Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Alhamdulillah, back from Hajj -- Hajj Mabrur insha'Allah


Assalamu'alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu,

Alhamdulillah, we returned from hajj on Sunday afternoon -- going to sleep on the plane with a lasting image of the ka'ba from our farewell tawaf and waking up to New York City (where we had a stopover) was a rude awakening -- but as Shaykh Nuh often says, quoting the skipper on his ship, "life is a series of rude awakenings, if they're not rude, we tend not to awaken." NYC reminded us that keeping anything we had gained of spirituality, state, and character, would not be easy as we returned to our lives in Toronto -- returning requires heightened taqwa and a renewed sense of being wary of shaytan at all times and in all places.

Salik and I were indeed blessed. Not only were we invited as guests to both the House of Allah and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), but we were invited with a hajj group that was absolutely amazing, masha'Allah. Organized by Sacred Tours, we were blessed to be led on our hajj by Shaykh Ramzy Ajem and Shaykh Zahid Ally, and the barakah that came with them wherever we went. Alhamdulillah, our group was truly amazing -- each person brought to the group something unique -- but all had in common a shared love of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), a sense of shukr for being invited to Hajj, and alhamdulillah, an understanding that one must not complain or grow impatient when tested.

We started our hajj off in Madinah the Radiant where we spent six days, and as Sh. Ramzy put it, what better way to enter the House of the King, than through the doors of His most beloved slave? Those who have been to the city know that it has a feeling unlike any other, and many of the 'ulama' say it is the most sacred place on earth. The air in Madinah is light, one can taste its sweetness, and see its luminosity in the faces of the people. There is a feeling in one everywhere in Madinah that one must walk gently, for this very land may have once been trodden by the footsteps of the Best of Creation (Allah bless him and give him peace), his family, companions, and the awliya' -- and one is filled with an understanding of why so many believers, scholars, and awliya' came to the City and decided never to leave it -- how blessed are those who walked their final steps there, took in their last breaths there, and are now buried in Jannat al-Baqi', across from the Chosen One (Allah bless him and give him peace).

One morning of our stay in Madinah was set aside to visit Mount Uhud, the cemetery of its martyrs, Masjid al-Quba' (the first masjid), Masjid al-Qiblatayn (the masjid where, mid-prayer, the qibla was changed from Jerusalem to Makkah), and the well of 'Uthman ibn 'Affan (where the ring of the Prophet, peace be upon him, fell -- now a fountain). At each point Sh. Zahid would remind us of the significance of where we were, tell us a story from the Sira, and help us realize the magnanimous nature of where we stood. Mubarak places indeed, where each breath is blessed, each step, a step toward Paradise insha'Allah.

We were blessed to visit the Rawdah and say our salams to the Rasul (Allah bless him and give him peace) everyday that we were in his city. When some of the sisters longed to be able to visit the front half of the Rawdah and be able to face the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), Sh. Ramzy reminded us that although it is an honour, it isn't necessary because the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is alive in his grave -- he hears us, he knows when we come to see him, and responds to every single greeting and prayer we bring to him -- and he reminded us that the adab of visiting the Chosen One (Allah bless him and give him peace) is to enter with eyes downcast out of shyness before him, to greet him, and to ready one's heart to hear and feel his response. Indeed when one visits the Rawdah and sends peace and blessings upon the Messenger of Allah, one feels his love envelop one's entire being, one feels his prayers and intercession, one realizes his blessings upon them, and the things that happen are truly beyond all words. One of my favourite times in Madinah was walking around the entire masjid after the Rawdah closed to sisters at midnight -- the peace and serenity in the air was something of another world. And in a nutshell, this was what Madinah was for all of us. Allah bless our Master Muhammad, his family, companions, and all those who love him and seek to follow him until the Last Day. Ameen.

On Sunday December 16th we made ghusl, went to visit Rasul Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) to request his permission to leave the city, and then prepared ourselves to leave for hajj, setting out to Dhu'l-Hulayfah, the miqat of the people of Madinah, which Sh. Ramzy said we were now blessed to be considered amongst -- may Allah unite us with the people of Madinah on the Last Day, ameen.

When we got to Makkah, we made our tawaf al-qudum and sa'y for hajj. Seeing the ka'ba is such a surreal feeling, one cannot fathom how one is actually standing before this blessed centre. Sh. Ramzy had told us before we began that because the kabah is paralleled by the bayt al-ma'mur, when we encircle it, we should seek to imitate the angels that encircle the Throne in our reverence and obedience -- and it is the yaqin and love with which he would tell us such truths, that would bring another sphere to our hajj -- as it was in Madinah, it was in Makkah, that having his guidance brought light to our hajj.

