Friday 29 June 2018

The Pinnacle of my Hajj Journey

Asalaamu Alaykum readers,

Hajj time is rapidly drawing closer, and I can feel the tangible excitement mingled with an uncertain anxiety in the air. I have been graced with several visits by prospective hujaaj in the past two weeks, and my heart overflows with joy for them, for this most wonderful journey they will be embarking on. 

My last post ended with the 5 waqts on Mina and by 2am the following day we started preparing to leave for Arafah. We performed Fajr and then gathered at the entrance to the SA camp to board the bus, which would take us to Arafah. The air was heavy with a solemn energy, as if every Hujaaj was deep in contemplation after a full day of preparation in the tents. I was in a state of heightened anticipation, notwithstanding physical discomfort and beginnings of a migraine. My physical state did not even feature in my awareness of the day other than being an insignificant detail. Moreover, I felt as if I was walking through the day on another plane, as if a magical energy was propelling me forward. It cannot be described as anything other than an immensely sacred experience. The sanctity of our journey weighed heavily on my consciousness, and my only wish was to be fully present during the waqt of Arafah and to make the most of this precious time. 

After waiting by the gates for about an hour and a half, we eventually boarded a bus to Arafah. The bus ride was probably more than an hour, I was so preoccupied that time was not a factor. When we eventually arrived, we were bustled into another gated area with open marquee-type tents. We followed our travel operator who directed us to our tent, carpeted with red mats- this was to be our spot for the duration of Arafah. It looked nothing like I expected, I had visions of being on open plains where I'd be able to to see Jabal Rahmah, and hopefully be close enough to catch a glimpse of Masjidul Nimrah. Instead, it looked very similar to Mina, with rows and rows and rows of tents, and if you were lucky, and in the right spot you'd be able to see Jabal Rahmah. Masjidul Nimrah, the place where the last sermon was delivered, also the mosque which only part of the building is on Arafah, was nowhere in sight. We were settled into our tents by 9:30am, with the heat already affecting hujaaj. The tents were not air-conditioned and had blowers which circulated more hot air. Despite the extreme heat and my migraine now at full blast (along with extreme cramps), I was overcome with gratitude and awe. After making duah daily throughout my trip that I be spared to arrive on Arafah, to be present and to be in good physical shape for these days; I have indeed been blessed to have arrived. I nibbled some snacks, took some painkillers and waited for the pain to pass. Some hujaaj took the time to nap and some were deep in reflection. I cannot remember when I became oblivious to the pain, oblivious to everyone else in the tent with me. But at some point I felt as if I was alone in the tent, mentally preparing for when the waqt of Arafah appeared. I was vaguely aware of hubby a few rows ahead of me with the rest of the men, but in a sense we were completely disconnected. Each one of us preparing for the most sacred dialogue of our lives. As the waqt arrived, our spiritual leaders started with a group jamm salaah (joined two prayers of Thuhr and Asr), followed by a group duah. Hubby and I had agreed that we would meet during the waqt of Arafah for some time on our own, away from the larger group. And we had both prepared something in writing for the other which we shared during our time together. A special moment shared with my soulmate on the most momentous day of our lives. Thereafter we returned to the tents and continued with our individual Arafah programmes.

Every single moment of the waqt of Arafah is indelibly imprinted in my mind, and at the time of Asr, at the height of the day's heat, a soothing breeze came up, wafting through the tents and bringing some cloud cover. It was such a welcome respite from the 50+ degree heat, and a tangible feeling of Allah (SWT) grace and mercy. At this point my senses were sharpened, I could not recall my physical discomfort, only a heightened sense of gratefulness; for my life, for my trials, for every single experience which has shaped me, and ultimately led me to this pivotal moment in my life. As I went through my Arafah programme, I was overcome with emotion, as the honoured guest of the Almighty, my place on this vast plains brought me a sense of peace, a sense of my purpose in life and essentially made me realise what my priorities are. I became acutely aware that everything I did in life was not for myself, but to serve my Creator and to live the destiny and purpose He has decreed. I became intensely aware that life as I know it had fundamentally changed forever. By Maghrieb the waqt of Arafah had passed, and we prepared to leave for Musdalifah. We waited at the gate of our camp to board the buses while those performing the walking Hajj (which was strongly discouraged due to the extreme heat and massive crowds) started the next leg of their Hajj journey. 

