Friday, May 24, 2013

Hajj Preparation Package



I know I’ve been teasing about this “BIG REVEAL”, but I’ve been working on this for some time and I’m really excited to share it with all of you!

Looking back to when we first made our decision to make Hajj, I remember the feeling of being overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge that was available and the amount of preparation that was possible. Masha Allah, there are so many sources of knowledge for the spiritual and practical preparation for Hajj, I didn’t know where to start! It took me time to get my bearings and develop a plan for my preparation. I knew this might’ve been a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wanted to make sure I took full advantage of every possible blessing.

Alhamdulillah, there are SO MANY lectures, youtube videos, books, travel agency seminars, checklists, and tons of helpful advice from friends and family, it would’ve been easy to stay overwhelmed and drown in the piles of information, but I decided to get organized. Based on information from scholars such as Sh Yasir Qadhi, Sh Muhammad AlShareef and many other resources, I prepared some simple checklists (packing, duas, to do, etc) to help get us on track. Masha Allah, they really helped! So I’ve taken that initial attempt, refined it, simplified it and added some more info that I wish I had during my prep time, and voila!

A Hajj Preparation Package! Click below for this simplified, easy to follow, step by step resource for preparing yourself for Hajj. There are 3 simple parts (an introduction document, a resource template and a youtube video) and it is mostly a compilation of several other excellent resources. But instead of going to several different places, it’s all in one spot! With 3 easy steps you will be on your way insha Allah!

1.       Read the Intro
2.       Download the Template
3.       Watch the Youtube video

That’s it! Get started and send in your feedback. I hope it helps and I ask Allah to make it useful and beneficial for you! Ameen!

What are you waiting for?! Read, download and watch!

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Making the Decision and the Big REVEAL!

Shaykh Alaa is walking in front of us, leading the way through ISNA’s hallways, to his office in the corner of the expansive masjid. His height and stride keep him quick masha Allah, and while my husband is keeping up, I’m almost running behind them. With a swiftness, we enter his simple, serene office, his desk and chair along one side and a cushy sofa against the other wall. I try to regain my composure after that brisk walk as my husband and I settle into the couch. Shaykh Alaa’s time is valuable and his schedule is packed, so we jump right into our reason for meeting. We’ve come to ask him to help us make a choice.

Like most others, our finances are limited and we need to decide where our money should be spent. Our choice is between spending on progressing our family or making the Hajj, both noble causes in my opinion. Explaining our circumstances and our options, we  left it all on the table for Shaykh Alaa to give us some honest and sincere advice. I had made istakhaara already, so although my desires would lead me to certain conclusion, I knew we had to leave it Allah’s hands to decide our path and know what was best for us.

Shaykh Alaa, in his caring and endearing way, didn’t mince any words. There was no option. Hajj was mandatory – our desires were not.

Our decision was made alhamdulillah. Later that night, when I was explaining our encounter to Naila, my sister-in-law, it dawned on me that going to Hajj should’ve been so clear. But it took a jolt to get that clarity and my heart and mind were now content. In fact, I was overcome with a feeling of gratefulness and euphoria for being guided to making one of the best decisions of my life. Our first step to Hajj had begun.

Many of you might be at the first step or still trying to decide. May Allah make it easy for you to seek His Pleasure. Ameen. For those of you that are on the fence or have already made that first step, then the BIG REVEAL is for you!

And insha Allah, it’s coming in the very next post!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 20 - Leaving Makkah (Going Home)

I’m sitting on the bus. The bus that begins our travel back home to Canada. This bus will take us to Jeddah, where we will get on plane to go to Turkey and then head back to Toronto.

There’s not many people on this bus – just us and the Libyan doctors. I’m grateful for the space and the coolness of the AC, after the heat of the day. After settling into my seat, I call my mother and my mother-in-law to let them know we are on our way. When I call, neither of them can hold back their tears and it makes me miss home. On the phone with my mom, I can hear her gulping for air on the other end and it’s tough not to wipe away my own tears. But as my mother quietly sobs about some good news that we had received last night, I knew that one of my biggest duas had already been answered. Throughout all the heartache of leaving, Allah truly makes it easy.

