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6 Muslims Share What It's Really Like To Experience The Hajj Pilgrimage

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Faruq Senin  •  Aug 10, 2019

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[Updated 19 July 2021] The Hajj pilgrimage is a thing of beauty. As one of the 5 pillars of Islam, it's definitely on every Muslim's bucket list. Besides fulfilling our Islamic obligations, it's also an amazing sight when millions of Muslims come together for one common cause ❤️ To mark Eid-ul-Adha 2021, we're here to share stories from those of the HHWT community who've been on Hajj and what the experience was like for them. Here are their stories!

My Hajj Experience: 6 Muslims Share What It's Really Like

Rina Gaffar

I went on Hajj last year at the age of 52. I'm single (divorced in 2015), applied for Hajj in 2016 and made a few attempts of appeal in 2017 and Alhamdulillah got to go Hajj in 2018. I tagged along with a physically challenged lady who was 70 years old and hence, I managed to go earlier than expected.
That's me on the right My first visit to Makkah was in 2013 when I performed the Umrah, and later in 2016 and 2017 for Umrah too. Hence, it wasn't my first time seeing the Ka'abah during my Hajj. However, the feeling was different when I saw it during Umrah and during Hajj. The nikmat (blessing) of getting to visit Ka'abah and becoming one of Allah's guests is amazing. Tears kept flowing down during the doa after solat. The tawaf was a challenge as the crowd was a lot larger compared to the Umrah period. 
What was the most memorable thing which happened to you during Hajj?
Subhanallah, it was an eye-opening experience. The most memorable thing that happened was during the walk from Mina camp to Jamrahtul Aqabah (the stoning place). We had to walk about 4km along with thousands of people from all walks of life, from all over the world, towards one direction and reciting all the praises to Allah and Nabi Muhammad s.a.w. The experience and view were unforgettable. Another striking incident was during a storm which happened in Mina camp. We were just starting the Maghrib prayers as a jemaah when the storm came and blew away the canvas door opening and all the sides. We felt that the roof was going to collapse but none of us stopped our prayers or moved away or even uttered a scream. But the sound around the camp was very noisy as we could hear things being blown away and crashing sounds everywhere.
 Toppled toilets after the storm in Mina  After we completed our prayers, the storm stopped. It was just a mere 3 minutes but the feeling at that time was incredibly scary. During the prayers, I thought Allah was trying to tell us something and we were glad to be safe from the storm. What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome it? The challenge I faced was during the "lontar jamrah" - stoning of the devil. At the last throwing of stones into the last Jamrah, the crowd suddenly came from a Middle Eastern group and pushed me until I turned 360 degrees, while I was holding the physically challenged lady beside me. Both of us were squashed among big-sized Turkish men. And I thought that was the last of my breath because they did not stop pushing around. Alhamdulillah, I held my roommate tightly and we managed to do our last throw and escaped the place safely. When we meet up with my travel group, some of them commented that I looked so white and pale with perspiration all over. The next day, I could not get up from bed due to chest pain and went to a clinic and they referred me to the hospital. They suspected I got a mild heart attack, as my blood pressure was very high. Alhamdulillah, it was only a muscle pull pain as I was holding my roommate's hand with my arm so tightly during that episode. What did you learn from performing the Hajj and how has your life changed after Hajj? I learnt that we have to be patient and kind in all the things we do. And this has changed my attitude towards life now. I am more forgiving, patient and take things with a different view to ensure everyone is happy in the process. Be kind to one another and InsyaAllah you will be rewarded with kindness too. After returning from Hajj, I'm also more pious and I pray in mosques more often, I behave better than before and I do more good things for myself and for people around me.
Any tips/advice for those planning to go on Hajj? My advice to those who want to go on Hajj is to prepare your mind and soul for the trip. If you are young and able-bodied, please perform your Hajj before you get old because you will need both physical and mental strength to perform the Hajj. Nothing is too early or too late. When the time is right and your heart is looking forward to completing your last pillar in Islam, then you will have to do it whenever you can afford it (in terms of money, time & health). If you could sum up your Hajj experience in a sentence, what will it be? Subhanallah, performing Hajj has made me a better person and I'm more religious in doing my daily activities and towards others. P.S. Read more about these 9 other Islamic destinations you should visit as a Muslim traveller!

