A Hajj Journal-An Oath

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Figure 1A: Ibrahim Al-Khalil Road/Street in Makkah

I smiled with joy as we left from our hotel on Ibrahim al-Khalil street and walked up the deep alleyway to our hotel. “Look at all the bookshops on the drive,” I noticed with an air of exhilaration. There was nothing like some books to get you going. I would have to visit there later when not immersed into my `Umrah and Hajj visits.

We would arrive in our rooms first and then the rest of the luggage would come in the evening. “Don’t worry about anything, brother Abu Ja`far,” the Imam told me to assuage any concern I might harbour about the luggage.

I was now at the front desk of the new hotel for our stay, Funduq al-Amarah. The youth at the counter was a pleasant 19 year old with a distinctive Makkan accent. The ease of understanding him was wonderful and I spoke with some of the assistants who were Sudanese.

One of them, Khalid, reminded me so much of my own cousin, `Abdun-Nasir Farah. My cousin would always complain about the despicable nationalism between Egypt and Sudan. “All this garbage wasn’t there before ’56 and onward.

We speak Arabic with the same dialect, the food is the same, religion is the same, movies are the same, even the stupid jokes we tell are the same. Why should I have to suffer for an imaginary line in the sand drawn by either the Free Officers or some other joker?!”

I and my other cousin, Isma`il `Abd en-Nabi, would always laugh at the anger he showed. I spoke briefly with Khalid at the front counter and he as well felt the same longing for unity among the Arabs.

I wondered what floor I was to be on and whether or not Khubaib was already there waiting for me with more bread. The Imam said that every person should look where his hand luggage has landed and that will be his room. The heavier luggage would come later. Great, I thought. Only fourteen floors and one of them will be the right one.

Stepping halfway out of each elevator I looked in the hall only to be disappointed that I had not found my location. My relief finally came on floor 9. Yes, I’m here! I carefully strided into the room and found totally different people. We traded greetings and I introduced myself right after they did. “Oh, brother Abu Ja`far. Nice to meet you.

Glad you came to be our room mate. We’ll really learn a lot from each other,” Matloob grinned while unpacking his suit case and getting his clothes situation. Matloob was a great guy. He was short, powerfully built, perhaps like a wrestler. His brother, Tanweer, was taller and had more of a philosopher’s look about him.

Then there was Muhammad Ameen. He had been on Hajj before and was jovial and very humble. Although not my original room mates, I could feel us gelling together already. “Brothers, as-Salaamu `Alaikum,” came booming voices that marched in from the room next door. It was brothers Mumtaz, `Irfan, Saghir, Naveed and Khan Sahib.

We all shook hands and looked at eachother lovingly. Mumtaz had been instrumental in helping out on the bus ride from Jeddah to Makkah when a brother collapsed from exhaustion. He had a good heart and was a lovable person in general. “Are you brothers going to come on `Umrah tonight?” I looked around and some were thinking on the question. I came in on the affirmative as I knew I wanted to complete what I had promised Allah.

Before coming on Hajj, I had begged Allah in prayer, Lord, if you allow me to come to Hajj this year I will pray 200 rak`ah for Your Sake, make three `Umrahs for this Ummah and sacrifice two rams for this Ummah! I was on the plane the next morning. This is how things work with a Lord of Covenants. Those that want evidence can see this in Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayat 90+. I knew what I was doing. I had made a nadhar. Now I had to keep it.

Although I made a strong intention to make the `Umrah, I instead got up for tahajjud and felt the mighty pull of Al-Masjid ul-Haram upon me. I can still hear this dull hum that comes from the whole sight. It was almost a rumble. Once inside, it was so calm. 1am and all was right with the world. I was in the most calm, busy but noble place on the planet. I didn’t deserve to be there but I praised Allah that He had invited me.

The night after I was prepared. I had made much preparation and was not going to be deterred. I stepped out with brothers Uwais, Naveed, Mumtaz, `Irfan, Saghir and Khan Sahib. Our cab was one of the Ajra line and the driver was a beautiful Bengali brother who speak Arabic well.

“We’re not going to Masjid A’ishah tonight, but instead Ju`anah,” Mumtaz informed us. He was the amir of the group, so we had to obey. I had no idea how far that would be but after an hour realised that this was indeed some ways from Masjid `A’ishah.