The last few hours have been a whirlwind of last minute packing, a final tawaf, a quick dinner with Sahar, Ahmer and Farah’s parents, an attempt to squeeze in every last salah in the Haram and taking one last long, drawn-out look at the Kabah. The crowds have yet to subside, and there are masses of people in between me and this beloved place of Allah. I wish I could say that it all fell away and that I didn’t notice any of the people and that I only saw the Kabah in front of me, but it wouldn’t be true. I wish I could I say I forgot about the heat and humidity and just felt the coolness of an unknown breeze and that my thirst was quenched, but I couldn’t say that. I wish I could say that I knew my Hajj was accepted in that moment, but I knew I couldn’t be sure.

But what I did know, was that even though we hadn’t left yet, my dua is to come back. Come back to where everything else is secondary to your relationship with Allah and that nothing can distract you from your one and only purpose. A purpose that we are reminded of, in the very last ayah of Surah Al-Hajj:

"And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him..."

In this short time, every instant has been a reminder, every experience has provided a lesson and every step has been a harsh reality. The reality that each moment we don't strive for the pleasure of our Lord, is a moment wasted. And that each moment used in the way of worshipping Him, could be the one that tips our scales and enters us and those we love into Jannah.

The bus begins to inch its way through traffic and my mind starts to wander before I doze off to the slow rumble of the engine. Although my body is tired, my mind is buzzing about the last 3 weeks and the many memories I have written, shared or just kept to myself.

But to end these entries about this journey, perhaps I will go back to the way I began them. So I remind myself that the Lord of the Worlds is giving us an opportunity. An opportunity to rectify ourselves, not only in this journey of a lifetime, but in every SINGLE MOMENT of our lifetime. The question of whether or not we seize these opportunities should haunt our dreams and motivate us in our waking hours. Time is running out, and only Allah knows if it will be enough.

Insha Allah, it will be.
Day 16-19 (Days in Makkah)

From our room at the Swiss Hotel, we can see the Kaaba. We arrive at night, but the lights and the whiteness from the Haram flood our room. Our next Salah won't be until tahajjud so we enjoy some solitude and time for reflection in our quiet abode. The room is so luxurious and after the days and nights at Mina, Arafah, Muzdalifah and Shisha, having your own washroom is the ULTIMATE luxury!

Our time in Makkah is almost a routine. Starts with tahajjud, then a reminder from Sh Alaa, then fajr. An after tahajjud halaqa with one of our favorite shaykhs on the roof of the Haram, a slight breeze and a stillness in the night - can it get any better, subhan Allah?!

After fajr, we head for breakfast which consists of meeting my "dhaal/bhaat" (lentils/rice) craving. Next, we return to the hotel room to get some precious rest before Dhuhr. The afternoon is spent trying to squeeze in last minute shopping and a delicious Hardees lunch by the time Asr enters. But our purpose is to spend the rest of our day and as much time in the Haram as possible, with the millions of other worshippers. And of course, we try to perform tawafs whenever we can.

Tawaf, or the circumambulation of the Kaaba, is an amazing act of worship and is unlike anything I could have ever imagined, subhan Allah. As I watch the millions of people perform tawaf, each one with their own story and their own duas escaping their lips, I can't help but pause. Their voices create a loud hum, distinct but somehow uniform. It would be impossible to hear any one person.

And yet, by His Power, Allah hears us all. Every single one of us. From the man with the tear stained beard, shaking and crying, to the one-legged uncle who refuses to use the wheelchair, to the sister with barely any space for herself but still shifting to give space to another, to the brother handing out cups of zamzam for hours, so that people don't have to stop.

Here, we can barely hear ourselves make dua, yet Allah hears every single voice amongst us for He is truly the All-Hearer. You cannot help but get a lump in your throat. You cannot help but hope that your duas are sincere and accepted. And you cannot help but increase your love for your Creator with every step that you take.

