Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Spiritual Journey

My spiritual journey

Pilgrimage 2009

In late 2009, I was lucky enough to be chosen by the Almigthy Allah to be one of his guests and perform hajj with 3million other pilgrims. Alhamdulillah. So with my parents and brother, we set out to make the arrangements. The first thought that was playing in my mind was "Am I really ready for this?". I mean, this is it!! There's no turning back. When I come back from performing my haj, I'll be carrying the title "hajjah" - the title for women who have perform haj in Makkah and go through the haj ritual. Here I am, a normal Muslim woman, living and working in Malaysia, just a normal modern day Muslim woman. Yes, I cover my head and body but I don't wear the purdah, I don't cover my face like other more devout Muslims and can be quite vocal. Not quite the "perempuan melayu terakhir" I guess. It must have been my upbringing and experience and the studying abroad that moulded me to become what I am today. I am also still single and I can bet that most women in my group would be going with their husbands. Some of my friends found difficulties in accepting that I would be performing my hajj. Some teased me and said I can no longer go for karaokes and watch concerts and stuff. Anyway, back to my haj trip.

I have been super busy the weeks before I left. I had to work 4 consecutive weekends before that. My mum was anxiously waiting for me to go home to Perak for the 'kenduri' to pray for our safe journey before we left. We finally had a kenduri a few hours before we traveled to KL! To top it of, I met with an accident where Sleek (my car) was hurt :( So I had to borrow my brother's car and left Sleek to be done up during my absence. Thanks to my dear brother who had to send the car to the workshop etc. while I was away. What my friends said was right - there will be a lot of challenges before we perform our haj. So I just have to face them and believe that Allah will protect me and all will be ok.

Thanks to my friend, Sharon, who took the trouble to download from the internet the list of things I needed to bring to Makkah. The weekend before I left, she traveled to Seremban where I was coordinating a seminar, took me for a shopping trip and gave me some advice on the pilgrimage. She ought to know, she did her hajj and umrah just a few years ago! Thanks Share, you are such a great friend! I did my packing for the trip a few hours before I left for Batu Gajah, my kampong!

The night before we left, Sharon came over to my brother’s house in Rawang. Makcik Nizah and Ayah Jat were there too, to see us off. I couldn’t sleep, too anxious I guess!

14 Nov – 2.00 am

We arrived in Kelana Jaya where we were supposed to leave for Hajj. Ayah Cu, his wife, Abg Aznam and Kak Maizan were already there waiting for us. We are so blessed with friends and relatives who care. Thana, my friend, came to Tabung Haji center in Kelana Jaya too. Despite being a non Muslim, she took the trouble to meet up with me. She even bought me a journal for me to write on about my journey. Bless her!

I call today as an endless waiting day. The first lesson on patience was learned here at the center, since we have to wait for everything. Our quest for haji mabrur apparently started at the Tabung Haji center in Kelana Jaya.

2.30 am –our travel agent finally arrived with 3-4 bus loads of pilgrims and stuff. We got our small bag (to put our money, passports and smaller stuff) and hand luggage. K Maizan and K Yang helped me re-packed some of the bags as we were trying to minimize the number of bags we brought.

2.45 am – went to pick up our tags and orange sling bags, courtesy of TM. Was told to come back to pick up my tag since it was not ready. I was asked to give another passport size picture. Hmm…weird! I of course had no extra picture. I mean, why would I want to carry a passport picture around kan? Anyway, it resulted in my not having my picture on my tag. No biggie though…In half an hour, I checked again and still, the tag was not ready. Yang’s children were all running around and not sleepy at all!

4.15 am – we were finally called to check in but since everyone was rushing towards the check in area, we decided to wait. Everything was sooo rushed since we finally checked in at 5.00 am. Due to the short time, there was no briefing – go figure!

5.30 am – We finally left for KLIA in several buses. I slept the whole way cos I have not been sleeping at all.

6.45 am –arrived KLIA. Everybody had to rush to do Subuh prayers. We were told that the flight was delayed. Hmm…(eye rolling).

9.00 am –finally ushered into the plane. I kept falling asleep the whole way, only waking up to read books and for food. Mak said that the steward was good looking but I was just too tired to bother. In any case, I was going to do my hajj kan??!

5pm (Malaysia time) and 1 pm (Saudi time). We landed in Jeddah airport. Alhamdulillah. The feeling was surreal. I still couldn’t really believe I was here and that I was going to do my hajj. It was a rather bumpy landing but we made it, alhamdulillah. Then the endless waiting period started again. This time, it was even worse than when we were in Malaysia. Sigh…

There were several passport checks and health checks and then we had to identify our bags etc. Yang and I had to do the bag checking since mak and abah were very tired and frail. We passed our bags to a complete stranger as we were told and then there was another queue and another passport check. 2 and ½ hours later, we were all ushered to a place where we could lepak for a while and then perform our Asar prayers. We were asked to identify our bags again for whatever reason and it was difficult cos most of the bags looked alike (courtesy of the travel agents) and it took Yang and I awhile to identify our bags.

5.30 pm – We were ushered into buses to go to Makkah. I was super tired by then and fell asleep right after they gave us some food and drink.

7.30 pm – We arrived at a place called passport control. I think we have arrived Tanah Haram, alhamdulillah. After another check at the passport control we were off again. But the bus we were in kept going round and round some busy and noisy streets. Either we were lost or there were a lot of road closures! Still, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. However, when we passed by Masjidil Haram and it was my first sight of the wonderful masjid (after so many years), I was speechless. Allahuakbar. I finally came to terms with the fact that I was doing my hajj. My eyes suddenly started tearing. I mean, before this I was still uncertain of my readiness to perform my hajj since I kept saying I was still very young. Even when I was on the flight to Makkah I was still kind of like in a denial. However, when I first saw masjidil haram and the ka’bah, it finally dawned upon me that I was performing my hajj! I felt so privileged and thankful that Allah gave me the opportunity to be His guest and perform my hajj. Months of waiting and preparation (well, sort of) came down to this. 42 days of my life will be spent here, with 3 million other Muslims around the world.

9.00 pm – We finally arrived at the hotel. Phew! The hotel is called Dar al Hazmi. We were not impressed with the hotel. Plus, we also found out that mak and I will be sharing with three other ladies and that Abah and Yang who were next door to us were sharing with my roomates’ husbands. Since we were too tired to do anything, we just went along with it. Anyway, there were a lot of bags in the lobby. We had to write our room numbers (which we got thru a laptop in the hotel) on the bags and we went up to our rooms. Our rooms were at level 3.

I just had enough energy to have a quick shower, say hello to my roommates and slept and slept and slept.

