9: THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS AND BEYOND.
It was the first day of Hajj (8th Dhul-Hijjah). We got up early
that morning, well before Fajr and had a quick shower. We had already
made all the preparation for the Hajj before hand so it was just
a matter of getting ready and performing our Fajr Salah. We finished
last minute minor preparation, made our intention to perform the
Hajj and then headed out towards al-Haram. We prayed the Fajr Salah
in Masjid Al- Haram then returned to the Hotel.
There was much more of a hustle this morning with people moving
about with a sense of purpose rather than meandering along - the
mood was definitely different. In the Masjid, there had been a constant
stream of people- thousands coming in and thousands going out. This
moving river of human souls was none stop, all completing their
obligatory prayer before their Lord. Most people then returned to
their hotels to make the final preparations before continuing with
the Hajj journey.
In the hotel, we quickly got changed into the Ihrams, the two pieces
of cloth that we originally wore to Makkah. Once the Ihrams were
on, we were ready to perform the first stage of the Hajj. We journeyed
back to the Al Haram; we performed the Tawaaf around the Kabbah
by circulating it seven times; we prayed the nafal Salah (two Rakaats)
and drank some ZamZam water. This was the initial stage of the Hajj
We returned to the Hotel to join with the rest of our group so
we con make the journey to Mina. We waited patiently for the rest
of the brothers and sisters to gradually join us in the hotel lobby.
They came in their ones and twos, each clad in their Ihrams, carrying
all their essentials for the next few days. We were raring to go,
fully aware and focussed on the task before us.
The night before, we had all sat down and discussed what we needed
for the next few days. This was the 'United Nations' of our small
group. There was myself, the Turkish link; Brother Farage, the Libyan;
Brother Hassan, the Pakistani representative; Brother Ahmed from
Nigeria and finally Brother Abdur Raqheeb - the true Scott and our
We had sat down in a circle and decided on a few principles. That
night, we agreed to stick together and look after each other during
the Hajj days. We put our money into the centre for food and other
necessities needed for the Hajj. We went shopping straight afterwards
for some food for the duration of the days. We had dates, bags of
dried and fresh fruits, biscuits and olive salad… As I write
this I still have a taste of the olives and feta cheese. I have
managed to avoid that food since I returned to Scotland (alhamu-lillah).
One critical advice I was given in Scotland was to always have
some water with me during the Hajj. There certainly wasn't a shortage
of water during Hajj but this turned out to be solid advice. Those
words of wisdom ended with, 'You will know why when you get there
why you want water with you.' I really did find out why when I got
Even though I wasn't worried about anything, every now and then
I would quickly go through everything in my mind, makings sure that
nothing had been overlooked. I checked all my belongings for the
journey, snacks, water supply, sleeping bag, paracetamols…
I was ready for anything. I was now truly ready both mentally and
physically. I was eagerly anticipating the start of the Hajj journey.
Time was of the essence because we had to be there before the Zuhr
salah, the midday prayer. Although we few brothers were fully ready,
we were still waiting for some of the team to get together. I remember
looking outside into the street, which was still buzzing with people
but not as busy as earlier. I was panicking; I entertained thoughts
of being late to Mina and ruining our Hajj. I was desperate to get
moving and wanted to fly down the stairs and dive onto our bus but
even that wasn't there yet.
Things progressed too slowly for me but finally the whole group
was ready, families, individuals, every single member of our Hajj
family. Suddenly, Uncle Riaz wandered in and asked who wants to
join him in performing the Hajj by foot. This was a spanner in the
works for our well laid out plan. We looked at each other and I
know we were all in two minds to some degree. I felt it would be
better to perform the Hajj by foot just as many billions of people
before us. Surely this would hold the most blessing, the closest
to the method adopted by the Prophet and the many righteous souls
I pulled aside brother Abdur Raqeeb and spoke to him about it.
He was also very keen to do this by foot and his face was beaming
with enthusiasm. We quickly discussed it with some of the brothers
who assured us they would look after our belongings if we decided
to perform the Hajj by foot. They would make sure our extra luggage
was loaded on the bus and they would look after it until we met
again in Mina.
I still wasn't fully satisfied with this, some doubts and worries
were still tormenting my mind. What if the already late bus doesn't
arrive? What if they forget to put our luggage on the bus or even
worse forget to take it off the bus? What if our bags go missing
in all the confusion and mayhem? The sacred journey before us was
daunting enough but I didn't fancy sleeping in the freezing desert
night without a sleeping bag! I had never been on Hajj before and
I had visions of sleeping in a big tent in the middle of the desert…
miles away from civilisation with scorpions running around like
in an Indiana Jones movie. I was worried!
