Sunday, March 2, 2008

And I begged to follow a Janazah in Makkah

Prior to going for Hajj, I had looked forward to being able to participate in a Janazah while in Hajj, and I was not to be disappointed.

But when it happened, it came in the form of a test, and caught me unawares.

Right from the first salah I said in the Haram at Makkah, after Salatul Dhur ,we had risen up to say Janazah for some muslims who had died that morning, and that sound of “Salatul Mawt, athabakumullaah" was to be come a refrain after almost every salah both in Makkah and Madinah.

At times it would be children, and the Imam would say Salatul Mawt 'alal tifl (the prayer for a dead child), and at times, it would be over five people all at the same time. This was not surprising in a crowd of over two million people of varying ages, different health ailments, and the additional rigors of the Hajj season, and also for a lot of people, it was an answer to their prayer to die in the blessed land, prayed upon by over two million muslims.

In the Sahih Hadith, we learn that he who participates in the janazah prayer receives one qirat of reward, while he who goes on further to follow the janazah to the cemetery, and waits until the corpse is buried, will receive two qirats of reward. So as much as I was able to participate in the janazah prayers daily at the Haram, I was looking forward to being able to follow the janazah to the burial ground , but try as I did , it proved difficult.

On one of the days prior to Hajj, I was in the market just by the eastern gate of the Haram, when I noticed a corpse being taken from an ambulance towards the Haram for Janazah. I joined the people carrying the bier ,and we wove our way through the crowds. Need I say, it wasn’t an easy task, as it was just few minutes to salah, and the whole Haram was fully packed.

Just imagine six people carrying a bier trying to make their way through the tightly packed crowd above from the market all the way to the front rows closest to the Ka'bah..

Stepping on people (May Allah forgive us, and shouting Tariq, Tariq, Tariq (path, make way), we slowly made our way through the crowd. In the midst of all this , Salatul Isha' started. Now imagine, how do you keep moving with a corpse in the midst of people praying salah around the Haram? Well, we did! As people made ruku', and then sujud, we kept moving and sweating ,until we got towards the front row nearest the ka'bah, and then were directed to a spot to lay down the corpse so the Imam could lead the salah janazah afterwards .
By this time, the Isha salah was almost over, and by the time I finished my salah, and joined the janazah, people were already moving out of the Masjid,and run as I did after the janazah was over, on getting out of the Masjid, I could not locate in what direction the corpse had been taken to.

This occurred several times. I would run after the bier after janazah, trying to get past a million people leaving through the over hundred doors, and I would get outside the haram, and the bier would be no where to be found.

On the day when I was to be tested, it was the night of the 12th of Dhul Hijjah, and I had left Mina at around 2am on the Almanasik bus to come and perform my Tawaful Ifaadah (the Tawaaf of Hajj), which is one of the pillars of hajj, and which I had postponed from the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, as I was not feeling very well on that day coupled with the fact that the Haram was overcrowded on that day with several pilgrims trying to do that Tawaful-Ifaadah too.
So on this day, tired after having walked all the way from our tents at one end of Mina to the Jamaal at another end (about 45 minutes walk each-way), I had arrived at the Haram at 2am, and proceeded on my Tawaaf which took over over one hour ,of moving at the slowest pace possible ,on one of the busiest tawaf days (more details of my Tawaaful Ifaadah will be posted later InshaAllah) .

Over an hour later, I also managed to complete my Saee (almost 2 hours too)resting at intervals ,and by this time, I was ready to drop asleep. Fatigued, weary, and tired, it was 5:15 am , just 15 minutes to Salatul Fajr. All I could think of was, “ I would pray Salah, and then drop to sleep immediately. Later, I would find my way back to Mina”.

So we prayed Fajr, and I made it through. As I was about to lie down, I heard the usual announcement; Salatul 'alal amwaat….athabakumullah . Greedy for some reward despite being tired, I managed to stand up for the Janazah prayer. We finished ,and I made to lie down again. It was at that moment that the bier of one of the servants of Allah who we had just prayed upon passed just next to where I was lying down.

This was what I had earnestly prayed for….but I was tired, feet swollen, sleepy! Should I lie down and sleep? Should I get up and follow the janazah? Just as I decided to lie down and sleep, the though came across my mind that Allah could be testing how much I wanted the reward of following the Janazah.

