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My Hajj Diary
http://www.caribbeanmuslims.com/articles/1253/1/My-Hajj-Diary/Page1.html
Khalim Ali
Khalim Ali is Principal at the Warrenville TIA Primary School 
By Khalim Ali
Published on 11/27/2010
 

Khalim Ali

This diary contains my notes about my experiences of Hajj. This is my first Hajj and it is being undertaken in company of my dear wife, Rasheeda. The Hajj (Arabic: حج‎ Ḥajj) is the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia. It is currently the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah in the Arabic language). The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar.

Preparation and Departure

25th-Nov-08

This note is being written on the eve of our departure. Numerous visitors came to our home this afternoon to express their good wishes for a successful and safe journey as well with their special requests for us to make supplication for them in the sacred places  and times while in the holy land.

What on overflowing of goodwill we have experienced.  My sister Yasmin and brother-in-law Kifayat have sent from Canada a lot of stuff for us, including my Ihram and Hijabs for Rasheeda upon hearing that we were going to perform Hajj.  Rasheeda’s dear friend, Rabbiyah Mohammed-Ali had suddenly showed up at our home one afternoon with a drug store of medication and sincere wishes for an accepted Hajj . She had loads of encouragement and advice as well. Members of my staff at the Warrenville TIA School also expressed genuine sentiments on this undertaking. Secretary of the TIA, Mr. Rafeek Mohammed sent a parcel containing booklets with duas and zikr and even sent Rials, the currency of Saudi Arabia should an  emergency happen to us early on the trip. My head grounds man, Nazim Mohammed, had showed up in my office one day with over 200 Rials and a phone to use in Saudi.

My brother Fareed and his family-wife Sherry and their children Arif and Farah were there for us to delegate responsibility for our children while we perform this sacred pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam.   We are very grateful to my brother and his family for volunteering to take care of our children, Nabeela (Nabsie)  and Ihsan (Ihsie).   We have given Fareed certain instructions concerning our children. They pertain to do’s and don’ts for our children while we are away. There were also instructions and information should we not be allowed by Allah to return.  May Allah bless them immensely.  We are continuing packing our suitcases.

26th Nov. 2008

Tonight we leave for Makkah, Saudi Arabia. We are getting information that the flight, originally scheduled for 1.00am, 27th November is delayed and will now depart at 2.00 am. All of us are trying to act as normal as possible. It will not do us any good to become overly emotional. Our packing is more or less over.

Fareed my brother is driving us to the Piarco International Airport in his car. Ihsie and Nabsie, are with their cousins Arif (driver) and Farah, in my car. Mahdi, my daughter’s fiance, is driving his car in the airport caravan.  On our way to the airport,  my sister Yasmin and her husband, Kifayat phones from their home in Toronto. We exchange pleasantries and they wish us well. This reminds me of the tremendous outpouring of goodwill we have had from friends and relatives on hearing of our intention to perform Hajj .  We arrive at the airport. There are so many people! My cousin Nadisha  is waiting at the airport entrance.

Check in is a breeze. So many people are greeting us –some I don’t even know. Many are introducing themselves. Ihsie seems very contented. He is sipping a smoothie-a combination of chocolate and coffee.  Some of the people who are bidding us farewell are-:Nazim and Nazneen, the husband and wife team from my school, Zalina, a member of my staff and her husband; Robert and Grace, my brother in law and his wife, their children Rehannah, Rienzi, his wife Fazeela, her parents, our Imam’s wife, Shaliza and their children.

Shaliza informed us that Munaf (her husband) and Imtiaz (her brother), had gone to Caracas to help resolve a visa crisis situation regarding Omar’s Hajj group.  These are sixty odd pilgrims who have not yet received their visas. They had actually left days before and are now stranded in Caracas. At the time of writing this, the situation is still unresolved.

Rasheeda and I are interviewed by the local Islam Channel. Indeed, IBN owner/CEO Inshan Ishmael is at the airport and is greeting us.  It is past 11.00 pm and our son Ihsie is looking sleepy.  We hug him tenderly. He seems excited to sleep with Arif his cousin.

At 12.00 o’clock, our Amir, Sheriff is urging us to proceed to immigration. Soon we are in the departure lounge. We are there for about ten minutes when Rasheeda and I are invited by a friend, Sheldon, to wait in the lobby reserved for First Class passengers. It is much more comfortable here. We have access to snacks and drinks.

We are seeing on CNN a deadly series of terrorist attacks on Mumbai hotels. At the time of writing, 107 people have been killed and hundreds more injured. Dear God! Let it not be that Muslims are responsible for these attacks.


Intransit and In-Flight -Ihram

27th November 2008 1.45am

We are in the plane. We are sitting in seats 23B and C. Guess who is in A? Rasheeda’s garrulous Uncle, Azard “Japo” Ali!The flight is pleasant, uneventful. I am forever seeing my two children in my mind’s eye, Ihsie and Nabsie….

We arrive at JFK. Everyone is collecting his / her luggage. I collect ours.  We are looking for Rasheeda’s US resident sister, Lima. She can’t be seen. I borrow a phone from another pilgrim. As we hand back the phone, Lima appears. We are set to go. But wait! Where is Japo? I remember seeing his bag in the baggage area. It meant that he hadn’t been cleared by Immigration. But he was in front of me. He was overtaking everybody and rushing to the front to be cleared. 

I see Sheriff, our group leader. I ask about Azard Japo Ali. Sheriff forms his hand, his fingers really, into a fist and flaps them at me. “Is he mouth that got him into trouble,” I surmised.  Everyone is now out. But Japo is still not visible. Images of him in handcuffs and being escorted to a waiting plane, form in my mind. But wait, you don’t go into a plane “just so”. You first have to appear before a Judge or Magistrate. Images of him being carted off to prison to be interrogated form in my mind. I walk anxiously to the exit point of Immigration and Customs. Japo is emerging. A very short, very petite female officer is directing him outside.

“Thank God!” I murmured to myself. “He is out”. “What happened?” I asked as I met up with him. “Is meh name,” he replied timidly. He was white like chalk. “The fella say that my name look like a name he know.”  I decided not to pursue the matter.

Rasheeda and Lima both breathed a collective sigh of relief on seeing him.  Outside JFK is bitterly cold. It is 37 degrees F. Japo is dressed in a cotton ‘T’ shirt with the words “Eat Football, Sleep Football-Drink Coco-Cola” written on the front. He has an equally thin, dress pants and a pair of leather slippers that is a shade too small for him, which lets half of his heel outside the slipper.  As we open the door to step outside, the bitterly cold weather bites into his unprotected body. He dips into his suitcase and pulls out an old, worn blanket not more than five feet long and four feet wide.

“Hee,Hee!,” he giggled. “I get this blanket about five, six years ago from BWIA!”

On the way to Lima’s house, we stop to buy breakfast. We purchase  roti and baigan choka, bake and saltfish, roti and smoked herring, roti and baigan and aloo. We also purchase coffee from a Dunkin Donuts.  Today is the US Thanksgiving holiday. The shops are closed and the roads are almost empty. The weather remains bitterly cold. We chat with Lima for awhile. She is busy preparing a huge Thanksgiving dinner, which later proved to be extremely delicious.

I  tried to sleep at Lima’s, but I couldn’t. We talk to Nabsie and Ihsie; he seems O.K. but Nabsie definitely is emotionally distraught.

The day passes quickly. Krishna, Lima’s husband, who was at work returns and he eats with us. Sometime later, Hakim, my brother in law, Rasheeda’s brother, drops in from work. He is delighted to see us, and we likewise.

We arrive back at JFK airport at 7 o’clock and our Amir, Sheriff is upset. He wanted us at the airport at 6’o clock. The flight is for 10:30 p.m.  After a considerably long time, we finally check in for the next leg of the flight to Amman, Jordan. Our luggage is tagged for our final destination, Jeddah. Uncle Japo was at it again. The Homeland Security officers were directing passengers to remove their shoes and belt etc. as part of their now routine, pre-boarding security check.

“Please remove your shoes,” directed the officer.  “But I have on a slippers. I don’t have shoes,” protested Japo. The officer glared at him. “You must remove your footwear.” Apparently remembering his morning incident, when he was pulled in and questioned, he decides to comply.

Soon we are in the air on our way to Amman, Jordan. The flight is eleven hours. We are served two lavish meals.

Japo continues to be talkative- striking up conversation with just about everybody. Perhaps that’s good, but I wish he wouldn’t parade up and down the aisle with his toothpaste and toothbrush.

The Jordanian airline is equipped with GPS-enabled moving maps feature that allows one to see the terrain over which one is traveling, the speed of the aircraft, its altitude, the distance from the destination, the time –just about everything that one would wish to know about the journey.  The flight is long. Rasheeda and I join our salah. We landed in Amman a little after 4 p.m. on November 28th.  We are to take a connecting flight for Jeddah at 10 p.m.

At Amman, we are to change into Ihram-the men that is, the women had changed in New York.  It was difficult to find a place to shower and change in the airport at Amman. After trying about four bathrooms, they all turned out to be toilets.  At one of the toilets, there was a cleaner who told us that we could shower there. When we understood what he was saying we realized that he suggested we use the bidet shower hose, normally used to wash oneself after “one’s and two’s”, to actually shower! Guess what? Some of us actually did.

I made my niyyah (intention) for Umrah and donned my Ihram. I somehow managed to get the two pieces of cloth over my body and a strange feeling came over me. It was a feeling of sobriety-of detached calmness of serenity of-look -I can’t explain how I felt. But something told me that I was about to undertake something very important…

I went to the prayer area in the airport and performed Maghrib and Isha together. Then I performed the two rakaah nawafil as intention for the Umrah. Having performed all my salah, I went in search of Rasheeda (my dear wife). I knew where she would be, she was sitting in the gate four area. She saw me. I noticed something on her face that I had never seen before in our twenty four years of marriage. I was beyond love- husband and wife love, that is. It was look I can’t find words to describe what I saw in her face- love was there, yes, respect, yes, but it was beyond those emotions. Maybe, it was something out of this world. But in that moment, I have never felt closer to her and my heart became overflowing with caring and kindness and love and that indefinable something that told me that we belonged to each other, both in this life and in the Hereafter, Insha Allah.

We were some distance away from each other still and when I greeted her “AsSalaam  Alaikum,” “I am ready.” I told her about the trials of bathing etc. and advised her to perform her Maghrib and Isha that I had already done so. She said she would pray right where she was and immediately got up, spread her mat and performed her salah. We boarded the Royal Jordanian airline (the same one that came from New York) and were on our way to Jeddah.

On the plane, resonated with the Talbiyah –Labaik allahuma labaik. “Here I am O God, at Thy command.”---! as most , if not all the passengers were on their way to Hajj. We were served dinner. We were all hungry and ate well.  The pilot announced the station of the Miqat and the guy next to me explained what the pilot had said. He completed his meal quickly and performed the two rakaah. He was a Jordanian, living in Canada and this was his first Hajj too.  I followed him in eating eating quickly and performing the prayer. Rasheeda did likewise.


Arrival and Check In

At approximately 11.30 p.m on November 28th, we were landing in Jeddah. Jeddah was filled with the sounds and atmosphere of Hajj. In fact, some men actually donned their Ihram right there on the aircraft!  When we landed at Jeddah, a bus took us to Immigration and Customs. This is the place we were told, one would have to wait seven-to ten hours before being cleared. By the help and mercy of Allah, it took an hour and a half to complete Immigration and Customs.

Our leader, the very efficient Amir, Sheriff, had the foresight to inform the Honorary Consul to Trinidad and the Nigerian Ambassador (who acts on behalf of Trinidadians) of our arrival in Jeddah. Alhamdulillah, they were able to speed up our processing. Our luggage, which was checked in at New York, was already waiting for us. We were able to clear Immigration and Customs by 2:00 a.m. on November 29th.

Then food arrived-we had chicken and chips and soft drink at 2:00 a.m. In fact, we had so much that we gave away some to some waiting Pakistani pilgrims. Our passports were then surrendered to the bus drivers and we were ready to depart for Makkah. However, we did not leave until 5:10 a.m. as we were asked to accommodate on our bus seven pilgrims from another country.

We arrived at our hotel at approximately 9:30 am. We had breakfast. But I was very uncomfortable, not having performed Fajr. I kept thinking that we would have stopped along the way or that the Amir would inform us of the time to pray. I regret it still. I wish we had been told that we were to pray on the bus. Anyway, I performed it late and ask Allah’s forgiveness.

We were all very, very tired and most of us opted to rest for the rest of the day. We were told that there was a masjid quite close to our hotel in Azizia. We had to climb down some very steep steps to get to it. But it was just four or five minutes away across the road from our hotel.  There were easily over a thousand persons-men and women who were praying in the masjid.

CNN Hajj report


First sighting of the Ka'bah and first umrah

November 29th 2008 1st Zil Hijjah 1429

We were still in Ihram for Umrah and our group leader, Sheriff wisely decided that we should go after Isha to perform the Tawaf and Sa'ee to complete the Umrah. We left around 10:30 p.m, for the Haram. We were given strict instructions as to where we were to meet should any of us were to get lost. We were also advised to stay in our group. Some of us had to perform wudu (the ritual ablution prerequisite for prayer). We went into a mall outside of the Haram to get water. After asking and searching for some time we all got the washrooms and performed wudu.

