By Dr. Seyed Hossein Hosseiniseddiq

The pilgrimage experience

August 10, 2019 - 16:23

As the Hajj is approaching again, I would like to share my pilgrimage experiences with the readers of the Tehran Times.

I had a long-held desire to do a Hajj in Saudi Arabia.  I wanted to take some of my students as well, but it was not financially easy.  It is said when there is a will, there is a way.   I participated in a lottery for Iranian students studying abroad, to go to Mecca. I won with the Grace of Allah.   I departed from Mehrabad International Airport on /29 March 2012 to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.  There were about 480 people in two groups, however not all of them were students.  Students were allowed to bring their spouse and children if they were married, but not their parents.

When we began to descend towards Jeddah, the pilot said everyone can say a great "Yes" or "Labbayk". Everyone joined together in the cheer.  From Jeddah city we went to Medina by bus.  It was about a six hour drive during which we rested for dinner. We stayed in one of the best hotels in Medina.  It was so close to Masjad-e-Nabvi, Prophet Mohammad's (peace be upon him and his descendants) mosque.

I visited a huge mosque that had a simple architecture.  It had a green Dome.  The prophet's grave is located under that dome.  The tomb was located in the Prophet's house.  His daughter,, Fatima's, house was close to his tomb.  Two of his companions Omar and Abu-Bakr are also buried there.   I also visited Jannat al Baqi (a graveyard). Several of the prophet's companions and family members are buried there.  Unfortunately, the graves could not be identified as the Saudi government removed names or never stated the names. There were only a few little stones that gave vague idea of buried people.   

We visited some mosques in and around Medina and Ohod battle fields.  After 6 days, we departed Medina.  At a mosque close to Medina, the men of the group wore special clothes made of only 2 towels.  It was unsewed cloth like dead people.  Nothing belongs to this world.  The women wore simple sewed clothes.  God invited us to a great ceremony and we replied with a great YES, YES, YES (Labbaiyk).  After getting dressed, we were not permitted to view ourselves in mirrors, windows, or anything that showed our reflection.  We remained this way for the 6 hour bus ride to Mecca.  They brought our luggage to the hotel.  We had nothing from the world except nail clippers, small scissors for cutting some hair and nails during our special ceremony and a Rosary. I think we were allowed to have cell phones for taking photos and sending texts.  

We arrived at our huge hotel in Mecca.  It housed approximately 4,000 Iranian pilgrims.  It was around 2:30 a.m., then the group clergyman (who was a faculty member at the University of Mofid in Qom) who told us we could not go to the holy Cube because it was facing the Morning Prayer. We were not able to continue the special ceremony.  So we went to bed.  It was very difficult because everywhere we went, there were mirrors and reflective surfaces.  There were reflective surfaces in the elevators, corridors, rooms and the WC.   Married couples had to live as brother and sisters.  The clergyman instructed us to not intentionally put our legs or head under the blanket.  It was not a problem if it was done without premeditation.  After praying and eating breakfast that was prepared in the room's refrigerator, we left the hotel toward the holy Cube.

At 7 when we saw the holy Cube, first we prostrate towards God.  We turned 7 times around the holy Cube starting at the green light.  Then we prayed behind Prophet Abraham's place where his footprint can be seen.  After that we went to a saloon which was between Safa and Marveh Mountains.  It was the location where Hagar, Abraham's second wife, tried to provide water for her infant.  We jogged 7 times between the two mountains at a distance of 400 meters.  The total was 400 meters X 7 or 2,800 meters.

After the jogging we cut some nails and some pieces of hair.  We returned to the Cube for circling 7 more times which is required for both men and women.  If they are unable to complete this special circling then married couples cannot continue the common life and singles cannot marry.  After finishing this part of ceremony, all the participants went back to pray again behind Abraham's footprint.  The entire ceremony took 4 hours.  

During my travels, I visited 2 museums, one in Medina and the other in Mecca.  We also went to visit a cave where Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him and his descendants)   received his Prophetic message.  It is located at the peak of the mountain.  The ascent had many stairs to climb.  We began to hike to the top at 2 am by only moonlight.  It took about 50 minutes to ascend the stairs. 

We had heard there might be monkeys; however we did not see any.  That is a good thing because they are known for stealing cameras and other valuable items.

When we arrived at the entrance, it was very small.  It was only large enough for 2 people that could pray there.  We were able to see the holy Cube between rocks.  After staying until about 4 am, suddenly many Iranian, Turkish, and Egyptian pilgrims came up towards the cave.  We returned around 6 am to our hotel for breakfast.  Then I slept until noon.

It was a wonderful spiritual journey.  It was a very enjoyable travel, one I dreamed of since I was a young child.  It was a real blessing to go on a pilgrimage to God's House.  I wish every Muslim to have such a chance.

Seyed Hossein Hosseiniseddiq is faculty member at Islamic Azad University, Gorgan Branch

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