Hajj Trip: October 14

Posted on a later day, 10.29.13, I chose to keep the dates in mark with their corresponding dates from our Hajj trip for convenience. You can see a link of all the post-trip posts by clicking here and scrolling downClick here to see the previous day’s post and click here to see the next day’s post.

Monday October 14.

Its the day of Arafat– THE day of hajj. The most important day. The reason we are here. According to a hadith [saying of the Prophet]: “hajj is Arafat”. Therefore, whoever misses standing on the grounds of Arafat has essentially an invalid hajj.

Our day started bright and early as usual, but even earlier than usual this day. We were supposed to be up and ready to leave by 2 AM. We would get short notice of when to leave for Arafat by the Saudi government and would have to leave swiftly using the newly implemented train system. My mom and I were up way earlier than that– before 12:30 am. The rest of our “camp” was up by 1:30 too, I would say.

The rest of our program, everyone but most of our group 19 [some left in the confusion], left from our Mena tents around 2:30-3:00 AM. Our group leader Qari Basit, also an imam, decided to have our group wait until after fajr [as is sunnah], so our Mena camp felt completely deserted in the time between everyone else leaving and us leaving. The crew also starting cleaning and turned off the fans, air-conditioning, etc.

A side note explanation: It’s sunnah to pray zuhr, asr, maghrib, and isha on 8 zil-hijjah and fajr on 9 zil-hijjah in Mena. On the 9th, its sunnat to leave after fajr for Arafat and … pray zuhr and asr combined (qasr) following a khutbah (sermon) then wait until sunset (but not pray maghrib) to leave for Muzdalifah where you read a combined maghrib and isha prayers (qasr). Except the crowd is so intense that the Saudi government dictates who leaves when for what and it’s just not feasibly possible for everyone to follow sunnah for all of the aspects. While our whole program could not stay, Qari Basit did get permission for our group to stay– I have to say Qari Basit pulled a lot of strings for us throughout.

We finally left our Mena tent to walk to the the train station to head to Arafat right before fajr time, with the plan being to reach the train station right at fajr to pray there [as the train station is still considered to be a part of Mena]. We get to our allotted gates at the train station, and they are, of course, locked. Our allotted time was way past over and locked because obviously it wouldn’t be used. We walk further, mind you with our bags in tow with the necessities for the stay in Arafat and Muzdalifah, until we get to an open gate. Not boding well already for my asthmatic mom, who also has arthritis.

Many escalator sets up [I lost count at how many] later, there was still a long [and at times uphill] walk ahead of us before we finally get to the train station portion. By now, my mom is exhausted to say the least.

I have to take a moment here and thank Aysha’s husband from our group. I believe his name is Akram. Alhumdulillah, cannot say thanks enough to him for all of his help: at this point, he took my mom’s bag and carried my mom’s bag for her for the rest of the time, while carrying his own bag, and didn’t give it back to me until we got to our Arafat camp entrance. Now how many people do that for complete strangers?! Alhumdulillah, what a blessing he was for us on this trip.

For a [small] portion of the walk, Qari Basit convinced these workers there with golf-cart like vehicles to give us a ride, and boy did they give us a ride. As one of the other girls said, when did we sign up for a roller-coaster ride? After it feels like we have been walking for ages, we are finally there– no, not Arafat– just the train platform in Mena’s train station to get to Arafat. Eventually. Also FYI, Station# 3 is what Dar el Salam uses exclusively for every stop/place as that is what is closest to our camps and whatnot. Our proximity, let me tell you, is again embarrassing in comparison to what others have to travel. By foot. The walk at the train stations alone is extensive at times.

Smooth sailing from here? Of course not. The security/police guy wouldn’t let us pray at the platform and wanted us to either a) leave the area for praying before returning to the train platform or b) pray when we reached Arafat. The problem with a) was that the train was going to arrive any minute and would be the last one departing for at least the next three hours. The problem with b) was that… well the last several hours would have been for nothing.

A few more moments of conversation/argument [whichever way you choose to look at it] later [of neither side budging], and when it didn’t seem to be getting anywhere: a few of us started to plead to just let it go, and wait for the train and let things be. That He knew our intention and we tried our best, but we could not get stuck here. Not now, not today. So what does our group leader decide? He tells us to hurriedly start praying right there and then anyways. Which we did quickly. Very quickly. A good thing too, because in the meanwhile: the train had pulled in. I wish I had remembered to see the reaction of the security/police officer before getting on the train, but oh well. Alhumdulillah for things working out in the end.