Our days in Makkah are coming to an end, and tomorrow will be our last.

Video of Tawaf 
Day 15 - Leaving Shisha (Going to the Swiss Hotel in Makkah)

Salah, reminders from Dr Muneer and Sh Alaa, and last minute packing and preparation to leave the Shisha building fill our last day here. Doing laundry at the hotels is expensive, so yesterday, I had decided to give our laundry to one of the tiny, sweet Indonesian caretakers to wash for some extra money. A lot of our building had the same idea, so the tiny, sweet Indonesian ladies were busy!

The sister helping me - her name is Centa. I gave her a couple of bags of laundry plus the heavy ihrams from my husband to wash. I asked her how much, but she refused to answer. Whatever we wanted to give, was what she was saying. I had no idea how much, so I asked around to find the going rate. The laundry was ready in the afternoon. The caretakers share a room, so I walk up a flight of stairs and knock at the door. The door is ajar and the room is dark, and I can hear sobbing inside. I nudge it further to find Centa crumpled over and crying on her bed. After my pitiful tries at asking what was wrong, our attempts at communicating left much to be desired, but we both try our best. She tells me she left Indonesia 7 years ago, leaving behind her family so that she could send home the much needed income. She has been back only once, 5 years ago. She hasn't seen her kids since then and she just got a phone call.

One of her kids was sick and it was serious.

That's all I can gather. But her heartbreak is clear and that doesn't need explanation. Her desperation is deep and even through the tears, her eyes are pleading. It would be impossibly hard to conceive the idea of not seeing your own child for 5 years. Our #firstworldproblems is that I only get to see my sisters and my parents at least a couple times a year, and even then the heart wants a mother's touch and to share a sister's laugh.

Sh Alaa had told us earlier that you will know when someone is truly in need of your charity. They won't have to ask, you will just know. And Centa's is just one story among millions in our Ummah of oppression, injustice and poverty. So I fear the Day that I will be held to account for the nothingness I have done to help.

After some time, Centa dries her tears, packs up my laundry and hands me the bag. I return to my room, with high hopes that I would remember her story when any difficulty approaches. Only Allah knows if I will.

We leave for Makkah after Maghrib.
Day 14 - Last Day of Tashreeq (13th of Dhul Hijjah)

Unlike the other days of Tashreeq, the Jamaraat would be after Dhuhr today, not Asr. The fear of the heat is palpable. A few short hours are the only difference between Dhuhr and Asr, but the difference in temperature, now that's another story. During our days in Mina, we've spent time worshipping Allah and increasing our sisterhood with our Hajj companions, but we've also spent time figuring out how to stay cool, retain energy, minimize washroom time, etc. But now, despite the worry about the heat, there is a bittersweet moment as this will be our last official act of Hajj. After all the years of wondering if this was even possible, all the months of preparation, the countless moments of anticipation and of course, the journey itself, the pilgrimage of our lifetime will end today.

After our last Jamaraat, we return to the Hajj building at Shisha. Faces are weary during the short trek back through the tunnel, but after a quick shower and a change of clothes, the atmosphere is almost electric. I'm not sure if the expressions are relief, accomplishment, excitement or a combination of all 3, but the dinner room is celebratory and jovial. Each round table is nearly encompassed by the largest platter of meat and rice I think I've ever seen in my life and small groups form to sit around each table and share this enormous meal.

I think about the many meals and moments I've shared with my new companions in these past weeks. The bonds that are formed during Hajj feel unbreakable. There was Sr Najma and Sr Rabia, from Regina, who gave the best and most sincere advice at the time I needed it the most. And Sr Sarah from London, our roommate in Shisha with a spirit and smile that was contagious, who made you feel like you were her best friend, even though you just met. Of course, the lovely Sr Aneesa from Markham, felt like we had known each other forever when she shared her stories of her family back in Canada. And then the many Libyan doctors/wives from all over Canada. Each time you encountered one, they were better than the last! The tight knit group welcomed us and loved us with open arms and they made us feel like family, subhan Allah. And this is just to name a few...

