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PART 1: Reflections from Hajj

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Our journey began from Riyadh where I had flown in early Dhul Hijjah. With only a few days remaining we prepared for our journey to Taif, the Miqat for the Pilgrims from the Najd region.

Once we arrived in Taif we changed into our Ihrams which is one of the preconditions for those who want to perform Umrah or Hajj. We made the Niyyah to perform Hajj and made Dua to Allah سبحانه وتعالى to accept our Hajj. After that we left Taif for Makkah.

We arrived in Makkah on the 8th and by afternoon we reached Mina where Hujjaj (Sing:Haji- Pilgrim) are to stay overnight. Mina has a mountainous terrain and mostly covered with mountains, access to it is via roads made by making tunnels into the mountains. Some of them are as long as 2 kilometers. There are separate tunnels for vehicles and those who prefer to walk. Most of the plains of Mina have been covered with Tents which are permanently erected. Over 3 Million Haji's stay in this otherwise empty town during this night and the three days after returning from Muzdalifah.

We arrived in Mina and rested until later in the midnight after which we woke up for Tahajjud and prepared for our departure to Arafah.

Arafah is about 7 Km from Mina and it was further from our camping ground In Mina, We left on foot for Arafat and walked aver 2 km beyond the borders of Mina and towards Muzdalifah from where we were able to board a lorry which was going to Arafah. The lorry driver made it an opportunity to make money and charged every one boarding the back of his lorry. Children, elders, and women; everyone jumped into the back of the lorry and we left for Arafah.

Traffic management in most of the pilgrimage sites is poor and roads are narrow and there is a lack of adequate Transport Systems.

The driver dropped us at the boundary of Arafah from where we walked into Arafah. While we walked we could see so many buses stuck in queues to enter Arafah. There were a special lane for the kings guest from different countries, every now and then we would see Armoured convoys speed up on that road. We later saw them entering a high fenced compound next to the Masjid , this was the guest house for the Kings Guests.

The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said: الحج عرفة or "Hajj is Arafah". The Arabic text implies a very important concept of the meaning of Hajj. This short statement means that the whole hajj and its validity is confined in the actual day of Arafah i.e. Hajj becomes valid only when the day of Arafah is observed and witnessed by those who undertake the journey, the pilgrims. Regardless how long the hujjaj stay in Makkah, if they missed that single day, they have then missed the whole Hajj.

In Arafah we attempted at staying close to Masjid Namira so as to follow the Sunnah of the prophet of praying at Namira. The Messenger of Allah, upon his arrival to Arafah, camped outside the plains of Arafah prior to the time of Dhuhr in the location where the Masjid of Namira is now built, once called Wadi 'Urana.

Unlike the back part of the masjid today, the front part of the masjid is actually outside the boundaries of Arafah where the Messenger had delivered his khutbah or sermon. When he finished delivering the sermon, the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم lead the hajj congregation in combined prayer between Dhuhr and Asr, then he moved inside the plains of Arafah until the end of the day.

When the time for prayer approached, Shekh Abdul Aziz Aal Shekh delivered a sermon to remind the congregation who gathered in Masjid Namira and the surrounding areas with what is known as the sermon of Arafah. The adhan or call for the prayer was then announced, the Imam then lead the congrgation in Dhuhr and Asr prayer combined and shortened, each performed in units of two rak'ah with one adhan and two Iqamas.

I was saddened by the fact the Imam did not even once make dua for the Muslims suffering all over the world. At a time when every day there were 100's being butchered in Syria, the Imam did not even make a mention of Syria during the dua, although he did make dua for the King and the crown prince and the security forces. He even called the King of Saudi Arabia the Imam Al Muslimeen (the Imam of All Muslims).

The title although strange seemed like a political maneuver so as to establish spiritual supremacy of the Saudi king over all the Muslims, it was not very unexpected after having the previous king change his name from Jalalatil malik Fahd (his Majesty King Fahd) to the Custodian of the two holy Mosques so as to improve his image at home specially after it was tainted with several controversies abroad, one which included losing 6 million dollars in a night at a Casino.

The title Imam Al Muslimeen is akin to Ameer Al Mumineen, the title of the Khalifah of the Muslims. The scholars' titling the head of a state which implements Non Islamic policies in most of its Ministries & departments reminded me of the saying of Imam Abu Hanifa: "When you see the scholar at the door of the ruler, then curse him in his deen, curse him in his deen , curse him in his deen."

