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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