After tawaf and sa'y we headed to our tents at Mina and all day Monday, we rested. Tuesday morning we set out to Arafat where we spent the morning in worship. In the afternoon those in our group who were able, set out to go up a hill from which one could see Jabal al-Rahmah and just as we were about to head back to the tent, Sh. Ramzy and thirteen brothers decided they were going to go to the foot of Jabal al-Rahmah itself -- and a dear sister of mine and I felt our hearts leap out toward the mount -- so timidly we asked if could come, and Sh. Ramzy said that if our mahrams accompanied us and felt it was okay, we could. Alhamdulillah, thinking we were headed down to the foot of the mount -- a roundtrip of about an hour -- our day was about to take a blessed turn we would never have imagined.

As we got to the foot of the mount, Sh. Ramzy got off his phone and told us that not only was Shaykh Habib 'Umar at 'Arafah, but he was giving a talk, and we were invited. Here we were in the most blessed place on earth, on the most blessed day of the year, with the opportunity to meet and sit with one of the most blessed men alive today -- a descendant of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)! We all agreed we were more than willing to walk to the Haba'ib tent to see Shaykh Habib 'Umar and amidst the flurry of pilgrims just started walking in the direction of the tent, and by Allah's Grace, arrived two hours later to an intense gathering of dhikr, du'a, and qasidas. The sisters tent had a television with a live window into the brothers tent, so we sat with the women and tried to absorb as much of the nur as we could and when it was over, went out to meet Sh. Ramzy and the brothers...and as we stood there, Sh. Habib 'Umar passed by us and Sh. Ramzy leaned over to have him bless a bottle of water from which we all then took a sip. Later we found out that all the brothers in the group had the opportunity to personally greet Sh. Habib 'Umar and kiss his hand, and that when Sh. Ramzy told him we had come from Canada and walked two hours to meet him, he had made a special du'a for us. That du'a would take us a far way. Subhan'Allah, the energy and feeling in that tent was from another realm and we could all feel the presence of other believers from those realms with us.

We stayed for about an hour, but by then were too far from our own tent and had no way of catching our bus to Muzdalifah. So on water, the few dates we had for breakfast, and a icecream bar from the Haba'ib tent, we started walking to Muzdalifah around 5pm. And we kept walking until we arrived at around 10 pm. A beautiful walk it was, one could hear trucks, buses, carloads of people going by shouting Labayk Allahuma Labayk! People on foot walking by, Labayk Allahuma Labayk! So unified, so powerful -- people from every corner of the globe, every colour, every walk of life, all dressed in simple, pure white, heading in the dark, to a place in the middle of the desert to pray, out of obedience to their Creator and in following the example of His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) -- spectacular and awe-inspiring. Before we had left, Sh. Ramzy had said to us that for onlookers, the pilgrims are either insane or they're people who are absolutely in love and willing to do whatever the Beloved asks of them -- indeed that night, we were in the midst of a sea of lovers and oh, what a feeling that is -- a feeling that will never leave us, God-willing.

When we arrived at Muzdalifah, we had nothing with us and one of the older Persian brothers, a diabetic, expressed his desire for some rest and some hot rice, and Sh. Ramzy replied with a smile, "Allah has brought us this far and He has taken care of us, insha'Allah, you want rice, He'll give you rice -- just trust in Him and have a good opinion of Him". By Allah, it was a mere five or ten minutes further that we walked and met two men who offered us their sheets to pray on -- the kindness these men would show us would be inspirational. As the two of us sisters prayed, one of them came by and lay a blanket in front of us so our sajdah would be easy on our knees. We prayed Maghrib, 'Isha, and Witr, as subhan'Allah, as we made our final salams, the men returned with bags of food for us - hot rice, chicken, and snacks. There we sat on the ground on the sheets these kind-hearted brothers with, masha'Allah, illumined faces had decided to share with us, eating all together the food they had brought us -- fuqara' indeed! I could not help it, but feel that Allah was showing us something here -- here we were, as average Westerners, likely wealthy in comparison to the majority of the people at Muzdalifah, as well as these brothers, and were completely at their mercy -- we would take of whatever they would give us.

