Ever since I got married, I had the desire to go for Haj. A little before
Ramadan 1417, I thought of either taking the vacation time for I'tikaf
of the last ten days of Ramadan or for Haj. Considering my financial position
and my financial forecast, it seemed less likely that I would be able to
go for Haj 1417, so I opted to take the vacation for the I'tikaf. All praises
to Allah, the I'tikaf went well. I enjoyed staying at the Danbury masjid.
The entire community supported me. They joined me for some of the nights,
they cooked food for me, Dr. Shagufta Hasan treated me and brought me medicine
when I had some fever. May Allah reward them all for their efforts.
As the Haj season approached, knowing that I did not have money and
little vacation time left, I prayed to Allah to "Make it happen". The Most
Kind and Generous granted my wishes and I am forever indebted to Him for
it. I wanted to take out a loan from my retirement account, but the money
would not have come to me until after Haj. My youngest sister Mahrukh offered
me a loan until then. May Allah bless her. I did not have enough vacation
time, since I had already taken out a significant chunk for I'tikaf. I
talked to my boss, Vane Lashua, about taking some more time off. He was
himself on vacation in Florida at that time; he agreed. May Allah bless
him. All things worked out, all Praise to the Almighty! So just a few days
before they stopped giving out visas for Haj, I sent in a request to the
cheapest group that I could find. Hasan Ali and his friend Abdul Kamil
helped me find this group. May Allah bless them. My visa was probably issued
on the very last day of issuing Haj visas. I was uncontrollably excited.
I kept jumping and couldn't wait to go for Haj.
the day I left for Haj, I went to my mother's place and put on the Ihram
there. My aunt Hoor and her brother-in-law Abdul Aziz took me to the JFK
airport. There I was the only one wearing the Ihram. It was a little nippy
with some wind blowing. The guard at the Egypt Air terminal would not let
me in since I did not have my ticket with me. I waited for Inshirah, who
had my tickets. Soon Inshirah arrived along with other reverted Muslim
brothers and sisters. I was the only Muslim among them who was born to
Muslim parents. I felt that it was my responsibility to teach these reverted
Muslims about Islam and Haj. Later on, I found out how wrong I was. There
was plenty that they knew and they could have taught me for a long time.
It was a pleasure to say the Talbiyyah on the way to Makkah. The Talbiyyah
is: "Here I am - O Allah here I am. Here I am - There is no partner unto
you - Here I am. Verily all the praise and all the bounty are for you and
the dominion. There is no partner unto you". I was embarrassed being the
only one on the plane saying the Talbiyyah. However, Talbiyyah being a
special worship performed in the state of Ihram, it was my privilege to
say the Talbiyyah. Some people thought I was too much in a hurry to put
on the Ihram from New York. They were planning to take a shower in Cairo
and put on an Ihram from there. Some did not have an Ihram and were planning
to purchase one from Cairo. It turned out that there were no shower facilities
and no Ihram for sale at the Cairo airport. Many of the brothers had to
put on the Ihram from Jeddah, which some scholars consider is within the
Meqaat. All thanks to Allah, He let me put on the Ihram from New York!
Cairo was a mess. We never got out of the airport, it still was a mess.
Outside the building, it read ".. Enter Egypt, if Allah will, in security."
I got yelled at almost as soon as I entered the building, as I asked the
official which room to proceed to. A lot of the hajis were put in two rooms.
Officers were inconsiderate and the people were indifferent. There were
two scholars from Al-Azhar university who were teaching the hajis about
Haj. They gave a long lecture in Arabic while we waited for our passports.
After the lecture they led the prayers. Instead of one imam leading the
congregation, there were two. First the first one would say "Allaho Akbar",
then the second one would repeat, and so on. Although this was within the
realm of Islam, I felt that they distinguished themselves from the rest
of the believers and thus an un-Islamic act. I also noted that the Egyptian
government had influenced them to shave their beards but leave their mustaches,
something against the tradition of Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon
him. Later, I saw a woman dressed in a skirt showing her legs. She has
the civil liberty of wearing whatever she likes but the Muslim scholars
apparently do not have the liberty to wear a beard.
At Cairo I met a brother who said to me that Haj is a big lesson in
patience and perseverance or Sabr. That was a very good advice. I tried
to stick to it as much as I could.
Jeddah was a bigger mess. We were given a booklet about performing Haj
as we were shoved into a small room which had welcoming statements in various
languages written on the wall. I did not get the same welcoming messages
from the staff at the airport. Many of the elderly people were sitting
on the floor, some of us were standing. It was not clear what for were
we waiting or where the line should start for any processing. Inshirah
said that he had spent nineteen hours in that area on one of his previous
Haj - that was depressing. Remarkably it took us only two to three hours
before we were completely done with the processing. One officer to inspect
the visa, the other to take a money order of $245, the other for customs,
the other for yet another purpose. One of the officers did not like the
fact that I had filled the form in Arabic. He yelled "English. English."
to me and threw the passport back at me. When I explained to him that I
like Arabic because it is the language of the Qur'an, he was more congenial.
Once done with those officers, we were told that there were no more
buses going to Makkah for the night and so we had to sleep on the floor
until the buses started the service the next morning. The Haj terminal
at Jeddah airport looks like a collection of big tents. There were people
from all over the world. They had different colors, different languages,
different cultures, but believed one God. There were flags of different
countries. I spotted Pakistani flag right away. It appeared Indians were
more prominent and organized than Pakistanis. They had a dispensary there,
the Indian officials were organizing and taking care of their citizens
and so forth. We found a spot on the floor to sleep and left for Makkah
the next morning.
On the way to Makkah we stopped at a "Haji Reception Center" where we
were served with cold Zam Zam water. That was a very pleasant surprise.
I was very excited when we got to Makkah.
In Makkah, I saw several Western icons. I saw someone wearing a T-shirt
with Michael Jackson on it and one with Calvin Klein written on it. I saw
about half or more of the houses with dish antennas. It appeared as if
the society their was inclined towards the West. When I got to the bus
stop in Makkah, we were greeted by two brothers. One of them, Abdur Rahman,
was wearing a turban in a very traditionally Eastern style. It was a relief
to see some Eastern tradition left. They both spoke fluent English. The
other, Talib, spoke fluent Arabic too. I was surprised when I found out
that they were both reverted American Muslims. Sometimes an adopted son
is quicker to defend the family, because he knows what it is like to be
without a family. These brothers had realized what the Western icons stood
for. They had also realized the truth when they saw it.
There were signs all over the place directing people to the Masjid-al-Haram.
I asked Inshirah if we were going to go to the Masjid-al-Haram directly,
in accordance with the tradition of the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon
him. He said that we have to. I was absolutely delighted. Unfortunately,
the leaders of our group in Makkah, took us first to our residence where
we unloaded our belongings. One of the first things that I noticed, when
I got to our lodging, was that there was no bus service to and from Haram
for the Asr prayer. This was not my understanding when I left from New
York. I was told that there would be bus service for every salat. I also
noticed that the cafeteria was charging money for food, even though I was
told that the food was all paid for. From the long travel, I had swollen
feet. Although at the time of writing these words it sounds as if many
things went against us, but believe me, I was more excited at that time
than when I left from New York. The love for Ka'ba was strong, all praise
be to the Almighty.
After unloading our belongings, we soon left for Masjid-al-Haram for
our first Tawwaf. It was time for Asr prayer when we got there. After the
prayers I told the group that I wanted to make the Tawwaf alone and would
come back via the bus service provided by Munafi. Munafi was a Saudi firm
which was contracted to provide services to the entire group.