Asad, a Trinidadian studying in Makkah and his wife, another Trinidadian girl, Sarah, rendered great help. We were seeing the outer wall of the Grand Mosque. Then we entered the courtyard. Rasheeda, locked her arm into mine, as had the other sisters with their zawj or mahrim. We were chanting the Talbiyah.

"Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik.

 Labbaik, La Shareek Laka, Labbaik. Innal Hamdah, Wan Nematah,

Laka wal Mulk, La Shareek Laka"

"My God, I have responded to You.

I have responded to You, and I proclaim that there is no other god besides You; I have responded to You. For You alone is All The Praise and All The Bounty, and for You alone is The Sovereignty. You have no partners."

Then we entered the hallowed hall, I remembered Sheriff’s advice  to stop and make dua. I raised my hands and started. I began by praising Allah and sending Durood on His Messenger (uwbp). Then I started to beg Allah for forgiveness. I was unaware of the multitudes around me. I was alone with Allah. And I cried. I cried over my sins. I prayed for my wife and children. And still cried. I supplicate for those who had asked me to pray for them. The tears of love, concern and caring for those closest to me flowed freely.  Upon completing my plea to our Creator, I looked up and there Rasheeda was there trying to get my attention.

“You see it?” “Look the Ka’bah there,” she said, pointing; I looked towards the appropriate direction of her finger. I saw a part of the black cuboid. “Oh, that’s the Ka’bah,” I thought to myself, in a matter of fact way. “The Ka’bah!  Then the significance of it struck. The qiblah (direction) that I have turned to for pray for the past three decades plus was in front of me. And I wept, I cried like a baby -unashamedly; I took the ends of my Ihram and wiped my tears. It was not enough. I blew my nose. The world was lost to me in this moment.

The Magnificent Ka'bah
The
Ka’bah! It was before me. The place that I had only visualized in my mind’s eye was in front of me.  And again, I did not see anyone- only me and the Ka’bah and my dear wife next to me. Dear God! What passion you have placed in my heart for things that reminds me of You. I never realized that this place, this Ka’bah would cause such a reaction in me.  Dear God! How dear and meaningful this Holy Place is to me.  Shariati is right - Makkah is indeed my home.

Momentarily we commenced the Tawaf , with Rasheeda at my side, and with us chanting Talbiyah, we circled round and round.  At one point we came within two feet or thereabouts, to the golden dome, the Station of Ibrahim, at the side of the Ka’bah. But the crowd was thick, too thick there and Asad advised us to go right, to move further away from the black cuboid that was  the Sacred Ka’bah.

 I kept glancing at the monument. there were hands, touching and caressing it, others were blowing kisses to it while some waved and saluted.  I had to do likewise. I kept remembering Hazrat Omar’s words-“I swear to Allah that I know you’re just a stone that doesn’t benefit or even harm; and I’m kissing you just because I’ve seen the Prophet doing it..”  I understood, however, the significance of the circling-round and round – man’s entire existence should be centered on Allah-all our deeds are solely for His pleasure and always we must strive to get ever closer to Him.

Following the Tawaf , we performed- the two raka’ahs at the appointed place. Then we moved to perform the Sa'ee. The Sa'ee is the running between the two hills, Safa and Marwah. It is the reenactment of Prophet Ibrahim wife, Hajar’s search for water for her infant son, Ishmael.  Again the experience was overwhelming. Rasheeda and I locked arms and began-up and down, up and down. All the while we are chanting praises to Allah, Durood on the Rasool (uwbp). We saw the spot-the exact spot from which the water first gushed. In the next round we walked on top of it and got our feet wet. That spot is still unpaved, and the water on our bare feet and the rocks beneath felt cool and hard. But it was worth it. Actually, there was quite a crowd around that spot; some were standing on it, some sitting. And it was good and wonderful and it filled us with awe and wonder. And I envisioned Hajar and the little Ishmael and the plaintive cry of the infant and the anguish of the mother and  my heart was filled with awe. Ya Allah ….! Ya Allah…..!

Pilgrims perform tawaf
We completed our Sa'ee and I went to get my hair cut. I paid fifteen riyals for the barber to use a scissors to chip away a little hair.


Drama of the missing person and bus

November 30th 2008 2nd Zil Hijjah

Soon we gathered at the appointed spot from where we were to return to the hotel. We were ready to leave.  Alas! One member of our group was missing! Sheik Mohammed, an elderly retiree could not be found. Search parties were dispatched in all directions.  Through telephone, we learn't that the bus was on its way for us. The time must have been after three o’ clock in the morning.  We decided to let Asad lead the ladies out of the Haram and into the bus. Sheriff, our leader, insisted that Japo Azad Ali should go with them.

The search continued. Then Asad, who had left with the ladies, called to say that Sheik was found; he was waiting by one of the landmarks we had earlier identified- the big clock between the two tallest pillars, just near the king’s palace.  The rest of us decided to meet the ladies outside. On our way we received another call—the roads were blocked and the bus would no longer come to meet us until after Fajr!


What a magnificient sight: So many people!

November 30th 2008 4:00 a.m. 2nd Zil Hijjah

The time was around 4.00am. The azan for Tahajjud was sounded. We continued walking away from the Haram. I should mention that while we were waiting in the general area of the Barber Shop inside the Haram, we witnessed sights that will be etched indelibly in my mind. The scenes called to mind the Quranic verse, “……And call the people to the Hajj, you will see them coming in every direction, on camels thin and weak on account of the long journey…”

Outside the Haram as captured by another pilgrim at a different than described

Only now, they were not camels…at least I didn’t see any. The people were streaming in by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, from every roadway, every entrance. They were coming into the Ka’bah area, chanting the Talbiyah Labbaik, Allahuma Labbaik La Sharika laka Labbaik Innalhamda Wa niamata laka wal mulk la sharikalak.” Tears were streaming down some of their faces…they were crying unashamedly and chanting vociferously and I, too, shed tears with them as  I, too, understood and felt their passion.

Outside the Ka’bah, the group reached the appointed place at the triangle where the bus was due to meet us, only now, we had to wait as nothing could get into or out of Makkah. Members of the group purchased stuff to eat and drink and they passed the snacks around.

When the  azan for Fajr was sounded, we prayed in the lobby and courtyard of a hotel. The congregation must have been-oh- I don’t know- a million? more?...less? I honestly don’t know. But others were praying on the streets, just like us and we could hear clearly the voice of the Imam as he led the prayer.

After the prayer, we continued to see the scenes that we had witnessed in the barbering area. Pilgrims were coming into the Ka’bah area in their hundreds. All kinds and colours and nationalities were streaming into Makkah, and I marvel at the greatness of Allah and the extraordinary leadership of Rasulullah (uwbp) who has left for all times, this single, most magnificent gathering of humanity, performing rites and rituals, handed down 1400 years ago and which are still enacted 1400 years later, in their original manner and which can move a people to all kinds of spiritual and esoteric emotions.


Awaiting the grand moment - engaging in ibadah and site seeing

2nd Zil Hijjah

We were still in Ihram when we arrived at the hotel, I decided to have breakfast and bathe and change. How I slept! I awoke after 1:00pm long after salat-ul Zuhr in the mosque. There is a mosque where we are staying in Aziziah. We have to cross the double lane road-way, walk down a flight of very steep stairs, then walk, for 2 minutes up the roadway, and you’ll meet the mosque.  For every salah, there are easily over a thousand worshipers. Apparently, the ladies section of the mosque is smaller, because I note that some of them are praying outside the masjid, on the roadway.

By the 2nd of December [4th Zil Hijjah], as we approached the Hajj they were spreading two long pieces of carpet out on the roadway to accommodate the large number of women who were turning up to pray. Of course, most were pilgrims and they were from every nationality. I did not see any Trinidadian (outside of our group) or West Indian for that matter.

For the rest of the day we rested, read Quran or simply stayed in bed.  On Sunday 30th November, we (Rasheeda and I) took a walk after Maghrib to see if we could change some money but we were unable to do so. And since it was quite dark, although the place was very much alive, we decided to return to the hotel. We purchased dates which we shared with members of the group.

On Monday we returned to the shopping area, we purchased what she considered to be a real bargain. The shopkeeper did not want to change the small U.S dollars; they would change only the hundred dollar bills. We got 370 Riyals for the hundred dollar bills.

That afternoon, at 3:30 we returned to the Haram, in Makkah. The bus took thirty one of us. Our group leader told us that we were on our own, but that at 8:15 pm, after Isha, we were to meet at a pre-arranged place --- in front the famous clock, right between the two tallest towers.

Rasheeda had already prayed Asr salah. A group of six of us men, had not. We wanted to perform Asr, inside the Haram. On our way to the Haram, the roads were blocked with traffic, and by the time we arrived, Asr had been completed. The group felt that we could still make our own Jamaat and pray within the precincts of the Ka’bahAlas! It was not to be. We could not find a spot for the six of us to pray as a group. We decided that we would have to pray singly, wherever we found a place.

Rasheeda and I entered the Haram for the second time in our lives. We went upstairs. We found a place where two of us could fit; we sat side by side. I got up and performed Asr by myself. After, Asr (it was nearly 5:00 pm or thereabout) I advised Rasheeda that we should perform Tawaf but she was tired and would prefer to sit and make zikr.

I left her alone, marking the spot mentally so that I could find her, following my completion of the act of worship. Three and one half rounds (of seven) were completed, when Maghrib azan was sounded. The crowd was very thick. As I stood up to pray, I realized that there was no room for sajdah. For the first time, I stood up to pray, performed ruku and sajdah but could not get my face on the floor. And it was good!

After Maghrib,  the unfinished Tawaf was completed, at exactly the moment that Isha azan sounded. This time there was sufficient room to make sajdah. An Indian/ Pakistani guy stood to my left and an African girl with her mother, I presume, was on my right.

 Again, I marveled at the tolerance that the Muslims displayed. Hundreds of thousands of people packed into one place, jostling with one another, and no one is angry.  Feet and toes are being crushed-and no one is angry!  Elbows are being thrust onto your bodies-and no one is angry!  Everyone is engaged in chanting the glory of Allah. Everyone is sending Durood on Rasulullah. (uwbp)  Everyone is making dua.

And again, I say what a magnificent display of what is undoubtedly the finest display of ibadah (worship) to Allah, in the world.  The fact that over three million people can be accommodated in a comparatively small area of Makkah at one time –is a miracle.  The fact that these people are so tolerant and accommodating to one another is a miracle.  The fact, that by and large, hostility and aggression towards each other is hardly ever displayed by anyone (I didn’t see anyone) is indeed a miracle.  The fact that the Hajj authorities can manage the logistics of all these people, is indeed a miracle!

After Isha I met Rasheeda at the spot that I left her at inside the Haram.  Rasheeda related that during my absence from her, some men attempted to sit next to her, but the gentleman who was seated next to her when I left for Tawaf, being aware that she was alone,  would not allow these men to sit next to her. Two men, I was told, attempted to do so, but were chased away. She was told to put her bag next to her to prevent others from attempting to sit there. Only when a couple of ladies came, were they allowed to sit next to her. In fact, when I had returned after Isha, I had witnessed Rasheeda embracing and hugging one of the ladies.

 Of course, the significance of the episode is clear—that Muslims, real Muslims are kind and generous and protective of the vulnerable even from other suspected predatory Muslims.

After Isha, Rasheeda went in search of Zam Zam water.  We soon found the spot, had our cups of water, (I sprinkled some over my eyes and head) and then we left together for the pre-designated meeting spot --- the famous clock.

At the clock, while awaiting the bus, and observing the constant flow of people, I again marveled at the sight of pilgrims arriving in their groups and heading for the Ka’bah. From Turkey, Tursab, Indonesia, China, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia,-look there are some places I have never heard of before, yet they were arriving, chanting the Talbiyah in a never ending chorus.  Some are crying unashamedly, I am moved and touched by their passion, for I can well understand their emotions. For I, too had experienced the same.

By the time we arrived at the hotel (the bus was long in coming) I was famished and feverish.  We had purchased some sinus tablet in a pharmacy while awaiting the bus, and I was glad to take two that night- i.e. Tuesday morning, after 1:00 am. [2nd Dec, 4th Zil Hijjah]

All of Tuesday I was  very sick. The group was going to visit Mina, Tuesday after breakfast. I decided to opt out, as I was still feeling very feverish. That day, I was content to stay in bed and awoke only for salah and meals.  During Tuesday night, I spent some time updating my diary. But by 2:00  I had fallen asleep.


Sharing the experience and demonstrating love and compassion

Wed 3rd December-5th Zil Hajj

I woke up at 4:45 am just in time to prepare for Fajr.  The roads outside our hotel, the Al-Riyad Group, were closed to vehicular traffic. Only official vehicles, the police, service vehicles and catering vehicles could have entered. This was part of the traffic management plan as that road led to Mina and I was told that tents were already up in preparation for receiving pilgrims in the next few days.

