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This is a special series of Blogs which describe my time and experiences during Hajj this year.

DAY 1 – 21 July 2019

Departure, Arrival, and First Umrah

PIA staff had repeatedly emphasized to reach airport six hours before flight time. My flight PK759 was scheduled to depart at 9.20am on July 21. I reached airport around 3.30am and it was eerily quiet. The security staff said that the airline staff usually comes 4.5 – 5 hours before the flight time. I went to the airport mosque and waited for Fajr prayer which was still about 45 minutes away.

Anyway, when I came back to the airport entrance at about 5.00am, a fairly long queue was already in process. I also joined its tail-end, and finally got into the airport hall. First check point is Customs and next is Anti Narcotic Force (ANF). Having passed through these, had to get the baggage plastic wrapped. The wrapping service was free of charge; you only had to get your passport number entered at a counter. Next was to get a sticker for the baggage which had the person’s information printed on it. This sticker was to be pasted on the baggage to be booked. Then came to check in counter and got boarding pass. Next is to pass through immigration counter and get the exit stamp on the passport. All done, we got into the departure lounge.

There was another step here. A counter was distributing a plastic wrist band which had a QR code with person’s information embedded in it. It is mandatory to wear this band at all times; being plastic, it does not get damaged by water. Please understand that this is for your safety and comfort. Along with passport and ticket, the Haji camp had also given a plastic card which had the picture of pilgrim, Maktab number, Building number in Makkah and Madinah. This card came with a string and instructions to wear at all times. I can assure you that if you follow these measures, you will never get lost, InShaAllah. If you don’t, you may end up in big trouble.

I had changed into Ihram before leaving home. Most people had come to airport in celebratory clothes and were happily loitering around in the departure lounge.

We still had about three hours to go before the flight. Meanwhile, an officer of Hajj Mission came in. He took up the microphone and started talking to the happy pilgrims. I don’t know his name, but the gentleman used to be on stage in both training programs.

His talk had two important points.

One. He requested the pilgrims to change into Ihram at the airport. While it is nice to change at the Meeqat, but the Meeqat comes about 45 minutes before landing at Jeddah. The plane has a few tiny toilets and it would be impossible that couple of hundred people could change into Ihram in the flight. After his repeated urging, people finally realized and started changing into Ihram. I would like to compliment him that he saved the crowd from a big chaos.

Two. He said that we shall be taken to Madinah Munawarah within 48 hours of our reaching Makkah Mukarramah. He said we were a lucky group as we would be able to perform another Umrah upon returning from Madinah Munawarah.

The scenario in the departure lounge changed quickly. People donning white Ihrams were looking beautiful.

The restrictions of Ihram start after reciting the ‘niyat’ of Ihram. Immediately after ‘niyat’, the pilgrims start reciting ‘Talbiah’; men loudly and women inaudibly.

“Labbaik, Allahumma Labbaik; Labbaik a La Shareek a Lak a Labbaik; Inn al Hamd a, Wan Nemat a Lak a Wal Mulk; La Shareek a Lak”

We flew dot on time from Lahore airport. When we reached Meeqat, it was announced, and everyone recited the Ihram niyat. Immediately after, the entire plane resonated with the sound of Talbiyah. The pilgrims recited loudly and in unison and it presented such a deep effect which touched the souls. Some pilgrims broke into tears while reciting and it enhanced the effect. It was truly a deeply affecting and inspiring time.

Lahore to Jeddah takes about five hours. We reached Jeddah airport on time. Immigration was done so fast I could not believe. In about thirty minutes, we were out. We collected our baggage and immediately handed to the service people who would carry it to our residence in Aziziya, Makkah Mukarramah. The way was paved with Pakistani Hajj Support staff who guided and facilitated at every step. Some youngsters from mobile companies were running with us. One of them did my biometry and gave me a Mobily SIM, free of charge.

I must say that the arrangements were very efficient and organized; better than what I expected. Prayers for all those who worked hard to facilitate the pilgrims.

Thanks to comfortable handling, we were fresh when we reached our residence in Aziziya. We were ready to perform Umrah.

Our residence in Aziziya was about 8 km from Haram Shareef. We were told that the transport shall be available 24 hours to take us to Haram Shareef.

After settling a little in the rooms, everyone prepared to go to Haram Shareef in order to perform Umrah of ‘Hajj e Tamattau’.

Hajj, as you know, may be performed in three ways.

One is Hajj e Ifrad; literally meaning ‘single/individual’.  Only Hajj is performed; there is no Umrah and no sacrifice. Hajj e Ifrad is usually performed by local expats.

The second is Hajj e Tamattau, literally meaning ‘getting benefit’. Umrah is performed before Hajj, and the sacrifice is mandatory. The pilgrims reach Makkah in Ihram, perform Umrah and then come out of Ihram. They again wear Ihram for Hajj and then perform all Manasiks, offer sacrifice, shave heads and relieve themselves from Ihram. This is the common type of Hajj performed by pilgrims coming from other countries.

The third is Hajj e Qiran, literally meaning ‘joining/combining’. Pilgrims wear Ihram, perform Umrah, but continue to be in Ihram. They perform Hajj in the same continuity and then finally get out of Ihram after Hajj, sacrifice and head shaving. Hajj e Qiran is usually opted for by people living nearby.

Pilgrims from Pakistan are slated for Hajj e Tamattau. And so, we got ready to go to Haram Shareef for performing Umrah.

As mentioned earlier, the transport arrangement to Haram Shareef and back was available 24 hours and was excellent. And it was free of charge.

After a little while, I also got ready to go to Haram Shareef. We were five people staying in the room. All came from Lahore. Two of them had come for the first time. They asked me to perform Umrah together. I said, of course, it would be my utmost pleasure. We shall go together InShaAllah.

A little before Isha prayer, we reached Haram Shareef; and prayed Isha. Then we started Tawaf. Although there was a sizeable crowd, but we were able to perform Tawaf within Mataf. Prayed two Raka’at  Wajib-ul-Tawaf.

We then moved to Safa to start Sae’e. Completed seven rounds between Safa and Marwa.

By midnight, we had completed Umrah. We came out of Haram, got haircut and went back to our building.

All Praise be to Allah. No amount of gratitude is befitting for His Kindness and Benevolence. In a span of only one day, we started from Lahore, reached Jeddah, reached Makkah Mukarramah, and also performed Umrah. What more could we desire? What better could we aspire for? Allah’s Blessings are beyond measure and beyond our humanly limited imagination and desires.

Call it Baitullah Shareef, or Haram Shareef, or Ka’aba tul Musharrafah; it is unique. Nor is there anything equivalent to it. It is one, and the only one. The feeling you get here is hard to express adequately and fully; it is to be seen and felt. If you have had the blessing to be here, you would understand what I am trying to say and cannot. If you have not, I earnestly pray that Allah brings you here. Aameen.

You can never see enough of Baitullah Shareef; neither will you ever tire of being here. Tawaf is an extremely enriching, submitting and deep experience. If you are doing Tawaf with feeling, you will never like to stop. Allah is all-knowing and probably for this reason, Allah has ordained seven rounds for Tawaf. If the number was not fixed, many people would probably lose their lives doing unending Tawaf. There is no doubt that you fall in love here; with the Baitullah Shareef and the Tawaf.


A Common Man’s Hajj – Day to Day Recount of Hajj 2019 – Asrar Qureshi – Part 4

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