The vast lands of Arafat, the circumambulation around Kaaba, the humongous swarms of humanity at Rami Jamrat, the long, very long queues outside the washrooms at the tent city Mina!

The list of memorable moments from our last year’s Hajj is endless.

No one in his wildest of the nightmares had dreamed Hajj 2020, would be so contrastingly different.

Can’t imagine Arafat Mina, Kaaba without those swarms of humanity.

Nay, impossible.

Unfortunately no one has an idea about when the Hajj as we  know it , would be back on the track or if there are more surprises waiting for us?

We did our Hajj last year.

How can anyone describe this most amazing and  lifetime of an experience?

Makkah, Mina, Muzdalifah, Arafat, Jamarat ! Just these names thrill me no end.

Walking around Jamrat at a snail’s pace and looking around at the crowds reminds you of the last day of judgement. The toughest part, during hajj is Rami Jamraat, Stoning the devil, metaphorically and literally, as you are on the cusp of finishing your hajj, doing tawaf e idhafa and Saee. You realize the definition of True Tough while walking to, inside and outside of Jamrat. Does Allah want to tell us through this hardship, how difficult it is to stone the devil that has made dwelling in our heart. 

The Annual Hajj
The Hajj of Yesteryears

Mina is an experience that teaches you how to live in a commune in a big tent with hundred others jostling for space, kind of basic fundamental lessons in patience;   of surviving in trying circumstances. It also teaches you a lesson in mutual dependence; you just can’t afford to be isolated, compelling you to be humble and human.

Pilgrims are not supposed to complain about the problems faced during the holy hajj as these are the difficulties the pilgrim faces in the way of the Creator. But when the problem is man-made, and is within the realm of being rectified, then things need to get corrected. This once in a lifetime much awaited experience and for which we spend a fortune can surely be made comparatively more comfortable.

Arafat had huge rains this year and everyone was ecstatic; a sign of divine acceptance, they said. Hope it ‘s true.

Some tents were mostly washed out and leaked nonstop, but some luxury ones were not so fortunate.

Providing each pilgrim with basic minimum comfort plus facilities, irrespective of his region or wealth; yes, Arafat the place for our final judgement, deserves that.

Remember that historic message of equality of all human beings, ending discrimination of every kind, was sent from here, by the last Prophet Muhommad PBUH?

The number of people you see around is dizzying to say the least. Swarms of people are marching towards their destination quite animatedly and the excitement is infectious. These multitudes can make a fascinating study in some unique respects.

The African crowds are prominent, you can see them in their colorful robes chanting Talbiya loudly, black women with their long big skirts are unmissable. The Iranians are remarkable in their loose long sleeved shirts, pants and a long chador with a hood thrown over the heads. The next crowd that catches your eye is from Malaysia/ Indonesia. Menwomen dressed in similar prints marching together without ever breaking the line.

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A cute observation was about the Couple Bonding. To be safe in the crowds, to not get strayed, to not separate from your partner/group, people need to hold hands. The couples in our parts of the world by tradition shy away from saying anything beautiful, leave alone holding hands. It is amusingly pleasant to see young or old couples going hand in hand, men leading normally and women following, trying to keep pace. Not leaving hands guarantees safety. Smiling laughing chatty couples made the ambience more lively.

Like fishes take to water a haji must take to walking. The 11th of Zil Hajj became a testing time for us when we walked over 24 kms on that single day. Sometimes it felt harsh but soon got evaporated into pleasant Hajj Memories, promised to last a life time. The vastness of Mina contrasts perfectly with the cushions (a 6 by 2 feet mattress) where you spend those five crucial days, the majestic calmness of Arafat, the serene beauty of sleeping under the stars in Muzdalifah,  the morning saga of moving towards Mina again and then stoning the devil, not to mention tawaf e idhafah and sa’ee amidst the hajj crowd, all exhaust you to an extent, where you think about nothing but sleep.  All your thoughts revolve around getting a full siesta so you can replenish for the next stage. The cycle of tiredness, siesta, keeps repeating.

While doing the Tawaf feet went heavy but the pace had to be kept up, like one were put into a machine, we had to trot nonstop, the circumambulation around the  House of Allah, at its centre has deep significance. Is Allah telling us  how we should be running the circles of life?

Our life circles revolving around Him. Tawaf or circumambulation, to me implies the kind of worship where one loses oneself in His worship entirely.

While doing Tawaf , your strength is sapped, your exhaustion knows no limits, your feet give up, limbs cry hoarse, yet there is some mysterious force that, ‘ drives ‘ you on;  keeps you moving, on the go. Sooner a moment comes when you stop feeling it; the exertion and the effort. You go on and on and you want to go on, want to keep moving without a tinge of realization of the fatigue dripping from your entire being. At such rare moments you taste the fruit of worship. You know you are exhausted to your core, you know you just can’t take another single step further….yet there is some inner power that pushes you keeps you on the move.

Hajj if I dare describe in a word is ‘bewildering’

Bewildering, testing, confusing, yet calming, reassuring soothing at the end giving you an experience which cannot be replicated.

That is it.

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