Updated: Jul 4
A JOURNEY OF FAITH AND REFLECTION! 28/05/2023
“This series and the characters in it are fictitious. Certain long-standing institutions, agencies, and public offices are mentioned, and the religious rites are authentic, but the characters involved are wholly imaginary. “
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and specific other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law."
Copyright © 2023 by Hadiza Bagudu.
They had enjoyed three days in Makkah, bonding, shopping, and exploring the environment after the night they performed Umrah because the Hajj will not start until the day of Tarwiyah, the 8th day of Dhul Hijjah, and they were in Makkah a few days earlier. They had to, in order to not be in a state of panic because, with a crowd of over a million people in such a small space, you had better plan things and get there early. But the perk is that you have enough time to rest and do your shopping before you start the Hajj Rites, which is not easy.
She indirectly interacted with Munir through her brother during the waiting period and liked it. She believed this was the person she was supposed to marry but was too afraid to say anything. For one thing, he was deathly poor and not advanced in Western education; therefore, the possibility of him making enough money to be considered worthy of marrying her is next to none, and since things are so good with her parents right now, she doesn't want to do anything to jeopardize it. She wanted so badly to confide in someone, but experiences in life had taught her that people would always betray her to her parents to get on their good side, no matter how trustworthy they seemed at first. So, she kept it to herself and prayed to Allah to make it happen instead.
Even though they didn't need to, they have all been going to the Ka'abah at least once daily to perform the Tawaf and pray for their needs. It was an opportunity that they didn't want to lose.
Finally, on the 8th day of Dhul al-Hijjah, pilgrims adorned their Ihram garments and reaffirmed their intention to make the pilgrimage. Two luxurious buses took them from their hotel to Mina Camp, the city of tents, where they were expected to spend two days in minimal comfort while indulging in acts of worship.
Alhaji Tanko remembered that they had to trek on foot to get there during his first visit, and the journey seemed endless. It wasn't for the weak; however, to his surprise, many old and sick people were among them, and they made it. The camp was less than 20 minutes by bus and was an actual city of large white tents that housed over a million people. It is the largest tent city in the world, and they were expected to spend several days there with little comfort. Mercifully, a lot has changed since his last visit. The tents were air-conditioned, comfortable, secure, and equipped with everything they needed to camp there while performing their Hajj rites. There was a rug on the floor and small mattresses on which they would sleep. There were also clean public toilets, ablution spots, kitchens, and emergency clinics. There were ample security personnel and cleaners everywhere, trying their best to keep the place spotless despite the large number of people there. He heard that there were luxurious tents for the VIPs; however, he wasn't interested in them. Even Alhaji Kura and his family were here; who was he to complain?
There were over a million pilgrims that year, and the Saudi government did an impressive job hosting them.
In their tent, Alhaji Suleiman told Munir and Malam Tanko his life story. They were sympathetic, and he thanked them. Then, he gave them each a bank check for 500,000 naira to help them with their problems.
"Haba Alhaji! I cannot accept this… it's too much." Malam Tanko Stammered.
"It's ok, Baba, take it." Alhaji Suleiman replied.
"No. I can't."
"Me Neither." Munir and Malam Shata said.
"I gave it to you. It's not like you asked me."
"But, Alhaji, it feels like you gave us the money because we told you our problems."
"Well, yes. I gave it to you because I know you need it, but not because you asked. Listen to me, my brothers; I know what it takes to struggle. I have gone through a lot in my life. Now that Allah has blessed me with wealth, I am happy to help you. What benefit is all my money if I can't use it to ease some of your sufferings? Please accept it, brothers! It comes from my heart,"
"Thank you, Alhaji." The three men were moved to tears. "May Allah pay you back a thousandfold. May you and your children and grandchildren be forever blessed." Malam Tanko prayed for him.
"May your Hajj be accepted, hajj maroon!" Munir prayed.
"Amin. Thank you, brothers." Alhaji Suleiman said, with tears in his eyes. He had never felt as good in his life as he did then.
They spent the whole 8th Day of Dhul-Hijjah and the night in Mina. Then early in the morning on the 9th day of Dhul -Hijjah, also known as the day of Arafat, the bus again took them to the area called Arafat, where Mount Arafat is located. About 20 kilometers from Makkah, the land was barren and rocky. They were again taken into tents where they prayed the Fajr prayer. Arafat is the peak and most important part of Hajj. "The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) was reported to have said, "Hajj is Arafat." Consequently,
whoever misses Arafat automatically has no Hajj that year. They later prayed Nafil in a mosque where they listened to sermons from Islamic Scholars who delivered it from near Jabal al-Rahmah (The Mount of Mercy), where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is said to have given his last sermon.