The neighbourhood masjid  which we using for pray could not now accommodate the huge numbers of worshipers. By salat-ul Zuhr there was now the need for two Jamaahs, (congregations), praying one after the other, and the men, like the ladies before, were now praying outside the mosque hall.

I witnessed a scene that moved me to tears once again.

After, Zuhr, upon emerging from the mosque the sun was hot, the temperature could have easily been 35 degrees C -36 degrees C. Women were still praying on the roadway, thereupon I observed that a woman was dropping tissues on the laps of the other Muslims.  And I felt proud to be a Muslim pilgrim sharing this journey with such souls that are inclined to demonstrate such a simple act kindness.  Who else could have so much compassion, show such kindness but a pilgrim who experienced the transformative dislocation of travel and the necessity to extend oneself to lighten the burden? These women were of different races, different nationalities, absolute and total strangers, yet by that simple act of kindness, they were demonstrating their love and caring for each other.  It reminded me of the experience that jahajis (the term meaning "ship-traveler") had in crossing the kala pani (the "dark" ocean between India and the West Indies) and the mutual dependencies they developed in there new land under indentureship.  It also reminds me of the encouragement that Allah gives in the Qur’an to “travel in the land and see how He originated creation...”, as well as the command from Allah “to be good to your relatives, to the poor and the travellers.”  The Prophet [uwbp] said, "traveling is a kind of torture as it prevents one from eating, drinking and sleeping properly. So, when one's needs are fulfilled, one should return quickly to one's family."  Hence when one is in the state of travel, those you bring relief to the traveler is blessed by Allah.

I ask the question -how did we reach the stage where we are accused of being barbarous, and unkind and uncivil and …….you know the rest. I am  also reminded of an incident that Rasheeda, my wife had related to me. On the second day that we visited the Ka’bah. and the gentleman kept a protective eye on her. 

Of course, the significance of the episode is clear—that Muslims, real Muslims are kind and generous and protective of all Allah’s creation.


Blowing dust, sinus pain, fever and my travel companions

Wednesday 3rd December—5th Zil Hajj. After Maghrib

I am walking from the masjid. I can’t help noticing the cars that are parked on the roadway. They are covered with dust. The dust is so thick, that one can write with one’s fingers on them. I understood then, why I was suffering so much with sinus. I understood, too, why so many people suffer so many respiratory problems while in Saudi Arabia and  on returning to Trinidad.

Arabia is a desert country. There are many hills and mountains. There are also plains. The land forms are bereft of vegetation they are all denuded. The constant, unrelenting sun bleaches the land. The nights can be very cold. The extreme in temperatures cause the rocks to split and sand and dust particles are formed. The wind then blows this dust all over. I witnessed whirlwinds, stirring up the soil and blanketing portions of the land. Its not surprising that so many suffer with respiratory problems.

I am still feeling feverish, I have just taken a cold tablet to assist in the battle to stay well enough in these conditions in order to complete all the rites and rituals of the Hajj in the next few days.
Tahajjud Azan

It is almost time for Isha, and we are leaving for the masjid. By ‘we’ I mean the fellow pilgrims in my room.  Fazlur is a businessman who has a sewing factory. He  gave the gift of a knapsack to each pilgrim in the group. Sheik is a retired TRACMAC Supervisor. He is 71 years old and has been quite sick.  He had to also visit the doctor to his diabetes was under control. Hatim is a customs clerk. He is kind and keeps the room lively conversing on a wide range of topics.  Hatim’s wife is also a pilgrim and together are ensuring that they have enough gifts for the family back home.  Our Trinidadian Saudi-resident visitor is a student married to Sarah, the niece of my good friend Nasser being the daughter of his sister Bida and her husband Abdul Wahab.

Fellow pilgrims
The group is getting on just fine. Everyone is bonding nicely and there is absolutely no problem with anyone. Many of us however, have picked up sore throats, sniffles, aches and pains and the sinus is continuing to affect Rasheeda and I. Some of us have started wearing dusk mask. I’m not sure how beneficial it is but I will continue to wear it.

Thursday 4th December – 6th Zil Hajj

We have just prayed Fajr in the masjid. The crowd is huge. Men are still praying on the roadside. The  carpet that was spread on the roadway for women is no longer there and the number of woman performing the salat-ul-Fajr outside the masjid is considerably smaller.  Those who are there have spread mats and newspapers and cardboard. They all seem to be pilgrims based on the badges they are wearing. They all seem to be older, more mature women.

I continue to marvel at the thick layer of dust that has settled on the cars that have been parked on the roadway leading to the mosque. One in particular, which has not moved in the last two or three days, is now a healthy mesh of brown from its original dark-blue colour.

Last night, about ten of us went downtown Azizia. We purchased a lot of stuff. This included a wide variety of fruits: grapes, plums, strawberries and bananas. A number of pilgrims from our group are complaining about the food. Don’t get me wrong. There is an abundance of food and on time but everything seems to be swimming in oil or grease or both.  Breakfast thus far has consisted of eggs in every conceivable manner possible boiled, fried, broiled, scrambled and some even unidentifiable types. The salad, however, is always fresh and plentiful tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers all healthy and raw and very attractive laid out.


More signs of the arrival of the momentous event

Thursday 4th December – 6th Zil Hajj

Ghassan, a Saudi officer, looks at Muslims pilgrims while they pray at the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad at the Haram in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on December 4, 2008. More than two million Muslims head to the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, to make the annual Hajj pilgrimage. All fit and financially able Muslims are expected to perform the Hajj at least once in their life. (UPI Photo/Mohammad Kheirkhah)
As mentioned earlier, the roadways outside our hotel are closed to traffic and large groups of pilgrims continue to trek outside on their way to visit Mina, a place I have not yet visited.

Signs are going up on buses, hotels and street walls in a variety of languages advertising phone numbers, trips to the Haram and matters pertaining to Hajj. There is an atmosphere that something really big is about to take place, one which is pregnant with expectation. The police and sanitation crews are everywhere. But, surely, the latter needs to do a much better job. However, there is so much littering that the crews seem unable to keep up. The roadway needs sweeping or better yet, washing. Quite a few cats, strays perhaps, were visible but they seem quite healthy and fat, however not a single dog was to be seen.

Construction work seems to have come to a halt for this period of time. Huge cranes and signs of construction can be seen, but no work is actually being done. One can only assume that  it is so in order to keep the roadways as free as possible for the millions of pilgrims who are wending their way to this blessed place.

Drivers here always seem to be in a hurry. You will not believe the kind of crazy driving that was witnessed. They seem to have no patience as horns are popped incessantly, drivers are aggressive and many of the vehicles are covered with dents . Someone from our group said that dentyne is the special brand of vehicles used in Saudi Arabia! Drivers think nothing about reversing on the roadway or make U turns. And always they seem to be in a hurry.

Just after Isha and dinner, our group leader, Sheriff, held a reminder session to again outline the activities for the Hajj.. On Saturday morning we are to leave for Mina in our Ihram. That will be the 8th Zil Hajj. He advised us that we are to pack and travel lightly.

He has prepared us mentally for the crowds and the traffic. We were  cautioned that it will be up to us to carry out the rites and rituals. Sheriff combined the solemnity of the occasion with light banter, the hallmark of a good motivator, not discouraging but motivating us.

The area around the Haram on Dec 4, 2008 (picture by Al Jazeera)
And not for the first time, Sheriff welled up with emotion and fear of Allah as he mentions Allah’s many favours to mankind_ “Which of the favours of your Lord will you deny,” he quotes in Arabic and English.

Following the briefing on the way to my room, I checked in with Rasheeda in her room.   Apparently Nabsie called at 5:15 p.m. and also texted us. We texted a response assuring her all was well with us, barring the cold, which everyone seems to have and ended with  sending our love to them.

Back in my room, we have a visitor - Asad. We learned from him that the last group of Trinidad pilgrims from Omar’s group arrived yesterday - Wednesday. The first group of forty had come in three days previously; the other group of thirty odd had come in the next day. My heart went out to them for they had left Trinidad since on the 25th of November, with the other group due to leave on the 30th. They had missed flights, had problems with visas and were subjected to all manners of  trials.


Jumma and the call home

Friday 5th December – 7th Zil Hajj

Fajr Time

Upon returning from Fajr in the masjid, I found the hotel was packed. People of every nationality seem to be in this hotel:- Egyptian, Chinese, Indonesians, English and next door there are Turks. The roadway continues to see groups of people trekking up and down the street. It is all a preview to what will undoubtedly be the biggest, most meaningful event of their lives.

CEPEP Workers in Trinidad
The clean up crew,(incidentally, they wear a uniform just like CEPEP), are not doing a  very good job as these working near and around the Haram. The roadway is dirty with litter. The other road down the steps, i.e. around the masjid are closed but are even filthier.

There is no longer any room for the women in the masjid, the men have taken over the entire place. The male section could hold approximately 1100 people. I am not sure how many could be accommodated in the women section. Yet, the accommodation is not enough, the congregation spills out onto the wings of the masjid.

Jumma is huge. The crowd is spilled onto the roadway, where Sheriff next to me, try to find a spot to pray. We did not hear any Azan . A group of women are in front of us, we are behind them, behind us the lines stretches for about 20-30 lines of 12-15 people. The roadways at the side of the mosque are similarly packed. A truck with water wants to pass. The worshipers said that salah comes first. The driver and the worshipers are arguing in Arabic. Finally a compromise is reached, the worshipers make room. The cars in front the truck reversed and the truck was able to pass. The worshipers spread their mats, pieces of  cardboard and wrapping paper.

It is 12:20 p.m., the Azan has sounded Sheriff and I stand up to pray the sunnah rakaahs. The majority of people choose to remain sitting. When the khutbah is delivered it’s in arabic I recognize the words Arafah, Muzdalifah, Jamarat etc.; so the khutbah is about Hajj.  We make dua at the end of the first khutbah. After the second khutbah, the Imam leads us in performing two rakaahs fard salah and by 12:40pm the service comes to an end.

We rolled up our mats from the roadway as the congregation begins to disperse in every direction. A van loaded with bottles of water is making its way slowly along the road, then the driver begins distributing the water.  Feeling the pangs of thirst from the very hot midday sun, I attempted to get a bottle of water but Sheriff stops me from reaching for it.  “That’s for the poor, we have our water in plentiful supply in the hotel”, he said. I concurred.

Today Rasheeda and I ate lunch together. The hotel is at full capacity so the lunch room is packed. In fact,. We are both missing our children, Nabsie and Ihsie so we called them but they are not available but we took the opportunity to speak with Sherry and as well gave her the phone number where we can be reached. Shortly afterwards, Nabsie calls, she is missing us terribly. We try to comfort her and continued chatting with her for awhile. I sounded very brave but when the conversation ended, I began to weep as saw that Rasheeda too is crying.

 


Our day of anticipation has arrived.

Saturday 6th December – 8th Zil Hajj

Pilgrims put on Ihram for Hajj on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah and go to Mina.  The pilgrims recite the talbiyah on this day:

Labbayka allahumma labbayk

labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk

innal hamdal wan-ni'mata laka wal mulklaa shareeka lak

Here I am at Thy service O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners. Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty. Thou hast no partners.


Our day of anticipation has arrived.  We have changed into Ihram. It continues to have an effect on me - a feeling of sobriety and solemnity.  At 7:30 a.m. we walk in pairs down into the town area to get the bus to go to Mina. I marvel at the landscape. The mountains are sheer, straight up and bare. They continue to be a source of fascination to me. A land so barren, so bereft of resources (at the time of Rasullullah [saw]) is chosen by Allah to be given the greatest of riches - the personality of Muhammad (saw) and the priceless gift that is Islam in the form of the Quran and the Sunnah.

The tent city of Mina
The tents scene is captivating; these dirty, white tops fill the landscape as far as the eyes could see seemingly reaching to the horizon. Here the greatness of the Messenger of Allah (saw) is manifested and fills me with awe. A pilgrimage that he took 1429 years ago is re-enacted with zeal and religious fervor by millions and millions of followers. It is a journey that brings out the best in humanity - again I see the kindness, the consideration, the tolerance displayed by total strangers to each other.

We have a slight scare in finding our tents. Security at the gate does not have any reservation for Al Hassan No. 26 bus. Sheriff makes a call to an agent who upon showing up speaks with some other officials and we are shown our tents. The tents are air-conditioned. The women are placed some distance away from the men many of whom are nursing illnesses. My voice is all but gone though I had been gorging myself with panadol and a broad-spectrum antibiotics, honey, sinus tablets and Buckley’s and - did I mention honey? I took honey twice - once from a bottle, kindly and generously given to Rasheeda and me by Rasheeda’s good friend, Rabbiya.

Every time I took a swig on the bottle, as directed by Rabbiya, I remember her and ask Allah’s blessings for her - I never realized that a bottle of honey would mean so much to me.   Rasheeda  feels likewise.  Thanks a whole lot for the package of medications and necessities, Rabs!! May Allah truly bless you.

