During my childhood, I remember waiting for my grandparents’ coming back from Hajj. It was such a magical moment. The Zamzam water was being served together with delicious dates and my grandmother was giving us colorful fabrics and pieces of jewelry. When a dear friend of mine explained her hajj pilgrimage story full of symbols, maybe because of these warm memories, I listened to her with a big smile on my face. I was amazed hearing the answers coming from the wisdom of her experience to these questions: what is the purpose of the hajj pilgrimage and why is the hajj so important?
When I meet with my friends I love to tell and listen to those spiritual stories that we have collected on our path. These stories are a result of a journey and experience. They are so symbolic and full of wisdom. I am always amazed by their power of shaking the whole body and changing our lives.
There are many paths as many as breaths, I have heard once. We are here to experience. To walk on our path. From our experiences, we will collect stories full of symbols. From those symbols, we will wear on our body the wisdom. This blog post is the wisdom that Zeina Morad is sharing with us from her hajj pilgrimage experience.
Zeina Morad uses creativity and painting as a means of self-discovery, healing, and meditation. To her, children and Nature are her greatest teachers. She strongly believes in the power of self-expression. When people are given the space to “be”, the magical unfolding of their truest version of themselves is allowed to thrive, which leads to more easeful and harmonious living.
Let’s listen to her story and discover the secrets of the Hajj pilgrimage!
What is hajj pilgrimage and where is hajj located?
“Hajj: the greater Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, which takes place in the last month of the year and which all Muslims are expected to make at least once during their lifetime if they can afford to do so. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.” Definitions from Oxford Languages
This is what Hajj means. This is what Hajj is taught to Muslims. But what is Hajj really? What does it mean, apart from the fifth and last pillar of Islam?
As a practicing Muslim, I felt it was my duty to go to Mecca one day and perform the rituals of Hajj. No matter what people explain or share, will ever come close to the actual physical presence and performance of Hajj.
How to wish hajj pilgrimage and how to prepare for a hajj pilgrimage?
I can’t remember when I started dreaming and obsessing about one-day being face to face with the Kaaba; that holy building which my heart’s compass points to whenever I pray. I heard stories of people’s odes to Mecca, or endearments to Madina.
During Ramadan nights I would pray and pray that one day I would be granted that wish to fulfill my duties, to visit the lands of the Prophet (PBUH). I remember dreaming several times of me being in Mecca and praying with the pouring rain on my shoulders. I had this vision several times, rain during Hajj.
Hajj who can go?
There are many challenges for women to go on pilgrimage. Women under the age of 45 cannot travel unchaperoned alone to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. Women need a male relative to be their “mehrem” or guardian who’d be responsible for them. None of my male relatives felt the urge to go. I felt kind of stuck. Until one day in March 2019, my mother asked me, very randomly, if I would be interested to go on Hajj. I thought she was joking.
She was above a certain age where she did not need a mehrem, I on the other hand was not. But she had heard that there were groups that are considered “suhba aamena” or safeguard company that the government of Saudi Arabia allows these groups to be in charge of these women “under 60”. She applied and got accepted right away. I did not. Also did not feel upset in a way because in my heart I knew that Hajj was an invitation from Allah.
I prepared myself as if I was traveling; borrowed clothes bought headscarves and packed. And, I was accepting my fate, but also, I kept hearing in my head the chants said on your way to Mecca “Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk”, (oh Allah, I am answering your call). A miracle, I got my travel visa one day before traveling. It was beyond comprehension or belief to be amongst over 3 million people coming from all over the world answering the call to Allah.
How does hajj make you feel?
This journey was all miracles. It was quite challenging, and I witnessed so many openings, lessons, and blessings.
One of the most powerful experiences was seeing the Kaaba. Each person is granted what their heart is seeking or is tuned into. Seeing the Kaaba was like seeing a loved one that I had not seen in a long, long time, and also seeing a magnificent queen, so much love and so much reverence at the same time. Like an electron being drawn to its nucleus.
I was so overtaken I cannot remember much from the first Tawaf that I made, I was just following what our sheik guide was telling us to do. The next day, right before the fajr, (dawn) prayer I went to pray and decided to perform Tawaf on my own, to do it for Allah, and hope to receive any insights on why I am doing this apart from obeying and following rules and steps.
I finished the seven rounds and sat in silence on the smooth cold white marble ground facing the golden door of the Kaaba and just observed the waves of people rippling around that black cube.
What happens during the hajj pilgrimage and What does the hajj celebrate?
