Recently, I had the opportunity to complete the fifth pillar of Islam: Hajj. I spent seven days in Makkah plus an additional day for traveling and within that short period, I managed to learn a number of things.
In order to perform hajj, one must be physically and mentally prepared for the many obstacles that await him/her. From my recent experience, performing hajj was not an easy thing to do. Although we were privileged with train rides and stayed in a comfortable tent on the outskirts of Mina, we still had to face some challenges.
The physical challenge:
On the 10th of Dzulhijjah, my family and I had to travel about 6km on foot before arriving at the Jamarat. I have to admit, it wasn’t that difficult for me because I have grown used to walking—although it seemed like a never ending journey at that time! I witnessed many incidents that happened along the way. I remember seeing an exhausted woman sitting by the road being fanned by a couple of people and I even saw an unconscious man laying on the asphalt. We were lucky because we only had to do it once while some people had no choice but to repeat it another seven times. Just imagine how tiring it must be for an elderly to do that!
The mental challenge:
Patience is the biggest challenge every pilgrim must face during hajj. With more than 2 million people from all around the world gathered in one place, it can be quite tough at times especially during peak events. Plus, you have to be VERY patient to board the train because there are thousands of people who want to ride it too. Hence, you will need to be very patient while performing hajj especially when you are in the presence of other humans (which is most of the time).
One of the most important lessons that I learned during my pilgrimage is being grateful. Although it is said that mankind is equal during hajj, that wasn’t exactly what I saw.
After performing tawaf on the 11th of Dzulhijjah, we took a bus back to our tent in Mina but the driver stopped us at a wrong road so we were forced to walk a bit before actually arriving. I saw hundreds of people including children laying and sitting on the ground. Some were sleeping on plastic mats. Witnessing that made me realize how blessed we were to have shelter compared to those people that were living in the shade of the overpass.
Another thing that we should be grateful for is health. As I mentioned earlier, there were lots of elderly people who had to walk long distances during hajj. While most of them managed to arrive at their destination, some stumbled midway and others had to be rushed to the hospital because of exhaustion or dehydration. These incidents showed me how important being healthy is and that we should appreciate it before this gift is taken away from us as we grow old.
There are lots of things to be thankful for but many fail to see them because they are too busy comparing themselves with people who have more than them. The correct action is to measure what we have instead of the things we don’t have. This is the only way for a person to become more appreciative.
I hope these eye-opening experiences that I gained during my week in Makkah will benefit myself and others.