Memories of my first Haj

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ALL praise to Almighty Allah, I have performed Haj at least 10 times. I still recall the best, most complete and hardest Haj that I have ever performed. That time, my age was below 20.

I used to attend religious classes delivered by Sheikh Mahjoub, a Sudanese scholar, who served as imam and khateeb of Bin Mahfouz Mosque in Old Jeddah, which was built by Sheikh Salem Bin Mahfouz, founder of the National Commercial Bank. Bin Mahfouz had built several mosques elsewhere in Jeddah, but this mosque was distinctive as it was the first mosque in Jeddah where carpets were spread out, according to my knowledge. In his classes, Sheikh Mahjoub explained the way in which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), performed the Haj rituals. So I decided to perform the pilgrimage of Haj in the same way explained to us by the sheikh. He used to repeat the words of the Prophet (PBUH): “Take from me your rituals of Haj.”

I performed Haj in company of my elder brother and one of our relatives. We agreed that we would leave for Makkah on the evening of Dhul Hijja 7. We decided to leave our luggage with a relative who lived in a small room next to the Umrah Gate of the Grand Mosque until finishing our tawaf (circumambulation around the Holy Kaaba) and sa’i (running between Safa and Marwa) before setting out for the tent city of Mina.

When we knocked on the door of our relative’s room, one of his neighbors, an African, came out, shouting that they should stop disturbing him. He asked us to leave the place. At that time, our relative came out of his room and tried to calm his neighbor down. We told him that we would not stay long and would take our luggage immediately after performing tawaf and sa’i. But when we failed to convince him, we decided to leave the place, carrying our luggage so as to avoid aggravating the relations between our relative and his neighbor.

My relative and I decided to perform tawaf and sa’i after leaving our belongings with my brother at the Umrah Gate. During tawaf, a shocking incident took place. All my money that was kept in my belt was stolen. I was totally upset. After performing tawaf and sa’i, I rejoined my brother and the relative and told them that I was not in a state of continuing the pilgrimage and wanted to go back to Jeddah. But they turned the idea down, saying “We have sufficient amount of money to meet the Haj expenses.” I told them that if they give me some money as a loan, I would continue with them otherwise I would return to Jeddah. Then, they agreed to consider that my share of the expenses would be a debt that I should settle after reaching Jeddah.

We went from Makkah to Mina on foot and arrived before noon on the Day of Tarwiyah (Dhul Hijja 8). We decided to stay at a valley opposite Al-Khaif Mosque and erected a tent there to protect us from the heat of the sun. Following the tradition of the Prophet (PBUH), we performed Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha prayers on that day and Fajr prayer of Arafat Day (Dhul Hijja 9) at our camp in Mina. Then, we boarded a bus heading to Arafat and asked the driver to stop near Namirah Mosque. We entered the mosque and did not find any difficulty to get a place not far from the mihrab (prayer niche) of the mosque and spent some time reading the Holy Qur’an and praying to God until the time of Arafat sermon. After listening to the sermon, we joined the imam in performing Dhuhr and Asr prayers in the combined and shortened form.

After the prayer, we had our lunch at a restaurant and then moved to Jabal Al-Rahma (the Mount of Mercy). We stayed on top of the mount, engaged in supplications and seeking mercy of God until sunset. Then, we moved to the borders of Arafat and waited until the sun had gone down. Then we went to Muzdalifah on foot and reached there at the time of Isha. In Muzdalifah, we performed Maghrib and Isha prayers.

After taking dinner, we slept as we were very tired after the day-long spiritual journey. On Dhul Hijja 10 (the Day of Sacrifice) we got up early morning and performed Fajr prayer and moved to Mashar Al-Haram, a valley between Muzdalifah and Mina, where we spent some time praying to God until the sun rose. Then we started heading to Mina where we performed the stoning ritual at Jamarat Al-Aqba after collecting pebbles on the way to Mina from Muzdalifah. Some of us cut hair while others shaved their head. By this, we entered the first stage of exiting Ihram (tahallul) and started wearing normal dress instead of the two seamless white ihram dress.

On the same day, we reached Makkah and performed Tawaf Al-Ifadah or Tawaf of Haj, which is one of the pillars of Haj as Haj will not be complete without this tawaf. After performing the tawaf, we returned to the tent that we erected at the Mina valley to spend at least two more days in Mina. It is obligatory for the pilgrims to stay overnight Dhul Hijja 10 and 11 in Mina and throw seven pebbles at each of the three Jamarat on the following two days. After stoning on Dhul Hijja 12, it is permissible to leave Mina on the basis of the Qur’anic verse: “But whosoever hastens to leave in two days, there is no sin on him and whosoever stays on, there is no sin on him.”

We decided to hasten to leave in two days. After performing stoning rituals on Dhul Hijja 12, we hastened to leave Mina and reached Makkah to perform Tawaf Al-Wida or Farewell Tawaf, marking the completion of the Haj rituals. I performed the rituals in accordance to what I had learned from Sheikh Mahjoub. I found out later that what I had learned from him are the same rituals that are mentioned in the tradition and biography of the Prophet (PBUH), books of Islamic scholars and lectures of professors.

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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