I was very excited to see all those Muslims swarming the place. I greeted
a number of them by "Assalamo Alaykum" and then with "Hajji Mabroor" or
"May your Haj be accepted". On one such occasion, an elderly Turkish brother
gave me a string of seven beads, to count my Tawwaf around the Ka'ba and
Sa'ee between Safa and Marwah. Not everyone was receptive, but that did
not put a dent in my enthusiasm to greet the guests of Allah. All praise
be to the King of Ka'ba, the One who chose to make His house on the earth,
He gave us a great bounty by making His house near us. I walked in the
masjid feeling like a teen-ager who was late coming home. There was some
feeling of guilt, there was hope of meeting and peace, there was fear of
getting caught, there was love of Allah and Ka'ba. Ka'ba looked beautiful,
absolutely splendid, magnificent. Tears ran down my cheeks as I made my
invocation to Allah. Glory be to Allah, the Lord of Ka'ba.
At the Masjid-al Haram, I saw a lot of people sitting and waiting for
salat. Most of the people walked right in front of another brother praying.
This is against the teachings of the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him.
People had put down their personal belongings, such as a water bottles,
slippers, prayer rug, etc., next to them and awaited for salat. When it
would be time for salat, many times there would be gaps in the rows ahead
of them. This was because people would not leave their places even if there
was space in the row in front of them, for the fear of loosing their belongings.
It is a pity that people travel such long distances to the House of Allah,
but stop inches away from where Allah, had commanded them to be - next
to their brother, filling the first rows first.
While making Tawwaf around the Ka'ba, I found slippers, plastic bags,
prayer notes, and other objects lying on the floor. It appeared that the
people were so concerned about loosing their slippers that they had carried
those with them while making Tawwaf. Allah made them loose those anyway!
I noticed that a lot of unnecessary pushing was done by women. I suppose
they were afraid to get lost and were carefully following their Mahram.
I saw a sister jumping onto the Muslims making Tawwaf to make way for herself.
I saw a brother making Tawwaf and shoving people left and right to make
way for himself. At one time during a Tawwaf, I was pushed so much that
I landed on top of the brothers sitting. I saw a man grinning as he was
pushing along. It appeared as if he was proud that he was able to push
and shove people around and make way for himself. All this was happening
right in front of the Ka'ba, the holiest of holy places in the entire world!
After making my first Umrah, I wanted to make another one. So I hired
a cab for forty riyals to go to the Masjid Ayesha at Tan'eem, take a shower,
pray two rakats, be in Ihram, and be back. By the time I got back, the
taxi driver informed me that I had taken too much time and that I owe him
After the second Umrah, I was too tired, so I decided to sleep a little
in the masjid. The cleaning crew promptly got me up. After Fajr, I waited
for the Munafi bus for fifteen minutes before and fifteen minutes after
the six o'clock pick up time, but I did not find the bus. So I went back
to the Haram. I found out that there was a public bus which left for the
Masjid Ayesha fairly regularly and charges four riyals round trip. I got
onto one of those and put my Ihram on for the third Umrah. On the way back
to the Masjid-al Haram, the entire bus was chanting the Talbiyyah.
When I got off, I found Bilal. I remember Bilal from the JFK airport.
He was a tall Caucasian member of our group, who wore a turban. He told
me that he was lost. We stuck together for some time before we got separated
due to the crowd. We went together to make phone calls home. When I called
my sister Umbrine, she was surprised to hear from me. She asked me, "How
did you find out Assad?" I was confused by her question. She told me that
my sister Mahrukh's Artereo-Venous Malformation in her brain had bled and
that she was in the emergency room. Then I talked to my mother and she
asked me the same question "How did you find out Assad?" This time I said,
"Allah told me", since He was the One who put it in my heart to call home.
I tried to call Mahrukh at the Emergency Room but they would not let
me talk to her. I left a message for her to keep her faith strong and that
I would be praying for her. This time when I entered the Masjid-al Haram,
I had a lot of different emotions. She was in my mind all the time I made
the Umrah. By the time I got done with the third Umrah, I was limping.
I went to a nearby Zam Zam dispenser and started to serve Zam Zam to the
guests of Allah. I loved doing it, I absolutely loved doing it. With all
the distress, agony, and pain, this was a very pleasurable time for me.
While I made these Umrahs, a few Pakistani brothers approached me and
asked me for money. They said that they had been robbed. I did not believe
them. At one such occasion, a man and his sister came to me and asked me
for help. This time I gave them a long lecture. I told them that many thousands
of years ago when this place was a desert with no inhabitants, a woman
and her infant son who were left next to where the Ka'ba now stands. She
put her faith in Allah. Of course Allah took care of her and the infant
with great honor. He gave them Zam Zam and made the running of the woman
between Safa and Marwa a ritual for men and women until the end of time.
I asked this man to put his trust in Allah and ask Allah instead of asking
humans. He asked my leave by saying that he had taken too much of my time.
I wonder if it was he who had taken my time or was it that he had spent
too much time on me with no hope of money coming from me.
By the time I got back to my residence, it was about ten at night. There
was a meeting of all the people of the building on the roof . By this time
I was noticeably limping. I went there to ask the administration publicly
to keep their promises. I had a particular verse of the Qur'an picked out.
When the brothers in administration talked, I felt that they were trying
their best and I chose not to complain to them in public.
When I was finally shown my bed, my room-mate Mr. G. A. Khan suggested
that I should see a doctor for my foot. Dr. Tamkeen Ahmed had his bed right
next door. When I showed the foot to him, he thought that I had a fractured
bone. He suggested going to the hospital the next day. I asked one of the
organizers, Talib, to take me to the hospital. He generously agreed to
take me to the hospital the next morning. After looking at the x-rays,
the Pakistani doctor at the hospital said that I must not use my foot.
He believed it to be tendenitis. He advised me to keep up my plans for
Haj. He gave me some pills. A Muslim Filipino nurse wrapped my foot with
a bandage. All this went on at no charge to me, as all was paid by the
I did not want to spoil my Haj, so I did not make any more Umrahs. I
went to the Masjid- al Haram several times after that and met people from
all over the world. I mostly communicated with them in broken Arabic and
gestures - more gestures than words. Throughout my stay I met people from
Bangladesh, Bosnia, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan,
Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom,
United States, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and many others that I did not ask
about their nationality. One brother from Iran was curious about life in
the US. He perhaps did not believe me that I could take the Qur'an to America
without upsetting the American authorities. At the very least he was very
surprised. The brother from Bosnia with his left arm missing was one of
the happiest persons I have ever met. He spoke Arabic more fluently than
I could speak English. When I asked him where from he learned Arabic, he
told me that he learned at his school. He told me his nation is working
on getting organized. The brother from United Kingdom told me that the
Muslims in UK have formed factions. The brother from Turkey told me that
during the times of Turks, the building around the Ka'ba were lower than
Ka'ba, in respect of Ka'ba. Pakistani brothers were having a discussion
about Jihad. Whether jihad should be done with oneself or with the enemies.
It was like a world wide conference. There were plenty of representatives
from all walks of life, from all corners of the world.
One night I was waiting in the Munafi office to fax a letter to Mahrukh,
when a Saudi Airlines personnel walked in. He started to talk to the Manager
named Mansoor. I didn't understand the conversation very well. It seemed
as though this person was a Sales Representative of Saudi Airlines. At
one point Mansoor said that prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, has forbidden
certain kinds of trades. Then he listed those kinds. The Sales Representative
agreed with Mansoor. Later, they shared a meal together. I was impressed
that the Sales Representative changed his ideas and agreed with Mansoor
after hearing the Hadith.
At another occasion, I noticed that when two people would get into a
deadlock argument, one of them would break the deadlock by saying, "Send
prayers to the messenger (of Allah)". Then they would both send prayers
to the messenger of Allah. This would calm the other down and there would
be more chance for a mutual agreement. These were different kinds of dealings
than in the West.
The night before the eighth of Zul Haj, my room mate Abid, an African-American
chaplain at Riker's Island, said that it was only play-offs until now and
the next day was the "Super Bowl". We were all excited and "pumped-up"
for the "Super Bowl". The next day was the day of Tarwiyah, marking the
beginning of the several days long Haj rituals. We were supposed to be
in Mina before Zuhr. We got to Mina, without any problem at around ten
o'clock. I expected a big traffic jam and having to travel on top of the
buses. There was none of that. We got onto an air-conditioned bus, less
than half an hour later we got to our tents in Mina. We simply had to pick
one of the tents there and stay there for the day. Our group found several
available tents. The tent, where I was staying in, luckily, had an evaporative
cooler. We hooked it up and it worked! This was much more comfortable than
I had imagined. The cooler of the neighbors in front of us did not work.
