers a good 1000 miles away, earning to keep body and soul together

I was free not to do what is obligatory. And that freedom is what spoilt me.
_____

So they came:
on planes, by ship, by motorised transport, some even on foot, setting out months and maybe even years ahead, for this is what they had been commanded to do.

they cross the Meeqaat with:
the males in two unsewn white sheets and slippers with at least the ankles uncovered
and the women in whatever clothes observing the rules of modesty, but with abayas and Hijaab with faces either uncovered or with a veil that does not touch the face, an innovation in the view of some ulema.

and many display the flag, or name of their country and group. So it isn’t always necessary to ask the nationality.

every registered pilgrim wears a metal bracelet on which is engraved with his/her name, passport or other identity (if Saudi) number, nationality.

Saudi estimates:

2.5 million registered Hajjis
0.8 million unregistered ones.

total 3.3 million

The tents of Mina extended into Muzdalifa
They were supposed to stay in Arafat during the day, but there was no space left even on the roads of Arafat, so they found place in Muzdalifa and had to climb on Jable Rehmat in Arafat.

Some others estimate that this number a lot higher, from 4.0 to 6.5 million.

They came, first a tricle, then in streams, then a flood!
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Ameera15Jazak Allah, brother for sharing with us parts from your wonderfull journey!
May Allah accept your Hajj and reward you richly!
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“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”

TrustworthyKnowledge is endless so keep searching!!!
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Oh…tell us more Hajji…

like the tawaf…did you get to see the black stone…the day of judgment will arrive when the black stone will shine brightly

what was the flood like? other hajjis reactions…

describe the view of Haram and Makkah….

did you see the Prophet’s grave site? Hamzah’s?

Ma-assalaamah….

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Do not try to find out what we re forbidden to know or else despair will fall upon you and you ll never get to live the life that was supposedly yours.

timbuktu———————————————–

Oh…tell us more Hajji…like the tawaf…did you get to see the black stone…

all in good time sister, insha`Allah.If you were to receive the news that you had been selected to answer the call to do Hajj this year, what would your reaction be?Wouldn’t you want to know what it involves?

How would you get the visa, make the travel and stay reservations, which agency or tour operator to select, don’t we know there are operators who fleece you and give little in return? do you need to learn Arabic, how to stay out of trouble with the police, etc.

Have I frightened you yet?

But don’t give up, read on. In good time all will be revealed, with tips, insha`Allah. and you would long to go even more.

Is it fard (obligatory) to look at the Hajre Aswad and to kiss it, or to embrace the Multazim. Or better still let us start from the beginning. What are the steps in sequence. What is ihraam and what are its binding rules? When does a dumm become wajib; how to avoid invalidating one’s Hajj, or find that you have made such mistakes that you cannot pay the price of the dumms incurred? What, when and how is the Tawaaf-e-Qudoom done, the stay at Mina, the travel to and repentence and wuqoof until sunset in Arafat, the overnight stay under the cold sky at windy Muzdalifa, the return to Mina, the rami-e Uqba, the Qurbani, the Halaq, the Tawaafe Ifada, the return to Mina and stay every night while performing the rami of the three Jamaraat every day until exit from Mina on 12th or 13th of dul-Hajj.

and how to avoid the crowd, and the infections it will be bringing?

and how not to get lost?

frightened? but read on …

Among those who were selected this year, some had satisfaction written on their faces: They had been preparing for this very occasion. They had taken extensive lessons in the fiqh of Hajj. They had studied the geography, the weather, the logistics, the maps, the layout of the Haramain, the surrounding areas, the hotels and restaurants, the prices and the quality of food, the things to buy and when to buy, and more …..

They had conducted interviews with returning Hajjis about the distribution of the population in various areas of the Haramain at different timings.

They had made charts and knew their plans by heart.

Some were happy. They knew they would face problems, yet this had been their one burning desire for a long time, so they did not focus on the problems.

Others were unconcerned. It was no big deal. Just another or at most two more places to visit. No need to study anything. Everything can be bought or rented, all you need is dollars, and they had plenty of dollars. They thought this would be no different from other tourist sites.

and some were special. They were the Royals, or invited by the Royals.

Still others were unhappy to receive the news. They knew little of the fiqh and the logistics etc. and were afraid of everything. The returning Hajjis had warned of the difficulties. There would be bottlenecks at many places. The natives did not speak English, and they themselves did not know Arabic. The Saudis are known to be arrogant and insensitive to foreigners, except perhaps the Americans. Everyone knows the story of the Hajji who was found without his documents and sent to prison for a month, no questions asked, with immediate deportation on completion of the sentence. Only the same shurta (policeman) who had jailed him could let him out. what if the shurta becomes incapacitated, and did not come to let him out after a month?

would one rot in jail for his/her entire life?

And the Saudis are Wahhabis. [shudder] Aren’t Wahhabis extremist fanatics? and isn’t the mighty US of A displeased with them, and even at war with them?

and isn’t there some sort of internal violent conflict in Saudi Arabia, bombings and the like!

What a feared country to visit.

They wouldn’t be able to cope with all this, they thought with sinking hearts?

ahh, the mighty US of A. Why is life so difficult? Why hasn’t Allah placed the Ka`aba in a civilised place like New York or San Francisco or London even? Don’t many of our politicians and businessmen go there or to Disneyland, Florida, for their annual pilgrimage.

Well, there would be Hajjis from NY, and CA and FA, too.

Now answer these questions:

why does Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) summon the pilgrims?

and the Hajjis came, but why? When they had ignored other religious obligations in the past, why couldn’t this one be ignored by them?

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Kathy… and why haven’t i been invited?
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“Wait for some more time… Allah is not deaf or blind. He surely knows the warmth of every tear drop shed in the nightly hours.” Jaihoon

timbuktusis Kathy, a very pertinent question indeed: why are some invited, and others not, while among the invitees you may find atheists, and among the non-invitees those with a very strong desire to be there.But I want my brothers and sisters here to ponder over what I write, and attempt answers to these questions.

_________

So I skipped some religious obligations from boyhood. Most of my life I have congratulated myself that my sins were of omission, not of commission. I don’t know why I thought the former were excusable. Hajj seemed so difficult that I felt convinced I could skip that as well.

