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'Labbayk' reveberating in the air, Hajj : A journey of a lifetime

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All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP

Over the years, I have requested - begged – and - chocked “Hajis” across
the world to describe their emotions on Hajj journey– But alas! every time I hear,
“Dear, It just can’t be expressed in words, just look into our eyes” .

But I always manage hear two words , “Overwhelming… spiritually
overwhelming”.

Hajj is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, the fifth pillar of
Islam, a religious obligation to be carried out at least once in a life time
by every able-bodied Muslim.

Leaving family, friends, work behind – people descend on Makah, hoping to become better individuals, hoping to serve the society, hoping to seek God’s reward, hoping their bad deeds will be forgiven.

In broader sense, Hajj is a ritual designed to strengthen bonds of Islamic
sisterhood and brotherhood by exhibiting that everyone is EQUAL in the eyes
of the Creator. The rituals ‘strips off’ every Muslim of their wealth,
social status and pride.

You can see almost every colour

Every nation...

Every major language..

Every social class..

With one intention, with one thought, the thrilling sound of 3.4 million
synchronized tongues uttering the Oneness of God – it feels like a true
United Nations !

Abandoning all worldly duties, Pilgrims overflow the streets with a sincere
heart and unified voice, a call heard around the world ...

“Labbaik Allah humma labbaik
Labbaik la sharika laka labbaik

O my Lord, here I am at Your service, here I am.
There is no partner with You”

The South African Cyclists !

Nathim Cairncross, 28, and Imtiyaz Haron, 25, arrived in the holy city on Nov. 2, understandably exhausted after covering an estimated 11,000 kilometers in the space of nine months.

They undertook the journey for many personal reasons, they also wanted to improve their spiritual wellbeing. "It was a very tough journey, and you definitely have to be open-minded and flexible," he said.
Their trek took them from South Africa through Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Palestine before finally arriving in the Kingdom.
"It wasn't just a religious journey," said Cairncross. "It was also about seeing Africa and the sights in other countries too."

He added that in Zimbabwe they did some voluntary work, teaching local children how to count, read and write.

For the cyclists, who had seen so many famous landmarks on their arduous journey, by far the best sight they encountered was when they entered the Grand Mosque. "Seeing the Kaaba was incredible," said Cairncross. "That feeling you get, it was like the cherry on the cake. The wildlife, the nature throughout Africa, nothing compares."

What is it like in Arafat ?

Being in Arafat takes you to a whole new level of spirituality, restoring faith in humanity.
Tears in every eye, a touch of joy, contentment, repentance and reverence on every face.
The sound of chanting religious phrases, hands up in the air asking for God’s forgiveness,
every soul immersed in devotion, as if time has ceased itself to listen each one’s prayers...

Mount Arafat is a hill located east of makkah, the mount known as the “mount
of mercy” aka Jabal Al-Rahmah, a hill where Prophet Muhammad ( P.B.U.H)
delivered his Last Sermon to Muslims and delivered the complete message
of Islam.

The “wuquf” or standing of pilgrims wearing two white unsewn pieces of cloth known as “Ihram”
is an extraordinary symbol of Islam’s unity and equality.

Standing on the plain of Arafat is also symbolically synonymous to the ‘Day of
Judgment’ where every individual will have to account for her/his deeds. Muslims
believe that on this day ( day of Arafa ) the doors of heaven open to
answer prayers and grant forgiveness.
The belief in the Hereafter and Day of Judgment is incredibly significant
for a Muslim

According to Islam’s Hadith, on the “Day of Judgment” every individual will
be asked about four qualification - His life: to what purpose did he spend
it? His youth: in doing what did he wear it out? His property: from where
did he earn and how did he spend it? His knowledge: to what use did he put
it?"(Source : Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Darimi.)

With temperature around 30 degrees, among 3 million people – it’s hard to imagine how someone would not sweat !
it is beautiful to watch pilgrims gently sprinkled with water from a misting system installed . All of a sudden, sweaty faces turns into a smiling one, saying “Alhamdulilah” ( Thanking GOD) and setting off again.

Ever imagined how millions of people are fed ? – “Food in Arafat literally fall from the sky !” says one pilgrim . You may complain about transport, crowed, police etc but you would never complain about the food arrangements – it’s massive !
Various fruit vendors set up shop along Arafat's streets, while many companies and organisations distribute food as a goodwill gesture towards the pilgrims.

As the sun sets, the pilgrims leave Arafat for Muzdalifah, an area between Arafat and Mina, where they gather pebbles for the next day's ritual.

