بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

MY HAJJ JOURNEY AND A LOOK AT THE ARRANGEMENT AND FACILITIES FOR THE PILGRIMS

I made up my mind to perform Hajj this year in the early days of Shawwal.  Online registration for the pilgrims living in Saudi Arabia was already introduced last year. This registration process has helped a lot in reducing Hajj expenses and controlling those who come to Hajj without authorization. Though highly appreciated, the step taken by the Kingdom needs further improvement. The Saudi Government decided to grant special concession to around fifty thousand local pilgrims. Like many others, I also tried online to avail registration at the proposed discounted rates. Since thousands of people were trying to register online, the website was not functioning as desired. However, after trying for hours I was finally lucky enough to accomplish the registration process. It was a discount in the sense that the Government charges less as compared to the regular rates; the other expenses however remain almost the same. After the registration a total amount of four thousand Saudi riyals (SAR) per head (about seventy thousand INR) was also paid as fee along with submission of all the required documents. Within few days following the registration I received aTasrih (Hajj Permit issued by the Government) online.

As I had opted for the Makkah-based Mohammed Abdullah al-Qureshi Company for the Hajj services in my online registration, I had to arrange our journey from Riyadh to Makkah on my own. Therefore, I booked my tickets with SAPTCO (Saudi Public Transport Company) at SAR 220 per head in the last week of Dhul Qada. We left for Makkah on Wednesday, Sep 7, 2016, by bus and reached As-Sail al-Kabir (a Miqat near Taif, about 800 km away from Riyadh) around 09:00 PM. The pilgrims from Riyadh and Dammam usually leave for Makkah on 6th or 7th Dhul Hijja. We, however, left on the 5th and therefore there was no crowd on the Miqat. I took a shower and then stepped into the Masjid putting my right foot first as per the Sunnah and reciting the prescribed Du’a. After performing the obligatory Isha’ Salah I offered two units of optional prayer before entering into Ihram as reported from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). Having finished the prayer, I made intention of performing Hajj and recited Talbiyah. As I started uttering the Talbiyah, I felt as if my soul was responding the call of prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) that echoed about 4000 years ago.

I left the Miqat along with others, chanting the Hajj slogan ‘Labbaik, Allahumma labbaik’ for almost two hours until we reached the blessed city of Makkah that every Muslim dearly wants to visit at least once in his life but many leave for their heavenly abode without having a chance for fulfil their long-cherished desire. I have a relative who lives at At-Tan’im, the very locality where Masjid Ayesha is situated. So I went to his house to had some rest for a while and then left for Masjid Haram reciting Talbiyah all along the way.

It is Sunnah to make Du’a when you cast your first glance at the holy Ka’ba after entering Masjid Haram because it is a time when Du’a is accepted. I availed the opportunity and made Du’a. I was standing there facing the very cubic structure that Muslims all over the world face while performing Salah– the highly virtuous and most important form of worship in which lay the coolness of the Prophet’s blessed eyes. As we know, Hajj is of three kinds, Ifrad, Qiran and Tamattu’. Those who come to perform Hajj Badal should choose Ifrad to be on the safe side. However, it is not forbidden to perform Qiran or Tamattu’ when doing it on behalf of someone else. The pilgrims from the Subcontinent usually prefer Tamattu’– the kind of Hajj in which the pilgrim first performs Umrah and then Hajj. As for Qiran, it means entering into Ihram with a combined intention of Umrah and Hajj. Hajj Ifrad does not involve Umrah. I entered into Ihram for Hajj Ifrad and therefore performed Tawaf Qudum (which is Sunnah). As I had ladies with me, I availed the permission of the Shar’iah and performed the Sa’ee at the very time. Sa’ee starts with Safa and ends in the seventh round at Marwa.

