A Hajj Journal-9 Dhul Hijjah at `Arafah

SAUDI-RELIGION-ISLAM-HAJJ

Figure 1A: The Arafah plain and the Muslims converging on the site.

I woke up with a jolt at 2:58 AM. I it was the 9th of Dhul Hijjah. I drank in the atmosphere all around me and sat in the tranquillity. I could hear nothing but the sleeping of the Muslims and occasional gusts of wind through the camp.

When I exited from the tent, I saw one or two security guards wandering around. I could not help but wonder what it must be like to have to police millions of people.

I headed straight for the toilet areas which were a straight walk all the way down the corridor and then you chose whichever stall was open.

Each stall was a combination toilet and shower. You had the Victorian sit down toilet and then on the wall was a shower nozzle and you could turn on the pipes and such.

A word of advice is necessary. Make sure your clothes are hung on the door or the side of the stall and not above the toilet. The same goes for your toothbrushes.

There are brothers who have suffered the set back of losing their toothbrushes or having their clothes take a quick dip in raw sewage. Do not be one of those people on your Hajj. Be wise!

I showered up and decided that perhaps on the following day I would change into the extra Ihram that I had packed. Once the shower was complete, I headed back to the tent. The reader might think that after a shower and in ihram it will be very cold, but this is not the case.

The reason is that it is warm outside even in the night, even while raining. The wait was on and I was able to read in the light of the lamp outside the tent. At exactly 4:01 am food came and the believers were eating and enjoying the company of one another.

Something about food just gets everyone up. Tea and coffee came later along with fruit and basic cold packs. After the Fajr prayer, there were preparations to board the buses for `Arafah. “They will be with you shortly, insha’allah. Be sure to be prepared,” the Imam of your group advised us staunchly.

The buses arrived and filled up quickly. Once the fourth one went and left by gate 45a, other brothers decided to walk. Brothers Mumtaz (our amir), Naveed, Uwais, `Irfan, Khan Sahib, Saghir, Matloob and his brother Tanweer, myself and others made a firm intention and headed out with Labbaik on our tongues. The sunrise was awesome and so were the crowds.

Our journey began at 7:10 am and the sun was up and scorching our ihrams. I felt strangely happy for the heat and loved the procession of people.

If you are going to attempt the walk from Mina to `Arafah, you should have trained hard. As I mentioned, you need about a year to prepare. It is not just the terrain but weather tolerance.

You need proper liquids and also sufficient sleep. No all night talking or mumbling about silly things. Stay focused. You are on Hajj and not day camp. The amir waved us on. Keep going brothers.

Uwais decided that the heat was so intense there was no point wearing sandals, so he took them off and walked barefoot on the pavement.

`Irfan carried on reading his poetry and ayat, Saghir looked into the distance and tried to keep up with the Pushtun women striding ahead, Khan Sahib thundered along with authority and I walked along but looked at the terrain.

Large Bluebird buses-the very ones used on the West Coast in the United States during the forced busing policies-roared by and shook the people on the road.

They would pull over, offer to take people for a fee and then speed off. They still had the California seals. They still worked well.

Sometimes what’s older is indeed better. We continued our walk along while saluting the blue birds carrying the Slaves of Allah shouting salam to us from their windows. Huge mountains of limestone and igneous rock grinned at us from their positions while throwing the suns rays our way.

Looking at the aging on the rocks, the size of the massive fingers called mountains poking out, the place had not witnessed any eruptive activity for maybe 400 years or more.

I stopped and picked up some rounded pebbles. Once I saw these and no signs of obsidian I know the place was quiet on a geologic scale.

What about…? I thought to myself while walking next to a mountain. I picked at some of the rock but it did not flake off. These sediments definitely had time to dry and cool off. It must be murderous doing any excavation or drilling work, I reasoned.

I saw one or two mountain areas with tents on them and the people were perched on top of mud stone and sandstone peaks. If it rains again, the sandstone becomes nothing more than sponge cake under the feet.

Even the grass was different in the Hijaz region. The hearty parasitic flowers defiantly pushed through rock to hold their own in the desert. Anything weaker would have been eliminated.

Our group found a small cliff and had to descend down to move back onto the main road with the other people. A man came with crutches, his left foot broken and his right one deformed. Mumtaz and I helped him down and he was so grateful.

“Thank you so much,” he smiled with tear filled eyes. He then took off on his crutches and left us all behind. Mumtaz and myself laughed at the spectacle. Allah often endowed people on Hajj with other worldly strength from what we saw.

Once we reached the halfway mark, we found small pouches filled with rounded rocks for the rami when the day came. FREE-PLEASE TAKE SOME, the sign read. I picked up four small sacks that were on the road and put them in the backpack I had.

The others expressed doubt. “We’ll collect them when we get there. It will be night time.” I thought we might be exhausted so I collected some for the journey. If people were too tired or we ran out, we could always use these pouches.

Bathrooms appeared and relieved faces could be seen dashing to and fro. Once out of the stalls, our companions made a hasty wudu’ and marched onward. The heat intensified and so did our tans.

We heard the Labbaik of a group becoming louder and louder until when they were right upon us, we recognised them as part of the Nigerian Hajj delegation. The brothers were linked arm in arm, gracefully jogging past.