Nur Izlin

I went for my Hajj in 2002 when I was 23 years old together with my parents and siblings. I was speechless and dumbfounded when I first saw the Ka'abah. I still remember, I was on the bus and the bus took a turn by Masjidil Haram. Knowing that Ka'abah is inside and just seeing the holy mosque itself brought me to tears.
 Imagine me standing in front of the Kaabah for the first time. It was so surreal. All these while, we could only see the Kaabah on TV, on printed photos and maybe on the prayer mat. But to look at it for the first time, I couldn’t contain myself. To be in the same area where our Prophets once stood, it’s a mixed feeling of everything. It was so melancholic. What was the most memorable thing which happened to you during Hajj? I think, the most memorable thing was the time my parents called me and my siblings to let us know that they were bringing us along for Hajj (at that time, only my parents received the confirmation - my siblings and I were on standby turns. Alhamdulillah, we were confirmed a couple of weeks before departure). We were excited but scared and did not know what to expect. We were kind of tearful to think about how our parents made savings bit by bit since we were young to make all this possible. It was like a spiritual family trip. My family was just a middle-income family. To think that our parents saved for us so that we could go for an overseas trip, and not just for ANY overseas trip, was a meaningful surprise. I was so thankful to my parents.
 We went for Hajj circa year 2002. At that time, smartphones were not something easily available like today, and if you do own any it came with no photo application whatsoever. So my memories inside the holy mosques were pretty much inside my head, my memories. I remember I brought along a camera to Masjidil Haram, but to no avail, all the bags were checked and went through by the female security guards at the door I went in from. I can still remember how the guard took my camera. I was told to collect my camera upon leaving the mosque. It was kind of a funny incident to me. I remember I was very scared because the female guards were well-built, big and tall. So, I only managed to snap photos with a glimpse of Masjidil Haram outside. One thing I can still remember was that after being in the Middle East for some time, one of the days after performing our Subuh prayer at Masjidil Haram, my late mother said, “Rindunya nak makan makanan Malaysia (Miss Malaysian food and feel like eating it)” and to our surprise, in the hustle and bustle of people roaming around us, we could hear from afar, a woman’s voice saying, “nasi kerabu, nasi lemak, kuih-kuih!”. We were frantically searching for the voice, and almost missed her because she was wearing a burqa. Turns out she was a Kelantanese lady selling Malaysian delicacies. (I was tolf that it's illegal for all these street vendors because I once saw them running away once the police were around). But Alhamdulillah, our cravings were fulfilled 😅 Another unforgettable memory was seeing one lady, who stayed next to our room, whom I think had the most perseverance. Not only did she have to take care of her mother and mother-in-law who were both wheelchair-bound, but also another aunt of hers who was not very well during her Hajj. Seeing her always smiling and talking softly to the three elderly and taking care of them somehow made me think twice about getting angry about anything. Sadly, we lost contact with each other. What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome it? As a woman, I would say, it was "that time of the month". I know there are many opinions, saying that we could take medication to stop or hold your period for a while, but the Ustazah in our Hajj course told us to let nature take its course and make a lot of dua so that you could go through the rituals smoothly. I only missed doing the tawaf together with my family after we returned from Mina but Alhamdulillah, I managed to perform it before our return to Malaysia and complete the Hajj. 
What did you learn from performing the Hajj and how has your life changed after Hajj? I learnt that Allah does not look at any individual based on his or her status. When you are there to perform Hajj, everyone is equal, regardless of the expensive or cheap Hajj package you take. Nobody could have known that you are a CEO, a wealthy millionaire or a cleaner. Matters like rezeki and tests can come and go anytime when you are there. It’s how you face and receive them that could change your perspective. Upon my return, I look at things differently. I think I have become slightly more patient (still improving myself in this aspect) in doing anything. I have become more thankful for everything that I have. Any tips/advice for those planning to go on Hajj? I would suggest to young parents to start saving for Hajj for their kids (hopefully the savings would be enough once they reach baligh or maybe for them to continue the savings once they start working) and to perform Hajj when you are still young and strong. I feel sad sometimes seeing old people doing the rituals but don’t get me wrong - you could never put down their spirit and motivation. But it is still sad seeing them having to walk slowly, use walking sticks, or bound by wheelchair. Again, make dua that Allah grants us strength while we're there. Some would also think that they don’t qualify to go, or not eligible just because they think they are not religious enough. To me, it is enough if you are ‘ikhlas’ (sincere). You will never know, it could be a whole turning point for you, spiritually. As long as you are ikhlas, Allah sees that. If you could sum up your Hajj experience in a sentence, what will it be? It was my first most spiritual and memorable experience that I will never forget my whole life, ever. P.S. Heading to Umrah with your kids instead? Check out these 20 useful tips for a smooth-sailing Umrah journey!

