I am homesick for Hajj, and yet I am not there this year so I close my eyes………..and I am there.
I am in Mina the tent city outside Mecca. It is night and we are packing to go to Arafat. My companions and I have been told to leave every ‘non-essential” behind. I do not know what is essential for others, but I pocket my dua book of istighfaar, a toothbrush and toothpaste, (I want the prayers to come out of a clean & fresh mouth) some dry cookies, a bar of chocolate for Shireen & me and my sleeping bag. It is amazing how little one needs in actuality.
I step out of my tent to refresh my wudu before travel. The camp is ablaze with lights and a suppressed feeling of excitement. We are going to Arafat! Everyone wants to know which bus will we be on and what time it will leave.
We stand in a fakely lit environment. As I turn right from my tent, suddenly the sounds and lights of the camp recede. Faraway I see the torchlights dotting the hills marking the locations of the tents, which are barely visible. Maghrib is fading and the night of the desert has taken a velvety tranquil hold.
Once upon a time, out there somewhere in one of the tents on the hillside was Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings upon him with his uncle. As night fell and the pilgrims from Mecca, Medina and far away places fell asleep, few young men from medina steal into the night, to a meeting place with Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
They are going to ask him (PBUH) to migrate to Medina and give him (PBUH) their pledge of protection the same pledge that they give their family members. The pledge to die protecting his (PBUH) life, property and honor.
In the tent Prophet Muhammad looks at the young faces, none of them is a day older than twenty-five. His uncle who has accompanied him (PBUH) fears for his nephew and thinks that this is young blood making a pledge in the heat of youth, which might be squelched by the elders.
The meeting continues, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) agreeing to migrate and the young men from Medina offering to take him with them now. He says if he goes with them now, there will be resistance from the tribes of Mecca and perhaps bloodshed. The young men from Medina, their faces idealistic, and stern with the resolve of protecting the Prophet (PBUH) pull out their swords and promise to kill every and anyone who stands to harm him (PBUH).
Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings upon him) reply answers my query as to why he has been sent as a mercy not just for Muslims but also as a mercy to mankind.
He says ‘we have not been commanded by Allah SWT to do so’ (i.e.) be the oppressor. They accept his decision and then ask him “if you migrate and we give you our loyalty and protection, when things get better in Mecca will you leave us and return to Mecca?”
He (PBUH) gives them his word………and thus after his Hijra, though he loved and longed for Mecca he never went back to live there permanently, ever! He could have done so after the victory of Mecca. The young men return to their tents and wait patiently for the right time and his signal.
My reverie is broken by my mahram and the need to get in line for the bus to Arafat.
I am on the bus, the dark cloak of night has fallen around me, I peer out of the window trying to see where I am going, looking for signs, I see none.
Slowly as the bus progresses towards its destination I look out of the window and see the road filled with cars, trucks, and vans packed to the gills with men, women and children. Some sitting on the roofs of buses and trucks. Some walking in the dark, all going in one direction. Towards Arafat…to make their final plea before Allah subhanawataala, telling him all that is bad within them and asking Him (SWT) to wash it off and give them another chance. I am overcome with the enormity of the task that lies ahead. From here on it is “every person for himself….. before Allah!”
I am trying not to think of what I am going to say when I get there. The promise of the beneficence of Allah that he will expatiate all my past sins is dependant on how much I can bare my soul and if I can be honest and sincere in my repentance.
I will have to stand at Arafat, and bare myself to Him, become soul naked, stripped to the inner self with everything and all exposed to Him (SWT) before I can repent.
I can feel my reservations and denial setting up barricades to the baring of the soul. I am not such a bad person, my nafs whispers to me. My method of dealing with this for now is that I try not to think of what I have to do. I sort of doze off, pulling myself into a twilight zone. I am neither awake nor asleep, neither thinking nor resting.
The bus travels for eons I feel, hurtling towards my final destination. I no longer have control over my destiny, there is no past, no future and in the state I am in, no present……….my last conscious thought is that I will think about it when I get there.
Continued in……………. TODAY IS ARAFAH