There were a few stops on the way to see wells and other noble places that the Companions, may Allah be pleased with all of them, had blessed with their presence. Some people took relics but I decided not to as the moment was frozen in my head.

We stopped at the Masjid in Ju`anah and changed into ihram, made two nafl and we were zipping in and out of traffic on our way back. We were able to see some of the housing projects and they were nicer than anything I had lived in while alive.

We were dropped off just down the road at the opening street leading to Al-Masjid ul-Haram. Although we only owed him 40 riyals, we gave him 60 as he had done such a wonderful job and had shown us more than we asked for; we asked that Allah bless him and make him of those who enter Paradise without reckoning.

The time in tawaf seemed like an eye blink and then the next thing we knew we were at Zamzam and then Safa and Marwah. My shoes became lost and I was also separated from the others in the last parts of the `Umrah. We had agreed in the beginning that if we became lost we would meet back at the hotel.

I was barefoot and without my street clothes. I immediately felt worried about stepping on something but then felt shame right after. I knew that in Makkah and the Hijaz I had to get this mentality out of my head that everywhere was coated in bullet shells, dirty diapers and syringes-used and otherwise.

Another surprise came my way on the walk back to the hotel. One man was waiting by the door of one of the barber shops. He quickly escorted me in and treated me like a king. So much care was taken with my head and the comfort I might request I was very surprised to say the least.

I gladly handed over 15 riyals for the wonderful cut he had done. My head felt light and whizzed through the late night heat. Just out of the corner of my eye, I spied a ’77 Chevrolet Caprice with mag hub caps and thick tires, a Bedouin family stacking the trunk with items.

I wandered over just close enough to see if I could look into the trunk as I passed them. I glanced a few times while passing and saw no chrome. There were no 12 batteries with oil kit. There was no trunk rack and no 2pump, 4 dump. I hadn’t even seen a switch panel near the dashboard.

The mere thought of someone doing something like that in the Hijaz made me laugh all the way back to the hotel room. Once I came from the lobby up to the room, I found it quiet and the believers sleeping. I longed to join them so I took my shower, went into hall and then laid down to rest.

The next day I was up and talking with the believers about the night before while walking to Salat ul-Fajr. I loved the colossal feel of the Adhan of Makkah. The voice bounced off every building and hit ever atom with a sound.

The crowds were thick but there had not crested yet as hajj season was still about a week and a half away. Once I completed the prayer of Fajr, I sat and with the rest of my room mates headed back to the hotel room.

I knew that I should start my two hundred rak`ah while in Makkah as soon as possible. I had three more `Umrahs to do and over the course of the next few days I did them.

Matloob, Tanweer and myself went to Masjid `A’ishah and came back. Once complete, I was happy that I had kept the second part of my oath and was still working on the first part. I finished 100 rak`ah while in Makkah in Al-Masjid ul-Haram.

With the exception of Muhammad Amin, who had the constitution of a military drill sergeant from the Afghan War, we had kept to a diet of dates, water and fruit for the most part to preserve ourselves from illnesses we might contract in the local food. The prospect of diarrhea in the Hijaz was not appetising.

Occasionally, Matloob was not able to resist the lure of “the dark side,” so he would indulge in greasy foods that later would have him singing the song of regret with frequent trips to the toilet and with the exception of the five times prayers, all day long siestas.

We would laugh watching him go through the same steps repeatedly before perpetrating this behaviour. “It wont be this bad, insha’allah. I’ll only have a little bit this time.”

He would then go beyond his boundaries and be ill like all the other times. Once he had passed that point, he would always look up and say, “Well, I’ve already had a great deal. I’ll just keep going. No turning back now.”

Visitors came to the room from Jordan to meet brothers Tanweer and Matloob and even a Muslim brother, Kolandir (an elderly Muslim brother that for the past 20 years had always walked the streets of Makkah and Madinah barefoot).

It was amazing to see how quickly you could become companions with someone after meeting them just once. Then there were those that I recognised while out there.

Just before the beginning of the hajj season I was walking up to Al-Masjid ul-Haram when I was stopped by brother Abu Bilal Shafayat. He had specifically told me while in Nottingham, “Insha’allah, we might see each other while out there.”

