My Hajj
Musalla kidz
Basic Islam
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After a light sleep on our first night in Makkah, we were wide awake well before the Fajr Prayers. We were lucky enough to get a hotel very close to Al Haram - I could actually see the corner of the great Masjid from my hotel window. There were bright lights radiating from the Masjid all the time, which gave it a mystical aura.

There were four of us sharing the room with its facilities that included a small bathroom and fridge. We got up very quickly and within a few minutes we were all washed and ready to go. There was no messing around, no fighting or queuing outside the bathroom. Simply, we wanted to get a good place for prayer so we needed to leave at least half an hour before the prayer started. The prayer time was approaching quick and we got on with it.

After getting ready we braced ourselves and stepped outside into the 24-7 rush hour of Makkah. It wasn't a rush to get to work or even get home that was causing these conditions but a rush to get to this place of immense spiritual blessing. A rush to get to Allah's house - to do extra dua, worship or even to complete the Umrah or Tawaaf.

Hajj is the greatest invitation anyone can get and every moment that lapses is precious. Everyone wants to grasp the opportunity, who knows if we will get this invitation every again! Makkah is genuinely an extremely busy place and even though we were early, we could not get a good place for our prayers.

When we got there, we were surprised to find that it was packed out, even though we were early for prayers. We decided to explore the middle story of the mosque, which we expected wouldn't be as busy. We thought that most people wanted to pray close to the Kabbah so were concentrated on the ground floor.

Just getting to the middle story was tough with all the stairs and escalators packed out and almost at a standstill. After battling our way through the crowds and winding our ways through the masses, we finally managed to get to the middle floor. Our jaws dropped when we discovered that this too was filled with worshippers and close to full capacity. I had never seen so many people in my life - the Kabbah gets busier by the minute as the days of Hajj rapidly approach.

We had a quick discussion and decided it would be better to make our way to the top floor, which we hoped would be quieter. Getting to the top floor was again very tough but once we got there it was much more spacious. We headed towards the middle of the masjid that is towards the centre of the mosque. It becomes like a balcony from which we can see the centre of the mosque and also see the Kabbah itself.

When we set eyes on the Kabbah and the multitude of people performing the Hajj around it, we were absolutely gob smacked. From here we got the full impact of the people going around the Kabbah, performing the Tawaaf. It was unbelievable! When I performed the Umrah yesterday, it had seemed full with so many people performing Tawaaf. Its only when you step back and see it from a high vantage point you appreciate the number of people present.

I thought to myself, back home, the only time you get big queues and attract large crowds is when a major retail shop has a big sale. You find many people lining up to gain materially but here the people are lining up and attracted only for spiritual gain. Where you get 24-hour supermarkets selling goods, nothing is for sale here - only mercy, peace and forgiveness is distributed in abundance.

The people were like white dots but so many of them; it was an incredible and unbelievable sight. It was like a fantastic dream world in which we could scarcely believe we were there. We looked at each other seeing the over-awed expressions on our faces. We then scrutinized this amazing place, trying to absorb every minute detail.

The scene before us reminded me of the Milky way you see in pictures - with the millions of planets and stars circling the centre. It made me appreciate how small my world really is - putting life into perspective. I felt like an insignificant part of this universe called humanity. We strut around the Earth as if we are a magnificent creation, causing havoc and strife as this self-centred person runs riot. We think we can do anything and we are so powerful but the reality is that we are nothing, just another soul, just a grain of sand on the seashore!

I looked around into the calm black starry night above our heads. I noticed the birds flying around; they must have made their nests in the high minarets of the Masjid. You will never see any bird dropping in the whole masjid it seems as if even they respected the sanctity of this holy house.

All of a sudden the speakers burst into life and the beautiful melodious voice of the Muezzin filled the air from every direction. With these sweet words of the Azan he invited the worshipers to come to their Lord and perform their prayers. Words that reasoning with the soul to come to peace and success and leave the temporary material world in which we are all absorbed. These same words were used at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) until this very day to invite the believers to the daily prayers.