I tried to help them and in doing so, I messed it up and the fuse went
off. Now no one in the neighborhood had any electricity! Oops! One of the
brothers in our tent, told me that I should not have messed with the system.
Now, they, as well as us, did not have any cooling.
Later we got into this discussion of wealth distribution, riba (interest),
and zakah. I took it upon myself to explain the relationship between zakah
and riba to these newly reverted Muslims. While we were discussing, two
of our neighboring tent residents started to make Talbiyyah alternately.
When this conversation did not go anywhere, we decided to look for food.
Mikal, Abdul Wahhab, and I went searching for food. We went to the street,
right outside our tents. We saw a strange environment. It looked more like
a fair or a flea market rather than a religious congregation. We did not
find anyone making Talbiyyah. I thought it had just slipped the people's
minds and if they would hear us making Talbiyyah they would certainly join
us. I was wrong. The three of us made Talbiyyah. Few people joined us and
that for a brief time. Talbiyyah is supposed to fire up people and they
too should join in Talbiyyah. It was as if we were making Talbiyyah next
to stones. In fact worse, they looked at us as if we had gone crazy or
We did not find any one selling food. We did find a Pakistani brother
cooking food. We asked him to sell us some food. He refused saying that
the food was being prepared for a particular group. Abdul Wahhab wanted
to ask for food without money. I resisted, as I did not want to beg. He
said that he was curious to know what the man would say. So I asked the
man who was cooking to give us some food for free. He refused again. So
we left the place.
On the way back to the tent we found someone selling food and purchased
it for 8 riyals a lunch. We also noticed a lot of smoke at a far distance.
There was a chopper trying to put off the fire with buckets of water. We
wondered if the fire was in Mina. Someone said it was in the mountains.
I was afraid that people may be caught in this fire and wondered if I could
help, but there didn't seem to be a way to do so since it was far away.
When we came back to our tents, our companions also wanted food. We gave
that food to them and Abdul Wahhab and I went out to get some more food.
This time we ran into another brother from Bangladesh selling food. He
wanted to sell a lunch for 10 riyals. I bargained him down to 8. I proposed
that I would buy five lunches if he would sell for 7 riyals each. Apparently
he agreed. When I gave him 40 riyals, and asked for a five back, he was
puzzled. Apparently it was not his understanding that he was selling it
for 7 riyals. But he still agreed generously to sell for 7 riyals each.
On the way there and back Abdul Wahhab and I chanted the Talbiyyah. Again
it was a lonely feeling. On the way back we saw the fire getting closer.
We asked a few people if the fire was getting closer. They said that they
could see the flames earlier but not any more so it must be getting under
When we got back we surveyed the area for fire exits and planned a fire
exit strategy. We advised other brothers to do the same. I advised my companions
that there was no reason to worry about the fire, since it was too far
from us. Just to make sure, Mikal and I left to check on the fire once
again. That time I suggested to evacuate the tents. That was a good time
to leave without panic. I felt that if it turned out to be a false warning,
there was no harm in it. We opened the fire exit and started to leave.
After telling the companions in my tent, I started to tell the brothers
in other tents. Some of the brothers started to leave, some of the brothers
wanted to check the fire first, and some of the brothers wanted to wait
for a police officer to come and tell them. When people are warned of a
greater fire - the fire of Hell, some people believe the messenger, some
want to check the fire, and some ask for an angel to come down and tell
them that there is a fire.
Well soon enough I heard that the police was asking people to leave.
So I started to tell the people that the police was now asking to leave.
Some were still puzzled! During this evacuation time, I met a few people
I had known before. They were concerned about me but hastened to leave,
just like people would care about themselves on the Judgment Day, and not
their loved ones.
I saw a woman of about fifty years age sitting alone in a tent. I called
her several times at the top of my lungs, but to no avail. Finally I went
around to get to her. She was very nervous and crying. She was complaining
that someone had left her there and it appeared that she was waiting for
him. It was just like the Judgment Day - when those who claim to love each
other would care about themselves more - when indiscriminately people who
acted wrongly and those who did not act in time of need, would be the fuel
for the Hell-Fire. This woman could have gotten burned if she would have
stayed in her place. It was not her fault that the fire was raging, but
it would have been her fault if she would not have saved herself.
The fire exit led to a street, but it was a rather large step. I helped
people get off from the fire exit. Some women did not want my help, since
I was not related to them. Sometimes they realized that there was no choice
but to get my help so then they would change there minds. One such elderly
lady was more concerned about touching me and she took the trouble of making
sure that there was a piece of cloth between her hand and mine. It surprised
me that she would rather do that than save herself from fire or clear the
fire exit so that other brothers and sisters could also exit safely. Sometimes
we lose the sight of a bigger danger for the sake of petty issues.
Someone told me that people had to jump from a nearby building in order
to save themselves from the fire, even though it broke there legs. I am
surprised that they do not do the same and go for jihad to save themselves
from a bigger Fire. There are plenty Muslims in the world being oppressed
and plenty Muslims in peace. Why do the ones in peace do not go for jihad
to help their oppressed brothers and sisters? Have they forgotten the Hell-Fire?
I found several people collecting their belongings. When I told them
to leave those all and save themselves from the fire, to some it was the
right advice, others looked at me with contempt and suspicion, and continued
to gather their belongings. When people are warned about the Hell-Fire
they think more about their worldly possessions. These possessions keep
them involved until the Fire is upon them. Some of these people were old
and could not carry the load and run, but the love for their worldly belongings
was strong. "Your wealth and your children are only a temptation, whereas
Allah! with Him is an immense reward. So keep your duty to Allah as best
as you can. and listen, and obey, and spend; that is better for your souls;
and whoso is saved from his own greed, such are the successful." [64:15-
the people came out of the tents they watched the fire coming at them while
standing in the streets. They had to be told every step of the way to save
themselves from the fire. When I yelled at the top of my lungs to exit,
some started to move, some were yet doing other things. The fire was not
too far behind us. We could hear the gas cylinders exploding into pillars
of fire, the tents burning and the flames raging. We could see that the
fire department was desperately loosing the battle.
wind had certainly picked up. I did not want to leave Mina. Allah's messenger,
peace be upon him, had taught us to stay in Mina starting from before Zuhr
until after sunrise the next day. I was determined to stay in Mina for
as long as I could. I went all the way next to the mountain. I had reached
a place where the mountains cupped. At that time I realized that I would
get trapped if I stayed in Mina and climbed the mountain. The winds were
heading directly to the cupping of the mountains. Beyond the mountains
it was not Mina and to right it was not Mina. I chose to leave Mina and
go to the right.
On my way out of Mina, I met many people waiting for the fire. I recited
to them the portion of the verse "O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey
the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you ..." [4:59]
and told them that the police, which has authority over them has asked
everyone to leave, so they should leave too. Some were thankful and started
to leave, some stayed where they were - waiting for the fire. It reminded
me of the times when people are reminded from the verses of the Qur'an
and they pay little attention to the verses - waiting for the Fire.
On my way to the mountain on the right, I met an elderly Chinese couple.
The man said that he could not go any further because his heart was not
feeling good. They too were carrying way too much load for their age. All
this did not stop them from throwing away their worldly belongings and
saving themselves from fire.
was a highway between the tents and the mountain that I was on. The fire
reached all the way to the end of the highway. It consumed tents until
there were no more tents to consume. It reached the cupping of the mountains
and made the hajis run for their lives to the other side of the mountain.
