Memories of a Sacred Journey (Part 9)

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By Ammar Awais

After offering Fajr, we packed our stuff and departed for Mina. 10thZilhaj was to be our busiest and most important day of Hajj in terms of the number of rites to be performed. We would be going straight to the Jamarat (pillars) for stoning. Three pillar walls had been constructed to mark the three places where Satan had tried to dissuade Hazrat Ibraheem علیہ السلام when he was going to sacrifice his son, Hazrat Ismaeel علیہ السلام, at the orders of Allah سبحانہ وتعالی  On each occasion, Hazrat Ibraheem علیہ السلام had cast pebbles at Satan to drive him away – and had succeeded in his resolve to comply with Allah’s command. Allah had accepted his great willingness to sacrifice and caused a ram to be slaughtered instead of his son. In commemoration of this, pilgrims cast stones at the very same stone pillars that symbolically represent Satan. This ritual of casting stones is known as Rami. On 10th Zilhaj, seven stones were to be cast only at the biggest of the pillars, known as Jamarah Aqabah.
We arrived in Mina soon and made our way on foot towards Jamarah Aqabah. A massive structure has been constructed around the three Jamarat (known as Jamarat Bridge) by the Hajj authorities and that has made Rami so much easier and better organised. The stone pillars have been replaced by ‘pillar walls’ (each one around 25 m. long) that extends to a great height. We now have several ‘levels’ (floors) on which to carry out Rami. Each of these levels has a separate entrance and exit. Furthermore, each group of pilgrims (maktab) is assigned a specific time and level for performing Rami to avoid overcrowding at any one time or place. We had earlier been officially provided pamphlets in Urdu and English, setting some guidelines for the performance of Rami in the safest manner.
As we entered the Jamarat Bridge, I could see a flood of pilgrims ahead of me. Yet, the structure was so massive and spacious from inside that we did not even have to slow our pace – till we reached the escalators. We had been assigned the third level for Rami on 10th Zilhaj, so we had to climb the escalators to get to the top. There was a bit of danger involved in this: many people, not used to escalators, were extremely hesitant in climbing on and stepping off the escalators. Panicked, some pilgrims shouted to the ones above to get off hastily and make room for others. There was some tension around, but no mishaps occurred, Alhamdulillah. We were soon on the top level and walking briskly again towards Jamarah Aqabah.
Almost everyone who had performed Hajj before, including our travel agent, had instructed us not to immediately start casting our stones upon seeing the pillar, but to move alongside it till we found some empty space right next to the pillar wall. This proved to be a very useful tip. Walking past the other two Jamarat – which were not to be stoned that day – we proceeded to Jamarah Aqabah and saw a huge crowd gathered at its starting point. But as we moved along, the crowds thinned until my aunt and I, along with some other pilgrims in our group, found vacant spots right next to the wall, the most suitable place to cast the stones from!
We cast the seven stones, one at a time, saying Allahu Akbar with each throw. Needless to say, it provided me with much satisfaction to be defying Satan in this way. This ritual is a declaration to Satan that the pilgrims refuse to accept him as a companion, disregards his whispers, and recognises all his schemes as falsehood. It is thus a good way to have a go at our ancestral enemy! I saw many pilgrims enjoying the Rami.
We safely got off the escalators, and made the long walk to the exit of the Jamarat Bridge. From then on the pilgrims were to stop reciting Talbiyah and focus instead on reciting Takbir. The next rite was Hady – sacrifice of a ram or goat or camel. However, these days the pilgrims are not permitted to slaughter their animal or to watch it being slaughtered in the ‘slaughter house’ in Mina. We had purchased tokens for the sacrificial animal and our travel agent was informed via a text message by the authorities that our animals had been slaughtered.


 To Makkah
Our next rite was shaving of the head (Halaq) or getting a haircut (Qasr), after which we would be free from the restrictions of Ihram. This would be followed by Tawaf Al-Ifadah (Hajj tawaf) and Say’i for Hajj. We thus headed back to Makkah for these rites. After long wait, the bus collected us from near Jamarat Bridge and took us to Makkah Muazzamah. 10th Zilhaj is, of course, the day of Eid, and so most of the barber shops near our accommodation in Shawqiyyah were closed. A few of us went on foot in search of an open barber shop and at last found one. There were several customers ahead of us, so we waited. During this time, an interesting incident took place.
An elderly Arab gentleman walked into the barber shop and greeted everyone. His manner was extremely polite and refined. He conversed with us in bits and pieces of Arabic, Urdu and English and introduced himself as a retired policeman who lived in Mina. He belonged to the tribe of Quraish. This impressed everyone; we were further informed that the Quraish now resided in Mina. Quraish was the tribe of Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم that had played an important role in the spread of Islam outside Arabia. A surah of the Quran has also been named after it. The tribe may have lost its importance overtime, with the central rule now based in Riyadh, but this gentleman, in our brief talk, had shown us the same hospitality that his ancestors had been known for from pre-Islamic times.
After getting our heads shaved, we were no longer under the restrictions of Ihram. Once inside our building, I took a bath and changed into a shalwar kameez. We were told to rest a while – we would be taken to Haram for Tawaf Al-Ifadah at the time of Isha. My aunt wasn’t happy at spending all this time in Makkah; we were required to spend the night in Mina after all, and now we were not likely to get there till very late at night. We had to stick with the group though. I thus tried to avail that time and made up for the lack of sleep since the past few days.
At night, we were taken to the Haram. The procedure for performing Tawaf Al-Ifadah and the Say’i is the same as that for performing Umrah. There was one difference though: we were not in the state of Ihram anymore. The Haram was extremely crowded – more than I had seen it so far. The reason was that although Tawaf Al-Ifadah could be performed at any time till 13thZilhaj, most people wanted to do it as soon as possible. My aunt and I proceeded to the first floor and performed the tawaf there. Then we offered two raka’at, drank the zam-zam water, and performed Say’i on the same floor. It took us more than a couple of hours to accomplish this.
At a time like this, when Hajj is at its peak, you are simply awed by the multitudes of people around you, gathered at the same place for the same purpose. You feel blessed, not only for being a part of this, but also for being guided by Allah. You could have been born into a different religion and not embraced the truth all your life. Being a Muslim should always top our list of reasons for being thankful to Allah. And despite our many shortcomings and failures – our division into sects and having let go of the Quran and Sunnah – there was a sense of unanimity among the Muslims. I noticed with satisfaction that all of us were collectively worshipping Allah and held His command to perform Hajj in great esteem.
( be continued)