I was up and out of bed early again and praising Allah for another opportunity to be alive again in this Sacred Land. I knew that my time was limited and if I lived to leave it the sadness would be great.
I often used to roam around at night and marvel at the calm that there was among believers. Among seven million people that I did not know, I had not an issue or problem with them and we prayed together.
In the United States on the west coast, I had watched people get murdered for wearing the wrong colour in the wrong neighbourhood and the cars would whiz by, lights off and in neutral with the shooters suited up.
The comparison could not be avoided. Seven million Muslims together, minimal issues with crime. Seven million unbelievers together: 700 dead every year in LA County alone. I’ll let the reader do the math.
Once again, it was down to myself, `Irfan, Saghir, Mumtaz, Khan Sahib and some other slaves of Allah that we were blessed to enjoy their company. We set out at 11am in order to try to make it to Masjid al-Khaif and pray Zuhr and then do the stoning one last time before departure.
The crowds were so massive the guards told us, “There is no way we’re going to let you go! The masjid will probably be doubly full as normal. No way!” So we had been rebuffed. It looks like Imam al-Buhuti’s ruling would be carried out.
Up the escalators we went at the site of the Jamarat all seven flights (there was some creaking but you have to do tawakkul as there is nothing else you can do).
Once we had reached the top floor and did our stonings, my jalabiyyah was ripped for the second time but I saw this as nothing but barakah for all the effort and trouble. So it got ripped, I thought. Better that gets ripped than a bleeding forehead or crushed skull.
Some people were praying Zuhr on the side but brother `Irfan and I thought better considering all the stones flecking from here and there that laser guided mini-missiles. “No buses here…Let’s walk and get the barakah.”
So it began. Along with millions of other people, honking, grinning, waving and asking for us to pray for them we walked the long strip to Al-Masjid ul-Haram.
Every time we made a turn we felt it as the crowd pulled in close and I watched brother `Irfan’s eyes almost pop out of his head and his glasses nearly come off. I must admit that I hid behind him and let him take most of the punishment from the crowd.
“Boy, I’m sure glad I have a shield in this sacred land,” I grinned at him. “I know what you’re doing,” he turned back and looked at me. We passed by one of the masjids on the way but the crowds were too great and the cliff too formidable so we walked on.
After passing one of the cliffs, we met some Nigerian sisters selling Shandi and other soft drinks at a bargain price of 10 riyals each. “Are you kidding! Give us five!” We bought them and drank them with relish and then continued our walk.
We had to make it through the Makkah tunnel and then we would be only yards from Al-Masjid ul-Haram. The fans used to keep oxygen through the tunnel hissed at us and thundered along the way.
Buses, ’77 Chevrolet Caprices lowered due to numerous occupants, Volvos, Jeeps, Winnebagos and all other manner of vehicle was in the tunnel with us. We stayed on either the left or the right and the centre was for all the vehicles.
`Irfan was busy taking snaps of the people and the festive atmosphere. We came out of the tunnel and an Afghani man at about 5’2’’ passed my way with a sparkling white `imamah and nice jalabiyyah. “Anta min?” “Masr.” I knew he was interested in what race I was and not that I came in on British Airways.
He mentioned that he was from Herat in Afghanistan. We had a few words in common but that was enough. I mentioned Imam Abu Isma`il al-Ansari and his face lit up quickly. “Sawa.’ Sawa.’ ” He kept telling me they were the same, the exact same. I think he means the city, I wondered.
“Madhhab. Sawa’.” Subhanallah, I thought. We had a Herati Hanbali here in the flesh. So they had reached that far. History books had told us that they had reached Jalalabad and some other provinces but that the madhhab still had a foothold there was interesting.
We traded a few more pleasantries and he was delighted when I confirmed my rite was the same as his own. He was turning in the other direction to go with his group and squeezed my hand affectionately before giving salam and disappearing into the crowd.
Another tunnel and we were yards from Al-Masjid ul-Haram. It was 2:45pm and we had made good time. The brothers were headed to the masjid to pray and then back to the hotel. I headed to the hotel and would combine and shorten and then crash out for a while.
I lay back on the bed and thought about my next obligation. It was now compulsory for me to do Tawaf ul-Wada`. If I lived to complete this the Hajj was finished for me in terms of all the rites being complete.
At 3:47am I did the final tawaf and looked at the people. As normal, Makkah was thunderously bright but the light was soft. I realised then that I did not have a right to be here, but Allah had given me the privilege.
As the clock hit 5:20am I had finished Tawaf al-Wada`. I stood gazing at the Noble House, 4,000 years of history facing me head on. Tomorrow we would be headed out to Madinah. This would be the last time I would gaze at the entire Sanctuary.
I respectfully backed away from her and continued to, only stopping to go up the steps and then continue on. I was able to hold myself from blubbering like a child but it was hard. I thought of how many people that I loved had not made it.
I remember brothers who fell on battlefields in Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and asked that Allah bless them. I thought particularly of Abul Hasan, the black-bearded brother who acted as an older brother to me after I had lost my own flesh and blood brother.
The story of his bravery from other brothers was legendary. A proud Maliki and unapologetic Ash`ari, his philosophical arguments made me laugh at times.
“Before looking at any matter, we always have to remember Shar`,” he would begin thoughtfully, stroking his beard and then taking a swig of goat milk. He had told me that I should make Hajj one day. If his statement had been du`aa, then I feel that Allah answered it.
My last night in Makkah I spent up talking to the other believers, laughing with Uwais at his numerous predicaments and napping in between discussions with the other Muslims. Makkah was every bit and more holy than I had envisaged. I wanted to leave as soon as possible. This was not as I did not like the city.
Rather, I had thus far not done anything egregious and so now that my rites were complete I did not want to be given a spare moment to do or say something stupid. Let me leave before I offend the holiness of the sanctuary, I pleaded in my heart. Now I would have to wait for that time to come.