It burned the tents and trees on the mountain at that end. The smoke was
thick and a lot of it. It went over our heads, covering the sun. The sun
had less light than a moon. It was all covered with dark thick smoke. I
could look directly at the sun without any problem. There were gas cylinders
exploding into pillars of fire, much smaller than the pillars of Fire in
"In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. Woe to
every slanderer and backbiter. Who has gathered wealth and counted it.
He thinks that his wealth will make him last forever! Nay, Verily, he will
be thrown into the crushing Fire. And what will make you know what the
crushing Fire is? The fire of Allah, kindled. Which leaps up over the hearts.
Verily, it shall be closed in on them. In pillars stretched forth." [Chapter
could feel the heat of the fire across the highway, it was hot. The Fire
of the Hell-Fire is going to be seventy times hotter than the fire of this
When the fire had finished consuming the Mina, it suddenly stopped raging.
There was no wind to speak of. It seemed as if the sole purpose of the
fire was to consume all worldly goods in Mina and drive us out of Mina.
When the fire had consumed all the tents and it was satisfied, one brother
started to chant the Talbiyyah. You would think that after such a clear
warning from Allah, people would pay heed - few joined him in the Talbiyyah.
I was terribly sad. I was totally devastated and depressed. I felt as
though Allah had kicked us out of the holy Mina. Instead of feeling like
a guest of Allah at Haj, I felt like an intruder in His space. I felt as
if my entire Haj was ruined. We were supposed to be in Mina at that time
but we were out of Mina. We could see Mina, and it was very close to us,
but we could not be in Mina. I considered not following up with the rest
of the Haj rituals. After all, I was unable to perform the very first ritual
of being in Mina from before Zuhr until sunrise the next day. I cried and
cried and asked Allah if we were that bad as to deserve to be kicked out
of Mina with fear of fire. The answer to that question, as I learned in
the days to come, was a resounding "Yes!". This realization was even more
People were keen to go back to their burned tents. It was too dangerous
to go at that time. The police kept them away from going there too early.
When we did go back, we saw the tents, the fans, the evaporative coolers,
the food, the baggage, everything burned, except what Allah had protected.
I did see one brother's luggage almost completely intact. He had put his
trust in Allah. "Allah! There is no god but He: and on Allah, therefore,
let the believers put their trust." [64:13]
The evaporative coolers which did not work earlier, were all useless now.
The food that I had bargained long and hard for, was all burned up. It
was good that the Bangladeshi brother sold it to me cheap. He probably
had his food all burned up too. Allah blessed his generosity in two ways
- he got some money by selling food before it all burned up and good deeds
were written for him for his generosity. His material belongings were gone
but his deeds remained - just like we would leave everything in this world,
only our deeds would accompany us to the hereafter. The Pakistani brother
who refused to sell or give us food had all of his food burned up too -
watermelon, cheese, rice, everything inedible. His material belonging were
all burned up too, his deed were written too.
I wanted to call my mother and let her know that I was all right. On
the way to the pay phones, I ran into my high school friend Anees. We both
went to make phone calls together. On the way, we wanted to drink some
soda. The soda which was one riyal before the fire was now four riyals.
Is the price increase all that the fire gave to people?
At the phone booth, a couple of brothers were asking the person making
the phone call to hurry up. I asked them to let the man make his phone
call in peace. They were a little upset at me for it. When it was my turn,
it turned out that my AT&T card did not work from there. So I had to
use Anees' Saudi pre-paid "Battaka". There were a couple of other people
who did not have calling cards and we all used Anees' card to make international
calls, telling our families that we were all right. Those two brothers
and a police officer got very upset at me for taking a long time. At that
time, I lost my temper. I yelled at them in English and at the end I said
"Wait" in Arabic. The officer promptly left for another pay phone. The
other two brothers calmed down too. I don't believe they understood my
English. I believe they understood my yelling. I know I was wrong in yelling.
Sometimes wrong things happen when I am angry.
Anees and I used to get a dozen bananas for three rupees near Adamjee,
my high school, and split them for lunch. We got some bananas from a store
and split them in remembrance of old times. We then went to our respective
burned tent locations.
A couple of elderly brothers from Pakistan came to us and wanted help
getting back to the Pakistani camp. I did not know where the Pakistani
camp was, but I volunteered to take them there. The Pakistani camp was
right where the fire started, on the other side of Mina. Since I did not
know where the Pakistani camp was at that time and neither did most of
the people I asked, I ended up getting a tour of Mina. I went through camps
from all over the world. I was surprised that no one was making Talbiyyah
even after the fire. People looked fairly calm, perhaps untroubled, and
going about their business as if nothing happened earlier that day. There
was no grief for the ones who had died in the fire. Many of them were out
on the street having fun with toys, gadgets, or other products for sale.
I did not see people reflecting upon the fire, nor did I see them making
invocations or remembering Allah. I did find a group of brothers making
Almost all of the tents up to where the fire started were burned down.
I did not see any dead bodies. That made me feel a little better. When
I got to the Pakistani camp, I met a Pakistani brother who had seen about
a dozen dead bodies. That made me think that probably fifty to a hundred
people had died. It turned out that about 350 people died in that fire.
There was garbage and litter all over the place. Filthy water was also
all over the place. I felt like I had come into a filthy ghetto. If someone
came to my property, even on my invitation, and treated my property like
these people were treating Mina, I would certainly kick them out of my
property - with fire if necessary! I had thought that our neighborhood
in Mina was filthy - it was the cleanest in Mina. Our neighborhood had
people from the US, Europe, and Australia. Muslims from those countries
had learned some hygiene from the non-Muslims. But Muslims today did not
learn it from their prophet, Mohammad, peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him, who taught it centuries before the West learned it from the Muslims.
There was a careless and arrogant attitude towards littering. A brother,
who was originally from Pakistan but was living in the UK, was pealing
an orange and throwing the peel on the ground. I offered him a bag to throw
the garbage in. He said, "They will come here tomorrow to pick up the garbage"
and continued to toss the peels on the ground. I believe he would never
do that in the UK. Altogether, there was more than 47,000 tons of garbage
picked up by the officials. I believe, ninety percent of the garbage was
tossed outside the garbage containers.
Most of the people spent the night out in the streets. There were no
tents, no evaporative coolers, no fans. Now that the tents were all burned,
in some of the places where there were tents, I saw burned bathtubs too.
Did we gather in Mina to relax in the bathtubs or to remember Allah, our
grave, our resurrection, our judgment, and our final abode?
Rahman and I spent the night at where used to be our tent. He had come
to Saudi Arabia to teach English. He accepted Islam there. We were both
very sad about the entire affair. He was more optimistic than I. He saw
people wearing white sheets walking on black ashes and considered them
coming out of ashes. I was too depressed to support his theory. I felt
that all of us, including myself, did something terribly wrong for which
we were all deprived the privilege of staying in the Mina for the Day of
Tarwiyah. Later, the brother who told me that we would have been better
off if I would not have messed with our neighbor's evaporative cooler,
agreed with me. He said that everyone had done something to get themselves
kicked out of Mina. He said that he had been "nasty" when he said something
about the evaporative coolers. Blessed are those who see their mistakes
and attempt to correct them.
"O ye who believe! save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose
fuel is Men and Stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe,
who flinch not (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but
do (precisely) what they are commanded. O ye Unbelievers! Make no excuses
this Day! Ye are being but requited for all that ye did! O ye who believe!
Turn to Allah with sincere repentance: In the hope that your Lord will
remove from you your ills and admit you to Gardens beneath which Rivers
flow, - the Day that Allah will not permit to be humiliated the Prophet
and those who believe with him. Their Light will run forward before them
and by their right hands, while they say, `Our Lord! Perfect our Light
for us, and grant us Forgiveness: for Thou has power over all things.'"
The next day we went to Arafat. Again, there was no problem getting
there. There were no traffic jams, no one riding on the roofs of the buses.
This is the place where the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him prayed
Zhur and Asr together, so that he could concentrate for the rest of the
day on making invocations to Allah for his followers - for us! He stood
on the Mountain of Mercy from after his prayers until Maghrib, praying
for us! This is the place where he gave his last memorable Haj sermon.
