Hajj is a journey and an act of worship in which you have invested so much emotion. From an early age Muslims see photos and images of the Ka’aba, the Green Dome of the Prophet’s mosque, each prayer we intend “…facing the Ka’aba…” every year we are treated to the barakah of returning hujjaj and their supply of Zam-Zam and the stories of their own experiences. The Hajj is indelibly etched into our soul and psyche. It is little wonder that one’s emotions are unleashed when we are called to make that sacred of journies.
My own emotional experiences were many but three places in particular reduced me to inconsolable tears.
Let me preface my comments and contextualise my emotions with the fact that this is the first time I have ever been to the Haramain, I have never performed Hajj or even Umra before so first time experiences are always more intense.
When we first arrived in Madina and on our first visit to the Prophet’s Mosque, I sat in the courtyard waiting for salat al-Zuhr and totally in awe of where I was. The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was a few hundred yards from me in his rawdah, I really felt the moment. The yearning that Muslims have to meet the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) increases (at least for me) when in close proximity to his tomb, your mind and heart races with thoughts of being in his presence and you realise how fortunate those people were who saw him, met him, touched him, felt him, smelled him, spoke to him, heard him and breathed the same air as him.
I had with me a copy of Dal’ail al-Khayrat which I had intended to complete a recitation of in Madina whilst I was there. The copy I had was the one commissioned by Shaykh Nuh Keller and the first part of it contains collected hadith on sending salutations and prayers on the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), the book is in Arabic. I read the hadiths for the barakah. I have a rudimentary understanding of Arabic that enabled me to get the gist of the hadith texts, the hadiths in question were, on the whole, quite well known so it made it easier to understand them. One particular hadith opened the flood gates of tears in me. The hadith in question mentions the dua that is done after the completion of the adhan. Reading it just left me in tears, particularly the parts “Ati sayyidina muhammadanil wasilata wal fadeela, wa darajatul-rafi’a wa’bathu maqamal-mahmudanil-azi wa atha, warzuqna shafa’atahu yawm al-qiyama, inaka la tukhliful miyaad” (forgive the shoddy transliteration). Whilst I have read this many times, and am acquainted with the meaning, something just clicked inside me because of the place and the proximity to the one whom this dua mentions, I came to the realisation that all our amal (good works) amount to nothing and what will save us is the Mercy of Allah and the intercession of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and the good people of this Ummah. Tears were rolling down my cheeks and I was desperately trying to bring myself under control but to no avail, there was a deep, deep yearning inside of me for the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and when the iqama was recited I managed to bring some semblance of control and stood for prayer. Standing before the Raudah (the tomb) of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) had the same affect, you just can’t believe that you are a few yards away from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Because of the rush, and the guards moving people along, it was quite difficult for me to collect my thoughts and the emotional outpouring is short lived as you are ejected out through Bab al-Baqi by the sea of people behind you.
One would have expected to be in tears at the first sight of the Ka’aba, but no. When I saw the Ka’aba for the first time, I was in awe, the hair on the back of my head stood up and the experience felt “surreal” but the words “hyper real” describes it perfectly. As I said before, all through your life you see pictures and hear about this place, you turn to it 5 times a day and when you are there it just leaves you standing speechless and agog but I was not moved to tears. Even doing the tawaf didn’t move me to tears, I was in a sombre mood during my tawaf of Umra and in awe of where I was.
We had our 3 year old daughter with us as we performed the rites of Umra (and Hajj) with her. I carried her on my shoulders during the Sa’iy (Safa/Marwa) and suddenly the pain and despair of Hagar the wife of Abraham (upon them be peace) dawned on me. We have all read the story of Hagar and the infant Ismail in the wilderness of Bacca (now Mecca) and desperately trying to search for water for her thirsty child. How she ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa in utter despair in scorching heat looking for water here and there but to no avail and then at her lowest moment the Angel Gabriel descended and beat his wings (in some tradtions) on the ground and the Well of Zam Zam sprang forth.
The thought of Hagar and her pain reduced me to tears, for a moment I really felt her pain and anguish, what she must have gone through in this ordeal, not knowing where the water would come from or if it would come at all, the prospect of watching her child suffering and dying from thirst. Having my daughter with me added to this experience of what a parent goes through for their child. We were lucky, we were in a nice air conditioned corridor, shaded from the sun, walking on smooth marble floors and we knew our ordeal was over after the seven lengths, she didn’t know if it would be seven or seven hundred, what shaded her from the burning sun and what cooled her from the heat? How smooth was the floor under her feet? Even writing this brings the emotion back. For the first three or four lengths of the Sa’iy I was sobbing, my wife asked me what I was feeling and I said “I really feel the pain of mai-Hajara (mother Hagar), and I feel a deep sadness in my heart for what she went through”.
Arafat is the day that you are alone with God and you ask Him for whatever you need. This is not a time for requests but for demands, you demand that God grants you what you ask for whether your demand is worldly or other-worldly is entirely up to you, you are given a free license to demand whatever you need from God on this day.
In my mind Arafat was the day when you are in solitude and those around you would be in silent contemplation and prayer. Unfortunately, in the distance, there was some chap making a duah on loudspeaker, it didn’t sound like Urdu or Arabic, so I am not sure what language it was but it totally ruined the serenity and ambience of Arafat, his duah lasted for what seemed an age and it was very distracting and almost ruined the day for me. Thankfully he stopped and some peace and quiet descended on the camp. I decided to find a quiet spot somewhere away from people I knew so I could be alone. Everywhere I went there was chattering and idle conversation and then I found a spot with other Hajis engaged in quiet contemplation and stood and as I was about to start my duahs I heard two familiar voices around the corner. I decided to move again. I found a spot and managed to get into the mood of things and offered my duahs. At the end I realised that I could in actual fact leave here empty handed and that set my tears off. My final demand to Allah was “Ya Allah don’t let me leave empty handed”, all I could say over and over again was “don’t let me leave empty handed, don’t let me leave empty handed”. I was really concerned that my Hajj may not have beeen accepted, who knows for what reason it is not accepted and who knows for what reason it is accepted?
As sunset approached I wandered back to the main tent to my family and my fellow hajjis and we all stood together, watching the sunset and making duah. The sun set and we all hugged and congratulated one another for the completion of Hajj. Everyone had tears in their eyes and many tears were shed that day, for Hajj is Arafah.