At that instant, I became re-energized, and I did not even know where I got the energy to stand up , grabbed my shoes ,and raced after the bier, which was by this time outside the Haram and moving far in the distance. I soon joined the carriers, and we proceeded outside the Haram, going towards Ajyad hotel. As we went along, some carriers joined, and some left, but I remained.

After some time, we got to an ambulance, and the corpse was placed inside the ambulance. Members of the family got into the ambulance along with the corpse, and as I made to enter too, the brother who appeared to be the spokesman of the family denied me entry. He spoke rapidly to the other members of the family in Arabic (I assumed he was asking them if anyone knew me),and they all shook their heads ,and so he told me Laa (no). I begged ,and begged, yet he refused, and seemed surprised at my persistence. Just as I was about to turn back, I saw him leave the back of the ambulance to whisper something to the driver in front. I used this opportunity and pleaded with another brother in the ambulance, who surprisingly told me to hop in. I did not need a second invitation as I quickly hopped in, and bent down in a corner, lest the first brother see me. In no time, the brother was back, the doors were closed, and the ambulance moved out from the Haram towards the cemetery.

As we were moving slowly in traffic, the ‘leader’ of the family looked up, and suddenly he saw me, and subhanallah, despite the pervasive sadness of their loss, he suddenly burst into a very bright smile, apparently at my insistence and persistence even without knowing the deceased..

After some time , we finally arrived at Jannatul Mua’lla , the main cemetery of Makkah,. This is where Ummul Mu’mineen Khadijah and many of the Prophet’s companions and children are buried. Sayyidah Khadija’s grave is in a corner, the remotest corner. The grave is enclosed by walls and is not clearly visible from the road. The cemetery, with its immense significance to Muslims, has retained its simplicity. None would know at first glance that it holds some of the people closest and dearest to the Messenger of Allah, prayers and peace be upon him.

We brought the corpse down and said Salatul Janazah again on the corpse. We then proceeded to one of the numbered graves, and carefully placed the corpse in it, and solemnly made dua. There were other families also waiting to bury their dead. (I shall provide more details on the graves later on, while comparing Mua’lla with Baqee).

After the janazah, the male family members of the deceased lined up to receive condolences, and I extended my own condolence, praying for the deceased, and asking Allah to bless me with the double rewards of following the janazah, and the privilege to say salaam upon Sayyidah Khadijah and other muslims in the Mua’llah cemetery.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Hajj as if you were there (II)

My cousin who was also in Hajj put together some of the pictures he took during the Hajj ,and appended some descriptions to them.

Please click on the link below

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Getting rewarded with Mt Uhud in the city of Uhud

"Whoever follows a funeral procession and offers the prayer for the deceased, will get one qirat of reward. And whoever follows it and remains with it until the body is buried, will get two qirats of reward, the least of which is equal in weight to 'Mount Uhud' or he said 'one of them is like Uhud.' -Sahih Hadith

I attended a double-janazah in Houston today ,and the brother had lost both his father and grandmother within a couple of days. It reminded me of our mortality as all Janazahs are meant to do (even for hard-hearded souls like myself), but it also reminded me that the last Janazah I had attended prior to today was at the AlBaqiee cemetry in Madinah, and it brought tears to my eyes.

I remembered standing amongst the graves of the companions and the pious predecessors and making salams to them, and looking forward to a reunion in Jannah inshaallah.

In short it re-energized me to continue my blog on the Hajj experience,but this time I will jump ahead to talk on the unique experiences of praying Janazah in Makkah and Madinah and following the janazah to the Janat-ul-Mala cemetry in Makkah where our mother Khadijah was buried, and to the Baqiie cemetry in Madinah where lies Mount Uhud,which the Prophet used in his description of the reward for whoseover follows a Janazah.

Join me later today as I begin the narration again InshaAllah, and jazakallah khayran for all your emails and comments.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Are you too busy to worship Allah?

If you ever feel too big or too busy to worship Allah, then take a look at this picture.

You need Allah and Allah needs you NOT!

There are millions of other people who will worship Him if you refuse to.

