Memories of a Sacred Journey (Last Part)

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By: Ammar Awais

At last, we were taken to the Uhad Mountain and the details of the battle were recounted to us. We saw the low hill where Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم had positioned around seventy archers with the instruction not to leave their places till commanded by himself. The archers, unfortunately, left their positions to collect war booty when they saw the enemy fleeing the battlefield. The commander of the enemy army, Khalid bin Waleed رضی اللہ عنہ, seeing the hill vacant, launched a powerful attack from behind turning the Muslims’ near-victory into defeat. This was a great setback for the Muslims but Allah consoled them, and gave them a very important lesson for all time to come: If the Muslims obeyed Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم Allah would help them but if they disobeyed him for worldly gains or took his instructions non-seriously He would forsake them. We saw the cemetery where the Muslim martyrs, including Rasoolullah’s صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم the uncle and prominent companion, Hamzah رضی اللہ عنہ, were buried after the battle.
I tried to take in every detail of these places we visited, knowing this could be only time I would see them. Due to less crowding at the historic sites in Madinah, it was easier to retain their details in one’s mind as compared to the sites in Makkah. As we returned to the hotel, I contemplated on how fortunate the residents of Madinah were, in the sense that they had everyday access to places a pilgrim may only visit once in his lifetime. But then, the locals might not regard them with the same reverence and significance as the infrequent visitor, as they would be used to seeing all those sites every other day.
In Makkah, there had been little time for shopping, but my aunt and I now visited the shops around Masjid An-Nabawi. There were vendors all over the place, selling prayer mats, tasbeehs, topis, scarves, shawls, watches, and other items. These seemed to be the most common items the visitors take back home as gifts, and their prices vary a great deal too. In both the cities, there are some ‘3 Riyal’ shops – where every item sold costs only three riyals. There are other shops, however, that sell expensive branded items, with many of the world renowned brands of garments, watches, perfumes, and electronics present there. Even the costof a prayer mat, for example, can vary anywhere between ten riyals and over a hundred riyals. The attitudes of the shopkeepers, quite obviously, vary a great deal too, from professional salespersons in branded shops to screaming vendors blocking the way out from Masjid An-Nabawi!
The jewellery business is very popular in Madinah and gold is extensively sold throughout the area. The pilgrims usually take home plenty of dates as well. Provided how readily zam-zam is available in the two cities, you would want to take a maximum of it back with you. However, there is a limit imposed on the amount of zam-zam you can carry back: one ten-litre bottle or can per person. The night before our departure from Madinah I bought two of these cans from outside one of the gates of Masjid An-Nabawi and had them sealed to avoid any inconvenience at the airport.
The Departure
Even though our time in Madinah amounted to less than a week, we had become very used to our simple life there. After the busy time in Makkah, especially during the actual days of Hajj, the stay in Madinah had given us the opportunity not only to relax a little but also to know our fellow pilgrims better. Our trip had been well-planned in the sense that we had arrived in Makkah only a few days before Hajj, and visited Madinah later. Hence, there was no risk of over-exerting ourselves prior to the commencement of the main Hajj rites. Besides, we were fortunate to have performed the major rites of Hajj, including Rami, with far greater ease than expected. Thankfully, we had not encountered any other major difficulty either, such as a vehicle breakdown or lost luggage.
The time had come at last to bid farewell to Rasoolullah’s صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم city. On the morning of our departure, we packed our luggage and gathered in the hotel lobby. We faced one final delay when we were made to wait several hours before being transported to the Madinah airport. It was smaller and less busy than the Jeddah airport and had a professional and courteous staff. We collected our transport refund from the terminal. Prior to our departure, each pilgrim was gifted a copy of the Quran by the government. I reflected on the fact that around two million copies of the Quran are freely given away, and many thousands more have been placed in the two holy mosques. It is certainly a great way to earn lasting reward.
It was evening and we were waiting at the airport lounge to get on board. There was a television screen attached to one of the walls. The beautifully illuminated Masjid An-Nabawi it showed reminded me of what a glorious time we’d just had. I looked forward to being home again but even during the flight back home I was already beginning to miss that feeling of being close to the Ka’bah or the Mosque of Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم. Needless to say, I knew I would never forget this journey.
In the following days, I reflected on the journey and the events that had transpired over the past three weeks or so. I realized there was so much for which I should be thankful to Allah. In our era Hajj is relatively easy to perform. Until about a hundred years ago merely getting to Makkah was a long journey of many weeks and perhaps even months in older days, covering part of the journey by ship and walking or riding the rest of the way. Hence, disease, sea-sickness and fatigue could easily creep in dangerously reducing the pilgrim’s probability of returning home. Indeed, in those days, the title of ‘haji’ was rightfully earned but in the modern age when getting to Makkah is a matter of flying for only a few hours, any such title before one’s name seems superfluous and even boastful.
Seeing the reverence with which most people regard Hajj I realize once again how fortunate I have been to be able to fulfill this obligation of performing Hajj once in a lifetime. I feel grateful to my aunt upon whose initiative I under took this responsibility. While the other pillars of Islam are a part of our everyday life and must always be abided by, Hajj is what requires that extra bit of strength and willingness. It is unfortunate that some people, despite having the means to perform Hajj, are unable to muster that willingness. They are losing out on Allah’s immense reward and a remarkable experience.
I hence come to the end of my narration of this fulfilling journey. There were difficulties along the way but I realized after returning home that the greatest hardships you face are your greatest teachers in life. I believe it is important for you to implement the ‘teachings of Hajj’ in your daily life: the way you treat others and yourself and the strength of your imaan in Allah are indicators of how effective Hajj has been for you. After all, the purpose of Hajj is not just to have our past sins forgiven, it is more so reorganizing our lives and reforming our habits in such a way that those sins are avoided altogether.