After a crawling bus ride of about an hour or so, we arrived at Musdalifah around 10:30. As we arrived we were provided with some water and fruit for sustenance.We found a spot close to the boundary, performed prayers and collected our pebbles. By this time it was almost midnight and we moved towards the boundary to set off on the long walk to the Jamaraats. The walk to Aqabah was a long one, and again I lost track of time. I do not remember any physical discomfort, nor do I remember feeling tired, or hot; and just moved forward, propelled by a surge of spiritual energy. The Jamaraats have a huge 3 storey structure built around which resembles a parking garage. The crowds were still manageable and we easily approached Aqabah, pelted, and without much fuss, exited on the other side. Even pelting Aqabah was a surreal experience and by this time I was floating on a high, yet still aware of every single moment. As we walked away from the Jamaraats, we realised that it was now Eid morning,  and I start the Taqbeer in my mind. As I reflect now, every single detail is etched in my memory with clarity.

We were really fortunate (Algamdulilah) to have flagged down a luxury bus for our entire Hajj group to transport us to Makkah. I could feel physical exhaustion set in as I sat on the bus, and yet I easily managed the next couple of hours. I decided to join my group going to Makkah for Tawaful Ifaldah (even though I was unable to perform my tawaaf) and decided to wait outside on the Mataaf for hubby to perform his Tawaful Ifaldah and Sa'ee. I had missed the Ka'bah in those few days in Azizziah and Mina, and when I saw the glowing green lights of the clocktower, I felt as if I was home. Shortly after Fajr, Ghaalid had completed his Tawaaf and Sa'ee and we left as quickly as possible to miss the crowds. We hailed a taxi and made our way back to Azizziah. At this point, I was still partially in ihraam, having only performed the 'klein verlossing' (ie clipping of the hair) after pelting Aqabah. This meant I could shower and remove the ihraam garb, but I would still need to perform my Tawaful Ifaldah and Sa'ee before I could exit the state of ihraam completely. 

Once we'd showered and freshened up, we ate and slept; we only needed to return to Mina by Maghrieb. We returned to Mina after Asr, refreshed, fed and with a change of clothes for the next 2/3 days of Tashreeq. We spent the night performing Thikr on Mina, and our spiritual leader informed us of arrangements to pelt the Jamaraats the following day. Each group is allocated a time, and a Saudi guide, along with a SAHUC representative, leads each group to pelt. The crowds were massive, the heat of the day was intense and we approached the crowded Jamaraats with guidance from our spiritual leader. Algamdulilah, I managed to pelt the Jamaraats with ease, and as I cast each stone I pictured the casting out of my own personal nafs, and my demons- this too was a poignant experience for me. On our way back to Mina we passed by our Azizziah accommodation and popped into the room to freshen up before returning for the 2nd day of Tashreeq. The second day, the crowds were larger, and more menacing, but Algamdulilah we once again managed to pelt with ease. We joined the enormous crowds making their way back to Azizziah, stopped for a bite to eat and returned to our room. We didn't return for the 3rd day of Tashreeq, so our journey was now complete. However, I still needed to return to the Haram to perform my Ifaldah and Sa'ee, so the extra week we'd be staying would be enough time to comfortably complete all my obligations. 

I make duah for a Hajj Maqboel and Hajj Mabroer! ♥️

Mina is a city of tents

The Arafah camps are set up along the road, and beyond...

