This is a continuation of the journal that I wrote while on Hajj Oct. 30-Nov. 20th. I’ve transcribed it as I originally wrote it. Any recent comments are in parentheses.

Nov. 16th,

The day after Arafat, oh, and it’s the Day of Eid ul Adha.

I decided yesterday that I wouldn’t take from any of the precious moments of Arafat from Zuhr to sunset in writing my blog so I’m writing now, after we just prayed Asr.

The day of Arafat was extremely hot. I have no idea of exact numbers but I wouldn’t be surprised if it hit the mid 40’s Celsius.

I constantly drank water and yes, I had to use the bathroom more than I would have liked.

I’ve basically become resigned to the bathroom situation here. It took some getting used to but it is what it is and let’s leave it at that.

Other sisters though took a different approach.

Thing is we were going to be spending the night in Muzdalifa, a narrow valley where we would basically just sleep, that has even less facilities than what we’ve been used to, but I’ll get to that later on.

At Arafat I heard some ladies advising others to stop drinking anything after about 1 pm to avoid having to use the even worse washrooms in Muzdalifa.

One of the times I went to the bathroom at Arafat, I saw a lady leaning forward with her head resting on the sink basin. Of course I asked her if she was all right.

She said she was feeling dizzy.

Just looking at her I knew it was the heat. So I ran and got her a cold water bottle, urging her to drink it. She wasn’t doing a good job of it though so I went and got a chunk of ice from the cooler and started rubbing it over her hair and down her neck and across the front of her neck. Then she poured some of the cold water down her back and front and within moments she was feeling better.

I told her she had to drink up all the water. Then I gave her some juice, and I told her that she was suffering from heat exhaustion and she said, “Yes, I know. I’m a doctor.”

I couldn’t believe it! So I scolded her, “Shame on you! You should know better!”

Then about a half an hour later I popped my head into another tent, looking for someone and this lady called me back saying that someone was asking for me.

This lady was vomiting.

Honestly I felt like a doctor for a moment! A woefully unqualified doctor. She said she’d drank a bottle of orange juise and immediately threw up. The room was hot but when I felt her forehead it was clammy and I immediately suspected she was heat exhausted and dehydrated too.

When my older sister went to Egypt decades ago, she’d told me that when she’d rode into the Valley of the Kings, she’d started vomiting uncontrollably, and it was actually a reaction to being dehydrated.

So I got this lady cooled down with cooler water and ‘prescribed’ her to drink 7 up to replenish electrolytes and the funny thing was that even when a real doctor showed up, the lady kept asking me what to do.

Strange, very strange.

Then another lady started feeling ill. (I poured ice water down her back and got her cooled down as quickly as possible!–It’s interesting though that she really learned from this and when she saw a lady collapsing from heat, she applied the same remedy to her–helping her!)

About then one of the sisters came up to me and said I should make an announcement about this dilemma. I hesitated. I had said before how well we were getting along in that tent in Mena, but since then things had deteriorated somewhat. I kind of knew it would happen. Whenever you put yourself forward and yet you’re not really in any position of authority, there are some folks who will resent it and wonder who died and left you boss. It had happened to me before and I could see it happening now. I really didn’t want to make any announcements or take charge, but then I just thought who the heck cares if anyone likes me or not, this was important. So I got up and with my big voice I told the ladies in the tent that this was the third lady I’d helped with heat exhaustion. I said, “I know the washrooms aren’t nice and you don’t want to use them, but never mind that and drink! Drink a lot! It’s hot!”

As soon as I said that, many women got up and went to the coolers which were filled with water, juice and pop. We had no more incidents the rest of the day.)

Between all that and the four page list of people I would be praying for, I was very busy!

The morning had dragged but the afternoon flew by and then we were on our way to Muzdalifa (which we were told would be the hardest part of Hajj–it was!)

My brother said a curious thing after we woke up for Fajr in Muzdalifa. He said “I’ve never slept on a street before!”

In Muzdalifa, rich and poor have basically the same accommodation.

Our group leader called it ‘all star’ accommodations in that there only stars above you when you slept.

Muzdalifa is a narrow valley where all 5 million registered and unregistered hajjis spend some or all of the night.

The bus took about 2 hours to cover the few kilometres to Muzdalifa.

Saudi Arabia outisde the haram and the Prophet’s Mosque (peace be upon him) is definitely third world. People hanging off buses and trucks, people riding on the top of buses with no regard to safety.

But many many people walked.