The Saudi Ruling system is a hereditary system in origin established by the British in return of their support for their war against the Ottoman Caliphate. Although formally the Quran is said to be the constitution and the Law, but little preference is given to it. Saudi Arabia legalized Riba In 1386 H when the king issued an edict which can be found under the reference.-Section B, article 1 of the Saudi law, issued by the king's edict no.M/5 in 1386 AH. This allowed the formation and operation of Riba based banks and they are now they can be seen everywhere, even next to the Mosque in Makkah, The Saudi French bank, the Saudi hollandi bank, the Saudi American bank and many others.

And so that the shari'ah courts would not interfere in the working of these banks, especially the Riba based transactions, the, Shar'i courts were prohibited from interfering in such cases under the "Specialisation" law (articles 20 and 21 from chapter 3 of the System of Saudi Arab Army).

After the salah, the plains of Arafah transformed into a completely different sight, hundreds of thousands of people realized the imminence of the end of this blessed day and hence engaged in a passionate and vigorous du'a and festivity of praise and supplication.

People stood and sat everywhere, on the side of the road, on the mountain of Rahmah and on the top of their cars and buses raising their hands and voices with du'a and shedding tears and worries in a hope that they will be forgiven all their sins.

There is no day better in the sight of Allah than the Day of Arafah. On this day Allah descends to the nearest heaven in a manner that suits His Majesty, and He is proud of His slaves on the earth and says to those in heaven, "Look at My servants. They have come from far and near, with hair disheveled and faces covered with dust, to seek My mercy, even though they have not seen My chastisement. Far more people are freed from the Hellfire on the Day of Arafah than on any other day." (Abu Ya'la, Ibn Khzayma, al-Bazzar and Ibn Hibban)

Abu Ad-Darda reported that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "On no other day does the Satan feel so belittled, humiliated, and angry as he does on the Day ofArafah." The reason for this is the mercy of Allah that descends this day and the forgiveness that He grants to people for major sins, except the day of the battle of Badr, which witnessed a far greater mercy of Allah descending upon people, which caused great sadness to Satan.

I felt ashamed of the situation of the Ummah and was disturbed by the Imams behavior. After the prayer I made Dua for the Ummah, I asked Allah سبحانه وتعالى to forgive us and bless us with his mercy. I asked Allah سبحانه وتعالى that he return among us a sincere ruler, a Khalifah like the Khalifah of the prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم who would implement his deen among us, who would take care of the affairs of the Muslims and not let their blood flow free. I made dua for Syria and asked Allah سبحانه وتعالى to destroy Bashar and his companions, that Allah سبحانه وتعالى fails the plans of the west to replace him with another stooge. And that Syria, the blessed land of sham was turned in the starting point of the establishment of the Islamic state. I made dua that Allah سبحانه وتعالى that he forgive my sins and that of my Parents and the Ummah.

We continued with the dua until just before the sunset when we packed to leave.

We left for the plains of Muzdalifah after sunset. We decided to walk till the border of Arafah and from there we boarded a similar lorry like we had done the when we came to Arafah. In about 30 minutes we arrived at Muzdalifah. We had arrived much earlier than everyone else and so most of the plains were empty.

We later realized we were lucky to reach so early, those who had taken the official buses provided by their hajj organizers only reached several hours later, some as late as 12 Am. It took them almost 6 hours to cover 7 km!

Those who took the Metro Rail were in no better position. The Metro Rail was a chaos with no proper management. Over 50 people died in the ensuing stampede at the Metro Station.

The azan for Isha Salah has just begun as we arrived at the Masjid Mash'aril Haram. Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:

لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ تَبْتَغُوا فَضْلًا مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ ۚ فَإِذَا أَفَضْتُمْ مِنْ عَرَفَاتٍ فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ عِنْدَ الْمَشْعَرِ الْحَرَامِ ۖ وَاذْكُرُوهُ كَمَا هَدَاكُمْ وَإِنْ كُنْتُمْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الضَّالِّينَ

"There is nothing wrong in seeking bounty from your Lord. When you pour down from Arafat, remember Allah at the Sacred Landmark. Remember Him because He has guided you, even though before this you were astray." (Al-Baqarah, 2:198)

We camped near the masjid and freshened up and prepared for Salah. After that we some food and rested for a few hours.

Muzdalifah has a real lack of facilities such as hygienic food and bathroom facilities. Most of the food was being sold by private vendors and there were not enough vendors for the mammoth population that was going to stay here overnight. The bathrooms were not adequate and many didn't even have water. People queued up at the restrooms, it was a nightmare going to the toilet because at each toilet there was a queue of 10 people!

We rested until before Fajr and then woke for tahajjud and freshened up for Salah.

