I still can't believe I'm going to Hajj; I've been on cloud nine ever since Dad confirmed the visa. Time doesn't seem to move - I can't eat, sleep or concentrate on anything. I've started a diary in which I'm noting down everyone's dua's and Salaams. It truly is an invaluable gift; the best thing a father can give his daughter.
I feel incredibly fortunate; words cannot even begin to describe the immense amount of gratitude I feel in my heart for my Creator. Finally after months of privately praying and begging Allah (swt), my prayer is finally answered. Alhumdulillah by the grace of Almighty Allah in a matter of weeks I will be performing the journey of a lifetime!!
I have a mountain full of sins which I have to ask forgiveness for and a mountain full of dua's, dreams, hopes and ambitions that I want to ask for. After my Hajj I intend to try my utmost hardest to live the life of a better person, but before I do that I need to ask for forgiveness and clean my heart. So I view my Hajj as a spiritual refuel which should aid and assist me in living the rest of my life just the way I'm supposed to.
After numerous delays and cancellations we finally reached our destination. It's an understatement to say that Medina brings peace to the heart. I've already forgotten about my exhausting journey. I'm present in the city of Allah (swt) Beloved; it truly is the city of peace, blessings and well being. It's easy to see why our Holy Prophet loved this city and its people.
Masjid-ul-Nabwi is a structure of inexplicable beauty; at first glance it was hard to look away, it's a vision which will be imprinted in my heart forever. The evenings, with the jet black sky, crescent moon, and sparkling stars hanging above the minarets of our Holy Prophet's mosque are sensational (finally I understand what all these Nasheeds really mean). Whenever I hear the soulful call to prayer, perform my Salaah, or feel the presence and rahmah (mercy) of the Holy Prophet (saw), I still can't believe that I'm actually here; it's nothing short of a miracle. I try to remember absolutely everyone in my prayers so that they can also derive something of my being here.
The social scene here is so simple, relaxed and uncomplicated. No one seems more rich, intelligent, or prettier than anyone else. Nor does one ever feel insecure or inferior over here; there are no social barriers that segregate people. The people here are unbelievably friendly; it's obvious that this is the city of rahmat (mercy), and barakah (blessings) and it's obvious that this is the city of Allah (swt) Mehboob (beloved).
It was an honour and privilege to visit the most Beloved of Allah's (swt) Messengers. It is one thing to send Salaam on the Holy Prophet from anywhere else in the world; however it's a whole different experience sending them in Masjid-ul-Nabwi. I felt extremely privileged to be able to be given the opportunity to ask for forgiveness in the court of the most beloved of all Prophets (saw), I asked for sincere repentance and drowned myself in the recitation of Daroods.
When I visited the historical sights of Medina I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face; to walk in a place so steeped in Islamic History is inspiring and humbling. I witnessed and gained Tabarruk (blessings) from the relics of those who sacrificed everything of theirs in servitude and obedience to Allah (swt) - the true devotees of the Holy Prophet who fought against the pagan Arabs, suffered tortures, became migrants, suffered unbearable hardships, but ultimately did raise aloft the message of the Holy Prophet (saw). A lesson in courage and determination was drawn from these clear signs and sacred places.
When I went to visit the Holy Prophet for the last time before departing to Makkah with a heavy heart, I told him that inshallah I'll be back soon. When I return to London physically I'll be there, or in anywhere else in the world, but my heart will always remain in Medina.
As soon as we arrived in Makkah we went to perform our Umrah. The sighting of the Ka'bah for the first time was overwhelming. I was awestruck by its magnificence; its beauty cannot be described in any other way except by pure experience of its presence. Tears streamed down my face as I asked for the Razamandi (pleasure) of my Lord.
I felt incredibly insignificant standing before the house of my Almighty Creator. As I did my Tawaaf (circulation) around the Ka'bah I couldn't help but glance up overwhelmed by the thought that at this very moment thousands of angels were doing Tawaaf around the superior abode of Allah (swt) directly parallel to our Tawaaf. After we performed our Tawaaf we cooled ourselves down by drinking zam zam water in which I felt all my fatigue and thirst diminish. After drinking zam zam we went to perform our Sa'ee.
Sa'ee represented to me Allah (swt) in all His beneficence, in all His mercy, the One who provides sustenance for us and in Whose hands our destiny lies. Once again I became emotional recalling the plight of Hadrat Hajarah (ra), thinking how frantic she must have been looking for water; and how Allah (swt) loved the actions of his favoured person to such an extent that the revival of her actions is now considered worship.
