Hajj one year later

For the rest of my life, this time of year in the Islamic calendar will always be dear to me. This is the Hajj season, and Muslim pilgrims from all over the world are descending upon the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to perform the annual Hajj ritual. Many, if not most, of them are going for the first time, and I can feel their energy and excitement right here from my computer in Chicago. As I see satellite channels beam live images of the daily prayers in Mecca, I smile, and my heart aches and yearns to go back to Mecca. These words do not do justice to how much I truly miss the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. 

The Hajj was the most powerful and emotional spiritual experience I have ever had. The city of Mecca exuded with the Power of God, humbling me to the core of my soul. The prayers I performed in front of the Ka'aba, the holy shrine in Mecca, were unlike any others I have ever performed. After getting my fill of worship at the Holy Shrine in Mecca, the trip to Medina was like the most delicious dessert following a most satisfying meal. To go and finally visit the Prophet's grave, worship in his mosque, feel his cool, soothing presence all around you, was completely intoxicating. Tears still come to my eyes when I think back of the first time I met and greeted the Prophet in his grave. 

Looking back a year later, however, I am sad to report that many of the effects of the Hajj have since worn off. Once I came back, the harsh and difficult world of everyday life came at me with full force. It was as if life was itching to hit back, angry that I left it for three weeks to fulfill the fifth pillar of my faith. I once again get angry in rush hour traffic; I once again miss some of the extra rituals of worship; I once again do not get to reading the Quran every single day. It makes me sad to admit this fact, but I hope that writing it down will help encourage me to work and rekindle the spirit and special feeling of the Hajj that so touched my heart and soul one year ago. 

I often wonder why God chose such a desolate place to put His Holy Shrine. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, around the holy city of Mecca except for rocky, barren desert. Why couldn't Mecca have been established on a tranquil ocean side, for instance? It would be very nice, after a long hard day of worship, to soak up some sun and catch some waves on the Red Sea.

That is exactly why Mecca is where Mecca is. People would then miss the whole point of why they are going to Mecca. During the Hajj, God plucks you out of your daily routine and puts you in a desolate place where there is nothing to do but worship Him. Therefore, you are constantly reminded of why you were put here on earth: for the sole worship and service of God.

These lessons are fresh in one's mind immediately after the Hajj. But, as they were in my case, they wear off with time. Nevertheless, with every subsequent Hajj season, former pilgrims are reminded of the difficult--and same time wonderful--experience they had in the Holy Precinct, and they are then reminded of their obligation to be God's servants. In addition, those of us who went on the Hajj continually encourage friends and family who have not gone to finally go and experience the magic themselves. 

Furthermore, acts of devotion related to the Hajj are easier to perform. For example, for the overwhelming majority of Muslims who cannot perform the Hajj, they are encouraged to fast on the day that pilgrims are standing on the plain of Arafat. As a reward, their sins of the past year are forgiven by God. I had always fasted on the day of Arafat in the many years before I went on the Hajj, but it would always be very difficult psychologically. Any fast outside of Ramadan, in fact, is much more difficult for me. Not now, since I have done my Hajj. Now on, I will always look forward to and enjoy fasting the day of Arafat. It will always bring back wonderful memories of the most emotional and beautiful spiritual experience of my life. 

I had heard writer Michael Wolfe (author of 'the Hadj') say that once you leave Mecca, it always calls you back. I never really believed this until I myself went on the Hajj. To this day, it continues to beckon and call me home, and God willing, I intend to go back one day to perform a lesser Hajj, or Umra. I pray that day comes soon.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and columnist for the Independent Writers Syndicate. He is author of "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the Book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale).

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Older Comments:
This brought tears to my eyes because your words describe exactly how
I feel right now.I came back from my Hajj just two weeks ago and I
miss those days spent in Mecca and Madinah. InshaALLAH one day I will
go back to perform Hajj again.

I feel the same way too! I have performed Hajj last year and Mecca and Madina becons me to coma back. I would offer prayers on time while in Madina and Mecca.I really hope and pray that day comes soon when I can visit the Holy cities again. Insha allah Ameen! While at Hajj I had really experienced the miracles and really felt like the guest of Allah! Subh Allah!

Dear American Muslimah, I hope u get to read this message. It should be possible for you to perform your Haj as I was 25 years old when I went to perform the umrah with my mother. We were not aware that we had to have a mahram with us. Since we were going in a group (made up of males and females), me and my mom actually used the name of of the older males in the group as our mahram. I think the purpose is to ensure that young females like us are always in the safe company of a male. In Singapore, we perform the Haj in groups, thus ensuring that there are males and females in the group? Is it not possible to go with others from America?

