As our departure to Makkah got nearer, our excitement grew. This was a different trip. This was a journey we were undertaking simply to please our Creator.
One of the first things we did was to read as much as we possibly could. We read about hajj and the different rituals we would have to perform. We knew the story of the Prophet Ishmael (Ismail) and his mother, Hagar, but we read it again.
We read about Lady Hagar’s frantic search for water for her infant son, Prophet Ishmael, as she ran between the mountains Safa and Marwah.
We understood the well of Zamzam as an epitome of Allah’s mercy and we were keen to emulate her steps when we were given the opportunity during our hajj.
We also read about the strong faith of Prophet Abraham and prayed for our faith and trust in Allah to be like his. We read about Prophet Muhammad and wanted to be worthy enough, to be known as his Ummah.
But no matter how much we read or how many workshops on hajj we attended or videos we watched, nothing really could prepare us for the actual experience that we finally had.
Our journey to Jeddah was routed through Cairo, where while in transit my husband changed into his ihram and we made our intentions.
As our plane left Cairo, we noticed how all of a sudden things were different from everyday life. Perhaps our change in attire and attitude had for a while changed the way we perceived our world.
The men all wore the same two pieces of white cloth that is not sewn or stitched. Some of the women too wore white scarves and white jilbabs (loose gowns). The entire aircraft resonated with the recitations of the pilgrims:
Labayk Allahuma labayk.
Labayk la shareeka laka labayk;
Innal hamda wannimata laka walmulk
La shareeka lak
A rough translation of this is:
Here I am, oh Allah, here I am.
Here I am. You have no partner. Here I am.
Surely all praise, grace, and dominion is Yours,
And You have no partners.
This was unlike any other experience. We had read that we would all be reciting the above words, but yet the actual experience of reciting it, all of us together, created an amazing feeling of unity.
This is a feeling you seldom find in the Ummah on a daily basis, yet during hajj, this inherent unity and brotherhood that we share becomes our reality.
It is obvious to all who participate or even those observe the pilgrims on TV that these multitudes are one nation, one people, a community of those who surrender to the will of their Creator.
We were from different parts of the world, different races, we spoke different languages but yet united as one Ummah, we journeyed together to Makkah.
We landed in Jeddah with high expectations. We were now only a few miles away from our destination: the sacred mosque of Makkah — the Kabah. The relatively short distance from Jeddah to Makkah took us more than 12 hours.
Hajj is a test of patience, these 12 hours along with lost baggage, sleeping at the airport, and after the long wait almost missing our connecting bus to Makkah, did test us, but we knew it was all going to be worth it.
We were feverish with joy, we could barely contain ourselves. We were at the gates of the sacred mosque of Makkah, What would it be like to see the Ka’bah for the first time?
What was it like for us?
We were simply moved to tears. We had traveled thousands of miles to be here. This simple brick cubical building, covered with a black cloth was built by generations of prophets. And here were we, two insignificant human beings, in its close vicinity.
We were given this honor for just one little reason — a reason we shared with 1.7 billion other people all across this world — we chose to believe. This was our faith.
From thereon, the rest of our hajj was easy. The desert heat was harsh but it was no problem at all. The walks were long and we had blisters on our feet. The streets were busy and the public transport was not too good. But nothing really mattered because we had one sole purpose that we intended to complete. This was to fulfill the commandments of our Creator, and this is what we intended to do.
It’s been almost a year since our hajj. Now another hajj season and Eid al-Adha dawns upon us, the pilgrimage begins yet again. So many pilgrims — families, couples, the old and the young — will together eagerly embark from different ends of the world on this journey of a lifetime. May Allah make it easy for them and bless them with increased faith.
As I write this, I think back to that moment when I first set eyes upon the Ka’bah, and how my husband would guide me through the crowds as we performed Tawaf (circumambulation around the Ka’bah). I think back and the coolness of Madinah fills my heart.
Finally, I remember my tears as I left the sacred mosque in Makkah for the last time and the tears come again.
Please take me again, O Allah! To that holiest of lands.
Please let me worship in that Masjid so grand!
Its grandeur lies not in gilt or gold,
But in the hearts of pilgrims, who the rope of Allah hold.
(From Reading Islam’s archive.)