Men and women, old and young, weak and strong, all calling upon Allah in different tongues!

Here we come, Allah, here we come!
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The First House Built for Allah's Worship on Earth

Can anyone adequately put into words the thrill that goes through your body as you behold the Kaabah?

The corner to the left of the door is the Hajar Aswad corner. The corner to the left of the of the Hajar Aswad corner is the Rukn Yemeni (Yemeni corner). If you are from Yemen and ever get lost in Hajj, just start from the Yemen corner and move on, you may get to Yemen one day!

The semi-circle to the right is the Hijr Ismaeel, and part of it was originally part of the Kaabah, so salah in that portion is like praying in the Kaabah, according to UmmulMumineen, Aaishah(Ra)
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I kissed the Black Stone

What is that act of eebadah, that when you are doing it, no one else in the world can do it until you have finished!

Its kissing the Hajar Aswad!

Note that we kiss the Stone because the Prophet did so,and not because it has any special powers.

The silver casing is not the Black Stone!

There are 8 pieces left of the original stone from Jannah,and they are arranged inside the silver casing.

Yes I kissed it. How? That is a story for another day!
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Drive through Tawaf?

If you ever thought you were special, Tawaf would destroy your illusions.
There are no fast lanes for American citizens, no drive-through lanes for people from red or blue states.
You have to struggle to do Tawaaf just like that poor guy from all those countries that Americans cant locate on the map( isn't that almost all countries?)
Now imagine getting to kiss the Black Stone amongst the millions of people here! I did and so did Sh. Muhammad alShareef!
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Early to Salah or Pray outside the Masjid!

Outside the Masjid Haram
If you are lucky enough to get to the Haram 1 hour before the salah, then maybe you might get a space here!

Amazingly, some pilgrims live here throughout the Hajj season, they dont bother about all the quad-rooms,hajj packages,etc.

May Allah accept our eebadah and theirs. Ameen
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See Makkah and live!

Seeing is believing. So while awaiting my next posts , I am going to serve you an array of pictures taken by my cousin during the Hajj. Its going to be a case of "Hajj as if you were there" InshAllah

Masjid Haram- Where the reward of one prayer equals 100,000 anywhere else! May Allah accept it from the Hujjaj and make it possible for those who aspire to visit His House.
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Wanna go for 2008 Hajj with Muhammad alShareef?

Muhammad Alshareef
Founder/Director of AlMaghrib Institute, EmanRush Audio &

Ma sha Allah, as i'm reading this i'm like, 'Y'know he's right, we did have dinner at Shareef restaurant in Mina.'I'm humming to myself, 'here we come, our lord, here we come'PS: For students and young professionals, our Hajj program for 2008 is already up and open for registration. Check it out:
The group i'm going with this year is offering almaghrib students a super awesome 8 month payment plan. Check it out ...

Alhamdulillah, this company is in sha Allah going to have access to the US Hajjis as well. So, North meets South - it's available to students and young professionals from Canada AND USA.Call them up and talk to them about purchasing a Hajj package from the USA.

Bello, keep it comin' in sha Allah

__________________You in a career in Personal Development Coaching? Only 4 seats left.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Makkah Al Mukaaramah- the mother of all cities; the Most Beloved City to Rasulullah

"By Allah! You are the most beloved portion of Allah's earth to me, and verily you are the most beloved portion of the earth to Allah too. Verily you are the best, spot on the face of the earth. And the most beloved to Allah. If your people did not expel me, I would not have departed from you." (Al-Muatta)

A city with over fifty names. Makkah, Bakkah, Al-Balad, Al-Qaryah, Ummul Qurrah.
A city wherein ,whoever enters it attains security. The city that witnessed the birth of our Beloved, and the beginning of Revelation. That was the city that we now approached at the early hours of dawn.

We began waking up one after the other, and only few among us sighted the famed gates of Makkah. We proceeded to a welcoming checkpoint where we were handed some leaflets on Hajj and free gift boxes of food and drinks, which we gladly accepted. As we moved closer to the city, we heard reverberations of the adhan over the loudspeakers; Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar!