This is the place which reminds us of the Day of Resurrection. Men were
dressed in two sheets of cloth - on the Day of Resurrection we would be
lucky to have even that. Everyone for him or herself, just like the Day
of Resurrection. This is the place where I started to form my opinion on
why we were kicked out of Mina.
I went to Masjid Nimrah for the Zuhr and Asr prayers at Arafat. This
masjid was originally built by prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him. As I
got closer to the masjid, it seemed that everyone was going to the masjid.
When I got to the stairs, people started to push and some of us had no
choice but to follow the crowd. I saw people sitting in the walkways waiting
for prayers to start. Did they not learn that prophet Mohammad, peace and
mercy of Allah be upon him, had taught us to not sit in walkways as to
block the walkways? People had umbrellas propped up, but the corners of
the umbrellas were at the eye level and a danger to the eyes of fellow
brothers and sisters. Did prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon
him, not teach us to be considerate to others? Finally, one brother let
me sit on his mat. It was right next to a bunch of cold water fountains.
There were a lot of people making wudu at that place. The water dripped
all over the place and it formed a small stream. Did the prophet Mohammad,
may I be sacrificed for him, not teach us that cleanliness and purity is
half the faith? One woman came to these water fountains and got a bottle
full of water. Then she proceeded to urinate in front of all the people
and washed herself with that water. She then tossed the bottle on the ground.
Later on, someone picked it up. Did the prophet Mohammad, may my parents
be sacrificed for him, not spend a lot of time teaching us about modesty
and hygiene? What have we done to all of his teachings? Have we become
like the people of Ignorance? Or have we gone worse? Would the world have
lost anything if we would have all been burned in the fire?
I shall remember the time I waited for the prayer that day, for the
rest of my life, Allah willing. My sweat had made my garments all wet and
translucent. The sweat penetrated into the pouch that I was carrying and
made my prayer notes and the Qur'an wet. The marks on the Qur'an should
help me remember that day. I got sunburn for the first time in my life.
I must remember that day, so must my body. On the Day of Resurrection,
the sun would be a lot closer and hotter. In the Hell-Fire, when one layer
of skin would get burned, another would be grown to take its place. I must
fear the harshness of the Day of Resurrection and the torment of the Hell-Fire.
May Allah please protect us all from that. Ameen.
I had not slept well the night before and I was very tired. So I decided
to go to my tent and sleep a little after the prayers. But Allah had great
mercy on me that he led me to the Mountain of Mercy. I took short walks
on the street around the Mountain of Mercy to keep myself from dozing.
It was at this place 1407 years ago the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon
him said: "O people, lend me an attentive ear, for I don't know whether
after this year I shall ever be among you again. Therefore, listen to what
I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could
not be present here today.
"O people, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as sacred,
so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return
the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that
no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord and that
He will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take interest,
therefore all interest obligations shall from now on be waived. Your capital,
however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer inequity.
Allah has judged that there shall be no interest and that all interest
due to Abbas ibn Abd'al Muttalib (the uncle of the prophet, peace be upon
him) shall from now on be waived.
"Every right arising out of homicide in pre-Islamic days is henceforth
waived and the first such right that I waive is that arising from the murder
of Rabiah ibn al Harithibn.
"O men, the unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calendar to make
permissible that, which Allah forbade, and to forbid that which Allah has
made permissible. With Allah the months are twelve in number. Four of them
are holy, three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the
months of Jumada and Shaban.
"Beware of Satan for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope
that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of
following him in small things.
"O people, it is true that you have certain rights regarding your women,
but they also have rights over you. If they abide by your right then they
also have the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women
well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.
And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone whom you
do not approve, and never commit adultery.
"O people, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, offer you five daily
prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat,
perform Haj if you can afford to.
"All Mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a
non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a
white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black has any superiority
over white, except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is
a brother of another Muslim and that Muslims constitute one brotherhood.
Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim that belongs to a fellow Muslim
unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustices
"Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer for your
deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am
"O people, no prophet, or apostle will come after me and no new faith
will be born. Reason well therefore, O people, and understand my words
that I convey to you. I am leaving behind me two things, the Qur'an and
my example (the sunnah), and if you follow these you will never go astray.
"All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those
to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than
those who listen to them directly. Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed
Your message to Your people."
At Arafat, I saw garbage and litter all over the place. It seemed like
I had come to a garbage dump instead of a holy place. This was "fasaad"
or mischief. Did Allah not tell us Himself that He does not love those
who create fasaad? "But seek, with the (wealth) which Allah has bestowed
on thee, the Home of the Hereafter, nor forget thy portion in this world:
but do thou good, as Allah has been good to thee, and seek no (occasions
for) mischief in the land: for Allah loves not those who do mischief."
I saw rows of beggars all over the place. Many of them had mutilated limbs
or other parts of their bodies. Many of them were children. I remember
a boy of perhaps seven years old, who had only stubs left instead of his
legs. Some children were fake crying to get attention and money. Some of
the beggars were wearing Ihram just like myself - apparently they were
there to perform Haj too. I was at the Mountain of Mercy and asking for
the mercy of Allah, the Most Merciful. I felt that I should be merciful
to these beggars, so that Allah would be merciful to me; although I did
not believe that the beggars were genuinely in need of money. I told myself
that giving them money would be getting tricked and it was un-Islamic to
get tricked. So I did not give them anything. Did the great prophet of
Islam, Mohammad, peace be upon him, not teach us not to cheat? Did he not
tell us to take our provision when we go for Haj? There were many other
distractions at the Mountain of Mercy including camels. You could take
a Polaroid picture of yourself with a camel.
I made invocations to Allah at the Mountain of Mercy until before Maghrib.
My soloist activities were earning me the reputation of a lost person.
So, I left a little before Maghrib to be with the group. As it turned out,
the bus did not leave until after it was dark. I did manage to sleep a
little sitting on the ground, waiting for the bus.
A little into the night we reached Muzdalifah and offered our Maghrib
and Isha prayers and then spent the night there open to the sky on the
ground. Next morning we had to go to Mina again. We found an empty bus
going in that direction and we tried to get on that. The driver of the
bus, who was also wearing Ihram, became almost violent. He was greatly
upset that we got onto his bus. People hadn't learned much from the fire!
I was surprised to see that most of the tents in Mina were back up!
They must have worked day and night to achieve this huge work in less than
48 hours. This time we found a different tent. No one complained about
the evaporative coolers this time.
That day we were supposed to stone at the Jamarat al-Aqaba, in remembrance
of the prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, stoning the devil. I volunteered
to take care of an elderly Bangladeshi brother, Mohammad Ali, who spoke
Urdu. He and I went to Jamarat together. He was excited to go there and
so was I. I wanted to stone, albeit symbolically, my avowed nemesis. Mohammad
Ali treated me to grapes on the way there. It was a long walk. When we
finally got there, I saw more devil around the stone markers than in the
stone markers. People were shoving each other like I had never seen before.
Two brothers brought a group of women to stone. When they had finished
stoning, one of them led the women and the other followed the women. Then
the entire herd ran mercilessly into the crowd. This time even my yelling
in English did not work. The stones people were throwing were falling on
their fellow brothers and sisters. I had a tough time performing the ritual
of stoning at Jamarat. Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, was an excellent
example of patience and consideration. Did he not teach us that too? "Surely
Allah enjoins the doing of justice and doing of good (to others) and the
giving to the kindered, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion;
He admonishes you that you may be mindful." [16:90]
Like Mina and Arafat, there was garbage at Jamarat as well. The same
beggars that were at Arafat were there too. There I saw a woman begging
and breast feeding her child so that her breast was openly exposed. I suppose
that was yet another way to get attention and subsequently money. What
happened to the discouragement of begging and concealing of Sitr as taught
to us by the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him?
