Monday, January 29, 2007


read this article; i have never heard of a public display on ashara before. i found this very interesting and very heartening as well. it's amazing that ashara can be expressed outside the walls of our masjids and brought into public view.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

four years old

four years ago, in january of 2003, i began this blog. i still love to go back to those first few posts and see what i had in mind for l'atitude.

see how it all began at

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

try this

take this quiz. and then actually spend some time thinking about the results.

my score was 14, which is good compared to the average american's 24, but we would still need 3.2 earths if everyone lived like me. ugh. what is your score?

Monday, January 15, 2007

being back

it is monday, the start of a new work week, and i have begun to tackle some of the work that has been put off for a month. doing my work makes me feel re-settled into life in chicago. i am back to my old routine, and there is a certain security in that.

before i left for hajj, i expected the experience to change me. in this, i was not disappointed. i feel a responsibility to the hajj i have just performed; i made certain niyats while i was in mecca that i intend to keep.

i'm happy to be back home, but i feel at this moment that a part of me is still rooted in the experience i have just had. or, alternatively, that i have brought the experience back with me. something about the last month feels very tangible to me, and i am able to keep it close. i hope this feeling remains. it is giving me a lightness and a resolve that has so far colored everything i've done since returning to chicago. inshallah it continues to do so.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

haj e akbari

on 8th raat (of zilhaj), we took ehram. went to kaba, did our tawaf, and afterwards alifiyah and i rode up the escalator to the very top to baitullah. looked down upon kaba and were mesmorized by the view. being in the crowd doing tawaf, i had wanted space from the thousands of people pressed up against me. but here, up above it all, i suddenly felt proud to be part of the dense mass of people moving in a slow circle around kaba. it is a miraculous testament to faith, this sea of people moving endlessly in reverent circles.

the next morning we left for mina; we were part of a mass migration, millions of people riding buses, luggage racks, luxury cars. all headed in the same direction: mina, the tent city. to say that there are white tents as far as the eye can see is a major understatement. it is breathtaking, the tents stretching out in front of you in every direction.

we were settled into our tent and told to rest; the next day, arafa nu din, would be one of the most important of our lives.

arafa nu din was on a friday this year, marking this hajj as "akbari", or great. this was a day of crowds and sunlight and dust and heat; of people closing in around me as i trekked forward to arafa. on the way i coughed incessantly, i sliced my finger open, i limped. i listened to people's complaints mingling with their duas. on the road to arafa, i was firmly rooted to earth. i had to get somewhere and i was doing my best to get there. yet standing at arafa, hearing aqa moula's relay telling me that apnoo hajj kabul chay, was momentous for me. it lifted me out of the day's discomfort. i felt those moments at arafa penetrate deeply. i stood facing the setting sun, doing my dua, and i felt like i was being heard. and when i left arafa and headed towards muzdalifa, i emerged absolved, fresh and firmly resolved to hang on to this feeling for as long as possible. it was a rebirth in every sense.

spending the night at muzdalifa under the stars sounded poetic when we first learned of it. in reality, though, it was very cold and very wild. we shivered on thin blankets, felt rocks jutting into our sides and found our toes and fingers growing numb. winter nights in saudi can get quite cold, i found. waking up the next morning, our task was to find 70 jumraa stones on the side of the mountain. as i scoured the ground for these, i felt weak in body but strong in niyat. strong in mind. and that was what mattered; our bodies were not what this was about. my ankle was not what this was about.

the strength i felt surging through me was in direct conflict to my weakened body, and yet this conflict made perfect sense. i was able to feel sick and elated at the same time.

the next three days we spent shivering through a few hours of sleep in mina, walking until we found a ride to mecca, performing our zabiya or tawaf, walking behind buses, breathing in exhaust fumes just to reach the jumraa, throwing our stones and stumbling back to our tents, half asleep. repeating the same schedule for another day, and another. those days became a haze to me; the only thing that was clear was that i must keep going forward.

when our hajj was finally over, we returned to mecca and slept for two days. two days of catching up on sleep and allowing our exhaustion to finally take over; it was a luxury. i stayed off my ankle and i slept off the last few days, and emerged refreshed and ready to take advantage of my last few days in mecca.

for me, the highlight of these last few days was chumming hajar-al-aswad twice. this is quite a feat, in that the crowd around hajar-al-aswad is wild and chaotic and violent, and people will stop at nothing to get a chance to do it. the fact that i did it twice is unreal; without taher pushing me into the crowd and helping me burrow in there, there is no way i would have had the power to keep from being lifted above the crowd and spit out behind it. alhmadolillah, i had my chance.

one day, while we were doing tawaf, it began to rain. rain in this part of the world isn't exactly a common occurence, and on this evening, as it poured down upon us, we lifted our faces to it and just took in the beauty of it all.

we got raza to perform a second omra before we left for chicago, and on this day we went to gadir-e-khum and stood on the little hill upon which rasullilah stood. it was a moment of significance and i felt lucky to have seen this place with my own eyes. i will never again hear the story of gadir-e-khum without visualizing myself there. which, i suppose, can be said of so many of the significant places we visited in medina and mecca. history coming alive.


who i am is who i want to be

zilhaj 6th. here in mecca, life takes on a routine all its own. it is evening. the azaan is drifting in from a dozen minarets. people on the next roof are doing their namaz. the smell of roasted nuts reaches me through the window and i feel suddenly elated, knowing that kaba is here. i am here. it is my city in the most fundamental of ways; the rules by which i live my life originated here. here i am home, here i do not pray kasr. miles from my apartment in chicago, miles from all my worldly goods, i have come here to find that i am not a traveler. i am home.