I also had some reservations about the navigation skills of Uncle
Riaz. I wasn't completely satisfied with things so I questioned
Uncle Riaz, "Do you know the way to Mina?" He looked at
me as if I was asking him something absurd, he replied, " Of
course I do, I have done the Hajj so many times!" He then described
the plan in great detail, which gave me more confidence and was
This small group of three adventurers, laidened with food and supplies
on their back, with the zikr of Labaik on their tongues; and an
emotions sandstorm of excitement and anticipation in their heart
took their first steps of Hajj. After walking towards Al-Haram for
a few minutes, Uncle asked us to wait outside the King Fahd gate
whilst he did a final prayer at the Kabbah. He then proceeded into
the Masjid with us patiently reflecting on the journey before us.
As we waited, we scrutinised the map over and over, taking in the
tiniest detail and information about the Hajj.
Finally, uncle Riaz returned but he complained that he had been
looking outside the gate for ages and questioned us as to why we
had moved. I think he must have got confused and been looking outside
the wrong gate! Maybe it was just by chance he had noticed us standing
there outside a 'different' gate. This didn't inspire us with confidence
but we continued our journey to Mina.
We headed towards the location of the Prophet's house. They have
built a library on that very site which was fitting in a way. The
prophet brought knowledge to the world and is a source of guidance
for all mankind. Similarly, a library is a source of information
and knowledge which too enlightening the world. I joked to myself,
the miracle of Isa (Jesus) was the power to heal people I wonder
if they built a hospital where he was born!
We walked with the tide of millions of Hajjis; sometimes going
with the flow and at other times navigating a winding course through
the crowds. We then turned right and joined an even bigger river
of people making it like a huge moving sea of people. More and more
people joined this mass until it was humongous with people dressed
in white as far as the eye could see in every direction. This human
river turned to the right and headed straight towards a vast mountain
range which boasted some enormous mountains. They looked like emotionless
giants, sitting there devoid of life and vegetation.
As we slowly approached the mountains we could see people being
'swallowed' into the mountain through this massive tunnel. This
was one of a series of tunnels that passed through the mountains,
making it easier for the Hajjis to travel from area to area. As
we entered the mouth of the mountain, the calls of the Lubaikh seemed
to get louder and louder. As we proceeded, this murmur was now a
thundering roar as it echoed through the whole mountain. It felt
as if the Earth below our feet was shaking and the whole mountain
was moving with the rhythm of our beating heart. It was quite a
humbling experience being amidst these millions of Hajjis.
The tunnel seemed never ending. Its impossible to say how long
the tunnels were with boundaries of time and reality becoming an
intermingled blur. Our hearts were beating to the lubaik: the soul
was lost in some spiritual ecstasy and I marched with an army of
billions of searching souls from a timeless spiritual reality. This
marching scene could have been a thousand years ago; the world may
have progressed with science and technology but the soul remained
in its pure and uncorrupted form.
When we came out of the tunnels, we were greeted with bright sunlight
and a warm dry breeze. Uncle decided that a tea break was needed
and we happily agreed. We stopped off at one of the many eating
areas that lined the sides and we joined others who had similar
thoughts. A small group of Turks started speaking to Abdur Raqeeb
whilst I was getting tea. They were saying, American, American…
and brother Abdur Raqeeb was replying no, no, Scottish, Scottish.
It was quite farcical because they could not understand that he
was Scottish and not American. Finally, I intervened and explained
to them that I am Turkish and this is my brother Abdur Raqeeb from
Scotland. They were very surprised and shook his hand with such
happiness. They were so pleased to meet a Scottish Muslims and they
expressed genuine love and happiness for our brother.
They were so overjoyed to see a Scottish Muslim, with a Sunnah
beard and white complexion. Even with such young iman in his heart,
he was performing the Hajj whilst thousands of people, maybe millions,
who are born as Muslims hadn't performed the Hajj yet. All those
brothers and sister are too engrossed in chasing the material world,
big houses and BMWs but are neglecting this important pillar of
I feel embarrassed myself writing about this because I was also
engrossed in this corrupting materialism and blinded by its alluring
beauty. The only guarantee the world makes is to rob you off your
time and youth with some empty promises and mirage-like unattainable
goals. I was lost for many years in this forgetful, selfish state
but by the mercy of Allah, I was allowed to make this Hajj. Its
only when I performed the Hajj did I appreciate the sorry state
I was in before. It's like a blind man who regains his sight. He
can't stop thanking Allah for this gift as a new world of beauty
and colour is opened before him.
After this small break, we continued the journey towards Mina.
We rejoined this moving mass of people and continued this sacred
journey. After the tunnels, we were travelling on these massive
walkways, which are probably equivalent to a six-lane motorway.
They were packed with moving people, so much so you could not see
the road. We too became part of this traffic and before long we
were close to our destination, or so we thought