For those amongst us who had never lived in a Muslim country, it was an unbelievable experience. The whole town shook with Adhans from all corners. As one ended, another began, and one could not but pray that Allah makes this possible one day in Houston, and all over the US.
We began dropping several people at their would-be residences, and at one of our stops , we prayed our first Fajr in the Town of Security.

By the time we finally got to the front of our hotel- AlMasa Hotel at about 8 am, we were tired and weary and almost ready to fall sleep. You could barely hear us whispering the Talbiyyah.

AlManasik, you rock!
Then lo and behold, we looked to our left, and what did we see? Masjid al-Haram. Allahu Akbar! Our Hotel was directly across from the Masjid. We were going to be neighbors of the Kaabah. I mean we were so close to the Haram, closer than Jamah Masjid is to Madrasah Islamiyyah, for those who live in Houston. It was almost like the distance from Masjid Farouq to its parking lot. For just $5000?
Even the guys who bought other Super Giant Deluxe Hajj packages could not get closer to the Kaabah than this! I was like; Shaykh Muhammad alShareef and Almanasik, you ROCK!

Our fatigue flew away as we saw thousands of people trooping out of the Masjid area. We quickly got settled into our rooms. I had a quad-room package, so got assigned to a room with 3 other Hujjaj, one of whom was from Texas, and another elderly brother who was a Professor at Purdue University. All my room mates were Egyptian-Americans.

I made for the hotel restaurant to have breakfast, and who do I see at the entrance? , a smiling Muhammad alShareef ! Truly I have arrived in Hajj. I went up to him, exchanged some salams, and also met Bro Mustapha, a student at Umm Qura university, but originally from New York. I learnt he was also going to be with our group.
I managed to eat some breakfast at the hotel buffet which had so much variety of food, that I wondered if we were really in Makkah. Alhamdulillah, I had a healthy appetite.

Sleep or Umrah
After breakfast, I was undecided on whether to take a rest after all the stress of the journey or to go do my Umrah. Remember , we were still in Ihraam at this point. I was tired, but how could I come so close to the House of Allah, the House I had prayed facing its direction ever since I made my first salah, how could I come so close and then go to sleep without beholding it in its resplendent majesty? What if I woke up and found it was all a dream?

Shaykh Muhammad alShareef solved the dilemma for me by explaining that I did not have to do my Umrah right away. I could go to the Haram, pray 2 rakahs of Tahiyyat Masjid, and then later I could go back and make my Umrah!

Al-Masjid Al-Haram the Mosque of 100,000 rewards!

If you prayed all your five daily prayers in Houston , you would have to do this consistently for over fifty five years, six months and twenty days , before your rewards would even come close to a single salah said in Masjid alHaram!
And the five prayers offered over a single twenty-four hour period in the Haram is equivalent to the five daily prayers offered in Houston over a period of two hundred and seventy-seven years, nine months and ten days!
How can anyone ever compare a trip to Makkah to anything else?

I proceeded towards the Haram, took off my shoes, kept them in my knapsack, which I kept on my back. Overlooking the Haram were all these tall buildings and hotels, such beautiful sights. I did the adhkar for entering the Masjid, and joined the crowd patiently waiting to enter the Haram at 10am. By the way, I did not even look for the famed Baab Salam. I made my entry though King Abdul-Aziz (Door 1) as it was the closest to my hotel.

I entered the Masjid, descended the stairs and walked towards the Kaabah, resplendent in its glory, the first House of worship built on this earth.
I paused, gazed, and drank in the sight, repeating the words 'Allahu Akbar several times. I looked besides me, and there were all shades of people, old and young, men and women, able and disabled, white and black! They were gazing at the Kaabah enshrouded in its shining Ghilaaf (cover), and they were crying. It was the culmination of the desires of a lifetime! We had made it!

This was the House they had heard so much about. The House that held so much memories of their Prophet, the House they had prayed towards all their life, and now they were here!

It translated the Seerah from an old fable to reality! You could now visualize AbuBakr raising his voice at the Kaabah and being beaten to pulp. You could almost see Bilal lying out there with a stone laid on him in the scorching sun, and it was as if you could see Rasulullah sharing the message of Islam to the elders of Makkah as they lay around the Kaabah.

Labayka allahumma Labayk. Here we come, Our Lord, Here we come! .......

