Mina is an experience that teaches you how to live in a commune in a big tent with hundreds of others jostling for space, kind of basic fundamental lessons in patience
Asma Khan | Clarion
The vast lands of Arafat, the circumambulation around Kaaba, the humongous swarms of humanity at Rami al-Jamarat, the long, very long queues outside the washrooms at the tent city of Mina!
The list of memorable moments from our last year’s Hajj is endless. No one in his/her wildest nightmares had dreamed that Hajj 2020 would be so contrastingly different.
Can’t imagine Arafat, Mina, Kaaba without those swarms of humanity. Nay, impossible. Unfortunately, no one has an idea about when the Hajj, as we know it, would be back on the track or if there are more surprises waiting for us.
We did our Haj last year.
How can anyone describe this most amazing and lifetime experience? Makkah, Mina, Muzdalifah, Arafat, Jamarat ! Just these names thrill me no end. Walking around Jamarat at a snail’s pace and looking around at the crowds remind you of the last day of the judgement.
The toughest part during Haj is Rami al-Jamarat, Stoning the devil, metaphorically and literally, as you are on the cusp of finishing your Haj, doing tawaf-e-idhafa and sa’ee. You realize the definition of True Tough while walking to, inside and outside of Jamarat. Does Allah want to tell us through this hardship how difficult it is to stone the Devil that has made dwelling in our heart?
Mina is an experience that teaches you how to live in a commune in a big tent with hundreds of others jostling for space, kind of basic fundamental lessons in patience; of surviving in trying circumstances. It also teaches you a lesson in mutual dependence; you just can’t afford to be isolated, compelling you to be humble and humane.
Pilgrims are not supposed to complain about the problems faced during the holy Haj as these are the difficulties the pilgrim faces in the way of the Creator. But when the problem is man-made, and is within the realm of being rectified, then things need to get corrected.
This once-in-a-lifetime, much-awaited experience and one for which we spend a fortune can surely be made comparatively more comfortable. Arafat had huge rains this year and everyone was ecstatic; a sign of divine acceptance, they said. Hope it’s true.
Some tents were mostly washed out and leaked nonstop, but some luxury ones were not so fortunate. Providing each pilgrim with basic minimum comfort plus facilities, irrespective of his region or wealth; yes, Arafat, the place for our final judgement, deserves that.
Remember that historic message of equality of all human beings, ending discrimination of every kind, which was sent from here by the last Prophet Muhommad PBUH? The number of people you see around is dizzying to say the least. Swarms of people are marching toward their destination quite animatedly and the excitement is infectious. These multitudes can make a fascinating study in some unique respects.
The African crowds are prominent; you can see them in their colourful robes, chanting Talbiyah loudly, black women with their long big skirts are unmissable. The Iranians are remarkable in their loose, long-sleeved shirts, pants and a long chador with a hood thrown over the heads. The next crowd that catches your eye is from Malaysia/ Indonesia. Men and women dressed in similar prints marching together without ever breaking the line. A cute observation was about the Couple Bonding. To be safe in the crowds, to not get strayed, to not separate from your partner/group, people need to hold hands. The couples in our parts of the world by tradition shy away from saying anything beautiful, leave alone holding hands.
It is amusingly pleasant to see young or old couples going hand in hand, men leading normally and women following, trying to keep pace. Not leaving hands guarantees safety. Smiling, laughing chatty couples made the ambience livelier.
Like a fish takes to water, a Haji must take to walking. The 11th of Zil Haj became a testing time for us when we walked over 24 kms on that single day. Sometimes, it felt harsh but the feeling soon evaporated into pleasant Hajj memories, promised to last a lifetime.
The vastness of Mina contrasts perfectly with the cushions (a 6-feet-by-2-feet mattress) where you spend those five crucial days, the majestic calmness of Arafat, the serene beauty of sleeping under the stars in Muzdalifah, the morning saga of moving towards Mina again and then stoning the Devil, not to mention tawaf-e-idhafah and sa’ee amid the Haj crowd, all exhaust you to an extent, where you think about nothing but sleep.
All your thoughts revolve around getting a full siesta so you can replenish for the next stage. The cycle of tiredness, siesta keeps repeating. While doing the tawaf, feet went heavy but the pace had to be kept up, like one were put into a machine; we had to trot nonstop, the circumambulation around the House of Allah at its centre has deep significance.
Is Allah telling us how we should be running the circles of life? Our life circles revolving around Him. Tawaf or circumambulation, to me, implies the kind of worship where one loses oneself in His worship entirely. While doing tawaf, your strength is sapped, your exhaustion knows no limits, your feet give up, limbs cry hoarse, yet, there is some mysterious force that ‘drives’ you on; keeps you moving, on the go.
Sooner, a moment comes when you stop feeling it; the exertion and the effort. You go on and on and you want to go on, want to keep moving without a tinge of realization of the fatigue dripping from your entire being. At such rare moments, you taste the fruit of worship. You know you are exhausted to your core, you know you just can’t take another single step further….yet, there is some inner power that pushes you, keeps you on the move.
Haj, if I dare describe in a word, is bewildering, testing, confusing, yet calming, reassuring, soothing at the end giving you an experience which cannot be replicated.
That is it.