A pillar of Islam and a journey of a lifetime, the Hajj pilgrimage is something that every Muslim must attempt to perform if he or she is physically, financially, mentally, and spiritually capable to do so at least one time in their lives.
Beyond Badr creator, Kelvin Ali tells us about his trip to Hajj and the spiritual experience.
“In 2008, I was blessed to be invited by Allah (SWT) to go to Hajj with my Father and my spouse. I had made a sincere intention to assist my father who was digressing mentally and physically and had he avoided Hajj and Umrah despite him having the ability and means to do so for several decades when he did have better physical, mental, and spiritual capacities. This journey was one of the most personally rewarding experiences and also one of the most difficult experiences of my life as my intention was to take my father on the journey ‘no matter what’. He had badgered me for decades to pray and go to the Mosque and I never took him seriously in my youth. He had always spoken about ‘the need to become closer to God’ and I know that in his heart he wanted to see the Kabbah and pray in the Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) Masjid in Medina. It was not until I noticed that his mental capacity was beginning to deteriorate after open-heart surgery and slow recovery that I really pushed myself to make it happen for him. My father would be back and forth between Canada and Trinidad and he was retired, so there wasn’t an issue of time, it had now become a spiritual matter of the heart with his health now in decline. Our intentions to go were accepted and my father agreed to make the trip after several years of me asking him if he would like to go! I knew that something was not right with his mental state as no real practicing Muslim would turn down the opportunity to go to Hajj or Umrah, especially the first opportunity with no financial burden placed upon them!
Many Muslims dream and save for several years, some Muslims will try to save for their entire life from economically depressed regions to make this trip and so many will face several hardships. A Haji needs to have an amazing ability to muster patience as you are thrust into a strange environment, land, and culture integrating with millions of people from every corner of the planet. For many of the western pilgrims, the initial culture shock can become very stressful and take away from your total focus and the true reason as to why you went on the pilgrimage in the first place! I was grateful that it all worked out during our experience as at the end of every single salat in Mecca and Medina during Hajj, there was a Janazah prayer (funeral prayer), so you are literally dwelling on your mortality with each Salat and this was an incredibly powerful experience to behold as we are constantly reminded of our final destination as a human being! We were tested, like every traveler in many ways which we were not prepared for. On our Hajj experience, our patience was tested as we lost our father on our first day of arrival in Mecca!
My father’s slippers were ‘taken’ as we quickly learned that you do not want to leave a nice pair of slippers at the entrance of Masjid Al-Haram in Saudi Arabia! As we exited from the cold marble floors onto the street, he was barefoot and we had had told him to wait patiently at the central location and landmark outside of the Harem as you really don’t want to be walking barefoot on the streets where several thousand people are walking at the same time for several reasons in scorching 40+ degree heat at any age! While we went to get a new pair of slippers and a meal for us all, my father disappeared and we do not know the ‘full story’ to this day and never will as he has now passed on. As you can probably imagine, not being able to speak Arabic, several million people congested into 1 area, no proper ID, no slippers, or wallet, and wearing only two pieces of cloth, in a state of Ihram, my father went missing. We were terrified when we could not find him as our trip had not even really started! Several of our Hajj group assisted us all night scouring the Masjid Al-Haram and my feet and ankles swelled up walking to each area of the Harem and meeting with Mosque officials to help us in our search. The hospitals, police, and Hajj group leaders were notified and the next morning I received a call that my father had arrived back at our hotel and our Hajj group via a Saudi Police Escort. Relieved and also extremely exhausted, we had to keep going on!
In the following days my father would become lost again and this time we were not so lucky to have the Saudi Police bring him back. I received another call demanding several Saudi Riyals to return my father from a cab driver who said he was with my father who was in pretty much the same state as he was in on day one when he went missing. We all had a fair share of excitement and the wonderful and caring brothers and sisters in our Hajj group paid special attention to make sure someone stayed with my father at all times after these incidents. I heard my father making du’a for myself and my spouse out loud after he made a wudu when he was returned to us and it was a beautiful ‘request’ of God for his son and his daughter-in-law. I will never forget the pride of hearing him ask Allah (swt) to reward myself and my wife for simply helping him to actually see the Holy Kabbah and for taking care of him. As our Hajj progressed my father became physically weaker and he required assistance from us to complete his pilgrimage. As I reflect on this time, which seems so long ago, I can only hope any deeds of goodness were accepted during Hajj and the day of ‘Arafat’. My heart is with all Haji’s present and future as they make their own spiritual connection to Allah (swt) and the sacred land during these 10 blessed days of Dhul-Hijjah as we are all going through these very difficult times as a global community. My father was not a religious man until much later in life than I had become and I know that he often asked God for me to be guided to Islam. He was quite explicit on this matter with me to pray and seek God when I was in my youth as a teenager and into my early 20’s. They were of the most impressionable times in my life and I decided that maybe I should listen to his wisdom and advice as there must have been a good reason for his constant pleading to me. I remember him saying to me before his passing on many years ago when I began to study more intensely with and from Islamic scholars, “Look at how funny life is. All of these years I begged you to go to the mosque and now look, you are teaching me, what a life this is!?”
And what a life we all will have. The Hajj experience for me created the vision for NWES, it was one of the du’as that I asked for on my pilgrimage! Beyond Badr would never have been a reality had I not been invited from Allah (swt) to go on the journey of a lifetime! I made du’a, I worked harder, and I skilled up and educated myself in all disciplines as a leader to make my Hajj du’a a reality. I am eternally grateful for this experience to have happened to me earlier in life and I recommend all youth (under 40) reading this to starting preparing for this vital pillar of Islam to try to plan early in life for this trip if it is at all possible. I can attest that you will probably become a much better human being for the rest of your prescribed time in this world Insh’Allah! Hajj helped me to create a personal benchmark to drive me in life, knowing that anything is possible if you work hard, pray with a sincere intention, and live to be your best self each and every day.”
If one of your goals in life to go to Hajj or Umrah, you can start by making a sincere intention and then start saving anything you can put aside to make that ‘dream happen’. Insh’Allah one day, your invitation will also be accepted to go on your journey of a lifetime! But until then, we encourage you to develop greater patience with others, you will need it and it’s an invaluable skill to have for personal and spiritual growth!
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The Beyond Badr Dev Team!