THANK YOU, ALLAH...
An experience of a lifetime for Muslims, the haj is an embodiment of their journey on earth
IT was certainly a blessing from Allah that my wife and I were able to perform our haj in 2011, ahead of schedule. My turn should have been in 2014 and my wife, last year.
Our group left for Mecca on Oct 29, 2011, via Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) from Tabung Haji Kompleks in Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya.
Male pilgrims were dressed in their ihram, which consisted of two pieces of white cloth, unsewn. One piece is wrapped round the upper part of the body, except the head. However, when performing the tawaf (circling the Kaabah), the right shoulder must be left bare. The other piece is wrapped round the lower part of the body.
The seven-hour flight landed in Jeddah. From there, we travelled to Mecca by bus and finally reached our Dar Al-Eiman Royal Hotel in Al-Safwa Towers just before 5pm local time. For Muslims, performing the haj is the fifth and last pillar of Islam.
We performed the umrah on that same night, led by mutawif or religious guides. Several compulsory rituals needed to be performed.
First, we had to make our intention to perform the umrah before doing it. This had to be done earlier on the plane, while it was flying above Qarnul Manazil, Saudi Arabia, about two hours before landing.
The second ritual was to perform the tawaf umrah, circling the Kaabah seven times in an anti-clockwise direction. Upon seeing the Kaabah, I said to myself: “Thank you Allah for allowing me to be your guest.”
The other rituals were performing the sa’ie umrah at Safar and Marwah, and cutting our hair (called tahallul) and finally reciting our intention to part from wearing the ihram.
For several days that were left before performing the haj proper, pilgrims spent the time upgrading their religious activities, performing the obligatory solat (five daily prayers), solat sunat, reciting the Quran and the numerous supplications at Masjidil Haram. A prayer done at this mosque is 100,000 times better than anywhere else. Pilgrims took every opportunity to drink the zam zam water after every prayer.
The pilgrims had to pay a token of 355.00 riyals (RM406) if they chose to perform the Tamatttu’ Hajj. We also had to pay 430 riyals if we wanted to participate in the qurban (animal sacrifice). This was the remembrance as per the ritual performed by Prophet Abraham on his son, Prophet Ismail.
On Nov 5 (9 Zulhijjah), our group left for Arafah. The time was 12.50am. We made our intention to perform the haj while on the bus and recited the talbiyah (a prayer by the pilgrims as a conviction that they intend to perform the haj only for the glory of Allah). Talbiyah is repeatedly invoked during the haj, upon putting on the ihram, so the pilgrims can purify and rid themselves of worldly concerns during the journey.
We must be present physically at the plains of Mount Arafah, as this is the first ritual, known as wukuf for the haj. Prophet Muhammad had once said: “Haj is Arafah.”
Pilgrims must be in Arafah, from Zohor (the afternoon of 9 Zulhijjah until subuh (dawn) of 10 Zulhijjah. At 12:05pm, we started our wukuf with a sermon, followed by the Zohor congregation prayer.
In Arafah, we raised our hands high and prayed to Allah for the wellbeing and betterment of ourselves, family members and friends.
We could hardly contain our tears during the prayers. It was such a humbling experience to be among millions of Muslims, our worldly possessions left behind, all equal before Allah and seeking forgiveness from the Almighty for all our past transgressions and blessings for a better life.
Feeling subdued after performing our Isyak prayers at Arafah, we then proceeded to Muzdalifah, an open-level area southeast of Mina, on the route between Mina and Arafah. There, we collected pebbles for our next haj ritual: melontar, or the symbolic stoning-of-the-devil at the three Jamrah pillars in Mina. We reached Mina at 4am on 10 Zulhijjah. Pilgrims were required to be in Mina from 10 to 13 Zulhijjah for the ritual.
As we planned to go back to Mecca for the night, we performed the melontar on 10 Zulhijjah of the Big Jamarah (Jamrah Aqaba), followed by cutting our hair. Again, by cutting our hair, we can then part with our ihram. We then walked towards Mecca with four other friends and reached our hotel an hour and 10 minutes later.
The next day, we returned to Mina as pillion passengers for 100 riyals each. We stopped in Jamrah and performed the stoning of Small Jamrah, Middle Jamrah and Big Jamrah. The rituals were repeated over the next two days.
The stoning of the Jamrah, in essence, is the act of casting away one’s basest desires and wishes; if one is able to take this step and make it past his own base desires and wishes, then that which follows is the level of closeness to Allah.
We left for Mecca by bus in the afternoon of 13 Zulhijjah. To complete the haj, we still needed to perform the tawaf haji and sa’ie haji. I did this with my wife on Nov 12, 2011, after the Isyak prayers.
After performing tawaf wada’ (the goodbye tawaf), we left for Madinah on Dec 1. While in Madinah, we prayed at Masjid Nabawi, including at Raudhah, or Riad-ul-Jannah, known as the garden of paradise. It is part of Masjid Nabawi, and measures 22m in length and 15m wide, with some part of it situated inside the Hurah (chamber) of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
We did our supplications in front of the magnificent tombs of Prophet Muhammad, Saiyidina Abu Bakar and Saiyidina Omar. I also conveyed my friends’ greetings to the Prophet.
For the next few days, our guide brought us to visit the surrounding areas, such as Masjid Quba, Masjid Kiblatain, Bukit Uhud, Khandak and the date farm.
Before leaving Madinah, we were required to perform the wada’ (goodbye) ritual at Masjid Nabawi. We did it on the night of Dec 9. Despite feeling sad at finally having to say goodbye, we felt rejuvenated spiritually as we left the hotel at 2am Dec 10, for Madinah Airport.
We landed at KLIA at 9.25pm. For us, this once-in-a-lifetime experience when performing the haj was very rewarding and will forever be etched in our minds.
Thank you, Allah, for inviting us as guests to your Holy Land and for accepting us mere mortals to perform the haj.
To all pilgrims performing their haj this year, may your love of Allah be the light that guides you throughout your journey, and may you be blessed with Haji Mabrur.
Worshippers congregating at the Kaabah in Mecca.