In the tents, brothers are reciting Qur’an, making duas, reading about Hajj, making Zikr and some are nursing illnesses.  Sheriff continues to be a bundle of energy, trying his best to motivate and inspire the group. No doubt, he is seeing the strain on the faces of some of the brothers.  I, myself, am suffering but it is a purge from Allah and I console myself.

Mina  - After Isha and dinner

Sister pilgrims on 2008 Hajj
Being in Mina is overwhelming, Rasheeda and I are actually here, in Mina - the very place where Rasullullah (saw) spent the day and night when he performed the Hajj  We prayed the way he prayed- when in Hajj – two rakaah Zuhr, two rakaah Asr, three rakaah Maghrib and two rakaah Isha.

Half of our camp are asleep at about 9.00 p.m. and the other half are talking about the local i.e. (Trinidad) Muslim community.  Of course I don’t know what the women are doing as they are not with us.  Tomorrow, Insha Allah  we leave for Arafah - the day of Hajj.

A quick health check and note with dismay that I am getting nose bleed, my voice is all but gone and the cold is rattling in my chest.  I have taken a lot of cold tablets and feeling as fine as I am expected in these circumstances.  But Insha Allah, I am hopeful that I’ll be fine come morning.


The day of Arafah

Morning_ Saturday 7th December – 9th Zil Hajj

Mount Arafah which stands about 70 meters high, is a granite hill to the east of the Holy City of Makkah. It was on Mount Arafah that Adam and Eve, separated for 200 years following their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, recognized each other and were reunited. Here too they were forgiven by Allah, the Merciful, for their transgression. And here, in present times, the pilgrim performing Hajj must spend an afternoon in a state of Ihram.  The 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah is the day of Arafah. It is this day when the pilgrims gather on the mountain plain of Arafah, praying and supplicating to their Lord.  The day of Arafah holds great importance in Islam since this is the Day when Allah completed his revelation on His Messenger (sallahu alaihe wa-sallam).  Arafah is the day on which Allah took the covenant from the progeny of Adam (alaihis-salaam).  Arafah is a day of Forgiveness from sins, freedom from the Hell-Fire for the people who are present in the plain of Arafah.

This is ‘D’ Day - the real Day of the Hajj. Many of the brothers are up early. Many pray Tahajjud. I would learn later that many sisters did the same. We have no breakfast. We leave at 7:00 a.m. for Arafah. The roads are crowded. People are packed liked sardines in vehicles.

In our own bus, Rasheeda has found a seat but I can’t find a seat though it is the same bus that brought all of us to Mina. The driver comes down the aisle for a passenger check to find that a couple not attached to our group has joined us on the bus. They seem to have lost their group.  But though we know not from whence they came,  but we are certain  we are going to the same destination, Arafah. Though I was prepared to stand, the driver convinces the couple to move, however another brother offers his seat to the sister. But she did not wish leave her husband’s side.  Different cultures, I suppose, so they sat on the floor of the bus, near the back exit.  With the seating sorted out, Rasheeda was able to sit beside me.

Looking at the traffic we see there are vehicles carrying twice the number of passengers they are designed to transport. Thirteen seater (maxis) are transporting twenty (20) or more. There is a suburban with fifteen on top, a like number inside and for good measure; one guy was standing on the bumper and holding on to the hood. The driving too is crazy; drivers are cutting in and out of traffic and some are using the unpaved road median to weave in and out to get ahead of the other vehicles.  There are motorcycles traveling the wrong way on the highway to get to Arafah.

It was a magnificent demonstration of a people deeply moved by a faith that was preached 1429 years ago by an unlettered Messenger of God, Muhammad (saw).

As the highway sign marking the way to Taif came into view  emotions overcame me and the tears began to flow down my cheeks.  The memory of the suffering experienced by our Beloved Rasulullah (saw) in that place flooded my soul.  Here the Messenger’s limits of endurance and patience was severely tested.  It was the Year of Sorrows (619 CE) when his beloved wife Khadijah (ra) and his protector uncle Abu Talib both died.  It was the long awaited opportunity of the Makkan elite (now under the leadership of archenemy Abu Lahab) to remove the protection of the Banu Hashim clan thus leaving Muhammad  (s) under threat of physical elimination.  According to Arab custom anyone who is under the protection of another is safe so long as his protector lives. Now, with the death of his uncle, the Prophet's protection was gone.  This signaled to all that there will be no retaliation for bringing harm to the Beloved of Allah (Habibullah).  This resulted in increasing their attacks on him even having the young children throw things at him and insult him.

Recognizing that there is now a dead end and no safety in Makkah, because the hearts of Quraysh were closed against him. He decided, therefore, to travel to Ta'if (with Zayd his adopted son) where he hoped to find support. He walked all the way to the town, which was seventy kilometers away. There he spoke in all the places where people gathered, but no one listened to him. He met the leaders of the three most important tribes but they would not listen either. Not only did they take no notice of what he said, but they laughed at him and encouraged their servants and children to insult him and pelt him with stones to make them leave the city and never come back. Muhammad and Zayd were finally turned out by mocking and jeering crowds. The rocks that were thrown at Muhammad and Zayd by the Ta'if mob caused them to bleed. Both were wounded and bleeding as they left Ta’if behind them. Muhammad bled so profusely from the stoning that his feet became clotted to his shoes and he could barely see straight.

Sadly, the Prophet (pbuh) left the city and found a quiet place near a wall on the edge of town where he could be alone. There he prayed to Allah in these words: " O Allah, to You I complain of my weakness, helplessness and lowliness before men. 0 Most Merciful, You are the Lord of the weak, and You are my Lord. To whom would You leave my fate? To a stranger who insults me or to an enemy to whom You hast given power over me? If You are not angry with me, I care not what happens to me. Your favor alone is my objective. I take refuge in the Light of Your countenance by which the darkness is illumined and on which this world and the other depend, lest Your anger descend upon me or Your wrath light upon me. It is for You to be satisfied until You are well pleased. There is no power and no might save through You."

The Angel Gabriel came to Muhammad and asked him if he wanted him to destroy the town, suggesting that he could crush the town by slamming it between two nearby mountains, but Muhammad declined Gabriel's offer by saying, "Maybe Allah will produce from their offspring ones who will worship Him alone."

The wall near which the Prophet (pbuh) was sitting belonged to a garden owned by two brothers.  When they heard his prayer, they were very sorry for him and sent one of their servants to him with a dish filled with grapes. Before he began to eat, the Prophet (pbuh) said 'Bismillah'-'In the Name of Allah.' The servant, whose name was 'Addas, was very surprised at these words, which he had never heard before. 'By Allah', said 'Addas, 'this is not the way the people of this country speak.' 'Then from what country do you come, 'Addas, and what is your religion?' asked the Prophet (pbuh). 'I am a Christian from the Assyrian town of Nineveh', he replied. 'From the town of that good man Jonah, son of Matta', added the Prophet 'How do you know about him?' asked 'Addas. 'He is my brother-he was a Prophet and I am a Prophet', answered the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). 'Addas bent down and kissed the Prophet's head, his hands and his feet, because now he saw that he was truly a Prophet thus declaring his acceptance of Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) then walked back to Makkah, where he sought and received asylum from his uncle  Mut‘im ibn ‘Adi.

And yet for another time, my mind asked “what I had done to deserve to be in this place, this the most blessed place on the earth, the place loved by Allah the most”.  To be even on the same ground as he (saw) who suffered so much to leave a legacy of pure worship to the One God of all humanity and a framework for humanity to develop sincerity of intentions, purity of mind, body and soul.  What a remarkable inheritance to many now take for granted.

I see the sign of Arafah - Arafah begins here!

Rasheeda, who is dozing next to me, stirs. But my tears are flowing again; this is the place where the Judgment will take place.  I am actually seeing Arafah!

Now my thoughts wonder about the spot the Messenger stood to deliver his final sermon. Sheriff points out Jabal ar-Rahmah  (the Mount of Mercy) the place where he said, Adam and Eve were re-united after so many tears of separation and where of course our Prophet stood for his final  khutbah.

On the hill is the awesome sight of a sea of white clad pilgrims. Dear God, why does this place move me so? Why do I feel that nothing really matters, only Allah and His Messenger and this Message?  Arafah is mind boggling. Over two or three million people in one place at the same time, chanting the same prayers and all because it is the legacy of one man, who performed these rites, fourteen hundred and twenty nine  years ago.

Dear God, save me from being a hypocrite.

Dear God, save me from being conceited.

Dear God, accept me as one who believes, as one who practices.

Oh Allah, accept my wife Rasheeda and our children, as those who believe. Accept our good deeds, Allah and save us from the fire. Oh Allah, I want them with me in the Hereafter! I’ll have no other! They are foremost, Allah. ameen.

Standing on the plains of Arafah with Rasheeda making zikr, praising Allah in the manner recommended by Rasulullah (saw). Then together we made dua, earnestly and sincerely in the manner recommended by Rasulullah (saw). One of which reads as follows:

"There is none worthy of worship besides Allah, He is all by Himself, He has no partner, His is the Kingdom, for Him is all praise, He has power over all things. O Allah, make Nur (light) in my heart, in my ears Nur and in my eyes Nur. O Allah open my chest (bossom), make my tasks easy and I seek refuge in You from the whispers of the chest, from disorganisation in working and from the punishment of the grave. O Allah, I seek refuge in You from the evils that come with the wind".

Pilgrims at the Mount Arafat
Yet again our emotions get the better of us. We make dua for all those who asked us to. We make dua for near and dear ones. And we make duah for each other. It was made with honesty, with sincerity, straight from our hearts and we ask Allah to accept us.  We both know the intensity and passion of our pleadings.  I won’t try to explain it but it is another profound moment in our Hajj. It is our fervent hope that our dua will be accepted and that all those who asked will have their legitimate wishes granted.

Arafah, the Hajj, if it is missed the Hajj was not done. The tradition tells us of Allah descending to the lowest heaven to answer the prayers of his servants. It also tells us that Shaitan is most disgraced and humiliated on this day.

There is a medical clinic here next door to our camp.  Subhan Allah, a number of pilgrims from our group, including myself, took the opportunity to visit the doctor  as many of us had respiratory problems. I was given antibiotics, panadol and something for my sore throat.

At sunset when it is time to leave Arafah, our leader makes a soul stirring dua that moved pilgrims to tears. We embrace each other. It is another profound moment in our  pilgrimage to the House and Allah and it’s sacred neighbourhood.
9th Zilhijjah listen to Hajj khutbah at Masjid e Nimrah (Mosque of Nimrah),Arafat Video 2008 Shaykh Abdul Aziz gave a beautiful speech, he talked about belief in Allah alone, in following Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him], hajj, good business relations, making halal money, using the media and giving good da'wah to people, being kind to family and neighbours, being just to the non-Muslims, he gave advice to the Muslim rulers and told them to do more for Muslims, he told Muslims to unite and fight those who oppressed them, he spoke against terrorism and extremism, he spoke about many topics including looking after the environment!

As we leave Arafah on the bus to go to Muzdallifa, what a scene played before our eyes. It is etched forever in my mind.  Millions are walking from the glorious chaos on the roads we see the never ending sea of pilgrims in their white garb, streaming towards Muzdallifa. A four lane highway, maybe a six lane has turned into an eight lane roadway. Trinidad drivers are tame compared to these hajj drivers.


Sleeping on the road in Muzdallifa

The road to take to our camp in Muzdallifa is closed to traffic. We have to continue along. We arrive in the general area and our leader says we have to spend the night here.

The time at Muzdalifah starts from after sunset on 9th Dhu'l-Hijjah till after the dawn prayer (Fajr) on 10th of Dhu'l-Hijjah.  In Muzdalifah the night is spent under the open sky.  Here  the evening prayer (Maghrib) is offered and stay over night.   We have to collect the pebbles we will need for the "stoning" ceremony (ramy). We need to make sure we have enough by picking up as many as we need from the foot of the hills at Muzdalifah. We will need 70 pebbles in total, so it is as well to gather a few extra in case of losses on the way.  At dawn, we will offer Fajr (the dawn prayer). Then, before the sun has risen, we need to set off for Mina.

Muzdalifah is a barren, sandy, wasteland, well lit of course and it will be our beds for the night. We spread our straw mats on the bare sand, dirty, stony area and we claim a spot. It is next to the bus, which is on the roadway.

We perform Maghrib and Isha as recommended. Pilgrims are arriving all the time. In our group the women are placed at the top, separate from the men. Where I am placed is a passage way but decided to move, guess where? next to Rasheeda, my dear wife! We place the bags between us and settle for the night.

Some men come and spread mats on the roadway, next to our women. That’s the same spot we settled in earlier, but the police moved us. There is a sense of relief that at least one of us (me) is in close proximity to our women folk, not that one should expect them to be vulnerable on an occasion like this, but out of an abundance of caution it is better to have one’s guard up.
Bright lights of Muzdalifa 2008

The bright lights are shining down on us. Pilgrims keep walking among us, raising the dust, the sand, it is going to be a long night. In fact, already it is 9:00 p.m. and a black bag containing a digital Quran and a camera is discovered missing from one of our members, Sheldon. Like I said, the night promises be very long.

