Mideast Saudi Hajj

Can anyone who has completed hajj simply return home and carry on with their lives just as they did before their hajj journey? Have we thought at all about what how we might act, what we might say, do or think differently than we did before making Hajj?

Then when you pour down from Arafat, celebrate the praises of Allah at the Sacred Monument, and celebrate His praises as He has directed you, even though, before this, you were astray.”

Okay, all the fanfare aside, now what?

It is taught that in order for our hajj to be accepted, we should strive to meet the following criteria:

• It should be paid for from halal funds.
• We should keep away from evil, sin and unjust disputes during Hajj.
• We should do our best to observe all rituals according to the Sunnah.
• Our Hajj should be performed purely for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa
ta’ala and not for show.
• We should not follow it with acts of disobedience and sin.
• And if we fulfill these obligations successfully?

Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “Whoever does Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not have sexual relations (with his wife), commit sin, or dispute unjustly (during the Hajj), will come back like the day his mother gave birth to him.”

‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Hajj wipes out whatever (sins) came before it.”

The Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “…There is no reward for Hajj mabroor except Paradise.”

Okay, review: for those who have, insha’Allah, successfully completed their hajj, according to hadith we return as though newly born, free from our past sins, and insha’Allah with the promise of Paradise.

But can anyone who has completed this journey honestly think that’s all there is to it? We simply return home and carry on with our lives as we did before making Hajj? Do we think at all about what we might have to do differently in order to maintain that clean slate status? Is it even possible? What should we say, do or think differently than we did before making Hajj?

My mind is flooded, much like our campground was the day after we returned from Arafat to Mina during Hajj 2005. I remember thinking how symbolic it was that Mecca was hit with a rare, thunderous rainstorm that drenched the entire area, including our Mina campground, the day after Eid as many pilgrims began to depart for Masjid al Haram to make their final tawaf, marking the end of Hajj.

Pilgrim Mohamed Jamal Khan, from the Pakistani city of Peshawar summarized my thoughts most succinctly: “Rain is always a blessing and for it to fall so hard at the end of our hajj rituals means our sins are washed away and God has accepted our prayers.”

Despite the subsequent flood that threatened to dampen the spirits of the record 2.56 million pilgrims, if a poll had been taken of the sisters in the camp at Mina that had been my home-away-from-home for the most amazing five days of my life, you would have been hard-pressed to find a single one anxious for the week to end.

On the contrary, we were most reluctant to leave behind the new friendships we had forged with one another, bonds made with sisters who had come from near and far. We had grown into this huge, somehow instantly and forever connected, happy family.

On returning from making the final jamarat the day after the flood, I knew the time had come to prepare for departure. However, I failed to realize how impossible it would be to say goodbye.

I solemnly walked down the indoor-outdoor green carpet path to the entrance of my tent, and stepping inside went straight to where my pre-packed belongings lay waiting on my sleeping mat.

As I reached to pick up my tote bag and turned around to face the tent’s entrance again, there stood the group of sweet young sisters who had been my closest bunkmates. Tears immediately welled in my eyes as one by one they stepped forward to hug me. I somehow knew the next five minutes of my life would seem like an eternity as the farewells commenced.

I stepped outside the folds of the tent’s opening, and the biggest surprise of all fell before my astonished eyes. Perched neatly in a row along the top of a short block wall sat each one of the nine servant girls who had adopted me (and I them), waiting for me to come out so they could say goodbye.

Passing by each of the girls, feeling their arms embrace me, and meeting their tearful faces eye-to-eye, it felt as though my heart was being ripped right out of my chest.

The tiniest one, a young girl from Mecca, reminded me that she would gladly squeeze herself into my suit case and go home with me in order to continue her ritual of combing out my freshly shampooed hair; a memory that makes me smile every time I picture her innocent face.

But coming to the end of the line was the hardest thing ever, as there sat ‘little u nour’. (That’s how she always signs her text messages to me.) Nour (and her mother, Umm Mustafa) had become the most dear to me of everyone I had met during my Hajj experience. As Nour’s tear-filled eyes met mine, it felt as though I couldn’t bear to say good-bye to her, and prying myself from her arms was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

As our bus began the winding, slow journey out of Mina I pulled a neatly folded niqab (face veil) from my handbag and fastened it behind my head, grateful for the comfort it provided in covering the tears that continued to stream uncontrollably down my cheeks.

