HAJJ-MY JOURNEY OF FORGIVENESS, REDEMPTION AND REBIRTH
Walking in the footsteps of Adam, Abraham and Muhammad
Join Dr. Idries as he explores the holy Saudi Arabian city of Medinah before starting the Hajj pilgrimage.
FORWARD: Hajj was never something I really wanted to do.
Hajj is a required journey for every physically and financially able Muslim at least once in his or her lifetime. I have to be completely honest, while Hajj was something that I’ve always known I would have to do, it was never something that I ever wanted to do. Sure Hajj is supposed to be this great spiritual journey, but I rarely heard any positive Hajj experiences from family and friends that had gone before me. Even the stories that were presented in a positive light honestly seemed pretty dreadful to me. So my head was filled with horror stories about the crowds (2-4 million people in a very confined space), the heat (think Saudi Arabia in the summertime, enough said), the conditions which could politely be described as unhygienic and of course the occasional mass casualty due to trampling’s or fires. Disney World Hajj is not. This meant years of excuses when my better half brought up the idea of making Hajj. Sometimes finances were the excuse (Hajj ain’t cheap folks), other times family (new babies) or career (residency, starting and nurturing a new private practice, etc…) were the excuses, but the overall theme was the same: I just wasn’t ready to go. Every Hajj pilgrim leaves home with the understanding that he or she very well may not return. You’re supposed to get all of your affairs in order and stated bluntly, you’re supposed to prepare yourself for death. So the idea of Hajj definitely scared me.
On the other side of it all now, I’ve come to realize that what makes Hajj so scary is the same thing that makes it so inexplicably beautiful simultaneously rewarding. Human beings spend a great deal of our lives trying to control our destiny from big things like our education and career choices to smaller things like the route we take to work. During Hajj however, you relinquish all control and for five days you are one with God (quite paradoxically so since you are surrounded by millions). For five days you are a mere speck in the mass of humanity that has converged from every corner of the globe with the shared sole purpose of worshiping God and self improvement. For this finite period of time you have absolutely zero control over your surroundings, zero control over your activities and zero control over your fate. While this probably sounds viscerally unappealing to most folks, it quickly not only becomes okay but it becomes welcome, even for a type A control freak like yours truly. You really learn what it means to let go and let God. All of the preceding years when I made excuse after excuse to avoid Hajj, the reality was that it just wasn’t my time. Through this journey I came to realize that you will never be ready for Hajj until Hajj is ready for you. Hajj is a deeply personal transformative journey and it means different things to different people. God knows when your heart and your soul is most in need of this transformation and for me that time was now. It was time for my personal journey of forgiveness, redemption and rebirth; it was my time to make Hajj.
WHAT IS HAJJ?:
Hajj is one of the so called “five pillars of Islam” that guide the lives and daily activities of every Muslim. The other pillars are the declaration of faith to one God (Shahadah), praying five times a day to that one God (Salat), fasting during the month of Ramadan and giving charity to the poor (Zakat). Hajj in particular is the holy pilgrimage to the city of Mecca that each financially and physically able Muslim must make at least once in their lifetime. There are specific rites that pilgrims must perform on each of the five days of Hajj. The purpose of these rites is to connect the pilgrim to God, allowing him or her to bear their soul and their sins, seek forgiveness and work towards renewal and rebirth. Many of the rites recreate the actions of prophets Adam, Abraham (his wife Hagar and son Ismael) and Muhammad and they have been in existence for centuries.
BEFORE HAJJ: Chilling in Medinah.
Medinah Day 1-
Our particular Hajj company had multiple groups, each of whom was led by a different religious scholar. Some groups were scheduled for 10 days, some for 14 or 17 days, others for 21 days. Since our group hadn’t yet arrived (we beat then by a couple of days), my wife and I decided to crash another group lead by Omer Suleyman (a renowned scholar from Texas) as they toured Medinah the day after we arrived. Being the city that the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) fled to after leaving persecution in Mecca, most of Medinah’s history is in some way associated with the life of the prophet (pubh).
Medinah Day 2-
On our second full day (and last day) in Medinah, our actual group finally arrived. This meant that my wife and I were no longer wayward orphans searching for a home. Our group’s leader organized a bus tour of Medinah’s other historical sites. This provided a nice, air conditioned opportunity for us to meet the people we would be spending the next two weeks with on this once in a lifetime journey.
BEFORE HAJJ: Umrah (the mini-Hajj)
Check out part 1-The journey to Saudi Arabia HERE
Check out part 3-The Hajj pilgrimage HERE
Check out part 4-The journey home HERE