15 Nov

3am – everyone left for umrah haji except me since I couldn’t pray. So I just stayed behind in the room and rested. Poor abah, he must be disoriented as he was separated from Yang and mak during saie. So he panicked and took a cab back to the hotel which cost a lot! They really took advantage of people in dire circumstances I guess. The hotel was just about 700metres away but he was charged 30riyal! Kesian dia… We decided to buy Saudi numbers for Yang, abah and myself so that we would call each other if we were separated.

Umrah consisted of – Niat or reciting our intention to perform umrah which has to be done outside of Tanah Haram. Tanah Haram literally means the land that is haram or forbidden for Non Muslims. After the Niat, we start umrah (men in their white ihram and women in prayer clothes) by doing our Tawaf, where we go round the Ka’bah 7 times in a prescribed manner. Then comes the Saie, also 7 times between Safa and Marwah. We then finish our umrah by cutting a bit of our hair as a symbol of throwing away our sins and then perform sunnah prayer again. However, since it was our first umrah and that we have already niat on the plane, we could skip the first step of going to a mosque outside of Tanah Haram for the niat or we call it Miqat.

Our caterer was Indonesian so for the whole month in Makkah we had Indonesian food. From breakfast to dinner we had Indonesian food. Being the adventurous eater that I am, I seek variety. So after a few days of Indonesian/Malaysian food, I was desperately looking for other food to eat. It’s a shame my foodie club members were not here! But then, I had to remind myself that I was there for ibadah, so that controlled my zest to look for food somewhat.

9.00pm. - I checked and alhamdulillah, I could pray. So I accompanied mak to continue her saei since she did not finish hers earlier. Yang did for abah since abah didn’t feel up to it. I shall never forget my first real glimpse of the kaaba. It was indescribable! It was not just beautiful but it leaves an almost surreal feel to it. I guess only those who have been there can relate to how I felt at that moment. I am thankful that Allah has given me the privilege to be His guest. It was at this moment that I understood what it meant by being Allah’s guests. I was so touched that I cried. I mean, here I was, a thirty something year old woman, who was never the most pious of people, given the privilege to be there, performing my hajj. The feeling was priceless and I was humbled by the experience.

16 Nov 2009, Monday

Since I did not have a chance to do my tawaf and saei haji yesterday, I decided to do mine today. At 5.30 pm, abah, mak and I went to masjidil haram. My brother was elsewhere I think. After maghrib, abah accompanied me to the stairs to do my umrah. There were so many people that I felt like just a drop in the ocean! I was shoved and pushed but I persevered. I finished my tawaf haji and did my saei. Then went to find mak and abah back in the mosque. Since the mosque is huge, with nearly a hundred doors, we decided to stick to doors 73 or 65 since they have escalators and it is easier for us to go to the first floor for our prayers. We found a lot of Malaysians and Indonesians praying there too.

17 Nov 2009.

3.00 am – Went to the mosque with mak, abah and Yang. Finally, the four of us going to the mosque together! It was an enjoyable walk since even at 3 am, there were a lot of people walking about and going to the mosque.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Pakistani restaurant and bought roti and kuah for breakfast. After breakfast I slept. Must still be a bit tired from all the activities when we were coming here I guess.

2.00 p.m. – Our first hajj tour started with going to Arafah. Ustaz wanted us to get a feel of what we would be doing and where we would be going. The big group of over a 100 people was grouped into several buses and we were in the second group/bus. First stop was Arafah. En route to Arafah we stopped by Gua Thur, the cave where rasulullah hid from his enemy. It will take an hour and a half to climb! I can’t imagine how Asmah, the daughter of the Prophet’s companion, Abu Bakar, climbed the cave daily while heavily pregnant, to give food for the Prophet and her father! Then we went to Arafah were we were going to congregate when the hajj proper started. Then we went to Muzdalifah (where we were supposed to collect stones and spend half a night there) and Mina. We could see thousands of white tents which are fire proof which we were going to sleep in during our hajj. Then we saw Gua Hira’, the cave where Rasulullah received his first wahyu and first Quran sentence – Iqra’ on Nuzul Quran. I was feeling a bit dizzy and feverish already by this time but the ustaz brought us to Jabal Rahmah, the place where Adam met Hawa the first time after being expelled from heaven. I was forced to climb up (thank god there were stairs!) the hill with my brother and prayed for my jodoh. I duly prayed for it, along for my various friends (I had a list!), so I hope my prayers will be answered, insyallah.

When we got back to the hotel, my fever got worst and I skipped dinner and just went to sleep.

18 Nov.

Had nestum for breakfast (bought from Malaysia) and then Yang and mak bought some roti from the Pakistani restaurant on the way back from the mosque. Abah was also unwell. I hoped he would be better soon. I felt a lot better after Yang prescribed me some medicines. It helps to have a brother who’s also a doctor!

5.00 pm – Mak and I went to the mosque. Abah stayed behind and Yang had gone earlier. Mak and I made a mistake since we decided to perform our prayers at the rooftop. It was so chaotic and dangerous since there were no proper routes for people to follow. We were nearly trampled!

After Isyak, we fed abah some soup and tofu and then we were asleep by 10. By then, that was mostly our routine, getting up at 3 am and then going to the mosque for Subuh prayers, came back for breakfast and then listened to our Ustaz if he has some ceramah on hajj and other matters. Then we would rest for awhile or shopped or washed our clothes before Zuhur. After Zuhur would be lunch and then we would rest before Asar. Normally we would go to the mosque for Asar and stayed on until Isyak at the mosque. I wanted to stay at the mosque as much as possible since we don’t get that much time to do that back home and it was masidil haram, the most divine of all Allah’s ‘houses’! Decided to khatam quran (finish the Quran) with mak while we were here. So we started reading our portions of the quran whenever we can. In between maghrib and isyak I would try to do tawaf sunat as much as possible.

20 Nov

Ustaz bought us a washing machine! We were so happy as we could do our laundry instead of washing by hand or sending our clothes to the laundry which costs a bomb! Bless the ustaz for being so wonderful.

We also used the time to get to know our roommates. K Min who lives in Pahang has 7 children. K Rodziah who lives in Bangi has 5 children and K Izzah who lives in Kedah has 3 boys. There were nice people and belonged to several dakwah groups.

21 Nov

Woke up with a cough and lost my voice. I must drink more water! Aida, my friend at university in UK contacted me using my Saudi number. We decided to meet one day.

Abah was not well. I worried about him since he kept getting sick since we came. I prayed that he would be well enough to perform his hajj.

On the way back from the mosque after Isyak, mak and I bought ayam golek (roast chicken on skewers) at Ataullah, the Pakistani restaurant near our hotel. I guess the Arabs don’t like sauces and gravy since whenever we bought the chicken or whatever dish, we would never get the gravy. We always had to buy the gravy separately!

