Patience & brotherhood: lessons from a convert’s first Hajj
By Imam Isa Parada
Twelve hours! We spent twelve hours in Jeddah International Airport, when finally our hajj group’s representative came and picked us up. This was our first real test and we had barely even started our journey. Trying to put the wait into perspective, I remembered reading Malcolm X’s (may Allah have mercy on him) autobiography. Specifically, I recalled the passage about his group waiting close to twenty four hours in that very same airport. This helped me be more patient, because for Malcolm, the wait was the beginning of a journey that ultimately changed his life and lead him to Islam. Reflecting on that powerful story, I hoped that Hajj would make a major impact in my life as well. The waiting was but one of the many types of patience that my first Hajj would teach me.
Lining up to board our buses I couldn't help but notice a six foot four, three hundred pound African American and Salvadorian brother. We met and I learned that he was from L.A. and was named Sultan. He had a humongous Afro, and I kept thinking about how people were going to look at him. Moments later I also noticed a few other brothers who had tattoos all over their bodies and again I wondered if and how people would judge them. It wasn’t long until our collective patience was tested, a police officer pulled our group over and asked Sultan to get out. The officer began to question Sultan. He was asking if he was really a Muslim. Al-hamdulila our group leader convinced the police officers that Sultan was a new Muslim from America and suddenly the officer changed his tone. They were happy, in fact delighted to see American Muslims! Seeing a new brother get singled out just because of how he looked and making du’ah that things would go well was the second type of patience I was confronted with and we hadn’t even started the rituals yet!
When we eventually entered the Holy city of Makkah I got so many goose bumps! I could hardly contain my excitement. All I could think about getting inside, seeing the holy house and making Tawaf. But again I had to be patient. We had to check into our motel and get settled into our rooms first. Once we arrived at our quarters it hit me just how diverse our Ummah really was. We lodged with brothers from Africa, Russia and East Asia. We got to meet our brothers in faith from so many distant nations and we were amazed at how alike we all were! We discussed our lives and experiences. Because we were from such different parts of the world the experience helped clarify what Allah said in Surah Hujarat, ayat 13 of the Holy Quran: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
In the following days of hajj, we realized that no matter where we were from we were all brothers of one religion who were worshiping one god, and were all united by the opportunity to perform the fifth pillar of Islam.
As you can imagine, in a large group of newly acquainted people, who are all experiencing new and challenging things, patience was a must. However the rewards of patience are numerous and often surprising!
One such surprise came on the day of Arafat when several of us decided to walk from Mina to Arafat. I developed huge blisters under my feet because of the long journey. Yet, despite the blisters it was a beautiful and unforgettable experience! This was in part because of everyone’s willingness to help me. Both strangers and new acquaintances were patient with me and kind to me.
You have to understand that the sheer amount of people there in order to put things in perspective. Imagine more than two and a half million people all trying to reach the same holy sites and perform the same rituals. Masses and masses of souls all seeking Allah’s Mercy. It was not only impressive, but at times it was absolutely overwhelming.
We spent most of the day making as much du’ah as we could, then we embarked on foot again towards muzdalifa. Our patience was again tested as that night the intense cold of sleeping in the open desert air, under the Meccan sky made us all huddle close together in an attempt to stay warm.
I woke the next day exhausted, both physically and spiritually with the realization of all the rituals that we still had to accomplish. My blisters made it difficult to walk and the thought of trying to make my way through so many people was daunting.
All praises do to Allah; I soon experienced what Allah described in Surah Hujarat ayat 10 of the Holy Quran: “Indeed the believers are but brothers to one another.” When the time came to run between Safaa and Marwah the brothers insisted on carrying me on their shoulders. I needed their help and they wanted Allah's reward, in that moment I saw again how patience leads to blessings.
One of the most memorable experiences for me was the last day of Hajj when we were throwing stones at the Jamarat. When we finished, we were so overjoyed that about about thirty of us gathered together next to the Jamarat hugging each other and celebrating like we just won the super bowl.
We laughed and cried together, and we even argued about small issues, but most importantly we we became brothers while striving to answer our Lord's call.
I ask Allah to accept my pilgrimage and grant us all the ability to perform an accepted hajj, Ameen!