“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.” -Abraham Joshua Heschel
I was asked once by a person as to why I chose to perform my pilgrimage at an early age. Well, I was not exactly young but I was in my thirties and it has been the trend in Malaysia, that only the elderly people who goes for hajj.
Honestly, a couple years ago, the thought of going for pilgrimage did not enter my mind at all. There is no age requirement or restriction when it comes to hajj. The pre-conditions of hajj are;-
3) Have reached puberty
4) Financially & economically able
So lets see…condition No. 1, I’m a Muslim, well, technically, that’s what it states on my identification card but spiritually, I’m still trying and not quite there yet. No. 2, I am sane, well most of the time except the occasional ‘mental’ moments. No. 3, ooooh yeah.. I have and I have 4 children to prove it! No. 4, now that’s the tricky part.
In Malaysia, there are basically 3 ways to go for hajj. One is through invitation from the Saudi Government, two, through a body called Tabung Haji and third, through private packages. The first option is almost impossible to get unless you are an important person to the Saudi government which I am not so that left me with the second and third option.
Technically, I have fulfilled the fourth condition. Going with Tabung Haji is somewhat of a budget travelling. Tabung Haji is a governmental body that organises pilgrims from Malaysia every year. Their package is called “muasasa” where they provide you with the basic things that you need but anything extra, you are on your own. If I choose this package, I will be separated from my husband and will have to share the room with 5 other ladies who are strangers to me. Plus, there is a waiting period for this package.
The private package on the other hand, is run by private companies. Their hotels are (though not necessarily) nearer to the Masjidil Haram. You have the luxury to choose to share the room with your husband and 2 or 3 or 4 others ladies. The food is supposedly better than ‘muasasa’. So what’s the catch? The price of the package of course! The cheapest private package is double the price of the ‘muasasa’ package.
Ok so far as the pre-conditions are concerned, lets just say I more than qualify. So what is my excuse for not going? I am a major procrastinator when it comes to anything to do with religion. As wrong as it is, I do drag my feet when it comes performing my duties as a Muslims. I felt that I was not ready, spiritually to perform hajj. I mean I survived umra couple years ago and lightning did not strike me when I was standing in front of the Kaaba but years have passed and my sins have more than quadruple since!
This is hajj we are talking about. The ultimate spiritual journey for all Muslims. This is the journey of a lifetime!. I had this overwhelming fear that my hajj will be rejected due to my sins. There were doubts swirling in my head. What if I was tested there, will I be able to go through it? What if God decides to punish me for my sins, am I strong enough?
When I confronted the Wise Owl, he said told me, “sister, those are whispering of Satan. Deep down inside, you have already decided that you want to go but Satan is now creating doubts in your mind, to discourage you from going. You must have faith that God will not forsake you. He will not punish you for answering his Call. Have no fear and go with a clear heart and mind ”
SubhanAllah! The Wise Owl was right .When I came across this verse, I was resolved.
" ...pligrimage thereto is a duty men owe to God, -those who can afford the journey...."
Once I have fulfilled all the pre-conditions, then it become incumbent upon me to perform my hajj whether I was spiritually ready or not. The questions is, when will I ever be ready? 10 or 20 years time or it could be that I will never be spiritually ready. One thing for sure, I know that I do not want to die in a state procrastination.
“Whosoever possesses provisions and conveyance for the journey to the House of God, but in spite of this, does not perform Hajj, then his dying is like the dying of a Jew or a Christian (Tirmidhi).
That Hadith haunted me day and night. I needed to get my act together. I want to die as a Muslim and that’s that!
My other issue was the tents. I am quite the 'diva'. I don’t do outdoors and I definitely do not do tents. When my kids wanted to go camping, I pitched the tent in their room and told them to pretend it’s the outdoor! Being in Arafah and Mina means,spending a couple of nights and days in tents. Oooooooo tough. Even when I was reading about it, my diva-ness was screaming in protest.
Then my hubby told me, that, part of the spirit of hajj is, sacrifice. We need to sacrifice our comfort for the sake Allah SWT. He also said that if our intention is clear and pure, then the discomfort will not bother us.
So I gathered up my courage and went on my way. Oh, my husband and I decided to choose the ‘muasasa’ way. We felt that forgoing comfort will be a small price to pay.
The whole journey was magical. Words cannot accurately describe the experience. I learnt that it is actually better to perform hajj when we are young because our bodies are stronger. If we get sick, which more often than not, we will, we can recover faster and perform our prayers in the Masjid. Some of the elderly people who fell sick, couldn’t recover fast enough and they spent most of their time in the room instead of the Masjid. I just felt it was such a shame to come all the way and spend time in the room instead of in the Masjid. I didn’t know if I will ever get the opportunity to visit Kabaah again so I was determined to make the most of it. Plus, you would want to be healthy when you are in Arafah and Mina. Being ill whilst trying to perform the rituals of hajj is no fun. If we are healthy then we are able to concentrate better on our rituals.
To cut the story short, I survived! I came back in one piece and a much happier and calmer person. It is true that if we set our intentions clearly and pure, then Allah SWT will make everything easier for us.
Now, I do not feel guilty for going holidays abroad because I have fulfilled the last pillars of Islam. I have set my priorities right for once and spent my wealth that was given to me by God Al Mighty, to serve Him first. Just to recap, the pillars of Islam are:-
1) the shahada (Islamic creed)
2) daily prayers (salah)
3) almsgiving (zakāt)
5) the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime
I still don’t know if my hajj was accepted Allah SWT but the Wise Owl told me, “sister, once you have perform your hajj to the best of your abilities and in sincerity, then you just leave the rest to God. Allah SWT is most merciful and insyaAllah, He will forgive all of your sins and accept your hajj.”
I have often heard people talking about the ‘Call’. To me, the ‘Call’ is when you realise truthfully that you have fulfilled all the pre-conditions of hajj and hasten to perform it without delay. Do not wait for any special sign as you may not get it. Do not wait for any ‘invitation’ as may not get any. Ask yourself, have I fulfilled the pre-conditons? (Don’t cheat cos God will know!) and if your answer is ‘yes’ then, you should be running towards Kabaa. If your answer is ‘no’ then perhaps you should try to set your priorities right and work towards changing the answer to ‘yes’. If this whiny diva can survive, I am sure it will be much easier for all of you…..