After Fajr we left for Mina, most of our Journey now was to be on foot. We walked over 6 km to our camp where we had left some of our clothes before we left for Arafah. We picked some new clothes to change into after shaving our heads and headed off for the Jamarat.

The rites for this day the 10th of Dhil Hijjah begin with throwing the pebbles, followed by offering the sacrifice, shaving one's head, performing a tawaf around Ka'bah. Observance of these rites in this sequence is sunnah. If one of these is performed before or after another there is no harm, according to most scholars.

This is the standpoint of Ash-Shafi'i based on a hadith reported by Abdullah bin 'Amr who said:

"The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم stood in Mina during the Farewell Hajj, while the people asked him questions and he answered them. A man asked, 'O Prophet of Allah! I was not alert and I shaved my head before slaughtering my animal?' The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, 'There is no harm, go and slaughter your animal.' Another man asked, 'I slaughtered the animal before I threw the pebbles?' The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم told him, 'There is no harm. Go and throw the pebbles.'" The narrator said: "Whoever asked the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم about anything done before or after the other he told him 'No harm done. Go and do (whatever you missed)."'

Abu Hanifah is of the opinion that if someone failed to observe the proper sequence in performing these rites, and he did delay or precede a rite, he must offer a sacrifice, interpreting the words "no harm done" of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم to mean that such a person is not guilty of any sin, but nonetheless such a person has to slaughter an additional animal in atonement.

Jamarat was not very far from where we were stationed, it was about 3 km and took us another hour or so to reach the Jamarat. The sight at Jamarat was completely different from what it looked 8 years ago when I had previously performed Hajj. The pillars had been elevated by several meters and they were widened and were accessible by 5 different paths and each of them would lead to a different floor. Altogether there were 5 floors and the Jamarat area was installed with powerful Air Coolers which cooled the Jamarat area.

The planning at the Jamarat was amazing and was done with lot of wisdom except that the pathways leading to and from the Jamarat were an utter confusion and no Policeman was able to guide the people in a proper way. Anyone entering the Jamarat once exiting had to take a 1km detour so as to reach his original position and this was all while walking. The Saudi's took over 15 years of accidents, stampedes and deaths to realize that the Jamarat had management issues, although now they had taken the initiative of restructuring the Jamarat but still had failed to resolve its management.

The origin of the ritual of throwing the pebbles comes from Ibrahim (as): Al-Baihaqi reported from Salim bin Abi Al-J'ad that Ibn 'Abbas said that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "When Abraham (as) wanted to perform the Hajj rites, Satan blocked his way near 'Aqabah. (Jamarah Al-Aqabah is on the left side inside Mina; the Jamarah Al-Wusta (the Middle Jamarah) is at about 11,677 meters from the first one, while Jamarah Al-Sughra (the Smallest Jamarah) is 1,564 meters further from the middle one) Abraham threw seven pebbles at him whereupon the Satan sunk into the ground. Again the Satan appeared to him near the second Jamarah. Abraham threw seven pebbles at him and he again sunk into the ground. Once again the Satan approached him near the third Jamarah, and again Abraham threw seven pebbles at him and once again the Satan sunk into the ground." Ibn 'Abbas added, "You throw pebbles at the Satan, and (in doing so) you follow the path of your (great) forefather Abraham (peace be upon him)." Al-Munzhri said: "This is reported by Ibn Khuzaimah in his Sahih and by Al-Hakim, and it is sound according to their criterion."

Imam Ghazali explains the wisdom of throwing the pebbles, in his Al-Ihya he says: "As to the throwing of the pebbles, it is an expression of the thrower's intention to obey Allah's commandment, and a demonstration of his humility and servitude to Him. It signifies compliance with divine commandment without any trace therein of any selfish pleasure, sensuous or intellectual."

Once we had thrown the 7 pebbles at the Jamaratil Aqaba, we left for Makkah to perform the Tawaf Al Ifadah. Makkah is about 6 kms from the Jamarat. We walked most of the way as roads leading to Haram were jammed with traffic and most of the drivers were over charging. What would cost 5 Sr in other days was now a 100 Sr Journey.

By the time we reached Haram (sanctuary) it was evening. The electronics flashboards near haram announce that the Haram mosque was full and that the pilgrims delay their Tawaf and pray Salah elsewhere. So we prayed Magrib at a mosque near Haram. After the Salah we freshened up and changed our clothes.

After throwing the pebbles on the 10th day of Zhul-Hijjah and shaving the head or clipping some hair of it, a pilgrim is released from all restrictions of the state of ihram. He may now wear perfume, put on regular clothes, etc., except approaching his wife sexually. This is known as the first removal of ihram. After completing Tawaf AI-Ifada, an essential rite of Hajj, everything is permissible for him including approaching his wife sexually. This is called the second or final removal of the state of ihram.

