Seeing the Kaaba for the first time
Each year, over a million pilgrims separate themselves from the material world, throw on a white garb or ihram and blend into a sea of human beings, regardless of race, skin-tone or social status. It is not just an assertion of piety, but a spiritual experience that requires you to dig deep into the essence of your humanity.
Performing Hajj is the fifth pillar in Islam which every abled person should perform once in their lifetime. The Hajj takes place every year between the 8th and the 12th of Dhu al-Hijja, the final month of the Islamic calendar. This year, Hajj will begin on Wednesday evening on the 30th August 2017 until Monday evening (4th September 2017).
We are very fortunate to perform the Hajj with friends from Hong Kong via Hajj Foundation. Hajj registration in Hong Kong does not come with a long waiting list, as opposed to Indonesia. Over there, a Muslim may have to wait, on average, 15-20 years to go to Hajj due to the quota limitation from Saudi Arabia. After one makes the decision to perform Hajj, they should begin preparing for it as soon as possible because it requires complete spiritual, mental and physical dedication. Most importantly, one must train themselves to be patience in all situations.
“May Allah SWT make our Hajj trip easy for us,” I prayed.
We started our journey by praying at the Indonesia Consulate in Hong Kong with our groups and sponsors. The bus took us to the Hong Kong International Airport on a Tuesday morning (22 Aug 2017) and we headed towards Jeddah, Saudi Arabia via Abu Dhabi, UAE.
I remembered on the day we arrived at the airport in Hong Kong, there was a thunderstorm and it was pouring heavily. We also received the news that the T8 (typhoon 8) warning signal will be hoisted in Hong Kong that night. As soon as all our baggage were checked in, we boarded on the Etihad flight that was scheduled to depart on 18:55. The pilot made an announcement that the flight was delayed due to weather conditions and that they were waiting for the clearance from the control tower.
We knew that this delay was due to the T10+ warning signal and we prayed to Allah to make our trip easy. Finally, after more than an hour on the plane, we took off into the stormy night of Hong Kong. After cruising through the skies for a couple hours, our airplane monitor displayed that the flight changed its course and flew above Myanmar rather than China. Alhamdullilah, Allah saved us from the possibility of a disaster happening.
We landed in Abu Dhabi early in the morning after an 8-hour flight and waited for almost 12 hours for the next flight to Jeddah. “Be patient”, our leader said, “this is when our patience will be tested”. We wore the ihram as part of the ritual to enter Mecca for our first Umrah. Once we disembarked the plane at Jeddah, we could see plenty of Muslims from all corners of the world standing at the immigration line. Immigration clearance took 5-6 hours.
“Be patient,” I reminded myself again.
The bus picked us up 3-4 hours later (yes, after immigration clearance), and took us to Mecca. We arrived at around 2 in morning and checked in to our hotel, which was situated 800 meters from the Masjid al-Haram’s al-Marwah Gate. Our excitement could not be contained; we performed our Umrah that same morning.
It was my first time walking on the grounds of Masjid al-Haram. To see the Kaaba and to be at there in person… there’s only one word to describe that feeling: alhamdullilah, I am here.
So… what was it like to perform Hajj? It was a spiritual journey that made me feel overwhelmed with emotions, all the while testing and nurturing our patience. Everything, whether good or bad, that happened was because Allah SWT allowed it to happen.
After the Hajj, we visited Medina to see the Prophet’s (PBUH)’s mosque, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi. We spent 3 days there before heading to Jeddah, where we flew to Hong Kong, via Abu Dhabi. We ask Allah SWT to grant us the reward of Hajj Mabrur and pray that He would give us another opportunity to return to the holy cities, Mecca and Medina. InshaAllah.
Check out the photos I took!
Written by: Irwan Ibrahim
Featured image: Photo by Trevor Cole on Unsplash