Hajj: Worship of a Lifetime

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Post Hajj reflections

By Dr. Anis Ansari

Mideast Saudi Arabia Hajj

Hajj is one of the most exhilarating experiences one can have in life. Imam Ghazali (r) described it as an act of worship of a lifetime, seal of all that is commanded, perfection of Islam and completion of religion. Nearly three million Muslims (plus one million local) from 183 different countries performed Hajj this year.

Medina First

As preference, our journey started from Medina. Our stay at Medina was very pleasant since the Hotel was barely 30-40 steps from Haram. There have been so many changes to the area that it was difficult to recognize since my last trip in 1995. The space of Masjid Nabawi has been greatly increased with addition of more courtyard and roof. More than a million people can easily pray there. Prophet Mohammad (s) grave area was very crowded and praying between his minbar and grave was very difficult. This space was described by him as paradise and 2 rakat Sunnah was prayed there. Visitation time for women was different from men. All area of Haram was well maintained and clean. The umbrella covering the courtyard was the most surprising feature, which provides shade during the day with continuous mist to keep people cool. Our visit to Masjid Quba, the first mosque built by our Prophet was next. We performed 2 rakat Sunnah in this Mosque, which has reward of an Umrah. We also visited Masjid Qiblatain, where during the middle of prayer Qibla was changed from Jerusalem to Mecca. Area of battle of Trench has been covered by road but the camping area of Sahaba has 7 different Mosque with the largest one called Masjid Khandak. Other sites included mountain of Uhud, where graveyard of the Martyrs were cordoned off. Jannatul Baqi is closest to Masjid Nabawi.

Umrah

Miqat was at Dhul Hulaifah, short distance from Medina but we had put on our Ihram before heading to the bus. Mosque in Dhul Hulaifah was large with good facility for bath or shower and putting on Ihram. We prayed Isha, made our intention for Umrah  and started our Talbiyah. Unfortunately, due to frequent checking by police at stops our bus trip took almost 15 hours to reach Mecca. After settling in our Hotel 5-7 km from Haram, we finally arrived by Taxi at Haram to do our Tawaf at 10:30 AM, the worst time of the day due to hot weather. Because of the motivation to finish our obligation , and joy of looking at magnimity of Kabba’s, we forgot any discomfort and joined the crowd to start our Tawaf. It took about one hour to finish it. According to scholars, Tawaf is one of the most important things that we will find in our record book on the Day of Judgment. According to one Hadith reported by Abdullah Ibn Abbas(r), everyday Allah (SWT) sends one hundred and twenty mercies on this house. Of which sixty are for those who are doing Tawaf, forty for those who are praying before it, while twenty for those who are just looking at Kabba. Subhanallah, even just looking at Kabba has so much merit.

Another Hadith points out that any act of worship at Masjid Haram in Mecca is multiplied by 100,000 times while at Masjid Nabawi is multiplied by 1000 times. After praying 2 rakat at Muqame Ibrahim, we drank some Zam Zam, supplicated and then headed to do our Sa’ee. Having the Saee area at three different levels, it is not as crowded. Walking between Safa and Marwah and running briskly between green lines reminded us the plight and struggle of Hajirah (A) who is the most honored women in Islam. Small hair trimming completed this process.

Hajj

After staying at Shesha (just outskirt of Mecca) for one day, we were moved to Mina, the tent city on the morning of 8th Dhul Hijjah.  Our tent had small beds close to each other with comfortable air conditioning in proximity of the Jamarat. Other tents were on outskirts of Mina 3 kilometer away. All prayers were performed in the tent in congregation. Food was plenty and served in buffet style at breakfast and dinner with tea and drinks available at all times. Yet it was shocking to see the streets littered with unofficial pilgrims everywhere.  They were on mountains, street corners, and sidewalk and under the bus.  This created a dangerous situation and difficulty for emergency ambulances and police cars to maneuver. Generally police personnel were seen to be very tolerant but firm.

