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