Arafat has subconsciously been on my mind since I woke up this morning around 2:15am. Today we would prepare and depart for the Plains of Arafat.
This morning’s experience at the Haram was unique and one that I will cherish always. We performed a Mustahab Tawaf and had some time before Fajr prayers. I was adamant in having the opportunity to touch Hajr-e-Aswad, the black stone. I had come from so far and did not know if I would ever get the opportunity for Hajj again, and this was something I had my heart set on. We first made our way to touch Rukn-e-Yamani. This was the corner of the Holy Ka’ba facing Yemen but also recommended to pray in line with.We proceeded and inched closer to the corner where Hajr-e-Aswad was placed. It was the corner where we would raise our right hand and say ‘Allahu Akbar’ as we started a new round for Tawaf. We were so close, but the crowd was so tight, it was unbelievable. I thought there would be fewer people from what I saw the night before. Relative to earlier crowds, there were fewer people, but that close to the Holy Ka’ba, we were in a gridlock! I felt I would never reach and I was not that tall, so as far as I stretched my hand, I was still a good few inches away from the actual stone.
I remember calling out to Imam Ali (a) to please intercede in blessing me with this opportunity, and out of nowhere, someone grabbed my hand and pushed it onto the actual black stone. For that 12-15 seconds, I forgot that I felt like I couldn’t breath being crushed between people, and I felt tears. This wish of mine had come true. Asif was right behind me and also managed to reach and touch Hajr-e-Aswad.
We then proceeded on around the Holy Ka’ba and were pushed towards the entrance of Hijr-e-Isma’il. They had just opened the gate and people were flooding in. We were inside the arc where praying 2 Rak’ah was highly recommended, yet seemed impossible because of the sheer number of people in that small place, but Asif and I were both determined. And out of nowhere, came another couple who were also just as determined.
The gentleman saw that Asif and I were trying to find space to pray and offered to hold Asif’s shoulder on one side, and his wife’s on the other whilst I prayed. They ensured I had enough space and told people that there was someone praying there. Other individuals were immediately respectful and did their best to not come in the way. We did this for each other, so that turn by turn, all 4 of us were able to pray and ask for our wishes. Without really knowing the names of the other couple, I felt a sense of connection – a sense of uniting with other Muslims who were also on this journey to reach nearer to God. We silently thanked each other, and parted ways. Such a beautiful moment that had been, a moment of helping hands, simple for the love of Allah (SWT).
We made our way back to the hotel for breakfast and I then slept until 11:45am. After Dhuhrain prayers and lunch, everybody decided to rest for a while. For the second time, my roommates and I coordinated on who would perform the ghusl first, as today we would be putting on the Ihram again, and departing for Arafat. Today was the beginning of our Hajj-e-Tamattu. I had butterflies in my stomach, and I felt my legs go jelly again.
I did not know what Arafat looked like or what was expected there, nor did I know how the conditions in Mina would be, or whether I’d be able to walk for so long from place to place. That same thought had been on my mind for a few days now. Back home, we had been practicing for such long walks, but the conditions were different. We weren’t running on such little sleep, such high adrenaline, and such intense heat. I felt like a different type of strength was required to be able to accomplish the rituals correctly and with ease; an inner strength with a constant thought process of ‘I can, and so I will’.
Asif and I had decided that we would meet downstairs at 4:00pm, both ready in Ihram. We had not yet performed our Niyyah for the Hajj and decided we would go to the Haram together just before Maghribain to perform the Niyyah. The Miqat (place of performing the Niyah) for Hajj-e-Tamattu was Makkah itself, more specifically, it was recommended to be the Haram.
Before going to the Haram however, we had quite a bit of time and so we decided to go as far to the top of ZamZam Towers as we could to see the Holy Ka’ba and the Haram from higher above. We reached the 11th Floor and found a balcony that had an amazing view. It looked beautiful! We could not see the Holy Ka’ba fully as the structure around the Ka’ba overshadowed it. Not only did the Haram look so empty, but so did neighboring streets. Many had already made their way towards Arafat.
We were on our way down when we saw Häagen-Dazs. Ice cream at any time was welcome in this heat! We ate, but not in the same jovial mood we had previously had ice cream in when we first arrived in Makkah. This time, we were both so preoccupied in thought and anxious of the journey ahead.
We got to the haram just a little before 6:00pm. We prayed Maghribain and sat to make our Niyyah. After a few moments in silence, we made our way back to the hotel. Leaving Makkah was going to be extremely emotional, even though we were scheduled to return in a few days. I felt tears as I thought of how peaceful the last few days had been and what I felt I had managed to do. We had to move on, to Arafat, and to Muzadlifa, and Mina, but I just wanted to stay here, in sight of this Great Glory, for as long as I could.
We had no idea when our bus number would be called, and had been requested to be patient. Since thousands were making their way to Arafat, the buses were going to and from, and our turn would come soon. We couldn’t go to the Haram either at that time just incase we were called to depart. When our bus number was finally called at 1:20am, we had less than 10 minutes to gather our few belongings and make our way down. This was it, this was the beginning of Hajj…