Looking at the physical aspects only, I read of accounts of fire in Mina tents, of stampedes at Jamaraat, of infections, of inconsiderate Saudi officials, and unlistening Saudi policemen who lock you up, of the physical strain (no details were obtained) involved, of being fleeced, etc., and I looked at myself and thought – me, no way! I will send someone for Hajje Badal. And I let that be that.

It is me who thought I was being logical, while Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) had other plans, and indeed

He is the best of planners.

As I narrate the story of Hajj, can you see the hand of Allah in shaping my circumstances towards making the Hajj, and making it painless?Three years ago at Karachi my cousin’s son (the same cousin I have talked of earlier), who once was my classmate, asked me to perform Hajj. I had already become visibly more religious, quoting Quraan and Hadith and rulings in my discussions, and I had a beard now, so this was a logical thing to ask.I felt nervous. In my heart, I had decided Hajj was too dangerous for me, yet I couldn’t say no to the son of the man who had asked me to go to the mosque, and whose advice I had not paid any attention to. So I said yes, I want to go but there are some problems. When they are taken care of, I will go, inshallah.

My cousin’s son inherited Tableegh from his father, and they have a softly, softly touch. Thus he kept at me to make the niyyah. Eventually I did make the niyyah, not convinced in my heart that I want to take the risks involved, so I promptly forgot about this. My friend gave me a light prayer mat, and some copies of a booklet published by him on how to make Hajj (from the fiqh of the ihnaaf). I put the book aside, and put the prayer mat at the bottom of my clothes in my cupboard, just in case.

Six months later I was asked to take up a job which was very demanding, but which paid well. I worked for two years and saved enough in a current account to pay off my interest-bearig loans, and start building the first floor of my house. It occurred to me that perhaps now I had a purely halal income untainted by interest, so maybe Hajj is possible.

But medically I had problems, which make it impossible for me to stay or travel anywhere longer than one hour. I need many modern comforts to survive. So, Hajj still seemed an impossible task.

Others who have made the pilgrimage told me the medical problems either diappear or become tolerable during Hajj times, so I felt better. I had a doctor work out a regime of preventive medicine and controls, and felt perhaps this could be attempted.

Next year, I thought, I will apply for Hajj.

Then I found some friends filling in Hajj application forms. Either our own government or a private operator will arrange the administrative, residential and travel facilities (some even include meals). I applied, and my group was approved.

It was a good group. The leader had performed Hajj last year with a view to performing it again with his wife. So he knew the procedure. He and his deputy knew some Arabic, and are active in the Tableeghi Jamaat, so know the fiqh of Hajj, although insisting on the Hanafi angle. Still, better than ignorant me.

Because there cannot be facilities for an unlimited number of pilgrims, the Saudi government allows generous quotas from countries, but often from the Muslim countries there are more applicants than the quota. So there is a draw for who will go. In my knowledge the last date for the applications had already passed, but I was wrong, and I was persuaded to apply within a group which had only one vacancy. Groups here could only be from 5 to 20 people.

The Saudis have a system for everything. Since we do not know the system, and we are impatient, we do not make queues, we get delayed, and grow more impatient. I think the officials who put up with the impatient Hujjaj are to be congratulated for keeping their cool. If we learn basic Arabic, if we are patient, if we seek redress only when really there has been a problem, things will be more easy for us.
___________

So the ingredients are: niyyah (intention), and asking Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) to make it easy for us. This is what will be needed over and over again. And learn to be patient and forgiving. Do not seek out other people’s faults. Even when their faults are obvious, do not make derogatory remarks.

Then look up the procedure for your country. Ask the Saudi Embassy. Go to their site. Private tour operatives charge more, sometimes double the amounts for government schemes, with half the times. We left on the 25th Dec, and came back on the 3rd Feb. so we had about forty days in SA, while my nephew went through DarasSalaam (Madison Ave?) and reached Madinah on 10th Jan, leaving Makkah on 12 or 13 dhul Hajj, hardly 15-20 days. He stayed at Hotel InterContinental at Madinah, and at ash-Shuhada at Makkah, which was a good 20 minutes walk from the Babe Fahd. They were accomdated 4 to a room. 4 males in one room, and 4 females in another. The hotel is good. Food was included in their package. DarusSalaam had hundreds of clients.

For us in the Pak government scheme, the government rented reasonable accomodation. We were 7 in a room meant for five. Basic facilities were available: like beds, sheets and blankets, hot water, ZamZam one litre per person supplied at the hotel, vacuum cleaning of the room, airconditioning, and maintenance of the facilities. Although we did not need the air-conditioning until the last two days at Makkah.

Food was our own. We were lucky – in Makkah 3-1/2 minutes walk from the Babul Fath, and at Madinah, a walk of five minutes, This despite the fact that we had applied for a scheme with 1300 metres distance from the Haram, while others had applied for 800 metres distance, and were farther away, or billeted with us.

We got a refund of $400, while they received a refund of $220 only.

my Hajj went like a song, as further episodes will reveal.

Do you know what it means?

It is not us who make the decision and the arrangements for our Hajj, which is actually a time Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) is showing us His powers. and moreover, we are Allah’s guests.

Remember this point: Although we are His slaves summoned to perform this obligation, and to be cleansed of our sins, we are treated as His guests.

To stop drug import in SA, the SA government has placed restrictions on what can be taken into KSA. Thus our Hajj Ministry issued such directives as not to take toothpaste, soap, etc.

At the Madinatul Hujjaj (the town of the pilgrims) near Islamabad/Rawalpindi, when we went in 10 hours before departure, I found a woman teaching patiently the others what to say in the Tawaf:

She says: “come, I will help you. say: Subhanallahi”
the other women: “Subhanallahi”
She repeats three times with the women after her. Then she proceeds to say “wal Hamdulillahi”
as the women repeat this after her, she repeats this word three times.

and she goes on to teach the rest of what one is to say.

It turns out she is the wife of a teacher, and probably teaches the deen to children at her home.

Subhanallah and may Allah give her many merits.

Then there is an old couple, who come closer to us when we are discussing and reviewing what our steps would be. They cannot even speak Urdu properly and know nothing about what next step to take so they can get on the plane, or performing the Hajj, yet they have embarked on this journey, trusting Allah to help them. And help them He does!

To get medicine that I use regularly, I have it prescribed in a medicine book, then buy the medicine. I have some more prescribed as preventive medicine (mainly some pain-killers and antibiotics, because I will certainly get secondary respiratory infection), some medicine for upset stomachs. This has to be checked and sealed at the Madinatul Hujjaj by the Ministry of Hajj’s own doctors.

