The Al-Huda family had nearly completed their fajr prayer when the ringing of the phone broke the peaceful silence of the morn. Mama raced to answer the call and after a brief exchange of salams she fell into a lengthy conversation.
Half an hour later Mama delightfully informed them of her recent dialogue “Guess what, Eisha and Raiyan, Grandpa and Grandma are coming over next week from Houston. Your aunt and uncle have decided to go for a Hajj this year after visiting your cousins in Dubai. So, Grandpa and Grandma are coming to stay with us till Eid-ul-Adha.” Eisha shouted “Yippee! Grandma and Grandpa on Eid! We will have loads of fun, Insha-Allah (If Allah Wills).”
Raiyan however was showing signs of an opposite reaction, “Till Eid?” He whined as he folded the prayer mat. “Loads of fun or loads of work?” Raiyan whispered to himself but the expression of discomfort exposed his feelings to the audience. “Raiyan!” glared Mama, as her angry eyes bore into her son’s eyes. “I cannot believe you said that about Grandma and Grandpa. They are Papa’s parents and they love you so much. The small acts of kindness that you do to help Allah’s creations makes Allah happy and to sever ties with your kith and kin makes Allah unhappy.” “But Mama, you don’t understand. It’s not that easy” wailed Raiyan. Mama put her arm around him and gave Raiyan a tender hug. “ Son, life is full of hills and valleys but this is not the recipe to deal with them. When on top of the hill, remember to thank Allah for His blessings and when at the bottom of the valley, take it as an opportunity to be patient and to look forward to a reward from Allah.” Raiyan apologized for his mistake and promised his mother that he would try his best to please Allah by pleasing his grandparents. “Hey bro, look at the bright side for the both of us, I must add,” reminded Eisha, “grandma and grandpa performed Hajj last year and you can ask them to help you with your Sunday school project. That way my nerves can get some rest too. Remember, with every difficulty there is ease. Al-Hamdulilah! (All Praise belongs to Allah)”
The days flew by and finally the Al-Huda family welcomed their guests. Grandma and Grandpa brought wonderful gifts for their precious ones. “Wow Grandpa! A Spalding Basketball! Cool! I always wanted that. Thank you ever so much. You are the best!” exclaimed Raiyan. He immediately ran outside to shoot some hoops. But while he was playing with his gift, his happiness started to drain and after a while he felt pretty miserable. “I wish I had not said that,” recalling the talk he had with Mama, “Pity! Why didn’t I think before I spoke,” said Raiyan regretfully and with these thoughts he went to look for his grandparents.
“Grandpa, are you comfortable? Can I get you anything?” asked Raiyan with a mixed feeling of shame and regret. “No my dearest! Come and sit with me. Eisha told me that you needed help for your Hajj project.” Raiyan replied in the affirmative and then showed his project paper. “Son, Hajj is a blessing you can fully understand only by experience. It is a wonderful act of a collective worship, an inspiring spectacle of unity.” “Unity grandpa? Do explain,” said Raiyan. “Close your eyes and imagine what it must be like to see people of various races and cultures, speaking different languages, originating from various ends of the world to converge to the one ‘Center’. They exchange their different clothes for a simple common, uniform and are united by a common language of praise and glorification of the one and only ‘King’. In front of you lies Africa, to the right is the Middle East, behind you is Asia and to left is America. By uniting together with a diverse body of people it seems as if you have visited the countless communities and countries of the globe. In this way the differences in nationality, country and race are removed and they move simultaneously as single body with a universal mission.” “Wow, grandpa I never thought Hajj was that intense. Single body… yeah… you are right that’s what it looks like when they start moving in a circle around the Ka’ba,” commented Raiyan. “That my son is called the Tawaf which must be performed seven times by all pilgrims,” informed grandpa. “Ah! I can still hear the chants of the pilgrims,” sighed grandpa, “Labbayk, Allahumma Labbayk, labbayk, la sharaika laka labbayk, Innal-hamda, wan-na’mata laka wa’l-mulka la sharika lak (Here I am, O Allaah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty, You have no partner). They say this in a loud voice, after every prayer, meeting other pilgrims, when climbing or descending.” Raiyan enthusiastically cried “O yes, that’s what they made us say in my Sunday school’s Hajj workshop” and then asked, “grandpa, at school, some kids were saying that now they have renovated the Haram.” Grandpa explained that the Saudi government had put air-conditioned tents in Arafat and Mina for the ease of the pilgrims. They also provide wheelchairs for the older pilgrims to facilitate them in performing the Sa’i that is the hurried walk between the hills of Safa and Marwah.
“Well, well, well! What do we have here? A grandpa and grandson tête-à-tête?” asked Grandma as she entered the room. “Grandpa was giving me a few pointers about hajj, grandma,” informed Raiyan. “Son, forget grandpa, let me tell you some things that will really be of interest to you,” said grandma to which grandpa moaned “Oh no! Here we go again.” And then grandma began her version of hajj. “Raiyan, we stayed at the Sheraton Makkah Hotel which faces al-Masjid al-Haraam. Ours was an air-conditioned suite and we could see the Ka’ba from our window. We ate at the food buffet at the Al-Shaheen lounge. Best of all, the food is halal.” “Wow grandma, I didn’t know there were five star hotels in Makkah and Medina,” commented Raiyan who was enjoying every bit of the conversation. “They were not there before now it’s all modernized. Did grandpa tell you about Zam-Zam?” Raiyan shook his head in the negative. “It is a blessed spring of water in the vicinity of the Ka’ba that Allah miraculously caused to flow for Ismaeel and his mother Haajar, Alayhima as-salaam. Inside al-Masjid al-Haraam, there are taps and basins to facilitate the pilgrims in quenching their thirst with the water from Zam-Zam,” explained grandma and then with a deep sigh added, “But Raiyan, the most memorable part of all is at night when both the cities illuminate the sky above them and there is peace all around.”
“Wow! I never thought there was so much to know about the Hajj. Jazak Allah Khairun (May Allah reward you with all the goodness) to both of you.” Just then Grandpa looked at his watch and said “Oh! I nearly forgot. It is time for my medicine. Raiyan, would you be a dear and get me a glass of water? Jazak Allah Khairun (hmm… readers does it just mean thank you?) son.” “Water grandpa?” said Raiyan slowly and signs of discomfort began to appear on his face but after a brief recollection of his past mistake, he suddenly smiled and uttered “Sure grandpa!” and hopped out of the room.
Raiyan’s grandpa mentions that the pilgrims from all over the world have converged to the ‘Center’ and that they join hands for the worship of one ‘King’. What you think is that ‘Center’ and whom do you think is the ‘King’?