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.

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Ramadan Acts of Worship Connect Us to the Suffering of Others

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

2011-08-04T173951Z_29123431_GM1E78504PT01_RTRMADP_3_KENYA

A Muslim prays in the open at the drought-hit Kulaley village in Wajir, northeastern Kenya, August 4, 2011. The drought, the worst in decades, has affected about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa. 

REUTERS/Stringer

For 30 days during the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, healthy adult Muslims abstain from drinking a single drop of water or eating a bite of food, from before dawn until after the sun sets in the sky, as a religious obligation to God. Every year Muslims look forward to this test of faith with great longing. Last year I wrote a primer on fasting and Ramadan that can be found here.

Each fasting day during August will be a trial on my body and my spiritual resolve. With a decaffeinated, empty stomach, and a thirst that is difficult to tolerate, this act of fasting connects me to someone else. My fasting draws me to the story of a woman in Somalia who has been walking for miles to reach a refugee center; years of civil chaos combined with a devastating drought have ravaged her land, her body, and her children. The family is traveling through Eastern Africa, walking for miles on foot in brutal temperatures with hot, dust-filled wind blowing in their faces. She’ll thank God if they all make it alive to the feeding center. The baby she is carrying no longer gets milk from her breast; she feels him shrinking in her arms as she walks. The little hands of her other small children clutch at her with less and less strength, and their voices have become so weak it’s almost impossible to hear them above the howl of the wind. I hear her tell them that they must put their trust in God and keep moving. I feel her thirst as she utters words of prayer with every precious drop of water she goes without to give to her children for their survival.

My act of fasting brings empathy for her that is greater than any ordinary day; I can’t forget her story. I remember her when my head is dizzy with thirst after running out on a simple errand in triple-digit heat. I can step back into my air-conditioned home; she can’t. I won’t complain of my exhaustion from too little sleep because I know she won’t find a sheltering place to rest in the harsh landscape on her journey toward help. I’m hungry, but I can break my fast in a celebratory mood when the day is finished; I’ll take a cooling sip of clean, filtered water and literally feel it splash down in my empty gut at sundown. As I feel my body reviving, I remember the Somali woman’s fast has been going on since well-before Ramadan, and it will continue past the 30 days I will observe. She is forced into her suffering by circumstances beyond her control, and she is powerless to change them. She’s not thinking of me, but I’m praying for her.

As I slice up fruit to refresh my family after their 15 hours of fasting, I keep seeing the Somali woman. How can I set a table with food and water when she has none? How can I watch my teenagers laugh and express joy at a simple glass of water without thinking of the Somali woman’s broken heart when she has to tell her children she has nothing for them; the crops failed, the livestock died, and food prices have risen so high she has no way to feed them. The empathy for her suffering created by my act of fasting is only worth something to her — and to me — if I do something about it.

I can help make sure she has the ability to feed herself and the children through our Islam-mandated charity called zakat. Zakat is an almsgiving tax that every Muslim that has the means will pay this month. My husband and I will calculate our savings and pay roughly 2.5% of that savings to a charity we choose. We have decided to give our zakat to aid the Somali woman and her children, and the thousands like her. Our donation won’t make a dent in the suffering, but if every reader who has ever been hot, thirsty, or hungry, and has the ability to cool down, quench their thirst and fill their belly makes a donation to relief efforts in Eastern Africa, there may be some improvement in the situation. Our donations will allow these families to find some relief in the shade of a tent, drink clean water, and begin to revive their bodies with nourishment.

We are sending our donation to Islamic Relief because they have a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the United States, along with many more recognitions. Islamic Relief has been working in Eastern Africa for 20 years. They have medical camps, drought relief, and feeding programs already operating on the ground. You can find other charities that are also working in the Horn of Africa as well. Just make sure they have an established means of delivering food and aid where it’s needed.

Ramadan forces us to slow our lives down and focus on our worship, and our spirit. God has asked me to fast for His sake, but I am the one who needs it, because without it, it would be too easy to distance myself from the suffering of others. My Ramadan prayers go toward the relief workers who labor in unforgiving conditions for very little pay, and my sincerest prayers will go to the Somali lady who is my test from God during this holy month.