Jabal Rahmah

Sign directing Hujaaj to the Jamaraats

Mina camps

This sight was like heaven for my soul

The Sa'ee

Entering the Jamaraats, you can see the 3-story building in the top right

Aqabah is this paved pillar, and we pelt over the yellow fence

The crowds exiting the Jamaraats after pelting Aqabah

My view as I waited for hubby to complete his Tawaaf & Sa'ee

Walking to pelt on day two, the Jamaraats ahead looking like a parking garage

Algamdulilah! After pelting on day 2 with our SAHUC representative

Crowds departing after pelting Jamaraats on Day 2

Caio for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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Thursday 14 June 2018

Wrapping up Ramadaan with a Repurposed outfit

Hi Readers,
Eid is literally on our doorstep and while everyone is rushing about getting Eid outfits ready, ordering food, cake and preparing Eid gifts, let's remember the underprivileged in our haze of preparation. Some are unable to spend on new clothes for Eid and just a clean, decent outfit will do. Some are unable to go to the shops and buy a vast leg of lamb, or bake endless amounts of biscuits or order pretty desserts. This month is one in which we do more (than usual) in the way of charity, and in our abstinence comes compassion and empathy for those less privileged.

This is a message which I frequently highlight with my kids, more so during Ramadaan. Along with my introspection and focus on self growth, I consciously keep the underprivileged in my thoughts and deeds. The beauty of fasting heightens the senses, clears the mind and I become very aware of what is priority. The last ten days of Ramadaan very quickly becomes a frenzied rush to the end, when all I want to do is slowly approach the culmination, revelling in this time. The month flashes by so quickly, that I am always acutely aware of making the most of my time. 

As I reflect on my intentions for this month, I am happy to say that despite the limited time and a crazy work schedule, I managed to complete most of my planned ibadah. I also feel as if my inner work has been fruitful... so for me an overall successful and wonderful Ramadaan. Algamdulilah ♥️
I spent minimal time shopping this month, except for one day with my firstborn for two hours, and when I wasn't working, the time was spent at home with my family. It was with this in mind that I started posting all my previous Eid outfits as inspiration to repurpose pre-loved outfits. 

Repurposing an outfit, with new accessories, or wearing it in a different way, saves time, money and a whole lot of stressing! Change it up with a different scarf, add some texture with faux fur stole or neck wrap or throw a kimono over it! The trick is when buying anything, consider all the options of wearing them, even changing them up for a different season is a great idea, if layered correctly. 

A fellow blogger and friend, Namreen, and I decided to shoot an Eid look where I've shopped my closet. I'm hoping that it would demonstrate how easy it is to put together an outfit with existing classic pieces from the closet. I've worn this kimono before, but with a long lace dress resulting in a different look. It's been a few months since I bought it and brings in the trendy feel with the dramatic embellished sleeve. All other pieces have been in my wardrobe for some time, this time a silk dress and gold pants make the outfit a bit more dressed up for a simple, elegant ensemble.

Outfit Details:

Bodhisattva silk dress
Huemine Image gold pants
Gold belt old (can't remember)
Haya Collective Kimono
Guess heels
Forever New Pearl embellished bag
Scarf LV Old
Earrings (Old)
Stocking (Old)

Ciao for now, 
RuBe xoxo

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Wednesday 13 June 2018

Hajj Part 1 - Departure for Mina

Asalaamu Alaykum readers, 

It is with a hollow feeling in my stomach that I write this post, it's reminiscent of a loss, of a feeling of grief; but it is actually an intense yearning coupled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I have kept my Hajj post for the last days of the Ramadaan, as I seem to be reliving it more and more as the month draws to a close. I reflect back on my Hajj, on those long awaited 5 days and can say that I am content that I experienced the most magnificent pilgrimage. Those days on Mina were the highlight of my life, spent on a mattress in a tent with 50 other women, Algamdulilah! 

We moved out of central Makkah on the 4th Thul Hijj and relocated to Azzizziyah. I had heard so many horror stories of Azzizziyah, and yet I tried not to have any expectations and accept whatever the situation was with grace. When we arrived, I was only taken aback by the dustiness of the place, yes it was basic (but then again anything would be basic after a 5 star hotel). All I needed to do to make the place comfortable was to clean, place my musallahs on the tiled floor, and it was transformed into my home for the next 4 days. These 4 days leading up to Hajj was so necessary for me, it helped me to disengage from the Ka'bah and focus on my Hajj. I could now prepare for the most important 5 days of life, my sacred dialogue with my creator. And during this time I also detached from the material world and the family back home (there was no wi-fi so we were in contact intermittently), the move to Azziziyah was therefore a blessing. It was a quiet time, spent in thikr, group talks and also a bit of shopping for food (for our when we returned on Eid morning).

