Making It Easy – Without Changing the Religion
“Hajj – With Ease?”
Yusuf Estes

Muslims know that, Allah can make anything easy. He tells us in His Book (Qur’an):
”Faa innama al’usri yusra – innama al’usri yusra.”
(So verily, after difficulty there is ease. Verily, after difficulty there is ease.)

What seemed to be impossible became not just possible, but very easy at the same time. As I look back over the last few weeks, I am amazed at how Allah has made things work out for me. And I cannot say “Thank you!” to Allah enough. I am so thankful and appreciative to the Lord of the Worlds for giving me this wonderful Hajj and making things so easy, even though I don’t feel worthy of such a gift.

Let me mention here, I did not even think it would be possible to make this Hajj, much less be able to do it with such ease. Just coming back from India and having no way imaginable to perform Hajj this year, I had resigned myself to the fact that, I was just not going to be able to go. That’s it. I had asked Allah to let me go but so many things came up and the time was gone and of course without money, how could I go?

My daughter had wanted so much to go to Hajj and to have me go along with her and I knew it was going to be a big disappointment for her. However, I assured myself, this was something that she would have to learn about, “You don’t always get what you want.” Boy, was I ever wrong about it this time.

It was not through my efforts or contacts that it all came about. In fact, the people that I knew had tried and worked things out in different ways. But it just was not going to happen. It turned out to be my daughter’s dua and her efforts that made it all possible. For one thing she never gave up hope that Allah would answer her dua. For another thing, she kept on working toward solutions to the different problems that seemed to keep popping up. She talked to me while I was in India and indicated that she believed she had found a way for us to make the Hajj through her college where she was studying the Arabic language. I told her to just give up and forget it. After all, she needed to learn to deal with reality, right? At least that is what I was thinking then. She asked me if she did get things worked out and there was a possible way to go, would I accept to go for the Hajj. What else can a Muslim say? Of course if someone is offering for you to do the Hajj, regardless of how many times you have made it, you must accept it. But it seemed to me there would be no way she could do it. Wrong again.

I was due to arrive after the deadline for application for the visa from the Saudi Embassy. The schedule had me down for arriving at 10:30 PM at night on Thursday. Somehow, I found I was arriving in at around 2 PM in the afternoon instead. My daughter and her mom were in the general area of the airport and within less than an hour I was in the car and we were on the way to get passport photos. Less than an hour later we are delivering the documents to the brother’s home who would ultimately walk it all through to make sure we did get our visas.

I had made Hajj before and had visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia more than once. But I had no idea what was in store for us in this trip. This was to be “Hajj on the order of Royal Protocol.” The son of the King of Saudi Arabia, Prince Abdul Aziz son of Kind Fahad, was providing everything for certain students to attend this years Hajj. Because my daughter would need a chaperone to do the Hajj, naturally her father was the likely candidate for the job. We flew over to Saudi within a short time and we were received in the best manner. We were taken not to some cheap hotel or old apartment as I have experienced in the past. We actually went straight to the holy sanctuary called the “Harem” and we were checked into the Sheraton Hotel. Food was great, accommodations were first class and the best treatment possible. Then after performing the lesser pilgrimage called “ummrah” we prepared to leave for minah to begin the Hajj.

Anyone who has ever done Hajj will tell you the minah and Arafat are the two hardest places to deal with in the Hajj. But again, things were not as I had expected. Can you imagine going to a hotel on minah? Not only that, but it was a real four star hotel, at least as good as the Sheraton that we had just left. Our own private rooms, full buffet three times a day, phone in the room, a place to gather and pray together on the first floor. It was too unbelievable for me.

Some of us began to complain this was too easy and it was not in accordance with the idea of coming out and suffering to do the Hajj. But we soon learned that if someone makes a way easy for you and offers a chance for you to spend more time in your worship and less time in your worries over accommodations, then you should accept it with grace and thank Allah for this ease.

I was asked by Dr. Turistani, if I would mind to make a television appearance on his show to be broadcast from the Hajj grounds. Mind? I thought, this is what I enjoy most, getting out the message of Islam to the people. So, we made a television show from minah that was broadcast on the English channel and then another one that was broadcast along with translation on the Arabic channel.

