I woke up this morning to my husband waking up my 7 year old,
“Z, wake up, today is day of Arafah, we’re fasting. Do you want to fast?”
And it struck me. It’s يوم العرفة. Exactly one year ago, we were in Arafah. With our dua list. Ready to beg to Allah for ourselves and our family and friends and the ummah. Sadness overwhelmed me. Sadness is an understatement. I had an exam this morning. I didn’t feel like going to the exam. I want to be in Arafah. Yes, present tense, as I’m writing this now.
As I lay in bed, my husband came in and looked at me, and asked, “Are you okay?”
I didn’t answer him. Inside, I felt like crying. All of a sudden, emotions flooded my being as I sat up in bed. After hajj, I had gotten sick, and it took quite a while for me to get better, about 3 weeks I think. I penned my feelings about hajj on this blog, but I never got to composing the actual hajj experience. I didn’t know if I could. It was too big of a task to undertake to put the experience into words. As a writer, I want to pen down everything, to capture the moments, the feelings, so I can look back and revisit those times, but I don’t think I can. What bothered me as time went on, was that I kind of forgot what hajj felt like. Life’s busyness got in the way and I never really got to yearn for hajj like I did before we went to hajj last year. I remember the extreme yearning, and I felt guilty for not feeling that yearning again.
Was I being ungrateful? Was it truly enough for me to visit Allah’s house just once? Do I not want to go again? Why am I not feeling this utter yearning I felt before I went to hajj? What’s wrong with me?? In my current hectic schedule of leaving the house for class 6 days of the week, spending about 7 hours plus on campus and driving back and forth to pick up and drop kids at different places on different days, then coming home completely spent and exhausted and silenced by the exhaustion, I didn’t even have the luxury of actually going through the hajj and Arafah stuff online as I was able to before. I felt left out. Most of the time nowadays, I’m quiet. Not because I have withdrawn into myself, but because I’m too exhausted to even speak much, and I would usually chatter away to hubs on a daily basis. And when emotions flood me like now, I no longer even want to talk to anyone. I resort to penning my thoughts and feelings in words.
I did manage to go through some Arafah stuff online yesterday, at least to be reminded what to do on this day when you’re not actually in Arafah. I tried to recall the hajj days with hubs yesterday during dinner. The photos Sh Omar posted on Facebook from Mina forced me to try to recall our times there. It actually feels painful now to see those photos and realize you’re not there.
We were transported to Mina on Yaum At tarwiyyah, the day before Arafah. It was early morning when we boarded the bus. It was still dark outside. I don’t think any of those on the bus will forget this, because I couldn’t forget it; our bus made such a turn that it actually damaged someone’s car parked on the side of the street. We all heard the painful metal against metal sound reverberating through the bus. In the silence of the morning and anticipation of starting hajj, our first reaction was silence. The bus stopped moving, backed up, making it even worse. More metal scratching, denting sound. After a while, it was as if, we were woken up from our initial reaction and some brothers started to shout driving instructions to the bus driver. I remember hearing,
“That’s just making it worse!”
I remember thinking, “Oh my God, whoever’s car that is will have a nasty surprise this morning.”
Well, that was how we started our hajj I guess. We arrived in Mina when it was still nice and cool as the sun hadn’t come up yet. I thought to myself,
“Oh this is nice. Why did they say it was hot in Mina?”
A dear friend who had given me so much tips and advice for hajj told me that when she went for hajj, what helped her with the heat when she was in the tents in Mina was small cloth towels drenched in the ice water, wrung, and draped over her head. Little did I know that I was about to benefit a lot from that advice after the sun came up that day.
We had A/C in our tents (spoiled Americans), but trust me, when Allah tests you with heat, you’re going to be hot anyway. By the end of that day, I was in sore need of a shower, but of course, the restrooms in Mina were always occupied. Well, to tell you the truth, some of them were unoccupied, but I figured that it would be too much to shower in the stall because the shower head was right above the toilet hole and I imagined the hassle of figuring out the logistics of hanging my clean and dirty clothes, soap bottles, towels and decided that I might as well not shower there. Yet, I still badly needed water over my head, so I did the next best thing; washed my hair at the sink. I’m telling you, it felt GOOD!