Somehow others are denied antibiotics, but I am asked if I am taking so much medication for the whole group, or only for myself. I reply that I need this medicine and my medicine is sealed without further comment.

Every country with a large Muslim population has a Hajj facilatory and free Medical Mission at Makkah and Madinah, and the Saudis have enough free dispensaries and Hospital too, near the Haramain. The Saudi facilities are the best.

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Reflectionstill water runs deep…assalamu’alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuhu

May Allaah accept your Hajj inshaaAllaah…mabrook.

——————————————————Allaahumma arinal haqqa haqqan
Warzuqnaa ittibaa’ahu
Wa arinal
baatila baatilan
Warzuqna ijtinaabahu
Our Allaah!
Let us see the
Truth as Truth
And grant that we follow it…
And let us see Falsehood
as Falsehood
and grant that we avoid it…

timbuktuthanksSo let us see. The Pak Ministry of Hajj gave us a list of what to take, and what NOT to.

anyway, my medicine was very helpful to everyone. When you go, take a lot of painkillers, The muscles ache like never before. And do take along a course or two of anti-biotics, together with vitamin B complex, or better still multi-vitamins, because antibiotics somehow remove the B-complex from your system, causing stomach upsets. So a supplemental dose helps.

remember: every medicine needs to be prescribed by a registered medical practioner, and sealed by the immigration authorities of your country. For those in the USA and other countries where the authorities probably do not provide such support for Hajjis, seek info from the Saudi Embassy, or the Hajj and Umrah operators. It is compulsory to have a meningitis vaccination backed up by an official certificate. It is also adviable to get a flu shot.

We had obtained our airline tickets, foreign exchange (I had bought an extra 1500 Riyals from the open market, to make sure I do not run short). Lugged our luggage (without trolleys – how I wish I had gone and bought a trolley despite my wife’s making fun of me: “don’t they have trolleys in Saudi?”) Well, for now this was Pakistan’s Madinatul Hujjaj, and there were no trolleys here. As I would discover later, no trolleys in SA either. Still, my group mates helped. May Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) accept their Hajj and give them ample rewards, here and in the Hereafter. Lug your own luggage through customs and boarding. Is this why it is called LUGgage?

Here our metal bracelets are handed over to us. We have to fasten them to our wrists, jsut in case there is an accident which destroys the body, this will serve as an identification. Then through customs (for cabin baggage) and immigration. This is the arangement at Islamabad, could be different elsewhere. At the airport, the trolleys are in abundance, but not at Madinatul Hujjaj.

At the airport lounge, we changed into ihraam and fasten a document/money belt. I also carried a document bag . Stories of being robbed abound, so it is best to have duplicate documents and money split in two or three places. Although I found that this was more headache than a facility. I forgot whether I had left my Travellers cheques at Makkah, or whether I had brought them to Madinah, so on finding them missing at Madinah, I was temporarily upset. Not much, because I prayed to Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) that since I was His guest, it was His responsibility to see me through, not mine. And then I forgot about this. Everytime I faced a problem that looked like I was stuck in for a while, I would say istaghfaar, and pray like this, and be calm, and the problem would be resolved.

We were going to do Hajje Tamattu – Umrah first and then the Hajj. We pray two nawafil after changing (not necessary according to Salafis, according to them it is better to put the ihraam after fard prayers)

we say the LabBayk

ahh, the LabBayk, how I loved to say it …

The process

Taking a bath. Facilities do not exist at Islamabad airport, so do it at home.

Using perfume if possible (for men , women can use color only).

Wearing Ihram attire, which consists of a loincloth and an apparel, with the head uncovered for men, whereas women are to wear their Islamic custom, wearing neither face cover nor gloves. However, a woman may cover her face with a slight veil only if her beauty is tempting enough to cause seduction.

Declaring intention to perform Hajj and saying Labbayk:

Here, for the Umrah we say:
Labbayka-Allahumma-Umran

Later, when we don the ihraam for Hajj, we will say:
Labbayka-Allahumma-Hajjan

After taking these steps it is prohibited for the pilgrims to wear sewn clothes, remove or pluck hairs, clip nails, cover their heads, use perfume, hunt, enter into marriage contracts or talk of them even for others, have sexual intercourse, or cut the trees of the Sacred Precinct.

Men should raise their voice while saying Labbayk, which is:

Labbayka-Allahumma-Labbayk.
Labbayka La Sharika Laka Labbayk.
Inna Al-Hamda Wan-Ni`mata Laka Wal-Mulk.
Laa Sharika Lak.
Here I am, O Lord, here I am!
Here I am, there is none that is a partner to You, here I am!
Surely, all praise; all bounty is Yours, and all power, too.
There is none that is a partner to You.

But women should let their voice be audible only to themselves.How did I feel when saying this?answering the summons from the Lord, in anticipation that He has called us to forgive us and to listen to our supplications:

why has He called us?
what will happen?
will we be forgiven, or will we return apostates?

for the whole process step by step, see this:
Hajje Tamattu Step By StepSo, when we rely on medicine, on our status in life, on our wallets or bank balances, on our helpers, we are ascribing partners to Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala). During Hajj, Allah shows us how helpless we are despite our taking precautions. When we acknowledge this and bend before Him alone, giving up our reliance on these worldly things, He performs miracles for us. I would see this over and over again, and I pray I never rely on the goodies of this world.We go through immigration control, board the bus to the plane, and on boarding the plane, I say the prayer for travel:

Subhanalladhi Sakhkhara lana hadha wa ma kunna lahu muqrineen. wa inna ila Rabbina la munqaliboon

please make it a rule to say this prayer whenever you travel, even on a car or a bus or a bicycle. Elsewhere I have described how Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) has saved our lives in travels.

PIA and AeroAsia have the pilot or one of the airhostesses say it over the plane public address system. Maybe other airlines have adopted this too.

We reach Jeddah Madinatul Hujjaj, and while moving towards immigration, I lose an umbrella given to each of us by the airline. Never mind. Not such a great loss. Travellers get confused there, but I think the officials are sensible. They follow a procedure we do not know. It would be helpful if the instructions were written in different languages, or at least the main ones, and people employed understood the language of the pilgrims.

Our meningitis certificates are checked. Have I mentioned this is a necessity? Some people are sent for extra vaccination, and eventually we are admitted to immigration, where some confusion occurs because of our impatience. We are not accustomed to the queue system. The officials are mostly young Egyptians. More checks.

