I performed Hajj for the first time this year. It will most likely be my only time, although only Allah (swt) knows for sure. This I know: I want to go back. I am also wary, upon coming home, of being absorbed back into my former routines of daily living.
Our group had it really easy (all thanks to Allah, of course). We didn’t have to wait six hours for our bus to take us to Arafat. We had air-conditioned tents at Arafat and were told that it’s totally fine to remain in the tent for most of the time. The bathrooms in Muzdalifah (where we spent the night after leaving Arafat) weren’t the greatest, but I have seen worse. Our walk to the jamaraat (where we threw stones at the three pillars representing the devil) was less than 15 minutes. I am not sure we would have that same level of ease if there is a next time.
Having seen the Kaaba in person and being able to touch it multiple times, life “back home” feels different. I pray on my replica green Rawdah carpet and even put some of the same ittar that is used in the Rawdah to give me a sense of being back in Madinah, in the Prophet’s (saw) mosque. And, though I am taken back to my final memory of being in Masjid al-Nabawwi for a brief time, I know that I have to come back to where I am right now.”
We all have to come back.
Our group guides and scholars warned us ahead of time to not complain, to be patient, to not compare, etc. while on Hajj. And, maybe because of that, too, I felt Hajj was relatively easy for us. Though they also advised us to not go overboard with acts of worship upon our return (good advice, as I know from past experience), that’s just the baseline.
Each year’s Hujjaj (those who have performed the Hajj pilgrimage) will have to tread the difficult path of re-acclimating ourselves to our “old” lives. And, no two Hujjaj’s paths will be the same. Even in our own home, my husband and I had different feelings going into Hajj and we certainly have different goals and ways to better ourselves after.
While I’m still being welcomed back by colleagues and friends, I know that if I don’t keep the spirit alive, I will set into my old routines entirely and it will almost be as if I had not spent those precious 15 days in Makkah and Madinah. My memories will slowly fade, as they eventually do. Right now, I still feel like I am in a liminal state — not physically there, but not really here either.
I am afraid of coming back completely.
Every time I look at a picture of the Kaaba and the Prophet’s (saw) mosque, I feel this sense of yearning and longing I had never felt before. I mean, how could I have? Up until this year, I had no memories of Makkah or Madinah. But now I do. So, Insha’Allah that’s something I can hold onto.
But this whole experience is kind of like prayer in a way. Why do we pray five times a day? Well, the obvious answer is because that’s what God commanded. (Well, the number Prophet Muhammad (saw) was able to negotiate down to with the help of Prophet Musa (AS).) But why not just once a day or once a week like other faith traditions? Having performed Hajj, I think I understand a bit more why. It’s because we need this continual return to God. We should always be in a liminal state when we are in this world.
As the Prophet (saw) is reported to have said: “What do I have to do with this worldly life? I and this worldly life are but like a traveler who stopped for a little while under a tree to get some shade and then moved on.” This is a sentiment I have long appreciated but have never really understood or felt until now.
I know that it will take a lifetime for me to even feel a smidgeon of what the Prophet (saw) was alluding to in this hadith, but I do understand how it can be possible. Come back to God wherever you are. We may not be able to do Hajj or even Umrah again, but we do still have prayer.
One of my top du’as at Arafat was to be able to pray with khushoo (focus). I am not an automatically transformed person, but I do feel that Allah (swt) is giving me little openings and signs each day that will help me in achieving this along with many other du’as I made.
May Allah (swt) assist us all in coming back to Him, whether we just arrived from Hajj this year or years ago. Or even if we never have gone; for Allah (swt) does not live at the Kaaba. He is accessible through our hearts wherever we are. I just needed to go to Makkah and Madinah for that reminder.