9.30 pm – went to the tazkirah by Ustaz and recited the Al Makthurat together with the congregation. I should try to recite it more often since it has a lot of benefit. Came back and everybody was already asleep.

Days went by and the routine was going to and fro the mosque. Abah was always unwell during this trip – either fever, coughing or vertigo. I do hope this was one way for him to atone for his sins. However, whenever he was ok, he would go to a nearby mosque near our hotel.

Whenever I was in the room, I would spend the time reading. I have been to the nearby bookstores and bought some English religious books.

24 Nov

While listening to Ustaz’s tazkira, Faisal, a friend who guided me a lot in terms of my religious studies before my hajj, sms-ed to say that his father passed away. Innalillah. The father was 80plus and had been bed ridden for a while now. I felt sorry for him. Anyway, I prayed for the father so that he could be with the pious Muslims in heaven.


The day we were traveling to Arafah. This is it! Our Hajj has begun! I fasted today since it was an auspicious day. Mak packed some dinner for me since we were not sure when we would be going to Arafah. The journey to Arafah would depend on the Arab’s Hajj administration.

We mandi sunat ihram and stayed in the room waiting for our turn to go to Arafah. This was when we had to brace ourselves for lack of water, sharing toilets with thousand others, having the patience to deal with all the challenges and people’s emotions. I can tell you, patience tend to be really thin here, maybe one of the challenges from the almighty?

It was raining. No actually, it was pouring! I could see the road outside our hotel which led downhill, was like a big drain and water was coursing through it. We were informed that some places were flooded. The last time it rained during wukuf in Arafah was 10 years ago! Masyallah, we submit to whatever challenges you put before us.

Had a quick breaking of fast. Shared my dinner with K Rodziah since she did not pack any food for herself thinking that we would be breaking our fast in Arafah. Anyway, after dinner, we were asked to go down to the buses and moved to Arafah. Finally!

The journey that normally take 20-30 minutes ended up a few hours! We were traveling at a snail’s pace. Well, considering 3 million people were all going to the same place, it is no wonder that the roads were so jammed. I could see people in ihram walking along our buses – sometimes they moved faster than the buses! The rain did not help either I guess. We finally arrived at 10 30 pm, nearly 3 hours since we moved from the hotel. By the time we arrived the rain has stopped. We searched for our tents, to be shared with nearly 40 women from the same group. The carpets laid in the tents were wet at some places, making it difficult for us to sleep. The carpet was the only layer to separate the ground and we could feel the stones underneath the carpets. There were also so many mosquitoes! Had no idea where they come from. It was so difficult for us to sleep as we could not cover our faces during ihram. We had to sleep in our tudungs (head gear) as our tents are next to the men. We could hear people talking and joking and generally, it was one of the most challenging times of my life! Despite all the noise, the mosquitoes and the wet carpet, we managed to catch some winks. I had no appetite to eat and was thankful that I ate earlier.

26 Nov

Woke up early morning to sounds of the first Subuh Azan. Went to the nearest toilet, shared with probably 2000 others from Malaysia and took my ablution. It was quite chilly. Did my tahajud and solat subuh with the rest. I also decided to do a few sunnah prayers. While doing my sembahyang sunat tasbih, I was suddenly overcome with emotions and cried non stop. I had to be quiet and control my cries (and sobbing) as not to wake some people who were still asleep. I don’t know why but I was so emotional during that particular tasbih prayer.

Had breakfast which was in a container. It was so much like camping/boarding school. Brought my ration of Maggie mee, ikan bilis tumis and serunding just to add to the food. Note to friends, this is the time to bring food from Malaysia since the food provided during Arafah and Mina was awful. However, do not complain when you are there. Be thankful that Allah still gave you food.

In our quest for haji mabrur (the highest form of hajj that will guarantee paradise as payment for those who perform hajj properly), we have to be patient with all these sparse amenities, the tasteless food and the quirkiness of people. Everyone is the same as everyone was in their ihrams (white clothes worn by men that are not stitched) and the women in our prayer clothes, everyone staying in tents and everyone in Arafah, regardless of race, status in life and so on. It was one of the most profound moments of my life.

From Zuhur onwards, we were asked to follow the ustaz in prayers and doas. The ustaz spent nearly one hour just on asking for forgiveness for our transgressions. I have never cried so much in my life! That was like the turning point in my life I think. I felt so privileged that Allah gave me a chance to atone for my sins and I am sure I have done my share of them! My sins were playing in my mine, just like movie clips. All the things that I’ve done and regretted, the prayers that I missed, the hurtful things or words I have done or said to others, especially to my loved ones, the sins that I have committed in my 30 odd years all came flashing back and I cried and cried and asked Allah for forgiveness.

What I loved the most about the doas was the fact that the ustaz also recited the doas in Malay and not just in Arabic. We could understand the doas and that made them even more meaningful I think.

The doas and prayers took us until half an hour to maghrib prayer. Then we used that 30minutes for our own doa. I took out my list of all the things I was going to ask for, for myself and for my friends. The jodoh list, the doas for children for the childless couples list, the doas for those having marriage problems list and the miscellaneous list. I hope Allah would grant all the doas, well if not all, maybe for some of the doas, hopefully. Mak kept reminding me to doa for my jodoh too since that particular time before maghrib (during wukuf in Arafah) is the most auspicious time to pray and ask for whatever we want.

After Isyak, we had dinner and then took the buses to Muzdalifah for our mabit. Mabit in Muzdalifah is a half a night stay in Muzdalifah to pick up some stones for the melontar (throwing of stones to symbolize throwing stones to the satans/devils) later in Mina. Muzdalifah is basically a barren land that we were only supposed to be in until 11.30 pm or so. In the end, we were under the stars (there were no tents) and exposed to the cold until around 6 am! The temperature dropped several degrees during winter in the evenings. The men were only in their ihrams, which were not sufficient to cover them against the cold. I thought to myself that Abah was surely going to be sick. I covered abah and mak with my shawl and tried to keep awake, hoping that the buses would come soon and trying to keep warm. Mak and abah slept for a few hours huddled together under my shawl. Alhamdulillah I had the presence of mind to bring the wool shawl that I bought in Kashmir during my holidays there.

27 Nov

It was hari raya haji or Eid Adha today. We seriously did not feel anything at that time to be honest since we were tired, we had a few hours of sleep in the cold, waiting for the buses and we surely had no mood to celebrate! In any case, we still had Mina to deal with!

Buses took us to Mina. Looked for our tent. Booked some sleeping spaces for my roommates as mak and I arrived quite early to Mina. The tents here were a bit more cramped compared to Mina! We literally had enough space for our body to sleep and sometimes when we slept, we ended up bumping into our neighbours or even touched feet with the person sleeping opposite us! Not to mention the tasteless food and much to be desired toilets that we had to share with thousand others! However, we have been warned not to say bad things and we ought to learn to be thankful and be patient.