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Hajj Explained

November 25, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

THE HAJJ: A TIME OF IMPORTANCE, BLESSINGS AND HOPE

By Imam Dr. Zijad Delic

2009-11-03T135104Z_496352578_GM1E5B31NMF01_RTRMADP_3_BANGLADESH Muslims – wherever they are geographically located — live in continuous connection with the sacred house called the Ka’bah, the symbol of their relationship with the Creator, the homeland of the Prophet (s), and the first Masjid on earth. Allah has chosen this Masjid as the place where His servants will make ‘Ibadah (worship) to Him and glorify His Name.

The word Hajj means to make a resolve to visit the Ka’bah in Makkah (Mecca). This was the first House of Worship appointed for humanity. As Almighty Allah mentions in the Qur’an: “Verily, the first House (of worship) appointed for humanity was that at Makkah, full of blessings, and a guidance for all ‘Alams (worlds).” {Ali ‘Imran 96}

Thus a visit to this sacred house, in the revered ancient city of Makkah, in this most sacred land, is the wish of every Muslim (brother) and Muslimah (sister).

This central pilgrimage of Islam, whose origin dates back to the Prophet Ibrahim (or Abraham, pbuh), brings together Muslims of all races, nationalities and tongues to share in one of life’s most memorable spiritual experiences. In fact, for fourteen centuries, countless millions of Muslims from the four corners of the earth have performed the Hajj to Makkah, the birthplace of Islam.

In reality, Hajj is the greatest annual congress of believers anywhere on earth. Not only is it important to more than two billion Muslims around the globe, but to the whole of humankind. Hajj marks part of the Ummah’s (Islamic world community’s) preparation for the Qurbani, or sacrifice, which reminds us of the sacrifice that the patriarch Ibrahim was commanded to make of his son Isma’il, ‘alayhimassalam. It reminds us of the mercy Allah extends to those who surrender themselves in complete trust to His Will just as Ibrahim and Isma’il did. As the Qur’an records the words of young Isma’il: “O my father! Do what you are commanded. If Allah wills, you shall find me … steadfast.” {As Safat 102}

This Hajj is a vibrant proof of Unity among all Muslims around the one inalterable principle of Islam – Tawhid, the Oneness of Almighty Allah.

Hajj gathers millions of believers and calls upon all of them to unify their opinions, ideas and values, helping them collectively to support one another in upholding all that is good and decent. Islam stands for unity of the human race, teaching that all peoples in their global diversity were originally as one, deriving their existence from the sole Creator of All, and that the barriers now separating us — race, color, class, region, ideology, etc. — are really no more than constructed illusions.

In fact, the divisive ideologies based on negative human distinctions are among the most dangerous viruses on earth. Hajj, on the other hand, proves that the hope of unity can be a reality, for Islam removes all differences and evaluates or rates people by their conduct. Islam seeks to build an intellectual, moral, ethical and just ideology throughout international society – an ideology strong enough to stand its ground against existing tribal, racial, linguistic and national barriers which have turned the world into a sea of tragic conflict.

Hajj symbolizes an opposite movement, from chaos and conflict toward unity in Almighty Allah. It is a noble tradition that upholds the hope and potential of kindred love and solidarity among the people. In calling all believers back to the basic principles of Tawhid (which are expressed in the words of Talbiyyah during Hajj) it is the living response of Allah’s servants; on this special occasion, all pilgrims are guests answering their Lord’s personal invitation to visit His house in Makkah.

All Hujjaj (Hajj pilgrims) chant the following words: “Labbaykallahumma Labbayk, Labbayka La Sharika Laka Labbayk, Innal Hamda Wan Ni’mata Wal Mulka La Sharika Laka.”

In English paraphrase, they mean: “Here I am at Your service, O my Lord. My humble submission is only to You, and I am here submitting to You who does not have a partner, for no one is worthy of worship except You. You are the Only One Who deserves every praise. You are the Only One Who has all power, so help me, O Allah, that I benefit from all the blessings that You have bestowed on humankind. This is the only way, for I have no other reason for existence.”

