Thursday, January 22, 2009

Diary of A Pilgrim - The Agony of Arafah

Oh my aching head!

Finding temporary relief in the shade.

Luggage everywhere, not that we cared; we just needed a small space to pray and perhaps, a shut-eye, till subuh..

Four of my 5 Makkah roomates (from left) Ustazah Zabiah, Norizan, Jaimah and Masnah.

Mention The Hajj, and the spectre that looms large in everyone’s mind is usually a sea of white moving at snail pace around the Kaabah.

The tawaf is but one of the six prescribed rukuns (pillars) in performing the Hajj. It’s wukuf (standing/keeping still) in Arafah that’s the key rukun and the most fundamental rite of all, for Prophet Muhammad (saw) had said: “Hajj is Arafah.”

Pilgrims who choose to spend the daytime at Arafah must stay there until after sunset for this was what Prophet Muhammad (saw) did in Wada' Hajj (Farewell Pilgrimage). In this respect, Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: "Follow my example in performing the rites of 'Umrah and Hajj."

If a pilgrim goes to Arafah and misses everything else, his Hajj, while flawed, is still sound; however, if he does everything else but misses Arafah, his Hajj is no longer valid. That’s how crucial Arafah is.

The 9th of Zulhijjah is the day of Arafah and the hours between noon (Zohor) of the 9th and dawn (Subuh) of the 10th of Zulhijjah are of utmost importance for these are the prescribed hours of wukuf.

It is the day when pilgrims from all over the world stand on the desolate plains and at the foot of Mount Arafah facing the qiblat, and acknowledge their transgressions and faults, renew their covenant with God, submit to Him and ask for His forgiveness.

The Hadith says there is no doa like doas on Arafah for this is the time when the doors of the Heavens are open wide to accept the prayers and supplications of pilgrims in Arafah, for which Allah (swt) guarantees deliverance.

The 9th of Zulhijjah is also no ordinary day, as reflected in this verse, revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw) as he stood at Arafah: “This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your way of life.” (Al-Maidah:3).

["Pada hari ini Aku telah sempurnakan bagi kamu agamamu, dan Aku telah cukupkan nikmatKu kepadamu, dan Aku telah redakan Islam itu menjadi agama untukmu."]

Arafah is also mentioned in the Qur’an: “Then when ye file from Arafah (for Muzdalifah), celebrate the praises of Allah at Mas’yar al-Haram (in Muzdalifah). (Al-Baqarah:198)

[“Kemudian apabila kamu bertolak turun dari padang 'Arafah (menuju Muzdalifah) maka sebutlah nama Allah (dengan doa, talbiah dan tasbih) di tempat Masy'ar al-Haram (di Muzdalifah)."]

The massive movement of pilgrims from Makkah to Arafah had already begun when we boarded our bus at 9.30pm on the 8th of Zulhijjah for Arafah 22 kilometres away.

From the comfort of our air-conditioned transport, we saw a mass of humanity slowly trudging on foot making the same journey. We were thankful for the relative comfort that we were in, compared to other pilgrims, many of whom slept in the open and depended on the kindness of others to survive the Hajj.

Syukur Alhamdulillah, God was kind to us for we arrived without a hitch hardly 30 minutes later. There were instances of delay due to transport breakdown and massive jams, causing pilgrims to walk for hours for the remaining distance.

The women pilgrims of Maktab 78-KT 73 (of which I was one) were then ushered into a massive makeshift tent housing some 300 people. We quickly found our respective spot, settled down and began praying.

The evening air was cool to the touch, a slight breeze blew and I decided to step out for a while to savour the moment. In the stillness of the night, only the murmurs of prayers, zikir and talbiyah could be heard from all corners of the encampment.

After taking ablution I returned to tent, refreshed. I performed a couple of sunat prayers and then started on a series of doas. It was while reciting the Doa Taubat that the floodgates opened.

I remember sobbing uncontrollably with every word. The sense of grief, of regret, was so great and the pain within so excruciating that it felt as though the heart was about to be wrenched free from the body.

