In the days and weeks leading up to the Hajj Season, I saw the population increase of Makkah by some 4,000+ per day and my room mates could notice it as well.
The walk to Al-Masjid ul-Haram became longer, places near the Ka`bah filled up and were fewer, shoving increased, the patience of the military diminished and trample warnings appeared on the reader boards outside of the Masjid.
What is difference a few weeks makes. In the second week, just two days before the beginning of the Hajj, we received a home invasion in the form of our Imam and guide.
“Brothers,” he began after giving salam. “The time is almost upon us. We will soon have to head from this place to Mina. The buses will be ready. You will have to supervise your things.”
He next turned to me and explained in Arabic what the situation was and what would be required. I needed to keep my luggage with me and be sure that I would be taking the luggage with me and watch it up until the time that it was loaded aboard the buses we were travelling on.
That same night, he would be saying the same things to the people on Hajj who understood Urdu. Once I heard the language change, I made a hasty exit and decided to head back to my room and get an early night. `Isha’ was already complete.
Soon we were back in our ihrams and I was prepared. I had wiped down my Ihrams with perfume, as is the sunnah and then took a shower and wiped myself down with perfume after the shower. Once in my ihram, it would not be permissible for me to do this again.
8th Dhul Hijjah was here, the very Day of Tarwiyah. The packing of the buses was fine but crowded and I could see that the patience of the people was tested greatly. Eventually, after `Isha’ the buses headed out. We were supposed to have left just after `Asr, but logistics played its’ normal role.
I listened with annoyance to some of the pampered believers moan about how long it was taking and how this would not be the case in the UK or it would not be the case if we were in such and such a city.
In these same cities, I thought, you had bricks put through your windows, waded through puddles of throw up and had licensed brothels up the street protected by the legal system. What was all this moaning about?
Happily, I had brought reading pleasure for the journey so I was able to look at everything go by and also read through a few more rulings while on the way out.
“Brother, your sandals are close to your ankles,” one brother pointed out. “Brother, please don’t start that up again. Let’s have order here.” I already felt tired and bored with the same useless disputes over minutia.
I was grateful when he backed off and I could focus on what was needed. The bus trucked on and on until some time after the dead of the night in the very early hours of the morning we reached the site and we were well on our way.
We met some other brothers who had walked. “Oh, as-Salaamu `Alaikum, brother,” they grinned. “What happened? Someone left the door open to Mina? How did you get in here?” We shared a mutual laugh and then prepared to bed down for the night.
We were housed with the American, British and Turkish tent complex, my bracelet read. I had to have my idea and bracelet at all times. If lost, I could be returned to the camp and to our door number 45a, the red pool near Kubra `Abdul `Aziz which was next to Masjid ul-Kuwait.
It rained quite hard in the night, so much that I stayed away for an hour or so just looking at the tent quake and shift from the pelts it was taking. We had seen some people camped on the mountains while driving in and I wondered if they would be safe.
After the Fajr prayer, I was told more than 40 people died in the night trying to descend from the mountain when in the midst of the torrential rain. Although sad I thought how fortunate they were in being on Hajj, in Ihram and now martyred by falling from the mountain.
African and Eastern European Muslim beggers sold their merchandise near the doors and had learned to clear off quickly when they saw the Salafi religious police vans (who called these people pagans) or the military jeeps (who would arrest them for health and safety as well as blocking entrances which was a fire hazard) only to return hours later.
Brother Mumtaz desperately wanted to attend Masjid Kuwait but I had reservations. “It’s been so nice since we’ve come brother,” I observed. “I don’t want to be called a kafir or mushrik to my face yet.” Mumtaz nodded in understanding.
`Irfan, a younger brother in the group who had a penchant for poetry and a sincere intention, offered the same advice. “Let’s look and pray. If we hear something useless, we can come back.”
We agreed on the resolution. Myself, Mumtaz, Khan Sahib, `Irfan, Saghir and a few other brothers agreed to make the trip when we had a chance but it would probably be out of Ihram.
Now there needs to be something said about staying at Mina. The whole time I was there, I had no problems. The issues of hygiene had nothing to do with the site. It was just the fact that some Muslims are unhygienic.
The tent structure was sound without any seepage of water during the night. There was air-conditioning in every tent. When considering heading to other locations it is always better to walk as buses or other cars are not always reliable.
The tent numbering was not always clearly marked and you would sometimes have to squint in the sun or go into one of the corridors to look.
Our first day at the camp there was an issue regarding the food as some people had claimed our portions. We made use of some dates that we had brought in our nap sacks from the room.
It is good before Hajj season starts to purchase a camping bag and pre-pack all your things like toothbrushes, clothes, an extra ihram in the case of accidents, a mushaf, book of fiqh on hajj (don’t take any free hand outs from the religious police-there is a mistake in fiqh on almost every page) and other things.
Be sure to pack a bit of food as well as you just don’t know when administration may break down. There were 50 beds per tent and the space was completely used. It was well planned out but slightly cramped.
Some might call it rough living but it was fine. It might be better to invest in your own tent. Some bought tents while in Makkah and set them up. This would also come in handy for Muzdalifah but more on that later.
Due to the space requirements, to do dhikr or optional raka`at at night posed issues as when all the beds are rolled out for sleep, there is no prayer space. At the five time prayers, the beds are rolled up and the space can be used for prayer.
You have to be sure to guard your ihram while in sleep while securely wrapping both your blanket and ihram slightly.
The last thing you want to do is wake up stark naked in the morning with the covers thrown off next to you.
If you plan on using the toilet, do so one hour before Fajr, perhaps more. Do not take liquids after `Isha’ so when you empty your bowels before Fajr you wont need to go again.
Brothers Mumtaz, Matloob, Tanweer and others devised this plan to keep from being caught in the two hour long toilet cues.
You may be sleepy in the waiting all night for the bus to leave from Makkah to Mina. Try to maintain patience and learn to nap standing up.
Perhaps lean against something or once on the bus consider doing an ‘Abu Ja`far move.’ This is putting your head against the seat rest in front of you, leaning forward and sleeping until you arrive.
Police presence was decent and there were few disturbances, other than the occasional distractions from other people and run ins with other believers, negative and positive.
Just as some tents are furnished and some are not, some pipes for istinja’ water work and some do not. It is of utmost concern that you consider getting a water bottle to store water for istinja’.
We had done our first day and we were happy. 8 Dhul Hijjah has now been completed. I hoped that I would live to complete the rest of my Hajj. Once I had done this, it would then be whether or not Allah accepted it.