We met with some of the top scholars of Islam in the world, such as the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia,  the imam of Masjid al Aqsa in Al Quds, a shaykh from Jordan and a Saudi judge who is responsible for determining the official sighting of the new moon for starting and ending the holy months of Ramadhan and Hajj. We also met with some old friends from the institute like, Dr. Ahmad, Professor Umar and Naif and others.

Then we were off to the plain of Arafat. Again, a beautiful surprise. We arrived there in the early morning by special convoy as our busses were being escorted by government police. It was cool and breezy, not hot and burning as in the past. We had nice tents with air-conditioning, although we did not need it. A lovely lunch was served in a dinning hall with all the service of a high class hotel. After making dua, listening to the imam of the Masjid (next door to us) we made salat of dhuhr and asr combined and then continued supplicating and remembering the many favors of our Lord until sunset. Only once did some of us venture out of our special compound to see if we could get into the Masjid to pray. Big disappointment. The crowd was far to overwhelming and we were just not up to this. Not only that, but we found the way blocked and we had to return back through all of the confusion and crowding that we had just traversed.

We moved from Arafat sometime after dark, again by special escort and arrived in Muzdelifah sometime around 9 PM. But this was not the Musdelifah that my wife and I had visited 12 years before. She and I had come on our own without a travel agent or guide and had to do everything on our own. It was not just a little bit difficult. We had no place to go to the bathroom, or even to make salat much less find a place to lay down and sleep. Keep in mind these are all things required for doing the rituals associated with Muzdelifah. Instead, we followed our escort into a special compound that is surrounded by a high wall and filled with places to pray, sit, rest, drink tea or Arabic coffee and of course, a full course meal (not to mention very nice bathrooms). All of this is very appreciated.

Then a surprise! Instead of waiting until after the morning pray (Fajr) to be able to leave for Minah where we could throw seven pebbles at the jammerat (pillar of stone) to commemorate this action of Abraham, peace be upon him, centuries past. He did this action to drive away the devil who was trying to tempt him into not sacrificing his son (refer to Quran or Bible for this story).

We arrived at the place of stoning and I was amazed again at how easy it was. Everyone knows how dangerous it is to go to do the stoning of Aqabah (the firs pillar) due to the overcrowding and backward movement of the crowd after they have thrown their pebbles. The Saudi government had redesigned the access area in such a way as to provide for the visitors to walk up to the stoning area, toss their pebbles and then continue on toward the next area without doubling back. A great solution and very easy for everyone. I could not believe it. It was just too easy.

Next, we were off to Makkah to do the tawwaf and sai (more about this later) we were allowed to leave after midnight as this was a custom at the time of the prophet, peace be upon him, for those who were elderly, infirm or for the women. Considering the age, gender and conditions of the people in our group it was permissible for us to go Makkah to perform the circling of the ka’bah (tawwaf) 7 times and the walking from mount safa to mount marwa (sai) again, 7 times.

I entered the sanctuary (Harem) and moved to the area of the black stone and proceeded to go around the ka’bah as close as I could get without hurting anyone and completed the whole thing in less than thirty minutes. Then I moved to the top of the building and began the trips back and forth from safa to marwa (this needed some resting in between as I was now growing weary). By 4 AM I had completed everything and went back down to the ground area where I had agreed to meet with some of our group and we enjoyed some fried chicken (yes they have the colonel and a lot more in Saudi) and then our bus arrived.

We were escorted back to our luxurious room on minah where we prayed our fajr (morning prayer) and then rested until afternoon. That evening we did the television program for the English channel with the live image of minah in the background. It was truly something to see.

 Next day as Friday, Yamul Jummu’ah. This meant showering again and preparing for Friday sermon. We visited the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom and advised him about the way some of the imams had been making public prayers against Christians and Jews and Americans indiscriminately. He assured us, they did not have permission from Islam nor from the Kingdom to do these things and they were not allowed to do so. This was not acceptable and he was personally concerned about it and they are making sure it no longer occurs. We were all pleased to here a much nicer prayer he offered, asking Allah to guide them to all that is best and only prayed against those who were the terrorists and oppressors. I say, “Ameen” to all of the above.

We stoned the jammerats again and continued worshipping Allah and remembering Him and asking for His Blessings and guidance for all mankind.

We have more coming up about the heavy rains yesterday and what happened as a result. Be sure to  come back within the next 48 hours for an update, inshallah (God Willing).

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