Steeling myself, I proceeded with Doa Arafah. By this time, I could hardly read the doa book anymore for the tears. Inhaling deeply, I heard sniffles and muted sobbings all around me. Hands reached out, gently patting my back in consolation. I continued:

Ya Allah, sesungguhnya aku pohon dengan kemuliaan zatMu, dengan kemurahanMu yang kekal abadi, dengan namaMu Yang Maha Besar, dengan apa yang diturunkan keatas NabiMu Muhammad (saw) dan sekelian saudara-saudaranya daripada nabi-nabi dan rasul-rasul serta keluarganya, sahabat-sahabat dan semua pengikut mereka daripada golongan ulama-ulama yang beramal dan wali-wali yang soleh juga para solihin.

Ya Allah, dengan kehormatan hari yang mulia ini, bahawa Engkau memberi rahmat keatas Nabi Muhammad (saw), bahawa Engkau ampunkan kami, kedua ibubapa kami, anak-anak kami, saudara mara kami, sekelian kaum keluarga kami, guru-guru kami, sahabat handai kami, mereka yang berbuat baik kepada kami, mereka yang mempunyai hak keatas kami, mereka yang kami zalimi atau sakiti, dan kepada sakalian orang Islam lelaki dan perempuan sama ada yang masih hidup atau yang telah mati.

Ya Allah, Engkau memberi rezeki dan kebajikan kepada kami dan mereka di dunia dan akhirat dan Engkau peliharakan kami dan mereka daripada segala bencana. Engkau jauhkan malapetaka dunia dan akhirat. Bahawa Engkau kurniakan kepada kami dengan ilmu pengetahuan yang berguna dan amalan yang salih, Engkau peliharakan kami daripada perbuatan-perbuatan jahat sama ada daripada manusia, jin, binatang buas dan lain-lainnya. Engkau matikan kami dan mereka itu dalam husnul-khatimah (kesudahan yang baik).

Wahai Tuhan kami, berilah kami didunia ini kebaikan, diakhirat juga kebaikan, peliharalah kami dari azab neraka. Salawat dan salam keatas Nabi Muhammad (saw) dan keluarganya, sahabat-sahabatnya, Maha Suci Engkau Ya Allah daripada segala sifat kekurangan. Salam sejahtera keatas sekelian rasul-rasul dan segala pujian itu tertentu kepada Allah yang memiliki sekelian alam.”

There was something surreal about Arafah. In the midst of millions, I experienced an acute sense of loneliness. The nearness of God was palpable, yet I felt like an intruder in His presence. Worse, I felt unclean; I long to shed my own skin. That night I cried myself to sleep.

After such an unsettling night, I woke up for Subuh prayers feeling light and somewhat cheerful. It seemed and even felt like the beginning of a new dawn for me. Little did I realise the worst had yet to come.

Limited toilet facilities in Arafah - 10 cubicles to be shared with 300 people - saw perpetually long queues, especially near prayer times. There were far too many people at the wash area that morning that bathing was next to impossible. In fact, one would be lucky to do one's toilet decently and in good time.

This, by the way, is not a shortcoming on the Saudi government's part; it was planned that way so that pilgrims may experience hardship and difficulties.

In essence, Arafah gives a foretaste of what it would be like to rise from the dead on Judgement Day - dank and smelly, dishevelled and disoriented with not stitch on, and with the blazing sun inches away from one's head.

As wukuf hours approached, it got progressively hot. My trial had just begun. All my adult life, I had always proclaimed how much I didn’t like the heat of the sun. I took pride in avoiding sunlight. I consistently refused to go out under the sun for fear of migraine.

Well, I got my just desserts in Arafah. The relentless heat saw me sweltering under the steaming tent. Unable to bear it any longer, I took to sitting outside the tent, shifting with the shade as the sun moved, pouring bottle upon bottle of water on my head.

My Makkah roommates shook their heads sympathetically. Yes, it was hot, they said, but not THAT hot. But it was unbearably hot for me. I returned to the tent sporadically, to pray and say my doas. Then it would be writhing like ‘cacing kepanasan’ outside the tent again.