I had thought it possible but not plausible. Now here he was in his Ihram and I was in hall and we were staring each other squarely in the face.

Abu Bilal said that he would be sure to tell his son that he saw me and that maybe we would see one another again. “If Allah wills,” I remarked. Then there was the Salafi brother who had come out to try and kick his heroin habit but was finding it hard.

In between detoxing, he still found time to think that our team was pagans and grave worshippers. He reclined confidently in his Tawhid Hotel and felt justified.

There were only two titles that I had come out to look for while present and I found them easily. A few Maliki brothers had charged me with finding some literature for their madhhab and I was in the right place.

After the Hanbali madhhab, the next largest fiqh was that of Imam Malik ibn Anas, may Allah be pleased with him and the other Imams.

The ease of my `Umrah and so many other things was facilitated by the fact that most of the people prayed like me, used transactions as I did and had much of the same things in common. It was the fact that most of the people in Arabia were upon the Hanbali madhhab.

Salafis were the government establishment and big chunks of the religious institutions but brother Khalid-a brother I met while out there-assured me this was all they had.

I had now completed the resources asked for by the brothers. I asked for one more title. “Brother, do you have Hashiyah as-Sawi on the Jalalain?” The question in Arabic brought immediate recognition.

He climbed up his latter into the attic and brought it down, this being the uncensored version. I looked at the copy and checked it over then made the purchase.

I found it totally accounted for and was happy with what I had purchased. The shopkeeper told me that they often had to have junk literature on the bottom for mass consumption but some of the classics like As-Sawi were brought out upon request. “It is just the way things are, brother,” he shrugged.

The rest of our days there-before the onset of the hajj season-consisted in preparing ourselves for Hajj, making intention numerous times, reading up on everything and perfecting our way.

I felt a particular affinity for brothers who were Hanafi. They had literature, but there seemed to be so much contradiction that they were often having to question the Imam of the group numerous times.

Those who are Hanafi will definitely have to bring out some type of unified piece of literature for their laymen with the evidences. After making Hajj with these noble slaves, it was the writer’s estimation that the madhhab was dead among the laymen but only being codified and alive among the scholars.

Contrast this with the Malikis from all over Africa that I saw. There was so much uniformity. Then there were the Hanbalis of Qatar, Bahrain, Makkah itself. Everyone knew what they were doing and they were uniform. The same held for the Shafi`iis of Cambodia, Vietnam (by far the most organized of all the Hajj delegations with the exception of the Qatar delegation).

Perhaps it was the Ottoman method of embodying of the madhhab in the state that caused this to occur. Once the Ottomans collapsed-in one sense-so did the Hanafi madhhab.

One will find that in countries like Jordan and Pakistan, the law codes are on the books but are by and large not used. The Gulf still remains the place with the most Revealed Law not only on the books but in practice. These believers are mainly Hanbalis or Malikis.

I felt sad for the Imam that he had to endure all of this and take them for the Hajj as well in light of all the confusion. Upon speaking with him about this, he told me the same thing often happened with Pakistani and Bengali delegations. I asked if there was a solution he could foresee, but he could only advise that further education was needed.

When I would see some differing or splitting in the ranks, it would upset me as I knew that this was not the way; but from the other standpoint I was not proficient enough in that fiqh to even try to understand its’ needs for the adherents (although in this era it is the largest in terms of adherents, it is the least understood by its rank and file followers).

Further to this, being in the Hijaz, there were expatriate communities but there was not a well entrenched history of the Hanafi madhhab. Indeed for as many as 12 centuries, this land has known Hanbali and Malikis.

I remember looking at the mihrab sections of Al-Masjid ul-Haram during Ottoman times and the Hanafi mihrab place was the smallest. At the library in Al-Masjid un-Nabawi, their section was the smallest and the most under-referenced. If this was the case, how would the group with us-overwhelmingly Hanafi-be able to carry out the compulsory duties?

There were also the issues of praying in the Masjid in Makkah where the rows had women intermingled into them, as well as numerous other masa’il; but again, I had to leave this to the Imam as he understood best about the situation and the remedies.

The future for fiqh would mean that they desperately need resources. I had researched for one year and refreshed my fiqh again that evening. I believed that I was as ready as I could ever be at the time. Hajj Season would soon be upon us.

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