Here we come O Allah, here we come!- Dhul Hijjah 1

We left JFK Airport, NY at 6:30 pm on Monday, December 10 (Dhul Hijjah 1), aboard Egypt Air. Several of us looked like hajj pilgrims ,while there were a few non muslims apparently going to Cairo. Good enough, before takeoff, the dua of the traveler was displayed on the screens and also read over the speakers.

The flight took about 9 hours and by Tuesday morning, we were at the Cairo Int. Airport. Here we met thousands of other pilgrims from different countries awaiting their flights to Jeddah. Several pilgrims started growing impatient at this point, until we were addressed by one of the Egypt Air reps, who reminded us that we were proceeding on Hajj, where there would be a lot of waiting , so we should just assume we were already in Hajj, and be remembering Allah until our flights, instead of complaining .etc. Very sound advice.

We prayed Dhur, Asr, Maghrib and Isha , and at about 6 pm, it was time to depart Cairo for Jeddah.
We were advised to adopt our Ihraam at this point as we would be passing over the Meeqat very soon after taking off from Cairo, and would not have enough time or facilities on board.Imagine getting stuck in the aircraft's toilet with your ihraam.!

We proceeded to the bathroom facilities attached to the masjid in the airport, took our baths, and then it was Ihraam donning time.

Several of us were not used to tying the ihram, or walking with it, and it took a lot of help from more experienced folks to get the ihraams to stay, and to be able to walk with them. I wonder how some sisters dress like this almost daily!

There were various styles and forms of the ihraam; from cotton to bath towels; from studded ihraams to sown ihraams (we later learnt these were not right), it came in different shapes and sizes, but all white.
Some people even observed two rakahs of sunnah prayer after adopting the ihraam ( there is no proof in the sunnah for this, so I did not do it!)

We boarded and started bonding as almost everyone on the flight was going for Hajj. I noticed there were several teenagers on board too. By the way, the food on board was lovely!

At the Meeqat
Less that 30 minutes into the 90 minutes flight across the Red Sea, there was an announcement that we were about to pass over Juhfah; the Meeqat for the people coming from the direction of Egypt.
At this point we made our intentions; Labayka Allahumma Umrahtan (Here I come O Allah for Umrah) as we were doing the Tamattu' form of Hajj. From this point, we were now Muhrim-no arguments, no marital relations, no disobedience to Allah.

We all began reciting the Talbiyya- "Labbaikallaahumma labbaika - labbaika laa shareeka laka labbaika - innal hamda wan na'mata laka wal mulka - Ia shareeka laka"
"I am present, O' Allah, I am present. I am present, no partners do you have, I am present. Verily the Praise and Bounties and the Kingdom is for you, no partners do you have.

In Jeddah
Finally we got to the Hajj Terminal in Jeddah at about 10pm, and it all looked like a large expanse of white tents. We all descended from the plane , tired but joyful, and thankful to Allah for being among the few given this unique opportunity.

We underwent the processing -which took some time, but by this time I already had my patience balloons in tow, and was not too worried about any delays. One important point here is that you don't want to lose the cashiers check attached to your passport by the hajj agency, or you might encounter some problems at Jeddah.

We were met by some representatives of AlManasik waving their banners at this point. They took over our luggage ,and then we had to go and wait for the buses to Makkah. I wandered around the Hajj terminal during this time (getting very lost at one time) and accidentally met an AlMaghrib student from Houston, who was pleasantly surprised when I told him Shaykh Muhammad alShareef was going to be our group leader.

There were some free knapsacks being given away by Mobily-a Saudi phone company, and trust me, I got one!

Late in the night about 2 am, we finally departed Jeddah in air-conditioned buses, and were finally on the way to Makkah al_Mukarramah; a city that throws its doors open only to the believers, the city that houses the first House built for the worship of our Lord.
We tried to keep our eyes open, but tired and weary, almost all of us dropped to sleep for the duration of the 3 hour trip to Makkah.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Preparation for Hajj

Deciding to go for Hajj
One of the greatest things I learnt in preparing for Hajj is that it is Allah's call,and if He calls you, no matter the obstacles, you will go for Hajj.
I had mentally made my decision to go for hajj at the beginning of 2007. It was my second year working, I had paid off my debts,and felt it was time to go for Hajj. I wished I could go with my wife, but several things were not clear yet.
Could I afford to pay for the cost of our trips? Do we take our 30 months old daughter along?