Once outside immigration, we find ourselves facing a lot of desks, where more young Arabs sit, and process the passports of the pilgrims, attaching some transport tickets, and tearing away a page from our passports. This is the United Agents Office, and this tearing away will occur at every stage, until you fear you will only have the outside cover left of your Hajj passport. This will not be the case for international passport holders. I do not know what is done to international passports.

Then we move out with our hand baggage (no trolleys in evidence here either. I wish these were provided), to locate the Pakistan Hujjaj area. We find it, and the search for our luggage begins. No real need, because the United Agents will dump it at the necessary area. People are nervous because luggage can be misplaced. However, our luggage is dumped near us, and then the wait for our Maktab begins. This seems a slow process, but here too the officials and employees are following a reasonable procedure. They make sure that all Hajjis of a particualr maktab are colected in a queue with their luggage. Again we have to lug it, and again I wish for a trolley.

Anyway, after a long wait, our queue is formed, and we are told to board a bus. Our passports are now taken away from us. We make sure our luggage is loaded first, we note the number of the bus, and we board it. We will pass registration and checkpoints where the driver will get his passengers cleared. It is his responsibility. At times someone will board the bus and check the passengers against a list., both the names and the numbe rof passengers. We won’t see our passports again until we are back from Makkah to Jeddah on our way out, but passports these will travel with us for every officially sanctioned journey.

An event takes place at Jeddah. It is Zuhr and my group, staunch Tableegees that they are, want to say the Zuhr prayers, and then obtain a guarantee that the bus will stop for Asr. I quietly go and pray both Zuhr and Asr with Qasr. It is allowed. The Maktab people argue with the group organiser, and some people from the group go and say a lot of rakaats, so many that the group also loses its patience.

Away we go in the bus, saying the LabBayk at intervals. We stop twice. Saudi Arabia is a wonderful country. It has some strange formations of rock and mountains. I wish I could study its Topology and Geology, but I have missed my chance. Sheikh Yemeni once asked me to come join SA. I was young and foolhardy. I refused on grounds that SA is a kingdom. So what? Are democracies any better? Not to my knowledge. I do not remember being able to make a difference in the Western democracies I have lived in.

They love mosques. And they love cleanliness. So, mosques are at every stop. and they are beautiful, have ample area for cleaning washing oneself, with running warm water, and even facilities for taking showers at some mosques – something that the Indo-Pak subcontinent lacks. On the way, at one stop, we are given one box each of eatibles, mostly biscuits, a gift from Khadimal Haramain Sharifain. The rulers and some other families provide these to Hujjaj. The government of Saudi Arabia takes great pains to provide facilities. They truly consider these Hujjaj as guests of Allah. No wonder they are able to ride out the political storms in KSA.

Makkah begins and we see a lot of modern high-rise buildings, not as high as the Empire State or the more modern attempts of vain humans to reach the heavens, but high nevertheless. Most are Fandaqs (hotels), and most are called palaces. Why this fixation with palaces? I also notice some gold color in kettles and thermos flasks, but the buildings are sober in design and in color. That means good taste. I am already beginning to like the Saudis.

When we reach our hotel at Makkah, we rest a while. Then we go in a group. We are in the Shamia neighborhood, and I notice that Makkah is mountainous (or at least hilly). It is a modern city. and when we go to the Haram we find the road is sloping down towards it. Then we come across a lot of steps, leading further down. Then we enter the Babul Fath (the gate of victory), from which the prophet entered on the day of victory over the pagan Makkans. Our group leader explained that the duas on seeing the Ka’aba the very first time are accepted. We are to keep our eyes focussed near our feet until he tells us to raise them. When looking at the Ka`aba, I ask Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) to accept all my present and future jaez duas provided they are for kheir. This is the dua I will make at every point about which the acceptance is said to be guaranteed.

The Babe Fath is situated such that as you enter, the door of the Ka`aba is towards its left, while the Hateem is to its right. The Ka`aba is draped with its black cover, which looks lovely on it.

I have heard so much about Makkah’s commercialism that I fear I will not feel its spiritiuality. There are hotels and restaurants (called Mut`im – plural = muta`im) all around. There are buses and their noises and the pollution. I have also heard that Hajj changes a person, making him/her a better Muslim, or throwing him/her out of Islam. I am afraid: what if I become apostate? What a terrible thing it will be. Ka`aba is only a cuboid made of stone by man. It isn’t to be worshipped, yet a spirituality is attached with it. Strange, when I look at the Ka’aba, I do not feel awed. Instead, I look at it trying to understand if it attracts me, and if this attraction is inner, or on the surface.

The mosque is unusual, because of Ka`aba at the centre. How to describe its layout? I don’t have the vocabulary. There is this open area around the Ka`aba where the Tawaaf is made. And then up a flight of stairs is a roofed area going all around the Ka`aba, where we find carpets, on which people say prayers,a s well as rest. I think it is wonderful. One can sit or lie in comfort, and watch the Ka`aba, and say nawafil, or get up and do the Tawaaf. On top of this roofed area are two floors, where too the Tawaaf can be made. Eevntually I will find that the best places for saying prayers and doing Tawaaf are the basement and the first floor.

The King’s palace dominates the skyline when in the mosque. Why has he made such a folly. It is on top of a mountain, the sides of which have been covered with white slabs. I would have liked all sides of the mosque to be kept from urban development, except moving walkways for the pilgrims. But I have to admit that design and color sense prevails even in this palace. The surroundings of the Great Mosque aren’t gaudy.

I sit and watch the Ka`aba. So do many others. Turkish women are the most prominent among them. On occassion you will find some people weeping while watching it. I pray to Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) not to let me go astray, not to abandon me to Satan or to my own nafs. Again this is a dua I will be making for myself and for everyone, including all of you. I pray to Him to plant the seeds of love for Him and His prophet and of His “Sha`aer” in my heart, and to make it grow so that it is greater than any other love. And as I watch the Ka`aba, I find myself falling in love with it. And now I know I love Allah and His prophet .

This would become my favorite activity at the Haram – while others would be doing nafli Tawaf, I woud be watching the Ka`aba, and praising Allah, and feeling my love for Him grow.

Do you remember when I asked a question on this board about feeling love for Allah? I have the answer to that question now, and I am happy and at peace. When death comes, I now know that I will die with His love in my heart.