After that meal, we moved further ahead so as to not be any further burden to these brothers who had taken it upon themselves to be our gracious hosts. Tired, we sat down, and when I looked up, I saw that we were in front of some gutters -- subhan'Allah, how Allah shows us that when one's company is blessed, and one's heart content with Him, all things, all places seem like paradise. Feeling that we wouldn't lay down out of shyness, Sh. Ramzy then took it upon himself to purchase and assemble a tent with blankets for the two of us girls to sleep in for an hour until it was past midnight and we could continue on to the jamarat, while the brothers took rest outside the tent guarding us. Sustenance is truly from Allah, that one mubarak hour of sleep under the sky of Muzdalifah energized us like nothing else. We awoke, collected our stones, and walked to the Jamarat to stone the Jamarat al-'aqabah (the big one).

That night I understood something of what the sahabah must have felt. One often hears stories of companions -- even women -- who overcame the greatest barriers and challenges, endangered their lives, and even fought in battles to protect the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and these stories are awe-inspiring. That night we all had so much trust in Sh. Ramzy, we had seen something of who he really is, of how mubarak a person he is, and we all knew in our hearts that wherever he went, good things would come -- that if we followed him, we would only benefit, and with that came the strength and the ability to do anything he said and go anywhere he took us. Reflecting on that I thought, if this is how we felt out of reverence for Sh. Ramzy, then imagine what the companions must have felt having the Messenger of Allah, the Best of Creation -- a Mercy to the Worlds, the Chosen One himself (Allah bless him and grant him abundant peace), before them; seeing him get revelation from Allah Himself. Subhan'Allah.

As we got closer to the jamarat tunnel and began to walk into it, the vision was spectacular -- an army of white, thousands upon thousands, walking in unison, chanting -- it seemed like an army of angels, apocalyptic almost, coming in to oppose Shaytan, telling him we had enough of his interference in our lives. Alhamdulillah, the re-designed Jamarat is so well organized and safe, and stoning is really one of the rites of hajj that, gone into with the right state of mind and heart, is ever so fulfilling.

Once we were done, we went back to our tents at Mina, the brothers all shaved their heads, the girls cut their hair, and we all had a peaceful sleep. Anyone that can make this trip walking really should -- the shuyukh all recommend it, and its reward is great.

Thursday we went to the Haram in Makkah and performed our tawaf al-ifadah in a completely packed Haram, and spent the remainder of the day as well as Friday in our tents, did our own private 'ibadah and dhikrs, and had little mawlids here and there, and went each night to stone at the Jamarat. Saturday we woke up, went to stone at the Jamarat one last time and then headed to Makkah having completed all the rites of Hajj -- may Allah accept our hajj and forgive us our sins, ameen.

We had six days in Makkah and we were literally specs in a sea of people. Two and half million people feels like someone is always next to you on every side, sounds like a plethora of languages and accents, and looks like people as far as the eye can see in every single direction -- subhan'Allah, I remember repeatedly thinking to myself and commenting to Salik, that the lovers of Allah are many.

Salik and I often prayed fajr, maghrib, and 'isha on the roof of the Haram -- there was something so sweet, so tranquil about the sun rising or setting amidst a cool breeze, and being led in prayer aloud by a sublime voice that seemed almost as if it was coming down upon us from the sky. In Madinah we had been led in Fajr and 'Isha by my personal favourite, al-Hudhayfi and in Maghrib by Hussein Al Shaykh who Salik and I nicknamed "al-Samawi" because his voice had a powerful effect that had one feel as if they had passed away and the soul was rising through various stations in the celestial spheres, and in Makkah we were generally led by another gifted qari' by the name Maher al-Mua'qili. Getting to the kabah itself was always a challenge among so many people, but by Allah's grace we were able to touch the corner before al-Rukn al-Yamani, al-Rukn al-Yamani itself, and the wall in between, one day after Maghrib...although we longed to get to al-Hajr al-Aswad we weren't ever able to make it, alhamdulillah.

Perhaps the saddest moment was tawaf al-wida', the farewell tawaf which we performed on our last day in between Maghrib and 'Isha. Sh. Zahid had taught us that one should approach this tawaf with a sadness in the heart, that it should be the last act we perform in Makkah (unless circumstances called for something obligatory or necessary), and so I decided to completely lose myself in this final tawaf and close by eyes for most of it letting Salik take me wherever he went, and by Allah's Mercy I remember opening my eyes at one point and being right in front of Maqam Ibrahim, which I had been longing to get to in my heart. The farewell tawaf is heart-breaking...one realizes the blessing upon one for having been invited, one longs to stay, and wishes to return soon. Just as we finished our tawaf, the adhan for 'Isha came, we prayed 'Isha facing the doors of the kaba behind Maqam Ibrahim, made our final du'as, drank from the well of Zamzam, and walked off with eyes downcast in fervant prayer to return here once again. May Allah invite us to His Home and that of His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) again, may He draw us near to Himself and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) in this life, and may He allow us to encircle His Throne in Paradise and be in the company of His Beloved (Allah bless him and give him peace), drinking from his blessed hand the drink that will quench all thirst. Ameen, ameen, ameen.

