‘Our Hajj of love and dreams’

Young Johannesburg couple Saadia Bodiat and her husband Ridwan Vadwalla returned with great memories of their Hajj. Here Saadia recounts highlights of their spiritual journey in this special Al Qalam report.

The anticipation of our Hajj experience began five years ago, when we applied to perform Haj as a couple. This year we received the divine invitation as Allah’s chosen guests. We had been called to embark on this blessed pilgrimage. Everybody wanted to be a part of the journey, and there were parcels of ‘padkos’, biscuits, toiletries, tawaaf counters, musallahs, shoe bags, Muzdalifah blankets, to name a few that family and friends showered us with. We departed with a bag that had very little clothes, but so much of love.

The first part of this sacred journey was to Madinah, the blessed city of our Nabi SAW. Our journey to the holy lands was expected to be nothing below 20 hours, but despite the long journey, the energy around us was ecstatic. Lips moved to the zikr of Allah, eyes were tired but glistening, and our hearts were beating to the name of Allah and his beloved Nabi. On my side I recited abundant durood and Surah Kauthar, as a gift to Nabi SAW. This advice was from the book In the court of Rasoolullah, a tiny book, with a magnitude of treasures. Our journey of love had begun.

Every step in Madinah was a constant reminder of the same earth that our beloved Nabi SAW had stepped. I felt the blessings of Madinah in the cool breeze, in the date palms, in the sheer tranquillity and Noor of the beloved, sweet city. Every moment felt magnified.

We were fortunate to go on ziyarah to Badr, two hours away from Madinah. The tour was with Ml Jeena, who resides in Madinah. Enroute, we stopped at a well, where Nabi SAW’s Mubarak saliva turned the once bitter water, sweet. The taste of this water is incomparable, with a combination of sweet and creamy, just one sip felt enough to fill me. Ml Jeena’s narrative of Badr was so articulate, that when I stood on this same ground, I closed my eyes and imagined the battle as if I was there, all those 1 400 years ago. The victory of Badr still felt like yesterday. I felt so fortunate to be on the same lands that the angels descended upon to assist in the battle.

Another great ziyarah was to bountiful Uhud – a mountain from the mountains of Paradise. As I had felt the joy of Badr, I now felt the pain of Uhud. We walked up Mt Uhud, where the archers were placed for battle. I could not contain myself as Ml Olga, another great narrator, narrated the stories of the Sahaba, who tasted the sweetness of martyrdom – for their Islam, for my Islam and for your Islam. There was not a dry eye in the group that day. The battle of Uhud was brought to life. Both, Ml Olga and Ml Jeena’s love for Madinah is so evident, and their knowledge of the blessed city is like a discovered treasure chest. My farewell to Madinah was deep, and with a heavy heart I left the presence of the beloved of Allah.

The mornings in both cities were early, with Tahajjud Athaan vibrating through the streets and refreshing our souls. This morning was no different, except that this was the morning of our Umrah. The Labbaik was ablaze around us, as we walked humbly into Masjidul Haram to have our view of the sight of all sights – the glorious Ka’aba. No words can describe the emotions of those precious and sacred moments of Umrah. It gave me such joy knowing that I was in the land of Makkah, where every good deed was multiplied by 100 000.

After Umrah, the next milestone was the Hajj. Every day we witnessed busses arriving packed with pilgrims. The build-up to Hajj had officially begun. I saw people of all colours, creed, nations and countries that I had not ever heard of, some that I could not even pronounce. I saw young, and I saw old, I saw healthy and I saw sick, I saw affluent and I saw poor, all standing side by side in prayer. We all had the same title of Haji. My heart swelled with joy every time I was addressed by that title.

Zul Hijjah
The 1st of Zul Hijjah was welcomed by all. The great days had arrived. This also meant that 95% of all South Africans would now be in Azizia.

The spirituality was maintained throughout our stay in Azizia, with Hajj programmes, Zikr, Tilaawat and Taleem. Our seating arrangements for mealtimes were strictly sunnah. Distirkhans were laid, and we ate our food on the floor. Every Indian meal that I could have wished for was served, from steak, to fish, to chicken, to mutton. Even the sweet dishes and desserts were not left out. My speciality was the Cape koeksisters which were served hot and fresh on some evenings.