Hajiya Safiya was also happy about the sermon. She and her husband could understand Arabic, and the Scholar talked about marriage and the duties and responsibilities of spouses towards each other and their children. It was as if he was talking to her and her husband directly. He said everything she wanted her husband to hear, and the sermon got to him because he became kinder and even more attentive afterward.
After the sermon, they proceeded to Masjid an-Namirah, where they offered noon and afternoon prayers together, shortened at noon, and then went back to the tents to wait while continuing the acts of worship and seeking the forgiveness of sins. When the harsh sun was mild, they decided to go to the Mountain of Arafat to stand in the acts of worship. Some overzealous ones explored the mountain but were soon back because the heat was palpable.
By 4 pm, everyone went outside, stood up, and faced the Qiblah while supplicating to Allah until sunset. Again, overzealous people started climbing Mount Arafat, where they stood and prayed. There, they offered supplications, repented, atoned for their past sins, and sought the mercy of God.
People were crying everywhere you looked. Some were praying out loud, while others were silent. Everyone had something to atone for, and that was the place and time. Even people who were sick were brought in on stretchers to attend the Arafat and perform the act. Remember that if you miss the Arafat, you have no Hajj.
Munir couldn't help but be overwhelmed with emotions. He couldn't control the tears streaming freely on his face. Everything came to him then: his biological family, his adopted family, his late father, and the Islamiyah. He prayed for all of them. He asked God to help him keep the Islamiyah running. It is hope for many people, and he didn't want that hope to be taken away. He prayed for his soul and for Allah to give him a virtuous and God-fearing wife. But in the end, he prayed for Allah's will to be done.
Malam Tanko was also crying and praying; knowing his story, he could understand why. Alhaji Suleiman was on the other side of him and praying loudly. He kept asking for forgiveness repeatedly. It made Munir wonder what his story was.
Nana Aisha and her parents were far away among the crowd. They were also lost in prayer. Alhaji Kura and his wife prayed for their daughter's soul. They asked Allah to intervene in her life and bring her back to the right path. He admitted to making mistakes in her upbringing and asked Allah to guide him in making things right again.
Nana Aisha also prayed for her soul. She prayed for guidance. Since that day at the Prophet's (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) Mosque, she had felt different, better, and loved the feeling. Things are more apparent to her now, and she feels ashamed of her past behavior. She feared she would return to the same actions if she returned home, so she prayed to Allah to help her and soften her parents' hearts so they would forgive her.
Everything lasted from noon to sunset. This is known as standing on the mount of Arafat, or Wuqoof bil-Arafah. Alhaji Suleiman cried the whole time. Munir was worried that he would be sick afterward.
The luxurious buses took them to Muzdalifah at sunset, between Arafat and Mina. There, they performed the Maghrib and Isha Prayers combined and spent the night praying and sleeping on the ground, in the open air, without tents. For compassionate reasons and in line with the tradition of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him), children, the old/weak/sick pilgrims, and their helpers might stay in Muzdalifah till midnight and could leave for the next ritual of the day. They also gathered pebbles for the next day's ritual of stoning the Shaitan, called Jamrat in Arabic, and the first and only stoning for that day was the Jamrat Al-'Aqabah (the biggest Jamrat only). After that first stoning on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah, some of the ever-enduring pilgrims immediately proceeded to Makkah to do their Hajj Tawaf, known as Tawaf al -Ifadah, before returning to Mina.
In contrast, some could not go but delayed it until the day of the farewell bid. It was a surreal experience for Nana Aisha, as she had never been in any situation even close to this. Not even annual trips to the village, which she loathes, come close to this. Even in the village, they had all kinds of comfort. Their father may want them to experience how the poor feel to make them both tougher and more empathic toward others. So he makes them experience village life with minimal luxury at least once a year. But none of that can be compared to this. The ground was hard, uneven, and rocky. It was a dessert, not the sand dessert you see on TV. This was just dry rock with some loose pebbles floating on top. There were pilgrims, Hujjaj strewn everywhere, in groups. The only things seen with them were their mats for sleeping and ihrams and their backpacks containing a few essentials and water for drinking. There was no food to be found anywhere, and she was hungry. Some people came with some snacks, and she was sure she saw some people eating actual food but didn't know how they got it, and she couldn't ask.
"Is this how the poor feel all the time" She wondered. "That is awful." She promised herself that when she returned home, she would give to charity and do more to help the less privileged.