Arafat

Next day, we were woken up at 2am in order to get ready for the train to go to Arafat. The train ride was only 15 minutes but the entire process took almost two hours. Our Arafat tent was very close to the train station. The day of Arafat is considered the most important part of Hajj. Several hundred people were put in one large tent with carpet on the floor. All our activities like meditation, rest and prayer were confined to the tent. People could be seen making supplication inside and outside the tent, in groups or solitude, and some were praying loudly and some not so loudly. Prophet Mohammad (s) also prayed on the day of Arafat, “O Allah forgive the pilgrim and the man for whom the pilgrim asks forgiveness.” As the day passed supplication intensified with the ending reserved for collective supplication until Maghreb time.

Muzdalifah

Our train ride was orderly and took less than 10 minutes. Unfortunately due to some mishap, we were assigned one of the roughest areas to spend the night. The ground was under the bridge with broken asphalt all over, but no one complained about it. Every one spread out their sheet, prayer rug, and sleeping bag and lay down.  Early morning, we prayed Fajr on the same ground then headed to Mina by train. This year train was only for Americans, Canadians and Europeans Hajji only. It does not have capacity to accommodate everyone yet.

Jamarat

Big Jamarat was located right near the train station. Rami was easy. Jamarats are located at three different levels creating one way traffic and decreasing the chances of any stamped that used to occur in the past. We went to Haram to do our Tawaf Ziyarat on the same day. Off course the area was exceptionally crowed that day but we were able to complete our Tawaf and Sa’ee without any difficulty. On 11th and 12 the of Dhul Hijjah, Jamarats were opened for Rami from early morning instead of after Dhuhr as described in the books.

Farewell Tawaf

After our Rami on 12th everyone seems to have headed for Haram for final farewell Tawaf. Everyone seems to be walking since there is no train system between Mina and Mecca. Buses and Taxis can barely crawl in this kind of crowd. While finishing the final rights of Hajj, I could not forget the teaching which says that Allah (SWT) grants all the supplication,forgiveness as well as intercession that is requested. Prophet Mohammad (pub) said “ whoever performs pilgrimage to the house without foul talk or iniquity is free from sin as he was on the day his mother gave birth to him.” We had no choice but to finish our farewell Tawaf as soon as possible since our flight was in the afternoon the very next day. We left for airport 6 hour before flight in order to avoid any delay.

Conclusion

For hajj people have travelled far distances sometimes with meager resources. Everyday they have to walk long distances just to get to Haram.  In crowd includes elderly, women and children some with poor health. For them even surviving is not easy despite all the facilities provided. Due to large number of people performing Tawaf, Sa’ee, or Rami all at the same time, these rights are not easy to accomplish. Nevertheless, people persist solely for pleasure of Allah. They have hope that Allah (SWT) will accept their Hajj and they will be completely forgiven. This hope continues to keep people going until they accomplish all their rights of Hajj. Some people are exposed to 105-degree temperature, camping out in open, sidewalk, under the tree or bus with very little shelter. Their dedication in service to God is hard to miss.

Hajj must bring out the best in us in terms of understanding the concept of Tawheed; deepen our love of God and the Prophets.  It must encourage us to sacrifice our health and wealth for the sake of Islam and emulate the example of Prophet Ibrahim (A). Hajj must bring us closer to Allah (SWT) and increase our zeal to work in our own communities. Our relationship with Allah and the outcome will be completely changed for the better.

May Allah give us opportunity to perform Hajj as early as possible preferably at young age before death takes over.

Anis Ansari, MD, President of Clinton Islamic Center, Clinton, Iowa.

13-49

Statement by the President on Hajj and Eid al-Adha

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

White House Press Release

Michelle and I extend our greetings for a happy Eid al-Adha to Muslims worldwide and congratulate those performing Hajj. Thousands of Muslim Americans are among those who have joined one of the world’s largest and most diverse gatherings in making the pilgrimage to Mecca and nearby sites.

As Muslims celebrate this Eid, they will also commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son by distributing food to those less fortunate around the world.  They join the United States and the international community in relief efforts to assist those struggling to survive in the Horn of Africa and those recovering from the devastating earthquake in Turkey. 

The Eid and Hajj rituals are a reminder of the shared roots of the world’s Abrahamic faiths and the powerful role that faith plays in motivating communities to serve and stand with those in need.  On behalf of the American people, we extend our best wishes during this Hajj season.  Eid Mubarak and Hajj Mabrour.

