We reach Makkah, and after prayers and resting one of my mates says he will take me around for the Tawaaf and Sa3ee, and thus this Umrah is over.
As I hear the qirat, I recognise it to be that of Imam Sudais. And later in one prayer, it is Imam Shuraim. Subhanallah, to be led in prayer by these Imams!
Some from my group will now spend 14-18 hours in the Haram. I also try to, but as the pressure of the crowd increases, and the washrooms are crowded, I decide to come back to our hotel when I need to go to the washroom. I am told there are other washrooms that aren't so crowded, but I never found them. Making a round of the Masjid just to find which are relatively easy to get into, is an experiment I do not want to put time and energy into. The number of people increases every day, and if we aren't in long before the times of the prayers, we cannot find a place to enter the Masjid.
Then we discover that people occupy the walkways. The shurtas and the administration have been asking females not to sit in front, but the Iranis and the Turks, and now everyone seems to think they must. Still the adminstration keeps trying, with less effectiveness than earlier.
We discover that if you can cross the rows of those sitting in the walkways, you can find places even in the Mutaaf. However, the disturbance of the mutawifeen is distracting, and we find a shorter alleyway, that lands us directly onto the top floor at Marwah.
Then we take the other street at the fork where we used to go for Babe Fath, and this street takes us to babe Madinah, and Babe Hudaibyah. One can go down the stairs and into the basement, where there is always plenty of space, or one can go up the Babe Hudaybiah onto the First Floor. Eventually I will settle for the latter. The Babe Madinah, and some others are for women only, and clearly marked thus.
Once or twice I had to pray on the streets, and a few more times in the hotel.
The streets are crowded by beggars and sellers of trinkets, etc. That too makes these roads congested, but as soon as they hear the sound of a shurta's motorcycle, they collect their wares and disappear.
We say our prayers at the Haram. We read the Quran. I conserve my energy for Hajj, while the others pile up more and more good deeds by doing as mush as four tawaafs a day. Even the females in our group do three tawaafs a day, but still I am not jealous. I have come so far, and it could easily have been worse.
So I wait for the big event.
Our group leader comes up to tell us that the Qurbani (sacrifice) through the bank will cost a lot more, and the time whaich is stamped on your ticket when you pay for Qurbani isn't when it is done, but much, much later, may even be next day. So, you would never know when to get Halaq (shaving of head for men, cutting of a little hair for women) done. According to their ulema, you must be sure that the animal has been scrificed before you get your hair cut or head shaved.
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and the Salafi ulema say it is not necessary to wait for confirming that your Qurbani has reached its place. I voice a little voice that we should go along with the Salafi ulema. This is such a huge undertaking, and the prophet (Sallallhu alehi wa Sallam) did say to people who had not been able to follow the sequence that it was all right. However, the group leader is adamant, and I decide to stay within the group's decision.
So, they go and look around, and negotiate a deal that cuts out the many intermediaries, and it is decided the animals will be looked after by the sellers, and that after our rami, we will phone them and either come ourselves or instruct them to carry on with the sacrifice.
When questioned about the goats, the group leader says: Oh, they are deer, not goats, and he has asked them to keep a whole "deer" for us after slaughter. My group goes and even negotiates a deal with the restaurant downstairs to cook that deer for us.
Something is wrong, I have this gut feeling, but I keep it to myself. I press my group to make only 50% payment until the day of sacrifice, but they do not agree. They do, however, keep about 1/7th of the money with them.
some deer, as we will discover later. :)
The tent city of Mina
The buses take us to Mina, to our Maktab's tents, where our group leader and his deputies locate our rooms within the tents. The Mutawwif has allotted two rooms for our building, and in one room we have at least 32 people, barely room to lay a 2 ft wide by 6 ft long mat for sleeping. The leader tries to have one room reserved for men and the other for women, but some men are adamant that they will stick with their females as mihram. The same is true of three women who insist on staying with their mihram in our room. That spoils the day for our leader, a stauch Tableeghi.
He complains to the Mutawwif's men, who say: "we have given you two rooms. The internal arrangement is your own affair."
He complains to the Pak Hajj Ministry's rep, who on seeing the adamant attitude of the other Hajjis, retreats.
So, brawn wins.
We have spread out our mats in our rooms, that were available in Madinah for 5 riyals, but that we have mostly bought from Islamabad Madinatul Hujjaj.
Meals are to be provided in our rooms, and we have been issued our meal tickets, but soon the servers run into trouble, as people hijack the food from the way, of course trading in the tickets.