Early in the morning, the buses took them back to Mina, where they ate breakfast and then embarked on the long trek to the Jamrat, where they would use the pebbles they had gathered the night before to stone the devil. It took about 45 minutes to one hour on foot, and everybody was pumped, despite their uncomfortable night.
Hajiya Safiya walked with her husband, and he helped with the children this time. Things seemed cordial between them, and everyone noticed.
Munir, Alhaji Suleiman, and Malam Tanko walked together a few feet behind them. Nana Aisha was between her parents and her brother. But this time, it was for protection, not because they didn't trust her. Everyone was chanting loudly and with zeal and faith as they walked toward the Jamrat. There were at least a Million pilgrims, walking in a sea of white, with a few dots of color here and there, most of them on foot, while the disabled, sick, and elderly were being pushed on wheelchairs. When they got to the large, multi-story building, they walked in through large openings into an even larger enclosure housing the three pillars that represented the devil, covered by walls, with catch basins below to collect the already thrown pebbles. It was a sight to behold.
There were grey uniformed guards everywhere, directing the flow of the crowd to avoid congestion and ensuring that no one spent more than a minute stoning each pillar before leaving from the other entrance. It was a tedious job as many pilgrims wanted to spend as much time as possible there because it might be their only opportunity.
The guards seemed mean, but without them being vigilant and firm, congestion followed by a stampede could quickly erupt, just like the horrifying incident of 2015 in which over 2 411 people died, with the most significant number being from Mali and Nigeria. It is not easy to control the flow of a crowd like that, so the job of grey uniformed security is essential.
The stoning was to be done in three days consecutively, meaning that after today's stoning, they would go back to Mina and spend another night, come back and stone again, then go back and spend another night before stoning for the last time. It was challenging, and Nana Aisha has had enough of the camp, with the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, the queueing to go to the bathroom, even though you are pressed, and the food, which could be better. She was tired, and her clothes were dirty. She wished she had come with more. But she had no idea it was going to be like this.
From there, they went to shave their hair. The men shaved everything while the women only cut a fingertip's length of theirs respectively. Animals were slaughtered in the name of Allah for them at the abattoirs, and the meat will be donated to the poor worldwide. It is done to commemorate the story of Abraham and Ishmael (Peace be upon them). The animal slaughtering, ideally, was supposed to be done by pilgrims themselves, or at least oversee the slaughter, but due to a large number of pilgrims, the Hajj committee devised a way in which you only need to buy a sacrifice voucher. The slaughter will be done on your behalf at the abattoirs without you being physically present, and then the meat will be distributed to poor people worldwide through charities.
On the last day of the Jamrat, the crowd was out of this world. That day, everyone was there at the same time, and there were so many people going in and out the other entrance as it was a miracle that they could get to the pillars and stone the devil. It was a bigger miracle that no one got hurt. As soon as they were done, they went out through the back entrance, down to the bus station, where their buses took them back to Masjid Al-Haram, where they had to do the farewell Tawaf called Tawaf Al-Wada' in Arabic. For those who were unable to go to the Masjid Al-Haram for the Tawaf Al-Ifadah (Hajj Tawaf), immediately after the first day stone throw, Jamrat Al-'Aqabah of the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah, had to combine the two Tawafs on their farewell day. Again, the crowd was mammoth. They had to do their Tawaf on the uppermost flow of the Grand Mosque, which is at least three times the length of when you do it right next to the Ka'abah. They were already tired from the Jamrat but couldn't rest until they were done. On the bright side, they also did the Sa'y on the third floor of the Mosque, and the length was a lot shorter than when you did it on the ground floor. That is it. Returning to her hotel room, she passed out on the bed.
That night, as he slept, Alhaji Suleiman thanked Allah for allowing him to perform a Halal Hajj and repent for his sins. He prayed that all their Hajj be accepted and that he never gets tempted to return to his past life. He had woken up that morning with a migraine and was worried he couldn't do the rest of the Hajj rituals. But Alhamdulillah, he did.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you found it enjoyable, please show your appreciation by clicking the heart button below and sharing your thoughts in the comments section. Additionally, consider subscribing to my site, so you can be among the first to receive a notification when a new blog is posted. Bye!
READ MORE EPISODES!
I'm Hadiza Bagudu, a mom, blogger, poet, author, and podcaster. Join me each week as we embark on 'An Epic Journey of Faith!' A series about a group of pilgrims whose lives were transformed by the Hajj experience. Let's explore the power of faith, the beauty of human connection, and more captivating stories on love, family, and society. Come along, and let's dive into the world of literature together!