One year ago today….
It is the Day of Arafat! All the women of our tent woke up around 3:00 A.M. and have since been busily preparing by changing, taking showers, packing separately what to take with them. Now some are making Dhikr, reading Dua books or Qurans, sitting on their little folding mattress beds in the tent. Most of the women are wearing white or at least white scarves. All of the Hujaaj will have to move to Arafat today, inshaAllah by noon, if not then by Maghrib, if not then they must by the Fajr of the next day. The trip in normal traffic takes 15 minutes but can take up to 15 hours! (My advice to the Saudis is that they should make some express lanes for buses.)
Labayk allahmumma labayk! We are going to Arafat to acknowledge our sins, our imperfections, to beg Allah for forgiveness and to cleanse ourselves. It is a Day of Repentance and Forgiveness. It is the day Shaitan hates the most because Allah frees the most people from Hellfire on this day. All over the world except in Arafat Muslims will be fasting in remembrance of the special-ness of this day. I am so thankful to be among the ones to stand in Arafat in supplication. Last year helicopters even flew some sick people over Arafat who were lying prone in the helicopters in the hopes of gaining some Shifaa from this day and place.
First light – …Crowds and crowds of people are moving. They are on top of jeeps, Maruti vans, even on the back of pickup trucks. They are walking, thousands and thousands. Group leaders hold up umbrellas with dangling ribbons or flags or wear bright colored patches or shirts. A few motorcycles whiz by. Parents grip their children’s hands. I saw a mother carrying her little baby as she walked at dawn. Some pull along carryons. Some carry blankets in clear plastic bags. One man carries a Tasbih in one hand and a folded prayer mat in the other. He walks in long paced strides. It is perhaps 3 miles. Now they are allowing buses on the other side of the road to go the other direction. All traffic is flowing out of Mina towards Arafat. The sky still holds a delicate pink eggshell color.
Here a mother pushes a wheelchair with an elderly woman and two of her little children sit on the grandmother’s lap. Faces … Turkish, Indian, Afghani, white, brown, black, beards no beards, black Hijab white Hijab. A little baby with a snow cap peeks up from his father’s shoulder. “We are coming Allah! we are coming!” There, a little girl of 6 in a bright pink jacket and pony tails. An old African man with a noble face wears wooden brown beads around his neck. An Arab man with spectacles carries a folded up Oriental rug. Some Sudani women carry their blankets on their heads. We pass the Indonesian camps on our left and the Pakistani flag flies on our right.
11AM … Alhamdulillah we are in Arafat. We were here by 9:30AM which is a miracle according to those who have made Hajj before. I am outside our tent which is full of women lounging, resting or making Dhikr. On the street numerous people and groups are going back and forth trying to find their camp or a place to stay. Helicopters constantly fly overhead. A while ago some people broke part of our camp gate made of aluminum siding and tons of people started pouring in here like mad. They were so elated at breaking in! The guards hurried to fix the wall.
I see all these mothers carrying their young babies and walking in the hot sun. I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know how those men stay sitting on top of moving vehicles without falling off. A group goes by with the leader holding up a long stick with a can of soda and a plastic bottle attached to it.
This tent is surrounded by sand. I wonder how this plain was at the time of the prophet (s). I heard there were no trees here even 20 years ago. Now there are trees all through this desert. A sign of the Day of Judgment. There is a Hadith about how Bedouins will grow trees in the desert at the last hour. We are so many Muslims here … so many, but look at our position in the world. Why are we the poorest, most backward, illiterate, lacking good manners and politeness? It almost hurt to be in Madinah and know what was going on around the prophet saw.
6:00PM … Arafat is over. Alhamdulillah. It was so amazing and so cleansing. People rested in their tents until Zuhr and then we all went into one big tent separated into women’s and men’s. There someone hung up a makeshift loudspeaker that was going in and out. Luckily the speaker was nearby and we could hear him. He talked about how important it was for us to repent and acknowledge all our sins to Allah. The sins we’ve made with our eyes, our hands, our private parts, etc. A knowledgeable sister in our group also gave us a pep talk. I was almost nervous with anticipation for Zuhr to start.
As soon as we said salaam I jumped up and headed for my spot. The place where our tents were situated was pretty barren but a few of us ended up on the other side of the tent next to the road, which was under some shade and relatively private. There we made our Duas. All the while people were going to and fro. As soon as it became close to Maghrib, like around 4:30 there was a huge rush as people packed up their stuff back into their vehicles and buses and started moving off. I wanted to say “Wait! It’s not Maghrib yet!” We too had to head towards the buses before the sound of Athaan. Dad said “That’s it! Hajj is over!” and I said “What! There’s still so much to go … the stoning, the Tawafs” …May Allah make it easy for us to fulfill them.
On the way back to our buses we found a woman sitting in a chair crying surrounded by people. Apparently she had lost her group and in fact didn’t know what group was hers. I could commiserate remembering the feelings of total panic at the beginning of the trip.