This was our first fajr and we enjoyed it immensely. We completed the Salah and we sat there reflecting and resting at the same time. This was a cold winter night in Makkah but the warmth of faith, love, happiness, peace and the immense blessings radiated from each being. We never felt tired, hungry, lonely nor any other such emotions, for once our lives were complete. To be honest, the only thing I would change would be that my wife and kids had been there besides me and shared in this joyous and moving experience.

We sat down and talked about our lives and experiences in the past as if we were bidding farewell to the past. We talked to many of the brothers that were at the Hajj and from that moment on we cherished every instance in Saudi Arabia, until we headed back home.

There was a week or so before the actual Hajj began which gave us an opportunity to do our prayers, duas and worship to our hearts content. This also gave us a chance to explore al-Haram and look around at the marvels within the Masjid and Makkah. We witnessed the genius that Allah had put inside mankind, which manifested itself in the beauty and craftsmanship of the Masjid.

During our stay in Makkah, Brother Ashfaq gave us a guided tour of Makkah and the Al-Haram. We were shown the many historic sites, bringing all the books of history and seerah into life. We saw where the prophet (pbuh) rode to Makkah when it was conquered without any bloodshed and the oppressors were forgiven for their crime against the Muslims. We saw the place where the Makkans tortured Hazrat Bilal tying to make him leave Islam. We were shown where Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived which is now the location of a library. We witnessed the contribution the Ottomans had made in the renovation and extension of the Masjid. It's fascinating how the city of Makkah has captured and retained so much history of our deen.

What disappointed me about Makkah was the commercial side of things, which was developing in Makkah. We saw the major junk food giants of the world rearing their heads in this holiest of places on Earth. It somewhat spoilt the atmosphere as it distracted some of the Hajjis who were focused on Allah to draw their attention towards these places. I suppose Islam is the middle path, which incorporated both sides - the spiritual and material. It is not a seclusive religion but more of a living and vibrant reality where both these aspects co-exist in harmony. It's getting the balance between the two extremes within the material and spiritual worlds that is the key.

One of my goals in Makkah was to meet up with my parents who had travelled from Turkey to perform the Hajj. They had come with the Turkish community so were in a different part of Makkah. I had thought it would be straight forward finding them, after all with modern communication and an abundance of information - hotel names, room numbers… but was I wrong? Very wrong!

I first started my quest to locate their Hotel by asking other people and consulting the people at the information kiosks. I had the hotel name written on a piece of paper, which I would show the people. Unfortunately, no one was able to direct me or even acknowledge that such a hotel existed! I think the language barrier contributed a large part towards this as I only communicated with them in simplified English and body language. So my initial attempts to find my parents drew blanks, frustration and dead ends.

The next time, I took our new roommate, brother Farage, who had just recently joined us. I thought that the task of finding my parents was actually achievable because Farage was from Libya and spoke fluent Arabic. We decided the best plan was to head to the Turkish area from which we could identify the hotel and then track down my parents. We quickly identified where the Turkish area was and got directions… before long we were on our way.

We walked through the hussle and bussle of Makkah, passing through impressive man-made tunnels that passed through entire mountains. Makkah is te heart of quite a mountainous region. It's all connected together by underground roads and a network of massive tunnels through the mountains. When you are in Makkah you don't appreciate this and it looks like a normal city because of the tall building, massive skyscrapers and Hotels.

After walking for a short while, we found it tough so we stopped the nearest bus. It was a normal Saudi bus that was operating as a free service for the Hajjis. We were not sure where it was going but it was in our general direction. We got on board and when we saw the Istanbul palace we got off.

We went to a number of different hotels that had similar names; everyone turned us down and directed us towards another hotel. What started as a tough task soon became more and more difficult until we finally conceded defeat and return to al-Haram for Salah. I also tried to find my parents during the Hajj but conceded in the same manner.

Although I was disappointed that I never met up with my parents, it was quickly forgotten the next day when I was approached by the Saudi authorities, threathened to be handcuffed and then taken away to the Police station for questioning! Apart from this, things proceeded smoothly until Hajj.