I have not come across the following piece of information about the Ka`aba: that it is situated below everything around it. Normally I have seen places of worship that are at a higher ground than their surroundings. Ka`aba is an exception that astonishes me. All roads lead down towards it.
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I think we should rest to take the ihraam off the next day, but my wife has asked a husband and wife in the group to take care of me, and the gentleman says to me: come and I will help you with Tawafe Qudoom and Sa`ee, and he helps me, may Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) grant him ample rewards. He does the counting of rounds on a tasbih of seven. Fairly high up on the wall of the roofed area, is a green tubelight that indicates the direction of the Hajre Aswad. There is a brown marble area, 5-6 inches wide, running through from the base of that tubelight to the Hajre Aswad. On this brown area, at every Shawat (round) during the Tawaaf, we stop and do the Istilaam, saying Bismillahi Alalhu Akbar, and adding wa lillahil Hamd, when doing the Tawaaf for Umrah or Hajj. Most people do the istilaam by facing the Hajre Aswad, and raising their hands with the palms towards the Black Stone. I read somewhere that only one hand is to be so raised. Anyway, I will sometimes use one and sometimes the other method, and the ihraam can now be taken off.

During one of the rounds I try to pull my friend towards the Hajre Aswad, but he resists, and he is right. The Hajre Aswad most probably has perfume rubbed on it, and we are in the state of ihraam, we must avoid perfume. Plus, getting to the Hajre Aswad would involve pushing other Hujjaj, and that is wrong, so it is betetr to give up this Sunnah.

After the Tawaaf, we do the istilaam aagin, and go to find a place where we can pray two rakaa`h of thanks. It is better if you can find such a place at Muqaame Ibraahim, but since a lot of people are doing Tawaf, that isn’t possible. I wouldn’t find a peaceful spot there during this Hajj, so I would pray elsewhere. Many insist on doing this near the Muqaame Ibrahim, causing themselves and the others undue congestion and lack of concentration.

We now go drink up the ZamZam. This year the ZamZam well is out of bounds. We can drink, but not go to the well. One warning I remember is to avoid drinking cold ZamZam. Most of the water is cold. There are some (not so many) containers (water-coolers) on which is written (in Arabic) “ZamZam gheiru Mubarrad” meaning uncooled ZamZam. Barad means cold. ghair means not. It is a good advice. Those who drink cold water or soft drinks, invariably get a throat condition. I also get it when I cannot find uncooled ZamZam. And we drink it up, standing, facing the Ka`aba, and I repeat my dua that every jaez dua for kheir may be accepted. This is my favorite dua. I know I want to make duas for many people, and I want Allah to accept these).

At one of these occasions, I find a man trying to fill his bottles with ZamZam. He is doing it by filling up the plastic cup, and pouring this cup into the bottle. So I say to him: I have a better way. Then I tilt the container backwards, and there is ample space for him to place the bottle under the cooler valve. His labor is now greatly reduced. After filling his bottles, he makes dua for me: “May all you duas you ever make, be accepted”. Subhanallah, how does he know this is my wish?

After the two Nawafil, we go for Sa`ee, before which we do the istilaam again. At the Safa, we make dua, and walk towards Marwah while running between the green lights. Later at one of these runnings while doing the Sa`ee for our Ifadah, I would hear one man say to another “Look, even these fellows are running”. It is clear many pilgrims do not know the fiqh of Hajj. We will find women running in the Tawaaf and the Sa`ee. Whereas it is only for men (the first three rounds in istabaagh = right shoulder bare, and in Sa`ee between the green lights). The Sa`ee is seven walks. One from Safa to Marwah, second from Marwah to Safa, third again from Safa to Marwah, and so on. Every time I get to Safa, I make dua. My friend makes it at Marwah as well, as written in the Hajj guide from Pakistan’s Ministry of Hajj.

I am tired by the end of the Sa`ee. So I rest at a place I can watch the Ka`aba. I love the Ka`aba. How I wish I could stay here and the Masjide Nabawi for the rest of my life. But maybe I will get bored like all thsoe who live nearby.

Makkah is truly blessed. So many people here, but the system has been devised such that the litter is quickly swept away and collected. There is a rubbish dump near our hotel, but no smell there either. There are restaurants all over the place, yet no smells. Alalh has arranged a breeze that blows all the time, and takes away all smells. There are millions of people here, and the shops/restaurants are so small, yet everyone can buy a meal within 10 minutes.

Throughout our Hajj, the sky will be overcast. We won’t feel the heat of the Makkan sun beating down on our heads. No risk of a sunstroke.

Subhanallah, and alHamdulillah!

The Masjid has many gates. Find the one nearest you that is convenient for your requirements. There are some gates reserved for women. The basement always has enough space, and mostly the first and top floors, too. The problems arise because people sit in the walkways, or just as they enter, blocking the way to inner areas. The guides could help by insisting that everyone moves inwards until the inner rows are full.

The Saudis have arranged so that people from the same area, (and usually the same country) are housed near each other. There is little language problem. The employees and the shopkeepers understand Urdu. There are buildings hired by the Bangladeshis, with Indonesians, Malaysians, the Turks, the Iranis, …

At the Haram, the people employed to keep it clean are mostly Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. They do it with a speed and an enthusiasm that are truly amazing.

The Tawaaf is getting difficult in the Mutaaf at ground floor. There are too many people and they jostle with each other, pushing and trying to make room for themselves. Why can they not do things in an orderly fashion? I decide not to make any Nafli tawaaf here, as also not to seek touching the Black Stone, or getting to the Multazim, because that would involve pushing other muslims, or getting in their way. So my other Tawaafs will mostly be done at the first or the second floor which means about eight kilometers for every Tawaaf.

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FoziaThis reminds me of the time my parents took us to perform the Hajj (five children ranging from 13-7years of age, my dad is clearly crazy).My geography teacher expressed concerns for my safety when I told him I was leaving to go on Pilgrimage;

Teacher; ‘But people die there every single year’

me; ‘Oh sir I doubt I’d be quite so lucky only the chosen few pass away in such a sacred place. Only the very lucky have thousands of pilgrims pray for their forgiveness… Maybe though I might get lucky who knows?’