Makkah was also a time of personal devotion and contemplation of what had just passed and the challenges one would face constantly in the times ahead -- soon we would return home to our jobs, to a different society, and to all the difficulties and challenges of life -- and in a sense, the true test of hajj would be the rest of our lives. May Allah accept our hajj and make it a means of much good in our lives here and in the next world. May Allah grant us noble character and proximity to Him. May Allah bless us and our loved ones, and grant us much good. Ameen.

And finally, my favourite new quote is from the, masha'Allah, ever-jovial, but firm Sh. Zahid who said to a group of people, "rukhsahs are for the weak and the ugly -- I'm not talking about looks, I mean the spiritually weak, and the spiritually ugly".


*For Habib 'Umar's words upon returning from Hajj this year, click here*


  1. farah2:57 PM

    hajj mabruk... and hajj mabroor insha Allah.

  2. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Mabruk...wishing you a Hajj Mabrur.

  3. Ikramuddin10:03 PM

    Hajj Mabrur inshallah... beautiful write up, jazakiAllah khaira

  4. Wa'alaykum AsSalam wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu Sr. Farah, Anonymous, and Sidi Ikramuddin,

    Jazak Allah khayr, may Allah bless you and grant you much success. Ameen. Shukran for dropping by.


  5. Hajj Mubarak!

    Masha' Allah, is this Shaykh Zahid Ally from Edmonton? I didn't know he had gone for hajj... :)

  6. Alhamdulillah, shukran.

    Yes, Sh. Zahid from Edmonton...great leadership, masha'Allah.


  7. nameeman3:19 PM

    assalamu alaykum,

    Hajj Mabroor, Hajj Mubarak..

    I thought it would be fitting to quote your post from thirteen months ago of Rumi's poem:
    "Say, do not despair because the Beloved drives you away; if
    He drives you away today, will He not call you back tomorrow?..."

    One once prayed at the Ka'baa:
    "Illahi, the reward of tawaaf is the freeing of a slave for Allah. Please Allah, make this slaving 'free'-one against You, that freed slave for You"

    May we be in Hajj forever...


  8. Nameeman,

    Wa'alaykum AsSalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu,

    Jazak Allah khayr - subhan'Allah, I had myself forgotten that I had posted the words of Mawlana Rumi last year when we were denied hajj visas.

    Reading it now brought tears to my eyes - indeed Allah only shows us Mercy upon Mercy.

    Ameen to your words.

    Barak Allahu fi kum.


  9. Anonymous4:08 PM

    As salamu 'aleykum wa rahmatulLahi wa barakatuh.

    After studying under Shaykh Ramzy in the UAE and meeting your group in Medina, I wish we could have spent more time together -- alhamdulilLah that we met in Medina! Please give my salams to Shaykh Ramzy. Hajj mabrur inshaALLAH.


  10. Wa'alaykum AsSalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu Sidi,

    Subhan'Allah, what a small world it is... Insha'Allah, we will pass your salams on to Shaykh Ramzy.

    Checked out your blog...nice, masha'Allah.

    Hajj Mabrur.


  11. nameeman10:16 PM

    assalamu alaykum wa rahmaahtullahi wa barakatuhu,

    May He bring us back to His most beloved space at His most beloved time...

    May He never deprive anyone
    of going to Him and going to His House...

    May He never deprive anyone
    of feeling deprived for not going to Him and not going to His House, azza wa jall...

    For one was once taught:
    The Ka'ba speaks:
    "the one who didn't see me - shall never rest.
    And the one who saw me - shall never rest."

    Please keep us in your du'aas...


  12. Salaams,
    What a wonderful educational and informative site.
    I especially enjoyed the story of Nani, as I recall the memories of my Dada, Dadi, Nana and Nani as well.

    With all our educated people parading around today we cannot match the wisdom, piety and un-egoistic attributes of those simple ancestors.
    May Allah bless you all for your Hajj program. One of the best I have heard from your past Hajis/Hajins.