Mona says

December 15, 2010

Notes from Hajj: Setting out

Filed under: Random — by Mona S. @ 12:32 pm

The decision to do Hajj this year was pretty short-notice for Z and I. We’ve been meaning to for a while but it was either finances, pregnancies or very young babies holding us back. This year, Z felt was the perfect time to take the plunge. He started talking to me about it just before Ramadan and I was really unsure for two reasons, one because I was still breastfeeding Hasan and two, I really wasn’t looking forward to leaving the kids behind and going.

Finally, after Ramadan, he asked me start looking into going to Hajj, what the consequences would be, what I should do about weaning Hasan and so on. So I did. I got on the internet (my favorite source!) and started looking for accounts of moms who’d left their kids behind and gone for Hajj, and for those accounts that detailed what it was like to do Hajj with the kids. Unsurprisingly enough, I didn’t find anything – nada! I was so disappointed. I started talking to people who took their kids and those who left their kids behind to try to get a feel for what I wanted to do.

The thing that really made my mind up for me was coming across a brilliantly written article, which I have since lost, sadly, about how Hajj is a pretty big responsibility and what it should come before and then talking to a few people who knew people who took their kids and had them fall horribly sick. I made the snap decision to go for it, and leave the kids in the care of my willing and able parents, brother and two brothers-in-law.

Once decided, I started to prepare. I read up as much as I could, walked regularly, and started to wean Hasan, alongside talking to Hana about it. I had a very good friend come by and talk me through the rituals and suggest further reading material. I bought and literally learned by heart this book.

A week before we were due to leave, I moved to mom’s to get the kids used to staying there. That week, I was so stressed. Z was working so hard, that he barely had the time to think, but since I was at home all day with the kids, I constantly thought about how I would manage without them. Even looking at them that last week tore me up on the inside. People reassured me that I might cry all the way to Jeddah but once I was in Makkah, things would be different. I listened but didn’t say anything, I knew it wouldn’t be like that for me.

On the Friday before we left, we finally sat down with our families and wrote out our wills. That was really hard to do. The will template I had required me to think about every tiny thing, my children, money, books, clothes, shoes, pending religious matters and it was hard to realize that even as muslims, knowing that this life is temporary – really thinking about death and meeting the Maker is terrifying! I cried buckets that day too, while writing out who would be responsible to finish my religious obligations, who would take care of my worldly ones, I realized how unprepared how I was. I made a vow then and there, that I was going to change.

Finally Saturday dawned, the day we were to leave, I spent the morning doing the usual mundane tasks involved in child-rearing quite mindlessly, and then when the kids fell asleep for their afternoon nap, Z and I prepared to leave. We would come back to our own apartment, finish packing and then leave for Abu Dhabi. I was so emotional when I left the sleeping kids, I cried the entire drive home and continued to cry buckets while I showered with the intention of ihram, and packed and even when we left.

I was a mess. Up until this point, I hadn’t even thought about the other people in the group that we would be traveling and doing the Hajj with. We were going to AUH with two couples who were going to be with us but luckily we were in separate cars and nobody saw me make a total fool of myself. I called Noob again and again and she was mostly okay.

About an hour into the drive, I finally managed to get a hold of myself and started to focus on talking to people before I left. I called everyone to tell them we were leaving, and that I wanted them to pray for us and the kids, for an accepted Hajj for Z and I.

We got to the airport, and when we got out, the other two women were busy with phone calls and meeting family. I stood by my luggage for a while, and then finally we went into the waiting lounge of the airport. That is when I was finally introduced to the two other women, and then a third joined us. We prayed ‘Isha together, little knowing that we would be sleeping in one room in a few hours, praying and performing rituals together for the next seventeen days.

We made some conversation after we were back in the lounge – I found out I was not the only one leaving kids behind, that some of the women had children with the same names, and how we’d made the decision for Hajj and where the kids were staying and so on.

My uncle and aunt, who live in Abu Dhabi, came by, bringing us some snacks and stayed with us until the rest of the group arrived and we had to head to the check-in counters. Our flight details were called and we were asked to head in. Nervously, Z and I got in the line, checked in and then got to the waiting lounge. We sat around, talking and reading Quran. All too soon, it was 1.30 AM and our flight was called.

We boarded, found our seats and sat down. We took off, and I was exhausted, not having slept at all the night before, and I feel asleep almost immediately. The next thing I knew was that we were approaching the Meeqat – the boundaries of the Haram (meaning Sanctuary) from all directions. Z and I made our intention and we went right back to sleep.

We landed in Jeddah around 4 AM, to be met by crazy lines and crowds of people everywhere. You watch Hajj on television, you know how crazy it looks but nothing prepares for actually being in that kind of crowd. I always knew that the population of the earth is some crazy number (one trillion??) but it meant nothing to me until I got to the airport at Jeddah.

I felt sorry for the Saudi authorities for having to deal with soooooo many people. We cleared Immigration, the immigration office was wonderful – he was Hasan’s namesake – and then went to collect our luggage. We got outside, only to find two people in our group had lost their luggage and we had to wait until it was all sorted out.

It took until 11 AM and most people just sat around eating, drinking endless cups of tea/coffee, or taking short naps. I texted my parents to let them know we’d arrived.And plus, I was still awestruck by the sheer number of people and spent a happy couple of hours people-watching. Some of the people who come from India, I realized, even had to bring their own food. They had among their luggage sacks of grains and lentils. It was also crazy to see how many different places people came to Hajj from. One people, one purpose.

Finally, we were done and we queued up to get into the bus that would take us to Makkah. We had to stop at a checkpoint just outside of Makkah, where we were given snack boxes. They were such a sweet gesture and totally refreshed us. We reached Makkah soon enough but we had to go report to the mutawif’s (a guide assigned by the government who takes care of the needs of the pilgrims by region – we were in South East Asia) office, get our ID bands and badges and then head off to the hotel.

Z and I kept craning our necks for a glimpse of the Haram but we weren’t lucky. We got in to the hotel at around 5ish, were assigned our rooms and told to pray and eat dinner and then we would head to the Haram for our Umrah.

And everyone was right, even though I did miss the kids, the intensity here was less. I was too tired, too busy to really sit around and cry because I was apart from my children. Plus, I was getting to know the women I’d be staying with a little better and knowing that they were strong enough to leave their kids behind and do this all for Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala gave me strength too, may He bless them all.

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3 Comments »

  1. May Allah almighty accept your deeds, forgive your sins and grant you Hajj mabroor, ameen.
    My wife and I went for hajj last year and we left one son behind so I can relate to a lot of what you have said here.

    Wasalam

    Comment by Ahmed — December 15, 2010 @ 1:12 pm |Reply

  2. salams, was a pleasure to read this, wa totally suprised about the “,aking of wills” part, but thinking now i understood how essential i t is, Alhamdulillah u made it. may Allah subhan na hu wa taala except it too.Ameen.

    Comment by yasmeen — April 2, 2011 @ 11:19 am |Reply

  3. […] going to try and finish recording what I do remember today. The last post stopped at our first night in Makkah, before we did our Umrah. I don’t remember much, except […]

    Pingback by Notes from Hajj: Makkah, Mina and Arafah « Mona says — November 5, 2011 @ 12:00 pm |Reply


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