Athirah Idrus

 I went for Hajj in 2016, I was 25 back then. Imagine my surprise when my parents told us our application for Hajj they made 10 years ago went through. I don't consider myself a religious person. I just do the necessary - prayers, fasting during Ramadan etc so clearly I was daunted by the idea of going on Hajj, something I only imagined the most pious men would aspire to do. 
Masjidil Haram - This was taken at 4.30pm when it was around 40 degrees (2016) I first went to Makkah at the tender age of 6 for Umrah. I still remember what I felt when I first saw Kaabah, live in front of me. I didn't understand much of what people were doing but seeing many people of different skin colours from all walks of life gathering and prostrating before Him in humility, I was awestruck despite my incomprehension. Seeing it again for the first time during Hajj, this time with renewed intention, I was again humbled and grateful that I was given not only the opportunity to go but also for the time and health to perform the ibadah. I was reminded again and again how lucky I was to be able to perform Hajj in good health as not many are bestowed with that. Here are more photos I took in Madinah: 
The interior of Masjid an-Nabawi, Madinah al-Munawwarah
I wish the picture could carry with it the ambience of the surroundings it captured; the soft chirpings of the birds, the rustlings of the wings as the birds flew over the open dome, the gentle breeze caressing our faces. Away from the hectic life, time no longer governing the hurried pace of the demands of Dunya. What was the most memorable thing which happened to you during Hajj? It is difficult to choose the most memorable thing because throughout the journey I felt like I was in some sort of trance! But if I had to choose one, it was the throngs of crowd praying and meditating in front of the Kaabah, even at the ungodly hours of 3 to 4am in the morning. Even though most of us were strangers to one another, the fact that we were there for the common purpose felt like some sort of a camaraderie that cannot be expressed in words.  What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome it?  I found my patience constantly tested, what with the throngs of the crowd - even the simple journey of walking to Masjidil Haram can be challenging. During Hajj, to get some comfortable space in Masjidil Haram to join in the prayers, it's better to go about two hours before the prayer time. They will block the doors usually one hour before prayers as the mosque would already be brimming with people. The saf from Masjidil Haram will continue all the way to the surrounding areas even in the malls. One of the factors that pushed me to keep on going was because my Ustaz told me that as long as you pray in the saf that continues from Masjidil Haram, you'll get the same amount of pahala (reward) as you would if you pray in the Mosque, InsyaAllah. The most challenging to me was when we had to 'bermabit' (spend the night) in Mina. We were soaked in sweat throughout the day where the temperature was from 40 to 50 degrees. I can still remember the sweat dripping all over even right after taking a shower. We were in the middle of nowhere, under the scorching heat without the basic necessities that we're so used to back home. I thought it was enough to be very grateful for what I had but it takes the absence of the things that you have for you to really appreciate what you've been blessed with. In one of his lectures, the Ustaz said that "we're now in Mina, living in a very modest condition". Modest? I was shocked. I know there are people who live in worse conditions, but having used to enjoy things I thought were 'usual', I thought our camp in Mina was bad enough. But when we were on our way to the Jamrah (stoning of devils); seeing some people camping out in the open, eating on stained rags on dirty tarred roads, with putrid smell emanating from the sewers below that filled the uber-hot air, with rubbish all laid out for as far as the eyes could see, I was crushed. I had a mask on all the way and felt like throwing up breathing the foul air, but they breathed, slept and ate in deprived conditions, surrounded by rubbish. It was at that moment that I realised that I have been blessed and I pray that I will not forget to count my blessings. What did you learn from performing the Hajj and how has your life changed after Hajj? I wish I was one of those who could say that "I'm a better person now after Hajj" but I'm not. I'm still working on being a better version of me. If it had taught me anything, it's to be more aware of my actions and being appreciative of what I have. Any tips/advice for those planning to go on Hajj? To tell you the truth, sometimes you just have to go through it to know if you're ready for it. I was worried about not being ready before I went just like many others before me. But if you mull over the thought too much, then you'll never feel like you're ever ready for it. You can only prepare for it the best you can; read up on Hajj and familiarise with the steps as best you can. But what I've learnt is: the most important thing is to set your Niat, your Nawaitu is the promise to God on what you seek out to do and InsyaAllah, He will guide you. Your patience will constantly be tested so if you get angry, always take a step back to relax and reflect. If you could sum up your Hajj experience in a sentence, what will it be? Going on Hajj was an eye-opening experience to me, a form of Hijrah where everyone is stripped of their worldly luxuries to renew their vows with the Creator.

