The word Hajj (pilgrimage) brings to my mind numerous cherished memories. When I first set off for Hajj three years ago, I knew it would be an intense spiritual journey, particularly as this was to be my first pilgrimage. But nothing prepared me for what was to follow.
|My time in the high school netball team really came in handy and throwing those stones from a distance over the crowd was easier said than done, but I managed
When I reached Makkah (Mecca) with my brother, mother and a family friend I realised just how fortunate and privileged I was to be there. The very sight of the Haram (the Sacred Mosque in Makkah) and the Ka'bah was so awe-inspiring that my tears expressed what words never could. It was truly an honour to be there in the blessed city of Makkah and to embark on the most important journey of my life!
We were in Mina on the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah (the month of Hajj) along with all of the other pilgrims fulfilling the rites of Hajj. I shared a tent with about seven other ladies; fairly quickly we all became reasonably acquainted and reflected on our experiences thus far. It was nice that such a diverse mix of people could get together and share such harmonious commonality.
The following morning we headed for Arafat and spent the entire day there. This was what Hajj was all about, its pinnacle. Millions of people of all races and all tongues gathered on the same plane praying to Allah in unity. This is the one time during the Hajj that all the pilgrims assemble in one place. In previous years at home, I observed a ritual fast on this day, which is a common practise for those who are not performing the Hajj. This ensures that all can partake in the blessings of this special day. I always wondered what really went on in and around Makkah on this holy day, and I remembered then thinking to myself, 'I'm here now, I'm really here!'
There was a great sense of unity and love; an atmosphere of strength and fear intensified by the loud prayers of the pilgrims. It really was magical and words alone cannot describe what can only be experienced.
After sunset we made our way to Muzdalifa. By the time our group gathered and reached Muzdalifa it was early dawn. I watched from the coach window as the pilgrims, enshrouded in humble white unstitched garments, their faces glowing with joy, plodded on foot to their next destination. We then tried to find a spot to pray and get some rest before we caught up with them. Finding an empty space was no easy task, but it didn't matter I was there.
Shortly before sunrise we went back to Mina. Every movement, every ritual performed in Hajj has a purpose and meaning. This holy pilgrimage commemorates the sacrifices made by Prophet Abraham (may God's peace and blessings be upon him), and one of the final rituals (which has unfortunately earned the reputation of the most dangerous) is the stone-throwing at Jamarat (stone pillars).
There are three stone pillars that pilgrims have to throw stones at over the course of the remaining two days of the pilgrimage. This represents the resistance of Prophet Abraham (may God's peace and blessings be upon him) to Satan's temptations.
My time in the high school netball team really came in handy and throwing those stones from a distance over the crowd was easier said than done, but I managed. Thankfully, I had my brother to shield me from the oncoming stampede of large groups of pilgrims passing by.
I travelled with the group back to Makkah to perform the last rituals of Hajj; one of which is the farewell circumambulation of the Ka'ba. As I circled the Ka'ba and shared my innermost feelings with God, I felt very sad that it was almost time to part with this blessed place.
I pray that God grants me the opportunity to perform Hajj again, as I pray for the acceptance of endeavours of all our lucky brothers and sisters who have been given the grace of His Presence in His Exalted House.
O God, there is no one worthy of Love, Worship and Surrender but You. Allow us to love you, worship You and submit to Your Presence and to Your Will. Amen!