From Jamarat, we proceeded to make Tawwaf of Ka'ba. On the way, Mohammad
Ali told me that he got robbed of his money while making Tawwaf. I had
a hard time believing him. In the holy month, in the holy city, in the
holy masjid, performing a holy ritual, in front of the holy house of Allah
- Ka'ba, someone robbed him by slicing open the belt styled pouch. He was
not lying. When I tried to buy him some cold water, he insisted that he
would pay for it - he told me that he had borrowed some money from his
companions. Mohammad Ali had to go to UK the next day. Somehow, we decided
to part right outside the Masjid-al Haram. As I proceeded to the masjid
I saw an old Pakistani brother of about seventy years of age slipping due
to the water on the floor and fallen. He was in deep pain. He kept saying
that he lost his leg. I did not believe him. I thought that he would be
all right soon. As it turned out he did have his leg broken close to his
hip. His wife burned her feet during the fire. His son was very nervous.
He kept blaming his fate and apologizing to his son for ruining the son's
Haj. At the hospital, I found out that there were many such cases and the
orthopedic ward was overflowing.
I could not make Tawwaf that day so I went back to Mina after getting
rid of my hair. I did not find Mohammad Ali at the camp. The next day it
was Jamarat again. I dreaded it. Luckily I went to the upper level and
went around the Jamarat and stoned from the rear. It turned out a breeze
this time. Later that day I was able to make Tawwaf and Sa'ee. That day
I saw the authorities using bull-dozers to pick up garbage from around
The last day, I had this apparently smart idea that I would go right
after Zuhr to stone Jamarat and then I would be done for the day. That
was a real bad decision since everyone else was also in a hurry to leave
Mina and a great crowd had gathered. I went to the upper level with brother
Tamkeen. The police was trying to control the crowd and so we had to wait.
I didn't mind the waiting. It was the environment that was repulsive. We
were all pressed against each other. Some brothers were objecting that
I was getting too close to their women. I told them to bring the women
at Asr time if they were so concerned. They were stuck and could not go
out. Several brothers had umbrellas which protected from the sun but created
a suffocating environment. That was the only time throughout my trip that
I was afraid of getting run over. When we were let to proceed, we all ran
like a herd of donkeys. One pathan brother from Pakistan was shoving people
left, right, and center. When I confronted him, his excuse was that it
was "no dance", implying that there was no need to be sophisticated, with
complete disregard for other brothers and sisters.
On the way back, brother Tamkeen and I bought some water. When I returned
the bottle to the storekeeper that he would put it in the garbage, he threw
it out the door! Lucky for me that I caught it in mid-air. I then asked
him to throw it in the garbage. He took the bottle and threw it again right
out the door onto the street. I wasn't lucky enough to catch the bottle
this time. I suppose they wanted to live in garbage. But that is not the
teaching of my beloved prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him. He liked cleanliness and preached it to his followers.
With all praise for Allah, the Lord and Cherisher of worlds, the Haj
rituals ended. I saw deception, corruption, selfishness, lewdness, ignorance,
filth, robbery, broken promises, indulgence, name calling, back biting,
yelling, pushing, arrogance, and more during these few days. I did get
the answer to my question, if we were really that bad to deserve fire in
the holy Mina. We deserved it. We deserved it well.
After Haj, we were told by our group leader, that we would leave for
Madinah on a certain evening. So, I went to make my farewell Tawwaf that
day. When I got back, it was announced that we are not leaving that night
after all. That made me get up after everyone had spoken, and talked. I
told the management that they should keep there promises as reminded to
us in the Qur'an, "O you who believe, fulfill (your) obligations ..." [5:1].
I reminded them of their broken promises of paid food, reliable bus service
for all salats, and going to Madinah that evening. Many of the brothers
later came to me and told me that they felt the same way as I did and they
were glad that I spoke out.
A major contingency at Munafi residential area left soon after Haj.
As soon as this contingency left, the cafeteria downstairs closed. There
was no manager on the property and the director disappeared as well. Two
days later, at the complex, I met this lady from France who was about eighty
or more years old. She told me that she hadn't had anything to eat for
two days! The cafeteria was closed and the management had forgotten all
about her. The nearest restaurant was about three fourths of a mile away;
out of walking distance for the old lady.
Eventually we left for Madinah by bus. On the way there, the authorities
have put up signs by the roadside saying, "All praise be to Allah", "Glory
be to Allah", and some other messages like it. This made me remember Allah
and His messenger in my free time, instead of thinking up silly things.
My gratitude to the authorities who put up the signs.
There were two signs written in the bus: "It is forbidden to give money
to the driver" and "No Smoking". The bus driver insisted on getting a tip
from me, despite my refusals several times. I told him to read the sign.
He did not get a tip from me. One of the passengers came next to the driver
while he was driving the bus and started to smoke and talk to him. Bilal,
who was sitting next to me, brought the "No Smoking" sign to the passenger's
attention. He mumbled something and then referred him to the driver. The
driver was himself smoking and he said, "One minute". I suppose we were
supposed to hold up our breaths while they smoked.
Madinah was like a healing ointment on cuts and bruises. The people
there were a lot more peaceful and accommodating. Abdul Wahab, Bilal, Abdul
Hakeem, and I stayed in a small hotel room for three nights. The hotel
was at a walking distance to the masjid of the prophet Mohammad, peace
be upon him. It was very beautiful to just walk to the Masjid- an Nabawy
for salat. Masjid-al Haram and Masjid-an Nabawy breathed people. Before
salat, people would come to the masjid, like water in a whirlpool, like
light in a black hole, or like air molecules in our noses. Everyone had
their faces turned towards the masjid. After salat, people would similarly
leave the masajid, like air molecules from our noses.
Abdul Hakeem, a young African-American brother, who had reverted to
Islam only seven months before coming to Haj. He told me that when he found
out that Muslims are supposed to go for Haj, he said, "I'll go." For him
it was just fulfilling his obligation. He said that some of the "born Muslims"
then started to discourage him! They were very surprised at Abdul Hakeem's
decision. They said that one has to make invocations at Arafat in Arabic
and asked him how he was going to do that. I believe that they were merely
jealous that they hadn't fulfilled their obligation of Haj and that this
young brother is availing the opportunity at the first Haj that he gets
being a Muslim. May Allah bless Abdul Hakeem and may Allah guide us all
to the straight path. Ameen.
Right after the first Zuhr prayer I prayed at Masjid-an Nabawi, my old
time neighbor and friend Shahzad Razi found me. I was very glad to see
him - and what a beautiful place to meet. We hung around for the next three
Right after the last salah Shahzad and I prayed at the Masjid-an Nabawi,
we run into a very small library right inside the masjid. It has old manuscripts
of the Qur'an. Some manuscripts were written on the date-palm leaves, others
were written on paper. Since the paper was much thicker at that time, than
what is available these days, I saw a manuscript of a single surah in one
volume binding. None of the other brothers that I went with had seen the
library. It is not very well marked and so you may have to ask for it,
if you want to see it.
We left for Jeddah three days later. For Salatul Maghrib on the way
back we stopped at a wayside masjid. Bilal gave the adhan and Inshirah
led the salat for a group of various travelers from different parts of
the world - one a Caucasian American reverted Muslim and the other an African-American
reverted Muslim. After my experiences in the past few days, I felt that
the reverted Muslims deserved the leadership of the ummah, just as in that
Maghrib salat. I did not see a single reverted Muslim who had his or her
faith shaken by all the injustices of the "born Muslims". They really believed
in Allah and His messenger, peace be upon him, and not those who merely
claimed to follow Allah and His messenger, peace be upon him.
As expected, we spent another night at Jeddah airport. Inshirah and
his wife had some trouble getting a seat while their daughter got a seat.
It was a problem for them since this would have separated the family. The
Egypt Air official told them that they should check an hour after the check-in
starts. Inshirah said that he trusted Allah and that Allah would take care
of him. By the Grace of Allah, they got first class seats instead. Sometimes
what we think is an upset, it is actually a setup of Allah.