Shasha Omar

I went for Hajj with my husband in 2016 at the age of 36 years old. When I first saw the Ka'abah, the feeling was indescribable. I felt so tiny and my heart was relieved, I started to cry without even realising it. What was the most memorable thing which happened to you during Hajj? The whole manasik of Hajj (rituals) which starts from 8-13 Zulhijjah, was so meaningful. I felt totally different. Even though I was with a huge crowd of people, I could feel that everyone individually got Allah's attention. Whatever happens to us as individuals, is based on our intention, on our niat. Usually, people don't know what we're thinking in our minds and our inner speech but only Allah the Almighty knows it. During the manasik, I could see clearly and experienced something different. Allah shows it to us during Hajj - He answers our thoughts by proving it instantly. Once we clean our hearts, fix our niat lillahita'ala (because of Allah), everything will be so easy, so smooth and so close to Allah. I could feel my heart being so full and I don't know how to describe the feeling. What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was the hot weather but managed to overcome it by wearing a hat and sunglasses most of the time. And I always carried zamzam water in my sling bag. During the whole journey, I was faced with different challenges with regards to people, facilities, traffic, programme changes. But once I didn't expect anything and just stay focused on the Hajj flow and keep on zikr, it helped me to overcome whatever unplanned situation I was facing. Alhamdulillah.
What did you learn from performing the Hajj and how has your life changed after Hajj? I learnt a lot, but one that changed my perspective and my life purpose is to be ikhlas lillahita'ala (sincere because of Allah). When we do things only to get Allah's rahmah (mercy), life feels different.
 Any tips/advice for those planning to go on Hajj?  1) Seek knowledge and understanding about the manasik of Hajj before you go; don't go for Hajj only by following other people. 2) Prepare your fitness by starting some exercise 3) I took a Vitamin C shot 1 week before I flew to Saudi Arabia. Alhamdulillah I didn't get any flu, cough, diarrhoea or any sickness If you could sum up your Hajj experience in a sentence, what will it be? The best journey in my lifetime. It was our call and I'm glad we accepted the offer even when we never planned for it. It was a last-minute decision and Allah made it easy for us once we said yes even though we didn't know where to find the money then 😅 Alhamdulillah! P.S. Thinking of heading to Mecca with your spouse? Here's why doing the Umrah is perfect for young married couples!