The quick companionship and the sisterhood that was built on loving each other for the sake of Allah, penetrates the heart and is reminder of the companionship that the Prophet (saws) must have shared with the sahaba. We know the stories of their sacrifice and love for each other and we know how each companion felt that they were the one who was closest to the Prophet. The hardships they endured together, the poverty, the difficulties, the boycotts, the way they would be slandered, the fear-mongering against them, all of this didn't break them, it unified them and increased their love for each other and for all of humanity.

As we end our last day in Shisha, Sh Riad provides us with some practical advice about how to maintain our steadfastness after Hajj when we return back to our day to day lives. His words are heartening and meaningful. Focus on salah, the root of our relationship with Allah. Keep up with voluntary fasts on the Mondays, Thursdays and 3 middle days of the month. Develop a relationship with the Quran, read 1 Juz a day, so that you complete 1 recitation per month. Busy yourself with dhikr and add baraqah to your rizq by increasing your istighfar. Make lots of tawbah so that Allah will hide your faults and wipe them from your records. But his very first piece of advice? Check your friends. These are the ones you will be raised with on the day of Judgement.

And insha Allah, if we are raised with the likes of sisters such Najma, Rabia, Sarah, Aneesa and the countless others, then insha Allah we will also sit by the stream of AlKauthar with the Prophet (saws) and his companions. Ya Rabb, you are Ar-Razzaq, so provide us with righteous companionship in this life so that we can meet each other in Jannah, with no account. Ameen.

Day 12, 13, 14 - Days of Tashreeq (11th, 12th, 13th of Dhul Hijjah)

It's the days of tashreeq and the only real item on the agenda is jamarat after dhuhr each day. So it leaves ample time for people to perform extra ibadah. It also leaves time for people to release their frustrations and exhaustion.

So unfortunately, people do complain. Perhaps they are tired or sick. Maybe they are older or in pain. All you can do is gently remind them that it is all about perspective.

The perspective that it's uncomfortable sleeping on floor cushions...until you see the people sleeping under the buses with their infant children amongst the building piles of garbage.

The perspective that it's inconvenient sharing a washroom with 7 other women...until you are sharing 10 washroom stalls with approximately 200 other women.

The perspective that it's boring when the menu has very little veggies...until the street children run up to you for 1 chicken nugget from your box of AlBaik.

The perspective that it's hot at night when the AC doesn't seem to be enough...until you see the cute, little Indonesian female workers sleeping on the footsteps of the washroom floors.

The perspective that it's annoying to see cleaners just standing around waiting for tips/sadaqa...until you see one of them finish the leftover drink that was meant for the garbage.

The perspective that it's exhausting to wait for a train for 1 hour...until you see the people walking from Mina to Arafah with barely a semblance of a pair of sandals on their feet.

The perspective that it's infuriating when people are constantly pushing you during tawaf just to stay with their group...until you realize they probably can't read/understand Arabic and will be completely lost and on their own if they are separated.

A sign that your hajj is accepted is that you refrain from complaining. When you step outside the protected gates of our Mina tents, everything else seems insignificant. And you remember that perspective is everything.

Day 11 - Eid! (10th of Dhul Hijjah)

Eid Mubarak!

Today, I thought of Eid back home. Watching Maariyah, Junayd, Ameera, Zaid and Rashid open up presents. Calling my mom, dad, Amereen and Shakereen and saying Eid Mubarak. Calling my Nani to wish her Eid Mubarak and instead, having her make dua for me the whole time we are on the phone masha Allah.

But here in the tents of Mina, I slept. I slept and slept and slept. Except for the brief intervals of wudu, salah or meals, I slept like I ran a marathon the day before.

And if I felt that way, what about others?

I'm one of the youngest people in our group. Alhamdulillah, I have all my senses, my youth, my limbs, my financial advantages, etc, and sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of Hajj. And yet, there's the blind hafiz of the Quran, the elderly woman who's every step sends a shooting pain up her leg, the parents who've brought their 10 month old daughter, the adult child who pushes his disabled father in a wheelchair, the brother who is deaf and mildly autistic, I could go on and on subhan Allah.