The rest of the time we spent with just resting (or trying to rest in that cramped space) and doing our prayers.

Bumped into Hj Ismail and Mustafa from PETRONAS during one of my visits to the toilets and we chatted for a while.

28 Nov

Mak and I waited for the time allocated for our group to go melontar which was at 3 am. We went with several others. I didn’t see Yang. We had to melontar (throwing of stones that we picked up in Muzdalifah as a symbol of throwing the stones to syaitan/the devil). This stone throwing had to be done at least 4 times – 10, 11, 12 and 13 Zulhijjah. Mak and I make our way slowly to the place where we were supposed to melontar. There were millions of people walking to and fro the melontar place, called Jamrah, which is now 5 storeys high! The walk was about 3kms each way. I think I lost a few kilogrammes when I was in Makkah due to all the walking that I was doing!

We did the first melontar, Aqabah before Subuh then waited for Subuh prayers. After that, we did melontar at all three places– Aqabah, Wusta and `Ula. Each place, we used 7 stones.

Once we were done, we walked back to our tent slowly with the group. I was so amazed with my mum. I originally thought that she would be the one who would be asking me or Yang to do melontar and other things for her. Instead it was abah who had to do that. I was so thankful that Allah granted her the strength (more mentally than physically I think) to do everything by herself. She is truly a strong woman my mum J.

Yang joined us on the way back and we were also accompanied by K Izzah and her husband who took pity on me and my mum who had to really slow down since my mum was complaining about her knees. The foldable chair that we got for her for just 20riyal alhamdulillah could also be used as a cane to help her walk apart from holding on to me whenever we walked.

Abah and Yang shaved their heads to indicate that they have tahalul awal – this is when the pilgrimage has done melontar (for 10 and 11 Zulhijjah).

29 Nov

Abah had vertigo and it was a very serious one! The clinic that was supposed to be (illegally) set up had not much of anything since the Arabs were supposed to provide the clinic and medicines. So, Yang had to walk all the way to Makkah and back (a good 15 kms!) since taking the buses would be a nightmare anyway, it was faster to walk! I have never loved and respected my brother more at that time! We had our differences like any other siblings of course, but at that time, I felt like he was the best son anyone could have! He bought medicines and adult diapers for abah since abah did not have the strength to go to the toilets. He was given a pallet to sleep on and he was sleeping in a tent meant for the workers. Mak and I stayed with abah in the tent to take care of him while Yang went to Makkah for his medicines. Mak was not comfortable with me being in the male workers’ tent, so I went back to our tent and came to visit a few times in a few hours.

We had a Majlis Takruf – a getting to know one another session. I didn’t mind the majlis, I just hated the fact that some people were so kepochi and kept asking everyone whether they were married or not, how many children you have and how old you were. Being one of those (very few) who were not married (although probably way past marriageable age!), I was asked about it. Sigh…sabar, sabar… Patience is such a virtue!

I saw Norman, a friend who was in the same university with me in one of my forays to the toilets. We chatted for a while and caught up on each other’s lives.

We went to sleep early as we had to wake up early for qiammulail.

30 Nov

Woke up at 1.30am to prepare for qiammulail and melontar. After qiammulail, we got ready for the last two melontar sessions for 12 and 13 Zulhijjah. At first we waited for everyone but then so many people were late. Mak and I decided to walk ahead first since mak would take longer to walk then everyone else. So we walked slowly first. As we arrived at the Jamrah, we still couldn’t see the group. We went ahead and did our melontar. We saw a few people from our group doing the same – as in walking ahead of the group. Anyway, we did our melontar for 12 Zulhijjah and waited for subuh. After subuh prayers, we did the last melontar session. Then we made our way back. Saw Yang on the way back and he joined us as he just finished melontar for himself and for abah.

We bought ice cream which was sold outside our tents as a celebration for finishing the melontar.

Packed our bags after breakfast. Can’t wait to go back to Makkah as our stint in Mina was officially over!

Buses came to pick us up by 9.30 which were only 30 minutes late! We experienced that the Arabs are notorious for being late apparently! Everyone was nodding off in the buses. Abah was well enough to get on the bus for the journey back to Makkah.

By the time we reached the hotel, everyone was too tired. Within 30 minutes, we were all asleep as we were exhausted! We were also replacing the hours that we couldn’t sleep when we were in Mina and Arafah. Mak and I did not go to the mosque. When we woke up, we washed the clothes we brought to Arafah and then took long showers. When we were in Mina, shower was a 20 seconds worth of taking the hose and washing ourselves in the toilets. Any longer than that, people will be knocking on the door. I also felt guilty everytime I stayed longer than 30 seconds in the toilets as people would be waiting outside. Otherwise, if you want to take a longer time, do it when everyone’s asleep. In any case, the time spent in Arafah and Mina, we didn’t really bathe, so when we reached our hotels, we were desperate for a long leisurely time in the shower! Having said that, there were people who still washed their clothes or took long showers when we were in Mina! I can’t believe how selfish people can be.

1 Dec

Did my washing using the washing machine. Ustazah was there too, also doing her laundry. After doing the washing, I chatted with the Ustaz’s wife.

I had breakfast and then we got ready to do our tawaf and saei haji. Abah, mak and I took a cab to the mosque because abah was too tired to walk. Yang took the wheel chair meant for abah that we borrowed from one of the group members to the mosque.

We started our tawaf and saei haji to complete our hajj at around 9 am. Since there were so many people trying to finish the haj at the same time, the whole process took us nearly 3 hours. Abah was wheeled by Yang and apparently they finished before mak and I.

As we finished the tawaf and saei, I felt so elated. I am now officially a hajjah. I earned that title and I pray that we have attained haji mabrur. Met up with Yang and Abah and we slowly made our way back to the hotel. Bought some roast chicken as a celebratory meal for us! We hugged and congratulated each other for finishing the hajj. Alhamdulillah, we did it! My dear parents, brother and I are now hajis and hajjahs (second time for my parents and me but my first one was not really valid since I did it when I was slightly over 4 years old).

The next day was spent going to the mosque. The roads back to the hotel were always full with people. A walk that would normally take us 15 minutes became nearly one hour due to the massive number of people. It was like being in the LRT back home magnified by a few times! Most of the times, we didn’t even have to move much since people would just pushed you from behind!

3 Dec

Called Aida and asked whether she would like to go to Zam Zam Tower – a shopping centre in front of the mosque which is next to the Hilton Hotel and Tower. Realised that I got my period! Seems that the medication I’ve been taking to stop my menses did not work L Oh well, Allah must have his plans I guess.