This repeated statement is meant to re-awaken every Muslim’s consciousness that Allah is the eternal Centre of their reality and the source of all meaning and blessing in life. With these words, believers fervently express their belief and their commitment to the Straight Path that Allah has set out for them. The journey to Hajj is purely for the sake of Almighty Allah who wants us to learn from the examples of the Prophets that He chose to be our teachers. Allah wants us to learn that Hajj is a spiritual training ground and a unique experience of worship which changes a person from the inside out, washing him/her clean and restoring his/her belief and attitude.

The discipline of Hajj has often been the key to awaken many Muslims to a fuller and deeper understanding of the concepts of Islam and its true Message. More than simply an annual institution or ritual, Hajj holds the potential to draw all believers, Insha’allah, into a future filled with blessings, among which the following are central:

1. Purification of the soul from all traces of sin. – Hajj provides the greatest opportunity for believers to seek forgiveness of sins accumulated throughout life and to make Du’as for others. This can happen when one has performed Hajj Mabrur, or done the pilgrimage in a proper way, as the Messenger of Allah mentions: “They will return from Hajj as newly born babies (free of all sins).”  Hadith}

2. Unity and understanding. – Through Hajj, the believers come to know each other and are made more aware of the mutual affairs of their brothers and sisters from all over the world. In Hajj they feel more connection and kindred love for each other, irrespective of their geographical or cultural backgrounds. Thus, Hajj unites the believers of the world into one international community.

3. Confirmation of commitment to Almighty Allah. – Through demonstrating that they are ready to sacrifice all material possessions and values for the sake of their Creator, believers show their commitment to Allah; for unless a Muslim really loves Allah, he/she would never undertake such a long, costly and arduous journey to Makkah, leaving all their near and dear ones behind.

4. Reminding believers of complete trust in Allah. – Believers com efface to face with the deep faith and unshaken commitment of Ibrahim and his son Isma’il (peace be upon them) when they were called to make the ultimate sacrifice – of life itself — in His name.

5. Preserving important rites. – Hajj reminds us of the rites which were ordained for us by Allah and taught by His Last Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad (s).

6. Walking in the Prophet’s footsteps. – Hajj is a memorable and cleansing means of acquainting believers with the spiritual, historical and physical environment in which the last Messenger, Muhammad (S), lived and served Allah.

7. Spiritual blessing. – This is the greatest Hajj blessing of all, for pilgrims (Hujjaj) are encouraged to develop a greater consciousness of Allah in and to return home with a sense of uplifted spirit and fulfillment.

Therefore, during these important days of Hajj and Eid, let us remember the following:

1. There are many Muslims in North America and your own local area who need your help.

2. Your neighbors, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, need your support in different ways.

3. Millions of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Kashmir, Palestine, and in other areas of the world need your ongoing help and support.

4. Your relatives and family value your support; never forget them or take them for granted.

5. During Eid, try to visit one another other on these blessed days.

6. Make a point of visiting those who are sick, hospitalized, in long-term care facilities, or shut-in.

7. Organize Eid dinners among yourselves and take time to ENJOY the occasion!

8. Share all the beauties and blessings of Eid with your children: give them gifts, take them on outings and visits; and participate with them in wholesome entertainment so they can feel proud of having such a great celebration of their own. At this time of year, many Muslim children feel left out when they see all the attention paid to the secular and religious aspects of Christmas; with Eid to celebrate, they have every reason to enjoy the season.

9. Life keeps moving on, and with it, our good intentions! Remember that you and I will be one year older next Hajj season … Now is the time to get serious about improving our lives.

10. Your mission in this great country of Canada is to educate yourselves, help yourselves in order to help all others around you. It all starts with family members and relatives, extending out to our neighbors, our communities, and the world large.

11. Lastly, remember always to be a good representative of Islam and a good citizen of this wonderful country – your homeland and mine – CANADA.

Happy HAJJ Season!

CIC Friday Magazine