Reflecting on what I had just been through I began to receive messages as I was being told a story. Moving anticlockwise, we are going back in time. We are but drops of the ocean returning to Him. We are the ripples. I entered the ripples, the orbits the corner of Al Hajar al Aswad, or the black rock on the Eastern side of the Kaaba. “Bism Allah, Allahu Akbar” (in the name of Allah, God is the Greater), felt like birth; pushing against the currents to be able to get into the rotating flow.
Some parts were constricted, and very crowded, and other parts were very spacious and easy. I was suffocating in some parts and leaning on the Kaaba in other parts. Walked alone in some parts and walked with groups of people in other parts.
I helped and supported some people, and I was helped and supported by others. It kept changing. I did not know what to say. As soon as I asked Allah, what should I be praying or saying, I heard prayers from more than 20 different countries, different accents, different languages all praying for Allah. As I entered, I exited from that same corner and pushed against the currents.
I had no sense of time, but it felt like the seven rounds, began, and ended in a blink of an eye.
What does hajj symbolize?
The whole process symbolized life. Like life. We go through hardships, and we squeeze through these moments. We experience ease and grace, feeling light, easy, and inspired. When we keep Allah close to our hearts (which is physically how we are going around the Kaaba, heart-side), and when we keep Allah at the center of our lives, everything flows, everything passes.
Everything in this life, in this world, is moving and changing, but Him. We are always moving, changing. Life passes us just like that. In our lives, we sometimes help others and sometimes are helped by others. We push some, and we are pushed some.
The most important thing is to focus on oneself. It is a personal internal journey. No comparing, to competing just taming the nafs, the soul. We sometimes can have people walk with us on our path, and sometimes we are alone.
Everyone is heading in the same direction and destination, consciously or unconsciously, in different orbits, speeds, and modes. And before we know it, we exit where we came in (the same corner where we start the tawaf from).
Then we pray, facing the door of the Kaaba. Which to me symbolized the entrance into the next world. The wait, for the next phase, the mystery…
How can hajj change a Muslim’s life?
…I just sat there in complete awe. Subhan Allah.
I still receive messages till now when I reflect on my Hajj experience.
I look at my fingertips and I am mesmerized by their ripple patterns. We are ripples and we have reminders in us and all around us.
While writing this, I found out that electrons move in an anticlockwise movement. I researched some more, almost everything rotates anticlockwise! The Earth on its axis, the moon around the earth, the planets around the sun, the Sun in the Milky Way!
I am mind blown that truly everything is in a system, in its orbit making tasbih and glorifying Allah. So many miracles.
What hajj teaches us? What are the elements of the hajj?
One of the most dangerous parts of Hajj is Ramy al-jamarāt, (the throwing of the pebbles) or the Stoning of the Devil. Because of the many accidents that used to happen in that area, they changed it to make it safer. It is in a building that looks like a concrete parking lot.
The pillars are now walls, and they are all the same size. It was too symbolic and too modernized. I could not perceive the deeper meanings of it, but again I was performing it out of duty and obedience. With pebbles in my hand, walking up to the huge walls, I put my hand on my heart and put a strong intention of fully complying with Allah’s will. Also asking, to please reveal some of the deeper meaning of this act.
Apart from the historic story about the prophet Abraham pelting the Devil on three different mounds using seven pebbles on each mound. And the pillars (the small, the middle, and the big, or the first, the second, and the third) symbolize the devil’s temptations to each of Abraham, Hajar, and Ismail.
After throwing the pebbles, I received the answers.
Seven, the number that has come up so many times in this journey. Seven heavens, seven musical notes in a scale, seven colors of the spectrum… all seven different vibrations. Like the seven chakras, these pebbles, and throws; clearing the temptations and the ego out of each of them. And the repetition of the seven, on three different walls, symbolized the spiritual self, the emotional self, and the physical self. Obeying Allah and pelting Sheitan, clearing with Light and defeating the nafs/ego.
May each Muslim, once in their life, get to answer the call to the challenge, the journey, and the blessings of Hajj. Oh, and the last miracle, it did rain when I was there.
What an incredible story. It is a treasure full of diamonds. All those symbols are coming from inside. Rituals are letting us go deeper in those labyrinths and meet with pure wisdom. Hajj pilgrimage gave her all those answers that she was seeking and continues to reveal the magic.
I thank Zeina to share this amazing story with us. I hope this story will inspire you in your own journey of pilgrimages, to wherever you are leading to!
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so, you can pin it to your Pilgrimage Board!