I really have to stop crying about my mistake in Muzdalifa.

One of my biggest problems is that when I do something boneheaded, I can’t stop thinking about it until it’s resolved. And how can this ever be resolved until I die and find out for sure whether my Hajj was accepted or not.

As crazy as this sounds, I just wanted to do a ‘perfect’ Hajj. And I’m realizing there’s no such thing. We’re only human and are bound to make mistakes. I have to just remember that God is merciful. I’ve begged and begged for forgiveness, and that’s enough. I just have to move on and hope that He’s forgiven me.

This is a continuation of the journal I kept while on Hajj. I’ve tried to transcribe it exactly as written. Any recent thoughts are in parentheses.

Nov. 18th

Well I spoke to some other sisters about what I said and the concensus is that I was too harsh.

An African American sister even said that it would have ben better to say, “May Allah accept your Hajj.” (I’m beginning to think she was right!)

Another sister said to just ask forgiveness. So I did.

It’s so easy when you’re in the right and people are being unreasonable to go too far and err yourself.

Yesterday we went to perform Tawaf al ifaadah–basically it’s the tawaf of Hajj and since we did a certain type of Hajj called tamattu it meant we had to do sa’ee as well.

Omigosh, I thought Muzdalifa was a test! (The funny thing is that there’d be an even bigger test to come!)

And yet Hajj is hardship.

It’s supposed to involve difficulty and inconvenience.

It’s no wonder the reward for a proper Hajj is nothing but paradise.

We were supposed to be ready to go the haram at 1:30 a.m. I was going to sleep around 11:00 pm but any time I have to be up early, I have a difficult time sleeping. What made it worse was the hot flashes. The desserts they’ve been serving have been delectable and the day before yesterday being Eid I went overboard. What a mistake!

I really suffered. Hardly slept.

And because the roads were  closed coming in to Mina we would have to walk out to catch the bus on the other side of this tunnel that goes through the mountain.

We weren’t the only ones walking. The tunnel was busy with people trying to get to the haram. I’d overheard someone say that there was no guarrantee there’d be a bus waiting for us on the other side and someone had said the best thing to do would be to just grab a taxi and try to make it to the haram on our own.

It was a good 45 minute walk and a wait of about 15 minutes and finally we found the bus. Immediately I fell asleep. Thing is the haram is actually within walking distance. From Mina they have a pedestrian walkway that is about 4.5 km. You can walk it in a couple of hours.

The traffic was completely snarled. All the cars and trucks were trying to turn around. Diesel fumes everywhere! And people camped out like the homeless on ever spare inch of ground and trash everywhere!

Like the remains of a street party gone mad!

We didn’t get close to the haram till close to 5 am. Fajr time.

I had one thing on my mind: to complete this last major rite of Hajj. I was particularly worried because all 5 million pilgrims have to do this and it was bound to be super crowded. You have to really pace yourself.

It’s a LOT of walking and how we’d already done the 45 minute trek I was wondering about my stamina.

Because of this I elected to do the tawaf of the Kaaba, down in the courtyard. It’s generally packed because it is so much shorter than doing it on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

There were a few squishy moments. If I were more claustrophobic–I’m only slightly–it would have been unbearable—and actually a lot of the things I’ve had to endure are things I would have once considered unbearable, but now, after having indeed born them, my definition of unbearable has changed.

I got through the tawaf and sa’ee, my feet very sore but still in tact thinking that at least on the way back we’d be able to go by bus all the way into Mena.

(At one point during tawaf I was so hungry I was feeling faint. I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before and after all that walking my glycogen stores must have been used up. So when I drank some of the Zamzam water I prayed that it would be a food to me so that I could finish the rites. It worked! I felt much better and went on to finish the tawaf al ifadaah. I had to meet the group in front of the big clock tower and as I was making my way through the haram, the Kaaba was on the right of me, visible through the graceful columns and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of intense longing. My love for it was back. There was no feelings of trepidation of challenges to come any more–I thought I had overcome them all, and now I could look at the qibla with great fondness again, and a bit of nostalgia. When I’d come for umrah in 2008 I knew that one day I’d be back for Hajj, but now that I’ve completed Hajj, I have no idea when I’ll ever be back again. I was feeling homesick for the Kaaba even while standing right there.)