There is a cacophony of a large variety of languages around me.  Of course the majority of them can’t be understood except when there is a chorus of the Talbiya or some Quranic Ayah in arabic.

Having took the medication obtained in Arafah, it is supposed to make me drowsy. But, of course, no such luck as yet. I have taken it an hour ago and as you can see, I’m still writing this stuff, oh how I wish pilgrims would stop passing between us attempting to sleep fellow pilgrims.

The night passes. The medicine apparently took effect. Between sleep and wakefulness, the sounds of can the impatient honking of horns, the revving of engines and the chatter of voices, becomes apparent.


Oh! Meggie, I'm sorry but it's God's will

I am dreaming of a black female goat, Meggie we owned a long, long time ago. It seems to be unhappy. It’s been tied to a spot for a long, long time. It seems to be waiting…. I wake up having been disturbed by the dream. I remember her very well as loved her dearly and took great care of her. Meggie had a son - a beautiful, brown ram.  For Qurbani one year, he was  sacrificed. His mother, Meggie was loose feeding, however at the time of the slaughter, she had wandered nearby and had witnessed the sacrifice.  Later that evening she was not to found anywhere near our home. On searching, she was discovered across the road, under a tree with tears in her eyes. It suddenly dawned on me that Meggie witnessed the earlier sacrifice of her son.

And  I felt guilty and sad and pained. I called her.“Meggie…” She looked apprehensive, ready to bolt. “It’s me. Come. I’m sorry. But it was for the pleasure of Allah. He’ll be raised before Allah, healthy and fluffy…

That incident has remained buried in me, it seems, for years. Or….is there more to it…? It is significant that on the eve of sacrifice, right after the Day of Arafah and on the plains of Muzdalifah, on the hard, sandy floor, I should be dreaming of this mother goat.

I get up and perform Tahajjud.  And I ask Allah’s forgiveness for that incident, so many, many years ago.   And I am genuinely sorry that through my carelessness, a mother animal had to witness the slaughter of her son.

But sacrifice, as practised by Holy Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) is an essential religious rite in memory of the sacrifice performed by Prophet Abraham. God put Abraham to a most difficult trial, the details of which are described in the Quran. “O my Lord! Grant me (Abraham) a righteous (son)! So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear. Then, when the the son reached the age to work with him, he said: O my son I see in a vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now say what is your view! (The son) said: O My father! Do as you are commanded: You will find me if God so wills, one practising patience and constancy! So when they had both submitted their wills (to God), and he had made him prostrate on his face (for sacrifice), We called out to him: O Abraham! You have already fulfilled the vision! Thus indeed do we reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial and We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice: and We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times” (37:100-109).

This is the origin of the Islamic precept of sacrifice in fulfilment of God?s command provided in the Quran: “... to your Lord turn in prayer and sacrifice.” (108:2).

The aim of sacrifice is to imbibe piety. It also promotes the spirit of sacrifice for a right cause. To explain its purpose, God says in the Quran. “It is not their meat, nor their blood, that reaches God, It is their piety that reaches God” (22:37)

Prophet Muhammad (uwbp) said: “On the 10th of Zil-Hijjah, there is no better act in the view of Allah than shedding the blood (of slaughtered animals). And verily sacrifice earns the approbation of Allah even before the drop of blood (of the slaughtered animal) falls on the ground. Hence you should offer it in good spirit. For every hair of the sacrificial animal, there is a blessing.”

So in performing the sacrifice is an act of obedience to God, but in allowing Meggie to see the act performed, was not being sensitive to the parent - child relationship that exists even in the animal kingdom.  Allah please forgive my trespasses, small and big, ameen.


Leaving Mudzalifah for Mina

Sheriff  advises us that we would leave Mudzaliffah at 4 o’ clock for Mina, which lies between the Holy City of Makkah and Muzdalifah. Here are the white pillars representing the devil at which the pilgrims cast the pebbles they gathered at Muzdalifah, but will pray fajr inside its precincts. This is in order to avoid the teeming millions who will be leaving after Fajr.   At 3.30 a.m. we are leaving but it seems that so many others were in on the plan as well and are also leaving.

On the bus we call and speak with our children, Nabsie and Ihsie. It seems so long since we have seen and heard them…We also call Yasmin, my sister, in Canada. We wish her and her family  Eid Mubarak.

The group starts to sing on the bus . We sing the Tazeem (song of honor and respect dedicated to the Prophet (s). Although I have heard the song and have even sung the ode many, many times, today my pores are raised. The song has a tremendous meaning on this sacred night. Rasheeda confesses that she too is moved by the rendition.

Ya Nabi salaam 'alaika, Ya rasool salaam 'alaika,
Ya Habeeb salaam alaika, Salawatullah 'alaika.

Ashraqal badru 'alaina, Wakhtafat minhul budoori,
Mithla husnik maara 'aina, qat-tuya wajhas-sooruri.

Anta shamsun anta badrun, Anta noorun fowka noori,
Anta iksiroon wa 'aali, anta misbaahus sudoori.

Ya Habeebi ya Muhammad, ya oroosal khaafi qain-ay,
Ya mu-aiyad ya mumajjad, ya immamul qiblatainay.

Main yara wajhika yas-'ad, ya kareemal waali dain-ay,
How-dukas saafil mubarrad, wirrduna yow-man nushoori.

Maara ainal eesa hannat, bissara illa ilaika,
Wal ghamaam laka azallat, walmala sallu 'alaika.

Oh Prophet, peace be on you, oh Messenger, peace be on you,
Oh Beloved peace be on you, may the blessings of Allah be on you.

A full moon has risen over us, and overshadows the other moons,
We never saw the like of your beauty, oh the face of gladness.

You are a sun, you are a moon, you are a greater light than other
You are gold, and high above, you are a light of hearts.

Oh Beloved, oh Muhammad, oh groom of East and West,
Oh Supporter, oh Praised-one, oh Leader of Mecca and Jerusalem.

Whoever sees your face succeeds, oh descendant of noble parents,
Your clear and cool fountain, in our goal on the day of reckoning.

We never saw the camel fall on earth, but for you,
And the clouds above shaded you, and the people prayed for you.

At 5 o’clock our leader gives the o.k. to perform Fajr.  We continue to crawl our way through the mass of humanity, through the bedlam of the traffic.


Celebrating Eid, stoning satan and a missing person

We arrive at the camp in Mina at 6.10 a.m. By 10.00a.m. our leader said that we would go to stone the jamaraat. We were on our way by 10.30 a.m.. The jamaraat is only about five minutes away from our camp in Mina.  But the crowd is very, very thick  Spouses hold on tightly to each other. One couple, Enite and Zaniffa Ali ,did not hold on, soon Zaniffa was separated and out of sight -lost? There was nothing we could do at that time. We continued and reached the much hated pillar. This was another significant moment for me. As each stone was cast, I recalled the whispered temptation of Shaitan to Abraham and Ishmael.
Muslims stone the devil

My own sinful self-those negative qualities also came to mind and I begged God to cast them out of me. Yes, by the completion of the “stoning of Shaitan” ritual was completed  my emotions were welled up praying that Allah would answer my plea.

Shaving our heads ritual is next but the barber shops were very crowded. Most barbers were using the electric shaving machines only, so we had to settle for the low, machine cut, promising to shave it all out when we return to the hotel in Azizia.

It was about 11.50 a.m. when we returned to camp. Most of us just sat in the camps and relaxed while others read the English Language newspaper, The Saudi Gazette, most of the articles were on the Hajj.

It was surprised to read an editorial critical of US President George Bush and the fact that he was admitting that bad intelligence had led him to believe that Iraq had accumulated Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). In fact, the next day, Tuesday 9th December,  they carried a cartoon with Bush holding a cutlass, having severed the head of Iraq, (portrayed as a turkey) and he saying, “ Oops ,sorry, wrong intelligence ! Anyway, you are just a turkey.”

The Zuhr azan sounded, however the brothers who were still in Ihram and were not ready to pray. But one hour later, most of us had showered- the shower involved the  use of  the urinal hose to wash the body; changed into new normal clothes brought for the occasion.  I put on a Jubbah that Rasheeda had bought for me.

 We prayed and had lunch. For once, the lunch was very palatable to me, having avoided the oily, greasy stuff.  This was a lightly flavoured, almost dried rice meal, with whole chickens cooked in the rice. The chef was cutting the chicken from the serving tray. My serving of rice had a chicken thigh. There is also a tray with what looked like birds- whole, roasted birds, we guessed they were either pigeons or quails.  Whatever they were, the one I ate was delicious. For dinner that night, I had two.

After lunch, groups went in search of  Zanifa. The sisters were already out looking but just as another group was about to go, Sheriff arrived  and announced that Zaniffa had been found. She came shortly after into our camp and explained that she had got a “bad feeling” and was dropping to the ground . Some people held her and put her to sit. There she had remained all the while. When she saw one of the searching groups with the Trinidad flag, she hailed out to them. She was fine.

On this day of Eid, the caterers brought a tray full of snacks, including  nuts of every kind, prepared in a variety of ways. These were tasty and enjoyable. That night Sheriff held a Moulood. The group sang –a la Trini style.  However I was again feeling unwell. Since prior to the Day of Arafah I had the cold and sore throat and had visited the Doctor and have been on medication.  But this morning I hadn’t bothered to take any medication and nodded through the qaseedas. Rasheeda, who had participated in the moulood function, advised that  I start another course of antibiotics having already completed one course!  By Tuesday morning, I was still functional but the medication had me feeling drowsy.  Many of the brothers had gone back to see the Doctor. They received the same medications - paracetemol, amoxil,250g and a cough syrup.

Second day for stoning shaitan -  Maghrib-Tuesday 10th

Just before Maghrib, we had gone to pelt the jamaraat.  Originally, we had planned to go after Zuhr. As we were about to go, we were informed that something had occurred at the site and the pelting had been halted. We waited.  After Asr-3.20 p.m. we still could not go. Someone called to say that there was a fire and that some eighty odd pilgrims had been killed. At the time of writing this - 6.55 p.m. - I still can’t confirm the story. Much later I would learn that the story was just that - a rumour.

Our pelting on this second day, when we had to stone all three jamaraat, went of very smoothly. No one was lost this time.  This repeat of the stoning ritual again proved to be one of those moments of significance  (of emotions) as I performed this act of ibadah . Recalling the supreme sacrifice Abraham and his son Ishmael and the supreme sacrifice were asked to perform and the a conscious decision to pelt Shaitan out of tempting them to disobey Allah, moved me to reflect on my own daily struggle to resist shaitan’s whispering and silently pleading to Allah to give me the spiritual strength to always do what is right.  But as I traversed the ramp, I found myself talking to Allah, asking Him to cast Shaitaan and all satanic forces out of my life and it was done with deep feeling and sincerity.

Today’s pelting at the jamaraat  was done on the third floor. We used elevators to get to this top floor and it was really relatively simple. The Hajj authorities must be commended for their efforts to make the Hajj as easy and safe as possible.  A fourth level is in the process of construction.

It’s dinner time now after which we are leaving for Azizia and the Ka’bah later.


Tawaf Ifada and the last stoning

2.00a.m - Tawaf Ifada

Rasheeda and I were paired with another couple Sister Nafa and her husband to perfrom Tawaf  Ifada [return from Mina circumambulation of the Ka’bah] .

The trip to  the Ka’bah was an adventure in itself. The driver of the bus that was supposed to have come for us thought we were in Mina and  he had gone there, not realizing that we had walked across to our hotel earlier in the evening. It was just a twenty-five –thirty minutes walk. What made it difficult was, of course, the massive, massive crowds.

The roads to our hotel were closed and no vehicles could enter. We had to walk to the main road. We left the hotel at about 10.30 p.m. I believe. When we got into a bus, it was a long ‘PH’ one, with no air conditioning and the gears kept grating. We were charged five Saudi Rials per person. And the traffic was horrendous.

In fact, we witnessed the most outrageous kind of driving on the roadways. I can’t  over emphasize the notion that Saudis are lawless when it comes to driving. These drivers were actually reversing for long distances on the Main Road! And the police actually turn a blind eye to it. Vehicles are overcrowded and the police don’t bat an eye. Different cultures, I suppose.

We took our time and completed the rites to our satisfaction. During the course of our Tawaf we were able to touch the Station of Ibrahim twice! Alhamdulillah! Touching the Ka’bah though still remains an elusive goal.

At the completion of the  rites in the Ka’bah and after I had showered, I experienced a feeling of peace and tranquility- a feeling of contentment and fulfillment.  I had completed the fifth pillar of Islam.

When we arrived back in Azizia at about 3.00 a.m. some of us went for ice cream!
  Tawaf after Eid
At 3.30 a.m. I had showered and was ready for bed. At 5.30 a.m. a splitting headache woke me up.  This necessitated praying Fajr in the hotel room that morning and was back in bed soon after. When I next awoke, it was just after 9.00 a.m.

