Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Meccan Chronicles: Sadness

We're pretty sad around here. A year has already passed since we left for Hajj. However sappy or mandatory it may sound, we miss it dearly. When I came back from Hajj, I was elated to be home and felt that it'd be good to go again in, say, three years or five. I was exhausted, with bronchitis, and was happy to do something (anything!) without waiting in a "line" and holding on to my garb lest it slip. Well, if you're interested, here were my Hajj reflections, "Pilgrim's Progress," most of it was published in Seasons of Zaytuna.

Every year, people I know make their way to the Hijaz, the cradle of religion. My father-in-law has made the Pilgrimage his annual wird, sacred litany, for the last 20 years, truly a grace from above. But he takes the nomadic approach and goes off to negotiate his own program, a concept that I cannot begin to imagine. My personality -- requiring structure in unfamiliar grounds -- could not countenance such a move. But there is something addictive about Makkah and its environs. It is "home" in a primordial sense, no matter what race or former tradition a pilgrim comes from. This may rub people the wrong way, but there's subtle "proof" in this rite and venue. Abstractions and platitudes take form. Real comes within reach. In the West, the Pilgrimage is reduced to 20 seconds of a nightly news reel, or, God forbid, a report about a tragedy (fire, trampling, or other unfortunate events).

The first time I visited Makkah was in the summer of 1984, Umrah during Ramadan. Four of us from Chicago went, and we've remained friends ever since. Some of my Pilgrim-mates are tested severely these days, and I hope for their relief. Something about Makkah: you remember forever your Pilgrim-mates. For my 1984 visit, I packed everything to only lose my luggage. The airlines, Royal Jordanian, was "on it" and made promises. But I never saw my luggage until the day I returned home. Covered only by our ihram tunics, we made Umrah and then ran around to find clothes to wear. We lived on two jalabiyyas, slept in the haram (the Sacred Mosque), showered in the bathroom stalls, and ate humus and crushed fava at night in crowded "restaurants". I remember the first dawn. It came fast, and we had been too busy that night to hydrate ourselves. When we heard the Call for Prayer, we were shocked. It's an understatement. We were very thirsty already. We slept after the prayer. When we woke up, we each had the feeling that we had slept through the noon and late afternoon prayers. It was death-level sleep and the sun was slanted downward. We got up to make ablution, make up the prayers, and prepare to break our fasts. By that time, we were thirst-crazed. But when we saw a clock, it was still 8:30 in the morning, with a full day of blaze and sun until we could break our fast. We couldn't believe it. We needed more evidence. We looked at other clocks and saw the same information. We stared at each other with the looks of dread. It was, no doubt, the longest day of my life. When my friends gather together, invariably that story comes out. We remember and laugh, although, at the time, mirth was not our first reaction.

It’s hard to keep a dry eye when recalling memories like these. Memories are complex and what they do to you now is nuanced. I have more memories that are not related to the rites per se, but stuff that I can never forget, like the tall beggar who looked like a saint in disguise or an old Yemeni man showing me amazing patience that to this day comes to my mind when I read about sabr (patience and/or perseverance). Anyhow, thanks for indulging me in my ramblings. These "things" truly flavor life.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Maliha said...

Salamaat,
I really enjoyed the longer version of your Hajj recollections. Thank you for sharing.

12/12/2007 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss hajj and our hajjmates. I want to know how they are doing and i want to know that they are doing well. I sometimes cant believe that a year has passed--cant believe that i am here and not there.

I think about it often, love to reminisce with other hujjaj, and hope for a speedy return.

Nadia

12/12/2007 9:46 AM  
Anonymous miskeena said...

Salam

Your post brought tears to my eyes. Seeing off this years Hujjaj, I inevitably feel sad that i'm not going too...as if i've never been. So hour-long phonecalls to hajj-mates ensue...i guess they're some sort of consolation. I'll never forget the people I met, the things I saw.

Subhan'Allah that was us one year ago and will be again soon...of that I have no doubt.
May we all be invited again and again. Ameen

12/12/2007 11:24 AM  
Blogger Ijtema said...

Assalamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullah
I pray that you are in the best of health & imaan.
This is a short message to notify you that this entry has been selected for publishing on IJTEMA, a venture to highlight the best of the Muslim blogosphere.
To find out more about IJTEMA, and how you can further contribute, please click here.
May Allah bless you for your noble efforts.
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12/12/2007 5:37 PM  
Blogger fromclay said...

Thanks, Maliha. Your comment about the brevity of the original was part of the reason I expanded.

Yes, Nadia. Me too. I miss the Hajj gang. Miskeena, the feeling being left behind is a tough one to deal with. You feel like jumping up and down, "Take me! Please!"

12/13/2007 8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salams & Jummah Mubarak!

Sidi- thats exactly what my first reaction is...! so much for grown up.
I love your blogg, your writing is thoughtful & emotive- I especially liked the post about your brother as I can totally relate.

12/14/2007 10:10 AM  
Blogger fromclay said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/14/2007 11:55 PM  
Blogger fromclay said...

Thanks, Anon. The post about my brother was a tough one to write. It's not only about him, but about his world and upbringing. . . everything.

12/14/2007 11:56 PM  

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