Saturday, January 17, 2009

Diary of A Pilgrim - Solat & Shopping

Once a cat lover, always a cat lover. The 'ibu kucing' playing with a kitten, one of many, in the gardens of Qutubah Barakah Hotel.

Pak Abu, still clad in ihram & on the way back from masjid, with Masjidil Haram in the background.

Kenangan di Jabal Rahmah. Standing here reminded me of my late mother...

With Pak Menteri and the MCKK gang

One for the album - one could almost feel the happiness and joy radiating from their faces.

Three million people congregating in one small place the size of a few football fields, and not a whiff of body odour; hundreds of thousands of pilgrims utilising the cavernous, two-storey washrooms just outside Masjidil Haram 24 hours daily, yet there was no stench whatsoever; rubbish piling up faster than they could be removed, yet there wasn’t a single fly, cockroach or maggot amongst the debris. Miracles never ceased in this blessed land.

Makkah sits in a valley so arid, barren and desolate that no natural vegetation exists apart from a few shrubs. The city is ringed by the Sirat Mountains, the peaks of which include Jabal Ajyad, Jabal Abu Qubays and Jabal Qu’ayq’an.

Then there’s Jabal Hira’ in the northeast, where Prophet Muhammad (saw) received his first Quranic revelations, and Jabal Thur in the south, where he hid from the Quraisyh seeking to kill him.

In the days that followed our arrival, our confidence grew as we became more comfortable with our surroundings. A certain routine was established; daily treks to Masjidil Haram for prayers, participating in ziarah (visiting) activities, attending religious lectures and talks organised by Tabung Haji, as well as checking out the numerous shops lining the streets and alleys of this ancient city.

Whilst the streets beyond the mosque area were wide multi-carriageways, those in the vicinity of the mosque were narrow and winding, wending in multiple directions and off-limits to commercial vehicles during the Hajj season. One really needs to be fit for the Hajj, for it involves a lot of walking and climbing.

Pak Abu, being a seasoned golfer, wasn’t much affected by the heat and all the walking. But I took a while longer to acclimatise. A chronic migraine sufferer, I was fearful of falling sick, especially because my migraine, almost always, was heat-induced.

And I often lagged behind when we walked together. With the sun bearing down harshly, the mere act of walking became an arduous chore for me.

In due time, I established my own ‘solat’ routine; going to the mosque only for Subuh, Maghrib and Isya’ and performing the noon prayers either at the hotel surau or in my room.

I held fast to my own conviction of doing the best I could under the circumstances. I felt there was no reason to force myself beyond my capability, only to end up sick, unable to perform any ibadah at all.

Thankfully, I was spared migraine and heatstroke throughout my stay in the Holy Land except for one brief period during ‘wukuf’ in Arafah, when I succumbed to an excruciating headache and subsequently was unable to perform the first day of melontar (stoning ritual) in Mina the following day.

As such, I had to ‘aqad’ (made a covenant) with Pak Abu to carry out the ritual on my behalf. Simply put, I got ‘stoned’ well before the stoning!

Praying in Masjidil Haram with millions of fellow Muslims from all over the globe was an experience unto itself. Despite God’s explicit admonition in the Quran not to upset and hurt others while carrying out the Hajj rituals, the excessive emotional zeal of some pilgrims, especially during tawaf, caused much disservice to others.

Although convention dictates that men and women should pray separately and should never be in the same saf (row/line), many pilgrims simply abandoned this practice and prayed willy-nilly, refusing to budge even when advised.

Only when the mosque guards came bearing down on them did they move, only to regroup when the guards left. Some of our own pilgrims were also guilty of same; On many occasions we saw husbands and wives praying together, alongside each other.

At the height of the Hajj season, getting a solat space inside the Grand Mosque was like winning the jackpot. To get a decent prayer spot, one had to be at the mosque at least a couple of hours before prayer time.

And once you got it, you would hang on to it as though your life depended upon it! Despite the cramped condition, it was never uncomfortable. Instead I found enjoyment doing my solat in the company of so many.