Each time I prayed, relief would come in the form of a slight breeze. I would feel comfortable for a while, before the next wave of heat overcame me all over again. It was no ordinary heat I was experiencing. It seared the skin; such was my azab.

Although distraught, I soldiered on, saying my prayers and doas through a blurry world of tears, begging for God's Mercy and Forgiveness. I remember a poignant thought that crossed my mind then, that if tears could wash away sins, I would probably be as pure as a newborn that unforgiving day in Arafah.

Mercifully, as evening approached the air got cooler. By this time, however, I could feel a twinge of headache developing. Fortunately, it was not the usual dull throbbing on the left side of my temple, which would indicate heat-induced migraine. Instead, it was just an ordinary headache.

Ignoring the gnawing pain, I joined the rest as we prepared to leave Arafah for Muzdalifah 8 kilometres away to collect pebbles for the Stoning ritual the following day in Mina.

Deep in my heart, I couldn't thank Allah (swt) enough for surviving Arafah...


Kak Teh said...

Puteri, Thanks for this informative account. Having done only the Umrah, I have yet to experience this.
You know, my mother gave birth right there in Arafah . My youngest brother and much awaited second son for my parents. My mother went thinking that she'd have ample time to give birth back home. Alhamdulillah., everything went well. My brother's name is also Arafah.

mamasita said...

Tearful and a very touching entry.
Your doas are so well arranged.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us.Alhamdullillah niat nak buat Haji semakin berkobar2.

Awaiting eagerly for more please!
Thanks Hajjah.

Anonymous said...

Ya allah..

Tuhan yang Maha Pengampun dan Penyayang..



Naz said...

Salam Kak Puteri,
I immerse myself in all your entries. Your words are calm and humble..and they hit all the right points. I have always had very strong feelings (esp the last couple of years) about performing hajj. Reading your accounts make it even stronger.

D said...

Alhamdulillah.. I can't thank you more for sharing your feelings and experiences during your Hajj. The du'as you've included really wrenched my heart; really, truly! Thank you again.

Upon completing the wukuf, the pilgrims of Hajj return with all sins forgiven (InsyaAllah); a rebirth; a second chance to start anew. I so want to do that!!

May Allah bless you, Pak Abu & your children always!

kay_leeda said...

Dear Kak Puteri,

I'm holding back my tears as I read this entry. The experience in Arafah stays close at heart. small one feels as he asks for mercy and forgiveness from his creator and how tears just welled and rolled away.

Thanks Kak for sharing.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Kak Teh - How wonderful that he was born in Arafah! A rare occurance, I am sure. Such a blessed event for your parents.. :)

Mamasita - Itulah dia 'the' doa for Arafah. It is included in the book of doas given by Tabung Haji. It is so apt, kan? Hiba bila membacanya.

Anon - Indeed, we should always pray for all our urusan dipermudahkan..God loves us, kita aja yg kadang2 lupakan ia. I really felt that neglect on my part semasa Hajj.

Naz, D, Kay - Tears tak lekang dari mata semasa di Arafah. Penyesalan sentiasa terasa.

GUiKP said...

We gained new insights because you narrate it like it was, warts and all. Overwhelmed by your endurance and repentance. Bless you and Pak Abu.

Aida said...

Again, and as always, very eloquently put.

Bring tears to my eyes and my heart.

Thank you, cannot wait to hear (read) of more.

mekyam said...

dear puteri yg telah berjaya menunaikan,

sooo happy i finally caught up with all your makkahlogs thus far.

and girl, was i caught up!!! :D

felt as though i literally shared every thump of your heart, every phew you uttered, every wince of discomfort and every gasp of pleasure [except for those searing sobs of your soul finding solace in oneness with our Maker. such experience is probably unique to each individual, yah?].

as i anticipated, absolutely mesmerising!

sherry said...


Touching sangat. Am pretty sure that di kala itu di setiap inci hati dan jiwa akak hanya berserah dan memuji-muji keagungan dan kebesaran Yang Esa .

Zawi said...

Through this post, I am reliving my own experience in Arafah.
Pak Zawi said with tears welling up in his eyes.