THE ESSENCE OF HAJJ – PART 6
Next, make your way to the mount of Safa to start your sai’ee. Walk between the mounts of Safa and Marwa seven times. Every time you reach either mount, face the Ka’bah and make du’a. You can prepare these beforehand (as suggested previously), or supplicate for whatever comes to your heart. However, make the supplications sincere and meaningful. Don’t just wish for dunia success, but instead, give more emphasis on achieving a successful akhirah.
The sai’ee imitates the action of Hajr, who was left in a desert by her husband, Ibrahim AS. He in turn was obeying Allah’s commands to leave her and their beloved son, Ismail AS in the uninhabited desert. He did not say a word to her as he brought them to the instructed location and abruptly walked away. Hajr asked whether he did that at the behest of Allah, and he nodded. Her astonishing faith was demonstrated by her total acceptance of the situation, for she believed without a doubt that Allah would take care of her and her son. All she had with her was some water and a few dates, but she did not object or run after her husband. Instead, she stayed to face her qadr (destiny).
She eventually ran out of food and water, and was so dehydrated her mouth had run dry. There was no water or in fact any signs of life in sight. Ismail’s AS life was slipping before her eyes and her body was too starved to produce any milk. In a last ditch attempt to find water or some form of help for the both of them, she ran between the hills of Safa and Marwah seven times. Here was a young mother, alone, vulnerable, starving and exhausted, staring death in the face, but she never waivered in the certainty that Allah would take care of her. She did not lose hope and she did not stop making the effort to find water. At the moment where she had nothing to hold on to but utter desperation, reliance and faith in Allah, she saw that her son’s feet were striking the ground and that liquid gushed from the sand near his feet. This was the life saver sent by Allah, and hence the well of zam-zam was born. Later, the city of Mekah was established around this miraculous well.
The performance of the sai’ee when we are already weary from the tawaf is a reminder of both obedience to and reliance on Allah. We are not placed under any mortal threat when performing the sai’ee. In fact the area is now air conditioned with marble flooring and multi level walkways. This is so comfortable compared to the hot sandy dunes that Hajr had to tread on. Can we truly appreciate the reality of Hajr’s struggle, and have we ever been at the same level of desperation for and towards Allah?
The purpose of the sai’ee is to recognise that even when we have nothing else in the world, we can still rely on Allah. It makes us believe that with reliance on Allah, the impossible can become a reality. It reminds us that we owe everything, including our lives and our provisions, to Allah.
The umrah is then completed with the shaving of the head (for the men) and the clipping of a lock of hair (for the women). For the men, remember not to shave the head completely bald, as there is another tawaf to follow at a later stage of the hajj.
After the first umrah
Each hajj itinerary is different, but if you have free time to spend in Mekah after the first umrah, you are allowed to wear your normal clothes and resume your usual activities because you are no longer in the state of ihram. This does not mean that you can forget the Haram and kill time in the malls or watching sports. Remember the value of salat in Masjid Al Haram. You can also perform tawaf (not to be confused with umrah where you need to be in a state of ihram and do tawaf and sai’ee) which yields ample rewards. Even gazing at the Ka’bah will grant you some of Allah’s mercy. You can also read the Qur’an and continue with your du’a and tasbih.
Do not waste your time at the malls, being busy on the internet, making small talk or spending excessive time sleeping, eating or watching TV. One of these acts of worship may be your final tipping point to jannah. There are plenty of rewards available, but you need to work for them.
If you need to buy something, make the shopping trip short and purposeful.
On the eighth day of Zulhijjah, the rituals unique to the hajj commence. It is time for the pilgrims to wear the ihram again and converge at the tented city of Mina. Mina is located around 8 km from Mekah and is accessible through transport and by foot. Please follow the instructions of your hajj guide to the letter and be punctual, because the smallest delay could have severe implications on the transport arrangements. At this point onwards, stay close to your group. Do not wander off on your own because in this sprawling city, all tents all look identical and it is easy to lose your bearings and get lost among the two million odd pilgrims.
In Mina, it is time to drastically reduce your comforts. The women and men are placed in separate tents where they have to sleep on the floor with dozens of others. There are no beds or private sleeping quarters even if you sign up for the most expensive hajj package. Bathroom facilities are limited and crowded. Food is simple and enough for sustenance.
There is no structured agenda while in Mina. One is expected to spend time in contemplation of Allah, maximise the salat and du’a, and other forms of worship. The last thing we should do there is to engage in empty talk with others – if one realised the monumental implication of what is to come, there is no time to screech with laughter, make jokes or indulge in empty talk.
It has now become a trend for pilgrims to treat Mina like a café, and even go shopping at the vendors whose establishments are mushrooming around the Mina encampment. The time in Mekah is a prelude to isolating yourself from dunia, and the time in Mina is to isolate yourself even further. The minutes will slip into hours, and before you know it, the time would have evaporated completely! By all means, be courteous to those around you, but guard yourself from abusing your time.
Get that moment of spiritual clarity between you and Allah, and constantly supplicate to Him, for supplication is a form of worship and an acknowledgment that we trust only Him to answer our wishes. Ask for Allah to fix your deficiencies, and spent time reflecting on the times you fell short of the ideal standards and how you can do better in the future.
It is challenging to remain focused, with the billowing heat, lack of privacy and the clamour of chit chat and activity around you. But if you cannot learn to focus on Allah at such a sacred time and place, then what chance would you have to succeed in the real world where distractions would be multiplied by hundreds? Connect yourself to Allah and you will be surprised by the valuable lessons that you will learn about yourself in the process.