I sat reflectively and recalled my first Ramadan of 2002, and the time spent with sisters who gathered nightly before Maghrib at The Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. to break their fasts and pray. I was working full-time back then, and often over-time, but would push through each day with the hope of being able to slip away in time to catch the bus that would take me away from the hustle and bustle of the busy law office, and into the serenity I found in the company of my sisters in Islam.

One evening after breaking our fasts, praying, and eating our mini-feast, we sat visiting, enjoying sweets and hot tea. After a short time our conversation ventured to the topic of Hajj. A few of the sisters had already made hajj and began to share their experiences. I remember, being that I was still pretty new to Islam, listening with the utmost attention, drinking in every word.

In that evening’s conversation I heard the bad and the good, the harsh realities, the blessings and joys. I remember being so grateful for the opportunity to hear their stories. But what I remembered the most from those conversations as we drove out of Mina, having just completed my own hajj, was the unanimously spoken sentiment, “When it’s time to leave, you won’t want to go.”

Watching Mina’s seemingly endless sea of white tent domes pass from view, I realized no truer words had ever been spoken.

“Truly in the heart there is a void that cannot be removed except with the company of Allah. And in it there is a sadness that cannot be removed except with the happiness of knowing Allah. And in it there is an emptiness that cannot be filled except with love for Allah and by turning to and always remembering Him. And if a person were given all of the world and what is in it, it would not fill this emptiness.” (Ibn al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyya)

Return to the Real World

Stepping off the airplane and finding myself once again on US soil was like stepping dead into reverse culture shock. I instinctively reached to my face in an attempt to grab the fabric of my veil to keep it from flipping upward in the strong mid-winter breeze that hit full force as I stepped outside the comfort of the airplane’s protective cabin.

Hajj had come on the heels of a one-year visit to Saudi Arabia, during which I had adopted the practice of wearing the face veil. I had thought about this at great length prior to boarding my plane at the airport in Jeddah with mixed emotions, as I considered that I might have to give up wearing it on returning to the US, particularly if I were to find myself re-entering the job market. Alhamdulillah, despite my nervousness I was reminded that the decision was completely mine to make and that I did not have to feel compelled one way or another. With that thought in mind I made the preflight decision that, until such time as I felt drawn to dispense with the face veil, it would remain in place.

The first few weeks of being back home I remember feeling utterly distraught and disoriented. The striking reality was, that I didn’t really feel like I was home. The whole experience of living in Saudi Arabia and of having just completed Hajj, after being Muslim less than three years, was so surreal; to be quite honest I actually became somewhat depressed.

I was despondent for days in my longing to be back in Saudi Arabia, to hear the sweet sound of the adhan and to be with the people who had come to mean so much to me. With an aching heart I found myself confronted by a rapid succession of experiences that, post-Hajj, left me with the burning question, “now what?”

The Embodiment of a Blessed Hajj

Having the opportunity to make Hajj, for a Muslim, is the dream of a lifetime, but what does one aspire for or towards after Hajj? Do we merely return to our regular lives unaffected? Uninspired?

One of the foremost thoughts a returning pilgrim has is whether or not his or her hajj was accepted. We will, of course, never know until the Day of Judgment, however, I read somewhere that one of the possible signs of an accepted Hajj is that the returning pilgrim re-enters his or her life with a renewed intention to embrace in mind, body, and soul, the practice of their religion, which, in turn makes them an inspiration to others.

Approximately four months after returning from Hajj I became reacquainted with someone I had met three years prior while attending an event in Washington, D.C., popularly known as American Muslim Heritage Day. It was a pleasant surprise, after all that time, to run into Brother Maged all the way up in Connecticut where I happened to be attending a convention.

Brother Maged and his partner were once again manning tables and selling their wares, the most popular being miniature bottles of Egyptian oils expertly mixed to a customer’s preference in such a way that it was impossible to leave the table without making a purchase!

What strikes one upon meeting Brother Maged, is the clearly visible love for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala evidenced through his beaming smile and exuberant “Assalamu Alaikum” – which never varies from customer to customer.

As I came upon his table at the convention’s bazaar, I stopped dead in my tracks, instantly recognizing him despite the passing of years. We immediately fell into conversation.

Now, if there were a single person to whom I could point, that embodied the characteristics of a Muslim returning from Hajj with a renewed love and zest for Islam and life in general, it would be Brother Maged.

