Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The hajj - Reflection by a non-Hajji

***
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

Reflection

The Declining Day (Al-'Asr)
1. By the declining day,
2. Lo! Man is in a state of loss,
3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort
one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance.
***

THE journey from the Plains of Arafat to Muzdalifah and then to Mina is a test of one's endurance - mentally and physically. When hundred thousands of pilgrims convene, perhaps millions, there's bound to be uncertainty that tested one's faith and endurance.

Imagine while performing the hajj 'manasik' (rituals), some pilgrims jostle and scramble to get into their buses. There are cases where the wife has board the bus in Arafat to Muzdalifah on the eve of Aidiladha (Eid), the husband is left behind. There is bound to be havoc and misunderstanding. It is against the spirit of hajj to put on a sour face. Quarrelling is also forbidden what more between husbands and wives.

In the plains of Muzdalifah, pilgrims have a rest; if they choose to lie down; their backs would be on their mats while 'their roof' would be the open sky and stars. While lying down, once a while they could smell the strong stench of animals dung, perhaps during the day that place was a stopover for groups of camels.

It is good to keep one's 'wuduk' (ablution) as to make another one or to go the toilets; pilgrims have to walk a long distance, passing thousands of people and to enter a long queue. Be patience and be patience throughout the night.

While resting in my tent in Mina, my thoughts were on the difficulties faced by some pilgrims when they were on their Arafat-Muzdalifah-Mina journey as told by my mother when she performed hajj years ago.

She said among the difficulties faced by veteran and old pilgrims were the sudden urge to ease oneself. Imagine the old pilgrims who had to answer to the call of nature too often amd they would have to stand long hours in the bus. Nothing could be done except to pray and ask to God that shameful things do not happen during those critical hours.

In case of emergency such as when pilgrims fall ill and are in critical condition, other passengers in the bus could only try their best in helping them but when a pilgrim die, his or her body would be carried in the bus until the bus reaches its destination or could get out from the chaos.

The above is my writing in Harakah (Malay section) some time ago that caught attention of a young man who posted this item in his blog http://rahmanhariri.blogspot.com entitled ‘The hajj – A reflection of a non-hajji'.

“I thought it is high time to remind myself again this hajj season. I thought it is about time I put my thoughts on the hajj on this special day. I have been keeping it close to my chest until recently.

You see, coming from a person who has not performed the hajj, and the umrah (minor hajj), and currently has no specific timeline when he is going to complete the last pillar of Islam, this reflection is definitely not going to be about the experience in the holy land.

All those great philosophical, eye-opening and heart-warming stories; I have none to tell you. I have only seen the Kaabah on television and pictures; I have only seen a documentary in National Geography on people preparing for and doing the hajj.

Nothing beyond that, I suppose.

I have always wondered when I will be going there. To use the over-used phrase "belum sampai seru" (the call has not come yet) is blasphemous to many. To them, it is like blaming God when you have the willpower and means to decide it yourself. So I can't, and I won't, use that.

And going from the criteria that make the hajj compulsory, I know I have the means and that I am still 'young' and healthy enough to be going soon (man, I never thought I would be able to use the word 'young' and 'I' in the same sentence!).

My mum has been wondering when I would be heading there. Few friends have been asking too. Normally I would smile at them without specifically answering them. Some of them went when they were only in the mid-twenties, which is considered very young by convention.

A year ago, a former schoolmate (An) went to the hajj with his wife Liza (another former classmate). I visited them and after their return, An and I sat at a ‘mamak’ restaurant in PJ; for him to narrate stories from Mecca, and for this non-hajji to benefit the barakah from someone who has just returned.

At the end of it, after hearing many stories from An, I made a confession to him that has always been in my mind when the subject of me heading for the hajj was broached. I had never told anyone before.

"You know, An, I can't imagine myself in the holy land with three million pilgrims and have to fight for basic amenities. Queue to go to the restroom? That was a story unknown to me after 1980.

This is my main worries that kept me away from the holy land. Can I survive the 15 hour journey in a bus? How do I answer the call of nature in the middle of the desert with no water?"

I hate to even share restrooms with strangers in Malaysia.

I guess it is inevitable. He has had that predicament in one of the bus journey in the middle of nowhere.

I made the same confession to a client when I visited her at her office at the twin tower yesterday. I had earlier made a remark that it is not much of a Raya this time around. So she asked me if I had been for hajj myself.

She reckons that may be I have to go for the umrah first to get a feel of it. "Doa banyak-banyak” (pray a lot) and ask for Him to give you the strength."

Of course she herself has horror story about the restrooms there. I shall not repeat it here.

I was reading Harakah this morning while waiting for the Raya solat. It was written by LANH. He noted some of my worries well in his article (the above article).

I guess I am too proud of a person - egoistical, to be more precise. I have to get rid of it. I need to lower myself for me to see Him. I am lowest than lower in many respects. After all 20 years ago when I first started working, I lived in a ‘kampung’ house with only basic amenities in Dungun.

Of course I have a choice but I was just starting out. I had to be very prudent living my life then.

If I can do it twenty years ago, she reckons I can do it today.

I know it may sound petty. It is petty. I know that. But it is these petty things that have kept me away from the Kaabah.

God, please give me the strength to meet you at your abode. Soon.

Yes, Mr Rahmanhariri, it is advisable to perform hajj when one is at a young age. Perhaps the time is right when one is in his thirties or forties because physically and mentally he is fit to fulfill some ‘robust’ obligations that need strength and stamina such as stoning the devils at the jamrahs in Mina.

Furthermore pilgrims have to use the power of their legs for activities such as walking frequently (perhaps five times daily for 'fardu' prayers) from one’s hotel room to the Prophet's Masjid (in Madinah) and Al-Haram Masjid (in Makkah). During hajj, a distance of one or two kilometers from the hotels and the masjids are normal.

For hajj or umrah obligations such as tawaf and sa’ai, one has to walk a distance; for example for sa’ai when one has to walk seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, the distance could be more than four kilometers (600 meters x 7)!

When performing the stoning of the devils, it is normal for pilgrims to walk quite a far distance, perhaps two to three kilometers from their tents in Mina to the jamrah. Pilgrims are supposed to stay for four days and three nights in Mina (10, 11, 12 and 13 Zulhijjah) dan stone the three jamras everyday during the stay except during 10th Zulhijjah (Eid) when pilgrims only stone the main jamrah (Jamrah Al-Aqabah).

Thus, to perform hajj one should be physically and mentally fit, so it is advisable to Muslim to take the necessary steps for example started saving from an early age, hoping and praying one could perform the fifth pillar of Islam at the earliest time possible and not at old age.

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