Spiritual Olympics

It never occurred to me that amongst the things I would be packing for the long trip is 10 balang kuih tart. I mean yes insya Allah we will be there for first day Raya insya Allah, but 10 balangs? Thanks to the initiative by the owner of our Umrah agent group which made me go ‘dang!!! Why didn’t I think of it before?’.

Puan S has been a Hajj and Umrah tour operator for years. In last Saturday’s majlis taklimat, she reminded us of our obligation to feed the fasting. If feeding the person who fasts already brings so much barakah to a person, what more if you feed a fasting traveller in Masjidil Haram where all deeds are multiplied by 100 000? The essence of a believer is two prong, in the absence of either one negates the true essence of a complete Muslim. The first is habbluminnallah, which is one’s relationship with Allah. And the second is habbluminannas i.e one’s relationship with a fellow human being. Puan S reminded us of our act of going to Hajj and Umrah is not only to build our relationship with Allah, but it is a spiritual Olympic of sorts, where we are actually supposed to be building bridges and silaturahim and cultural exchange with fellow Muslims from every corner of the world. Why not be an ambassador to the Malay culture-since we are the group coming from Malaysia, while feed the fasting at the same time? (I am Javanese and if I have my choice, I would love to being tempe goreng but so leceh, I bring kuih tart gulung lah).

Hajj and Umrah is the culmination of the tests of the two aspects of the faith habbluminallah and habbluminnas. For habluminallah, leaving everything and literally everything to do the rituals of hajj and umrah in two pieces of unstitched cloth for men and simple plain white clothing for women is, as I have experienced, the truest test of redha (acceptance), tawakkal (putting things in HIS hands) and jihad (striving against oneself). This was really THE moment when who is who is this world does not matter at all, degrees and accolades are just pieces of paper and wealth, looks and any worldly possessions are just mere plastics of this world. In that moment of simplicity, when we tawaf and sai and then tahalul, the only thing that matters is our personal relationship and our standing in HIS eyes as our Creator and Sustainer.

If I have words to describe the feelings of humility, of shame, of thankfulness, of embarrassment, love, hope and fear that I felt while I was there, I would gladly describe it. But the problem is, those feelings cannot be expressed even by the most gifted poet because it is way too personal. And for me, the most intense of these feelings had to be that of shame and regret. These two, haunted me and reduced me to a weeping child in front of the kaabah. Of all the things I had done when I forget about HIM, or even if I remember HIM, of the times that I, against better judgment, chose to defy.

Despite all that, He concealed my mistakes and sins because HE is Al Ghafur, The Ultimate Concealor (of faults), and He being Ar Rahman (Most Gracious) still invites this erring servant to HIS holy land and gives me a chance to repent because His Ar Rahim (Most Merciful) attributes, together with his Ar Ghafar (The ultimate Forgiver) shows that His mercy and forgiveness is much much more than our sins. Not only that, He being Al Afuw ( the One who erases) will erase the marks of those sins and past mistakes to allow us to return to the state of a newborn baby. How can I not be embarrassed and feeling so shameful at myself?

As for habbluminannas, Hajj and Umrah is when one really learns to live with the rest of the world, literally. From the deepest village of South America to Stockholm to Iceland to the jungles of Kalimantan. There are people from every corner,you name it. Hence it would be of great service to the concept of global ummah if we use the opportunity to make friends with people from other countries, with totally different cultural norms and habits as compared to us.

I tell you, it is not easy. In that crowd and heat, to understand the fear of a Russian granny who trampled on everyone else for fear that her group would leave her behind needs the patience of a saint. Or the kiasuism of the Chinese groups who just cannot wait but simply push their way through everything, the annoying habits of big Arab families who chope space for their clans in the masjid while denying everyone else of the space to pray— Allah these are the challenges that can make one really lose it.

I did. One pakcik Arab, who looked so rural that he must be so used to throwing things anywhere in his remote village, threw his kebab wrapper on the floor outside the Haram, below Hilton hotel. I was already feeling so hot and exhausted and crowd weary. The sight of someone littering just like that ground my nerves in such an intense way. I walked up to the old man, arms akimbo and glared at him, mata berlolok macam nak telan orang. He didn’t get why I was upset with him.

Insya Allah, if I have a safe trip this Friday, it’s time to experience all that again. I just hope I will survive it better this time. Maaf Zahir Batin.

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