When we got onto the bus, I was so tired I knocked out, only to be awakened and told we’d have to walk the rest of the way to our hotel in Aziziah as the traffic was not moving. (Half way there the bus we’d been on passed us! Arggh!!!)

So we walked more than a km to the hotel.

I had thought we’d get breakfast there. It was 11 am and like I said, I hadn’t had anything to eat since about 8 pm the night before.

But all the staff of the hotel were in Mina, serving us there!

We walked over to a KFC across the road and it was a struggle even to do that!

Then it was back on the bus to get to Mina–where apparently the roads were still closed. So we had to walk that 45 minute trek through that tunnel through the mountain, back to our tent compound in Mina again.

All in all I think I walked between 10 and 12 km yesterday up till then. But we hadn’t gone to stone the jamarat as yet.

The jamarat has always been considerd to be the most dangerous part of Hajj.

It was there that they had that fatal stampede years ago where so many hundreds of people died.

The jamarat consist of 3 pillars. They used to be narrow: small medium and large–the large one called jamarat aqaba.

We threw seven pebbles at jaramat aqaba on the morning after Muzdalifa and that signals the first partial release from ihram–where you can now cut your nails, men can wear perfume but they can’t have relations with their spouses.

(That said it was funny. Because as soon as the men came out of ihram, many of them came knocking on our tent door (it was one of those accordian-like folding doors) and they wanted to spend time with their wives. It seemed like they missed them. My brother and many of the other men shaved their heads (it’s the sunnah, the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and better than just trimming your hair, although that’s permissible. Many of us were chuckling at how the men looked all shaved like that. My brother was a cross between Telly Savalas and the guy who played the Mummy! My sister in law and I kept telling him, “Who loves you baby?”)

The jamarat respresent satan/temptation. But some pilgrims take it too literally. They think they are satan and they get very angry at them.

This part of the ritual goes back to Abraham (peace be upon him). Actually the whole of Hajj goes back to him and the struggles of his wife Hagar and son Ishmael (peace be upon him).

The whole Hajj is the commemoration of the tremendous test that Abraham (peace be upon him) was put through when he saw in a dream that he was to sacrifice his son Ishmael (peace be upon him).

Now Abraham (peace  be upon him) was already an old man by the time he was blessed with Ishmael (peace be upon him), and the name Ishmael means ‘God has heard his prayer’. According to the Biblical story Abraham’s first wife Sarah was jealous that Hagar–a slave girl from Egypt that Abraham (peace be upon him) married bore Abraham (peace be upon him) a son when she was barren. And that’s the reason Abraham (peace be upon him) took Hagar and Ishmael (peace be upon him) and left them in a  barren desert valley.

But according to the Quranic story Sarah had nothing to do with it.

Abraham (peace be upon him) had brought Hagar and Ishmael (peace be upon him) to the barren valley and he got onto his mount to leave.

Hagar must have been alarmed. She asked him if he was leaving. Abraham (peace be upon him) gave her no answer. She asked him again if he was leaving her. Again Abraham (peace be upon him) gave no answer. Finally she said, “Is it that God ordered you to do this?”

Abraham (peace be upon him) said, “Yes.”

Hagar said, “Go then. God will never allow His servants to perish.”

But within a few days the water ran out and baby Ishmael was crying with thirst.

Desperate, she ran between two hills: Safa and Marwa, to get to a high point to see if she could find some water.

The valley of Mecca is like a bowl, that concentrates the heat. And Safa is about 1/2 km from Marwa. She ran back and forth between the hills seven times. Then she came back to Ishmael and found that where he’d been kicking his heels, a well had sprung up. A well where there had never been one before.