There was a quick stopover at Cairo and we were soon off to JFK airport.
As I got to my seat in the airplane, I saw a young Egyptian woman dressed
in a skimpy tight T-shirt and tight pants, sitting close to me. She started
to ask for attention from men nearby and she got plenty of it. Apparently
she did not know where the volume and channel controls were and it took
one man to show her that. Apparently she did not know how to put the seat
belt on and it took another man to almost put the belt on for her. Apparently
she did not know how to use the pillow. It took the first man to fold the
pillow and put it behind her neck. One of these two men was carrying Qur'an
in his left hand and helping her put her belt on with the right hand. I
was appalled at this hypocrisy. I got their attention and recited in Arabic
"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their
modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well
acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they
should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display
their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof;
that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their
beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers,
their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, or their brothers' sons,
or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right
hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children
who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike
their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments; And O
ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss."
One of the men calmed down a bit, the woman started to mumble in Arabic,
the other man, who still had finger stuck in the Qur'an that he was holding
in his left hand, started to argue with me. He knew the verses very well
- he even corrected my Arabic recitation. He said that he had performed
Haj before I did and that I should be quiet after giving my advice. Later
I found this man and the woman talking in the back of the plane. It did
not appear that the Qur'an had made any impact below their ears or their
throats into their hearts, even though it was in their language. Later
I found out that this woman was "Miss Egypt". There was a world of difference
between these "born Muslims" and the "reverted Muslims" who gave adhan
and led the prayer at a wayside masjid between Madinah and Jeddah. They
were certainly not equal.
When I arrived at JFK a remarkable thing happened. The people who had
behaved like a herd suddenly became civilized! They all lined up neatly
in front of the US immigration officers. Compared to the immigration officer
at Jeddah, it was a much more pleasant experience. At Jeddah, it was hajis
behind walls against immigration officials. At JFK, it was mostly foreigners
in peace and in a neat line. At Jeddah the officials were yelling at the
hajis to be patient, at JFK the officials were directing people to the
next available immigration officer. At Jeddah, I was wearing an Ihram,
an obvious indication that I was a Muslim going for Haj in a Muslim country.
At JFK, I was wearing shalwar qameez, an obvious indication that I am a
foreigner coming into a non-Muslim country. At Jeddah, I was yelled at
"English. English." At JFK, I was greeted first, before I greeted, with
"Good Morning." At Jeddah it took from two to three hours to get through
all the processing, at JFK it took between thirty to forty five minutes.
It seemed that Muslims were following the West in all sorts of ways, including
its icons of Michael Jackson and Calvin Klein, but not in organization,
courtesy, greeting first, hard work, and consideration.
At JFK, my family brought many gifts when they came to pick me up. Among
them was my sister Mahrukh. By the Grace of the Most Kind One, she appeared
as if nothing had happened to her - she had had a brain hemorrhage and
had spent several nights in the hospital. All Praise be to Allah, the Lord
and Cherisher of the worlds, the gift of Allah is the best gift of all.
Everyone who goes for Haj has a certain amount of commitment to Islam.
Everyone spends time and money to go for Haj. If the people that I met
at Haj were the best that the Muslim world has to offer, then the enemies
of Islam have nothing to fear. It is no wonder that Muslims are treated
like cheap dirt the world over. It is no wonder that the Muslim blood is
the cheapest blood to shed all over the world. It is no wonder that little
is left of the Muslim honor. Today in this ummah, there is no Mohammad
bin Qasim, the 17 year old general who delivered Muslim prisoners when
an Indian prince invaded their ship. There is no Salahuddin Ayyubi, who
said that he would not smile until he delivers Jerusalam. There is no Mohammad
Fateh, the 18 year old general who pushed ships on land around Bosphorus
to conquer Constantinople (Istanbul) because of a prophecy of the prophet
Mohammad, peace be upon him.
It is also no wonder that there is little progress in the ummah towards
the advancements of various sciences. Today in this ummah, there is no
Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina the great physicist and physician
whose books were used as medicine text books all over the world up until
mid seventeenth century, no al-Khawrzimi the inventor of Algebra, no al-Hasan
Ibn al-Haytham the great scientist in Optics, no al-Battani, a reverted
Muslim and the pioneer of his time in Astronomy and Trignometry who invented
sine, cosine, tangent and cotangent. We do not have the discipline nor
the patience to wonder about the signs of Allah. It is no wonder that there
are few like Abu Bakr, Umar, Outhman, and Ali. We do not have the passion
and the selflessness to serve the creation of Allah; today the politicians
and leaders merely fight for power and wealth, and then they oppress people.
We have become a dead ummah. An ummah of mere talk, if that at all. "Inna
lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon" - Verily we belong to Allah, and to Him
is our return.
All my life I had dreamed about the revival of Muslims. I had hoped
that my nation would wake up to the call of the Qur'an, given fourteen
hundred years ago. I had prayed to Allah to help us and give us the will-power
and the strength. But Allah has written down fourteen hundred years ago:
"... Verily Allah does not change the condition of a people until they
change their own condition; and when Allah intends to a people, there is
no averting it, and besides Him they have no protector" [13:11].
We have forgotten the message. It seemed only a few people I met at Haj
had any desire to change themselves. The number of these very few people
was so small that it doesn't appear to me that the ummah will have any
appreciable revival in my lifetime. This was the most depressing and thought
provoking realization during my entire Haj.
The overall picture of Haj that I received was quite gloomy. The state
of the ummah is pathetic. My message to you, gentle reader, is to start
educating people where the population is already Muslim. Tell them about
organization, hygiene, trust, piety, humbleness, selflessness, modesty,
consideration, compassion, truthfulness, honesty, and other Islamic treasures
that our beloved and honored prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, taught
us so diligently and practiced them in his life.
Tell them to stop following the Satan and falling into the popular sins
of today. Today, you may find many who do not adhere to the very basics
of Islam, for instance Salat. The most difficult salat for a hypocrite
is Fajr and Isha. Tell them that dealing with interest is forbidden by
Allah and whatever is forbidden by Allah does not have blessings of Allah
in it. Also remind them to pay zakat and that what Allah has ordained has
great blessings in it. Tell them to cover themselves up as Allah has ordained
us in His book, if we do not, we would be spending time in sin. Today,
it is considered admissible for men to wear shorts and for women to uncover
her hair; but this is not the practice of our beloved prophet, peace and
blessings be upon him. Tell them to consider others as worthy creations
of Allah, and other Muslims as their brothers and sisters and be considerate
to all of them whether Muslim or not. Tell them to stop backbiting and
slandering each other. Today it is a very popular sin. Listen and obey
the Qur'an: "The believers are nothing else than brothers, so make reconciliation
between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy. O you
who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the
latter are better than the former nor let (some) women scoff at other women,
it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another,
nor insult one another by (offensive) nicknames. How bad is it, to insult
one's brother after having faith; and whoever does not repent then such
are indeed the wrongdoers. O you who believe! Avoid much suspicions, indeed
some suspicions are sins; and spy not, neither backbite one another. Would
one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it
(so hate backbiting); and fear Allah; verily Allah is the One Who accepts
repentance, Most Merciful. O mankind! We have created you from a male and
a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another;
verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is the one who is pious" [49:10-13]
To those who do not know the blessing of Islam, we must take the word
to them. I found the newly reverted Muslims most energetic and enthusiastic
about Islam. This is because they come to Islam after understanding it.
I believe that they will take the lead of the ummah, Allah willing. If
we are unable or unwilling to lead the ummah, the least we can do is bring
the message of Islam to the ones who are able to lead the ummah. By doing
so, we share in the reward of their leadership and hard work, without diminishing
their reward. This is the most important realization I had during my trip
to Haj - to spread the message to those who are able and are going to lead
If we do not educate our brothers and sisters and do not spread the
word of Allah, we would be falling short of fulfilling our obligation to
the All Powerful. Of course The Most Generous has prepared beautiful gardens
for those who fulfill their obligations and burning fire for those who
do not fulfill their obligations. Remember, we must start from ourselves,
our families, our relatives and our neighbors. We must change our ways
for the better, so that we may receive the Mercy of the Most Merciful.