Surely, their journeys have greater challenges, but they seem to persevere and thrive masha Allah. Indeed, their reward must be great. Not only for overcoming their perceived disadvantage, but for inspiring the rest of us to appreciate the ease that Allah has provided us.

At night, there was a special Eid dinner before we would leave to make our tawaf-ul Ifadah with Dr Muneer. We left Mina at midnight and returned at 9am the next morning.

We were out of ihram.

Day 10 - Arafah (9th of Dhul Hijjah)

Today was one of the most important days of my life. It felt like 10 days rolled into one. It felt like there was no sense of when time started and when it ended. It felt like every emotion that ever existed could be seen on every face: fear, desperation, frustrations, euphoria, hope, sadness, panic, serenity...

As people pleaded at Arafah, it felt like no one else mattered. As people lay down weary on the ground of Muzdalifah, it felt like humanity has always been equal. As people pelted the stones at Jamarat, it felt like everyone's frustration against their own weakness towards Shaytan was being released.

Arafah, Muzdalifah and Jamarat. A day that could leave you drained, but if you are blessed, a day that should make you feel reborn.

Sh Riad called it our new birthday.

Like I said, the most important day of my life.

Day 9 - Mina (8th of Dhul Hijjah)

It is hot. I don't know how else to describe what must be 50 degree weather. But during our trek (aka 20 minute walk) to our Mina tents, most of it is under a massive freeway tunnel, providing much needed relief from the sun, Alhamdulillah.

Every unexpected breeze is mercy from Allah. Every moment of shade is a blessing. Every sip of water is a gift.

We are assigned our tents. It seems we've been split by ethnicity (Indo/Pak in certain tents, Arabs in the others, everyone else mixed in between). As we shuffle into our tents with our carry on and backpacks, it is obvious that our accommodations are, by far, more luxurious than most. But the space is tight and for those us used to our expansive Canadian bedrooms, it takes some time to adjust to the new parameters of personal space and the heat.

Despite all of this, there is a woman in our tent. Masha Allah, she hasn't stopped smiling once. Not one complaint. Her face is fresh and lively. Her demeanor is warm and pleasant. She reads from her Quran in every spare moment and she has enough energy for 5 people, masha Allah.

And oh yeah....she's 5 months pregnant.

May Allah increase it and keep her under His protection. Ameen.

Image - Tent City

Day 8 - Prepare for Hajj

Today was a day filled with rest, salah and lectures by Dr Muneer, Sh Riad and Sh Alaa.

Dr Muneer was up first. Right after Fajr. We all gathered closely together in the prayer hall of the Hajj building. It feels like such a traditional way of learning. Something only the shuyookh talk about when they describe how they would sit at the feet of their teachers and learn. Perhaps, it is a bit romanticized, but it feels wholesome to learn this way.

Dr Muneer discussed the first 25 ayahs of the Surah-tul-Hajj. And guess what? They have nothing to do with Hajj itself. Not about the rituals, not about the procedures, not about the manasik, the faraid, the wajib, none of it. The first 25 ayahs of the surah are about the Day of Judgement and argumentation. Allah is surely full of Wisdom.

After Dhuhr, Sh Alaa also provides a reminder. He tells us of the story of Abu Dharr and how Abu Dharr had said that he loves illness, hunger and death. He loves illness, because his sins fall away, he loves hunger, because it brings him closer to Allah and he loves death, because it will bring him to Allah.

Later that evening, after Maghrib, Sh Riad is up. Earlier there had been a discussion and some of the pre-hajjis were complaining a bit and questioning some procedures. Sh Riad was visibly upset by the attitude of those that were complaining.

He started by saying his original topics was going to be about love. But he changed it. He wanted to remind us of our true purpose of Hajj. Not to be right about our madhab’s ruling, not to complain, not to argue.