They were saved.

This is what we commemorate when we do the sa’ee. The hills of Safa and Marwa are now part of the haram, but wisely they still left some of the original rock exposed. (If you go down in the basement to do sa’ee you can see them behind a wall of plexiglass. And on the main floor you can see just the tops of them.)

That well of Zamzam continues to be a miracle to this day.

Sometimes it boggles my mind that a well, barely six feet deep, produces enough water to not only quench the thirst of every pilgrim that comes here, but is enough for them to ship 120,000 tons of it a day, during non Hajj and non Ramadan to Medina (imagine how much they ship during Hajj and Ramadan!!!). Plus every hajji will take up to a gallon of Zamzam water home and give out a little to relatives to share the blessing.

And the well has never run dry!

Well going back to Hagar, if anyone discovers a water source in the desert, they get rights to that source and anyone wanting to use the water must pay a tithe.

Instantly Hagar became set and independent. A caravan came through and found Hagar and Ishmael beside a water source that had never been there before, and paid her handsomely for the privilege of watering their caravan.

Abraham would return periodically to visit Hagar and Ishmael, and by the time Ishmael became a young man they were ordered to raise the foundations of the Kaaba.

I referred to this in an earlier blog post that while Abraham (peace be upon him) was setting the stones in place he wondered who would ever come to this barren desolate valley to perform pilgrimage to God’s house. At that moment God allowed every soul of every pilgrim (including mine) to call out “Labaik allahumma labaik!” “Here we come O Lord, Here we come!”

It was some time after this that Abraham (peace be upon him) saw himself sacrificing Ishmael (peace be upon him) in a dream. He approached Ishmael with this dilemma because he knew this was no ordinary dream.

Ishmael’s (peace be upon him) answer was, “Father, do as you have been commanded. Insha Allah (God willing) you will find me patient.”

The story differs quite a bit from the Biblical version.

In Islam it’s clear that this was a test for both father and son, to see if they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

God knew that the one thing in the world Abraham (peace be upon him) cherished more than anything else was his son Ishmael (peace be upon him).

So the two of them headed out of Mecca and they came to the valley of Mina. Yup, the same Mina I’m writing this from.

And while the two of them were walking satan came to try to dissuade them from their course of action. First he came to Abraham (peace be upon him), asking how he could follow such an order, it was crazy, etc. etc.

Abraham (peace be upon him) picked up seven pebbles and threw them at satan chasing him away.

Then satan came to Ishmael (peace be upon him) and asked him how he could go along with such a crazy plan. Ishmael followed his father’s lead and picked up seven pebbles and pelted satan with them.

Abraham tied Ishmael (peace be upon them) up and covered his face and was just ready to bring down the knife when God Himself called out for him to stop. Abraham (peace be upon him) had fulfilled the vision.

When we pelt the jamarat we are in fact reenacting the rejection of satan’s temptation, (and when we paid for the sacrifice of a sheep (to be fed to the poor) we are reenacting Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram, and in fact taking advantage of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice in that we’ll never be asked to face such a dilemma.)

But some pilgrims get carried away. They start blaming the jamarat who they think is satan, for all the bad things they’ve ever done. And they want revenge. (Before when the jamarat were thinner, some pilgrims used to even climb them and hit them with their shoes.)

They’ve really changed the jamarat now. Escalators only go one way so the crowd has no choice but to go in the right direction.

And they have lots of soldiers making sure the crowd doesn’t get out of control.

It feels so good hurling the stones at that wide oval wall jamarat.

Now all three of them are basically the same size but still they’re called the small, medium and large jamarat.

Sometimes I wonder at there being 3 of them. I wonder if satan didn’t also go to Hagar and hers represents the third jamarat.

But that’s just speculation.

Yesterday after coming back from all that walking, we still had to go pelt the jamarat.

In a few hours we’ll pelt all three of them one more time and that’s it. The last rites of Hajj will be over. What an experience it has been!

to be continued…