What’s new on this Hajj ?

“And thy lord has commanded YOU to allow only gulf nations to use modern
vehicle (Makkah Metro) !” ( Verse : 0, Chapter : 0, Ministry of Hajj
Manuscript)

Errr….

The eagerly awaited Makkah Metro is finally here, But wait ! - According to
Hajj authorities, only Saudi and Gulf nationals will be able to use them :S

I wonder what ‘criteria’ they use while initiating such key decisions, given
that majority of the Pilgrims come from countries like India, Indonesia,
Pakistan, Bangladesh etc.

Well, local journalists usually don’t ask such questions, when int’l journos
do ask - authorities become visibly irritated and attempt to dodge questions

The Makkah Metro was designed to make commuting easy and reduce carbon
emission. It is in first stages and operating at 33% of its capacity, it is
expected fully operational by 2011 and carry approximately 500,000
passengers at rate of 72,000 an hour.

Turning Hajj ‘green’ is part of UN backed “Muslim Seven Year Plan” that
aims to encourage environmentally friendly life-style among Muslims.
Exciting plans include improving efficiency at mosques, using sustainable
paper to print Qura’an!

Electric cars : There are around 124 electric cars for elderly and the disabled to commute.
Each car accommodating 14 pilgrims at a time – a free service provided by Ministry of Rural Affairs.

World’s Largest Clock : Pilgrims this year was able experience the
breathtaking view of the World’s largest Clock. The new four-faced clock
overlooking the Grand Mosque of Makkah is set atop a skyscraper, positioned
at 380m high, with the actual height of the skyscraper being 577m.

Each faces of the clock are 151 feet in diameter and will be illuminated by
2 million LED lights, Another 21,000 white and green colour lights, at the
top, will flash to as far as 19 miles to signal five-times daily prayers in
Islam.
I am not a huge fan of tall buildings but the clock appears absolutely
stunning - however, I perhaps would love to see it away from the Grand
Mosque. It appears ghastly overlooking the Grand Masjid, not mention the
lack of Islamic architectural touch in the design.

Eid Day !

The celebration of Eid-Ul-Adha is in commemoration of the command given by Allah to Prophet Abraham (A.S.) to sacrifice his first born son Ishmael to Him. In commemoration and remembrance of Abraham's trials, Muslims across the globe slaughter an animal such as a sheep, camel, or goat. A action pretty much misunderstood often by others outside the faith.
I woke up early in the morning, prayed Eid prayers at a mass congregation and look forward to celebrate the day with my family and friends. I shall be able to write more about eid tomorrow !
Eid is marked by three -four day holiday in most Muslim countries.

In Saudi Arabia it’s usually a week. One of the benefits of living in a ‘ kingdoom’ is being able to have extended holidays if your King commands ! And yes, this year King Abdullah has extended holidays to 12 days – an opportunity to spend more time on pulsewire !

All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP
All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP
All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP
All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP
All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP
All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP
All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP
All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP
Special Security force parade
All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP
All Photo credit : AN, AFP,AP

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Comments

noreens's picture

Hi Farona, It's good to see a

Hi Farona,

It's good to see a story about the Hajj here. It's the most spiritual journey a Muslim will ever make. People who I know who have been say they feel so connected to God when they are there that they even forget their families. I think it would be a really amazing place to go, and inshaallah when I do, I will come visit you!

Happy Eid!

Noreen

Amei's picture

Farona, these are beautiful pictures

Thank you for story. It is good to see this article in this forum. Wish you had a beautiful day. Happy Eid and well wishes to you and your family.

I am curious of the special security forces. The costume or uniform? The grand clock does have an impact standing tall.

It does look overwhelming with all the people. It looks saw compact.

Looking forward to hear the rest of the story.

Wish you well :-)
Amei

Farona's picture

Eid Mubarak Amei !

Thank you Amei ! I am glad to have you on this journey ---

It's is very overwhelming ! I have never seen so many people at one place....

The special security forces are part of a military display that the military usually conducts before any significant event - It's a way to reassure the public that everything is taken care off ! It's more of a political gesture then a security one !

They do a pretty good job in maintaining order -- very well trained !

Let me know if you do come here one day ! we can meet up ! I would be so glad to meet a VOF !

Potter's picture

Eid Mubarak!

