Two weeks prior to the day of Wukuf, we set off to Makkah. Why two weeks you may ask. It is because we wanted to go through the journey with our chosen Ustaz with our own arrangements and our own terms. And to go for Hajj one needs a special "visa" even though we live in the country. And to get one of these visas one would have to join a local group, something we didn't want to do.
So the alternative was to get in early, and we thought, why not. Spend some time at the Masjidil Haram, soak in the atmosphere, prepare ourselves and reading up. You see, we haven't been cramming for the trip. Yes we attended a talk or two, read a few pages of the books we had, watched the first 5 minutes of a 5 part VCD. As soon as we made the decision to go, somehow we were rushed for time. There was always a dinner invitation there or meeting up with someone here or errands to run, groceries to get, TV shows to watch, the usual things we clutter our lives with. Soon it was time to go and I didn't quite finish packing until the day before the drive itself.
Perhaps at the back of my mind, I knew I was not ready to go but at the same time I knew that there is no such thing as being REALLY ready. There are some people who prepare years prior to their trips. They go for year long "kursus" (courses) talked to people who went etc. But that wasn't us. We decided about three months that we were going, had one meeting then, and then another meeting to book the accommodation, agree on cost for transportation etc. And suddenly it was time to go. I didn't manage to read up on anything at all, just the knowledge that our group is relatively small and we would have the good guidance from the Ustaz.
What made me decide to go then? It was partly geography, we are already in the country and I also believe in seizing the opportunity when it is presented to me.
Because I also know that not everyone has the privilege of being invited. Not every Muslim make it in their lifetime. Sometimes its economical reason, sometimes spiritual and sometimes just fate for death claims them before they get the calling. Thus recognizing that, I braved myself, accepting the call to present myself there. And I am very glad I did. And will gladly go again if given the chance, Insyallah.
Getting in was already tricky. We didn't have the Hajj visa because we made our own arrangements and we were aware that we could be forced to turn back at the border of the Holy land (Tanah Haram) and that will be the end of our trip. We were lucky to get two budding Ustaz(s), students at the Imam University to accompany us on the drive there. We needed interpreters and they needed a ride so it was a symbiotic relationship.
We set off at 7 am. I didn't sleep much the night before because I was wildly excited. It was exciting for me as it was the day before my trip to Europe and Japan last year! Mind you I had gone for Umrah just a week prior to this, but that wasn't the same. THIS will be THE trip.
At the first checkpoint, we were already thankful for the company of our fellow Ustaz. The police manning the checkpoint asked something in Arabic. All S understood was "Kam" meaning "how much." So he thought the policeman was asking him how much was he speeding. But it turned out that the policeman was asking S the price of the car. LOL! Price of the car? After telling the guy how much the car was purchased at, we drove off feeling flabbergasted.
Along the way to Makkah, we stopped at Taif, at the house of the lovely Kak Z. She persuaded us to sleep overnight at her place but we told her that we wanted to push on that very night because we were afraid that the police had begun their checks and we wanted to make sure that we could get in. And so we set off.
We drove to the designated Miqat to state our intentions. The men and I were already in our Ihram (the male pilgrim garb consist of 2 pieces of cloth that has no stitching on them, the women can wear anything as long as her aurat is covered) and we stated a conditional Ihram,
"If I am prevented by an obstacle, my place of freedom from this state will be wherever You hold me up."
And so off we went. My heart was beating wildly and I was reciting the Talbiyah;
"I am here O Allah, I am here. I am here, You have no partner, I am here. Verily, all praise, grace and dominion are Yours, and You have no partner."
We arrived at our first checkpoint amidst the sound of the Isyak prayers. The police seeing the men in ihram, asked for their papers to verify that they were Muslim and waved us off. We heaved the sigh of relief but we knew that there will be more checkpoints.
The road from Taif to Makkah is a winding road that passes around the high Hada mountain. It was spectacular and frightening at the same time as the local drivers have low tolerance for cars moving at speed limit and chooses to overtake whenever they please.
And at the end, just before entering the city limits of Makkah, another checkpoint. We all were saying our prayers and held our breath. To our surprise, the police asked to see our papers and waved us away. I called Kak Z to say that we went through the checkpoint allright and heaved a sigh of relief.
But little did we know that there was to be another checkpoint. We drove up to a police officer. Upon seeing our Iqama, he referred us to his officer. We were told to drive to the side.
Is this where our journey ends?