Teacher :’ Er I do hope to see you again next term Fozia, you’re rather a good pupil… even if you do spend my lesson reading material which has nothing to do with geography’I returned safe and well, and left a piece of my heart in Makkah Muezzima and another in Madinat Munawarah.Wassalaam
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Oh my Allah! I seek shelter in Your light- the light which illuminates the Heavens & dispels all sorts of darkness, & which controls all affairs in this world as well as the Hereafter. May it never be that I should incur Thy wrath, or that Thou should be displeased with me. I must remove the cause of Thy displeasure till Thou art pleased. There is no strength nor power but through Thee.

timbuktu———————————————-ahh, sister Fozia, that was so nice of your father to take you there when you were 13. Ask sister Reflection. Her husband took his family for Umrah in Ramadan, and the children loved it. Perhaps you can tell us some of the memories from the time you were there.here is some more on my thoughts as I discovered my love for Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala):How I realized that I love Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala)

As I looked at the Grand Mosque, my first question to myself was, more marble!

I don t like marble anymore. In Pakistan I have come to associate it with graves. Many people have marble covering the walls and floors of their abodes. (My house too now has a marble floor, but I have said no to the walls).

But as I looked at the stone arches, at the columns of the Grand Mosque, that feeling of revulsion was not there. Instead it was one of curiosity.

I hate commercialism, and at Makkah I saw blatant commercialism, yet there was no hate in my heart. Instead I thought these people have at best three months in which to earn enough for a whole year.

I did not like the presence of the King s Palace, and the hotels so near to the Mosque, yet I did not feel anger or hatred towards them. Instead I noticed how these blended in with the sober atmosphere.

I hate people begging, and in Makkah I found some black people, mostly young women, begging. Among the black males I saw an abnormal concentration of people with deformed limbs, and some with chopped off limbs.

Who are they? Are they from a war zone, like Eritrea, Somalia?

Alas, I do not know Arabic, or I would have asked them.

The children give it away. Clearly they have been taught how to beg. There might be an organized group exploiting them. Yet, they have needs.

Yet I did not think of them as a disgrace. Instead I thought about who they might be, and how someone should make a study so as to ease their burden.

I hate people spitting on the roads. And here some people were doing it, yet I did not feel angry towards them. Instead, I still loved this jahil Ummah.

What has come over me? Surely this change is from Allah.

Why has Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) called me to the first building on Earth built to worship Him?

As I looked at the Ka`aba, I reflected on how at every stage in my life He has protected me, even though my own actions were responsible for my problems in life.

And I recalled how this wasn t for this life alone, but how He has looked after me so that I do not go so far from Islam that I am lost forever; how He has always brought me back to Islam whenever I have strayed a little too far.

I look at this change in me that doesn t criticize everything, but tries to explain it, and seeks ways of addressing the problem.

This is not a change towards apostasy that I had feared, and sought protection from. Allah has listened to me here as well.

What then is the purpose, I ask myself? Thus I realize that Allah wants to forgive me, and He wants me to know that I am being given a new life. I know that He will see me through all stages in this strange journey, the severity of which I still do not comprehend. Yet in my heart I know that He will guide and help me through all this, because He does not want to cast me into Hell.

What then should be my attitude towards the One who has created and sustained me, brought me up in Islam, allowed me freedom, yet protected me and forgiven me so many times I have lost count; One who has sent down little chastisements so that I realize His existence and His attributes; One who has summoned me, His servant, yet treats me as a guest. And why has He called me?

To forgive me! Amazing.

Should I then not love Him?

But I should not be so vain as to think only I have been so fortunate. Everyone of His servants gets a special treatment, and is forgiven, insha`Allah.

Think of a child who has gone out to play in the mud despite his mother s prohibition. After having his fill, and getting tired and dirty, he heads home a little nervous that he has defied his mother and will be scolded, but the pleasure of playing has worn off, and he needs to get the dirt off and into clean clothes, not least because the insects he has picked from the mud are now biting his sensitive skin, and are enjoying the feast.

So I pray:

O Allah, I am grateful for all You have given me so far, but now I am growing old and weak, and I do not want to go astray again, so protect me from future misdeeds. I love You and the prophet ; and don t ever let my love wane, but keep increasing it so much that all other loves are nothing before it.

And as always: I make dua for family, friends, you all , and the whole of the Ummah.
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timbuktu
a litle more about tawaaf, and then on to Madinah Munawwarabut before I describe that I want to pay a tribute to jannah, whose “Diary of an Umrah Story” I have just glanced through. I want to read it, but I think I will savour it later. Wish I had seen it before going to SA, and of course after reading some of it I feel jannah is so … when she said mine was a beautiful thread. Some masters are simply generous.

jannah’s umrah diary

Reading such powerful words, looking at these photographs, I do not feel jealousy, but what in Urdu is called “rushk”. Masha`Allah jannah, may Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) increase you in everything that is good, and reward you in Firdawse a3alaa, aameen.I do not feel like I have a right to add my amateurish attempts at describing Hajj after reading that masterful story on Umrah. Imagine what jannah would have written and how much richer with pictures her account would have been if she had had the chance of my 40 day stay with Hajj. I guess people must be able to compare and see that at least in this field jannah has surpassed me. Not that I will take my chances at competiting with her on anything else. I do not like the idea of being placed in the category of “also ran”.just a little bit of correction to jannah’s account. Women are not supposed to run or increase their pace either during Tawaaf or during Sa3ee between the green lights. To be fair, jannah has added a disclaimer that hers is not an account which is either accurate fiqh-wise or historically. Despite this disclaimer, the only thing I found was the little bit I have mentioned.
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Some people do tawaaf in groups. Some of these groups are harmless, and meant only to keep the members together, particularly mihrams, or old people with their helpers. Other groups are more sinister. They are formed with just getting their way. e.g. a group decides to go to the hajre aswad, it will push and jostle its way with elbows, without regard to any injuries it may cause. It sometimes may look more like an attack, piercing through the others doing their duties of Tawaaf and Rami. And then there were some scenes whereby the women got pressed too hard between men. Some women actually pushed their way in to get to the Multazim and Hateem and the Hajre aswad, and the Muqaame Ibraheem.

So far what I saw were Indonesians, Malays, Turks.