"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is
good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong: They are the
ones to attain felicity." [3:104]
In order for me to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, I must
judge the actions around me. If I see the need for something right to be
done, I must command it and if I see something wrong being done, I must
forbid it. But before I can do that, I must first judge the action, if
it is right or wrong. The above narration of my experiences of Haj is in
the same spirit. I do not judge the people for that is reserved for Allah
alone, only the actions that I see. May Allah please, with His Great Mercy
and Generosity, accept the Haj of all the believers and grant them all
a high place in the highest paradise. May Allah please forgive my forgetfulness
and mistakes and of all the Muslims. Ameen.
Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The prophet, peace be upon him said: "The believer
is the believer's mirror, and the believer is the believer's brother who
guards him against loss and protects him when he is absent." (Abu Dawud)
We must all tell each other what is good and bad in the other, so that
we may continue to do the good and stop doing the bad. So that we may grow
our own faiths.
In the end I'll mention some of the lessons I learned regarding the
logistics of performing Haj. The average age of the hajis was probably
more than 55 years. It was difficult to make Haj for many of the elderly
people. One should plan to make Haj as soon as one can, preferably before
forty years of age. Once one can afford to make Haj, Haj becomes an obligation
to Allah. One may be held responsible if he or she was able to make Haj
for a short period of time in his or her lifetime but he or she did not
avail it at that time. Later on, he or she may never be able to afford
Haj again. Offering Haj at an early age ensures one that he or she would
be in a good physical condition and in a spiritual state that he or she
can mend his or her ways easily and earlier.
It is probably easier and better to make Tawwaf by yourself and not
with someone else. This lets you concentrate on your worship and not worry
about following someone or making sure that someone is following you. My
recommendation to the women would be to decide on a meeting place and time.
A gate would be a good place, since all the gates are numbered and named.
The best place to make Tawwaf is, of course, as close to the ka'ba, as
possible, if you can do so without hurting others or yourself. I found
it better to make the tawwaf on the roof. There are fewer people there,
especially after Fajr and also when the sun is hot. This way you make bigger
circles and under the hot sun, but you do not run into the risk of injuring,
physically or emotionally, another Muslim brother or sister or yourself.
Women have a leave to go to Jamarat at night time, they may want to
utilize it. There are a lot of people at Jamarat during the day time and
it may be difficult for the women and children. Men may want to perform
the stoning at day time for themselves and then accompany their women at
Out of all the salats that I prayed in the Masjid-al Haram and Masjid-an
Nabawi there was only one salat which was not followed by a funeral prayer.
You may wish to learn the salatul janazah. Narrated Abu Huraira: "Allah's
Apostle (peace be upon him) said, `(A believer) who accompanies the funeral
procession of a Muslim out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah's
reward and remains with it till the funeral prayer is offered and the burial
ceremonies are over, he will return with a reward of two Qirats. Each Qirat
is like the size of (mount) Uhud. He who offers the funeral prayer only
and returns before the burial will return with the reward of one Qirat
Under the new system, everyone is given a wrist-band. The name of the
office which is responsible for the lookafter of the individual is written
on that band. If one simply shows the band to any official he or she will
arrange for the person to reach his or her place. This system is followed
through in Makkah, Mina, Arafat, and other places. I have met a few people
who were lost and the information on the band was incorrect. You may want
to make sure when you get the band that the information on your band matches
with your companions. There are information offices in Mina and Arafat
as well and people should feel free to get directions from there.
Medical care is free for all hajis. I have come across people who were
sick or wounded yet they did not go to the medical clinics. There are clinics
in Mina and Arafat and people should feel free to utilize these facilities.
I had some difficulty cashing my traveler's checks. The lady who sold
me the checks in US told me to keep the receipt separate from the checks.
The officer at the Al-Rajhi Bank in Makkah said that they would cash it
if it is accompanied with the receipt and my passport. Of course, my passport
was already taken into "custody" by the Saudi officials. In this situation
I called American Express. They said that I can cash them in Al-Khobar
or Riyadh - both closer to the East Coast of the kingdom, while I was closer
to the West Coast. I found out that one can get cash from ATMs from a particular
bank. I believe the name is "Arab National Bank". Their ATMs are connected
to the same network that most of the American banks are connected to.
Many vendors there sell a leather belt which has many pockets to protect
valuables. It is a fact that people pick pockets of Muslims making Tawwaf.
These pick-pocketers are well aware of the construction of those belts.
I saw a Turk brother crying out aloud in front of the Ka'ba and asking
for money because he was robbed. His belt was cut open from the back, while
making Tawwaf. I do not know if he was a victim or a con-artist. In any
event, my recommendation is not to use such belts and find different belts
or pouches, perhaps from your home town.
In Egypt, all of our passports were taken to get stamped. I did not
get my passport with the rest of the passports of my companions. It was
lying in a pile of passports of similar color. Rizwan Shah, an old time
Adamjee friend of mine who went for Haj before I did, had advised to put
a bright colored sticker on the spine of the passport so that it is easily
identifiable. It was a great help - I was able to recognize my passport
You may want to take a flight which goes directly to Jeddah. You may
also want to make sure that your stay in Makkah and Madina is at a walking
distance from the Haramain. It may cost you more to do so, but it may be
a better solution than waiting for a bus each time you want to pray there.
Food is not a problem at all. One can get a good meal for less than
ten riyals, about three dollars. There is enormous variety of food there
- Arabic, Pakistani, Indian, Indonesian, American (McDonald's, KFC, Dairy
Queen), and many other restaurants are abundant. However, I suggest to
eat less at the restaurants and eat fruits and drink zam zam so that their
may be less chances of stomach problems and consequently you may concentrate
on your worship.
Take more money than you have estimated that you would need - say, $300
more per person. It is always better to lend than to borrow; and you may
never know when you might run into a need for money. Divide your money
into smaller amounts and keep them separate. i.e. Don't put all the eggs
in one basket.
There is a huge barber shop opposite to Jamarat. It is run by the Saudi
government. One may also find men around ready to shave your head by the
street. It is illegal for them to do so. Also, it is not hygenic to do
so. If the shaving blade is not sterilized before shaving each head, the
blood may get exchanged via the shaving blade. You may end up with a serious
disease, if you are not careful. You may want to take your own razor or
charged electric shaver. In any event, it is much better to have your head
shaved at the government run barber shop than by the men on the street.
The Saudi government has put in a lot of effort to make Haj a smooth
process. There are ample restrooms and wudu facilities all over the Haramain,
Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifah, and waysides on the highways. There are ample
buses for transportation. There is a large contingency of police. Some
of them very helpful. One of them took me to my camp from one side of Mina
to the other when I asked for directions. All the Hajis are supplied with
zam zam water everyday at their residences, although the Munafi management
did not give any to us. The medical facilities are free of charge to the
hajis, paid by the Saudi government. At the Mountain of Mercy, there are
poles which spray out cool mist, so it does not get too hot for the hajis.
There are some areas where there is room for improvement. For instance,
for stoning Jamarat, the administration could set times for different camps
so that the place does not become over-crowded. They may mark some safoof
or rows closer to Ka'ba on each floor to be reserved for making Tawwaf.
Making the tents in Mina from fire retardent material was another suggestion
given by Mikal.
Most of all, Haj is a time for Sabr or patience. It was difficult for
me to not fight, not even argue while I was at Haj. But this is exactly
what is required of us. I suggest to start practicing not to fight and
argue long before it is time for Haj.
May Allah take you, my gentle reader, to a Haj which is accepted by
Allah, rinses you of your sins, is a source of spiritual growth for you,
is a reason to get you a high and blessed place in the highest heaven,
and a generous blessing of the Most Generous One. Ameen.
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