It has been one year since I departed on my journey to Hajj. I felt anxiety, fear, and self-doubt but also excitement, anticipation, and honor all at once. This trip was the most important one in my life. It fulfilled the fifth pillar of Islam, and I did not want to mess it up.
Leading up to the departure date, I meticulously packed and re-packed. Writing my list, checking it twice. I did not want to leave anything essential behind. I would be over 6,000 miles away from home. At the same time, I also had to pack light. There would be days spent in a tent with twenty-five or so other women, and we could not all have everything at each moment! Space was certainly limited.
Speaking of those other women, who were they? I was not exactly friends with any of them, and the months leading up to our journey, I wondered who I would be spending these very important days and nights with. We had a ladies’ texting group to share advices or deals on things we were packing for the journey, but it was not the most active of my chat groups.
Men and women are separated at the different locations in Hajj like Mina, Arafah, and as much as possible at Muzdalifah. Even in the days prior to the beginning of the actual Hajj days when we stayed in a hotel in Makkah and the days after in Madinah, the women roomed together and men roomed separately. The only person I knew going in our group of fifty or so pilgrims was my husband. He would not be able to realistically be by my side during the whole journey. That was a scary thought for me. Would I be able to get along with these other women? What if they all knew someone else in the group, and I was the odd one out? Would they be able to help me if I got sick or nervous? It was all too much to think about.
The month before traveling, our Hajj travel group hosted a meet-up. I engaged in ice breakers with the other women and was pleased to meet many my age, all with the same fears and hopes regarding their Hajj journey. No one lived close to me on the East Coast, but I knew I would see them in just about thirty days’ time at the airport. Not everyone knew each other. Some were in the health field, some were teachers, some were stay/work at home moms. Everyone was wonderfully sweet.
It was not until rooming together in the hotels and sleeping next to each other in the tents that I realized just how wonderfully sweet these women were. We were sharing the most important days of our lives together—this was our Hajj, a fulfillment of the command from God! We walked on the holiest of lands together, we prayed in the most sacred spaces on earth together, we cried begging our Lord for a fresh start at life together, and we greeted our Prophet (peace be upon him) at his resting place together. Until this day, we all remember those moments and yearn to return, not just individually with our own families, but with one another. That is the dream.
These women took care of each other when sick, both spiritually and physically. Whether we were coughing or dealing with loss of appetite or vomiting, we had each other’s backs under the hot sun that blazed down over 100 degrees. We encouraged one another to keep going no matter how tired we felt. We challenged each other to engage in more worship. We kept each other on a high to make the most of our time there during the best days of the year.
There was a true sisterhood that formed in those rooms and in those tents. These were women with whom I completed a heavy task on my life’s to-do list. With them, I laughed and I cried and felt all types of emotion both overwhelming and tranquil due to the amazing experience we were all living together—Hajj. Today, we are all still very much in touch in our texting group and we meet up whenever we travel to each other’s home states. We motivate each other to keep the momentum from our Hajj 2017 going, and we reflect at how fast time has passed.
We know now there is another group of twenty-five or so women in those rooms and tents this year, and we know they too are experiencing what we did last year. It is a beautiful bond of sisterhood that fails to fade over time, and it is my hope everyone gets to share in something so special as a result of their Hajj journey.