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Part 1

What It Feels Like to Be a Guest of God (Post-Hajj Reflections)

Editor’s Note:

In this article, the author shares her reflections on the sacred journey in diary style, depicting the magnificent scenes of Hajj with all the hardships, peace, and serenity that come with it.

En Route

I’m currently on my flight from LAX to Istanbul for the Hajj. The last 48 hours were awful, emotionally taxing, and trying.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I missed my original flight and spent the last 36 hours scrambling to find another flight, and after numerous phone calls to travel agents, my Muslim Travel agency, and $2,400 USD later, I was able to board the plane and get on this flight.

It’s true what they say about the trials of your Hajj beginning at home.

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Allah is testing your patience and resilience. I hope I passed.

Either way, I’m thankful for Allah’s invitation. I’m currently flying over Budapest en route to Istanbul. I’m anxious to arrive in Makkah.

When I close my eyes, all I can see is the Kaaba. I see pilgrims in white and children playing in the courtyards of the haramain.

I see beautiful brown faces smiling from ear to ear and salutations of peace being spread amongst the believers.

There are 1.8 Billion Muslims on the planet, and only 3 million of us are granted permission to make the major pilgrimage annually. I will say how incredibly grateful I am to embark on this Hajj pilgrimage. Allah has truly honored me today.

En Route continued…

My husband and I have been traveling for almost 24 hours. We are exhausted.

We flew from LAX to Istanbul. Then Istanbul to Amman From Amman, Jordan, and now en route to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, These flights are painfully long, but so is my longing to worship my creator.

The Jordanian airline did a wonderful job of reminding us to make our intentions clear while in the air over the miqat.

The pilgrims on this flight are all chanting in unison: – labayk allahumma labayk.

Some pilgrims are reading the Quran on their cell phones, while others struggle to stay awake.

We will be landing in Jeddah soon, and I pray that Allah makes it easy for me and all the pilgrims. Ameen.


We landed in Jeddah and went through customs in only 11 minutes. I suspect it had something to do with my blue American passport.

The airline also lost one of my luggage pieces, and I had to file a report with the airline.

Either way, upon landing in Jeddah, Allah made it smooth for us, alhamdulillah.


Alhamdulillah, we finally made it to Makkah, and it is as busy as it’s always been!

Pilgrims are buzzing here and there.

Street vendors are selling their goods, and the pilgrims are happy to purchase gifts for their loved ones.

There is an energy of excitement all around me as pilgrims enjoy worshipping in the Haram before setting off to Mina and beginning their pilgrimages.


We arrived at Mina and settled into our tents. The hujaj (pilgrims) all seemed excited to finally be beginning their Hajj and this blessed journey.

The energy has shifted a little, though. I sense excitement mixed with anxiety and fear of the unknown.

Will I remember each pillar, and will I do them well? Will I remember each sunnah? Have I overpacked? What if I lose my spouse, parent, or loved one during the rituals of Hajj? Will Allah accept my Hajj?

I reassure the women around me in my tent that they have nothing to worry about.

What It Feels Like to Be a Guest of God (Post-Hajj Reflections) - About Islam

I remind them that they are the honored guests of the Almighty, and if Allah didn’t want good for them, he wouldn’t have invited them.

The women packed their bags for the big day tomorrow, said their prayers, and went to sleep.


This morning, after Fajr prayer, we departed for Arafat. There was an electricity in the air as people chanted together,

“Labayk allahumma labayk. La bayk la shareeeka laka la baik. Innalhamda wa nie’mata laka wal mulk. La shareeka lak!”

The sites made your skin fill with goose pimples.

People from all over the world, regardless of their gender, race, or nationality, were united in their goal to reach the blessed place of Arafah, seeking their lord’s favor and forgiveness.

Arafah camps stretched for miles and miles, with a sea of people buzzing in every direction looking for their travel agencies camp sites.

We arrived at camp and were greeted by friendly staff from our travel agency. We settled into our tent, had a buffet breakfast, and rested a while as we waited for all of the pilgrims from our groups to arrive.

Arafah is interesting because you see many people take full advantage of this day and make du’a for hours on end, tears streaming down their faces and water swelling in their eyes as they pray for themselves, loved ones, and friends.

Others didn’t maximize their time at Arafah. They spent the day complaining about the heat, the buffet, the air conditioning being too cold, and so on.

Others complained the camp site was too luxurious and claimed they didn’t pay to go on a “honeymoon”.

Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone, and many pilgrims spent the day of Arafah complaining.

I was deeply saddened to see many of my Muslim brothers and sisters not maximize their time in such a blessed place and space.

Instead of making dua’ for their dunya and akhira (the hereafter), they spent their time complaining, chomping away at the buffet, sleeping, or chatting the day away with a friend.

However, the Day of Arafah taught me a lot about the state of the Ummah.

Many millennials like myself are eager to turn to Allah and make the most of our days in Arafat. There are many young people who are becoming more observant and practicing Muslims, and this is a good sign for the Ummah overall.

I left Arafah with a sense of hope. I hope that Islam will be revived and practiced more openly as my generation becomes more unapologetically Muslim.

What It Feels Like to Be a Guest of God (Post-Hajj Reflections) - About Islam

I have hope that Allah will have mercy on all of us regardless of how we spend the day of Arafah because we are all His honored guests after all.

I also left with the hope that Allah will answer all of our prayers, if not in this life, in the next.


This portion of my Hajj journey was short and sweet. Mainly because I was asleep for the majority of it.

Exhaustion got to me, and sleep became a priority over eating and relieving myself in the restroom.

It took me a little over 4 hours to reach Muzdalifah after leaving Arafat. Not because of the distance, but because of the people’s traffic.

What It Feels Like to Be a Guest of God (Post-Hajj Reflections) - About Islam

There were approximately 2.7 million Hajjis who were hosted this year.

As you can imagine, when we are all simultaneously moving from place to place, we are likely to hit some traffic. Once I got on the train and walked to my campsite, I found a spot and put my bag down.

I told myself I would rest for only 5 minutes, use the restroom, and have some dinner, but my body had other plans: sleep.

Although there was the hustle and bustle of 2.7 million hajjis around me scurrying from place to place, honking, yelling, praying, and conversing, I can honestly say that this was some of the most peaceful and serene sleep I have ever had.

Laying under the stars and gazing up at the moon, I thought to myself, “This is such a beautiful sunnah of my beloved (PBUH)“, and before I could complete my thought, I fell asleep.

To continue…

About Paulina Rivera
Ustadha Paulina Rivera is a Latin-American revert to Islam. She’s a teacher and mentor for Muslim converts in her community. She works as a female group leader for a well-known Muslim Travel Agency and assists pilgrims from North-America during their journeys on the Umrah and Hajj. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from California State University of Fullerton. She continued her education in Sharia and da’wa overseas and completed a certification in Muslim Chaplaincy from the Haram - Masjid An-Nabawi, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work and Psychotherapy from the University of Southern California (USC).