It was very hot in Makkah during my stay on 6th and 7th of Dhul Hijja but I tried to offer the prayers in Masjid Haram because one prayer offered there equals one hundred thousand prayers offered anywhere else. No one lives long enough to offer one hundred thousand units of prayer in their entire span of life. Following Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) we left for Mina on Yaum al-Tarwiya i.e. on 8th Dhul Hijja in the morning by the Hajj Company’s bus and stated there in the camp allocated for us. As our entire journey consisted of nine days only, we made Qasr (praying two rak’ahs instead of four) for Zuhr, Asr and Isha throughout the journey. We tried to observe all the Sunnah and Nafl prayers along with Witr and the pre-Fajr Sunnah Salah. Though one may leave offering of Sunnah and Nafl prayers during journey, we tried to observe them as they will eventually benefit none but us. We also engaged ourselves in recitation of the Qur’an and other supplications as wasting these precious moments in idle talk or worldly activities does not behove a Muslim. We also raised our voice while reciting the Hajj slogan every now and then. In line with the Government instructions, we were provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner along with water, juice and tea etc. on demand by the Hajj Company during our stay in all the holy sites. Most of my accompanying pilgrims were Arabs and they as usual were wasting plenty of food items which really hurt me a lot. May Allah guide us to cherish and appreciate the sustenance He provides us. But the positive aspect amid this disheartening satiation with the accompanying Arab friends was that the food items were less spicy as compared to our traditional foods hence I faced no abdominal problem by the grace of Allah throughout the journey.

I had already booked train tickets for travelling between the holy sites at SAR 250 per head while applying for online registration. The railway service between the holy sites was introduced in 2010 with launching 18 trains. As it was a new initiative, the electronic system was not fully utilized in the beginning. However, in 2011 they started running on complete electronic system except for opening the doors. As many elderly people as well as a large number of women come for Hajj, the train driver closes the doors only after receiving green signal from each and every guard of the entire train. However, these trains can run without drivers too. There are nine railway stations in number: three in Mina, three in Muzdalifa and three in Arafat. Though the train journey only took ten minutes but it took hours to catch the train and then reaching to our camps in Mina after alighting. It was really exhausting but we endured it with patience expecting that we will be rewarded for it greatly in the Hereafter in sha Allah. Transportation between the holy sites for the pilgrims has improved much during the last six years but not upto what I expected. It is no doubt a huge project to facilitate transportation of such a huge number of pilgrims but then again ensuring easy transportation despite all the challenges would be a real success. The holy sites remain less crowded rather vacant after the Hajj season and during these days any project to ensure hassle free transportation may be implemented by working day and night.

We took rest for a while in the camps and then started walking on foot towards Masjid Nimrah situated about 2km away. This is the very place where the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) delivered his famous speech knows as Khutba Hajjatul Wida (Sermon of the Farewell Pilgrimage) in the tenth year of Hijra. The sermon undoubtedly constitutes a concise code of life for entire humanity and will remain so till the Last Day. The conquest of Makkh took place in 8th AH. The mandate of Hajj was received in the 9th AH but the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) could not make it on that year and therefore he asked Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) to lead the pilgrims on his behalf. The verse 28 of Surat al-Tawbah came as a proclamation that no disbeliever or polytheist will ever enter the holy city after this year. In the following year i.e. in 10th AH the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) left for Makkah along with about one hundred and twenty four thousand companions to perform his first Hajj which also proved to be his last Hajj as he departed the world just three months after his return from the pilgrimage. I sat by the wall of the Masjid with an umbrella on my head to protect myself against the scorching sun, waiting for the sermon to begin. Most of the pilgrims cannot make it to the Masjid due to the milling crowd and generally offer prayers in their camps. I was receiving tiny drops of water springing from the fountains established by the Saudi Government in the area. It was really soothing in that hot day. Besides, water, juice and other liquids were being distributed by our Muslim brothers in such a hospitable manner that the pilgrims were beaming with happiness while receiving them. All were reciting Talbiyah in measured tone collectively seeking thereby the pleasure of their One and Only Lord, the differences between them in terms of country, colour and language notwithstanding. I was praying in the silence of my heart that the brothers serving the pilgrims with so much enthusiasm and sincerity may greatly be rewarded by Allah. I have never observed such spirit of cooperation, love and brotherhood anywhere in the world as I saw during this journey.