I’d heard that even though you spread a sleeping bag on the road and sleep where you get a spot, you get the best night’s sleep of your life in Muzdalifa. (Maybe it’s because after pouring your heart out to your Lord and Creator at Arafat, you feel all cleansed inside and sleep like a baby.)

All I had was my prayer mat  between me and the pavement (my sleeping bag was in my lost luggage) but surprisingly the road didn’t hurt my bones like hard surfaces usually do.

I must have fallen asleep around 9:30 and woke suddenly at 12:30 am thinking it was about 4 a.m. close to Fajr.

That same elderly lady who’d sat beside me in the bus earlier and had bathroom issues, needed to go the bathroom now, so I helped her weave through the sleeping bodies littering the ground.

Then I decided to brave the toilets myself.

They were the squat type that consist of a hole in the ground.

What a struggle with my knees! When I was younger in Pakistan it was much more manageable.

I made the mistake of drinking some juice and then suddenly I was going again only this time I was shocked to see men had encroached on the women’s washroom!

Men in ihram, two pieces of unsewn white cloth–and nothing else, were standing there waiting for the middle cubicles while women lined up for the remaining few.

My anger boiled up inside. This was too much!

In the haram the men are always encroaching on women’s areas. How could they do such a thing here?

There were plenty of washrooms for them! It was shameful and I went ahead and told them so.

I must have sounded crazy, saying, “This for nisaa! (women) Rajul (men) over there!”

They just stared at me and pretended not to understand. Then one of the men started rolling his eyes and snickering at me.

That got me going!

I said that this was shameful. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Women were waiting to use the washrooms and here they were barging in. It was nice when another lady who spoke Arabic told them the same.

They ignored her too.

(I should have stopped.)

But I wouldn’t stop.

As they stood there I kept reminding them of how wrong what they were doing was.

Some other ladies came up to me and grumbled about them too, but none of them would confront the men for it. I told the ladies that the men could get away with this behaviour because the women didn’t call them on it.

And it occurred to me that they were violating the laws of ihram.

Ihram basically is a state of consecration that men and women enter when performing the Hajj. You’d be surprised the lengths that men and women will go to make sure they don’t violate the ‘no fragrance’ rule or the cutting the hair or nails part of it.

You can’t even harm a hair on your head. You can’t kill anything or bother anything. You can’t lose your temper. You have to be patient.

But you don’t have to put up with others violating the rules of decency.

(Up to this point I hadn’t crossed the line myself, but alas that was to change.)

Funny thing was, the guy that was snickering at me stopped when I pointed it out. And as I kept going on about how shameful this was, about half the men standing there bent their heads and left, looking quite embarrassed. But the rest stood there stubbornly.

And then I said something I’m not sure I should have said. (Now I realize it was definitely something I shouldn’t have said!)

I said, “You’re violating ihram. You’re harassing these women. May Allah not accept your Hajj!”

It was kind of a curse. (Actually it was precisely a curse! And the worst thing about a curse is that if it is unjustified, it can boomerang right back on you! Ever since I realized I crossed the line, it’s been eating me up that my own Hajj might not be accepted. It brings tears to my eyes. I’ve prayed and prayed and asked forgiveness about it, and even now, typing this so many days later, I have tears in my eyes. I tried so very hard to be patient, and to lose it all in one moment of thoughtlessness!)

I was upset. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone that far. (I definitely shouldn’t have gone that far!)

Allahu alim, but I did.

I went ahead and said it, a kind of curse, and at the time I meant it.

Problem is cursing like that could violate my own ihram.

I don’t know. I hope not.

 But it was extremely wrong of them. And I really wanted them to think twice before they did this again.

I wish the other women had spoken up. If we’d all banded together I’m pretty sure the men would have left, but sadly the stereotype is often true. So many Muslim women are way too meek and submissive. (Or maybe they just knew it was useless and not worth getting riled up about.)

I told some of the sisters in my group about what happened. They gasped collectively when I said “I hope Allah does not accept your Hajj.”

They thought I went too far.

And yet, I think if the Prophet (peace be upon him) had been there, he would have been angry at them too.

(This is faulty reasoning. Trying to justify what I did. I have no idea if the Prophet (peace be upon him) would have justified what I said.)

God only knows, maybe his verdict would have been the same as mine. I hope so. He sure stuck up for the women at the time when their plight was so bad they could be inherited as possessions.

I just hope I didn’t violate my ihram.

to be continued…