Sep 20, 2014

The Haram Diary (Part 1)

By Syed Faraz Luqman

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It has been 5 years since my last I’tikaf in Mei’saeed Masjid in Qatar. 6 since my first.  No matter what anyone says, these 10 days of solitude change you..every time you take them.

This year I chose the best place possible for my stay. Al Masjid Al Haram (Makkah Al Mukarramah) The house of Allah (BaitAllah)

This is the centre of the (muslim) world. Both spiritually and geographically The only place where you do not see anyone pray in a straight line, but rather in concentric circles around the Ka’bah. Circles whose diameters increase as they go out around the earth.

Against Dad’s suggestions to make my I’tikaf in Madinah (Masjid an Nabawi – The Masjid of the Prophet PBUH), with my 2 cousins, I chose to be here, in the middle of more than a million people, to up my personal ante.

Dad said it would be very tough as the basic necessities so easily available in Madinah would be just as difficult. Citing my age and other similar factors, one of them being “KA’BAH”, I chose Makkah. Not to prove Dad wrong or anything. But to prove if I tried to do this, Allah would help me do it.

More than anything else, this was my Jihad. The Jihad of the Nafs (inner desire). The greatest Jihad there can be. This was my war on my own comfort, my desires to be lazy and easygoing in life. This was my attempt to change.

To strive and Pray to be a better Muslim than I was. Let us face it, I am horrible when it comes to how much I should be doing as a Muslim and how much I do.

To step out of my comfort zone. Face hunger, sleep on the floor, live like a hermit, spend time in the crowds talking only to Allah, to ponder and thank him for his invaluable blessings, bounty and grace in my life, to apologize for my every shortcoming and evil and to get a chance to get closer to him so as to benefit myself and my loved ones.



Day 1: Ramadhan 20 1433 AH/ August 08 2012
The journey from RAK Airport to Jeddah was uneventful. Contrary to usual, the flight was tagged to drop us at the Hajj terminal instead of the other more busy terminal. This would eventually mean that I got out of the terminal in record time as compared to the 3-4 hour wait witnessed in my previous trip. Being in Ihram and losing your temper in face of the incompetent airport authorities is not how a pilgrim must behave and Allah saved me from it.

Alhamdulillah my fast took no brunt so far. From the airport, I got a ride to Jeddah in an old Indonesian brother’s bus which was carrying some Pakistani pilgrims. He saw me alone and asked me to jump in for a cheaper fee than the others. The bus’s A/C told me why. The usual 1 hour journey took almost 90 minutes in the heavy traffic and the A/C refused to perform its duty properly in the 49 °C - 52°C ambient temperatures. But the silent chant of “Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk” kept me calm and the thought of seeing my beloved Ka’bah kept me smiling.

I reached Makkah at about 3 pm and headed to the Masjid straight away. I got dropped about a kilometre from the masjid so had to make the last leg on foot. I had 1 plan to store my luggage which wouldn't be allowed inside the masjid and 3 contingency plans in case the first didn't work.

It did. I got a locker just outside the masjid and Alhamdulillah my bag fit in the smallest rental locker where it will inshaAllah stay for the next 10 days except for the days when I need a change of clothes. Alhamdulillah Summa Alhamdulillah.

My umrah began just after Asr, around 4:15 pm. I entered the Masjid in my Ihram with my head bowed low and chanting the Talbiyyah. I tried to keep my gaze down until I was in the Mat’aaf area at least. I reached the stairs to the area and raised my eyes and saw the Ka’bah. To say that my eyes filled with joy would not be a lie. As always, the sight was beautiful and awe-inspiring and would have me rooted to my spot if the wave of pilgrims behind me had allowed it.

My Tawaf was slow in the late afternoon heat but it was not too difficult. Thanks to some of the other pilgrims (civilians as opposed to the Masjid Service Staff) who were walking with the crowd armed with spray bottles filled with cold water. Spraying everyone they could reach with the cold water. On a hot summer day of fasting, this is no less a blessing than rain.

Apart from them, there were the usual people who would walk around holding a few boxes of tissues for passers by to pull and use. As usual the Masjid service staff was ubiquitous in their green and sand colored uniforms.

The Tawaf was draining but finished sooner than I imagined (considering the thousands there who were not only doing the tawaf on the floor, but also on the balconies of the first floor)

After the Tawaf I headed to the Sai’i (The brisk walk/run between Safa and Marwa mountains). I knew the ground floor would be jam packed so I checked the first floor. It was also packed. I went up to the newly opened second floor. It was empty. Alhamdulillah.

This took the toll. The 2nd floor area still doesn't have A/Cs. Just fans running at a medium speed and the sides open. So the heat is there. I’d been in the Ihram for about 10 hours now and the fast was seeming longer than the usual lazy fasts of home. As I was running in that hot tunnel, with the soles of my feet were sore, my strength decreasing with the increasing dehydration and with a parched throat which hurt when I tried to swallow, my thoughts turned to Hajira (A.s) and I realized that the woman in whose honour the Sai’i has been ordained, did this same run, hunting for water, hungry and desperate, in the desert sun. I'm walking in shade and on marble floors. She ran in the open heat, on the hot desert sand and stones. I knew water is there at an arms reach should I faint due to exhaustion, she didn't know. I was alone and I had just my own tiredness….she had her infant son whose cries echoed in that valley to scare her even more into her 7 runs.

I suddenly felt very very small. In the face of that remarkable and amazing mother…I felt hopelessly little. As I stumbled my pathetic self across to Marwa for the final turn, my heart saluted the spirit of superhuman nature that resided in Haijra (A.S.) and how her show of strength not only gave Allah the reason to bestow the world with the miracle of ZamZam, but also the ibadah of Sai’i.

I got my hair snipped nearby the bins in the Marwa area and concluded my Umrah with a tired stumble to the nearest wall corner where I flopped down waiting for Iftar.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


Being a young convert sister, 22 yrs of age, in a family of Christians.. This is the most detailed description of anyone's experience on hajj/umrah I've ever come across.

Subhanallah!! It brought tears to my eyes. Especially the parts about seeing the Kab'ah (again), and your reflections as you walked between Safa and Marwa.

Jazakum Allahu khairan for sharing this valuable piece of writing. I enjoyed it more than you can imagine.

Since Allah SWT blessed me with the most wonderful, Muslim husband this year, I can finally hope/plan to visit this holy place for umrah or hajj myself :)

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