The morning we left for Mina we gathered in the communal salaah area of our accommodation before Fajr,  Wednesday, 8th Thul Hijj. All dressed in ihraam, a bag packed for next 3 days (I packed some light snacks, surahs, duahs, my hajj journal, bathroom bag, change of underwear, scarf and leggings). And we made our nieyah to enter into ihraam as a group. Then we waited for the go-ahead to walk to the main road to board the bus which would take us to Mina. This only happened after about 2 hours, and even though Mina was literally a 15- 20minute walk from our building, the bus ride was over an hour long. I was all keyed up, a ball of nerves and emotion as THE day had finally arrived. Firstly I was so thankful that I was in good health, apart from the devastation of the night before when I got my period...Yes, it happened, despite taking meds, and timing myself... the dreaded 'curse' had arrived. And I felt deflated, as if I had lost something so momentous; and yet after sitting in absolute despair for a while, I listened to our spiritual leader address the issue. I had attended his hajj classes, and I had heard everything he was saying many times before in his class, and this time his words hit home. Like everything else, my ghayd comes from Allah (SWT) and if I were to be so unhappy about it, then I was discontent with has been decreed. This moment was a complete turnaround for me, I had to believe that my Hajj was destined to happen in a certain way, and this was it. I focused on readjusting my mindset, and after throwing all my expectations of how I thought my Hajj was to be out the window,  I embraced this little bump in the road with gratitude.

This was merely a trial, a test for me, and I could not let my dissatisfaction with a natural occurrence ruin my Hajj experience. I sat down with my spiritual programme and reworked it slightly. Apart from the discomfort, and physical pain, there was still lots I was able to do. Thikr, duah, reciting from surahs and quiet contemplation. I could not perform salaah nor would I be able to perform my Tawaful Ifaldah, and I accepted that this is what has been decreed. It was a tangible reminder that I do not control my body, even though modern medicine fooled me into thinking I could control my cycle. Everything in this world is decreed by the Grace of the Almighty, and what I may have thought of as a 'curse' initially was an important lesson in Tawakkul. I became acutely aware that my very existence and presence on Mina is by the Mercy of my Creator, and being His invited guest is more than I could ever ask for. My entire journey leading up to this point had been filled with lessons and trials (which I ultimately regarded as blessings), and my Hajj would be no different.

And as I sat on the bus, weaving its way slowly, amongst many many buses carting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to gather on Mina, I made the decision to welcome anything that came my way these next few days. I was faced with a decision: I could make my one and only Fard Hajj unpleasant by lamenting my fate, or embrace it and make my Hajj the most beautiful experience I could ever have imagined, regardless of my physical state. We arrived at our designated camp on Mina, which was almost at the border of Musdalifah, so it was the furthest camp. The mens and womens tents for our tour group were next to each other, accommodating about 50 women on small mattresses. This was my space for the next few days, my spot for contemplation, reading, duah and thikr. And it is still the most extraordinary part of my journey.
I have been told some stories about the bathroom facilities on Mina, and to prepare myself my bathroom bag was equipped (read that post here about what I packed). This too was one aspect where I was determined would not be a stumbling block and that this would not deter my focus. So I managed the bathrooms with ease, even in my state where I needed to use the loo constantly. We were to spend the 5 waqts on Mina before departing for Arafah the following day. For me this time was the most memorable, it was the start of the long awaited days of Hajj. I was on a constant high, buzzing on a frequency which made sleep impossible. I was too afraid of missing out on this most precious. Seeing all the hujaaj from all over the world, donned in the same garb, assembling on this vast land of tents for the same purpose, was a privilege and an unforgettable experience. There is no better picture, nor experience to affirm the oneness of humanity, the oneness of Islam and how far our beautiful Deen extends.

