The numerous Hajj-goers I spoke to all agreed that, in spite of the tremendous heat, this year’s pilgrimage was easy, trouble-free, incredibly planned, beautiful, and beyond words joyful. Before going to Hajj, the Pilgrims book the Hajj Packages.
The goodness, humanity, love, and compassion that are there in the hearts of practicing Muslims is what most surprised me this year and really showed throughout my entire tour.
I was anxious before beginning the pilgrimage, especially since I would be taking my 15-year-old daughter with me to complete her first Haj. I felt anxious. Was she going to be scared by the huge crowds? If others pushed and shoved her away from me, would she get lost? Would she be grateful to be following in the footsteps of Prophets Ibrahim, Ismail, Hajar, and Muhammad (peace be upon him) during her pilgrimage? Would the physical challenges make her impatient?
The goodwill of other pilgrims, the Saudi security forces, young volunteers, and the guides and professors escorting our group, as well as the passing hours, however, let my anxieties fade away.
The first rite was going to Makkah’s Grand Mosque. Just as we were ready to enter the Grand Mosque, a security woman in black raced towards us. At first, I believed she was going to correct me because I had done something wrong. Instead, I noticed that the security guard was introducing herself to us.
“Welcome!” she exclaimed to us. Welcome! You are Ar-visitors. Rahman’s
My daughter was the Most Merciful’s visitor, and she was beaming with joy.
We finished the tawaf by circumnavigating the Kabah seven times. My daughter recoiled at the sight of the vast sea of people as we drew near the area of Safa and Marwa, from which we were to walk seven circuits back and forth. The woman standing next to us saw my daughter’s terrified expression and cried out to me, “You may walk upstairs, the top floors are not busy!”
However, I urged that we remain and go on the ground floor, and I gave my daughter an explanation of why. I intended to simulate Hajar running between the two hills in search of water for her infant son, Ismail, therefore I remained on the ground while moving up the hills of Safa and Marwa. My daughter concurred, and the crowds gradually grew less scary as we moved along, prayed to Allah, and repeated the tale of Hajar.
I observed my daughter’s pinched lips and the beads of sweat on her forehead from the heat and physical exertion. We had to stop and get some Zamzam water. Men in groups gathered around the Zamzam water station, filling bottles for their families.
I stood apart from the men since I was too shy to join them in line and hoped they would break up soon. A senior citizen suddenly approached me with two cups of ice-cold, hydrating water that were nearly full. He nodded as I expressed my sincere gratitude to him.
I spent the following few days in Mina’s tents, and all I could see was kindness. Women from Jordan, Egypt, Senegal, Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon, and women from various and distinct regions of Saudi Arabia made friends with us while we were staying at the same camp.
These women were among the women who had travelled from all over the world in order to complete the fifth pillar of Islam. We shared meals, conversed, sipped tea, prayed side by side, and even exchanged pictures of the young children we had to leave behind. My daughter circulated the room displaying images of her two adored animals!
The pilgrimage’s ceremonies varied in difficulty and exhaustingness. Our patience was certainly put to the test as we waited for hours in what seemed like never-ending lines to board the train then walked miles to locate a place to camp in Muzdalifa. We were separated from our group and got lost.
We kept hitting blockades that would not let us pass through, making it impossible for us to go to where the remainder of our group was camped. Despite the fact that we were forced to sit by the side of the road, we made an effort to maintain our composure.
Our group commanders and the generosity of the Saudi security personnel kept our spirits up even through the most trying periods.
Security guards with enormous water pumps blasted water on us as we stood in line in crowded places to keep us cool. Water bottles were being given out by volunteers. In order to warn us to watch our step because we could not see the beginning of the steps owing to the crowds and to prevent pilgrims from falling over, men in uniform were stationed at the foot of staircases.
We were advised by other cops to move quietly and slowly and to continue singing the talbiyah, “Here I am at Your Service.” I am here, O Allah. You don’t have a partner, therefore here I am at your disposal. All praise, all grace, and the sovereignty are reserved only for you. You don’t have a partner.
The sun was pounding down on us as we travelled to throw stones at the Jamarat one day. For a brief while, we weren’t sure of the best route to take to get there. The security guards were arranged in a straight line alongside the route leading to the Jamarat when we next noticed them.
To save the crowds of pilgrims from colliding with one another as they travelled to the Jamarat and returned to their tents under the hot sun, they constructed a human wall. I turned to face the security guards, who were grinning and wishing the pilgrims a happy Eid and said, “May Allah accept your worship.” We owe these individuals a great deal of gratitude, just as we owe the sanitation and janitorial staff who work so hard to keep the area tidy.
On the first night of Eid, we were back in Mina, and joy filled our tents. Trays filled with candies, chocolates, and dates were being carried around by women. We addressed one other with the honorific “Hajjah,” a person who has completed the sacred trip.
I noticed my daughter seated on the floor with an Egyptian girl she had made friends with on the final day of our stay as we were packing our bags. I overheard them express their gratitude to Allah for including them as His guests this year as they munched on some biscuits while chatting and laughing.
The moment my daughter’s dark brown eyes met mine, she exclaimed, “I wish it hadn’t ended. I would love to visit each year.