Another reason why solat jamaah (praying in a congregation) was meaningful to me was because I was able to participate in the solat jenazah (prayer for the dead), something I had never done back home.

One couldn't help but feel how transient life on earth is when the bodies, shrouded in white, were carried out and placed in rows alongside Kaabah for the final rites. That realization, and the vision of shrouded bodies borne on stretchers, moving slowly in a single file towards Kaabah, leave a lasting impression on me.

We were advised that should our wudhu’ (ablution) disappear for whatever reason between solat, we should just retake it using a cup of zamzam water instead of risking losing our prayer space. I must say it was real neat, taking one’s ablution using a cupful of water!

A couple of days after we arrived, I followed Pak Abu to a reunion of sort, and I have to say this about the old boys of Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) – their sense of camaraderie and togetherness is beyond compare. Wherever they are, they always make time to meet and catch up with each other.

The guys decided to meet for dinner at Felda-owned restaurant, D’Saji, located on the second floor of a building directly opposite Masjidil Haram. One of them, Razli Nordin, came all the way from Jeddah where he was attached to OIC, to reconnect with his old classmates. The rest, like us, were on pilgrimage.

At D’Saji we spied upon Cabinet Minister Datuk Zahid Hamidi, another old boy (their junior, apparently) and decided to corner him for updates from home, as well as to take some photographs together.

He was also on pilgrimage but took the opportunity to check out Tabung Haji's operations (which came under his purview) and to visit Malaysian pilgrims in the various maktabs (stations) all over Makkah.

Earlier in the morning, we were taken on a pre-Hajj visit to see Jabal Thur, Arafah, Jabal Rahmah, Muzdalifah, Mina and Jabal Hira’. We were not allowed to climb the rocks leading to the two caves of Thur and Hira’. It was time-consuming, anyway.

The Cave of Thur, where Prophet Muhammad (saw) together with Saidina Abu Bakar hid from the Quraiysh, could only be reached after a two-hour climb. And to reach the Cave of Hira’, where the Prophet went into seclusion and received his first revelations, took even longer.

Neither were we allowed to climb Jabal Rahmah, simply because Tabung Haji didn’t want to risk us falling off the rocky incline, thus hurting ourselves before wukuf. Despite advice, some foolhardy pilgrims threw caution to the wind and climbed it anyway.

I did some shopping in the days that followed - basic things like soap for washing clothes, wooden pegs, foodstuff like bread and spreads, fruits, and the inevitable souvenirs for loved ones.

A word of caution about buying things in Makkah (and Madinah too, for that matter) – one could lose one’s bearing (and common sense) easily when shopping in these two cities. Things were incredibly cheap and plentiful.

I bought scarves, shawls, robes, skullcaps, tasbih, mini-telekungs, kafiyyeh, trinkets and heaven knows what else, by the dozens each. This did not include items bought from our students who doubled up as tour guides for the ziarah activities of Nusantara pilgrims during the Hajj season.

The students took the opportunity to raise money for their common study funds (many were self-financed), by selling mostly traditional medicine, the famous Arabian honey, and perfume. More often than not, fellow pilgrims gladly 'sadaqah' to their fund.

It was also around this time, one week after arrival, that we began to develop the sniffles, sneezes and racking coughs that was to plague almost all pilgrims until the day we left the Holy Land... ...and this despite the RM125.00 flu jab that we availed ourselves to before leaving Malaysia!


Pi Bani said...

Hahaha... berapa additional bags you bawak masa balik? :)

I taklah rambang mata sangat masa shopping, but still, after selesai Haji I did buy all the things you mentioned, more to give as souvenirs to friends and relatives back home...

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Hehehehe Pi, bukan lagi rambang.. terjegil terbeliak teruih! Thankfully, our bags/suitcases tak 'beranak' because both were half-filled masa datang.. so ngam-ngam balik penuh..

kay_leeda said...