After Zuhr, we were to perform the last pelting of Shaitan. Sheriff recommended that only men should go and that they should pelt for the women. The jamarrah was only 10-15 minutes away from the hotel in Azizia.  On our way, the crowd continued to be thick. This never-ending stream of humanity was in a constant state of Ibadaah to Allah.  

Along the way I looked up at the mountain as it rose vertically and barren into the sky, some places eight to ten storey high.  It was absolutely sheer. The Saudis had actually cut the mountains to make the roadway and the hotels that lined the roads. Our hotel was the last along the road and thus the nearest to the Jamaarah.

And then I noticed the chain link wire was plastered on to the mountain side with concrete in an attempt to minimize the risk of falling rocks onto the roadway. No doubt huge cranes would have been used in the accomplishment of this task. And at huge costs as well.

After throwing the pebbles for Rasheeda and me the realization came upon me that I could not see anyone from my group, thus concluding that they had already completed the ritual and left for the return journey to the hotel.

But here I was on the second floor of the Jamaarah with the multitudes but alone in my thoughts while absorbing the landscape around me. In the distance there was what looked to be the hotel.  Walking towards it there were exits points leading to four or five different places, across the street were the mountains, the sheer, vertical concrete - plastered mountains and  immediately I was sure of the exit to take.                                   


Shopping, crowds and garbage

That night after dinner, Rasheeda and I went shopping for clothing for me. Having taken very little clothing and thus far purchased one pair of trousers and a jubbah  for me, the need to add to my wardrobe was imminent.  The need was even greater considering that having left some dirty clothes in a bag on the floor in my room at the hotel [in Azizia before we had gone to Araafah and Mina] only to discover upon returning that the parcel had gone missing.

On going downtown, we continued to see the magnitude of the Eid. People, people, people-everywhere and the streets are littered with garbage, garbage, garbage-everywhere.

Much has been said about the sanitation or lack of it at Hajj times by returning pilgrims. Let me add my two cents to the debate.  It is true that the streets are filthy during the Hajj. But, what do you expect? Two point four million official pilgrims [2.4m], a million unofficial ones, thousands of beggars plus the hundreds of thousands of support staff to facilitate the pilgrims and the Hajj and it is a well neigh impossible task to keep the place clean.

The Hajj authorities have made the human resources available to do the cleaning. If it is that they do not clean properly, then it is the managers to be blamed for accepting sub-standard work.  Additionally, I don’t think it was possible to do any kind of major cleaning during the three days of the Hajj. Outside the hotel where I was staying in Azizia, there was an endless stream of humanity traversing the roadway, one way up and one way down. The roadway, not unlike the Butler Highway ,that is , a dual carriageway going north and south, was divided by chain link wire fence. There were gates at two  or three intervals on the road to the Jamaarah.

One such gate was directly in front our hotel. On the third day of the Hajj, I witnessed an attempt by pilgrims who were moving downwards on the left lane, attempt to come across on the right lane, where thousands were moving upwards, towards the Jamaarah. The police had to move swiftly to shut the huge gate and thus prevent what could have been a nasty stampede.

The point is, the authorities are trying their utmost to ensure a smooth, swift and safe performance of Hajj. This is evident too at the Jamaarah where there are three floors available to do the pelting. There seems to be a fourth floor in the making. I say this because of the cranes that are standing idle around the general area of the Jamaarah.

Indeed, in the areas that I have visited, there are a number of cranes on unfinished construction sites. These jobs, I assume, were put on hold for the Hajj season. And again, this makes much sense, for now construction vehicles will not be competing for road space on the already overburdened road network.

When we came into Makkah on the night of Thursday 11th December, that city was already reasonably clean. There were no mounds of rubbish on the street as there was in Azizia.

If I were to criticize the Saudi authorities, it will be for the lack of personal hygienic resources for their street cleaners. These guys, Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, wear a CEPEP type uniform i.e. an orange coloured overall, no gloves, no boots and no dust masks. They use their bare hands to pick up all kinds of litter; they wear rubber slippers on their feet and I see some use their mouths to open their flip top cell phones while actually on the job. It is a recipe for illness.

Amidst this magnificent chaos, thousands and thousands would have found fulfillment-would have found peace, would have achieved the realization of their dreams…… performing the Hajj, walking in the footsteps of the Prophets (uwbp) and the awliyas (ra).


Moving to closer to the Haram

Thursday night-11th December

We  arrived in Makkah after a two hour drive because the driver did not seem to know where he was going. We are to stay in a four star hotel-really top of the line. There was glorious chaos in the lobby as literally scores of pilgrims were checking in and checking out at the same time. Old women and young women, tall women and shorter men and vice-versa- a glorious mixture of cultures and races and tongues intermixed in the small lobby of the hotel with hundreds of suitcases and bags and boxes and….

Behind this magnificent chaos, I saw the purpose of it all. All had come at the invitation of Allah-  Glory be to Him!- to perform the rites of Hajj- only for His pleasure. People were angry, tired, despondent, frustrated-but these emotions were not directed at anyone in particular. It was simply the way things were .

We were the last to get our room. I was sharing a room with Shahzim Mohammed of Couva, Alimudeen Mohammed of Fyzabad and Rasif Ali of Princess Town It was 2.00 a.m. when we were given a key, having had to wait until a lock was changed on the door. Only then were we able to get into the room. That night I prayed Isha and jumped into bed – no shower, no change of clothes, no brushing of teeth- I was just too tired.


Attempting to maximize benefist of being in Makkah while sick

Friday 12th December

Up at 5.30 a.m. but was still sleepy and tired. However there was Fajr to be performed  and being in its vicinity wanted to go to the Haram to take advantage of its blessed gathering.  I awoke the others and left.

The street was crowded with people hurrying to the Haram, then the realization dawn on me that the prayer had already started; others were on the street praying. The first rakaah (unit) had been completed.  Hurriedly I took  a piece of discarded cardboard, placed it next to the fellow pilgrim who was busy placing a piece of cardboard on the side walk to also join in the prayer. We got the second rakaah and completed the prayer on our own.

Then having rushed  back to the hotel, I found my three room mates performing Fajr. When they were finished, I performed the two sunnah units which the Rasul (uwbp) said should be performed ‘even if wild horses are running over you’.

Still feeling really ill I went back to bed and was up again before 9.00 a.m. still in time for breakfast.

It was the Day of Jumma and got to the Haram at 11 o’clock. Rasheeda was already there in the courtyard she reported in our phone conversation and though I too was in the courtyard; we could not see each other. An urgent emergency saw me hurriedly leaving the courtyard and heading for the hotel. Upon returning, I had to be contented with praying that Jumma  in the street. However, I was able to get back to the hotel afterwards before the others.

When Rasheeda returned we had lunch together. Her dress was torn so she had to change and thereafter went shopping for clothes.

After Asr that evening, I stayed in the Haram until Isha.  That entire day I was feeling poorly. I had to do something about my health.

Saturday 15th December

Got up feeling terrible. But willed myself to take advantage of our proximity to the Haram to perform Fajr pray.  Upon returning to the hotel I had breakfast and went straight to bed.  Awoke and washed dirty clothes.  Hadn’t seen Rasheeda all day and was missing her tried  calling her phone but to my disappointment there was no answer.  My cold medication was finished and need more medication.  This poor state of health leaves me feeling that I’m not doing nearly enough ibadah as I want.

After returning from the Zuhr pray at the Haram I went to looking for Rasheeda in her room. Thankfully she was in and we got a chance to catch up.  She had prayed in her room. Then we went together for lunch.

After Asr at the Haram I returned to the hotel to get some rest. Bad idea, the conditions proved not to be conducive to rest nor to sleep.  There was simply too many interruptions,  phone ringing, door knocking, people visiting and talking.  Just gave up trying to sleep  and  went for Maghrib at the Haram and  we stayed until Isha.

Dinner.

Non-Trinis here could really do with some training. They push and shove and jump the line. They have no table manners. They eat noisily, gluttonously quite unpleasant to the eyes and ears.  Time for a meeting with Sheriff on Level 9. Got to go there now. Hope it won’t be long.  

Sunday 14th December  2008

After Asr at the Haram I was forced to curtail my practice of staying in the precincts of the Haram until Isha as I’m feeling quite poorly.  On the way back I stocked up on new bottle of cough syrup.

Hajj route
At the meeting last night it was to announced that a tour of some of the holy places- Arafat, Mina, Muzdalifah among others would take place today. First stop was Jabal ar-Rahmah [the Mount of Mercy]. We climbed it and prayed two rakaah. There were people actually begging and others selling atop the hill.

This barren, dusty grassless land- its terrain is rugged-rocks and hills and hillocks and mountains was simply amazing especially when it is contrasted with the priceless treasures that was given to this seeming wasteland- the Message of the Qur’an, the Messenger Muhammad (SAW) and the religion of Islam.

Finally I understood the reason for the my illness - breathing in dust all the time. There is no vegetation to help purify the air.

We passed by Jabal an-Nur [the mount of Light]. This is the Mountain in which there is Cave Hira. Everyone knows what happened there! This is the site of the first revelation, a place the Angel Jibreel is known to have visited as well as our Beloved Prophet [uwbp]. From the roadway, we could see the pilgrims trekking up the hill. Sheriff promises to take us up one morning after Fajr.

We passed by a cemetery in which we are told, Lady Khadija is buried. A dua was made there, but we could not leave the bus. We also passed by Masjid ul Jinn. It was noted that the authorities do not seem to have a sense for the importance of preserving historical sites. Many historical mosques have been demolished. The tour lasted approximately three hours.

When we got back to the hotel, lunch was not yet ready. We prayed Zuhr and then took lunch. Lunch at Makkah, in fact meals in Makkah area much more palatable than at Azizia where there was too much Indian type, oily meals.

Sheriff announced that a Dr. Aziz  Madar was coming to the hotel at 8.00 p.m. to have dinner with us.  Originally, we had planned to do an Umrah at 9.00 p. m.; that will now have to be pushed back.

Oh, I wish I can feel fit and strong and well! I am lying in bed thinking about my Hajj and whether it would be accepted. I am having doubts.

Just before Maghrib, the phone rang. It was Asad. He was coming over whereupon I made  wudu and went to the hotel lobby to await his arrival.

At the elevator, there was a pilgrim standing, waiting to go down. There were three elevators and the fellow pilgrim was at the first one. The third elevator opened and I hurried to it. I called the Brother. “ Come, this one is going down.” He hesitated., then I recognized him having seen him before being helped about being was blind. I held the elevator and he came across.  He was going to the mosque. He pronounced it mosque-que.

“ But how can you go to the mosque, seeing that you are blind.” Then he explained something that sent me teary eyed. He had asked Allah to send someone to him to guide him to the Haram.  I was floored. I was just worrying about my Hajj, filled with negative feelings.  I had to meet Asad. This fellow pilgrim was blind. What was I to do?  It’s my test.  We were walking together down the street and I decided to keep on walking. The decision seemed so natural.

On the way, I learn't that he was a blind Imam from Cairo. He had come for the Hajj. I was flabbergasted. He had obviously completed the Hajj. How he did it amidst the teeming millions, is a secret between he and Allah and I realized that he was no ordinary human being; he had to possess a special relationship with Allah to have accomplished that seemingly monumental task.

As I entered into the courtyard of the Ka’bah, he mentioned the King Abdul Aziz Entrance. As I was making for it, the Azan sounded. The place was filled. Then a gentleman called him.  A soldier helped him to a spot. There was no room for me. 

I walked onwards till I found a spot. As I waited for the salah, I wept silently.  Allah had used me once again to be the eyes of someone obviously close to Him. And I felt small and insignificant and unworthy and I wondered at Allah’s plans for me.

After dinner we had a visit from Dr. Aziz Mader, consular designate for Trinidad and Tobago. He is an extremely friendly, easy- to- talk with affable man. He had left Jeddah at 7.30 a.m. and had driven by car for the whole day to pay a visit to us in Makkah.

His visit had pushed back our plans to perform an Umrah by one hour from 9.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. We didn’t leave until 10.30 p.m.

The Consular designate plans to streamline the Hajj operations for T & T. A plane will be hired from Saudi Airline or any other airline and all T&T pilgrims will be on that plane to get to Makkah. The various groups will still be allowed to allowed to offer their own packages. Also, he plans to offer fifty free Hajj packages to deserving Muslims from T&T as guests of the King Insha Allah. Of course, these are all plans.

Following dinner, we left for Masjid Tameem to begin an optional Umrah . Thirty six of us crammed into a twenty-one seater bus, some even sitting atop the hood, including Uncle Japo.

At Tameem Masjid we saw people camping outside the mosque. Hundreds were there to start their own Umrah

After praying two rakaah I opened a tin of Fisherman’s Friend-the throat tablets- to suck a couple of capsules. My throat was feeling horrible, my nose was running—I was just barely surviving.

As the can was opened, an old Indian man stood watching. I offered him one. He readily accepted. And then, all the others from his group came forward requesting capsules., the tin was almost emptied — just about six remained. But giving felt good.