We all took turns in serving meals, clearing up and washing the huge pots. Once, I also had the good fortune of impeccable timing, to witness the delicious koeksisters being made… For a moment I was taken aback to the beautiful Bo Kaap, as the Cape Malay aunties fried and dipped away. I even offered a hand in frying, and so learnt a trick or two in the culinary art of koeksister-making. This is where we all became true Haji Bhens, and the spirit of sisterhood prepared us for the unity required for the five days. Ml Dawood Samson explained this exact spirit of Azizia to all of us apprehensive of the Azizia experience, and there was no word of exaggeration in his speech. The bonding in Azizia was truly like no other. Even the sharing that I had suffered sleepless nights prior to Azizia, was a decision I do not regret. In fact, I would recommend it to anyone. I miss my room-mates everyday since our Al-wida.

At two one morning, a group of us climbed Mt Noor, where the cave of Hira is situated atop the mountain. The climb was not for the faint-hearted as it was a tough and strenuous. We went through bottles of water, and every vendor along the way benefited from our water depletion. My motivation was the reflection that this was the climb of my Nabi SAW for solitude. The cave was small and could only house a maximum of two people. I soaked in the idea that this was where Hazrat Jibraeel came to Nabi SAW, and gave him wahi. This was the spot that the first ayah of the Quran was revealed. “Iqra” … Read … On that warm evening, I stood shivering in awe. As we descended the mountain, a multitude of Fajr Athaans were being read all around Makkah, and from atop it was electrifying. We could also view the Haram from Mt Noor, and the celestial light emanating from the Haram was mesmerising. The climb was now all worth it!

A few days later, the eve of the five days had dawned upon us. The morning after, we came into the state of Ihram, with the Labbaik on our tongues. I was now present, I was present for my Allah. The walk to Mina was calm, cool and refreshing. The first day of Hajj was a reflection to the soul. It was an anticipation to the day of Arafah that was to follow.

Then the Hajj day arrived – the day of Arafah. Our 2014 Hajj was also double-blessed with Arafah on a Friday, the 3rd of October. On a personal level, it was a triple blessing for me, as many years ago, this was the day that I was born. Everything on that day reminded me of the day of resurrection. Arafah day was blazing, and as I stood there in the heat of the day, again I was reminded, that it will be on these mubarak plains that we will be raised, with the sun only just above our heads. We walked to Jabl-e-rahmah as a couple, and made dua, and prayed together. I witnessed pilgrims of all ages weep before their Lord, in total submission. The sight around me was incredible. The tents were empty and pilgrims were all over in the heat of the sun, facing one direction, with their hands outstretched in prayer. I was so humbled.

Then the sun set, and the blessed night of Muzdalifah was upon us. We gathered our belongings and headed to the open sky hotel – Muzdalifah. We walked for 3 hours, between crowds, and busses, and over rocks, and barricades, and resting pilgrims until we reached our spot. It was a tar road, with passer-bys and motorbikes just inches from our Hajj mats. After our prayers, the rest we had on the thin mat was most peaceful, sound and deep.

Day 3 of Hajj brought upon our first round of pelting, Qurbani and coming out of the state of Ihram. We then headed back to Mina to perform the sunnah of spending the night in Mina. The next morning, the idea that it was already the 4th day of Hajj shocked me. I had been so engrossed in the activities of Hajj that I did not realise how fast the time was flying. At midday we headed for our next pelting, and that is the day we performed Tawaaf-e-Ziyarah. As I performed my Fardh Tawaaf of Haj, I remembered Ml Olga tell us that the angels are patting us on our shoulders at this moment, for a job well done. I closed my eyes and imagined this event throughout my tawaaf and Sa’ee.

We continued our pelting on day five, and the optional day six as well. We were now Hajis!

After Haj, the rain poured in the streets of Makkah and surrounds. It poured and poured, and we all ran outside to soak up the barakah of this blessed rain, a sure sign of the blessings and mercy of our Creator. It was now time to bid farewell to the blessed lands, and as the first group of Hajis departed, the singing of the Capetonian pilgrims to bid Al-Wida capsulated my entire Haj. We all hugged and cried tears straight from the heart. Al-Wida Madinah… Al-Wida Makkah… Al-Wida fellow Hajis…

Hajj is a journey of a lifetime, but it’s an experience that I can redo not just once or twice, but many times over. I wish all the Hajis a Hajj maqbool and Hajj Mabroor.

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