Kak Puteri,

Tawaf kedai kita?? Syarat sah haji juga tu, hati senang, ibadah lancar..heh..heh.

How could one keep a close eye of the shops in the two cities kan?? Lagi terperuk lagi trill mencari nya :)

Aida said...


Having visited the Holy Land during winters, I have experienced the cool nights and warm afternoons of it. My mother performed her Haj in the summer of 88 said that they'd have to drench themselves with water just before leaving the maktab to go for their zuhur prayers and by the time they'd reach Masjidil Harram, they'd be all dry. What a good way to keep cool. A wet face towel or clothe was also handy to keep them from inhaling dust.

Those are the trials and tribulations of imman kan?

Have a good weekend.

GUiKP said...

A very acute and keen observation. Another item of souvenir that we like to buy is large bottle of perfume water, which we then transfer to cute little containers in the shapes of incense burner (mabakhir or mabkhara), coffee pot (dalla), etc etc. But we realise it's difficult to find these items in Makkah. But not so in Riyadh.

CT said...

Salam hajah,

CT kalau kat sana rajin juga tawaf kedai lepas sembahyang...dah puas tawaf baru balik hotel hehehe
Keep on writing...

mamasita said...

Your part 2 is making my heart more palpitating than usual!Great written documentary.
Hajjah, you buat I rasa as though I was there with you performing the Haj.I just hope I wasn't among those couples yang sembahyang sebelah menyebelah..maybe the wife takut she may get seperated from the husband dalam kelamkabut jutaan pilgrims yang datang?

THANK YOU HAJJAH, love you sis!

Kak Teh said...

Puteri, there are cats a plenty!
Yes, finding a space to pray in the Haram is indeed a jackpot - a place where you dont get pused or trampled over. I witnessed not a very good sight while praying in front of Kaabah, the guards, i believe are so harsh and uncouth, but I kept my mouth shut...daren't say anything. Just astaghfar banyak2.

recently, listening to the haj initial briefings at our surau, berkoba2 rasanya nak pergi. Insyaallah, insyaallah and doakan.

D said...

Hehe... no body odour eh? THAT would be pleasant!

tumpang lalu - kak teh, jom kita! *wink

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Kay - my roommates and I memang teramat rajin tawaf kedai - every morning!

Aida - I had with me a bottle of water and a face towel at all times. it is true what you said, a wet face towel helped cool the body temperature, walaupun temporarily.

GuiKP - one of our friends actually did that, GuiKP, beli perfume botol besar and transferring the contents into cute little containers. I never got around to doing it, though.. now rasa menyesal pulak..hehehe

CT - bab tawaf kedai, sentiasa rajin..:)

Mamasita - ladies kena solat belakang men. itu tuntutan agama. mana boleh sebab takut hilang spouse sembahyang sebaris..LOL. kebanyakan jemaah wanita yg kak puteri noticed, pi masjid sendiri2, with their roommates instead of their husbands. senang macam tu..

Kak Teh - I malas nak sebut pasai rude and uncouth guards, tapi since you dah mentioned, memangpun kak teh. depa ni kurang asem sikit. then again, some pilgrims memang patut kena luku pun..LOL

D - very pleasant indeed, D. Tak payah dok hidu bau ketiak hangit orang..hehehe

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Isyy.. where is this Pak Malim kucing ray yg alim? I lured him with gambaq kucing makkah yang teramat cute...pun tak makan umpan!

Anonymous said...

Kak Puteri,
Kiranya u boleh tahan gak coz beg tak beranak. I had my beg beranak and had to use the pos malaysia service in Madinah and Makkah to send home some of the things i bought there when performing hajj in 2006

sherry said...

Salam Kak Hajah.

Indahnya pengalaman akak, buat saya teruja dan berazam ke sana secepat yang boleh bersama suami tercinta.

Pi Bani said...

Kak Puteri,
You nak jodohkan Pak Malim dengan kucing Mekah tu ke? tanya Pi Bani sambil makan nangka... :)