Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some pictures, Hajj

The Ka'bah
Roof of Masjid Al-Haram,Tahajjud prayers
Outside of Masjid Al-Haram, site of the Ka'bah
After Friday prayer: Look at that diverse crowd
Outside of the hotel, Friday prayer crowd

An American Imam's first Hajj

[Note: The following was an article about my recent Hajj -pilgrimage to Makkah-published at]

An American Imam’s First Hajj

(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)
By Shamsuddin Waheed
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 00:00
The main purpose of Hajj is to create awareness, a consciousness that is to influence the remainder of one’s life.
I was blessed to perform the Hajj (pilgrimage) this year.
It was my first time to go on Hajj, and I would like to share my experience of this blessed journey for the benefit of readers who have not yet performed this important pillar of Islam.
Arriving in Madinah
My visit to Madinah was very special.
We were blessed to stay in a hotel right across the street from Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the sacred mosque of the Prophet). Visiting Madinah and the Prophet’s mosque is not part of the Hajj rites, but is a highly recommended thing to do.
The mosque has a peaceful feeling at all times; it has a unique atmosphere. The Prophet is reported to have said:
"The prayer in my mosque (Al-Madinah mosque) is better than one thousand prayers in any other mosque with the exception of Al-Haram mosque (in Makkah), and a prayer in Al-Haram mosque is better than one hundred thousand prayers." (Ahmad)
I found peace at the Prophet’s mosque, despite the crowds of people doing the same thing I was trying to do!
It is ideal for private prayer, contemplation and reflection. One feature that can be found there is regular teaching circles (halaqas) taking place in languages as diverse as Urdu, French and even Russian, in addition of course to Arabic.
In Makkah
Pilgrimage to Makkah is not only associated with the importance of the city in Prophet Muhammad's life, but the main rites date back to Prophet Abraham’s era, and all Muslims follow his message of tawheed (monotheism) until today.
These are the rites that I was enthusiastically doing in Makkah:
Circumambulating around the Ka’bah (Tawaf)
When I arrived in Makkah, mainly to the Haram mosque, the first sight of the Ka’bah was overwhelming.
When I first arrived and had the opportunity to do ‘Umrah, and while doing Tawaf (circumambulation around the Ka’bah seven rounds), I pondered on the importance of the famous hadith in which the Prophet is reported to have said:
"Whoever performs Hajj for Allah's pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife and does not do evil or sins then he will return [after Hajj free from all sins] as if he were born anew." (Al-Bukhari)
There, I acquainted with pilgrims from every nation imaginable and from places previously unknown to me. It occurred to me that Hajj is the ritual of unity and diversity. Different groups with different colors and languages were reciting the Quran and some supplicating in their languages. In turn, I started to recite my favorite supplication:
{Our Lord! Bestow on us what is good in this world, and also what is good in the next life, and protect us from the punishment of the hellfire.} (Al-Baqarah 2: 201)
The main purpose of Hajj is to create awareness, a consciousness that is to influence the remainder of one’s life. One’s entire orientation is to be as Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, totally for God and Divine morals/ethics.
Performing Sa’i
the lesson is that of striving, that faith must include personal effort in order to accomplish what needs to be done
The next important act is the brisk walking between the two hills of Safa and Marwa seven times, an act known as Sa’i. It commemorates the struggle that Prophet Abraham’s wife, Hagar, went through with her infant son Ishmael, alone in the desert searching for water.
As the tradition goes, she ran back and forth seven times, and the last time Zamzam water gushed forth under the feet of her baby. That place is known as the well of Zamzam.
It seems that the lesson is that of striving, that faith must include personal effort in order to accomplish what needs to be done, be it at a spiritual or worldly level. Indeed, the Quran testifies to this in saying:
{Surely, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is inside themselves.} (Ar-Ra’d 13: 11)
Going to the City of Tents
A few days later, we went to Mina, also known as “tent city”. There are no rites held in that place, the pilgrim only prays and socializes, and cares for others. The climax of it all is the day of ‘Arafah, when the pilgrim goes to mount ‘Arafat, spending the whole day there connecting to God. It was really a humbling experience.
The Hajj is ‘Arafah
On the day of ‘Arafah, I was amazed by the masses of pilgrims directing towards ‘Arafat. Here, there are no specific rituals. I was on my own, praying and doing spiritual actions and supplications till the time of Maghreb (sunset). It was a powerful day, and I now understood why the Prophet said:
"Hajj is ‘Arafah." (Al-Hakim)
Stoning the Devil
The next important aspect of Hajj is the symbolic stoning of Satan. We do this for three days, confronting Satanic challenges directly. I actually found this to be the easiest rite of Hajj, as the Saudi authorities have made a highway of sorts around the three pillars that are stoned.
It is difficult to put all of one’s experiences and observations of hajj in one article. Every pilgrim will have a different struggle, and encounter lessons unique to him/her.
It is our advice that as soon as one is able to make Hajj answer the call of God, and allow it to direct your future life and perceptions.