Of course, no damage was done to me. I always ask Allah to protect me. Not many were involved. This is a minority that creates this disturbance. I think the matter should be brought to the notice of the ambassadors of the countries involved. And since the Saudi authorities kept everything under constant surveillance, it should be no problem to identify the sponsors (tourist operators – they had their names on the scarves etc.) and to penalise them by refusing them permits to arrange Hajj and Umrah next year.
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We went to Madinah just after two days at Makkah. On our return after eight days we will find the crowd too large. But the trip to madinah:

I don’t know why, but the Muallim’s men (they call him Mutawwif in SA) tell us that the bus will be ready much earlier than it is. This apparently is an old custom, for a very old book also warns of this practice by the Muallim’s men. Anyway, we are ready after ishaa, and after a long wait the bus takes us to Madinah, stopping at points where we get some rest, food etc. it is advisable to keep a note of everything, your hotel room and location with phone number, the company and number of the bus, etc. When you have to get down from the bus, you have to make sure you come back to it, and of course keep a watch for your luggage. It is known to get loaded on another bus, and although you will eventually find it, time and energy are precious commodities.

We have to say Fajr before reaching Madinah, and since our package allows 40 prayers at Masjide Nabawi, we will leave exactly after 40 prayers (eight days). I wouldn’t be able to say them all in the Masjide Nabawi, because I will fall sick. Reservations have been made at a Madinah hotel, again not a high-class one, but clean and convenient, only 5 minutes walk from the Masjide Nabawi. Across the road from the hotel is AlJazeerah Towers, a residential and commercial centre, no apparent link to the AlJazeerah TV channel. A group of Turks with the “Diyanet” operators are staying there. This must be a place worth staying in, but the same group has other Turks staying in even more mundane buildings than ours.

Here I will be persuaded to eat together with the others in the room. I do not like the habit of eating with one’s hands and not using forks, particularly eating from a common utensil where the novices do not observe the Islamic practice of eating from the portion just before them, and not using fingers all over the plate. However, throughout this journey, I won’t feel revulsion from these habits of my group mates, in which I have to join.

Madinah seems more peaceful. This is perhaps because one doesn’t have to do the Tawaaf or Sa`ee, and it is more laid out such that one can stay in one place without much disturbance. Only near the prophet’s grave, and the rodatul jannah is there much pressure of the crowd.

We go there on our first visit, and we have to cross others who are saying their prayers, both when we visit the grave and when we enter the rodatul jannah to offer a couple of rakaahs.

Many people make the mistake of calling the prophet’s grave the Rodae Mubarak. Actually the roda min riadul jannah (a garden from among the gardens of paradise) is the area between the prophet’s residence, and his minbar.

I am dissatisfied with the way I find people pushing, and not having enough space or time to pray properly, so I ask Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) to let me have some more time at the two places, and to give me indication that I, as a non-Sufi, gheir-muqallid Salafi do indeed love the prophet and am not a Gustakhe Rasool (as some of our friends are prone to call us).

I find myself in a crowd that pushes me towards the prophet’s grave, and since I do not want to push, I try to ease myself away from it, and then I find I am trapped. The grave is in front of me, I am in the rodatul jannah, and there is a wall to the left. There is no space to move, let alone offer nawafil. I want to get out, when someone sensing my discomfort tells me to take it easy. You are in rodatul jannah, why do you want to get out? he says, and I understand the import of this. So I do some dhikr.

I wait, and after about fifteen to twenty minutes, the top of the wall is removed, and we see over the remaining wall the green-carpetted rodatul jannah on the other side of the wall as well.

All of the Masjid is carpetted with red carpets. The rodatul jannah has green carpets to distinguish it from the rest. Women are allowed some hours each day to visit this. At the end of their visit, when they have left this portion of the rodatul jannah, it is cleaned and the partition between the two portions removed.

Subhanallah, now when the partition is removed, there is so much space, and so much time, I am able to say nawafil, and read the quran, and make some duas – all in rodatul jannah! I asked for space and time at this place, and Allah has answered this prayer, while I did not think the crowd will ever let me have it.

One dua I make is:


O Allah! thank You for admitting me to one of the gardens of Jannah. You are true to Your word, and You have promised that whoever enters Jannah will not be expelled to Hell again. So Allah, do not cast me into Hell fire ever.

Similarly, once I join a crowd which I later find is going to the grave of the prophet . This time the crowd neither pushes me, nor do I have to push anyone, and I am in the first lane, closest to the grave. Near the grave the queue slows down, and when I reach there it halts for a while. That is answer to having time at the second place.I try to look through the “jali” as we call it. Jali is the hollow metalwork which leaves some space for us to peep through, except that later I am told there shouldn’t have been anything to see. That room is empty.Subhanallah, I don’t know if I should tell you what I saw. First of all there isn’t any light behind the jali, and with the cataract, I am never able to see anything in even less darkness than this. Yet I see something, and I see it clearly. That is a miracle. What I see confirms to me that I have not been rejected. That is enough to satisfy me, and I wouldn’t disturb the peace of the prophet any more. Instead I will sit outside, and look at the green dome. Previously I used to wonder about the dome, as this was a later addition, and hence wouldn’t it be a bid3a? Yet since it is over the prophet’s grave, I did not know what to think of it. From this day on, I would find its attractiveness no longer troubles my conscience, and it gives me peace, but I wouldn’t go near the grave again. I want to give others a chance. I will sit outside in the compound, and like the growth of love for Allah while looking at the Ka`aba, I will find my love for the prophet grow while looking at the green dome.

I catch the flu, and then a secondary bacterial respiratory infection, for which I have to take antibiotics. I go to the Pakistani dispensary, where the doctor prescribes vibramycin, an antibiotic. I take a couple of capsules, and then forget whether I have taken the rest or misplaced them. I find the Saudi dispensary/hospital, and a young Egyptian doctor sees me. He can converse reasonably well in English, so I have no prblem, although there is a Pakistani doctor as well in that room. They are out of antibiotics, and the condition isn’t cured, so I decide to take my own Ciproxin capsules on reaching back to Makkah.

There are things to see and buy, the Madinah dates and the clothing and the perfume and the gold markets, but I don’t go anywhere. I would rather spend the time in the Masjid. Towards the end of the eight days I would become bolder, and venture to see more of the Masjid. One evening, a vendor will come with mabroom dates at the hotel, and thus my problem of buying dates from Madinah is solved. He promises to get 3ajwah dates the next day, but he doesn’t come, and we have to leave soon afterwards. Never mind. Allah will later provide me an opportunity at Jeddah, courtesy of Salem.

The Iranis start arriving, and they come in groups, and control/monopolise whole sections, particularly the area near the grave, but the Saudis are alert to them, and subject them to greater scrutiny. The Turks are also treated similarly, althought to a lesser extent. As I have said, everything is under surveillance, so while the Saudi authorities will not deny any one the right to visit and perform rites at the holy sites, they will control those who make trouble for others.