It was a blessing from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to have run into him that day, as he became the first person that I had encountered since returning from Hajj myself, that was filled with as much joy and enthusiasm as I had felt in my own heart, despite the fact that I had felt so disoriented upon returning from Saudi Arabia. And to my astonished eyes, the joy of Hajj was still pouring out from Brother Maged four months after his return, and discovering that we had made hajj in the same year was just a wonderful, added surprise. I think we could have talked for hours had time and place allowed!

Brother Maged’s enthusiasm was unbridled. His joy and renewed sense of knowing why he was put on this earth shone through is eyes and poured out through his words. He was absolutely unstoppable and listening to him was infectious!

But best of all, before parting company with Brother Maged that afternoon, he shared something that sealed for me, personally, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that if a single person’s hajj was accepted that year, it must surely have been his, insha’Allah.

What Brother Maged went on to share with me that day was that, upon returning from Hajj, as an expression of love and gratitude to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for all he had been blessed with in this dunya, he had made the decision to redirect a portion of his company’s earnings towards organizing a program to make sure other Muslims had the opportunity to make Hajj. Subhan’Allah!

I felt so blessed that day for having run into Brother Maged; he became for me, a shining example of a person filled with the blessing of hajj, and I pray that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala facilitates his intention to help other members of his community fulfill the dream and obligation to make hajj. I am sure Brother Maged continues to be an inspiration to those who have made his acquaintance or whose lives have been touched by the intention of his good deeds, insha’Allah.

How to Maintain that Post-Hajj Clean Slate

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whoever performs Hajj solely for Allah’s Sake and, in the course of it, abstains from obscenity and disobedience, returns after Hajj as immaculate as a child just born.”

In striving upon return from Hajj to maintain our ‘clean slate’ or ‘just born’ state, among the things we might consider is to set our focus on righteous actions.

“And those who are guided-He increases them in guidance and gives them their righteousness (taqwa, fearful awareness of Allah, care to avoid His displeasure).”

Hajj is a journey of discovery. A discovery by definition uncovers that which was covered. Hajj opens up the heart, leading a person to a state of the heart externalized into behavior that some may have been incapable of or shy to demonstrate before.

There are several righteous actions that we may consider; actions of the heart; recitation of the Quran, remembrance of Allah, seeking forgiveness; goodness towards people, dawah, and supplication.

Righteous actions of the heart do not cost us a thing monetarily, and therefore, should come more easily to us, particularly after Hajj, because it is from our hearts that we express sincerity, love of Allah, reliance on Him, fear of Him, hope in His reward, glorification and respect of Him, submission, surrender, repentance, patience, acknowledgment of our need of Him, truthfulness in supplication, being pleased with Allah, tranquility, etc.

If we occupy ourselves with these actions of the heart, we are embracing the true meaning of Islam and are sure to realize the blessings that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has in store for us as we strive to maintain our new born state, to the degree that it is possible.

That said, rest assured completion of hajj does not preclude your continuing to be tested in this dunya, therefore, we must strive in constancy of our supplication to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Allah loves that His slaves should supplicate to Him. He says in a hadith qudsi, “O My slaves! You are all astray except him that I guide, so seek for My guidance, I will guide you. O My slaves! You are all hungry except him whom I feed, so seek for provision from Me, I will feed you” . Allah tests His slaves with trials that drive them to supplicate to Him, and this is, in itself a blessing.

We should be patient with whatever happens to us, and be reminded that there is relief for every difficulty, and above all, we should continue in supplication. We should always be mindful to praise Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and to be thankful for His mercy. Allah says:

Also, Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever does not ask from Allah, He becomes angry at him.”

And for anyone who finds they are experiencing what may seem like more than their share of testing along the way, take heed and don’t be discouraged, turn to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in supplication and keep your compass pointed in the direction of the Day of Judgment.

This life we live today is a very short life, and will come to an end on a day known only to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. The unbelievers on the Day of Judgment will think that the life they lived on earth was only a day or part of a day, as Allah has says:

He (Allah) will say, “How many years did you stay on the earth?” They will say: “We stayed a day or part of a day…”

As for the believers, “…those who believe and do good deeds, they are dwellers of Paradise, they dwell therein forever.”

May your hajj be accepted, your life in this dunya an inspiration to others, and may we all meet one day under a shade tree in Jannah. Amin