The Umrah that night was accomplished by Rasheeda and I very mechanically. I was suffering with the cold and the influenza, had a massive headache and my eyes were paining.  While Rasheeda was complaining of excruciating pain in her knees—poor thing, she had been a pillar of strength and faith during this pilgrimage.  We have shared some really spiritual moments over this Hajj— moments that brought us closer together in ways only she and I will understand. This is one reason why I recommend that this Hajj should be undertaken with a loved one.

We got home at 3.00 a.m. surviving only on our faith in an Unseen God, Allah (Glory Be To Him!)-- for our physical bodies had long gone into exile.

Monday 15th December,2008

Today I awoke at 6.25 a.m. Fajr in the Haram was an hour earlier. There was still time for it though. I hurried to the Haram and prayed by myself, inside the Mosque. I had some Zam Zam water and returned to the hotel. On my way in, I had breakfast before returning to my room. There I tried to rest until  Zuhr

At  Zuhr, I went to the Haram and prayed next to a Sri Lankan pilgrim and his son. They had never heard of Trinidad but when I said it was Brian Lara’s country, they immediately recognized it. They talked Tamil, they said; English is their third language. But they were saying something in English and that’s how I got into conversation with them.

I should say here that many Indian, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and others had never heard of T&T. However, the moment Brian Lara’s name is mentioned, recognition came immediately. Other names which were instantly recognized included Vivian Richards, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding. They had never heard of Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan or any of the current crop of West Indian cricketers.


Climbing to sadness onto the Mount of Light

Tuesday 16th December,2008

The group went to Jabal al-Nur today. I wasn’t feeling well but I felt I had to go – after all, this is where it all began.  Three minutes into the climb, I wondered if it was wise to go. The slope was almost vertical and I was feeling ill still—cold, flu and sore throat.

But I steeled myself. I had to make it. Rasheeda wasn’t going on this trip—she was going on an Umrah.

I looked at the top and decided to take  the straight line between the two points. The well worn pathway was winding. On all fours, I began to climb.  There were vendors up there. There were beggars up there . There was even a guy with a camel. I purchased a hot cup of tea.

The slope is very steep. It was littered with discarded snack packs, plastic bottles, styro cups and plates and even faeces. I realized with sadness that many Muslims have lost sense for the sacred - places, people and time.                                                                                                   

 
 View from atop Jabal Nur
Upon reaching the top I enquired of Sheriff the location of the cave. He pointed some distance around a curve.
 
 Scrambling at the entrance of Cave Hira on Jabal Nur
There was a huge, unruly, crowd trying to round the curve. I joined but didn’t stay there long. I decided to try a different route. I dropped some distance from where the crowd gathered. That route was more hazardous because the rocks were sheer and slippery and one slip……

I emerged on one side of the cave. There were people trying to squeeze into a narrow passageway. I stood and watched. I didn’t think it was prudent or polite to go into that crowd. I climbed above, crossed a canvas covered roof and emerged just atop the entrance to the cave. There were just three or four persons at this point, everyone else, about thirty odd, were squeezed in at the entrance, trying to get in. I dared not go.

Contenting myself with some photographs and lamented the state adab amongst  Muslims—their lack of concern for others in their quest to satisfy their own religious fervour – their disregard for the site of the first Revelation for really, the place is a huge dump.

While waiting and watching the mayhem at the mouth of the site of the first Revelation, I saw three baboons. What they eat and how they survive atop that barren hinterland is Allah’s secret. Then, I saw a couple of mountain goats. I took  a couple of photos of these animals.
 
 Baboons near Cave Hira

When I came down from the hill, I felt well—physically, I mean. The fever was gone. Everyone else from our group had gone too as none of them were to be seen. So I traveled back to the hotel on my own. It was easy. I simply took a taxi to the Haram. When I reached there, it was time for Zuhr.

After Zuhr I went to the hotel. I showered. Then news reached me that Rasheeda had gone to perform  an Umrah on behalf of her deceased father. Bless her! Feeling much better too,  I decided as well to go for an Umrah  on behalf of my deceased father.

That Umrah was extremely fulfilling. At times during the Tawaf, I became very emotional and was filled with gratitude to Allah for the parents with whom He blessed me.  It was they who planted the seed of love for Allah in my heart, nurtured it to the best of their ability and if today that flame of love for Allah and Islam and the Messenger Muhammad (SAW) is burning passionately within the sinews of my muscles, my heart, my head, then, I must be grateful to my parents.  I completed the Umrah at 7.00 p.m. but couldn’t get a shave until after Isha.

Tonight at a group meeting to announce the plan for our visit to Madina, I received a call from someone in another Hajj group, Omar Mohammed’s. Haziroon Mohammed, a pilgrim, and a member of our Caroni Jamaah, wanted to meet with Rasheeda. At 10.00 p.m. Rasheeda and I left for the Haram, where we were to meet with Haziroon and others from that group.  To cut a long story short, we were unable to meet anyone. We returned to the hotel at 1.00 a.m.


Shopping, packing and reflecting ...on prices

Wednesday17th December,2008

This morning I awoke with a huge headache in morning. I really felt I had overtaxed my health yesterday.  Today we have to pack our bags for we are leaving for Madina on Thursday 18th. A truck will carry the suitcases ahead.

Masjid al-Haram (the Haram)
After Fajr in the Haram (Alhamdullah I have prayed most of my salah in the Haram thus far) Rasheeda called to say we had to get a few items for a friend of mine. After breakfast we got together and went to purchase a few items for a good friend of mine at Bin Dawood’s, a large departmental store.

On our way we visited a bookshop what was most surprised was the price of books. The same books in stores in Trinidad were hundred plus dollar price tags, while in Makkah they were marked 20—30 Rials, essentially one third to one half the Trinidad price.

In fact, when it came to prices regarding items in T&T and Saudi Arabia, all I can say, very politely, very euphemistically, is that there is no relation between prices in the two countries for the same items.

There is a huge opportunity for greater sales volume for any entrepreneur who is willing to take the risk and sell within reasonable price margins. Rasheeda can say more about that.  Following our shopping, we hurried back to the hotel. We had to get the suitcases packed and take them to the lobby, for we are scheduled to leave for Madina on Thursday morning. The suitcases were being sent on ahead.

Having packed and delivered the suitcases to the lobby, I decided to perform Tawaf. While at the Haram, Rasheeda called to say she was also at the Haram, but on the top floor. After some difficulty she was located. From that vantage point, we saw a spectacular sight of the Ka’bah.


Farewell Tawaf - touching the Ka'bah

After Isha and dinner, we returned to the Haram for our Farewell Tawaf. I had not had an opportunity to touch the blessed icon thus far.  Rasheeda and Zaniffa Ali ( wife of Ex-Principal of Lengua TIA, Enite Ali) and I started the Tawaf (circumambulation0. I advised them to stay on the outskirts of the circle. The Ka’bah area has been very crowded with no let up of persons.

During the third round, we seemed to be getting closer to the Ka’bah and we were doing so unconsciously and with ease.
Station of Abraham, with the Ka'bah in the background.
Round four we were actually at the Station of Abraham. We touched the monument and even had the opportunity to view the footprints of the Prophet Abraham (A.S.) . It was an emotional moment for us.
 
 Abraham's footprints

It was the first time we were actually seeing the prints. And it seemed we had a long time to view the exhibit and that no one was at the Ka’bah at the time.

At the next round we were actually within touching distance of the sacred icon. I let go of Rasheeda’s hand and miraculously, I was there; actually touching the revered monument.

Rasheeda was right behind me and I made space for her. Her eyes, like mine, were moist with tears. It was more than we could hope for—two unassuming, unpretentious servants of Allah, living ordinary lives were actually touching the sacred, the revered Ka’bah. Zaniffa too was touching it.

I remembered the dua, the prayer, I had murmured at the commencement of the Tawaf—“ Oh Allah, this is my Farewell Tawaf at Your Holy site; I know not if I’ll see this place again… please accept this act of worship and forgive me.” And some where in that cry, though unvoiced, was a secret desire to actually touch the blessed site.

Upon realizing the significance of having had the opportunity to touch the Ka’bah, I cried the more—Allah had actually shown me, had actually responded to my unvoiced request. My faith increase the more; all this was happening with my supportive wife, Rasheeda at my side.  Subhan Allah!

Look, for every significant moment in our Hajj, we have been together. And together, we have shared some experiences that are priceless.  

But our experience that night was not yet over. The night before, we had gone to meet Haziroon and others from Omar’s Hajj Group. That mission though planned was a failure.

This night, as I prayed the two rakaah following the Tawaf, having already provided protection for Rasheeda and Zaniffa, something else happened. Rasheeda told me afterwards that while she was making dua or supplication to Allah and while I was praying, a voice behind her whispered, “ Hazi is behind you.”

When I was finished praying, I stood up to make dua. When I completed my dua, I couldn’t find Rasheeda. She told me later that she and Hazi had a very emotional embrace. Mustaq ‘Moon’ Ali of Tunapuna was also there and we exchanged numbers. There were three other Trini pilgrims in the group. The night was very fulfilling.


Journeying to Madinah - the city of peace

Thursday 18th December,2008

This morning we are all set and waiting to go to Madinah. Sheriff, has already left to collect  our passports. At the moment we are in our rooms, with BBC World News on the TV. oil is at $39.78 per barrel. This spells big trouble for T&T.

We left for Madinah at 3.30 p.m. We had to stop forty minutes later to change buses because the original one was short of two seats. While we were waiting for the exchange to take place I couldn’t help noticing the Arab gentleman who came and spread a mat on the ground on a vacant piece of land. Shortly afterwards another man joined him. Then a little boy, no more than eight or nine years old came and sat with the two older men.

That, I thought, was a refreshing sight. There were so many things right about that scene. One generation was passing on useful information to the next;  traditions and the culture could be preserved and bridge the generation gap. Our western world can surely learn from these Easterners.

My excitement to see the terrain of Arabia outside of Makkah was heightened. On the way, we had limited daylight time because of the lateness of the hour. The land I saw was that of a valley, a huge expanse of barren, dusty land with encircling  mountains in the distance. It was a fascinating site. There was a herd of sheep in the distance and wondered at the source of their fodder.  Here is a couple of camels in a Bedouin’s yard; a the scene that I can look at for the entire journey.

The sandy terrain of Arabia
The land here is flat, just the way I’ve always envisioned a desert to be – very much unlike Makkah, where the hills and the hillocks and the mountains dominate the landscape.  Now the context of  the term ‘desert Arab’ is better understood; I can understand the Quranic verse that says “ The desert Arab say they believe, but tell them no… that Iman, that faith has not yet entered their hearts…”

This is a hard and unforgiving land; one must be strong and sturdy to survive here—one must be resilient and rugged to survive in this land. Perhaps this is why they seem to bend the rules so much with regards to their driving and their social habits. They do what is necessary in order to survive.

The light is fading fast and I can’t see anything outside the window again, disappointment sets in as the realization sets in that I would not see anything more for  the rest of the journey.  No chance to gaze upon the landscape that Allah’s Beloved Messenger [s.a.s] also may have seen.  But remembering we’re are on the way to greet him [s.a.s] comforts my mind which turns from one of  disappointment to one of anticipation.

We made a couple of stops along the way at various check points. At these stops we disembarked, used the washrooms, prayed and at one place purchased dinner. Actually, at our first stop, we were given a snack pack of cookies, juice and a litre of zam zam water.

We arrived at the hotel at 11.00 p.m. Dinner (again) was awaiting us. We were allocated rooms. There were some  hiccups with regards to this exercise. In the end I ended up sharing a room with Enite Ali and Azard ‘ Japo’ Ali.

 My first impression of Madinah is one of peace, of tranquility and orderliness. It is the opposite of Makkah, where busyness seems to be the order of the day.  Madinah is cold—very cold and we are glad to be inside the hotel where a warm meal awaited.  Soon everyone was in bed.


Contemplating in the Prophet's Masjid while sitting in proximity to him (uwbp).

Friday 19th December, 2008

Masjid al-Nabawi

It was time to go for Fajr when awoke at 4.50 a.m.  I dressed warmly ,wearing socks and sweater and hurried outside. Our hotel, Al-Wissam, was just opposite the Prophet’s Mosque and right across the road. It was bitterly cold. It was then that I realized that I hadn’t put anything on my bare head.  Brrrr…..was I cold!

The Masjid is magnificent. The carpet is a thick and rich. There seems to be gold fittings.  It is also very crowded.  After the prayer, I decided to remain in the Mosque, in quiet contemplation of the significance of this blessed place and in the one [s.a.s] in whose proximity I am sitting.  After sunrise I performed the optional Tawwabeen prayer and then returned to the hotel.

Some members of the group, including Rasheeda had gone to Masjid al-Quba, the site of the first Masjid of the Prophet (uwbp).

I walked around the shops around the hotel and found that prices were quite high—higher than in Makkah and Aziziah.

For Juma'h that day, I decided to pray in the courtyard where the sun was shining. It was still very cold. Someone said it was winter weather, without the snow.


