“And proclaim that the people shall observe Hajj pilgrimage. They will come to you walking or riding on various exhausted (means of transportation). They will come from the farthest locations.” (22:27)
If I was to imagine the perfect state of mankind, I would dream of a world where we all rush to help one another, where we all strive for peace, where kindness flows out of our hearts, where smiles don’t stop coming and most importantly, when worshiping Allah swt becomes our number one priority. Never in a million years did I think I would ever witness my dream becoming a reality… until Hajj.
Before going on this journey of a lifetime, I remember feeling nervous that I would perform it wrong or would not be worthy enough of having my hajj accepted or being too bombarded with commitments to focus. A small part of me felt that maybe I wasn’t ready for what is the most important journey in a Muslim’s life. I spent some time contemplating about time itself and the truth is, we spend so much time worrying about the time we have, that soon we’re going to run out of time all together. I knew in my heart the time was now and with that mindset I began my journey of Hajj.
From the time of intention, I remember my life starting to feel different already. It felt like the moment after heavy rain… tranquility and time to watch the flowers grow. I started preparing and the more I learnt the more excited I became! My favourite moment was asking everyone I thought I’d wronged for forgiveness before going on this journey. It felt like Allah swt was giving me a chance to start over, a fresh new plain and just like after heavy rain; I felt refreshed.
I was blessed by Allah swt to be invited to His house with my lovely family by my side and I could never put into words how much it meant to share this experience with them. As a family, you go through everything together – but Hajj is so different, it feels like the last jigsaw piece of our family was finally fitted in and I’ve never felt more content subhanAllah. With this I want to express my gratitude to my parents, without whom I would never have had the opportunity by the Grace of Allah to go to Hajj.
Whilst many were shocked at how young my siblings were to have been performing Hajj, having young age on our side was so full of barakah. It allowed us to help those who needed help, look after our parents and most of all gave us the endurance to carry out Hajj in a way which allowed us to focus on worship as opposed to the pain and tiredness of the journey.
Hajj began with Umrah and without doubt the most beautiful thing about the Haram is the Ka’baa. It sparkles amongst the pilgrims. The beauty of knowing 1.25 billion people all face to this one point during prayer from every corner of the earth. Yet here I am before it. What a blessed land! Above, in the seventh heaven, 70,000 new angels performing worship each day. What a blessed land! Everyone is completely equal – the rich look like the poor and the sick look like the healthy – we are all there because of the love of Allah that resonates within, no matter who we are or where we come from, we are equal. What a blessed land! I shared my favourite moments in the Haram, people would give us gifts just for smiling at them, people would hug us just because we’re Muslim, people would help me read the Quran because I was stuttering, what a blessed land!
After Umrah, on the 8th Dhul Hijjah, we headed to Mina, the City of Tents. We caught the train to arrive in and I remember seeing tents as far as the eye could see, subhanAllah. On the first night, we were praying Maghrib in my tent of around 60 women and a catastrophic sand storm hit and half our tent blew away. I remember our sound system for the imam broke and all we could feel was the cold gust of wind and rain… but by the Grace of Allah and with the peace of being at Hajj, we remained steadfast in our prayer. I have never experienced khushr like that before, but in my heart I just felt like Allah swt was my Protector and that gave me the warmest comfort.
The 9th Dhul Hijjah is the day of Hajj! The most important day and the one we’ve all been waiting for. Every second was so precious, being able to ask Allah swt for anything we wanted on such a blessed day on the mount of Arafat was the most honourable feeling. It reminded me of the peace the heart feels when you humble yourself before Allah. Every worry begins to fade away and the stresses of my life felt like a tsunami in my head turning into a serene ocean with the waves gently washing away my anxiety of this life. I felt so close to the day of judgement, a day of begging to Allah, and it hit home how temporary this world is and how I should prioritise the hereafter in everything I do.
After Arafat, we made our way to Muzdalifah which is an open plain where you spend the night sleeping under the stars. It sounded beautiful, but it was one of the hardest days of my life. Travelling from Arafat, I was exhausted after concentrating on my duas for 5 hours or so, we were starving as we had hardly eaten, we were restless from the long journey it took to get to there and we were in desperate need of relieving ourselves to find the toilets in a dire state. Above all, all we had to our name was a mat to sleep on. I know I sound ungrateful but subhanAllah for that moment I felt like Allah swt had stripped us of every need we so easily take for granted. If it wasn’t for His Rizq, anyone of us could be in that situation every day for the rest of our lives. Alhamdullilah He has given us health. Alhamdullilah He has given us food. Alhamdullilah He has given us cleanliness. Alhamdullilah He has given us a roof over our head and a bed to sleep in. Alhamdullilah.
The 10th Dhul Hijjah was Eid, but no rest for the pilgrims! It was the busiest day, in which we stoned the Jamarat, performed our Umrah, cut our hair and offered our sacrifice. It was the best Eid I’ve ever experienced, to be working hard for the sake of Allah swt truly is the best way to celebrate!
The 11th, 12th and 13th day of Dhul Hijjah consisted of stoning the jamarat, which involved collecting pebbles to throw at tall pillars representing shaytaan. Fighting against shaytaan is a daily battle for everyone, sometimes we win sometimes we lose but this time it was different… doing a PHYSICAL action against him felt like we were the champions! It was one of the most rewarding feelings, every pebble thrown felt like a bad trait we were intending to remove.
The 12th day of Dhul Hijjah fell on my birthday… here in the West there’s an associated celebration around your birthday and sometimes we can get so carried away that we don’t even give a second to remember to thank Allah swt for another year. Whilst there, I experienced a day so quiet and simple that it put into perspective the importance of akhirah and dunya: no matter what age we are, we should always work on improving our self for the next year.
By the end of these few days, a part of me felt quite sad at the thought of leaving but subhanAllah Allah swt plans Hajj so perfectly to allow us to end our journey on a farewell tawaf around the Ka’ba. The excitement of visiting the most beautiful place on Earth, turned my sadness into hope… and what a beautiful way to end Hajj.
They often say that the friends you make with hajj are the family that you make for life. These sentiments have never been so true. From the beginnings of chanting the talbiya together (labbayk allahuma labbayk…) to supporting each other on the long walks to helping each other with our bags to rushing to offer each other drinks to always sending greetings upon each other to the very end of our journey. Until this day our familyhood hasn’t stopped, we have a whatsapp group where we ask about one another, visit one another and share our journeys after hajj. Two of my close sisters that I made on the trip shared how they have started wearing hijabs after talking about their struggles during Hajj, and it’s the most beautiful feeling to see people grow in goodness.
The most profound reminder I remember after Hajj was said by our beloved Sheikh who travelled with us. He reminded us that many of us forget Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, we work so hard on all other aspects of our life that we may reach the age of 60 and yet we still haven’t completed our *five* pillars, subhanAllah. I never truly understood the importance of Hajj until I finished it and I pray Allah swt allows us all the opportunity to go many times in our life Ameen.
Before I went to Hajj, the thought of living in a perfect state was just a dream, but after Hajj I saw how it can become a beautiful reality. That was the biggest lesson I wanted to take away, how we can channel our Iman into something greater: in becoming greater people and most importantly in becoming greater servants of Allah.