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In the Shadows of Mount Arafat

Last year, around this time, I was in Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. As the blessed days of Zil Hajj enter upon us again, the beautiful memories of last year are flashing before my eyes. When I came back from Hajj, I penned some thoughts and observations that had been floating around in my mind during these days. Initially, these were meant to serve as a personal reminder only, but now I am sharing some of these pages with you in the hope that they might benefit the readers.

For me, one of the greatest take-home lessons from Hajj was learning to be patient. Sabr is the fuel we need to face all kinds of situations in the journey of life. I remember an old lady who was our companion in Mina. She was quite ill and had difficulty walking and even breathing. But you would never get to know it from the graceful manner in which she conducted herself. She never complained nor announced her grievances openly. Whenever I saw her, I was reminded of the concept of Sabrun Jameelun (beautiful patience)

In Muzdalifah, circumstances made us sleep on a narrow spot on the footpath under a bridge. There was traffic, smoke and horns all around. Pedestrians of all ages and nationalities were passing by, but we lay there peacefully. I lay there – in public, under the open sky- just because I was following Allah (SWT)’s command to spend the night there. This was a powerful lesson to obey Allah (SWT)’s instructions, each and every one of them, without any resistance or hesitation. 

No matter how comfortable and luxurious your Hajj package is, you have to perform all the rituals of Hajj yourself. Doing this requires a minimum level of physical strength and stamina, which is not developed overnight. We should try to lead active, energetic lives to utilize our bodily faculties in doing good deeds to the maximum. We learn from the Hadith that a strong believer is more beloved of Allah (SWT) than a weak believer. We should try to improve our strength and well-being in all realms, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.  

During Hajj, the people showed ultimate belief in the words of Allah (SWT) and the Prophet (SAW). They believed, for instance, in the significance of the Day of Arafah and the sacredness of the Black Stone. They believed that Riyadh-ul-Jannah was really, really from Jannah. They believed in the healing properties of the water of Zamzam. The firmness of belief was reflected in their actions and willingness to endure pain and toil on this path.

Why can’t we exhibit this ultimate belief in all the Words of Allah (SWT)? Why are we so selective? Why do we pick and choose stuff that is pleasing to our nafs (self)? Where is true and ultimate belief in all the Words of Allah (SWT)? If we believe in Him, we should show a staunch, unwavering belief in every one of the rewards and punishments he has promised as a consequence of various actions.

During the Hajj days, we were focused on the primary goal of fulfilling our rituals. We knew the what, when and how of the rituals we had to perform, and that was primary. Mealtimes came and went. The food that you got might have been hot or cold, spicy or bland. If you liked it, you said Alhamdulillah very happily and remained focused on your primary purpose; if you didn’t like it, you still got it over with and remained focused on your primary purpose. Did you get a bed to sleep on? Or a mattress? Or just the carpet? Was the bus air-conditioned or not? Did you fall ill? Just take care, hope, pray and try for the best. You keep on adapting to whatever comes your way without losing focus. These were all such non-issues in those days because we were focused on something else.

Having this laser-sharp focus is so crucial in our lives. Do you have a primary focus on pleasing and obeying Allah (SWT) every day of your lives? This is something we need to work on.

In Mina, while making Wudu from a public tap, I would wash my hands; in between, a lady from another nationality might quickly rinse her mouth; in the time gap, another lady from perhaps yet another nationality would wash her feet. Three people at one tap who had never met before had never talked to each other before, yet here they were, peacefully accommodating each other. The coordination and unity that comes from having a common purpose is truly mesmerizing.

At the last Hajj, there were quite a few chaotic incidents. People fainted, suffocated and died during the Tawaf as well as the Rami. But how did the millions manage to perform it with ease too? How was my Rami so fearless, my Tawaf so easy, so smooth and spacious? People had scared me beforehand with their stories, but everything worked out so smoothly. How? It was only and only with Allah (SWT) ‘s Help. He is Sufficient as a Helper.

If He Wills, you can move a mountain. If He does not Will, you cannot even take one breath or blink your eye even once, even with all the people of the world supporting you. We must internalize this.

Just as Hajj washes away your sins, sincere repentance also cleanses our hearts. It’s time we make the best out of these blessed days of Dhul Hijjah and embrace this opportunity for transformation and renewal! 

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