Saturday, January 07, 2006

Journey of Discovery (part I)

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The article below is taken from Na'eem Jeenah (a fellow blogger) and the late Shamima Shaikh's wonderful book: Journey of Discovery - A South African Hajj.

The Vibes

Before our departure, a few people told us of their experience of certain special 'vibes' on Hajj. At certain moments they had been filled with intense feelings of spirituality or overcome by strong and inexplicable emotions. Although we intended that the Hajj would be an exceptional experience, we were not convinced about this. Our journey to the Holiest of lands would be spent enjoyable fulfilling our duty and perhaps realizing a particular closeness to our Creator. I think I got more than I had bargained for - on three separate occasions.

We had arrived in Madinah on a Thursday afternoon. The next day, as I prepared for Jummu'ah (Friday congregational prayer), I decided to forego the visit to the rawdah and the Prophet's(s) grave. After all, I would have had to go to the mosque very early on that day to get anywhere near that area and all I had was an hour before the Jumu'ah prayer. However, I intended to get as close as possible to the front to the mosque, even if it meant praying on the marble floor outside.

In the courtyard, I made my way slowly towards the front and center of the mosque. I came just inside it, to the Bab al-Jibril (door of the angel Gabriel), the door which traditionally is the preferred entrance to the Prophet's Mosque, especially when one is going to the rawdah and the Prophet's (s) grave. I sat there, prayed my Sunnah before the Jumu'ah congregational prayer, listened to the khutbah (sermon) and prayed my congregational prayer. This amounted to a special moment for me, possibly due to the selfish pride of managing to get as close to the front as I had or the fact that I spent close to two hours at the main door to the Mosque of the Prophet. I sat just a few meters away from what was centuries ago the house of the person who has been the model, the example, the spiritual, social and political Master of billions of people.

I experienced another spiritually uplifting moment at 'Arafah. Seeing millions of people covering those plains was impressive initself, but as people began their wukuf in the afternoon sunlight, as strongly spiritual atmosphere pervaded the air, or, perhaps, simply my being. The wukuf involves standing outside, with upraised hands, praying to the Creator for one's wishes, be they selfish, for society or for the world. A heartwarming sight at 'Arafah was the number of couples standing and praying together. Men who seemed to be conservative Muslims stood with their wives, the two praying quietly, sometimes with the man leading. The heat is virtually unbearable and many people, myself included, would stand in wukuf, then rest or sleep and then resume.

My own wukuf, both when I stood alone, and with Shamima was deeply satisfying. In these moments everything disappeared from my thoughts, from my vision and my hearing; I focused on communicating with The Unseen. With Shamima next to me an dour hands joined, that concentration was further enriched. It was a communication with Allah, made with another of His creatures, to whom I felt a profound closeness. There were unique and treasured moments.

return tomorrow, inshallah, for part II.

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