Calamity restored soon enough as we started repeating the talbiyah again for the duration of the train ride. Soon after, we finally got to Arafat at around 5:50 am, and Qari Basit called someone from our program to come guide us to our camps in Arafat for the day. The questions from the rest about why we were just getting there started not too much later.

Now would also be a good time to talk about the benefits of this new train system, I suppose, to be fair? Time efficiency: it takes about 15 minutes once you are on the train to get from Mena to Arafat, whereas bus rides easily took 4-5 hours in the past with traffic. In past years, many barely made it to Arafat in time for the mid-afternoon khutbah which is an essential part of the day, whereas we were there before 6 AM.

Another benefit: crowd control. Trains can fit a lot more people than a bus can and it should ease the traffic too. Ultimately, the trains are a good way to move a large group of people from one site to another, but there are still some logistical aspects that need to be taken care of. Like letting the elderly/ill use the elevators. Implementing those golf-cart type of vehicles to move said ill/elderly so they don’t have to walk as much… because the train station itself involves a whole lot of walking.

Back to Arafat– Signifiance of Arafat? It’s on this day, at the base of Mount Arafat, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave his last sermon. There is also a hadith that says: “there is no day on which Allah frees people from the Fire more so than on the Day of Arafat“. Subhanallah. Non-pilgrims around the world who fast on this day? their sins are expiated from the year before and the following year.

It’s a day spent in repentance, asking for forgiveness, making dua, etc. because the day of Arafat is one of the days when dua [supplications] are more likely to be accepted. It’s a day that should remind you of the Day of Judgement as you will be back here. I remember thinking of the immense crowd with just the Dar el Salam program near me, and thought to myself: If you think it’s crowded now, think how crowded it will be with the whole population here on the Day of Judgement…

Our tent’s khutbah was given by Imam Chebli [the imam from the route one masjid here in New Jersey]. It’s absolutely amaizng to think that every pilgrim at the moment is in one spot– in Arafat. At no other time during the manasik of hajj is that true otherwise. Sure, everyone is in Mina for several days, but some are at the Haram, some are at the jamarat, etc. Sure, everyone will go to Muzdalifah after Arafat, but not everyone will arrive right away and many will leave by midnight [and not everyone would have even arrived at Muzdalifah by then due to traffic]. But every pilgrim must be in Arafat for the mid-day khutbah.

When it was time to prepare to leave Arafat for Muzdalifah, we were advised to take the bus [instead of the trains again] so my mom wouldn’t have to walk too much. We got on the bus by around 6:40 pm, after waiting for the sunset, from Arafat to leave for Muzdalifah and got there around 7:30 pm after leaving around 7:05 pm.

To say we made great timing would be a huge understatement. 10-15 minutes later would have resulted in being stuck in about a 3 hour traffic jam. On our way, we thought we would be arriving late, and in fact, we were actually among the first ones from Dar el Salam to arrive. We even beat most of the rest of our program that came by the trains. I don’t even want to imagine traffic before this system considering I am writing this three hours after we got to Muzdalifah and not only are people still arriving via trains, but the huge traffic jam around us and on the upper ramp that I can see right above us is phenomenal. Scores of buses and people everywhere.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that the sky literally changes colors while you are resting in Muzdalifah, and I can honestly say: it does. Even glancing from left to right, you can see pops of varying colors… it’s amazing.

One last thing to do for the day? Pick out seven pebbles for the first day of rami [tomorrow]. It is sunnah to pick out the seven pebbles for the first day from Muzdalifah and the remaining pebbles for the rest of the days from Mina.

I didn’t notice it until the end of the night when we were leaving, since until that point we were just sitting in one area, but what I’ll remember most from Muzdalifah? Seeing people from elsewhere literally sitting/sleeping in dirt/mud. Literally steps from us while we were sitting on top of rugs that Dar el Salam had arranged. Kids, females, and males alike. For all I know, they walked to that spot.

Click here to read the post from the next day, October 15.

Posted on 10.29.13

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