I had the pleasure during my first Hajj experience to have a scholar accompany our Hajj group and give us tidbits that were so on the spot, so perfect for Hajj. During our travel from Medina to Makkah, our sheikh told us something that stuck in my mind,
‘Don’t busy yourselves during tawaf staring at everything. Don’t stare at the Ka’ba, don’t stare at the skies around. But do stare at the people. Their faces will tell you stories….”.
And while he said this, a couple of the more experienced hujjaj around him shook their heads in agreement, with these deep, untold stories on their faces. And I wanted in on this. I wanted to see these stories in the faces of the hujjaj around me, making tawaf around the holiest of places.
And so I stared. I didn’t need too much prodding to do it; from the first minute I arrived in the Holy Lands, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the people. I was overwhelmed by the crowds around me, the people around me, the faces around me. I couldn’t stop staring. Those first couple of days, I just couldn’t keep my eyes in my Qur’an. I know that’s not the best thing, but there is wisdom in Allah’s creation, perfection in His creation, and it made me appreciate Him and His creation that much more.
And then I arrived in Makkah, and the stories that people’s faces told shook my heart, brought the tears to my eyes. Stories of struggle, love, dedication. Stories of pure servitude to Allah. Stories of His blessings on me. Stories of determination, sincerity. Stories of pure happiness and strength that came out of unknown sources.
There was that one young woman, a Southeast Asian, pushing a wheel chair with what I assumed was her husband and young toddler. It was hot, she was sweating and unshaded on the third floor of the Haram, and yet she was pushing her young husband and toddler, both bent over in deep sleep. I didn’t know their story. I didn’t know if she came to His House, asking Him to cure her seemingly healthy husband from some deadly disease. Pushing, praying, struggling to keep up her rites. May Allah reward her.
And then, the story of the old, African man, in ihram, struggling to make tawaf on the third floor of the Haram, through crowds that had already sat down in readiness for the upcoming prayer. He kept on stumbling over out-stretched legs and folded laps, trying to finish his tawaf. And then he stumbled and a man ran up to him and screamed ‘This is a mosque!’ and pulled off his slippers… I couldn’t stop the tears. I could stop the wrenching feeling that was overwhelming my heart. I couldn’t help wondering how far this man had traveled, from which village or city. I couldn’t help crying for him, perhaps leaving his family, his village behind for the first time. Seeing such crowds for the first time. Struggling to perform the Hajj in the most perfect way, all while perhaps being illiterate, or at least not having access to readily available sources on how to perform the Hajj…. How lucky I am, alhamdulillah. And for this, I must be forever a thankful servant.
And then, I was making sa’ee between the Mountain of Safa and Marwa during my tawaf il ifadah, the rite after which I would be considered a ‘hajji‘, and could take off my state of ihram. I was walking, pretty tired out from a long walk to Makkah from Mina, from my tawaf and now my sa’ee. I was loving my physical state of ibadah. Appreciating the lessons of sa’ee, the state of remembering Him while I was exhausted to my bones, the state of appreciating Him while walking back and forth. And I approached the green lights, the distance within which it was recommended for men to run.
That’s when I saw him. The man who served to move my heart to the core, to squeeze my heart and tears out. I saw an old, old man in ihram. Unable to walk without a walking stick. Unable to stand straight. And yet, he was running across that distance. Running, with a back bent at a 60 degree angle. Running with a walking stick held high in the air. And I couldn’t help the tears. What love, what dedication, what sincerity to Allah SWT would move that man to run with his walking stick held high, with his back bent low?!
A couple of days later, in our farewell tawaf around the Ka’bah, I could almost swear I saw the same man again. But what is the possibility of that?! What is the possibility, that from three million hujjaj, coming from all over the world, from camps spread wide and forth around Mina, I would see that same man again?! We were bidding our farewell to the Ka’bah, with our final tawaf, on the third floor of the Haram, making thikr, remembering Him and asking Him. And I saw a man in front of me, doggedly making his tawaf on the third floor, the longest distance of tawaf. Determined, he was walking around with no wheel chair, on his own, with his long white beard flowing down, and his back bent at a 60 degree angle. And there was that walking stick, held high up off the floor, in determination to make that tawaf on his own, with no help from anyone or any thing. Walking, walking, walking for His sake. Praying for His strength, power, love and acceptance. Ya Allah, accept Him. He was walking in the crowds, but no one knew him. And yet, he did it lovingly for Your sake, for Your acceptance. O Allah, accept from all of us.
Fatima lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two daughters. She is currently a full-time mother and part-time youth worker with MAS Youth.