Hajj Reflections Part II - the Journey to Mecca
Posted on Oct 12, 2015
Before you read this post, please read Part I, Medina and the Rowdah
Before I get into the next part of my Hajj reflection, the journey to Mecca, I want to address two advantages that helped me immensely throughout the journey. I currently live in Dubai and I have been here for almost four years now. So although I was traveling as an American, I was coming with an experience and an understanding that most Americans making the journey to Hajj don’t have – which was a huge blessing.
First, I got used to the heat. Saudi Arabia in September is HOT – just as Dubai in September is hot. And when I first moved here almost four years ago, I could barely stand the heat. But now, I’ve come to withstand it – your body learns how to adjust and you just bear it in a way my American counterparts had a really hard time with. So this is advantage number one.
Second, I got used to the people. When I first moved here – one of the things that bothered me the most was dealing with people. Juxtaposed against my customary American values, people came off as rude, impolite, ill-mannered and downright disrespectful. It’s common to be standing in line at the grocery store and have someone cut in front of you – or more common still for someone to bump into you at the mall without so much of a glance, let alone a ‘sorry.’ Don't get me started on the driving! I used to suffer from road rage when people would tailgate me and flash their high-beams indicating, ‘get out of my way.’ But, after a while, like the heat – you get used to it. You come to expect it. And if you've heard any stories from Hajj, you'll know that this was another big advantage.
Now, that being said, it’s hard for me to admit this, but hamdulilah I truly felt as if the entire experience of Hajj was actually pretty easy – or should I say, not as difficult as I thought it would be. Maybe I built it up too much in my head, and of course the two advantages outlined above helped tremendously (a girl in another Adams Travel group nearly broke-down to me when she described her experience waiting in line at a Burger King trying to get her order – an experience which, I probably would have had myself if I, like her, had never traveled outside of the United States), but I also know that we had a special Hajj group that was filled with barakah.
My Dad has been a Hajj leader for almost a decade now so he’s become a veteran at the yearly journey. So, when my Dad would say, ‘Wow, that never happens,” or “SubhanAllah you guys are lucky,” I knew that he was speaking from a position of experience. Our bus ride in to Mecca from Medina was swift hamdulilah – as we quickly by-passed the check-points my Dad later told me, “that usually takes anywhere from 4-10 hours and we were on our way in just an hour.” Things to this effect kept happening; and you might think, ‘Oh well they’re getting more efficient.” Think again. This past year at Hajj (as most of you probably know) my Dad relayed that it was one of the hardest years for him and how we ‘had it good’ last year. Here’s my theory - and keep in mind it's just a theory:
In our group was an older lady I’ve known almost all my life. You all know this woman– the one who’s always at the masjid. Every prayer – there she is in the front row. She knows everyone at the masjid, is quick to lend a helping hand and always has a smile on her face that’s filled with noor. This phenomenal woman was in our Hajj group and I was so excited when I got the news that I was in her group. When we made our stop at the miqat to make our intentions for hajj and officially be in ihram, she made a du’a so powerful that all of us that were huddled around her were moved to tears. When visiting Mount Uhud where the Battle of Uhud took place, she was sure to buy any little knick-knack from the vendors nearby noting that it was good to support the economy of the local Medinans. While making our way into the haram, there she was, as strong as ever, elbowing her way through the crowds to get as close to the kab’ah as she could (she seriously put me to shame when I saw how fierce this elderly lady was getting through those crowds).
I truly believe with all my heart that this sole woman brought so much barakah to the group as a result of her strong connection with Allah (S). Allah (S) reveals in Surah Yunus, “No doubt! Verily, the awliya’ of Allah shall have no fear come upon them nor shall they grieve” (10:62). This woman is no doubt of the awliya’ of Allah (S) mashallah.
It wasn’t until someone in our group complained about something that our good fortune changed. Things were going great – our journey into Mecca was smooth, we performed umrah swiftly and with no issues and finally it was time to commence Hajj and proceed to Mina’. At this point, someone in our group complained about something – I don’t even remember what anymore but that’s when I noticed things changed. While on the bus to Mina’ we got there in record time, but when the road to get in closed, we had to go all the way back to our hotel practically just to turn around and attempt to go back. What should have taken us an hour took around five hours and at the end, we still couldn’t get in to Mina; the bus stopped as close as it could to our camp and we had to walk the rest of the way.
Now I’m not blaming the delay on the person that complained, and of course, Hajj is not complete without its share of trials that we should be thankful for, but what I am saying is this: our actions do not exist in a bubble. The things we say and do have a direct impact on those around us. We have to reject this solely individualistic approach to society – the notion that an individual is sovereign; a person that exists in and of himself and ends at himself. Rather, Islam finds a balance between individualism and collectivism. While each person possesses individual freedom and will be held personally responsible and accountable to God for their actions, this individual freedom is tempered with a responsibility toward the betterment of society and harmony in the community.
When that beautiful Auntie made du’a for our journey at Hajj, she elevated our entire group, and when that person complained about the accommodations/transportation we received, he in effect brought the entire group down. This was an important lesson I learned at Hajj - that we're all in it together. That we need to be cognizant of the things we say and do not only for ourselves personally, but for the ripple effect they have on those around us. As a community, as a society, and as an ummah, the collective good works or likewise bad works of a people have a direct effect on the success of the entire group. God forbid we're the person who's sin is holding others back. As the Prophet (S) said, “Live together, do not turn against each other, make things easy for others and do not put obstacles in each other’s way” (Ahmad). Likewise, “A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands the Muslims are safe” (Bukhari and Muslim).
This 'we're all in it together' notion applies outside of Hajj as well - the things we put out there do not exist in a vacuum - they're out in the open for everyone to see and react to. Thousands of eyes are witnessing the images and energy we put out which have a direct effect on the spirituality and mental well-being of those privy to it.
Stay tuned for Part III, meeting the Kab'ah...