I think Hesham said EXACTLY what i felt at this past Hajj. I too was blessed to make the '03 Hajj last year. when people left this year, i opened up my journal and recollected memories of the most wonderful experience of my life. I searched thruough the internet for pics or articles on this year's hajj. whenever i read ANYTHING about hajj, i get tears in my eyes. Now I am desperately waiting for the Hajjis to come back and share their experiences. Mecca and Medina are calling me back as well.......I hope I go again soon, inshallah

Assallam Alaykum,
Indeed what the brother had specified in this article i had gone thru as well.One really feels fresh from all bad things and feels like he has just taken birth and furthmore u dont feel like leaving the two holiest cities it really is a tearful departure from this places and indeed once u leave the place it feels like u want to turn around and run for it.It really recalls u to come back.
Allahmdulliah i had the oppurtunity to go continously twice and inshallah this week i will be able to visit and offer my prayers there.
I felt sad when i could not find any way to go but allahmdulliah he paved the way for me and inshallah i am goin there this week
Pray for me brothers and sisters.


That may be fine and dandy, but I'm a 25-yr. old American Muslim woman and I cannot make Hajj! How unjust is this?! I don't have a husband, brother, father, or adult son to be my "mahram" as the Saudis insist. Also, I am under 45 so I cannot go with a group of women. What am I to do? This might be the only chance in my life that I have to make Hajj! Why isn't anyone talking about women in my situation and demographic group who are barred from fulfilling their religious duties?

What this brother said is true! MAKKAH INDEED CALLS YOU BACK ONCE YOU HAVE LEFT. I went for Umrah Alhamdulillah! It's so hot and humid and BEAUTIFUL!!
One day Allah will allow me to return and perform Hajj Insha'Allah and I wish the same for all my sisters and brothers in Islam. Ameen.

I am reminded of a sermon by a revered Ustadz in Malaysia afew years back. The gist is like this.
Why did Allah SWT chose MECCA to be the centre of the religion that he blessed in the arrid land and the feuding clans of the Quraisy.
The ustadz said that Mecca and the quraisy were chosen as they are the extreme of the physicals. If ISLAM can flourish in this harsh land and robust group of people, then ISLAM can flourish anywhere on earth.
During my many visits to the holy cities, I experienced a lot of what you described and felt very upset when the beatings of everyday drums makes me forget what I always remind myself whilst in the holy land. There are 2 things that I concluded from this. 1) Praise be to god who had given me the oppurtunity to feel and taste remorse for not abiding fully to firman and sunnah and that I be given time to improve and always improve my iman 2) God is most forgiving and most all knowing, as he travel through the harsh realities of the modern world GOD knows that we always try our best and that God always reward us for remembering.
My late father always reminds me that the ibadah in the harshes of enviroment will most definitely be well rewarded in the after life.
Please do not get me wrong, I'd love to spend the rest of my life in Medinah or Mecca...everyday praying in the holy mosque...but there must be a reason for us to be so far apart yet so close at heart......for that my brother I must admit I miss the holy cities too much for words .....and I have neen there 6 times since 1996.

Last year ALLAH (SWT) has invited me to make Hajj and even better I got to go as a Mahram for my mother. My experiences at Hajj were just as the brother Hesham A. Hassaballa had described, and till today I feel the after effect of going to the two blessed cities of Mecca Mukarrama and Medina Munawwara. I was very happy to see the Hajj live here on Islamicity. It made me realize more how much I missed being there.

Assalamualaiku wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,i just cant express in words how i was moved when i read this article sadly i havent been to these holy cities up till now please make duaa that one day i go there InshaAllah.on hajj day i saw live programme for the first time in my life and i just cant express my feelings .just pray i go for hajj and umrah May Allahtala accept hajj of all the hajjis who went this year AMEEN.

My Brother in Islam.As I sit here reading your comments and the memories of my 1st visit to the Holy Lands come rushing back. Over the last couple of days I felt very sad that I was not able to be there to experience the rush of performing the hadj.i yearn every day to be back where i was last year. I stayed in Alraed no 5 in Ghaleed bin Waleed Street. As i see these images on Satelite TV and listen to Radio reports of the Hadj rituals I long to be one of the millions of people being there, It is as if I am jealous of these Hadjis(not a bad jealousy). Like you have mentioned just to be able to sit in the Prophets Mosque you can feel that this is the place where you could spend Hours at a time and think what they did in their days. When I was sitting there I wished that I could have lived in the days of the Prophet and his Sahaabah. Yes my fellow Brothers and Sisters in Islam this is one journey that no one will ever forget for the rest of their natural life. i have made Niyaat to visit this Holy place in the next five years inshallah and this time i want to have my whole Family with me Inshallah

I am glad you had this section for comment. As I read this article and could relate so much until the tears just ran down my face. True indeed this year I will Insha Allah in the month of Ramadhan, I will return to the Holy Precints, and feel the Power of Allah Most High and Glorified. Salahuddin Ramadhan

SelamuAlejkum-Inshallah you shall go again and again, Your experiance is a great read for all those who read it.

May Allah grant you your wishes for you and all people on the right path Inshalla.