After the Zawal time, Sheikh Abdur Rahman al-Sudais, the Imam and Khatib of Masjid Haram delivered a sermon that lasted for 40 minutes in which he shed light on the beautiful features of Islam and urged the Muslims to come together and act upon the Qur’an and Sunnah. It was the first time Sheikh Sudais delivered sermon on this occasion while it was Grand Mufti of the Kingdom Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh who had been delivering the sermon on this day since last 35 years. Once the sermon was over we prayed Zuhr and Asr behind Sheikh Sudais and then returned to our camps walking on foot and reciting Talbiyah all along the way. Then we had launch provided by the Hajj Company and stayed in our camps till sunset engaging ourselves in different recitals. As reported, the Prophet (PBUH) performed Wuquf (stay) near Jabal Rahmat after offering the Zuhr and Asr prayers. But it is reported from him that one may stay anywhere in the entire plain of Arafat. This is the very ritual called as (soul of) Hajj by the Prophet (PBUH). It has also been reported from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) that he said: “There is no day on which Allah frees more people from the Fire than the Day of ‘Arafah. He comes close and expresses His pride to the angels, saying, ‘What do these people want?’” Making the most of these precious moments, I keenly tried to spend them in praying for myself, my children, family, friends and all the Muslims in general. Our departure from Arafat to Mina was scheduled by the Hajj Company to start by train at 10 PM. But it took almost one and half hour to depart from our camps and catch the train at the station. However, it did not take more than 8 minutes to reach Muzdalifa by train. Thankfully we were provided with lodging not far away from the railway station at Muzdalifa. We offered Maghrib and Isha around 12:00 AM (midnight) and had dinner and took rest for a while. Then we picked the pebbles as we were informed by the company that we were going to leave for Mina before Fajr. Making Wuquf (stay) at Muzdalifa is one of the obligatory rituals of Hajj. A common pilgrim will be obliged to offer a Dam if they leave for Mina before Fajr. Only the women, elderly men or people accompanying them may leave for Mina (without staying overnight). This is a unanimous opinion of the Ummah and the management should therefore consult the scholars before scheduling the programme so as to avoid incurring Dam unnecessarily on the pilgrims.

On 10th Dhul Hijja, I received calls from different pilgrims that some Hajj companies or their Mu’allims (guides) asked them to perform Ram’i (the ritual of throwing pebbles) before the Fajr time began excusing that they were instructed so by the authority while all the scholars in line with the Prophetic instruction and practice, unanimously opine that performing Ram’i before Fajr is not permissible. The management should consult the scholars before issuing such directives. A person who performs Ram’i before Fajr must repeat the ritual after the time enters otherwise a Dam (sacrifice of atonement in the bounds of Haram) will be due.

After Zuhr we caught a train at Mina Station 2for Station 3 and then walked about a distance of one km on foot under scorching sun to reach the Jamarat. There were many elderly men and women suffering from heat but the instant help by the management and the volunteers was comforting to a greater extent. They were sprinkling water and fanning with hard paper sheets for the pilgrims. May Allah reward them greatly for their valuable services for the guests of Allah. If the authority can manage erecting tents on the way to Jamarat from Station 3 it will be helpful for the pilgrims; fitting fans under the tents will be more helpful though. Today the pilgrims should throw pebbles seven times at the third and last Jumrah only saying “Bismillahi Allahu Akbar” each time they throw a pebble and stop reciting the Hajj slogan i.e. Labbaik Allahumma labbaik…. We, however, completed the ritual and then walked back to Station 3 on the same way under scorching sun as it is the only way there to reach or come back from the Jamarat. I wish it also had tents or sheds. It would certainly relieve the heat to a greater extent for the pilgrims. We came back to our camps at Asr time. After slaughtering our animals and performing Halq (head-shaving), we ended our Ihram by putting on usual clothes. By this one comes out of the state of Ihram and the things forbidden in that ritual state now become lawful barring being intimate with your spouse which only becomes lawful after completion of Tawaf Ziyarat. I have cherished these moments for performing Salah on time, recitation of the Qur’an and reciting Takbir Tashriq besides helping those who consulted me for religious guidance on different issues. I thank Allah and feel lucky that I was able to help a great number of pilgrims who contacted me by phone to know Islamic directives on different issues related to Hajj. May Allah accept our Hajj. The rituals of slaughtering animal, Halq/Qasr (shaving/trimming) and Tawaf Ziyarat can be performed anytime during the day or night till sunset on 12th Dhul Hijja.

On 11th Dhul Hijjah we went to the Jamarat after Asr Salah and threw pebbles seven times at each of the three. After throwing pebbles at the first and second Jamrah, I raised my hands and prayed my heart out following example of our beloved Prophet (PBUH). After throwing pebbles at the third and last Jamrah I wanted to leave for Makkah. There is no sufficient transportation to carry the pilgrims from Mina to Makkah. Though the train service started in 2010 it has not yet reached Makkah (Masjid Haram). It was proposed that after completion Makkah Metro should be linked to Mina Station 3 but for some reasons the Makkh Metro Project has not started yet. It will be very helpful if linking all the holy sites to Masjid Haram by railway tracks is accomplished. It won’t be easy to realize this dream but if the authority thinks of it to facilitate transportation for the guests of Allah, it will surely attract Divine attention and will be accomplished by His will no matter how difficult it seems.

