Trying to rest this morning was really difficult. I had butterflies in my stomach and I couldn’t seem to doze off even though I really need the sleep. I went to the lounge set aside for ladies and made myself some tea. I came back to the room and stayed awake until Fajr. My mind was all over the place. The Ka’ba was literally a 5 minute walk away from our hotel, yet I had not seen it yet. After praying Fajr in the room, I took a quick power nap before heading to the lobby. As part of the condition of Ihram, we could not look in the mirror, nor spray a fragrance, nor cover our faces even whilst sleeping. But because we would take these things for granted, it was difficult even though so simple. It taught us to be so much more aware of our every movement.
Walking downstairs, my legs were feeling jelly. The last time I had felt like this was when we were boarding at Heathrow airport, when I couldn’t believe that I was actually going for Hajj. And now, this was in anticipation of the climax of this whole journey. How would it be, seeing the Holy Ka’ba for the first time, ever?
We walked outside of the lobby into the 40-some degrees of humid air. Quite a few of our group members had gathered around different volunteers awaiting instructions. Just as Asif and I stepped down the first couple of steps, I heard Gulamraza uncle call towards us to join his group. Including us both, he was going to lead 35 people towards the Haram and explain the layout of the Haram, meeting points, and how to go from Tawaf to Sa’ee, before we all began the second Wajibat of Umrah-e-Tamattu – the Tawaf.
As we walked downhill towards the Haram, Gulamraza uncle pointed towards various landmarks so that we would remember how to return back to our hotel. Gate number 1 of the Haram, King Abdul Aziz Gate, was going to be our most frequently used entrance to the Haram, as we would learn over the next few days. We gathered outside of the gate to recite the supplication before entering Masjid al-Haram.
Prior to Hajj, when we were back home in Canada and preparing for the journey, Asif and I had both agreed that neither of us wanted to walk into the Haram looking up. Instead, we wanted to keep our gaze down until a clear view of the Holy Ka’ba was in front of us. Now was that moment. I looked down and saw hundreds of feet scurrying past me. All these individuals were heading towards the Haram, and then I looked at my own. How these feet had the strength to inch forward, one after the other, towards the House of God, I do not know. I felt shaky, yet excited. Nervous, yet in great anticipation. And amidst all that thought, our group came to a halt. Still, I did not look up. I closed my eyes, drowning out all other noise to focus on what Gulamraza uncle was instructing us to do. I heard him remind us how our Tawaf would begin in line with Hajr-e-Aswad (The Black Stone) and that we should stay within the Maqam of Ibrahim (a) and where to go after for Salat of Tawaf.
And then I looked up. There, before my eyes was the greatest sight I had every seen in my life. Words wouldn’t do justice to how I felt at the time but as I felt tears, I knew that I didn’t ever want to turn away. The jelly feeling disappeared and a renewed spirit of yearning to go into the nucleus of that crowd overcame me. Here I was, a servant of Allah (swt). Here I was, a guest, accepting His invitation. Really, how much more humbling could this journey be?
The first sight (through the arches)
The crowd was supposedly ‘not intense’ but for someone like me, coming for the first time, it seemed overwhelming. As I watched, I thought to myself that there was no way I would reach very close to the Holy Ka’ba. Members of our group paired up with their Mahram to begin the Tawaf. Asif and I made our way down the escalators, both of us very quiet, still soaking in the view we had just raised our heads to. We joined the outer circle of the Tawaf and began making our way as close to the Holy Kab’a as possible. By the time we reached the starting point at Hajr-e-Aswad, we were only 2 rows out from the Holy Ka’ba! It was remarkable!
Performing Tawaf for the first time ever was mesmerizing. I had the 7-bead Tasbih in one hand and was holding tight to my bag in the other. My gaze was fixated on the Holy Ka’ba. Being so close, the Ka’ba did not look so small anymore! There were hundreds of people around me, walking at different paces. Some were in large tightly-arranged groups reciting prayers loudly, others were on their own lost in their personal prayers. Observing those around me only lasted until I reached my starting point, and then I decided to focus on my own act of Tawaf.
After 7 rounds that passed incredibly quickly, we made our way to touch Maqam-e-Ibrahim (a) and then proceed to the allocated area to recite 2 Rak’ah Salat for the Tawaf. It wasn’t as crowded there and we managed to pray directly in line behind Maqam-e-Ibrahim (a). We then went on to Sa’ee.
Sa’ee was the walking between the mountains Safa and Marwa’ seven times. Here, there was no obligatory prayer, but a few recommended ones. The marble was not gentle under the feet and the walk was not easy, but I tried hard to imagine how Lady Hajarah, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim (a), would’ve paced between these mountains. Comparatively, my discomfort was nothing.
After Sa’ee the final Wajibat remained – Taqsir. We exited to the left of the area of Sa’ee and saw several others performing their Taqsir. Here, we performed ours, immediately relieving ourselves of the conditions and state of Ihram. The feeling of having completed Umrah-e-Tamattu was overwhelming. Asif and I could not believe that in such little time we had completed the obligatory rituals and were now no longer in the state of Ihram. The feeling of Makkah was still very surreal.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped for ice cream (the belated birthday treat). Then, back at the hotel, I made my way to my room to freshen up and rest. The rest after Umrah-e-Tamattu was probably one of the greatest I had ever had. I couldn’t understand why I had been so anxious, but I guess it was only natural as I had never even performed Umrah in my life to know what to expect. Allah (swt) had truly helped us and made this Wajibat of ours one of great ease.
At 12:30pm Asif and I met in the lobby and went for Dhuhrain prayers. I guess because we were quite early into Makkah compared to when other Hujjaj were expected to arrive, the Haram was relatively quiet and not as crowded. We were able to pray on the ground floor with the Holy Ka’ba in plain sight. After a while, we came back to the hotel to have lunch and rest. There was no afternoon lecture today, giving Hujjaj an opportunity to complete their Umrah-e-Tamattu at their own pace and to rest afterwards.
We went to the Haram again for Maghribain prayers with my aunt and uncle. However, this time we made our way to the rooftop where we had a bird’s eye view of the Holy Ka’ba. Watching the Tawaf from above looked so wonderful. The Ka’ba was a magnet, drawing in people of the Muslim Ummah. I saw little dots flocked close together circling around the Ka’ba. We sat for a while, watching, before the time for prayers, and again after the prayers.
Today had seemed like a dream. I could not believe that just morning I had seen the Ka’ba for the first time. I felt like I had been here forever. As I lay in bed now, ready to sleep, I silently acknowledge that today has been the best experience I have every had in life. I hope this is the first of many Hajj that I am blessed to perform insh’Allah…