11:10PM – This journal entry is being written as we are enroute to Makkah.
Today was our last day in Madinah. Bittersweet. I woke up at around 3:45am (it’s surprising how awake I felt after just one hour of sleep!) and made my way to the Haram with Asif. It was our last Fajr prayer in the Haram of the Holy Prophet (s), and we would be watching the sunrise behind the walls of Baqi for the final time. All this made me so sad, but Makkah awaited us, and that stirred different feelings. After Fajr prayers, we went to Jannatul Baqi to recite Ziyarat-e-Wida (Salutations bidding Farewell) of Baqi. Whilst we were walking back, we were talking of our anticipation and anxiety of Makkah and the Wajibat that we had to perform when we reached. We were fortunate to meet Akil Mama who was encouraging of our upcoming journey. The more we thought about it, the intense anxiety that was there a few days ago was not as much, and now I was (and still am), extremely excited to see the Holy Ka’ba.
Breakfast was the usual – Paratha with butter and honey and a strong cup of black tea. It was my standard breakfast since I had arrived, even though the aroma of Mince Curry and Paya was very tempting! I then headed to our room where my roommates were sorting out their bags, as we had only half an hour before we had to put them in the lobby, tagged with our group tags and details. The group accommodated us wonderfully. Male volunteers had stepped forward to gather the suitcases from each floor and then take them down to the lobby where a truck was waiting to take our bags to Makkah, well before we even departed. We were told to keep a few necessities with us as we would get our bags in Makkah, maybe even after we had performed Umrah-e-Tamattu.
Between the 4 of us that were sharing a room, we agreed on the order we would take showers in as we had to perform Ghusl for Umrah-e-Tamattu. I was voted in first as they were still packing. With still a lot of time ahead of us, I showered and decided to sleep for a few hours. As a side note, talking between us always helped to understand what the other people in the room had planned and to ensure we accommodated each other fairly. After all, this too, was a part of the journey of Hajj.
I woke up around Dhuhrain time and freshened up quickly before heading down to go to the Haram for prayers. It was actually nice not having our suitcases as that meant less to worry about. I double-checked my backpack and then went down to meet Asif in the lobby and head to the Haram. He had a roommate with him and I met a few friends along the way so we agreed to meet back in the hotel lobby once we had finished in the Haram….and that’s when I remembered…..
Today was Asifs birthday! The excitement of Madinah and the anxiety of departing for Makkah and with everything this trip had been about, I had totally forgotten! I couldn’t believe it! But honestly, I didn’t feel too bad because when we arrived back at the lobby and I wished him his expression was priceless. He had also forgetten and said ‘Today is 3rd September? Really? Oh wow! It’s my Birthday!’) We said we would celebrate with ice cream after completing Umrah-e-Tamattu.
After Dhuhrain prayers I found a spot where I could see the green dome and recited Ziyarate Wida for the Holy Prophet. My heart felt so heavy at the thought that we had to soon leave. It was a moment that I never wanted to end. And it was a moment I will always remember.
I came back to the hotel and rushed upstairs for the Q&A session that was scheduled for the afternoon. We then had a quick logistical update by Habib uncle and were told that the buses were ready outside our hotel to depart soon. Lunch was different today. Not the food, but the atmosphere. Everybody seemed preoccupied in thought of traveling to Makkah and performing the Umrah-e-Tamattu.
After lunch, we were instructed to go to our rooms and put on our Ihram. At this point, we were just wearing the physical clothes of Ihram and not making the intention that we were in Ihram. We then gathered upstairs one last time to recite Ziyarat-e-Wida for Baqi and the Holy Prophet (s). It was a very emotional moment as we recited and gazed at the Masjid of the Holy Prophet (s) from the large window in the lounge.