Behaviour unbecoming, sick and suffering and bringing out the best of humanity

After Isha our leader called a meeting. He lamented that despite the high calling of the Hajj, there were some pilgrims who were displaying behaviours inconsistent with that of pilgrims. People were showing disregard for others, were being inconsiderate, may Allah forbid, taking the property of others. This was the one incident that has marred the Hajj thus far.

True, most of us were carrying the cold and sore throat. Enite Ali, one of my room mates, has not been well. He has been suffering from a pinched nerve that has rendered him unable to move about. He has been that way since in Makkah.

I had asked around and discovered that one of the sisters Denise Mohammed had some skills in massage therapy. Her husband, a very energetic, very likable individual with a warm personality, agreed that she should try her skills on the sick brother, to bring about some relief to him. 

Denise herself is a very generous, warm individual who had done some counseling with some problem students at my school some time ago. She had done this voluntarily and it had proved to be very beneficial.

This time she was being asked to use her therapeutic skills to bring about some relief to a pilgrim who had been confined to the bed for some time now, and who was in constant pain. She came that evening and after she was done, the unfortunate brother reported a slight relief. Next morning Denise again worked on him. We can only hope he gets greater relief from his pains. I might add here that in all this, Enite’s wife has been extremely strong and supportive. Our other room mate, Uncle Japo is also very helpful and supportive, bringing tea and other snacks for the unfortunate brother.


Visitng Him (uwbp)

Saturday 20th.December,2008

Fajr—it’s again bitterly cold. We have just returned from the Masjid al-Nabawi.  Enite and Japo are having a cup of tea. After breakfast I intend to visit Masid al-Quba today, Insha Allah.

 
 Sign outside Masjid Quba
I have just returned from visiting Masjid al-Quba, the first Mosque to be built by Rasulullah (SAW). We prayed in that mosque and the mood is quite jovial.

We then came to Masjid al-Nabawi. We are going to visit the Rasul’s (SAW) grave. The crowd is not thick, just a steady flow of pilgrims. As the first Green Door comes into view, signaling the proximity of his tomb, I am reciting the greetings.

Suddenly, the pores in my body are raised, choking with emotions being within touching distance of the Nabi Akram (uwbp). I cannot contain myself. My eyes are flowing with tears.

I voiced the greetings as coming from Khalim, Rasheeda, Nabsie and Ihsie and the rest of the Muslims from T&T.  Feeling unworthy, insignificant, reciting the Durood, pass the second Green Door where Abu Bakr is buried. I am in a daze; pass the third Green Door. Prophet Jesus (peace be on him) will be buried there when he returns to fulfill his mission here on earth.

The guard hustled me out and I am not allowed to perform the two units of prayer in the appropriate place. Perhaps it is just as well—what’s a sinner like me wanting that special space to pray?

I am confused and emotionally drained. But I knew that I had to perform a prayer having visited the Messenger [Peace be unto him]. 
Courtyard of the Prophet's (uwbp) Masjid

And in the cold, wintry sunshine of the courtyard of the Rasul’s Mosque, I performed the two raka'ahs salah.  


Tarik! Tarik! Move! Move!

Sunday 21st. December,2008

Today I walked around the city streets of Madina. The atmosphere is peaceful, the pace of life is much slower than the hustle and bustle of Makkah, the city of “Tarik! Tarik!”—“ Move! Move!”

After Zuhr, a group of us went to get eye examinations. We had missed out on going during the morning time when one group had gone. The place was closed, no doubt they were taking their sunnah siesta.  Actually, the optician’s is just opposite the cemetery in Madina where some Sahabas or Companions of the Prophet (uwbp) are  buried.

This cemetery is always closed but on this day, after Asr, there was a funeral and a number of people had entered, a few who had no relation whatsoever with the deceased. From the optician’s, I was able to see inside the cemetery for the wall that was erected to block of the cemetery had given way to steel bars lower down  through which one could see clearly.

The place is clean and bare; one sees evidence of pilgrims throwing or placing roses into the cemetery. I stood and looked for a while and I could feel the solemnity of the place.

That night Rasheeda and I returned to the optician’s after Isha. We did our eye tests and were told to return on Wednesday night for the glasses.  That night we got in at midnight.


Visitng historical sites in proximity to Madinah

Monday 22nd December, 2008

Today we are going to visit a number of historical sites. We first stopped at Masjid al-Quba. We prayed and then purchased dates. I have never seen so many varieties as there are on display. The prices are very reasonable.

Everyone seems to have purchased a lot. We go to Mount Uhud, the scene of that dreadful battle which saw the Prophet (uwbp) losing a tooth.

I became emotional. This is where Hamza Ibn Abdul Mutalib [ra], an uncle of the Rasul (uwbp) died and was buried. This is the place where so many Muslim lives were lost because some soldiers refused to obey a simple command of the Rasul (uwbp)

Sheriff is talking about obedience to the leadership. He is pointing out the obvious—disobedience to the leadership can have dire consequences. In this case, it cost the Muslims the battle.

Next we visited Masjid al-Qiblatain—the Mosque of the two qiblahs. It was here that the command to change the qiblah [direction of prayer] from Jerusalem and to the Ka’bah in Makkah  was received.

We were taken next to the site of the Battle of the Trench. The trench, unfortunately, has been filled and a car park and roadway made in its place. How sad. Our guide informs us that a number of mosques have been demolished on this site. I also glimpsed from the bus a masjid called Bilaal Mosque.  This Ziarat, this site seeing tour has been very enlightening.

Following the tour, we returned to the hotel. We then performed Zuhr and had lunch.

After Asr I remained atop the Masjid to read the Quran.


"AsSalaam Alaika, Rasulullah.."

The Green Dome
After Maghrib, we had planned to meet outside the Green Dome i.e. the Prophet’s Tomb, where Sheriff had carded a singing session in honour of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Arriving there I saw no one, later I learn't that the session had taken place but was curtailed by the police, who had objected to the mixed gender gathering.

While I was standing around the Green Dome area, I saw a guy pass by and heard him greet the Rasul (SAW) quietly, “AsSalaam Alaika, Ya Rasulullah….”

I decided to do the same.

AsSalaam Alaika, Rasulullah…” And then a strange thing happened. I began to choke with emotions. The hair on my body rose. And then I was talking to him. “ Ya Rasulullah, I need your help. I need you to intercede for me on the Day of Judgment to Allah (SWT) If you don’t, I’ll be in serious trouble, for I am a huge sinner…”  I was crying. This was not a dua. This was a chat, a talk, a straight from the heart.  I started to recite Durood.  I made a mental note, then, to ask my wife Rasheeda to join me in a dua just outside Ar-Rawdah site, after all we have had some really unique experiences together and this place is one in which I think we should pray together.


Focusing on completing recitation of Al Quran

After dinner, Rasheeda and I went to the drug store to get some medication as she was beginning to get a fever. The drug store was not far away. We returned shortly afterwards and she went to bed, early for a change.

Sheriff I learnt, wanted our plane tickets for Jordan Airlines. I handed over the tickets and I went to my room where I read Quran until I fell asleep.

Tuesday 23rd. December,2008

I wanted to complete my reading of the Quran, so when Sheriff announced that the group was going to Masjid Quba, I asked to be exempted and stayed in my room to read Quran.

Wednesday 24th. December, 2008

This day was spent reading Quran. Also did shopping with Rasheeda. We packed the suitcases. After Maghrib, we collected our glasses. They seemed fine.  In the night, I read Quran till 11.00 p.m.


Visitng the site of the Battle of Badr

Thursday 25th December, 2008

Today we visited the site of the Battle of Badr which is two and a half hours away from Madina by bus. One can only imagine what it would have been like in the days of the Rasul (uwbp). The terrain, like all I have seen of Arabia so far, is rough, rugged and foreboding.

Badr rugged terrain
Visiting Badr graphically demonstrated the Rasul’s military acumen. It shows his superior intelligence e.g. his espionage capability—to know where his enemies were stationed. After all, Badr is quite a distance away from Madina.  On our return from Badr, I returned to my reading of the Quran.


Sacrifices of being away from loved ones for sake of a higher calling

On this day too, I was able to get through to Trinidad on the phone. It was quite a while since we were able to call Trinidad successfully. It was good talking to our children, Nabsie and Ihsie.  Indeed, immediately after Isha, Nabsie called. Poor child! She was crying inconsolably for she was missing us dreadfully. I tried consoling her. Some time later she spoke with her Mom.  We have just a couple of days here again and soon, Insha Allah, we’ll be with our loved ones.  But right now, it is 10.20 p.m and we’re in the proximity of our Beloved [uwbp] whose love and concern for us, His Ummah, were the last words uttered in His [s.a.s] death bed, hence our sacrifice of being in His company here in Madina.  I hope to complete the reading of the Quran tomorrow  Insha Allah.  I am going to bed.


Last Jumma in Madina, affected by proximity to the Noble One (uwbp)

Friday 26th December,2008

Today has been a long day. It began with Fajr, of course at Masjid al-Nabawi. At 8.00 a.m. I went to Masjid al-Quba with a small group to bid farewell to that first masjid established by Rasulullah (uwbp). The driver decided to take us on a tour afterwards. He was looking for a mall that was opened for business. None was, as Friday is a holiday over here, as is Thursday.  We arrived back at the hotel at approximately 10.30 a.m. I immediately picked up the Quran and read until 11.45 a.m.

Enite, my room mate with the pinched nerve, is taken to the masjid for Jumma in a wheelchair.  The masjid is really crammed. I am forced to pray in the 35 degrees Celsius sunlight.  We then had lunch. I went to my room and read Quran until Asr.  After Asr in the Masjid, I stayed on and completed the recitation at about 5.15 p.m. I made dua and dedicated the reading to my family members—Ihsie, Nabsie and Rasheeda. Alhamdulillah!


Main domes of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. The Prophet is buried beneath the green dome, early Muslim leaders Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab are buried under the silver dome.
After Maghrib,  Rasheeda and I met outside the Ar-Rawdah—[the tomb to the pulpit of Rasullullah (uwbp)] to bid farewell. We made dua.

And again I am in emotional turmoil. I recall his [uwbp] struggles to spread the message of peace—the suffering and humiliation he underwent; they swept the garbage on him, they tried to strangle him but Abu Bakr had saved him; they tried to poison him; they tried to assassinate him—he was a wanted man, preferably dead—but he never once gave up; he persisted with his mission so that I can have Islam as my way of life.

As I stood gazing at the Green Dome, I recall the site of Cave Hira—that cave is in a treacherous place—one slip on the sheer rocks and that would have been the end.  How he found that cave also is a miracle in itself.  After climbing some 2500 feet, the climber must go around a bend, go downwards and across and then one will find the cave.  While I was there I saw baboons and goats. No doubt, he would have had to contend with other more dangerous, wild animals—snakes and scorpions and God alone knows what else.

And I find my respect and admiration for this great man is increased tremendously. He never complained to anyone about his trials. He never voiced frustration at his task, no resentment just an unbridled passion for the mission and an undying faith in an Unseen God.

I can contain myself no longer and began weeping uncontrollably feeling unworthy. Rasheeda passes a tissue which brought me back to the now and  compose myself.

“ This Ar-Rawdah has a devastating effect on me,” I murmur . “ I can’t understand how these people are rushing to this site. I feel so unworthy to even be in the same place where he is buried….”

I start to recite Durood over and over.  Amidst the tears and the sobs, I visualize the Companions, jostling with one another to catch the water that fell from him as he performed wudu. And I can understand. I can understand a lot of things concerning the way the companions acted in his presence. I glance at the Green Dome. I look at the ground. I blow my nose; I am in emotional turmoil.  Thank God the Azan is sounding. “ I will pray right on the ground here,” I stutter at Rasheeda. “ We’ll meet at the hotel at dinner.”  Then she was gone.


The final hours and sadly departing from His (uwbp) City

It is now 10.45 p.m. and have just completed a partial packing for our journey home. I have also taken some suitcases to the ground floor. An entire section of the reception area is already taken up with suitcases from the Trinidad pilgrims. There are some British and Turkish pilgrims here a well. I believe that they too are leaving, for I have seen two other areas on the floor with suitcases.  

Later that night, we completed our packing. There was much cooperation among the pilgrims. When we took our suitcases down into the lobby, there were about five or six different groups who had already packed and were scheduled to leave the next day. I got to bed at 11.30 p.m.

Saturday 27th December,2008

We performed our last Fajr in Masjid al-Nabawi.  After breakfast I hurried back to the Masjid.
Ar-Rawdah
I wanted to get some shots of the Ar-Rawdah and the inside of the Prophet’s Mosque. Alas! It was not to be. The guards/police  had extended some barricades making access and viewing into the Ar-Rawdah more difficult. Even though I tried to use the zoom lens of the camera to peer inside, I could not get any clear shots. Then, as I was trying to get some pictures of the inside of the Mosque, the police chased me away.  I tried another door. I managed to get a few shots. I hope they will suffice.

At 10.40 a.m. we left Madina. We bade farewell to the Masjid al-Nabawi—the City of Madina, the City of the Prophet.

Speeches were rendered from the foyer of the hotel. Kudos were heaped on our leader Sheriff Mohammed. Durood was rendered. We were leaving the City. We were leaving for home.