i have today made a niyat. a strong niyat. to stop philosophizing about change and to actually accomplish some. to be the person i want to be, to have the kind of afzal hajj that comes from trying hard and dedicating myself to living up to the responsibility of having performed these significant actions.

right now, i would not take back spraining my ankle. even though it colors every experience i have in mecca, even though many times i just feel angry that i have to work twice as hard to keep up with everyone, i wouldn't take back the injury. constantly striving to be the person i want to be, i suddenly feel much closer to being that. i feel strong and almost as though this ankle issue came along to show me what i can do.

surprisingly, i feel shukr. among all the muslims of the world, i am bohra. i not only have glimpsed what i can be, but also what i am.



before leaving for hajj, many people told me to adopt a "roll with it" attitude; they assured me that things would not always go smoothly and that there would be annoyances and hardships during the journey. as much as i could from my comfortable existence in chicago, i tried to follow this advice.

our itinerary to medina was a long and convulted one; we traveled from chicago to dublin to frankfurt to doha to kuwait to medina. certainly, there are more direct routes, and knowing this it was difficult to be buoyant about the way our journey was beginning. yet somewhere between dublin and doha, the realization that i was about to embark on hajj began to hit me. once i felt the world start to fall away, that "roll with it" mindset came pretty naturally. turns out it would serve me well over the next month.

when we finally reached medina, it was late at night and taher and i were soon settled into our room. we were rooming with alifiyah and mohsin; cozy quarters and excellent company. we pondered the significance and history of medina for perhaps a few minutes before drifting off to sleep. we would be in medina for a few days before leaving for mecca, where our hajj would begin.

the first time i saw masjid al nabawi in medina, the weather was perfect and the sun was shining down upon the masjid. it couldn't have been more perfect. at masjid that first day, i was lost amidst a crush of people in a variety of colored clothing and colored skin. we literally had to fight our way into the inner chamber of the masjid; it was my first taste of ibadat alongside every other muslim in the world. being bohra is a rather secluded thing, i guess. i was reminded that Rasulillah farmayu that to do ziyarat at his kabr mubarak was akin to visiting him during his lifetime. i felt breathless that we were about to do this. so far hamd and shukr was constantly on my lips. i felt like i was surrounded by history with which i have a deep connection; it is my own history, after all.

days went by in medina, filled with visits to various significant masjids, a bit of shopping and a lot of visits to masjid al nabawi for balagh. on friday, though, something happened that would change the entire trip for me.

friday evening, it was almost maghrib and i was with my usual cohorts - taher, alifiyah and mohsin. i stepped off a curb and my ankle rolled under me. immediately i felt the searing pain that told me this wasn't a twisted ankle but rather a sprained one. i stood around clutching my foot for a while and then for some reason i dropped to the ground, unconscious. this is why you travel with people you trust; i was literally in the middle of the road. on the road. someone thrust a juice box into my hands and after a moment i felt a bit better, but i knew as we made our way home that things were going to be difficult from this point forward.

the entire next day, i sat in the room with my ankle propped on several pillows. and while everyone else did balagh and went to eat and lived their lives, i grew depressed alone in the room, thinking about all the walking i had ahead of me. hajj means tawaf and safa marwa and walking to arafa and camping out and walking over mountains and being on your feet constantly. hajj does not leave a lot of room for sitting around with your foot on a pillow. medina was the most relaxing part of the journey, and i knew that in only two days we would reach mecca and things would accelerate greatly.

despite taher's assurances that it would all work out, i was scared and worried. hajj is usually once in a lifetime and i did not want to fail because i couldn't walk.

the next evening we wore our ehram and departed for mecca. being in the pure white of ehram, i began to force myself to have some perspective. my ankle hurt, true, but i was here for a larger purpose and i had no choice but to push forward.

early monday morning, we went to baitullah. i saw kaba for the first time and i saw the seething mass of people surrounding it and became inwardly frantic. while everyone else gaped and took in the sight, i squeezed my eyes shut from the pain in my ankle. and breathed. and made a decision. this first day, we had to accomplish omra. this means tawaf (seven times around kaba is one tawaf) and safa marwa (crossing between two hills seven times). i told myself to not speak of my ankle to anyone; to refrain from all complaint until our omra was finished. i had no intention of causing further worry or slowing anyone down.

the significance of my task suddenly became my focus. if this was a battle between the physical and the spiritual, there was no way an ankle was going to come between me and my hajj. as always, move forward.

we entered the crowd around kaba, became part of the sea of people. it is so croweded that taking a full step is difficult; as a result, several people kicked my ankle and after a while it was just pain. it didn't matter anymore. what mattered was that i could overcome it. after all, i was at kaba. everyone i knew in the world was facing here as they prayed namaz, and i was standing at it. the center of the world. the focal point of millions of muslims. it was later that someone mentioned to me that it was christmas day; when i think of my state of mind and the things i was experiencing, the very concept of christmas celebrations seemed utterly foreign.


forward, o pilgrim

we arrived home from hajj two days ago. exhausted physically, we were a bedraggled group when we came through customs here in chicago. yet i felt, and still feel, a lightness around me that is in direct contrast to my stuffed nose, ugly cough and heavy head. i wrote before i left that i knew the experience of hajj would change me; i was not wrong. the theme of this journey was to push forward and move towards the good.

over the next few posts i hope to get onto this blog the thoughts swirling in my head. please stay tuned.