10: THE CITY OF TENT
We walked along the highway,
which turns into a bridge that has a steep incline of 45 degrees.
I could see the people before me and behind me, which seemed like
a scene from the day of Judgement. People in the millions walking
around penniless and status-less; walking around without a care
for their well-being: Walking around with only a concern for the
deeds they were carrying.
We were all focused,
drawn to Mina, which was like our pre-destined goal. We all marched
to the beat of our humanity, echoed by the words of Lubaik…
There was no stopping us, the limitations of ability, strength,
age did not stop anyone. The old and the young both strived together
throughout the whole Hajj. Everyone was young and fit during the
Hajj, their determination and power of iman kept the limbs moving
and the heart beating.
Everything was peaceful,
we didn't have any financial worries, we didn't think where were
going to eat, and we weren't even concerned about any worldly affairs.
We simply kept walking along by this river of people reciting the
Lubaik that resounded from all around. This was like our highway
We were only wearing
two simple pieces of cloth that meant we were all looking the same
- impossible to differentiate the rich from the poor, the prince
from the pauper. . We had left our Armani's and Veraches behind
in the hotel along with our jewellery and other adornments. On the
surface, we all looked the same, linked together by this great noble
deen - one huge family.
In Scotland, when we
go for a trek in January, we have to be so organised with our walking
boots, woolly hats and woolly socks, warm clothes and waterproof
jackets. We would have our maps close at hand and drinks or snacks
easily available. We would make sure we had enough talk time on
the mobile phones, in case we really got in trouble… all this
for a few mile walk!
In Makkah, the territory
was unfamiliar; the climate was unfamiliar; the conditions and atmosphere
was also unfamiliar; my companions were new - we had only met a
few days ago; and I was wearing two pieces of cloth, no pants, no
socks and a pair of flip flops (designer ones at that) trekking
on an unknown route guided by 'uncle' who had even got lost at al-Haram
before we had even started the journey to Mina.
When we finally reached
Mina we headed towards the European tents, we had done a massive
detour to get to the right place. We had got lost so badly that
it was only by some directions from a policeman that we managed
to find our bearing and headed in the approximate direction. We
had probably reached them through the toughest route instead of
taking the first left towards the slaughterhouse.
This was a real eye opener
when we wandered into the places where the poorer people would spend
their Hajj. These people may have been from the poorer parts of
the world and the only shelter they had was the sky above their
heads. They would sleep in rows underneath the bridge and on the
footpath during those few days of Hajj. They did not even have the
luxury of tents or blankets to cover themselves. We had the luxuries
of sleeping bags, blankets and tents. In comparison, we lived like
However, I was really
impressed with these people because they weren't complaining or
unhappy in any way. They were here for a single purpose, to complete
the Hajj. This was enough for them. They may have skimped and saved
all their lives to make this Hajj and finally they had done it.
We just withdraw some extra money from the bank account and get
the immunisation jags. Before long we leave the luxuries of our
homes and end up in the luxuries of the hotels in Makkah!
We have so much excess
money that we think about the big cars we are going to buy and the
extensions to our houses but these people worry more about feeding
their families or paying for their children to get even the most
basic education. When you go to Hajj you meet people from every
town on the face of this Earth and from every walk of life. We appreciate
all Allah has given us and appreciate the fact that we are no better
than the person next to us, whoever he or she may be.
We may live in the developed
world; we may even be millionaires and have comfortable and luxurious
lives. These people may be the paupers of this world but they are
the millionaires of the next world. They knew that this world will
end and the next life has the real value. We are deceived because
we give this life all the value when in reality the next life has
the only value. May Allah correct our understanding and wake us
from this sinful and zombie-like state.
One lasting impression
I was left with was that every human soul is the same and that we
should have love and respect for every member of this ummah. I am
not more special than the next person. We all have feelings, aspirations,
hope, difficulties and heartaches - it's just that we are too absorbed
in our own muddled up lives and we forget the difficulties and hardships
others endure everyday. We effectively become totally self-centred
and change into selfish and ungrateful individuals.