He had changed his topic to death. Death of the Prophet (saws) and about the Day that everything will die.

The room was left silent. Tear streaked faces and heads in hands. Shoulders crumpled under some unseen weight and heavy sighs escaping burdened lungs. It is the day before Hajj and Allah provided us with our wake up call.

May Allah reward our shuyookh and protect them and their families. Their willingness to invest in us, sacrifice their time and time with their families to help us perform our hajj cannot be repaid by us. I have seen them run up and down handing out water bottles, I have seen them pick up and collect garbage, I have seen them pull wheelchairs over hards rocks, I have seen them answer our questions until their voices have become hoarse and barely audible, I have seen them cry and care for us, as if they would drag us to Jannah with them if they could.

Ya Allah! Accept from them and enter them and their families into Jannah with no account. Increase them in their barakah and increase them in their rank in this life and the next. Ya Rabb! You are the Most Merciful, shower them with your mercy and protect them from difficulty in this life and the next. Ameen.

We leave for Mina tomorrow.

Day 7 – The Kabah

Today, for the first time in my life, I saw the Kabah.

The end.

Day 6 – Leaving for Makkah

My mind is racing. I wake up in the middle of the night and my brain is going a mile a minute. Leaving Madinah. Heartache. Making my first Umrah. What should I wear? Ya Allah, make my umrah easy. Don’t forget to switch the scissors to the other bag. The bus ride. Get snacks ready. Last salah in Masjid Nabawi. Will it be my last salah ever in this masjid? Ya Rabb, bring me back soon. Alarm set for Tahajjud. Why is tahajjud so easy here? Can’t forget to ask Sh Alaa about legitimate charity. Wish I could go back to Riyad-ul-Jannah. Pray just 2 more rakah. Wonder what will be for breakfast?.....on and on. I can’t sleep. So much to think about and so little time.

The bus ride from Madinah to Makkah was eventful. Before were were on the move, a man came on the bus. He showed us a letter, a power of attorney, and told us about his brother being held by Saudi police unjustly and he had to pay blood money to get him out of jail. The man was teary eyed and his voice cracked as he spoke. A lot of sisters on our bus felt pity for this poor man and gave him whatever amount they could gather.

I wasn’t one of them.

Earlier that day, I had asked Sh Alaa how do we determine what is and is not legitimate charity. His answer was straightforward. He said give to the people that don’t ask. He said that most of those who ask are professionals and they come during hajj time because they know people’s guards are down. I told Sh Alaa that it’s difficult to say no to people. His response was profound. He said that every time you give to the con artists, you take away from the legitimate poor. Those the people with a right upon the money.

After the man got off the bus, our bus drive reappeared. He said the man with the sad story about his brother was a cheater. La hawla wa la quwata illa billah.

It made me sad. Sad for the sisters who were cheaters. Sad for the fact that we have to be suspicious of Muslims. Sad that this man has so little fear of Allah, that he is willing to steal from those who come to perform Hajj.

But he’s probably justified it in his mind somehow. Maybe he feels we are rich enough to sit in an air conditioned bus, then he’s justified in taking money from us. There’s so much haram in our own lives that we try to justify. We try to convince ourselves that we will be the ones who will be excused.

And now we are sitting on the bus, ready to make our first Umrah. Sh Riad is our group leader! As the bus ride begins, Sh Riad tells about the rain that fell in Madinah earlier that morning. He said he hadn’t seen it rain in Madinah since he left many years ago. And he reminded us that rain was a sign. A sign of Allah’s mercy and blessings. A sign that our Umrah had already been accepted. You can hear the sobs, Subhan Allahs, and Allahu Akbars murmuring through the bus. A moment of relief in all the anticipation.

Our bus ride begins and we are soon approaching Abyar Ali, where will be making our intention to enter the state of ihram. She Riad passionately describes the meaning and the reality of the talbiyah:

“Labbayk Allah humma labbayk!”
“Here I am at your service, O Lord!”

The intensity of his fiery reminder, brings everyone on the bus to a standstill and most to tears.