For those planning to take pills to stop their menses during hajj, maybe you ought to start taking the pills a few months before going so that your body will be accustomed to the pills and change in hormones way before hajj or umrah for that matter. Whatever it is, please consult your doctors.

Went shopping with Aida after she finished her Zohor prayer. The beauty about being in the holy land is that the shops will close during prayer times. So we had only about 1 1/2hours to eat and shop. Zam Zam Tower is very much like the shopping complexes back home. There were so many western fast food shops and other shops like esprit and stuff. They even have starbucks! We window shopped and saw some really nice and expensive abayas. I shopped for books and some other stuff. Thank god the bookshops carried a lot of English books.

After buying a few other things, we had to say goodbye as Aida had to go back to the mosque for Asar.

The next day was spent shopping and going to Tabung Haji, which was located at Sevilla Hotel, which is about 5 minutes from our hotel. Took out some money for shopping.

5 Dec

Joined the group for ziarah and umrah series. Since I couldn’t join the umrahs, I had to just join the ziarahs. Went to Gua Thur today. I managed to climb the 1 and ½ hour climb up the cave. Maybe due to the story about pregnant Asmah sending food to rasulullah that drove me to finish the steep and exhausting climb. I had to psych myself the whole time. Yang of course managed to finish the climb in just one hour! Sheesh! Annoying really about how fit my brother was! I was also motivated by the old Turkish and Pakistanis who climbed up the cave! So I chai-yok myself to finish the climb. Finally reached the top and took pictures of my conquest! I spent about 10 minutes getting my breath back and bought myself another bottle of mineral water. Trying to hydrate myself on the slow way back down the hill.

Alhamdulillah, managed to reach foot of the hill without mishap. Gave some donations to the people (mostly migrants) who make a living by building steps from the stones on the hill for ease of climbing. When I reached the bus, a lot of people were already there! Sat next to K Izzah, my roommate who managed to climb only halfway before giving up. We slept on the way back despite the dripping air con in the bus! Ha ha! I guess after Mina, I can sleep anywhere!

6 Dec

Mak and Yang went to do their umrah. Abah and I decided to send send zam zam water back home. So we went to Sevilla Hotel to do so. Sent two bottles and spent about RM240. Had ‘lamb mandi’ a yummy briyani like dish that I had in Sudan during my trip last year. Somebody in our group actually sedekah that dish for us.

7 Dec

Yang and I decided to join the ziarah today. Mak and abah stayed behind. We first visited the grave of Khadijah (the prophet’s first wife) and later went to Tan’eim, where those who wished to perform umrah can will niat (recite their intent) here. After that we visited the grave of Maimoonah, also another wife of the Prophet. These two are the only two wives of the Prophet who were buried outside of Madinah.

After we came back I went shopping with mak and abah. Bought perfumes and a few other things for those back home.

8 Dec

Mak, abah and Yang went for umrah. Alhamdulillah that abah was well enough to go.

Caught a cold a few days back and cough too. Almost everyone here got the cold and cough too. Abah seemed to be suffering from an awful cough that wouldn’t go away no matter what medicine he took. Note to friends going for hajj and umrah – make sure you drink a lot of water and bring from Malaysia good cough and flu medicines. You need them here since the cough medicines they give you from the Tabung Haji clinics suck! Or maybe it was just Allah’s way for me to atone for my sins? Hmm…whatever it is, arm yourself with good cough meds and some flu meds too.

Went shopping with K Rodziah, my roommate and bought some bags that have matching prayer mats inside. Managed to bargain for them at 10riyal each and then there was a group of Indonesian women who were buying things too at the shop. One of the women was so confused that she kept asking for the price (and discounts) from the seller although he had agreed to give the same price to them as what he gave me. She was still asking for discounts and same price as me even after I bought the bags. I took pity on her and bought an extra bag and gave to her. It wasn’t until we crossed the road that she finally caught on and thanked me for the bag. It was hilarious. She must have been really confused, the poor woman!

For those planning to shop during hajj, just make sure you buy for things and bargain for them. Take your time, don’t rush to buy things from the first shop you see. Try looking for shops farther away from the mosque (Masjidil Harram).

9 Nov

I could pray again. Phew! Agreed earlier to go out with Aida since she couldn’t pray. So went to her hotel – which was about 10 minutes walk from mine and the hotel was so conveniently located – just across the road from the masjid! Went shopping at Al Safwah Tower, next to Zam Zam Tower, which has a lot more shops that sell cheaper stuff. Bought a few things and then had a drink at Starbuck, of all places! Ha ha! Against my better judgment of course! Had lunch with Aida at one of the fast food joints there and met a Singaporean lawyer having lunch with her family.

Then I did my tawaf sunat and performed my prayers at the mosque.

Decided to do my umrah while I still could. Asked Yang to go with me. We went after Isyak. Took a van and paid 3riyal per person. The van was crammed with as many people as possible! Went to Tana’iem, which was about 7km from Makkah and considered as Tanah Halal. We niat there and then took another crammed van back to the Makkah to perform our umrah. There were not that many people doing umrah at that time, so it was quite relaxing although I felt that my feet were starting to hurt. Maybe due to too much walking! After performing our umrah, Yang and I stopped and took some zam zam water for us to drink in the rooms. We walked slowly back and stopped at some bookstores along the way. By the time we reached the hotel everybody was asleep since it was past midnight.

10 Nov

Woke up to do my subuh prayers and followed the group to do umrah. Everyday there would be 3 buses provided for us to do our umrah and for some ziarahs. Went to the same place, Tan’iem to niat. All of us decided to perform our umrah today. Had to really slow down because my feet were hurting really bad! Yang was wheeling abah on a wheelchair borrowed from the masjid. There were apparently a lot of wheelchairs that have been donated by previous pilgrims for free use of the current pilgrims. They are just entrusted to you without having to pay any deposits and stuff. You can never get that kind of things in Malaysia!

We were finished by 11.30. Then we waited for zuhur and walked slowly back to the hotel. My feet were killing me! The illegal sellers along the way slowed our progress and not to mention the number of pilgrims traveling to and fro the mosque too.

Realised that I still had some stains! I hoped Allah accepted my umrah though. It must be the pills I have been taking. Sigh…

11 Nov

Quite an uneventful day today since I stayed in whereas everyone else left to join the sembahyang Jumaat or Friday prayers at the mosque. Apparently, this was the only time where women are allowed to join Friday prayers, so almost everyone who could pray went to join in. I decided to skip the visit to Gua Hira’ today.

12 Nov

Abah had vertigo again so mak and Yang decided not to do their umrah today. I was amazed that my mum was so determined! Back home, she wouldn’t walk that much or even make the effort to do strenuous activities. The fact that she performed her umrah everyday was amazing!