My message to 1439 Hujaaj is to grab every step of this journey with both hands, savour every moment, even the difficult times. Hajj starts at home, and with the Ramadaan coming to a close, you will be engulfed in hajj preparations for the next few weeks. Enjoy it, embrace it for it will be deposited in the memory banks forever, and resurface at any time as if it had occuered just yesterday. 

My next post will cover Arafah, Musdalifah, pelting Aqabah and the Tawaful Ifaldah...

The sign which marks the boundary of Mina

Tents and tents and more tents! This is Mina as viewed from the bridge- we were taken on an orientation
walkabout by our operator the night before we were due to leave.

The mattresses have pillows and blankets when you arrive 

The bathroom  
The shower just above the eastern loo

Our camp was number 21 and was fenced off

Ciao for now, 
RuBe xoox
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Friday 1 June 2018

Following Destiny to Opulence

Asalaamu Alaykum and Welcome Readers!

My regular readers will know that Ramadaan is a month of renewal for me, on many fronts. I usually start new projects, embark on new educational ventures and really step it up a notch on my personal development and growth. It is therefore so synchronistic to be featuring a fellow eternal scholar and busy entrepeneur in todays post.

I have written about Fadwa Cozyn in the context of her Mobile Therapies business and how she inspired me during her Bucket List Workshop (read that post here), however, this time I am so moved by her passion for opulence, in all forms. The word opulence denotes wealth, richness and luxuriousness, which is embodied by Fadwa, not in the traditional way, but in her warmth, energy and spirit. It is therefore no coincidence that I was drawn to this venture, as I too am a likeminded soul with a penchant for beauty and luxuriousness, which is precisely what her her brand, Opulence, represents. 

As a little girl Fadwa envisioned her designs on catwalks across the world, following this dream by enrolling at and graduating from the Elizabeth Galloway Academy Fashion in Stellenbosch. In 2005, whilst assisting her dad in his business, she heard a voice which said she should be a reflexologist. Unsure of what it was, she opened the Yellow Pages, called a number and followed this journey without question. It led her to Durban, Pretoria and right back to Cape Town where she graduated from the Cape Institute for Allied Health Studies. Since 2007, Fadwa has been practising as a qualified Specialised Kinesiologist and offers the following through Mobile Therapies: reflexology, massage therapy and manual lymphatic drainage. She also specialises in the following: life coaching, NLP practitioner, Kinesiology and is a dynamic motivational speaker. She has travelled extensively and has presented workshops abroad including doing physical body work in Turkey & India. Needless to say Fadwa has an extensive list of qualifications in this arena, as well as notable achievements, such as being a regular guest on Voice of the Cape Radio and Channel Islam International. 

Fadwa and I connected partly over fashion, with a shared love for silks, leather and unique pieces. She has an innate intelligence for opulent fabrics which she attributes to her royal ancestry and rich heritage. Her roots can be traced back to Java royalty which still runs through her genetic system and referencing. Her paternal great grandfather was a wealthy gentleman who owned vast strawberry fields in Constantia, as well as extensive vineyards while being a prestigious grape exporter. With just a peek into what makes Fadwa tick, is to understand that opulence is in her blood. 
And so, I believe the birth of her new business, Opulence is in line with her destiny. A brand which retails unique pieces in limited quantities, manufactured in luxurious silks, leathers, jewel-toned colours and sporting rich embroidery. The feel is a fusion of grandeur and everyday resplendence. Opulence has it's official launch on Sunday, 3rd June at the Peninsula Hotel, 10am-4pm.

In this lookpost I am wearing a 100% silk quilted jacket (reversible side has cotton quilting), a silk printed scarf and black leather clutch, all available from Opulence. This could be a perfect look for Eid, pair the jacket with jeans and sneakers and you're all set for a casual night out. I am a big fan of classic pieces which won't date easily, which is exactly what you'd find at Opulence!

Outfit Details:
Jacket, scarf and bag from Opulence
Witchery glitter top
Trenery pants
Lovisa necklace
Schutz heels

Caio for now,
RuBe xoxo

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