“Here I am Allah! At your service! I have come for You, Ya Rabb! I am coming for You! I am here to please You! I have nowhere else to go, except to You! All other doors are closed, and on Yours are open! I am here!”

I can’t do justice to Sh Riad’s words. But it was moment that will definitely be unforgettable.

Day 5 - The Bus Tour

Shaykh Alaa led us on a bus tour of some of the sights of Madinah. He took us to Masjid Qiblatayn and Masjid Quba where we prayed tahiyatul masjid. But perhaps, most interestingly, he took us to the mountain of Uhud, to where the Battle of Uhud took place.

We stood on the mountain where the archers stood. We looked across and saw the massive mountain of Uhud where the Prophet (saws) was almost cornered. We looked below and saw the plains where the battle had taken place (now converted into a bustling souq of cart vendors).

And Shaykh Alaa passionately told the story of the battle that took place over 1400 years ago. The story of a battle almost won, but lost due to misjudgement by the archers on the mountain. But Subhan Allah, look at the wisdom of Allah that Shaykh Alaa shared with us.

What if the Muslims had won the battle? Despite the disobedience of the archers? What precedent would have been set? What would be the lesson for the rest of us? That we could disobey the Prophet of Allah and still be successful.

But the wisdom of Allah is greater. Greater than just the outcome of one battle. Greater than just another victory notch for the Muslims. Greater than even an injury to Rasulullah (saws). The wisdom was for the success of Islam and the success of the Ummah.

Obedience to Allah and His Messenger will lead to success insha Allah. That was the precedent, that was the lesson, that was the reminder for the Ummah to come. So what have we done to follow him?

Day 4 – Jummah at Masjid Nabawi

I prayed with over 1 million people today. 1 million! That’s more than the entire population of Mississauga! Can you imagine the entire population of Mississauga fitting into one building and praying salah at the same time? Unimagineable. The logistics of such an endeavour would take months, maybe years to plan.

And yet, there is so much barakah in the place, that it almost feels effortless. Obviously, it is not effortless. There are many workers, from the crowd control sisters who can speak several languages to the clears who are constantly cleaning up spilled zam zam, replacing the stocks of plastic cups, moving the huge tubs or wiping the dividers. Their efforts are unending.

There’s one crowd control sisters who was especially feisty masha Allah. Her voice directing people would echo through the masjid. “Baji! Baji! Andhar! Andhar!” Her Arabic accent pronouncing the Urdu words always made my smile.

Late that evening, before Maghrib and again, after Isha, Dr Muneer gave a sisters only talk describing the history and highlights of the Masjid Nabawi. From the detailed information on the expansions, the minarets, the addition of the domes, the changing mihrabs, the depth of his knowledge is striking masha Allah.

An amazing fact that he shared is that the size of the current masjid, is the same size as the original city of Madinah! That means we could truly be stepping in the footsteps of Rasulullah (saws).

Day 3 – Entering the Masjid

I jumped out of bed, excited to perform my first salah in Masjid Nabawi. A day of not being able to pray there has left me restless and jittery. The masjid was less than a minute away, but the elevator and my footsteps couldn’t get them there fast enough.

The sun was already bright, almost providing a blinding whiteness to the decorative masjid. The huge gates loomed before Sahar and I as we rushed past the hijabs, athar and thobes being sold on the street. The last were the men selling the Qurans. “Qaf!” “Qaf!” I’m sure there’s a Quranic reference, but I’m not clear on what it is and I don’t have much time to think about. We’ve run past them to the gates of the masjid courtyard.

I take my first step inside and in all the anticipating, I forget the dua for entering the masjid. A squeal escapes my lips and all I can think is “Subhan Allah.” I can’t do what I saw before me justice by putting it into words…I feel like I’m going to be saying that a lot throughout this trip.

When I started this blog, I thought I would be able to capture the moments and essence of my experience here. But it is so much more than a few moments. It is so much more than a few experiences. I thought I would be able to explain things as they happen, so that when I go back insha Allah, I would be able to remember things when people ask.