Which package and which hajj agency?
The year flew along, then come Ramadan, I started to see posters of several Hajj Packages all around the Masjid; Super Deluxe Hajj- $6500 , Extra Exclusive Hajj - $7000 .
At this point, I was not sure I was going to Hajj anymore, because I had been planning on the previous hajj estimates of around $4000.All the packages with different names like car-wash packages seemed way above my budget.

Then, at an Iftar get-together during the middle of Ramadan, a brother shared an email from Muhammad alShareef with me asking; "Do you want to go for Hajj with me?" It was an opportunity too great to miss. An Almaghrib-Hajj?
After Iftar , I rushed off to the website, , chose the cheapest package ,and sent an email off ,indicating my interest. Soon enough, a reply came back asking me to pay a refundable fee of $47 to secure my space,and then go to and register for Program 2. I could not believe it was that simple.
Off I rushed to, and the website said " We are sold out". I had to go back and forth between Shaykh Muhammad and Almanasik a couple of times, before I was able to get permission to register.

Program 2 was going to span from Dec 10-27, and cost about $4650 (Udhiyyah and Hajj visa fees not included). That looked right within my budget, as it included transportation from JFK to Saudi and back, all the in-country accommodation and feeding during hajj. In total we ended up paying $5100 dollars to cover everything.The trip was worth every dollar. Thereafter they sent us a list of things needed to get the visa, which can be found on the AlManasik site . I however had to arrange my return ticket from Houston to New York.

Weeks later, I registered my wife too with the same group, going with Muhammad alShareef, and we decided to leave our daughter with our cousins in Houston. Our decision was based on advice that being our first hajj, and since our daughter was so little, it might be a bit distracting to take her along. Masha Allah, it was very good advice as we were to later find out.

Learning the Hajj Rites
The next issue was even though my wife had taken the Almaghrib Rizq Management class which covered Hajj, we felt we needed to study for the Hajj to make it a good experience.

One of the greatest sources of information we used was the book :Getting the Best out of Hajj By Abu Muneer Ismail Davids . We also found an accompanying video on Google Videos. This was the best material we used,as it covers the logistics and spiritual rites of Hajj,and mentally prepares you for hajj. The book is also fun to read. We did remember to pray for the author during Hajj.

And then came an incomparable yet free source; HajjCoach.Com; a series of videos on Hajj preparation by none other that Shaykh Muhammad alShareef. It was also posted on YouTube. It was so excellent, that I copied it on my mp3 player,and took it along for Hajj. It covered several aspects of the Hajj Preparation; shopping list, setting your goals, and my favorite part; preparing a "Massive Dua List".
We also watched the DVD on Hajj by Shaykh Hafiz Waheed, and read some books from Darussalam on Hajj.

Very soon it was time to go for hajj, and we flew from Houston to New York where we were scheduled to fly via Cairo on Monday December 10 (1 Dhul Hijjah, 1428), and thus the journey began...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Welcome to Hajj Memories

Asalam alaykum,

I just returned from the most memorable journey of my life. I just came back from Hajj- the journey of hearts and souls, where millions of people of all shapes, sizes and colors come together with a single statement- Labayk Allahumma Labayk- Here we are, Our Lord, here we are!

What made the journey even more memorable was the unique opportunity I had to perform the Hajj with Shaykh Muhammad alShareef, the founder of AlMaghrib Institute in USA & Canada, Shaykh Muhammad AlFaqeeh, several students of knowledge from University of Madinah and Umm Qura University, and numerous other Hujjaj.

Over the next few posts I will endeavour to relive some of the moments of the Hajj trip , share some of the eman-rush moments, and invite you to experience the journey once again.

If you went to Hajj or know anyone who did, please encourage them to come here and share their memories too.

If you have not had the opportunity to go to Hajj yet, you are also welcome to have a glimpse into the life-changing journing through this blog.

..And make dua that Allah makes our journey Hajj Mabroor.

Abu Aaishah Idris Bello