There was a visit to Hudaibiah today. This was the place where the Prophet made an agreement with the disbelievers, the Quraish that finally enable us to perform our Hajj without being massacred. Abah was slightly ok by then so we decided to join the group although he stayed behind.

En route to Hudaibiah where we can niat (one of the miqats or places to niat umrah), we went through several camel farms. Stating it as a farm is totally overstating it since it just consisted of a building with several camels (not more than 50)! However, the view when the sun was setting over the desert was so stupendously beautiful. It was breathtaking.

Yang decided to do his umrah. Mak decided against it. After isyak, we got an opening to visit the Makkah museum! Alhamdulillah. This museum held exhibitions of the two great mosques – Masjidil Haram and Nabawi. Apparently we couldn’t just go to the museum, it had to be booked weeks ahead and there were some strict rules we had to follow. Saw the first bound Quran that was done during the caliph of Omar bin Affan. Then we were rushed out by the guards because there were many people waiting for their turns outside the museum. I am thankful that we got a chance to go into the museum although it was only for a short while.

Once we reached our hotel, Yang left to perform his umrah.

13 Dec

All four of us took our two big bags to be posted home. We earlier saw a Pos Malaysia post near Sevilla Hotel where most Malaysians stayed. The Pos Malaysia representatives were very friendly. I met Izat, the rep who told me that they were having some problems to set up their post on that day and would call me once they were ready. So Mak, abah and I went into Sevilla. Yang went back to the hotel to inform our room mates that Pos Malaysia was offering a good deal for us on that day. We managed to get 11riyal per kg instead of 15-16 riyal per kg! Alhamdulillah. After some time Izat called and we proceeded to arrange for our things to be posted. Our bags and stuff amounted to 61kgs and Izat was nice enough to belanja us the box to store our things in. I think he did it because we managed to get all our roommates to post their stuff too. So they got some good business.

En route back to the hotel, we bought chicken briyani from the Pakistani restaurant nearby, Ataullah. We also bought a hard French bread from a stall very near our hotel affectionately known as ‘The Parliament’ since that place was always full with people who lepak (loiter) around in between solat times and just chit chat. Very much like our small kopi stalls back home. We had an early lunch and then I repacked my bags and washed some clothes.

That night I decided to follow Mak and Yang to perform their umrah. However since I could not pray I had to just sit around at the Saei area. I chose a good spot and took a good look at the Kaaba while contemplating the beauty and power of Allah. I was so fortunate to be given a chance to perform my haj at a fairly young age and have the strength and capacity to bring my parents along. Alhamdulillah I managed to fulfill my wish to bring my parents to perform Haj. I was suddenly overcame with emotions and started crying and praying that Allah would give me a chance to perform my tawaf wida’ or the goodbye tawaf before we leave for Madinah.

Met up with Yang and Mak after they finished their saei. We discovered that they lost their shoes! We spoke to the mosque workers and they let us chose some shoes left by pilgrims. We met up with Ustaz’ wife and another jemaah from our group and walked back together. It was already nearly midnight when we reached the hotel.

14 Dec 2009

Today marked the 30th day we arrived in Makkah. Time travels so fast I think. I felt like it was just yesterday that we arrived here to perform our haj. I think my prayers were answered and that I could already started praying again. Went to the mosque and did my tawaf sunat. Went back to the hotel for lunch and then took down our bags to prepare for our 7-hour journey to Madinah later tonight. The lobby was full with our bags that there was hardly any space for us to pass through!

The four of us wet off towards the mosque to perform our tawaf wida’ before leaving for Madinah later. Mak and I did it after the Asar prayers. We managed to finish it within one hour 15 minutes, alhamdulillah. There were so many people but we still managed to finish it without incidents. We waited a few minutes for maghrib before saying goodbye to Kaaba and leaving Makkah. It was so sad saying goodbye and I couldn’t help crying. I prayed that Allah will invite me again one day, insyallah.

Mak and I left the mosque and rushed back to the hotel. The buses started to arrive at around 8 and we went into bus number 1, as allocated by the Ustaz. By 8.20 we were off. The buses made a few stops at the checkpoints and for toilet breaks. We were given snacks when we stopped at the checkpoints. I slept most of the way.

Arrived the hotel called Al Sofraa Al Huda and it is located about 100 metres away from the Masjid Nabawi. The hotel is a lovely hotel and a proper one too, unlike the one in Makkah. We arrived at 3am but were not given our key cards yet. We also found out that we would no longer be in the same room as K Min, K Izzah and K Rodziah and that was upsetting. We found out that our room mates would be K Yati and her daughter, Aqeela. Everyone had to just find a place in the hotel to rest since we couldn’t get into our rooms. I slept at a sofa in the hotel. By 5am we were told that we could go into our rooms. Mak and I slept once we got into our room. Our roommates came in not long after that.

15 Dec

Woke up at about 7.30am and went down to have breakfast. This time around the caterer was Pattani so the food was more Siamese. We decided to join Ustaz group to visit the Nabawi mosque and we set off at 8.30am. Ustaz gave us a tour of Nabawi and told us where Raudhah is located. On the way back we stopped at a Bakso place where there were so many of us there! Alhamdulillah, a pakcik in our group paid for our bakso.

After eating the bakso, mak and I slept for a while and got to know our roommates after that. When we went down for lunch there were so many people and it was chaotic! There was an Indian group from Sri Lanka and some Indian ocean countries. There was also another group from Turkey who was also there and so the dining area was a bit chaotic. Plus, the elevators kept being jammed with so many people who were self centered. There were also people who took our food! Ustaz just smiled and listened when we complained about it. I don’t think I can ever reach that level of patience!

I realized that there were still some spotsand I still could not pray! Oh well, have to be patient with Allah’s test. I have to wait 15 days before I can pray again. In any case, I was thankful that I could still perform my tawaf widaa’.

16 Dec

After breakfast we decided to go for ziarah with the group. All the ziarahs with Ustaz in Madinah started with sunat prayers at Masjid Quba. The benefit of doing prayers at Masjid Quba is like performing umrah (provided we perform ablution before we go to Quba). I waited for mak to finish then we got on our bus. We saw Masjid Jumaat, a small mosque built after Rasullullah prayed there once. We stopped at Pasar Kurma and all of us went to buy the dates. The whole market was designated to sell dates and all products related to dates. We bought 1kg of the expensive dates – ajwar and 10kg of the normal ones. We also bought chocolates etc.

Then we stopped at a place belonging to a rich jew who was against Islam. His name was Ka’ab. The history of the ruins was that a sahabat of rasulullah killed Ka’ab since he was always looking for ways to destroy Islam and insult the religion.

Then ustaz showed us two different wells that were built during Rasulullah time. Both wells don’t have any water in them anymore.

