This probably rings true for most of us. Every year we have an intention to do Hajj and the year quickly passes by and we don’t go to Hajj. This year was special. I had an intention to do Hajj (again) but this time all of a sudden a few of my close friends said they also had the same intention. Within a week or two, there was five of us ready to perform Hajj. We were all excited and started planning and making preparations for Hajj.
I think this was because Ramadhan had just passed and we were all feeling good, full charged with deen and Iman. Allah invited only those who he chooses. We started planning the trip, got our money together, applied for our visas and made provisions for our businesses and families. We have to bear in mind that it is not the Saudi authorities that determine whether we will be performing Hajj but its only those that are invited by Allah that make the Hajj. I felt that everything was okay when we received the okay from the Saudis and they gave us the visa. However I know better now, only those Allah chooses are invited to perform Hajj.
One of my first friends had a death in the Family. His brother suddenly passed away and he had to make preparations to go back to Turkey very quickly. My second friend couldn’t get anyone to look after his business and children if both him and his wife went to perform Hajj this year. One of the elder brothers also had similar family problems. His son was going through a rough patch with his wife. He had to rush to London to help sort the problems out between them. He too said sorry Hammy, its my kismat I can’t go to Hajj this year. The fourth brother had more family problems. There had been a racist attack on his family in London. This involved stabbings and arrests. He immediately left for London to support and help his family.
I was number five in the group and I was all alone. I was probably the least prepared from all the five brothers! When I realised that I was the last person in our small group, I was gutted and started getting second thoughts about going to Hajj. I started making excuses for myself trying to talk myself out of going to Hajj – I was basically getting cold feet.
I had looked forward to performing this Hajj with these close brothers. We would have had a good time in Allah’s house, in the land of our beloved prophet, with these special close friends. One of the brothers had been before recently and he was going to show us everything, from start to finish. I still remember he use to say, ” Don’t worry, I will show you everything and make sure that you don’t make any mistakes”. He use to encourage me and gave me confidence.
I got the urge from Allah, this was my time I had to go and I felt I must go this time to Hajj. Allah will look after me and Allah will make sure I will be okay. I left everything to Allah, I put my trust in Allah and began making preparations. The brothers that were suppose to be going in our group helped as much as they could in my preparations. They got me books, videos, Cds and started teaching me the Duas that I needed to learn. It was as if a part of them was going with me through all this effort. One of the brothers helped me by giving me some Riyal from some previous journey to Saudi Arabia. When you land in Jeddah, there is nothing worse than having no small currency to buy or pay for things.
I was working away in the shop and a brother came into the shop, he was smiling from ear to ear, as if he had won the lottery. He said, “Ahmed, Ahmed I am going to Hajj this year”.
I said “Are you sure you are going? You make the intention every year”. He said “Inshallah, I am going with a group from the Stirling Mosque this year”. He told me about the other brothers that were going and I quickly became part of this group.
I continued to make my preparations for Hajj. I rushed around and got everything in order, sorted my business and all other affairs. I said my goodbyes and phoned all my relatives and friends, here and abroad. I was ready to go.
The day before I was rushing about and could not find suitable slippers that I need to wear when I landed in Cairo. In Cairo, we would be stopping off at the airport for 2 hours, giving us a chance to put on our Ihrams and read some Nafals. If I could not find some suitable slippers (or flip flops) I saw myself walking around with ihram but without any slippers on! I thought maybe someone might have a spare pair in my new Hajj group or something might materialise from somewhere. I left it in Allah’s hands.
I continued to meet the last of my closest friends, The first brother I visited, was one of my original Hajj brothers who couldn’t go this year, he said don’t worry I have a pair at home. He left his shop and ran home and got me a pair. Alhamdulillah, Allah provides – I had lost hope in getting slippers and not only did Allah give me a pair of slippers but they were a designer pair!
The night before, I was excited like a little kid who is going to Disney world. I read over my little Hajj book over and over again as I waited for the time to pass. We were leaving at 4am, well before Fajar. I had a shower, prayed two Nafl namaz and kissed the family goodbye. They were still asleep as I headed for the Masjid, the first meeting point. It was an emotional rollercoaster. I was so excited and wanted to get on the plane at the same time I was already missing the family, we had barely spent a day apart. I have never seen anyone laugh and cry at the same time before!
Allah blessed me with the companionship of about thirty Muslims from our community. Two of the families were very close friends whom I considered to be my family. I knew I was going to be okay. As all the Hajjis starting coming to the Masjid in their ones and twos, the time for Fajar was creeping closer and the time to leave for the airport was also closing in on us.
As I sat in the masjid, one of the brothers had decided to go to Hajj three day earlier, came into the Masjid. He had no Ihram, no extra clothes, no extra money, no food and didn’t have the luxury of a few weeks preparations to get ready for the Hajj. He had the most important thing, yes more important than his visa, extra clothes, ihram… he had on overwhelming urge to perform the Hajj, he had the invitation from Allah to visit his house and perform the Hajj.
Everyone got together and he soon had an ihram, slippers and everything he needed to perform the Hajj, This was the reality of Islam, this person whom none of us had ever seen before was now our brother, our responsibility, our Hajj companion! I sat back and saw the concern that the brothers had for him and the way they rushed together to get some things together. I prayed to Allah in my heart that this spirit of true brotherhood, love and concern should be with us all the time. This example of true brotherly love, no backbiting, no envy or jealousy, no anger, no looking down on anyone – just a need to help this brother! Allahu akbar.
The sound of the Azan filled the Masjid and we were at peace. The excitement mellowed down slightly as I reflected on the journey before us. After Salah we would be taking our first steps like millions before us on this momentous of all journeys. This would be after the Fajr salah…