Mariam

 I performed my Hajj in 2012 when I was 34 with my paternal aunt. When I first saw the Kaabah, I was in awe. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I did not shed a tear but I guess it was because I was too numb. However, after my Tawaf Al-Wida (last tawaf before leaving Makkah), I cried loads. 
What was the most memorable thing which happened to you during Hajj? There were a few memorable moments during my Hajj journey. Before the pilgrimage, I had to get passport size pictures for Hajj visa so at the shop, the photographer/owner was a non-Muslim. She told me to focus on my worship to Allah and to forget everything else. It somehow affected me. During the pilgrimage, on one of the trips to Jabal Rahmah (Mount Arafat), we dropped by a shop to buy some food. When we wanted to pay, we were told by the cashier that everything was on the house. Alhamdulillah. The most memorable moment after Hajj and one of the hardest things to do was to leave Masjidil Haram. I cried hard. I was so sad.
What did you learn from performing the Hajj and how has your life changed after Hajj? I learnt that I needed to be more patient with people and grateful to Allah for all His blessings. I personally didn't feel or see the changes but my friends have told me I have changed. I guess I have somehow tried to consciously made an effort to be a better Muslim in terms of covering my aurah. It may sound superficial but I guess it somehow affected my spirituality as well. Friends also are very careful not to invite me for certain things that involve too much entertainment, which I am fine with. Any tips/advice for those planning to go on Hajj? If possible, go when you are young and still physically strong. People always say they are not ready but that is never the issue. If that is not the case, then finances is another major issue. Just have the intention to be a Duyufurrahman (Allah's guest). Doa and Allah will ease all your affairs, InsyaAllah. If you could sum up your Hajj experience in a sentence, what will it be? The most magical experience.
AF
 In Malaysia, the most affordable way to go for Hajj is with registering with Tabung Haji (TH) and getting in the queue. We need to have a minimum of RM1,300 in our TH account for us to register. My parents, Alhamdulillah, had the foresight to register my sister and me early for Hajj, when I was still in secondary school. Our names came up for Hajj the same year I graduated college in 2005. My sister went first with her husband. I decided to defer my turn so I could go after I got married. I was still single then. After getting married and then having a baby, I got called again in 2010. As my husband had not registered, we had to make an appeal to TH for him to go as my mahram (same case with my brother-in-law in 2005). Appeals are a long process and take some time, and in my husband's case, it was a few months. At first, we didn't even think the appeal went through. We only found out that we were both confirmed to fly into Mecca 5 days before our departure date! My husband and I were both 27 years old the year we went for Hajj. Our firstborn, who was still fully breastfeeding at 22 months old, stayed behind with my sister. On top of that, it was my husband's first international flight. 
 It was a couple of days of very rushed preparation. From the beginning of my journey, I cried each and every time I recited the talbiyah (prayer with intention to perform Hajj). I was overwhelmed with the meaning of the recitation. I know how long other people have waited to be there, and Alhamdulillah, I was finally on my way. The tears did not stop once we got to Mecca and continued on all the way during our 1km walk from our hotel to get to the Ka'abah. What was the most memorable thing which happened to you during Hajj? Our Maktab (group) consisted mostly of those who had successfully appealed for various reasons. They were mostly in their 40s and 50s, with a handful above 60. We met another couple who were also relatively young, they were in their mid-30s, and we became quite close. After consultation with a number of Ustaz and taking in their advice, on our own discretion, the four of us decided to perform nafar awal (leaving Mina early after staying 2-3 nights). At that time, majority of Malaysians performed nafar thani (leaving Mina later).
 The four of us made our way back by walking from Mina to Mecca. The distance was not felt, as there were a lot of people doing the same. We didn't know where we were headed, we just had to follow the crowd. We were quite bold as we didn't even have phones equipped with Google Maps back then. Admittedly, we were taken in by the spirit of our Hajj journey and we were quite adventurous at that age. What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome it? Our luggage was somehow delayed, and for the first few days, we had to survive with whatever we have in our carry-on. Alhamdulillah, we were essentially packed. We did end up buying a couple of 10 riyal jubahs (garment) each as back-ups.
What did you learn from performing the Hajj and how has your life changed after Hajj? Be nice to everyone. For the majority of them, it is their first time away from their homes. As a simple example, escalators are a normal sight for us and there are certainly quite a number all over the Masjid. This might not necessarily be the case for others. It could be their first time using an escalator. Many pilgrims have lived modestly in their respective villages all their lives and are spending their hard-earned savings for this once in a lifetime journey to God. Give them a break if they take their time trying to gather the courage to get on the escalator. Alhamdulillah, I was blessed to have performed Hajj early. Alhamdulillah, I was blessed to have parents who registered me early. Alhamdulillah, I was blessed to have had the opportunity to experience it together with my husband. It must be remembered that everyone is blessed in different ways. The Hajj journey is different and unique for everyone. Challenges and tests are customised for each and every one of us, and this applies not only to Hajj but all aspects of our lives. Any tips/advice for those planning to go on Hajj? For Malaysians who have not registered with TH, as the first step in getting ready to be called for Hajj, please register as soon as you can. We have registered our children a couple of years after our second was born. As registration awareness is at an all-time high, according to the system, their turn for Hajj is sometime in the 2090s. For first-time pilgrims, the total amount per person for Hajj with Muassasah under TH is still the same as it was when we went 9 years back. Pilgrims need only pay approximately RM10,000 per person, even though the actual cost has risen over the years. To get a better understanding of Hajj rituals, there are many weekend Hajj classes scheduled at local masjids in Malaysia. Essentially anyone can join these classes, even those who have yet to officially receive their Hajj call letters from TH. While performing Hajj, trying to stay healthy amidst a sea of people around you from all over the world may seem daunting. Stay hydrated, eat well, rest well. Bring medications and supplements. Try to pace yourself if you arrive in Mecca early, so you are well prepared for the intense days during your Hajj rites. 
If you could sum up your Hajj experience in a sentence, what will it be? My Hajj experience has been customised for me by the All-Knowing, to prepare me better for what I have to face in my own life journey. Alhamdulillah. Hajj Mabrur, InsyaAllah. We hope these 6 stories have given you a better insight into how the Hajj pilgrimage is really like and have inspired you in one way or another. To all our readers out there, here's wishing you a blessed Eid-ul-Adha!