I knew if I had given it anymore thought, I would have changed my mind. I didn’t even know what I was going to miss if I gave it away. But I knew I had to do it. And, I knew it was the right thing to do, even if it wasn’t the right thing for me.
I told my friend Asma, “Just take my phone.” Before she could even protest, I grabbed her phone popped out both of our sim cards, and swapped phones. She lucked out that my phone was fully charged. I, on the other hand got a phone that was half full. (Get it?) My hope was to relieve some of her anxiety of the trip; she was leaving her kids behind for the longest stretch since they were born.
To be ripped out of everyday life to embark on a journey that will be, God willing, life changing — its profound. One pretty much does whatever they need to do when they get a chance to embark on their Hajj pilgrimage.
Asma’s ordeal started days before, trying to figure out where she could get an unlocked phone. I got a couple of tearful phone calls from her, and I told her that I would come by the night before they left and help her sort out things out. I did, but her phone still wasn’t working, which is how my phone ended up going to Hajj before I did.
So, I traded phones with her, and we said heartfelt goodbyes. I gave Asma a long awkward hug, with some pats on the back to distract from my emotions. I gave Amro, her husband, a fist bump and sent them on their way.
As I walked back to the car, the remorse started to set in. I thought of all the private conversations that I had with people over text message that I didn’t delete.
I think I texted her and asked her not to judge me. I also had lots of pictures of myself on there. I’ve been tracking my progress since I had weight loss surgery in mid-July. I pushed all those thoughts out of my mind and headed home. I popped my sim in an android phone that I use for work and, with a deep sigh, started my pilgrimage away from my phone.
And, I felt like a pilgrim, the kind who took the Mayflower to America. It was as if I just got off a boat in a strange new land where I did not understand the world around me because there wasn’t a snapchat filter to skew my world.
My phone is integral to my life. I have all my day-to-day apps on there. My credit card, Starbucks card, car and health insurance cards and more. I was seriously disoriented. There was a drive that I had to take without a phone because her phone isn’t unlocked, and I couldn’t put a Verizon sim card in an AT&T phone.
How did people do that?
Of course, I managed in the olden golden days. I remember when a GPS cost a small fortune and only provided (bad) navigation.
I also have been a loyal iPhone user for many years. Albeit late to the game, I started with a 3GS and never looked back. So, being on my damndroid (what I lovingly call it) was a pain. The paths my brain forged as to where apps were located on my phone were deeply carved, and the fried synapses didn’t even know what to do with this new phone.
I hit the airwaves with a desperate plea for a spare iPhone, not caring if it wasn’t an S-sized one. One friend replied that she had one, but wouldn’t be back in town until Sunday. I breathed a giant sigh of relief. Two days and I’ll be back to my comfort zone. Two weeks, and I’ll be reunited with my beloved.
I also lost access to all my audio: Podcasts, audiobooks, my playlists and music. I had to listen to terrestrial radio!! And Android doesn’t play YouTube in the background. What the fatwa is that?
It felt tragic, and I’m writing this on the eve of the day of Arafat, where pilgrims (the Muslim ones) stand on the mountain with the same name, and pray for safety and security from hellfire. They also make prayers on all our behalf (via Google sheets, because you know, modern times). It is said that after Arafat, a pilgrim (hajji) emerges as sinless as the day they were born.
In all honesty, it wasn’t that tragic. It was good for me to disconnect from my third arm. I sometimes pick up and unlock my phone for no apparent reason. Just like the pilgrims shed their suits and scrubs for two white cloths that are meant to represent the funeral shroud, I shed my dependence on my device and hoped that God would get me through it.
The time on mount Arafat is like a dry run of the Day of Judgement. But, instead of either condemnation to hell or being rewarded with forever heaven, people are given a second chance to make their life right or improve on whatever was working.
It’s not dissimilar to the totality of the recent solar eclipse.
I only got to see 87 percent coverage of the sun, but it still had a profound effect on me. Hearing accounts of those who were cloaked in darkness spoke of feeling like the world was ending. And then in an instant, the sun shone brightly from the tiny sliver and the world was once again back to normal.
To witness a natural phenomenon that’s seemingly so unnatural must have really impacted those who reflected on it. And again, it was like being given a second chance to make right what’s wrong in the world.
I also feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life. Between my weight-loss surgery and being able forge a new relationship with my phone, maybe I am ready make the leap and finally go for my Hajj.
It is said that the prayer of a pilgrim is accepted until they reach their home. So, you know I’ll be waiting for my phone, err I mean Asma, at the airport. And, maybe I’ll text out my prayers from a Hajjah iPhone.
Eman H. Aly works in digital communications and academic research. In her spare time she works in issues surrounding Muslim-Jewish relations in Chicago. Her digital home is at Eman.Land. She writes her Altmuslim column, Emansplaining, every third week of the month.