We go to the jannatul baqee, the graveyard where many Sahaba (ra) and prominrt men have been buried, and have the graves pointed out. Subhanallah, all graves are in accordance with the Sunnah.

Madinah is a more accomodating place than Makkah. The Bilal mosque is quite near our hotel, walking distance, a kilometer at most. One of our favorite activity is to negotiate a ride to masjide Quba, and go there to offer a couple of nawafil, as it is reported to carry the thawab of an Umrah.We are able to go there for six days out of the eight we spend at Madinah.

We approach a pickup that can seat five.

How much for masjide quba?
3ashreen riyal

I am flabbergasted. As I am about to leave, the driver motions me to say something:
I just say: laa (no)

he climbs down:
3ashra (10) riyal

thaman riyal (I show him eight fingers so he gets the message)
he motions us to get inside.

My mates are pleased. This is the first time we have been able to hire it for less than ten riyals.

and I get to see a couple more masaajid near the masjide Quba. No other Ziarah for me. As I have said, I want to spend most of my time in the Masjide Nabawi, or near it so as to get there as soon as it is time for prayers. For me the markets and the hotels and the roads have no attraction, and the Ziarahs would, if I were actually living my life here.

Then suddenly, it is time to leave Madinah. Eight days pass so quickly. I want to be back here soon, with even more leisure time.

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timbuktu

some more on Madinah, and on to Makkah

at the Masjid, ZamZam water is available, trucked from Makkah, and placed in plastic water coolers, like at Makkah. We drink it standing while facing Makkah, and pray our prayers. My favorites prayers you already know

My mates do not realise the difficulties I have. They take me to a place once, and expect me to find my way myself next time. They asked me to recognise the gate from which we enter, and a nearby reference building or sign, and that I should be all right.

Near the Masjid, on one building, painted in large letters, I read a long name ending in “Zuhra”, and decide to make it my reference point. Should have no difficulty getting to our hotel from there, I think.

After 3ishaa I come out, and look for that name on the building, but there is no building.

I search, and search, but in vain.

I guess I have come out of the wrong end of the Mosque, so I walk to the other end, yet it isn’t there. It was quite a walk.

I walk back and forth between the two ends. It has to be one of them, but no success and my legs complain.

I approach a young man in a stall, and ask if he understands English.
He does, he is an Egyptian, and I ask him the way, and I go the way pointed out me.
No success, and then I recognise I have made a mistake. I go back, and show him the hotel card, with the map on it.
He points at the al-Jazeera Tower on the map, and directs me again.
This time I am successful.

The reason the building vanished was because of my eyesight. At night that building was in darkness. While the others had signs and lights on them, this one’s sign wasn’t illuminated.

However this isn’t the only time I get lost. After a few such events, I look carefully at the gate I enter and exit from. It is Babe Makkah, opposite end to the old (original) Masjide Nabawi. From now on I don’t get lost, unless I venture into previously unexplored territory, from where negotiating back my way invariably results in more exercise than intended.

But I am happy. This is Madinah, and I am not in the markets, I am in the Masjid or its courtyard.

Througout my stay at Madinah, I think only of Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala), the prophet , and the prophet’s mosque. and I make dua for all.

My mates have begun to talk more than a fair share of food, and prices, and other people’s shortcomings.

I say to them:

I wonder about people who have spent so much money, and have taken such a long time off from work, and are away from the comforts of home, so as to come to the holy places. To me it seems stupid that such people should waste time in the same talk as before. I would rather we spent the time in the Masjid, or did things we cannot do at home.

It strikes home to some, and now they are more to be found doing the ibadah or ziarahs.In the al-Jazeera Towers is a supermarket, and some books, in a few languages, including Urdu and English, between 12-14 riyals each. I buy three, but in Urdu, on the histories of Makkah Muazzamah, Madinah Munawwarah, and either Nasjide Nabawi or Masajid in Madinah. I don’t recall now.The shurtas stop the traffic for us at every prayer times. They seem better organised and able to control the crowds than at Makkah, but I like the ones at Makkah as well. The women have separate sections with separate entrances.

I find the library, with difficulty, and it is the Arabic library. I ask for directions to the Urdu and English sections, but all I get is waves in vague directions. They exist, but I will not be able to find them. I was also supposed to get a copy of the English translation of the meanings of the Quran, from the Masjid’s offices, but here too I had no luck. Perhaps next time, or I may find it in Islamabad.

At the Masjid, when the Indonesians come, there is a little unease felt by me. I discover that this is because of the perfume they are wearing. Indonesia is the land of exotic spices, and they are wearing these spicy perfumes, which is too much for my sense of smell.

I have brought some warm clothing, including an anorak, and I am made fun of, by my mates, but first at Islamabad, until we change into the ihraam, then at Jeddah where there is a cool wind, then at Makkah, and again at Madinah, they say I was smart to bring these clothes.

I was told at Islamabad by a friend not to worry about washing clothes, or the expenses, get them washed by the laundry. By and large I do that. At Makkah washing and pressing a pair of shalwar qamees costs 4 riyals, at Madinah, it costs 3. Similarly for food. It is cheaper but time-consuming to cook your own food, so better to get it from outside. My uncle survived on fruit when he came for Hajj. His mates insisted on home-cooked Nahari etc., and he thought that was a waste of time.

There are people selling clothes, sandals, perfume, jewellery (imitation, I presume), on the grounds,a nd others stop to buy. I have no need or understanding of these material things, so I move on, only observing the faces, and trying to read into them. My brother-in-law bought some real atr when here, but I cannot see anything like it on display, and I have forgotten the name of the manufacturer, so I leave these commercial areas quickly.

Madinah is cheaper than Makkah in every respect. And if you can get into the alleyways of either city, you will be able to get even more cheap deals. Jeddah is, of course, cheaper than either.

when I leave Madinah, some of my heart is left behind. I don’t want to leave, but I am going to Makkah, the blessed city, the city of peace, and to ka`aba, and to perform Hajj, which is what we have come from.

Throughout these times I remind myself:

the aim is to perform the Hajj, and to do it so it is accepted. If I get tired, fall sick, or do something taht invalidates the Hajj, then it would be the greatest loss I would have ever incurred. So that is what I must guard against.

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