Hajj chronicles – 3 beginning the Hajj

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be with you,

My apologies for the delay in continuing the series. The difficult world events (our prayers for those tragically affected by them, and also prayers for peace and for true justice that which can only be foundation for lasting peace) and many other pressing concerns kept me away from posting more on this series.

To continue, Hajj proper began on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah, the 22nd of September 2015 CE, with our arrival to take up our positions in the valley of Muna, or ‘Mina’. There is a vast tent city in Mina, that lays empty all year, except for the 5 days of Hajj (8th – 13th of Dhul Hijjah). During this time, it fills up with all the pilgrims – usually about 3-4 million, though much less, at just over 2 million this year. Then the ‘tent city’ comes to life – as much as there are pilgrims in every nook and crevice and corner where there is a spare bit of ground to lie/walk/sit/sleep on, there are also tea vendors and snack sellers and first aid stations and so forth.

The valley of Mina is I think about 2 million square feet in total, so you can imagine the density of people during the Hajj. Unfortunately nowadays, this density has meant it is almost impossible to feel the natural surrounding. However, the clear bright ‘bigger than life’ dessert sky always impedes into one’s consciousness, and the barren rocky mountains that surround the valley are often visible…these at least, no government has been able to alter (!) and give one a glimpse of what it must have been for the great prophet Abraham (=Ibraheem, peace be upon him), when he was there. And indeed what it must have been for every generation of pilgrim who camped there since the time of Muhammed (peace be upon him)’s pilgrimage.

Muhammed (peace be upon him) who taught us how to perform the Hajj,  banned the building of any permanent abode in Mina, saying that the valley’s pristine purity must be left untouched. I was reflecting on my own destiny, that I was destined to be there in 2015 or 1437 in the Hijri calendar, i.e., 1427 years after the blessed beloved messenger of God Muhammed (peace be upon him) performed his pilgrimage. And I was reflecting that pilgrims who had performed Hajj a mere 30 odd years ago, would still have enjoyed that pristine dessert, up until the time so many changes have been put in place.

Nevertheless the experience played out by my own destiny brings profound impacts as well. If one is not as acutely impacted by the natural surrounding, one certainly is by the incredible *number* of people – by the crush of humanity, by the sheer magnitude of it, by the vastness of the differences in peoples represented there… and by the unique leveling the Hajj is able to bring about among us all. Truly it is ‘a great leveler’, perhaps the greatest leveler humanity ever is able to experience.

The only obligation for us on the 8th of Dhul Hijja is that we stay in Mina. What we do while we are there is up to us. Needless to say, almost all were keen to soak up the golden opportunity and try not to waste any time in idleness-curiosities/chatter/distraction etc (not always easy, but that is part of the training/lessons of the Hajj!), but spend as much time in prayer/meditation/remembrance (=dhikr, a core practice in Islamic spirituality, where the person goes into a state of trying to remember God, and his or her own origin) etc.

And indeed many were in contemplation. What a great place and what great fodder for contemplation! Contemplation (=fikr, a practice as importance as dhikr and equally emphasized in Islamic spirituality, means to contemplate all the creation so as to understand what it all means – it is to seek the Creator in the created, see here for more detail on this essential, nay, fundamental Islamic practice so often neglected by modern Muslims), is highly emphasized in the Quran, where Allah (=God), subhahana ta’ala (most sublime and exalted) constantly asks the human being to think. ‘Do you not think?’, ‘Can you not see?’, ‘Do you not contemplate the heavens and the earth?’ asks God of mankind in the Quran, and praises those who engage in fikr;

They reflect on the creation of the heavens and Earth (3:190)

The prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), in an authentic narration said ‘an hour’s contemplation is better than seventy years worship‘ (please see here for sources of the hadith, and here and here for useful articles, including on Huffpost, the well titled – Thinking is an act of worship in Islam, on fikr or ‘tafakkur (=to be engaged in contemplation) in Islam). Below is a quote defining tafakkur by Islamic scholarship, from the same post, with thanks to chaplain of Duke University;

to think on a subject deeply, systematically, and in great detail. In The Islamic context, it signifies reflection, which is the human heart’s light, the spirit’s nourishment, the essence of knowledge, and the heart and light of the Islamic way of life. Reflection is the light in the heart that allows the believer to discern what is good and evil, beneficial and harmful, beautiful and ugly. Again, it is through reflection that the universe becomes a book to read and study, and the verses of the Qur’an disclose their deeper meanings and secrets more clearly. Without reflection, the heart is darkened, the spirit is dysfunctional, and Islam is lived at such a superficial level that it is devoid of meaning and profundity.