At Mina we rest, read the Quran, and review the steps we have to take next.
Then the question of going into Arafat comes up. It will be eight kilometers at least. and we have already paid for the bus ride and the accomodation there, but buses take forever to reach, and someone tells us they disembark passengers wherever there is a blockage.
We decide to go on foot. It will be a long tiring walk, but it will be worth it.
We have to prepare for a daylong stay at Arafat, and then overnight stay at Muzdalifa. The latter will be evry cold, and my friend has given me a woollen sheet for that particular night. I take along another woollen sheet, an extra pair of ihraam, and extra pair of slippers.
My companions again make fun of the amount of luggage I am taking, but when they face the cold, they praise my foresight.
Onwards to Arafat we go. It is a wonderful walk. The road is wide and paved. First we pass through Muzdalifa. There are valleys and mountains at both Muzdalifa and Arafat. There are many toilets along the way, both for men and women. There are concrete benches on the way. We rest when we are tired. Shurtas give us a smile. They are there to make sure the vendors do not block the road.
We have been instructed to locate the shed under which a road goes on for the ramie jumaraat. On the way back we must avoid the road that takes us to the shed, and instead try to get to the one that is just next to the farthest on the right.
We need to go on foot so that we can see our way in Muzdalifa when we come back for a night's stay in the open, and also so we can avoid that dreaded shed.
Along the road to Muzdalifa many vendors, again mostly black sisters, sell food and some other items. We ask one for tea, and she says 2 riyal each, but we say one, and she agrees. We ask her to clean the mat we will be sitting on, and she does that. It is wonderful how she maintains purdah while serving us, and not saying anything more than is required.
The start and end of each area (Mina, Muzdalifa, Arafat) is marked by signs in different colors. Long before Muzdalifa ends we can see the Masjide Numera. Arafat begins here. Part of this mosque is outside of Arafat, and if we do not enter Arafat before and stay upto sundown, Hajj will not be complete.
As Arafat is about to begin, we notice some people sitting outside of Arafat, and even in Muzdalifa. We edge our way, in and then the road is closed by squatters.
The way in please, we ask, but there is no way in.
We have to get into Arafat; without the wuqoof here the Hajj is not valid. In desperation we elbow our way in, jumping ver other people's mats. They complain, but I stop and tell them they should not have occupied the road. At last we take off our shoes and here and there one person or two can get in. I am offered space by some, but I want to stay with my group. We come to a clearing, which although occupied clearly has more than enough space for us. Here we ask permission to spread out our mats, and do so.
As I look around, I see that we have reached the end of the masjide Nimurah, and we are in what are the prayergrounds of the masjid. Far away at the back in the Jabale Rehmat, but so is the sea of people, and I am not interested in losing this convenient place. Neither is our party. Soon afterwards the khutba begins. This is the hajj khutba.
I forgot to mention that our group had split up before leaving Mina. We were without females, while the others who had to look after their women were separate.
Had we taken the Maktab bus, we would have been in our tents, more comfortable perhaps, but without the benefit of the khutba, and we would have to say our prayers in the tents.
So after the khutba and the prayers of Zuhr and Asr together and Qasr, we rest a while, and then stand up and pray.
You are hungry, and suddenly a trailer opens up and the men start handing out fruit. Another trailer is distributing biscuits and dates from the King's Foundation. At one place someone is handing over biryani. Over in that corner you can have yoghourt, free.
and then there are vendors, too, who sell food, and the necessities for this and the next stage.
Ask whatever you will, and it will be granted.
My greatest worry is the toilets. There so many people. I need to visit one, but the queue is just too long. I pray astaghfaar and then to to Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) to make it easy, and suddenly th pressure is gone.
I am tired, so sleep for a while. An hour after I get up I again feel the urge to go, but the queues have grown at each toile to 25-30 men. Well, I go and join the queue, and the presure is just too much. I say the istaghfaar again, and pray, and once again the pressure is gone. After an hour and a quarter, my turn comes, and I am afraid I won't be able to pass urine, but I am able to.
This would happen at Muzdalifa, too. I will have this strong urge, and seeing there is no chance, I would pray to Allah, saying istaghfaar before that, and the pressure would just disappear.
I take this as another miracle from Allah, and whenever someone is in pain or complains of delay, I tell him my method. He uses it, and he is OK.
Performing the wuddu again, I come back, and we continue our duas.
After sundown we depart for Muzdalifa.
and once again we face the crowd.