13-46

Saudi Arabia Improves Hajj Security, Bans Protests

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Louisville Democrat Examiner, Timothy Morgan

2009-11-21T171100Z_1597266078_GM1E5BM032701_RTRMADP_3_FLU-SAUDI-PILGRIMS

A security official wearing a protective mask keeps an eye on cars at a checkpoint between Jeddah and Mecca before the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage November 21, 2009.  Saudi Arabia said on Saturday four pilgrims had died of the new H1N1 flu virus three days before the massive Muslim haj is due to begin, al-Hayat newspaper said.

REUTERS/Caren Firouz

On November 25-29, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca of the Hajj begins in the Islamic world.  The Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and a moral obligation under the religion for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey must do so at least once in their lifetime.

The Hajj is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, with 2.5 million Muslims expected to make the trip this year.

With such a large movement of people, the Saudi government has issued warnings that all protesting during the Hajj is banned.  The government has also stepped-up security, with more than 100,000 Saudi military deployed during the pilgrimage.

While the Saudi Arabian security forces assert that they do not expect any troubles, the interior ministry official in charge of security, Gen Mansour al-Turki, said that “We will not allow any actions that might disturb any other pilgrims, or affect their safety.”

In 1987, 402 people were killed when troops broke up a protest by Shia pilgrims.  This year is also the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the Great Mosque in Mecca, home of the Kaaba and Islam’s holiest site, by Sunni extremists.

The Kaaba is a cuboidal building in the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca that pre-dates Islam and is the holiest site in all of Islam.  Muslim beliefs say that the original building on the site was built by Abraham.  Thus, a mosque was built around the site and all Muslims, regardless of their location, must face the Kaaba during daily prayers, as well as take part in the Hajj if able.

Last month Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that it would take “appropriate measures” if its citizens faced restrictions.  Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader, called for the Shia to show that they were dealing with challenges to their unity.

Thus, the Saudi government has responded by both warning Iran not to abuse the Hajj for political purposes, and by the ban on protests.

Authorities are also hoping to prevent a repeat of the deadly stampedes, such as in 2006 when 364 people were killed, that have afflicted the Hajj.  In response, the Saudi Government has recently finished the rebuilding of the Jamarat Bridge at Mina, the 950m (3,135ft) long, 80m (260ft) wide five-story pedestrian walkway, which cost $1.2bn, and that authorities hope will prevent overcrowding.

11-49

Chinese Train to Mecca?

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Keith Barry Email Author / Wired Magazine

Mecca

The Saudi government is building a $1.8 billion monorail to ferry pilgrims among the holy sites of Mecca, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. Once complete, the Saudis estimate 53,000 buses will disappear from the city’s crowded roads, promising a safer, more comfortable pilgrimage.

The monorail will be built over the next four years, with the first segment — roughly 35 percent of the project, by one estimate — opening in time for this year’s Hajj between November 25 and 29. Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims must complete if they have the means and ability to do so, is the fifth Pillar of Islam and as such attracts a staggering number of pilgrims.

Controlled access to the monorail is intended to avoid accidents such as the tragedy at Mina in 2006, when more than 350 people died in a stampede after two busloads of pilgrims disembarked at the entrance to the Jamarat Bridge holy site. Trains on four elevated tracks will carry as many as 20,000 pilgrims an hour in an orderly fashion, with parking available at all stops.

The monorail appears to be a good way of controlling human and vehicular traffic to holy sites. The author of the Mujahideen Ryder blog says the monorail is a “pretty cool idea to make Hajj safer and efficient. I can’t wait to see it.”

According to Straits Times, the Chinese Railway Corp. is building the monorail. It is one of two rail projects the Chinese are building in Saudi Arabia — the other being China Railway Engineering’s 275-mile high-speed rail system linking Mecca and Medina through Jeddah. China’s involvement in both projects reportedly was clinched during Chinese Prime Minister Hu Jintao’s visit to Saudi Arabia in February, during which representatives of Chinese Railway Corp. met with Saudi Prince Miteb bin Abdulaziz, chairman of the commission for developing the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Should the project succeed, it certainly will see a lot of use. Hajj is the world’s largest pilgrimage, and the number of foreign pilgrims nearly doubled between 2000 and 2008, when more than two million pilgrims reportedly attended.

11-38