In the masjid where we prayed Magrib we met a scholar from Afghanistan, we spoke to him in Arabic and introduced ouerselves. He said that he came from Jalalabad and was a teacher at a Maktaba (school), he said that he also was a Mujahid with the Taliban. We asked him about the situation in Afghanistan, he said that with time the Mujahideen had regrouped and strengthened themselves and that they now held influence and control over large areas of the country. He said that in a matter of two years they will retake all of Afghanistan. We asked him what kind of governance would they set up if they were successful, we know that previously when the Taliban were successful they established an Emirate system, we asked if they were going to do the same or something else? He said that they believe in establishing the Islamic Khilafah and nothing else. He said that Khilafah is the only true system of governance and that the Mujahideen now realize the error they committed earlier. We asked him if he knew a group by the name Hizb ut Tahrir which also works for the Khilafah, he said that he knew them very well, he said that in a short time the group has grown large in their country and that they were their companions in this path of reviving the Ummah.

Later after Isha we left for the Haram where we performed Tawaf, we finished Tawaf by Fajr time and after Fajr we rested for some time and then left back for Mina.

Today's rites included the stoning of all the Jamarat starting from the smallest Jamara, the sequence of the stoning is maintained.

It is confirmed that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to begin with the first Jamarah that is near Mina, then he would go to the middle Jamarah further away, and then he would go to the Jamarah Al-Aqabah.

So following the Sunnah of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم with every stone we made a takbir and then made Dua. Ibn Mas'ud and Ibn 'Umar at the time of throwing pebbles used to say, Allahumma ij'alhu Hajjan mabruran wa zhanban maghfuran "O Allah! Accept this Hajj of ours and pardon our sins".

We made Dua that Allah destroy all of Shaytan's plans and that of his companions from the humans, that Allah accept our Hajj and make it the last Hajj while the Ummah was being bombed by drones in Pakistan and by Mig's in Syria and that we return back to Hajj the next year but under the shade of an Ameer who would rule by the book of Allah and the Sunnah of his messenger.

We also saw the mosque of Al-Aqaba which is close to the jamarat, this is the place where the two baya's of Aqabah had happened. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم met the Sahaba from madina and took the baya from them which led to the Hijra of the Muslims to Madina & the establishment of the Islamic state in Madina at this spot.

After the jamarat we returned to our camp and rested. The next day the 12th of Dhil Hijjah which is the third day of Ayam-Nahr we left our camp early, we had decided on exiting mina before sunset on the 12th.

We walked over 8 km from our camp before we arrived in Makkah, on the way we also stoned the Shaytan at the Jamarat. The remaining rite was the Tawaf Al Wida' which is performed once the pilgrim plans to leave Makkah.

Performing this Tawaf was going to be a challenge, many people advised us against doing the tawaf in the crowded central mataf area and suggested that we perform it on the top floor which is less crowded. My father who was leading us and was our Ameer for the safar decided that we go in the central mataf area. Much unexpectedly it was not very difficult to perform Tawaf in the central mataf area. Although the area was crowded but it was unexpectedly different as people were not pushing each other which is very common during Tawaf and people attempted to help each other and make way for those who wanted to exit or enter the Tawaf, it was at the tawaf we felt a unique change in the attitude of the people compared to my experience in previous Tawafs in Umrahs and in Hajj, someone explaining the behavior said that this was the effect of the Arab spring , it had brought people's hearts closer and made them realize the sense of being an Ummah. I felt the same and hoped that we could see this behavior resonate in the whole of the Ummah of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.

Every year about 3 Million people perform hajj with about 1.75 Million of them from outside Saudi and the remaining from inside Saudi. Hajj is one of the 5 pillars of Islam and it is obligatory over any Muslim who has the capability (physical and financial) but the quota of 1.75 million hajis who can do hajj every year from the 1.8 Billion Muslim's will take at least a few hundred years for them to perform Hajj, considering only those who have the capability to it. The Saudi government's inability can be understood because of the inadequate space they have to host the pilgrims in the mosques, hotels and in the pilgrim sites. This includes the lack of proper transport systems.

It is one of the duties of the Islamic state to make the Hajj easy for the pilgrims and assist them during the Hajj. The Hajj is not for the locals to make money out of the pilgrims cheating them and overcharging them and it is the duty of the state to ensure this.

Considering the reality of the Saudi state where the whole hajj process is more a money making endeavor than that of assisting the Hujjaj in ibadah, it can be easily understood why they are not very keen on increasing the quota or improving the overall management of Hajj.

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