Posted on Aug 06, 2019
It feels like we all know someone who has gone for his/her Hajj pilgrimage this year. Friends may announce their departure via Whatsapp or over Facebook, Instagram or some other means of social media, asking for collective forgiveness and opening up for du’a requests. Those even more organized will have a custom Google Form where they collect everyone’s du’a requests for them to recite during the holy days of the Hajj.
And for many of us, it may make our yearning to go even more acute.
When will my time come? If you think about it, between 2-3 million Muslims around the world do their Hajj pilgrimage yearly. But there are about 1.8 billion Muslims in the world (more or less), and so if you do the math, most of us aren’t going. Many of us, in fact, will never have the opportunity to go, as beautifully articulated in this essay.
But the holy first ten days of Dhul Hijjah and the Hajj aren’t geographically fenced in to the areas surrounding Makkah, Muzdalifah, Arafat and the camps of Mina or even Madinah. These days aren’t the solely located in our masajid or community gatherings either. They are ours to partake in wherever we are through our elevated worship, nafl (optional) fasts, Quran reading, charitable work and charitable giving, kindness, goodwill and more.
In Ramadan, we fast, and it is fard (compulsory) upon us. We try and read more Quran, with many of us reading entire holy book during the month. Many of us try and go nightly to tarawih prayers and join in community iftars. Indeed, there is a whole communal feel to the month. We can have that, too, in Dhul Hijjah, and in a way it’s even more special because we are making more effort to give these days their due importance.
Ibn ‘Abbaas, may Allah be pleased with him and his father, reported that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days.” (Bukhari).
I’m telling you as I’m telling myself - the opportunities are there for the taking.
Because, if one of the main purposes of the Hajj is to come back recentered in our faith and be reborn, free of sin (if we have performed our Hajj correctly), we can view these days of Dhul Hijjah as as a way for us to recenter ourselves as well. Sure we cannot benefit from being made free of our sins by performing the Hajj, but we can partake in so many acts of worship and charity to help bring us back to Allah and our grounding as Muslims. If we can fast on the day of Arafat, we can even (insha’Allah) have our sins cleansed for two years.
At the bi-weekly mother-daughter Quran class I attended with my daughter on Saturday, the verses we were studying from Surah Baqara coincided nicely with the start of Dhul Hijjah. It was fortuitous, really, because we hadn’t planned it like that. And so, as we sat down to study and discusses the verses at hand, my sister-in-law, who leads the class, took some time to talk to the girls about the blessed days we are in now.
She passed out a Dhul Hijjah planner, the likes of which you’ve probably seen your circles (here is the one we were given our Quran class), and we discussed with our daughters how using a planner can help us make that concentrated effort to give these ten days their due importance.
Maybe a planner is not your thing. A few years back I wrote this piece about how to connect with the spirit of the Hajj from where you are, which includes reading memoirs about the Hajj, watching live video feeds, planning out a Quran reading schedule, fasting, talking about and reflecting on the sacrifice story of Prophet Abraham (peace and blessings upon him) and his son Ismai’l (peace and blessings be upon him) and so much more.
One thing I did was sign up for this video series led by Sheikh Omar Suleiman of the Yaqeen Institute, which has been immensely easy and compelling to watch with my kids or by myself. Though we are about half-way through the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, it’s not too late to watch these videos and absorb the messages.
We - my husband and I - performed our Hajj pilgrimage what seems a lifetime ago, in 2005, when we were parents to just two children. (We have three now.) Our eldest had been diagnosed with autism the year before, and our daughter was barely 18 months old. To say it was one of the most challenging times for me, my faith and belief in Allah’s will is to fail in fully expressing my depleted state.
We went for Hajj, leaving our children in the care of their paternal grandparents (may Allah bless them), and it was (as cliche as it sounds), a life-changing experience for me. I am nowhere near the Muslim I want to be now, but it has been that touchstone I needed over the years. The true test, however, doesn’t come upon returning from Hajj. I believe it comes years later, when the sheen of the Hajj wears off and we are well ensconced in our daily challenges of life, struggling to hold onto His will and our Muslim faith and practices.
I wrote this in 2013, eight years after we had performed our Hajj:
And I wonder, what happened to those prayers silently uttered on the plains of Arafat? A friend once told me, as I was contemplating how untethered [our autistic son] is from the rituals of our faith, that my son doesn’t owe my faith anything. But God owes him everything.
And what has He delivered? When will I be able to see and understand the wisdom of His decisions, understand how and in what manner He is answering my prayers? When I want so badly for things to be easier for [my son], for things to be stable and calm and for him to learn to communicate and to bathe himself, clean up after himself when he uses the toilet, for him to learn independent living skills, for him to be kept out of harm’s way and always be safe and protected – how are these prayers being answered?
These prayers are the same and yet so utterly different from what I asked of Him that day in Arafat. My prayers have evolved over the years as has our lives with D, as he grows and the nature of his autism changes with him Perhaps that’s how Allah is revealing His wisdom to me when I struggle to understand.
I sit here now, 14 years after performing the Hajj with the knowledge that I may never go back again. It’s difficult to leave D. Many friends of mine may never go at all. And yet that spirit of the Hajj, that depth of worship and lifeline we draw to Allah is here for us, too. It’s here in our homes, in the stillness of our bedrooms at Fajr time and in the chaos of our work and family lives. May you find that connection and remember to make du’a for our collective humanity and all the hurt that needs healing as we pray for what is nearest and dearest to us in our hearths and homes.