Our journey leaving our hotel began at 4:30pm. We were allocated buses based on where our visas were issued, and so Asif and I were with the British Group. However, this time, men sat at the front and women sat at the back. I stared at the heads of ladies in the seats in front of me. Everybody was in white, and the ladies were wearing the pink HAC ID scarves around their neck. The first time Hujjaj, like myself, were probably constantly thinking of the Niyyah we were going to make, which would immediately make certain things like looking in the mirror, forbidden for us.
The Ihram. White. The colour of a Muslim burial shroud and the colour that was unifying me with everybody else on the bus at that moment. I was a drop in the ocean of the Muslim Ummah. Soon I would be amidst other Hujjaj in Makkah. Who I am, would not be known to them, and I would not know who they are either. All that we would know of each other is that we are of the same faith, and here as servants of Allah (swt). A part of me felt relaxed to be in the Ihram. It was a time where I would not be trying to identify or ‘fit in’ with others, but a time that I could let go of my identity and fall in with the rest of the crowd. There was peace in Ihram.
We were first going to stop at Masjid-e-Shajarah, 20 minutes away from our hotel in Madinah. When we arrived we made our way to the ladies side. This was our first experience of seeing different groups from different parts of the world also wearing white. The only difference being that each group had some sort of scarf or pin for identification of which group they belonged to. We were quite early as Maghribain time was not for over another hour. Within our group of ladies, we had split into a few more groups and each found space wherever they could. This was a time to reflect, recite Qur’an, say recommended prayers, and just spend time in personal dialogue with Allah (swt). Now was a time to also mentally prepare for Makkah.
Where were my thoughts? For the first 5-10 minutes I found myself looking at the different groups as they entered and exited the Masjid. It was fascinating to see how some people were praying, whilst others were resting, or eating, or just talking. My mind then drifted to the Holy Ka’ba. I had been thinking of my 3 wishes that I wanted to ask when I first saw the Holy Ka’ba. This was probably the most difficult thing, but I knew that I could still converse with Allah (swt) beyond the 3 wishes, of course! I just wanted to word my 3 most important wishes in the best way possible. And as I thought of this, the urge to reach Makkah increased. I also thought, at that point, that I really didn’t have to wait until I reached Makkah to converse with Allah (swt). The whole point was that I should build an everlasting relationship with Him so that at any time, from anywhere, I could converse and reach nearer to my Creator. That was a life changing thought.
We prayed our Maghribain prayers and then consciously made the Niyyah (intention) that we were in the state of Ihram before proceeding out of Masjid-e-Shajarah. We made our way towards the buses whilst reciting Talbiyya in raised voices. I felt shivers as one group after the other began echoing the Talbiyya, and with each recitation I felt my mind blocking off the sound of others and hearing my own words echoing. It was as if I could hear myself pleading to Allah (swt) to accept that I am now here, and to say yes! Come towards Me!
Since that moment up until now, our journey has been quite smooth. Well, not literally. The roads are quite bumpy and the bus engine was quite loud, but that was normal. For some of us who were thinking air-conditioned coaches with recliner chairs, we had another thing coming! We’ve already made one 10-minute stop as a few people on the bus requested. Insh’Allah now I hope to get a little sleep before our next stop.
We stopped around 12:00am at a resting area where all of the buses in our group met. Apparently, this location was known to our volunteers as a place where, every year, they stop for fish and chips. I wasn’t too keen on eating at that odd hour, but was truly thankful for the opportunity to just stretch my legs! We were only halfway on our journey. I was just praying to reach Makkah quickly and safely.
There were so many things that intrigued me about how the locals welcomed Hujjaj. At one point we stopped at a checkpoint just entering Makkah where young boys boarded the buses to give us gift boxes of food, welcoming us to the city of Makkah. After that, I managed to sleep quite a bit on the second half of the journey! I’ve just woken up at hearing the announcement that we have reached our hotel in Makkah. Our group leaders are going to meet us in the lobby at 6:00am to then guide us to the Haram for our Umrah-e-Tamattu. We have until then to rest, keeping in mind that we are under conditions of the state of Ihram.