In the past, when others have returned from hajj, I’ve asked them about their journey, but no one has ever really been able to explain it. I thought it was because there was just too much to explain. But what I realize, it not that it’s too much to explain, it is actually inexplicable.

Instead, I’ll leave you with some pictures. Unfortunately, a picture cannot explain the atmosphere. Words cannot describe the emotions. And this blog cannot do what I thought it would.
You’ll just have to come here and see for yourself insha Allah.
Day 2 - Arrival in Madinah

You can see the masjid from the plane. You can see the masjid from the bus. You can see the masjid from the hotel window. But nothing can prepare you for what you see when you approach it on foot.

After arriving at Fajr on Tuesday morning, I couldn't enter the Prophet's masjid until Dhuhr the next day. Through out our travel, I kept making dua that I would to see the masjid and hear the salah from our room window. Alhamdulillah, my dua was answered. Listening to the Fajr adhan outside my window, as my husband, Br Ahmer and Sahar ran to catch Fajr, it felt comforting and welcoming as I leaned in to listen.

In this place, everything revolves around salah. All else stops. The shops roll down their doors, the street vendors wrap everything into their blankets, the sea of people move towards the masjid of the Prophet. Time feels like it is based in which salah you just completed, no longer based on numbers on a clock. Almost every salah, and even tahajjud has people praying right to the back of the outer courtyard. Who would want to give up a 1000 times more reward? By the huge crowds masha Allah, I would say virtually no one.

"Come to prayer, come to success! Come to prayer, come to success!"

I yearned to join them, but Allah is the best of planners and my first salah wasn't until Dhuhr the next day. It was a moments that I won't soon forget.

Madinah Fajr Adhan

Day 1 - Toronto to Madinah

I write this on the plane, our last leg between Istanbul and Madinah. Outside my window, pitch black darkness with a few red, flickering city lights and even those are disappearing from view.

The memories of the last 24 hours are also begging to fade. Saying bye to my co-workers in my lunch room cafeteria, as they strong armed me into giving up the blog website, seems like eons ago. It feels like we've been traveling for days, not due to any hardship, but perhaps due to Allah's mercy upon us by helping us prepare for what lies ahead, by separating us from what we've left behind.

Saying goodbye to my parents and my parents-in-law was the most difficult. It is often those that are closest to us that are the ones we've most wronged. The ones that the most rights upon us, yet their rights have been the most unfulfilled.

At every step of this journey so far, I have seen much kindness from children to their parents masha Allah. From the daughter who pushed he mother in the wheelchair up to security and then sent her mother for hajj, to the son who had his parents sit while he stood in the long line and then returned to get them when he was close to the front. To the female custodian at the sisters musallah in the Istanbul airport, who was taking care of the adorably, fiesty, older Kazakh female hajjis like they were her own parents!

It all reminds me of those we've left behind. It reminds me that Allah is truly Al-Latif, the Most Kind for blessing my husband and I with parents such as ours. We are undeserving of such a gift.

Insha Allah, Madinah is less than an hour away and my mind turns to the Prophet (saws). He like other Prophets before him, faced tests involving their parents. The Prophet (saws) was an orphan, Issa (AS) was fatherless, Ibrahim (AS) struggled against the shirk committed by his father. Yet, despite all that, they were able to become some of the best human beings to walk this earth.

So what have we done with this blessing, this gift, this shade of protection, our parents? Their constant support, patience, forgiveness, mercy, protection upon us - what have we done with it?

Ya Rabb, have mercy on all our parents, take care of them as they have taken care of us when we were young. Grant them ease, comfort, security, good health and relief from their burdens. Raise them in honour and rank in this life and the next. Protect from the difficulty of death, the punishment of the grave, the hardship of the Day of Judgement and the torment of the Fire. Provide them with the best of homes in Jannat-ul-Firdous, and hold them to no account. Ya Allah, You are the Most Merciful. Do not leave our duas unanswered. Ameen!

Image: First glimpse of Madinah