I grew up on the songs of longing to visit Makkah and Madinah. In Muslim cultures and in Muslim languages this is an important part of our popular culture. Even in the United States, young Muslims have told me how they grew up singing “Take me to the Kaba” and “Streets of Madinah”, songs from the Adam’s World series, which created in them the yearning desire to visit the House of God in Makkah.
Muslims pray, fast, and give Zakat, but the type of romance associated with Hajj is not connected with the other pillars of Islam. I have seen poor farmers in Pakistan keep some savings aside in dreams of visiting the House of God, the Kaba in Makkah. In my childhood, poor people would walk for months to get to Hajj. Muslims all over the world collected funds for the Ottomans in the early 20th century to build the Hijaz railway that would facilitate traveling to Hajj.
Most people cannot get to Hajj how they want and when they want. On average, people from Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, wait 37 years for their turn to perform the pilgrimage. Whole neighborhoods and villages come together to send off people for Hajj or welcome them back. Makkah and Madinah are the two peace sanctuaries of Islam (Haram) as designated by the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
At this moment, there are countless Muslims around the world in tears because they will not be able to perform Hajj this year. They made the intention. They made the arrangements. But the COVID-19 pandemic, which has restricted us around the world in so many ways, has also blocked the pursuit of the journey of a lifetime. This year, Saudi Arabia is allowing only locals to perform Hajj to protect the country and pilgrims from the virus.
Such is the reality of Hajj. Elders, Sufis and Qawwals have always told us that our capacity to go to Hajj does not matter as much as Allah’s blessing. It is Allah Who chooses His guests to His house, they say, even when we have no means, no ticket, no passport, and no visa.
That was how I became the guest of God Almighty to make my first Hajj over 40 years ago.
I grew up humming songs of longing for Hajj, as they were part of my environment. But it was when I first saw Tawaf being performed on television that the match was lit. I was deeply moved by the cries of “Labbaik Allahuma labbaik” (“Here I am Oh Lord, Here I am) by pilgrims moving around the Kaba. It created a longing for the Kaba and its surrounding streets that made tears fall from my eyes on Eid day. I began raising my hands in Dua for God to accept me as His guest.
I was young, searching for a job, and barely out of college. But I made the intention, and kept making Dua. I was so sure that I would go that I would tell people, “see you at Hajj!” - and they would laugh at me.
I had no means. But then suddenly, just a few days before Hajj began, things started to change. I got the flight tickets – but no accommodation, no meal arrangements, nothing else. That was fine with me. The main thing I needed now was a bureaucratic government stamp on the last page of my passport.
I tried through various means to get it, running from office to office, knocking on as many doors as possible, but I was unsuccessful. While I was doing this, others would discourage me. They all said that getting this stamp at the eleventh hour was impossible - except for one person. He was visiting one of the offices I had gone to for my stamp. I had hoped he would help me. He shared a powerful story of a homeless person he knew who went to Hajj solely because of his strong desire, Dua, and intention to make the pilgrimage - and then he left. Although he didn’t get me that stamp, he gave me hope.
All formal Hajj processing had already ended by this point. Nonetheless, with passport in hand, Ihram on my person, and a strong intention in my heart, I showed up at Karachi’s Quaid-e-Azam International Airport, prayed in its Masjid, and made Dua before heading to the passport check area, ready but unsure about whether I would be able to make the journey of a lifetime at this point.
The officer opened up the first page to see my identification information. Then he turned to the last page. This is where the stamp I had failed to get was supposed to be.
At that exact moment, someone tapped his shoulder and started talking to him. Distractedly, without looking at the last page, he turned back to the first one of my passport and gave it back to me, waving me through.
I was on the last flight from Pakistan to go to Hajj. I did not know where I would stay. But I was on my way. Alhamdu lillah.
After circling the Kaba in Tawaf for my first Umra, soaking my Ihram with tears, someone in the crowd outside Masjid Haram, in the midst of thousands of people, appeared in front of me asking me if I am Abdul Malik Mujahid. Although I did not know him, he knew me. He asked where I was staying. I said I had no place to stay. He took me to his home to stay while I completed my Hajj.
The power of intention, the power of DuaMy first Hajj so many years ago reminded me of how incredibly powerful intention is. This is something Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said is a core part of any good deed a Muslim does. He said, “Verily, deeds depend upon intentions. Indeed, every person will be rewarded based on their intentions…” (Bukhari and Muslim).
It is important to note that this Hadith is the first one featured in the most established books of Hadith: Sahih Bukhari as well as in many other authentic books. Intentions are key in everything we do for the sake of Allah. Verbalizing our intentions is also a critical part of that, as taught to many Muslims beginning in childhood.
It should also give us hope and comfort us if we were not able to go to Hajj this year to remember this wisdom from the Prophet about intentions:
“Verily, Allah records good and bad deeds: Whoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, Allah records it as a complete good deed. If s/he intends to do it and does so, then Allah the Exalted will record it as ten good deeds up to 700 times or even many fold higher. If s/he intends to do a bad deed and does not do it, then Allah will record for him/her one complete good deed. If s/he does it, then Allah will record for him/her only a single bad deed” (Bukhari).
Subhan Allah, the Merciful God Almighty is so kind to give us rewards for even our intentions.
Translate Intentions and Duas into Plans
Dua strengthens our intentions, our commitment, and becomes a source of blessings from Allah.
But the other part of the equation is to plan, because Allah reminds us that we will not get anything except what we strive for (Quran 53:39). In the case of my Hajj, while I had made Dua and intention to perform the pilgrimage, I did plan by seeking out the means for a ticket, as well as government permission - even though I was initially unsuccessful with the latter.
Based on the above Hadith, I wonder if the reward of an intention, in addition to the planning for it, increases the amount of reward God is promising here.
Let’s make Intentions and Dua to “take me to the Kaba” next year
If you were one of the millions not able to make Hajj this year, intend to do it next year, Book a Hajj package now, as it is very likely there will be double the number of people wanting to perform the pilgrimage in 2021.
But don’t stop there. Begin intending to do specific good deeds and planning for them. One of our Duas after prayer is asking Allah for the good in this life and good in the Next (Quran 2:201). Let your Duas reflect those aspirations. Some examples to get you started:
- Praying at least one Salat a day in the Masjid
- Consuming less and sharing more in our lifestyle choices, ranging from grocery shopping to clothing purchases
- Reconnecting with relatives we have not gotten along or lost touch with
- Volunteer for the human rights of the Ummah
- Give $5 a month to Muslim Network TV so that the Ummah is connected together
Allah loves us and wants us to succeed. This is why He rewards us even for sincere intentions. He taught us Dua as a beautiful tool to connect with Him to reach our goals. He can bless us with resources we cannot even imagine to achieve our goals.
So let us not be disheartened. Let us continue to make sincere intentions, then write those plans down which will translate these intentions into reality.
God is always watching. He is always with us. And He reminds us that if we take one step toward Him, He will take ten toward us. If we walk toward Him, He will run toward us.
That is called Barakah, friends.