Farhaa! This is a stunning posting. I really like the way you transitioned from a general description of the Hajj to the story about the South African cyclists. That transition gave your story pesonality and depth. I've always wondered about the logistics of the Hajj...how does Mecca feed. shelter and transport so many people? Your notes from food to electric cars addressed some of those questions. But the finest part of your writing is your choice of words to describe the spiritual impact of the pilgramage...and the idea of equality among participants. As you wrote:

"Every nation, every major language, every social class... with one intention, with one thought...a sincere heart and unified voice...Tears in every eye, a touch of joy, contentment, repentance and reverance on every face."

Thank you so much for bringing this reflection of your faith to the World Pulse community. I'm sure all of us who read this were moved.

Farona's picture

Thank you for reading such a

Thank you for reading such a long post ! much appreciated :- ) I am glad to have your support all the time, means a lot !

I wrote this very quickly ! very very quick ! – I really wanted to share this with a global women audience. Apologies for the errors and disconnecting paragraphs !

Each of these three million has a story to tell. Despite the obvious transport chaos, hardship and obvious discrimination at some stages by authorities , people forget the physical exhaustion and cherishes the spiritual contentment.
Here’s a clip from an Al- jazeera reporter recording from the Arafat crowed, it gets really crowded and dangerous when people move from Arafat to Muzdaliffah, the most exhausting route. http://bit.ly/daGsG3

All my friends returned from their journey yesterday – I was happy to hear from them, they sounded refreshed and re-energized. It was great !

I know “Thanks Giving” is around in the US and Canada – but I don’t know much about it, would love hear about it from you…

Farona's picture

Thank you for reading such a

Thank you for reading such a long post ! much appreciated :- ) I am glad to have your support all the time, means a lot !

I wrote this very quickly ! very very quick ! – I really wanted to share this with a global women audience. Apologies for the errors and disconnecting paragraphs !

Each of these three million has a story to tell. Despite the obvious transport chaos, hardship and obvious discrimination at some stages by authorities , people forget the physical exhaustion and cherishes the spiritual contentment.
Here’s a clip from an Al- jazeera reporter recording from the Arafat crowed, it gets really crowded and dangerous when people move from Arafat to Muzdaliffah, the most exhausting route. http://bit.ly/daGsG3

All my friends returned from their journey yesterday – I was happy to hear from them, they sounded refreshed and re-energized. It was great !

I know “Thanks Giving” is around in the US and Canada – but I don’t know much about it, would love hear about it from you…

Maura Conlon's picture

Yes, Farhaa, your words bring

Yes, Farhaa, your words bring us right into the story and the journey. Your vivid language speaks to the senses and to the human spirit deep within. It is a marvelous description of the pilgrimage. I especially was struck by this line: "as if time has ceased itself to listen each one’s prayers..."

I look forward to reading more!

Cheers to you,
Maura

Maura Conlon-McIvor, Ph.D
author, founder and social change psychologist
legacybeyondborders.com
celebrate life/tell your story/live your heart's legacy
mauraconlon.com

Farona's picture

Aww..thank you Maura ! I

Aww..thank you Maura !

I wrote this hastily, so couldn’t maintain a good flow…
Your thoughts made my day ! –

I have met many pilgrims for years. Many of them are so awe-struck that they only speak about their journey two-three months later. It’s far more overwhelming for poor pilgrims travelling from east asia, south asia, and west Africa. They spend their life-time savings to come here.
I like to take a stroll in down town Jeddah during this time for sight-seeing and shopping. Yesterday, I entered a stored full of ladies joking in different languages.. Was a very pleasant and confusing sight !

I understand “Thanksgiving” is around – I don’t know much about it though, if you have time, do post a entry or email me about how it is observed :- )

Cheers !

Maura Conlon's picture

Holiday Time

Hello Farhaa --

I hope this finds you well and stirring the pot of journalistic possibilities!

I've just returned from southern California, near Los Angeles, where I spent Thanksgiving Holiday with family. We went for a good hike in the hills and then feasted on turkey, yams, string beans, corn souffle, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberries...oh and pumpkin and apple pie. Just writing all this makes my stomach hurt! But it was yummy and fun!

I am curious if you have narrowed down your selection for your profile. I am sure you'll have lots of insightful questions for who it is you decide to interview. Are you feeling excited?

Okay, so I'll look forward to hearing how you are doing with your process. Go with the flow! (Do they have that saying in your country?)

cheers,
Maura

Maura Conlon-McIvor, Ph.D
author, founder and social change psychologist
legacybeyondborders.com
celebrate life/tell your story/live your heart's legacy
mauraconlon.com

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