The Great Pilgrimage
Elhemdullillah we have made it to another stage of the procession through the holy months: Zhul Qaida, the gate to Zhul Hijjah. In the third and fourth weeks of June 2023, millions of prospective Hajjis will embark on their journey to the holy cities, seeking to fulfill the fifth pillar of faith. As a young convert to Islam, I was fortunate enough to be chosen for a sponsored trip to Hajj. At the time I was bewildered at my good fortune and blessing, but I also did not understand remotely at that point, the magnitude of what I was about to perform. I had only been a Muslim for 2 short years and simply didn’t have any knowledge of the rituals and rites involved. I was also scared to travel internationally for the first time. Perhaps most significant of all about my spiritual state at that time, is the fact that I had never even heard of tarikat or Sufism except as some “bad offshoot group or practices” that we should steer clear of. Hence my only understanding of what we were about to do was made from wahhabi sources and sheikhs, people who sucked the life right out of the spiritual pilgrimage I was about to embark on.
Dear reader, I wish I could say that my experience of the hajj was not the wahhabi controlled and dictated one, but sadly that’s what happened. My inexperience and limited knowledge, was in fact taken advantage of by “guides” who had a very specific job and a definitely limited view of what was permissible and good. I was basically discouraged from visiting the grave of the Holy Prophet AS, with it barely be mentioned and then instantly labeled as “a sunnah” and not essential to the hajj journey. I had no foundation to know better and furthermore, I had no spiritual development from these people that was focused on loving the Holy Prophet AS more than anyone. So as I was tired and ignorant, I missed the opportunity to go and didn’t even understand what I had missed until years later. This is by far one of the greatest regrets of my life, and I think about it often now that I have a beloved Murshid, who teaches us the real meaning behind all of the rites of Hajj and the significance of Rasullullah AS in our hearts and lives. This dwarfs all of the other mistakes I made on that Hajj journey, like getting angry, or being impatient. InshaAllah, Allah SWT will still accept from me in that ignorant state I was in, but I often dream of returning to Hajj and fixing all that I did wrong, with the himmet of our Sheykh Lokman Efendi HZ. Amin.