An ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time for Mus­lims, the haj is an em­bod­i­ment of their jour­ney on earth

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

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.

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