How did you feel when you first saw the Kaabah?
My wife and I were walked into Masjid Al Haram for the first time and it felt like the Kaabah was right in front of us. It was surreal, I couldn’t stop staring at it. We didn’t have immediate plans to make tawaf but the Kaabah was like a magnet that kept pulling us closer, and the next thing you know we are making tawaf.
How was the experience?
The experience was great. I had been "pre-warned" to be patient because things don’t always go according to plan, so I went into the trip with very low expectations as far as food/transportation/accommodations but Alhumdullilah things went smoothly........except for the bathrooms in Mina but thats another story :)
How did you save up for Hajj?
I was actually saving up for a car for the last few years and had the money in my bank account. I just hadn’t thought of Hajj as a possibility for me because of my three young children. I always figured that they weren’t old enough to leave behind. My parents went to Hajj last year and when they came back, they began encouraging me to go. Shortly before Ramadan I made the intention to make Hajj this year and things just started falling into place around me. My parents volunteered to take time off from work to stay home with the kids, my brother and his wife also stepped up and offered to come stay with my parents and help out with the kids, and I was approved for vacation time from work! What more could I ask for?
How did you feel the minute you landed?
I actually went to Madina first and when I landed at the airport I felt calm and relaxed. I knew that I had a week to worship in Masjid Nabawi and just take in our Prophet's city. When I arrived in Makkah, I was a little restless because I wanted to go to the Haram as soon as possible.
What would you change?
Part of the preparation for Hajj is to accept the fact that we don’t have control over anything. The only thing I had control over was the Hajj package I purchased, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. The only major inconvenience that I wish I could have changed was the bathroom accommodation in Mina. Our tent was the "VIP" North American tent which means that its located right near the Jamrat. The bathrooms that were built by the Saudi government for our tents were atrocious. They began to break from the moment we entered the camp, stalls that wouldn’t close/lock, broken toilet seats and shower heads everywhere. I quickly found my "favorite" stall and hoped that it was still in one piece the next time I needed to go.
What were some inspiring moments?
The most inspiring moments for me were when I actually left our tent in Mina and began walking around and seeing how people were "really" living. I saw families huddled on the street under any kind of shade they could find from the blazing sun. I saw people sleeping in any uninhabited patch of land available, from public restrooms to the middle of the street. Seeing people sacrifice like this to fulfill their Hajj rites made me look at my own accommodations and amenities and realize how good I had it. How can you complain about anything after that? Also, seeing people from all parts of the world coming together to one place for one purpose was pretty inspiring as well. I felt like we were all in this together.
What advice would you offer to others who have yet to fufill this fardh?
My advice is to not delay going to Hajj waiting for the "perfect" moment. No one knows if that moment will ever come. Make the sincere intention to go to Hajj and Allah will make a way to invite you.
--Anwer Zuberi, System Administrator, 32, Columbia, MD
If An Old Lady in a Wheelchair Can Do It ...
As an American convert I didn't really know what to expect. Even if people described to me in detail the intricacies of Hajj and the physical dimensions of Medina and Mecca, I wouldn't have been prepared for the experience. It was an "experience of a lifetime". Both Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina and Masjid Al Haram in Mecca should be wonders of the modern world. Hajj itself was intense; physically, mentally and spiritually. It was routine to walk 4 miles in a day, bearing 110 degree heat deep in a crowd of 100,000 pilgrims, with little food and water. In the U.S. people participate in an extreme race called "Tough Mudder". I think people that complete Hajj should where t-shirts that say "Tough Hajjer". Hajj can be challenging for anyone who is claustrophobic or a hypochondriac. Through patience and an unyielding trust in Allah, Hajj makes you a better person, a tougher person. If old ladies in wheelchairs can do it, almost anyone can do it. And the biggest plus of all...for those whose Hajj is accepted in shaa Allah, they return home like a new born baby with their sins forgiven. So for anyone in doubt or considering Hajj, just book the trip and get over there.
---Todd Clemence, CPA/MBA Corporate Accountant from Alexandria, VA
What We Endured Made the Lessons
I had decided early this year would be the year we go for Hajj. We had not yet saved and it didn't seem likely. A good friend went last year and said to me "start making plans, pick a group, make a deposit" and since that moment Allah made a way for us. The money literally was there in a moment. Some of my family pitched in. Everything down to childcare for our 3 small children was arranged rather quickly with great support from our family and community.
We landed in Medina first. A man started to sing in the most beautiful voice Tala al badru alaina-amazing. Everyone on plane was in tears. Medina was in one word: peace.
Nothing prepares you for that many people, all saying the talbiah.
I had been waiting to see Kaba for so long – years. I could taste it. What a sweet moment. It feels as though you are breathing for the first time. The magnetic pull is difficult to describe. The need to see it again and again. Every step to the jamarat . Arafat. The ocean of people was overwhelming, and the generosity of the Saudis amazing.
I would tell everyone go. Then go again. Go as soon as you can, drop the excuses. Allah truly provides every step of the way. My husband and I decided anything we endured, anything we did not anticipate was meant for us and made our Hajj, and without it we may have missed the lessons.
--Mariam Razaq, Physician from Alexandria, VA
Leave the World Behind
If you want to go to Hajj, just make the niya, ask Allah to make it possible, and begin packing and preparing yourself. Things will just fall into place somehow. The experience is indescribable. The meaning of the talbiyah (La bayka Allahu Ma la Bayk, Here I am Oh Allah) describes it all. I did not think of the world I left one minute while there. My world was the haram, Safa and Marwa, Arafa, Musdalifa, Mina and Jamarat. I found the Hajj to be a rejuvenating exercise mentally, physically, and spiritually. I concluded my Hajj visiting our beloved Prophet's mosque. It is huge and beautiful. The voice of Sheikh Hudayfi live...all you feel in Medina is peace. The Saudi people are welcoming, generous and and very patient and do a wonderful job managing the Hajj program. I felt I was very special for receiving the opportunity, and I am very grateful.
--Abdia Mohamed, Office of the Publisher/World Bank, Springfield, VA