Naveed was now in deep trouble. We had been warned to grease our legs with Vaseline for the trip, but Naveed had lost his at the camp site. Two cavernous blisters formed on his inner thighs and he was cowboy walking the whole way.

When he started to sweat and it would run down his legs, he would grimace. All we could do was pray for him. We turned another corner and saw an Afghani man selling the coldest water I had ever tasted.

He only had a small box in the middle of the massive street, no cooling equipment and he was dressed in a shirt and Levi acid wash jeans.

Matloob chipped in and bought water all around for the group while Tanweer and I waited and then said we would get the next round of beverages and/or food. Matloob had injured his foot and groin so he was in need of medical attention as soon as possible.

He had also suffered the same issue with his thighs. I had greased up but in the sweat it started to fade, so I folded my ihram in to shield them from rubbing together. A cute little Yoruba boy came over and gave us salam and just stood with us.

When asked if he wanted water, he shook his head and said nothing more. He just wanted to be with the guys. His mother called and he was off in a flash.

We resumed our walk and I went alongside Matloob. “Chicken and chips,” he chanted part of the way as an incentive to himself if he survived the ordeal.

“That water was unbelievable, wasn’t it?” I nodded my head in agreement to Tanweer’s question. In the course of a few hours he had tanned more than I had.

“This is some weather. Blue as far as the sky can see,” I focused on the horizon. He only nodded and we quickened our pace.

Our group arrived at the correct poles indicating our camp at 10:55am. Marching ahead, we checked for the different entrances, asked around and finally found our group. “Brother, where were you?” The Imam smiled encouragingly after greeting us and waved us over to ice cream containers and lukewarm water.

In scorching whether, you were not to drink ice cold water as you could be ill the following day. We all sat and enjoyed the refreshments and laid down. I in characteristic fashion found a pole, leaned against it and slept.

“Hu! Hu! Hu! HU!” I was awakened by chanting and also Shi`ah majlis’s across the way that in Arabic were cursing Companions, pronouncing takfir on Sunnis and more. Salafis were ranting, chanting and making takfir.

I only held my hands and made du`aa for patience and steadfastness. “Brother, you made it!” Khubaib was happy to see me and gave me a hug. “Thought I’d fallen from a cliff didn’t you? Still can’t have my phone, man!” He laughed at my remarks.

“I hear Naveed’s in a bad way. He really needs help.” “Yeah, I know,” I responded. “Matloob went to the doctor and got treatment for his groin straight away. Don’t know what Naveed wants to do.” Then I remembered.

Reaching into my backpack, I pulled out the extra large scentless Vaseline and handed it to a grateful Naveed. “Are we going to Jabal ur-Rahmah later?” He seemed hopeful after medicating himself with the Vaseline. “Let’s do it!” I was jubilant.

The Imam told us to be careful and as there were a great many old people in the camp and the heat was intense, he could not take them. So it was Uwais, Naveed, myself and a few other brothers who braved it. On the way we spied a funny thing.

“Abu Ja`far! Look at your people!” Uwais pointed at a Bedouin family getting into a truck with a large notice board on the back reading: BEDOUIN TRANSPORT. MAKES FREQUENT STOPS. SORRY!

It was humorous that they went out of their way to clarify the reason for their stops. Nearing Jabal ur-Rahmah we could see helicopters dropping water on the people from above. There was a sprinkler system in place at the base of the mountain.

Once we were close enough to go and make du`aa I felt anger when I saw all the graffiti and spray paint on the mountain. “Ahmad was here,” and other such nonsense was plastered on the mountain.

The guard saw us and held up a hand to say that we could be there for a little while. Allah blessed us to make du`aa there for 20 minutes without interruption. It was everything I had hoped it would be in dreams. I was there, uninterrupted and with like minded people. After 20 minutes had elapsed the guard came.

“Okay, brothers. I gave you as long as I could. Let’s give other people a chance. Please remember others,” he politely requested in Arabic. We moved on and thanked him and even prayed for him.

The other members of our group were pleasingly envious when they heard us retell our journey upon return. Sunset brought cool and calm to the camp and it was time to head for Muzdalifah to sleep the night.

We awaited our bus from 5:10-8:12pm. Once it was there, we rode along the way and praised Allah. We would now have to pray Maghrib and `Isha once there. I combined and shortened upon arrival and took a blanket in my nap sack and used it as a bed and stretched out on the ground.

Some people had brought tents and unfolded them. Everyone seemed to be ready. Only a few could not accept the idea of sleeping on the ground. After having been homeless three times in my life and almost starved to death over the summer of ’87, this was more than adequate.

I had eaten, it was warm, the ground was soft and I knew that there were no Klansmen or skinheads. At this point, the Hajji should remember poverty and praise Allah for what he has been given. Some people sleep outside daily all year around; and this is not out of choice.

Some people collected stones but more were too exhausted. I had a nice sleep and loved the outdoors. For some brothers the same confusion resulted regarding adhan, iqamah and whether to combine, shorten or do both. I again recognised that fiqh would continue to be an issue for them until someone sorted the matter out; but I was not that person.

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