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10. THE CITY OF TENT


We walked along the highway, which turns into a bridge that has a steep incline of 45 degrees. I could see the people before me and behind me, which seemed like a scene from the day of Judgement. People in the millions walking around penniless and status-less; walking around without a care for their well-being: Walking around with only a concern for the deeds they were carrying.

We were all focused, drawn to Mina, which was like our pre-destined goal. We all marched to the beat of our humanity, echoed by the words of Lubaik… There was no stopping us, the limitations of ability, strength, age did not stop anyone. The old and the young both strived together throughout the whole Hajj. Everyone was young and fit during the Hajj, their determination and power of iman kept the limbs moving and the heart beating.

Everything was peaceful, we didn't have any financial worries, we didn't think where were going to eat, and we weren't even concerned about any worldly affairs. We simply kept walking along by this river of people reciting the Lubaik that resounded from all around. This was like our highway to heaven!

We were only wearing two simple pieces of cloth that meant we were all looking the same - impossible to differentiate the rich from the poor, the prince from the pauper. . We had left our Armani's and Veraches behind in the hotel along with our jewellery and other adornments. On the surface, we all looked the same, linked together by this great noble deen - one huge family.

In Scotland, when we go for a trek in January, we have to be so organised with our walking boots, woolly hats and woolly socks, warm clothes and waterproof jackets. We would have our maps close at hand and drinks or snacks easily available. We would make sure we had enough talk time on the mobile phones, in case we really got in trouble… all this for a few mile walk!

In Makkah, the territory was unfamiliar; the climate was unfamiliar; the conditions and atmosphere was also unfamiliar; my companions were new - we had only met a few days ago; and I was wearing two pieces of cloth, no pants, no socks and a pair of flip flops (designer ones at that) trekking on an unknown route guided by 'uncle' who had even got lost at al-Haram before we had even started the journey to Mina.

When we finally reached Mina we headed towards the European tents, we had done a massive detour to get to the right place. We had got lost so badly that it was only by some directions from a policeman that we managed to find our bearing and headed in the approximate direction. We had probably reached them through the toughest route instead of taking the first left towards the slaughterhouse.

This was a real eye opener when we wandered into the places where the poorer people would spend their Hajj. These people may have been from the poorer parts of the world and the only shelter they had was the sky above their heads. They would sleep in rows underneath the bridge and on the footpath during those few days of Hajj. They did not even have the luxury of tents or blankets to cover themselves. We had the luxuries of sleeping bags, blankets and tents. In comparison, we lived like kings!

However, I was really impressed with these people because they weren't complaining or unhappy in any way. They were here for a single purpose, to complete the Hajj. This was enough for them. They may have skimped and saved all their lives to make this Hajj and finally they had done it. We just withdraw some extra money from the bank account and get the immunisation jags. Before long we leave the luxuries of our homes and end up in the luxuries of the hotels in Makkah!

We have so much excess money that we think about the big cars we are going to buy and the extensions to our houses but these people worry more about feeding their families or paying for their children to get even the most basic education. When you go to Hajj you meet people from every town on the face of this Earth and from every walk of life. We appreciate all Allah has given us and appreciate the fact that we are no better than the person next to us, whoever he or she may be.

We may live in the developed world; we may even be millionaires and have comfortable and luxurious lives. These people may be the paupers of this world but they are the millionaires of the next world. They knew that this world will end and the next life has the real value. We are deceived because we give this life all the value when in reality the next life has the only value. May Allah correct our understanding and wake us from this sinful and zombie-like state.

One lasting impression I was left with was that every human soul is the same and that we should have love and respect for every member of this ummah. I am not more special than the next person. We all have feelings, aspirations, hope, difficulties and heartaches - it's just that we are too absorbed in our own muddled up lives and we forget the difficulties and hardships others endure everyday. We effectively become totally self-centred and change into selfish and ungrateful individuals.


It was Allah's will that I witness the scenes in the other part of Mina where the poorer quarters were. Instead of us taking the easy routes straight to the European quarters or being sheltered away in an air-conditioned bus, I was shown the state of the rest of the poorer brothers and sisters with my own eyes. This was another valuable lesson of Hajj.


We finally arrived at Mina, the European Section. We had walked for a long time and this had been particularly painful with heat rash developing between my legs. I think my legs were missing my boxers. As the journey continued, the heat rash got worse, the pain got worse and walking became awkward. I was walking like an old man with every step accompanied by more pain and discomfort. At the end, I found it difficult to keep up with Uncle Riaz who was my senior by many years.

At Mina itself, we spent most of the time looking for the Scottish part. |For hours we searched everywhere in Mina. It often felt as if we were going in circles with every group of tents being the same as the last. We would shop and ask someone who would point us in a different direction. We stopped and rested at a tent which was occupied by some English speaking brothers. Here we rested for a short while before continuing our quest.

Shortly after resuming our quest, I noticed the UK health tent and immediately headed towards it. When we entered the tent, the doctors asked us if we needed any assistance. We explained to him our situation and that we were more need of directions than medical assistance. We had been searching since early morning and it was now approaching noon. They apologized and said that they too weren't sure where the Scottish section was but said that it shouldn't be too far from here.

Just then I looked at my phone and noticed a couple of bars on the reception so I quickly phoned Ashfaq. He told us to wait where we were and he sent his son to come and collect us. We were so close to the area, literally across the road and just behind the first set of tents.

The weary travellers eventually had arrived at their destination. When we entered the air conditions tents (which would be 5 star as far as tents go), we were greeted with familiar smiling faces which made us welcome. Brother Hassan was missing from the friendly faces whom we tracked down later in a different tent. He was still very ill and was lying down surrounded by a group of well-wishers.

Brother Farage and Brother Ahmed had made our 'beds' and prepared some food for our arrival. We had returned to the lap of luxury and the first day of Hajj was nearly completed. It was just a matter of keeping our prayers on time, doing some duas and Zikr.

We also met up with some brothers who were immensely dedicated to Islam. They would perform their prayers and worship excessively and with such passion and sincerity that we felt blessed to be near them. We spent quite a lot of time together and often prayed Salah together in congregation. Often when we woke or returned to the tents, Zikr was resounding from their tents in the most beautiful, angelic voice.

After a good rest, we scouted the place and looked for familiar landmark. We were making sure that next time, if we got lost, we would be able to find our way back 'home'.

I was amused at the food that was for sale in the different stalls that dotted Mina. There were so many people that the food stall carried a huge amount of stock. I noticed the massive food containers, which are the size of the bins we have in this county. I felt that this was not hygienic, especially in the warm climate we were in. There must be many local bugs in the water and the food that would only have an adverse effect on our digestive system.

I noticed a truck pulling over which had the Turkish flag on the side. My taste buds were excited, wow real Turkish food! I wandered over to the back of the truck where the food was getting unloaded with such speed and efficiency. I asked on of the brothers if I could buy some food. He promptly replied that it had all been accounted for and was for the Turkish Hajjis.

The service and food quality the Turkish brothers were getting was impressive. You may think that this is like proper holiday food and that the Turks were getting spoilt with this scrumptious food. The fact is that the Turks are passionate about their Hajjis and also bend over backwards to accommodate them. They don't want the Hajjis to worry about anything and to concentrate on their worship and prayer.

After the Isha salah, the night prayer I was tired and ready to sleep. We were still a little hungry, tired and sore but we put the day behind us. This was the easy day and tomorrow was the main day of Hajj, the single most important day we will have in Makkah. That night I prayed abundantly for my family and friends. I prayed for their welfare and guidance. With contentment and peace in my heart I slept on the desert sand.

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