Indeed then what wisdom to bring all the world together to this little valley, full of the rich treasures of history and heritage, the legacy and the footsteps of that giant of humanity, Abraham (peace be upon him), the vast dessert sky above and a sea of white-clad pilgrim equalled-humanity below, and then be told all we need to do is be there. So what deep oceans of knowledge and as we say ‘openings’ to reflect upon. It was a time and place where contemplation is almost forced upon one. It would be a great loss indeed, for the one who missed out.

As we are taught, the greatest ‘fikr’ is to contemplate on oneself, on who one is, where one came from and where one is going. And indeed  the beloved messenger taught us (peace be upon him), by words and example to often engage in fikr.  “If the servant knows himself, he knows his Lord” = ‘man arafa nafsahu faqad ‘arafa Rabbahu’ in Arabic (attributed to as-Suyuti, Mawardi, Al-Jarrahi, and Yahya b. Mu’adh ar-Razi. –taken from this post).

I leave you with a few pictures from Mina.





Peace in the mountains, Hajj with the trees

Alhamdulillah wa shukr Allah. Allahu akber, Allahu akber, Allahu akber. Allahumma salli ala Muhammed wa ala ali Muhammed.

I am just returned from a blessing of a trip up in the Cascade Mountains. I had gone camping, my first time doing so, and gone alone. MashaAllah it was certainly an adventure and provided many a thrill. But more than this, it was deep joy and deep peace. To be alone among the undiluted Creation of Allah. Since it was bear territory and I was hiking alone, they told me to make lots of noise while walking. Now, inspiration indeed, for I took it an excellent opportunity to practice the recitation of the surah I know and also to make lots of du’a and salawat. Also it was a perfect time and place to bellow out the azan! Indeed, I felt just such a rush doing so it was humbling. Dawud Wharnsby Ali ( a fellow Canadian and a folk singer who mashaallah is so talented, I am sure he would have reached Cat Stevens status had he not converted early ;)) in one of his songs talks about the wonder of calling out Azan on the top of a mountain…ah, subhahanallah indeed he had that spot on.

Sh. Hamza once said all the trees are in continuous sujood…he said their heads were the roots and it was in the ground. Completely prostrated to Allah. Walking among all those prostrate trees I felt as if I was on hajj. A pilgrim surrounded by millions of fellow pilgrims, in complete submission. And then looking out at the immense mountains I thought of how these mountains too, who had been given the trust of ‘free will’, refused it, out of fear. Ya Rabb, how foolish then us man, to have taken it on. And how kind, that you have given your constant presence and the five time prayer to help us through with carrying the trust.

Here are some images;

The mountains as 'pegs', imagine this same extent reaching in to the bowels of the earth
Millions of fellow pilgrims...here before us and patiently in constant worship
Water reflects the sky and clouds..as the water cycle keeps us alive
remember the last ayah of Surah Mulk when I see this.

It has been a difficult time on returning from this august gathering. And that peace elusive again. But Allah has said that the only peace is in his remembrance. What a glorious ayah that is! How much to ponder upon in how it relates to every facet and circumstance of our lives

“Truly, it is by the Remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest.” [Qur’an, 13.28]

There is a beautiful and very helpful short article here about how ‘dhikr’ (remembrance) can help with every sickness and anxiety, heart ache and grief. Especially for fighting depression and melancholy. Please do read it and stay in dhikr.
I ‘youtubed’ the ayah and found this short video, I wanted to insert it here, not just for the medical stats it projects but also for it’s beautiful soothing music. And indeed music too is a glorious creation of our Lord. I was listening to all the different birds while hiking and could not but help think of the majesty and intricacy that is the creation of sound. Subhahana wa ta’ala

Allah protect and help us all and forgive us our countless sins. Forgive me my errors, defects and omissions and keep me in your du’a please.