Everybody had to rush to the mosque since it was zohor time. Mak, abah and I had lunch and then we went shopping for gifts for the grandchildren. Bought a few jubahs for both the girls and boys. Then we bought kebabs at a nearby stall. Had to rush back since the shops were closing for Asar. Then mak, abah and Yang went to the masjid for prayers.

17 Dec

After breakfast all of us went for ziarahs again. Three buses were readied and we went to Quba mosque first. Those who can pray did their sunnah prayer. Then we were taken to a small mosque that was built during the rasulullah time. The ustaz explained that wherever the Rasulullah prayed, the people in that area will build a mosque there. Hence the existence of many small mosques around Madinah. Mosques built during those days consisted of only 4 walls and can accommodate only a small number of people (I think not more than 20 at a time).

Next we went to a dates processing plant, although there were not much processing were being done but more like selling the chocolates and other dates-related stuff. We bought just a few things since we have already bought a lot at the dates market yesterday and the stuff are essentially the same.

Next was Bir Ali Mosque. This is the miqat where those from Madinah will make their stop to niat before performing umrah. Next we were taken to ruins of a mansion that used to belong to Urwah bin Zubair, the son of Asma Abu Bakar, the daughter who climbed Mount Thur to bring food to Rasulullah and Abu Bakar when they were in hiding. He was Aishah’s nephew and during his time, his mansion indicated that he was a rich man.

Next we went to another Ladang kurma, but this time I didn’t go down because we went to one yesterday too. I was bored of the dates farm by then. So I just slept in the bus.

When we reached the hotel, I mandi wajib and decided to stay at the mosque from Asar to Isyak. Masyallah I am amazed by the beautiful mosque. It’s really gorgeous inside. We even saw the portions of the roof opening after asar to provide ventilation and extra lights when the sun sets. I read the Quran as much as possible as mak and I aimed to finish reading the Quran before we leave Madinah. Alhamdulillah we finished and khatam the Quran.

After dinner, K Rodziah and I decided to go to Raudhah (one of the gardens in paradise as mentioned in the Quran and also the prophet’s grave) and brave the crowd. We arrived at 9.30 and once there, we were divided into groups according to language like, Bahasa Melayu for Malays, Bahasa Turki, Bahasa Hindi etc. There were a lot of people that night especially tonight since it was the eve of Awal Muharam. We had to wait until 11.30 and were moved from one section to another, nearer to Raudhah. We were rushed by the mosque workers in black purdah who can speak limited malay such as, “ibu duduk”, or “ibu keluar” which were glued to my mind since they kept saying the words ibu keluar from the moment we set foot into Raudhah! We managed to solat sunah once inside Raudhah although it meant using a small space to pray and risked being trampled by people since there was no system and it was chaotic. There were groups waiting to go in and we had to be rushed. Apparently it was a Malaysian that came out with the language system for the women to go into Raudhah. I guess before this it was even more chaotic. Of course, only women had to queue but the men don’t have to. We came back to the hotel at nearly midnight.

18 Dec

It was awal muharam today. There was no visits since it was Friday. The buses only went to Quba. So yang, mak and I went to Quba for the Sunnah prayers. Abah ahd fever and I taught them how to switch off the freezing air con in their room. Poor abah, he was always falling sick since the people he was sharing room with snored quite bad and that they didn’t know how to switch off the air con.

Came back and took a nap since I was up since 4 am for Subuh this morning with mak. Though we went one and a half hour before Subuh, there was not enough space for us inside. So we were freezing during the prayer.

After lunch, mak and I went to the mosque and stayed through from Asar until Isyak. We had dinner and then went downstairs to listen to a talk by Malaysian students studying there gave a talk about Palestine and the problem they have with Gaza issues. The Jews are so atrocious! Masyallah, may Allah protect the people of Palestine. We also prayed that we could save the Ansar Mosque, the Muslim’s first qiblat before Allah changed it to Masjidil Haram.

19 Dec

Mak and I managed to get into the mosque for Subuh prayer this time around by going in through the left side of the gate, at door number 25 at Uthman bin Affan door. This is also the doors leading the women to Raudhah.

After breakfast we decided to follow the visits. First stop was Masjid Quba, as usual. After performing our sunnah and Dhuha prayers, we went to visit two mosques that were built during Rasulullah’s time. These mosque (Mustawarah and Syaikhan) are still in use until today and have been expanded. Next we went to Uhud Hill, where the historic Uhud War took place. This is the war where the muslims lost to the disbelievers due to greed. Rasulullah has asked the archers not to abandon their posts but since they saw the valuables left by the disbelievers, they decided to abandon their posts and took the valuables. However, little did they know that the disbelievers planned to do that to defeat the muslims. However, they learned their lessons and the next war, Badar, we won. Anyway, we saw 70 graves of the syahids and warriors.

Next stop was a dates farm again. I decided against going down and stayed in the bus. After that we went to see a well that was built during Uthman bin Affan’s time. It was said that Uthman bought the well from a Jew. I was disappointed that we did not have time to visit the Quran plant as we had to rush back to the hotel for Zuhur.

Mka and I went to look for a ring for Yang who wanted to replace the ring that his wife lost. So we went after Asar. We managed to buy a ring for 270riyal. Then we went back to the mosque for maghrib and isyak. While waiting for Isyak, I met a nice Indonesian named Hevy who’s a doctor. It was the first time that she traveled outside her country! Hevy gave me a coca wood bracelet and I gave her a key chain. After dinner, mak and I decided to go to Raudhah. We bought a few nice sejadah(prayer mats) on the way to the mosque as I have been attracted to this nice sejadah from Kashmir.

I prayed that Allah would ease our intention to go into Raudhah and our prayers were answered as we saw this nice ustazah from Tabung Haji who saw my mum and decided to take us through a special route. We didn’t have to queue like everyone else! Alhamdulillah we managed to do a few prayers in Raudhah without being too harassed. We were so happy that we managed to stay a bit longer in Raudhah.

20 Dec

Mak and I did not wake up early enough to go to the mosque for Subuh. So we prayed in the room. After breakfast we decided to go shopping and finish off buying jubah and other gifts for the grandchildren and others. First we went to Tabung Haji which was located at movenpick NHotel, where most of tabung haji pilgrims were staying, including Aida. I took some money out and we went shopping at the many small shops in the buildings that mostly also house hotels. All these buildings surround the mosque. After we finished we discovered that we forgot to buy for Anik (Izzah)! So we had to go back and buy one more jubah for her. Then we rushed back to the mosque. Mak was tired to go, so I went alone for Zuhur. Came back, had lunch and then we got ready to go for Asar. We stayed until Isyak and then decided to continue on and queue to go to Raudhah. We didn’t have dinner but I have asked Yang to save some food for us.

