We are at Arafah! The bus has stopped. There is a flurry of activity. We need to find our tent, and figure out what to do next. It feels like the middle of the night, and feels chilly in the desert. We stumble in the dark, and find our tent; exhaustion mixed with a sober anticipation of things to come freezes all thoughts.
Wudu and prayer is the first order of the morning. Wudu in the desert is a challenge even though there is a ladies restroom with running water and a 24/7 cleaning staff.
I have a sudden appreciation of the depth of Allah Subhana wa taala’s love for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his beloved wife Ayesha (RA) He SWT revealed the ayahs on Tayammum (dry ablution) to make it easy on them and their companions to perform salaat in the desert.
After fajr, I begin my morning Dhikr, but my eyes are laden with sleep as if someone has injected me with a soporific. I fall over into a dead sleep in my sleeping bag. At the edge of my consciousness, I realize that Victoria has awakened and left the tent and others have awakened. I try to open my eyes but not only it is a soporific that is affecting me but I also feel that a muscle paralyzing agent is working on my muscles, I cannot move. Twice someone awakens me and I sit up but fall back into sleep.
I vaguely recall from my Hajj preparation CDs that Shaitan does not want you to repent at Arafah for then he loses all the work he has done on that person in the past. Perhaps I had heard it on Mokhtar Magroubi’s CD on ‘the inner dimensions of Hajj’ or read it somewhere. Intellectually I am vaguely aware that Shaitan and my Nafs have me imprisoned in the excuse of sleep. Practically the mist of sleep is like a drug for unconsciousness. Time is passing, it is now middle of the morning, and I am still in a state of sleep paralysis.
I feel someone kick my leg and shake me, “get up! Shaitaan has got you! we have already been to the Jabal e Rahma, it is beautiful, don’t you want to see it? It is Victoria, my friend, my companion in Hajj, always looking out for me.
Jabal e Rahma …….my brain registers, the place where our father Adam (AS) and our mother Hawwa (Eve) (AS) met after roaming around this earth and seeking each other after banishment from jannah. Ah yes……….. Being the romantic that I am, I want to see the place where love bloomed and our lineage began.
I sit up and try to shake out the sleep and muscle paralysis from my limbs to no avail. As if in a flash I realize, this is not tiredness from exhaustion, this is the age-old tug of war between shaitan aided by my Nafs and my Fitra of purity connected to the love of Allah.
I push away the sleeping bag and stand up in one movement and head towards the rest rooms. I am looking for the sobering splash of cold water, a refreshing wudu to banish this imprisonment by the evil forces.
Shireen and I meet up with another companion who serves as our guide. We hike towards Jabal e Rahma, and as we look across from our hill towards the Jabal e Rahma, it is dotted with white specks. Countless Hajjis in white Ihrams standing on the Jabal e Rahma in prayer, asking Allah for His mercy.
We return to the plain of Arafah and after Dhuhr, I read my book on Istighfaar, but not really connecting with the words. The mental barricades are up. There is static in my phone line to Allah SWT and time is running out.
All my companions have disappeared, they have sought their private spaces in which to stand and seek tauba (repentance) from Allah. I am still at sea, lost, and unguided how to begin and where to begin. I pray a few more supplications but I cannot even pretend that they are from the heart, Asr comes and goes like a polite visitor, and I set out to find myself a spot. On this vast plain of Arafah, there is no private spot. Every inch seems to be packed with hajjis. I look around, everyone is standing in supplication and as I pass by them, they do not even know I am there.
I find a short wall of stones, with the tent to my left and a tree to my right and all the Hajis dotted at intervals behind me. I stand in silence. Suddenly the flood gates of patience break, the barricades of superficial self defense crumble and the dammed water of anger, pain, sadness, recriminations, regret, anguish, loss, and mistakes gushes out with such a force that I think it gets His (SWT) attention and He (SWT) stops to listen……..I am crying? Yes I am! I am now talking to him directly, the lines are open and he can hear me loud and clear.
“My child you took my child……. My mother ……..”, I go on and on, my one sided soliloquy is with Him and Him alone. I sense His complete attention, He is listening patiently, He does not interrupt me He does not offer solace, nor comfort, nor explanation. As the evening moves forward to meet its night visitor, I feel His (SWT) formless, wordless answers enter and settle into my heart one by one bringing with them comfort, solace, retreat, and a weightlessness. I am spent!
I look around. All the people around me have disappeared and Maghrib is at hand. I go in search for my companions; we have to leave for Muzdalifa, to sleep in relief under the stars, as the Prophet (PBUH) did.
I pause and think of The man (PBUH) whose only thought was submission to Allah. He too stood here and begged Him (SWT) for acceptance of tauba from his Ummah for all the generations to come to Arafah. Love and a profound respect enter my heart, love for a man who wept and prayed for his (PBUH) Ummah and that includes me. Right here! I am truly humbled.
Somewhere on the plain of Arafah, there is a rectangle of sand soaked with my tears, where I left my regrets, my recriminations and my sins, with a supplication that they never be reclaimed.
Continued in………….TODAY IS EID UL ADHA