It was Allah's will that
I witness the scenes in the other part of Mina where the poorer
quarters were. Instead of us taking the easy routes straight to
the European quarters or being sheltered away in an air-conditioned
bus, I was shown the state of the rest of the poorer brothers and
sisters with my own eyes. This was another valuable lesson of Hajj.
We finally arrived at
Mina, the European Section. We had walked for a long time and this
had been particularly painful with heat rash developing between
my legs. I think my legs were missing my boxers. As the journey
continued, the heat rash got worse, the pain got worse and walking
became awkward. I was walking like an old man with every step accompanied
by more pain and discomfort. At the end, I found it difficult to
keep up with Uncle Riaz who was my senior by many years.
At Mina itself, we spent
most of the time looking for the Scottish part. |For hours we searched
everywhere in Mina. It often felt as if we were going in circles
with every group of tents being the same as the last. We would shop
and ask someone who would point us in a different direction. We
stopped and rested at a tent which was occupied by some English
speaking brothers. Here we rested for a short while before continuing
Shortly after resuming
our quest, I noticed the UK health tent and immediately headed towards
it. When we entered the tent, the doctors asked us if we needed
any assistance. We explained to him our situation and that we were
more need of directions than medical assistance. We had been searching
since early morning and it was now approaching noon. They apologized
and said that they too weren't sure where the Scottish section was
but said that it shouldn't be too far from here.
Just then I looked at
my phone and noticed a couple of bars on the reception so I quickly
phoned Ashfaq. He told us to wait where we were and he sent his
son to come and collect us. We were so close to the area, literally
across the road and just behind the first set of tents.
The weary travellers
eventually had arrived at their destination. When we entered the
air conditions tents (which would be 5 star as far as tents go),
we were greeted with familiar smiling faces which made us welcome.
Brother Hassan was missing from the friendly faces whom we tracked
down later in a different tent. He was still very ill and was lying
down surrounded by a group of well-wishers.
Brother Farage and Brother
Ahmed had made our 'beds' and prepared some food for our arrival.
We had returned to the lap of luxury and the first day of Hajj was
nearly completed. It was just a matter of keeping our prayers on
time, doing some duas and Zikr.
We also met up with some
brothers who were immensely dedicated to Islam. They would perform
their prayers and worship excessively and with such passion and
sincerity that we felt blessed to be near them. We spent quite a
lot of time together and often prayed Salah together in congregation.
Often when we woke or returned to the tents, Zikr was resounding
from their tents in the most beautiful, angelic voice.
After a good rest, we
scouted the place and looked for familiar landmark. We were making
sure that next time, if we got lost, we would be able to find our
way back 'home'.
I was amused at the food that was for sale in the different stalls
that dotted Mina. There were so many people that the food stall
carried a huge amount of stock. I noticed the massive food containers,
which are the size of the bins we have in this county. I felt that
this was not hygienic, especially in the warm climate we were in.
There must be many local bugs in the water and the food that would
only have an adverse effect on our digestive system.
I noticed a truck pulling
over which had the Turkish flag on the side. My taste buds were
excited, wow real Turkish food! I wandered over to the back of the
truck where the food was getting unloaded with such speed and efficiency.
I asked on of the brothers if I could buy some food. He promptly
replied that it had all been accounted for and was for the Turkish
The service and food
quality the Turkish brothers were getting was impressive. You may
think that this is like proper holiday food and that the Turks were
getting spoilt with this scrumptious food. The fact is that the
Turks are passionate about their Hajjis and also bend over backwards
to accommodate them. They don't want the Hajjis to worry about anything
and to concentrate on their worship and prayer.
After the Isha salah,
the night prayer I was tired and ready to sleep. We were still a
little hungry, tired and sore but we put the day behind us. This
was the easy day and tomorrow was the main day of Hajj, the single
most important day we will have in Makkah. That night I prayed abundantly
for my family and friends. I prayed for their welfare and guidance.
With contentment and peace in my heart I slept on the desert sand.