We queued patiently and waited for our turn but the workers kept letting the Turks go first! Maybe they were scared of the Turks since they are an aggressive lot. The Malays were getting upset especially the Indonesians and I could see some Indonesians rushed in into Raudhah even though it wasn’t our time yet. Mak and I waited for our turn and then we went in and managed to perform sunnah prayers in Raudhah before we were harassed to leave.

We reached the hotel at about 11pm. Had a late dinner and we chatted. Yang told us about how the Indonesians’ pilgrims have to spend so much more than us. Their cheapest package is about RM15k (about how much we would pay to a private travel agent. If we go via normal package by Tabung Haji, we would have to pay RM10k each) and yet their cheapest package does not even provide food for the pilgrims! The nearest that the Indonesians pilgrims have to walk was about 3kms and our farthest from the mosque would be only 1km. Masyallah and yet the Malaysians complain on petty stuff! Mak and I normally would take whatever food that we didn’t want to eat and gave to the Indonesians and it was no wonder that they were so appreciative. I have never been so thankful to Allah for all that He has provided to us.

21 Dec

Mak and I woke up early to go to the mosque for Subuh, Then we came back for breakfast and slept. We decided not to go to the ziarahs today. Yang went and I asked him to buy me some Quran if he visited the Quran factory.

Bought mak and I some kebabs since we decided to skip lunch and go to Raudhah right after zohor. There were many people wanting to go in as usual. Since it was supposed to be our last visit to Raudhah, I wanted to make it as long as possible. By the time we were ushered in it was nearly time for Asar, so we were rushed out. I managed to solat sunat and said our farewells to Rasulullah and we prayed that we could again visit his grave one day, insyallah.

We only managed to eat after Asar. Mak and I decided to eat at a garden near the mosque. After we finished eating we bought more kebabs for abah and Yang.

We gave the kebabs to them and then got ready to go for maghrib and isyak at the mosque. Chatted with this nice Malaysian called kak Siti Zainab who worked at Jabatan Pelajaran Selangor and lived in Shah Alam. Then we went back to the hotel for dinner. Ustza told us to start packing as we were leaving in 2 days. Can’t believe we were going home already!

22 Dec

Woke up early and went to the mosque for subuh. Then mak and I went shopping for some last minute stuff that we had forgotten earlier. I spent my last 100riyal on this really nice abaya that I have been seeing at a shop nearby our hotel. Mak bought two lockets with kaabah motifs. I don’t know who she was buying them for. Today was spent packing and going to the mosque.

It rained today but before the rain there was a sand storm. Had to cover our faces as the sand particles were so fine that they could get into our eyes. Mak and I covered our faces in order to go to the mosque. It was raining by the time we left and we were drenched when we reached our hotel.

23 Dec

Rushed to the mosque to pray Subuh. Ustaz told us to just pray outside since we had to rush back to the hotel to ready to go to the airport. We were leaving Madinah and it was the end of our hajj. I was sad that we are leaving and getting back to the real world where we don’t have the luxury of praying at the mosque for every prayers. It was so cold outside! I gave my shawl to mak and made do with whatever clothing I had on. I could feel a flu coming. Anyway, we left as soon as we finished prayers. I felt sad that we were really saying goodbye.

We had earlier taken our bags down the night before as advised by Ustaz. Waited for the buses that were as usual, late. Apparently the Arabs have a habit of being late. We waited at the lobby and started to take pictures and exchange goodbyes with the rest since it would be the last time we saw each other.

Buses finally came at 9ish and we rushed to get on the buses since our flight was at 11am! By the time we arrived at the airport, it was nearly 11 and the flight that was supposed to have taken off at 9am still hadn’t taken off! We were in for a looooong wait. There were so many Malaysians at the airport, waiting for our turns to fly home. We were all given a quran each, courtesy of the King.

While going through security and endless checks, mak realized that she left her foldable chair that she used as a `weapon’ whenever people shoved her around. I promised her that we would buy her a new one if anyone I know goes for umrah soon. She was quite upset that she left the chair.

We managed to get into the plane and all four of us sat together. Abah misplaced his passport and nearly got us into trouble! We finally found it tucked with the Quran that he received. Phew! The flight was delayed by several hours and finally reached Malaysia at 3am instead of midnight. Nyah has been waiting for us, including K Yang. K Akma and Sharon also came to the airport to wait for us. What a welcome party!

We picked up our bags and our air zam zam (each person got a 5litre bottle) and then walked out. Alhamdulillah that all of us came back in one piece and none of us was hurt or got really sick. I am thankful that Allah ahs given us the strengths to finish our Hajj. Whether we attain Hajj Mabrur is up to Allah, but I am thankful that He gave me an opportunity to be his guest there and to experience the best journey of my life.

I have traveled quite a bit in my life but nothing can compare to performing my Hajj. It was the most beautiful journey I have ever taken, despite the problems and challenges we faced. It gave me a sense of purpose as a muslim. I learned patience and humility, amongst other things and I pray that I would again be given a chance to perform my hajj again in the future.

It was my second Hajj in my life. The first being when I was just 4 plus, going on 5 years old. My parents wanted to perform hajj and had to take me along since my Opah (grandma) refused to take care of me, knowing how spoiled I was! More than 30 years on, my dream of bringing my parents for Hajj was fulfilled and I thank god.

Thanks Thana for giving me the book for me to write about my journey. She named the book “Emy goes to Makkah”, but I decided to rename it “My spiritual journey”. It was indeed a spiritual journey for me and one that I would like to experience again and again. Can’t wait to perform my umrah! To my friends, I hope you guys enjoy reading this.

I hope also that for those young people who are unsure whether you are ready to go and perform your hajj or not, my advice would be, DO IT!! You will never think you are ready emotionally and spiritually but Allah knows best. I hope the sharing of my journey will inspire people to go for Hajj. I think it is better to go when you are still young so that you have the energy to do it and to possibly help others too.

Before you go though, here are some tips you may want to take:-

1. Go for classes to help you understand what Hajj is all about

2. Read as much as possible months before you leave (I know how difficult this is, been there, done that!, but then, it’s worth it cos you will be able to appreciate what you are doing once you’ve read about it).

3. Be in places where there are crowds for you to get use to being shoved and pushed and not to mention, the body odours – something that I still find difficulty accepting!

4. Do lots of taubah/taubat prayers to atone for your sins before you go.

5. Ask for forgiveness from your friends, family and loved ones.

6. Don’t sweat too much about materials and things you love cos Allah may test you and take away all that.

7. Do some research on the things you need to bring cos it helps.

8. You don’t need to bring too much food from home except when you are in Arafah and Mina.

9. For women, bring a few pairs of socks. You’ll need them.

10. Lastly, hope for the best and Allah will take care of the rest!

May Allah bless you on your spiritual journey, amin.