After fajr we walked to Mina, the thunderous, melodious chants of the talbiyah was echoed from every direction, never had I felt such a strong sense of belonging. In Mina I witnessed the imprints of those who were ready to sacrifice everything in submission and obedience to Allah (swt). After spending the night in Mina we left for Arafaat.
In the plains of Arafaat we made our duas, the open ground was full of an incredible hum of people, all thanking, glorifying and pleading to Almighty Allah. It was the day where tears fell and hearts overflowed with thankfulness to Allah, with a strong belief in his mercy that all our sins will be forgiven.
I felt incredibly insignificant as I asked for repentance from my Lord. I expressed my hopes and sought assistance against my fears. I was overwhelmed by the fact that Allah (swt) at this very moment was proudly pointing us out to his angels.
I joined a collective dua in which the Imam congratulated us on completion of our Hajj; his statement made me cry harder, I felt as if my heart was going to leap out of my chest with joy, knowing that I'm fortunate enough to be here. This is why I came to Hajj, this is what I wanted to do; ask forgiveness for all my shortcomings and aspire towards the ideal. I poured my heart out to my Lord today and asked for it all.
After the dua I found my dad, hugged him and thanked him for bringing me here. Surprisingly there was no awkwardness, shyness or holding back. The day of Arafaat is a day I'll never forget.
As far as the eye could see all I could see was millions of people spread out on the floor, under the clear black sky. It truly is an enriching experience; it gave me the international experience of the Ummah. There are people here from every corner of the world; of all diverse colours, cultures and classes. However, here everyone is sleeping on the floor under the clear black sky. This spiritual equality of the sexes, the races, the rich and poor, is the main foundation of Hajj; a feeling that is missing living in London. By appointing one single period of Hajj for the whole world the benefits have been enhanced a thousand fold. Wearing an Ihraam further reinforces this feeling of equality. Ihraam also makes you appreciate the simple things in life which we take for granted like a soap and comb.
I am unsure that my Hajj will be accepted in the court of Allah (swt) since deficiencies in deeds are bound to occur on account of human frailty and imperfection. However, I reassure myself thinking that there are bound to be numerous Wali's (friends) of Allah (swt) amongst us and maybe for the sake of those blessed individuals my Hajj may also be accepted.
After spending the night in Muzdalifah we returned to Mina to stone the 'devils'. Mina reminded me of Hadrat Ibraheem's (AS) willingness to sacrifice his obedient son. It was chaotic! I had to make sure that I was not struck by a stone and at the same time make sure that I didn't accidentally harm anyone either, nullifying the few deeds that I may have gathered.
After Mina we returned to Makkah to perform our Tawaaf-e-Ziyarat, returned to Mina to pelt the devils again and then returned to Makkah again. In Makkah I performed my last Hajj rite the 'farewell Tawaaf' and left Makkah with a heavy heart. I'm returning to a place that is void of Rahmat (peace) and Tabbaruk (blessings).
I feel as if I came here with an empty spiritual wallet and I am returning with an unbelievable amount of richness (spiritual). Even if I spend the rest of my life saying 'Thank you' to Allah (swt), it still would be insufficient. I'm indebted to His (swt) kindness and beneficence.
The feelings that I used to feel in those blessed places are missing here. Undoubtedly I believe in the omnipresence of Almighty Allah and I know that the Messenger of Allah (swt) is amongst us. However here in London sometimes I forget and sometimes I have to remind myself. Whereas in Makkah and Medina I constantly felt their nearness and presence at all times. To me, there was constant universal spirituality 'over there' that we had lost or had to find 'over here'.
I have to search for those feelings and find them either at fajr time, sitting in good company or sitting in a gathering of Dhikr. The loss of those feelings is more intense then the feelings that are felt when the blessed month of Ramadan passes and an individual strongly feels its loss deep within their heart.
It's depressing being back, Allah (swt) knows best when I'll get the chance to return; anyway, they do say that distance makes the heart grow fonder.
I wish that I can share my experience with the whole world, these riches, these treasures and my feelings; Hajj is undoubtedly the best experience in the world.
Words can not do justice to Hajj 'the journey of a lifetime', it has to be experienced. I fervently wish that everyone is blessed with the opportunity to do Hajj as early as possible in their lifetime and rekindle a strong loving relationship with Almighty Allah (swt) and his most Beloved Messenger Muhammad (saw).
By Alveena Salim