Hajj 1435 - Day Thirteen
This trip has been anything but the idyllic spiritual retreat that I thought it would be. Perhaps in that is a retreat of sorts. The most interesting contrast between Makkah and Madinah is the way in which we’ve experienced the hospitality of the two. Madinah by its very nature felt warm and inviting, even though the traders and hotel staff in general were abrasive, dismissive, or unpleasant. I found myself chastising myself several times about criticising the people of Madinah, but took some comfort from the fact that the majority of those that treated us poorly were not the locals of Madinah.
In Makkah, the reverse is true. From hotel staff to traders, we’re welcomed at every turn and served well as guests of Allah. That part feels good. But the warmth of Madinah is missing. Makkah has a very business-like atmosphere. It feels as if we’re here to do a specific transaction, and the moment it is done, we should leave. Unlike Madinah where it felt as if we shouldn’t leave at all if we could help it.
The crowds have grown tremendously over the last few days, even though we were hoping it would subside with many groups already leaving for Azizia. What I used to stare at in awe on TV at home I am now a part of. The experience is breathtaking and intimidating at the same time. There is no other city in the world that suffers from as beautiful an insomnia as Makkah.
We leave for Azizia on Thursday, at which point the final countdown for Hajj will begin. In all honesty, the gripping excitement has yet to hit me. I am still very much taking things in my stride and I’m starting to wonder if my jadedness might not deny me the beauty of this experience after all. The persistent after taste of this trip so far has been one of ambivalence. I find myself admiring the beauty of the constant flow of worshippers performing tawaaf, but being painfully aware of the harsh treatment many have towards each other in their selfish strides to take what they need from the experience. Like the Ummah, from a distance, it appears harmonious and united with a single ethos, and a single focus, but just a slightly closer look and the rifts, the bickering, and the harshness towards each other stings your eyes.
My focus now is to get my sleep routine more sustainable before the days of Hajj. The purpose of this trip, as we were reminded many times by the group leaders, is the five days of Hajj, so exerting yourself excessively before that will only detract from that core purpose. I guess that adds to the ambivalence because on one hand I want to expend myself as much as possible in the time I have in Makkah, but on the other, I know that it will be detrimental to my health and ability to do justice to the days of Hajj during which the conditions of ihram place an additional strain on my city-seasoned body.
One more thought that keeps occurring to me is the absence of the simple sunnah of greeting each other with a cheerful disposition. The Prophet (SAW) used to greet every person he passed in the market place with a smile. I don’t recall the hadith singling out Muslims in that practice either. Yet with almost every Muslim I pass both here in Makkah and at home, rarely do i come across one that greets enthusiastically or cheerfully. Oddly enough, it is those that are perceived to be further from the sunnah in apearance and dress code that tend to practice this beautiful sunnah more than most. This obviously excludes those people that we greet out of familiarity or common acquaintance.