The pilgrims have only two options for travelling between Mina and Masjid Haram. They either walk on foot which is not easy as the distance between the two places measures 4-5 km or hire a bus or taxi which costs at least SAR 40 per head yet they have to walk on foot for one third of the total distance. Performing Hajj on foot is highly meritorious as confirmed by a number of Hadiths. Some Companions preferably performed Hajj on foot. Moreover, the glorious Qur’an also mentioned those who perform Hajj on foot before those who do it riding. Aspiring for the promised reward, we wanted to make it by walking from Mina to Makkah but it did not take long for us to realize how difficult it was to cover this distance by walking on foot for the elderly men and the women in general. However, we reached Masjid Haram, offered Maghrib and then performed Tawaf Ziyarat (Tawaf of Hajj). There was a significant decrease in the number of pilgrims this year as compared to previous years. Only 13 lakhs (1.3 million) from outside the Kingdom and 5 lakhs (0.5 million) people from within the country came to perform Hajj while in the previous years the total number of pilgrims exceeded 2.5 million. This however helped us perform the Tawaf without any difficulty otherwise performing Tawaf Ziyarat has never been hassle free. Hajj Irfad requires only one Sa’ee which we had already performed along with Tawaf Qudum. Only Tawaf of Hajj (also called Tawaf Ziyarat and Tawaf Ifada) was remaining which is the second most important ritual of Hajj after Wuquf at Arafat. Principally, Tawaf Wada should be the last of your rituals in Hajj but as we had ladies along with us who were not feeling good, we availed the Shari’ah permission and performed Tawaf Wada too after completing Tawaf Ziyarat. The method of performing Tawaf is same irrespective of its jurisprudential status i.e. Fard, Wajib, Sunnah or Nafl: circumambulating the Ka’ba seven times, starting each round with Isti’lam of Hajar Aswad (kissing it or touching it with the hand) and then upon completion of the seventh round performing two Rak’ahs preferably behind Maqam Ibrahim or anywhere in Masjid Haram.

After completing Tawaf, we hired a taxi for Mina but had to leave it midway as entry of taxi into Mina was denied and therefore we had to cross a distance of about one and half km on foot to finally reach our tents at 11 PM. It is Sunnah for the pilgrims to spend most part of the night in Mina during the days of Tashriq. However, failure to do so will incur no Dam. I had some food in the tent and then tried to sleep but I was very exhausted and feeling pain in my whole body preventing me from sleep. I offered Tahajjud, Fajr and Ishraq and only after that was I able to take rest.

On 12th Dhul Hijja, we left for the Jamarat by train and throw pebbles as we did on 11th. Thus the total number of pebbles reached 49 which every pilgrim is bound to do. According to majority of the scholars, pebbles can be thrown only after the Zawal time on 11th and 12th of Dhul Hijja. Throwing pebbles on 13th is optional. If you leave for Makkah after throwing pebbles on 12th, you won’t have to perform the ritual on 13th. But if you want to leave Mina after throwing pebbles on 13th then you should stay the night that falls after the day 12th of the month in Mina and throw pebbles on 13th after the Zawal time begins.

After completing Ram’i we headed back to the tents, had lunch and prayed Asr and then walked on foot about one km to hire a taxi at SAR200 to go to a relative’s house near Masjid Ayesha. After relaxing between Maghrib and Isha we left for Riyadh by a fully air-conditioned bus that took 12 hours to reach the destination. On my way back I was constantly beseeching Allah the Exalted to make it Hajj Mabroor for us which entitles one to no rewards other than Jannah and purify us from all the major and minor sins making us as sinless as a new-born for the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) is reported to have said: “He who came to this House (the Ka’ba) (with the intention of performing Hajj) without speaking or committing indecencies, would return (free from sin) as on the day his mother bore him.” I also prayed that may Allah grant us Tawfiq to visit this holy place again and again. At last I earnestly request all the pilgrims to be vigilant in the rights both related to Allah and His servants, lead their remaining life according to the commandments of Allah as shown by the Prophet (PBUH, avoid all kinds of sin and constantly asking Allah for forgiveness.  

Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (http://www.najeebqasmi.com/