I always imagined Arafah as how it’s always portrayed; a barren desert with a hill that people flock to. So when we were brought to Arafah, I was very surprised to see green grass, small green teenage trees, plastic picnic chairs and tables outside the tents and even more surprising was inside the tents! It was as if we were going to have Eid there the way it was furnished. There were couches, cushions, rugs, and of course, A/C (spoiled Americans). Just like in the tents in Mina, it was so nice and cool when we first got there. M and I decided to take a nap so we could save our energy for the actual Arafah time later on in the day. And we napped right there on the ground.
When time for the actual Arafah dua came, subhaanallah, if you were to ask me what I remember about the day of Arafah then, I wouldn’t be able to describe it and do it justice. Initially, we stayed in the tent and made our dua right there, with our dua list in our hands. After a while, some of us ventured outside to get more privacy. When I went out trying to look for a place that wasn’t taken, it seemed as if every tree was taken! Right and left, I saw hujjaaj begging to Allah, crying their hearts out, and I felt almost embarrassed seeing them in that condition, yet it was very emotionally touching in realizing that we were all there as slaves of Allah, crying our heart out to Him. I did get tired after a while, but Sh Omar had advised us well, that we only had those 4-5 hours of dua time, so make full use of it.
When it became cooler, hubs asked me to go make dua outside, together, so we went looking for a place, but just like before, almost every nook, tree, bush, corner, was occupied by someone with their hands outstretched before their Rabb. I almost felt like we were wasting time looking for privacy, and we ended up just settling in an open field where people were already standing, sitting, facing the qiblah, making dua. That was where we stood and sat intermittently. If you ask me now, I have to say I don’t remember all of my Arafah dua, but I can tell you that some of them have been answered. Some of them, now that I think of it, I didn’t know what it was I was asking for, but Allah fine tuned it and gave us something better than what we had asked for.
For sure, one thing I asked for was that He show me the way to deepen my understanding of this beautiful deen, so that I can become closer to Him. I knew I had to learn Arabic, but I have been allergic to Arabic for years, and to say that I want to learn Arabic was a big thing for me. I don’t remember if I asked to do Dream. Maybe I did ask for the kids and hubs to do it, but for myself, I think I asked for the part time.
Subhaanallah, this year, this same time last year, here I am, doing Dream. Here we are in Dallas. Here are my kids, doing hifdh. There were other things that I asked for too in Arafah, that were personal. That has been granted too. And so it is with that sentiment that I am feeling a mix of happiness and sadness today, on yawmul Arafah. On one hand, here I am, hopefully, on yet another journey to become closer to Allah through increasing my knowledge of His book and thus deepen my appreciation and carry that over to actions of the hearts, tongue and limb. On the other hand, I am not there in Arafah today.
As I said before, I will not be able to do justice to how it truly was on that day last year. All I can say is that I miss hajj, I miss my hajj buddies and am so grateful that there are quite a number of them here in Dallas. It is true that your hajj buddies are different than your other buddies in certain ways. Subhaanallah…I used to think that ilm buddies are the most awesome buddies before going to hajj. Ilm buddies are those whom you spend time seeking ilm with, and it’s a special bond because hopefully you’re all there together to seek His closeness and pleasure. But your hajj buddies, they’re extra special because they are those whom you spent time with seeking His pleasure while performing the fifth pillar of Islam. You are coming together as His slaves. You are exposing yourselves to Him together. You are exposing your weaknesses and faults to each other without realizing or intending to on this journey. You are pushed to the limit physically and emotionally and spiritually, together. Maybe I’m over thinking it, but yeah, hajj buddies are extra special, because hajj is something extra extra special.
So on this day of Arafah, let’s all stretch out our hands wherever we are, and pour our hearts out to Him. For those who are able to fast, I hope you’re fasting. Make sure your tongue is moist with His remembrance, and make sure it’s from the heart too. The world we live in is getting older, and its life span is almost coming to an end. Each day that goes by, our life span is shrinking, and the day when we will be really standing in front of Our Rabb will be there before we know it.
For those who had planned to go to hajj this year but weren’t able to make it, may Allah reward you twice over for you effort and intention and grant you a hajj mabroor at a better time in your life. Ameen!