My husband and I went on hajj two years ago, alhamdulillah, and I kept a journal of my experiences. I’m sharing it here, and will do so over a series of posts. I’ve made minor editing changes and have left out people’s names. Although I’ve taken out some of the more private details, this is a very personal journal and I hope it will serve to personalize the centuries-old journey that is hajj.

We started our trip – which lasted almost three weeks – by visiting my family in New Jersey. Our itinerary would take us from New York to Madinah, where we would stay for two days before going on to Mecca.

December 25, 2005, ~11:45 a.m. (eastern time). On the plane from Houston to Newark. I’ve been trying to decide if I’m a pilgrim as of today, in a broad sense, that is. Although I’m not yet headed toward Madinah, today is the first day of a journey that will ultimately make a hajji of me, insha Allah. On the other hand, though, it’s Christmas and we’re on our way to visit my family for a few days. It’s hard to get my head around one or the other or both trips. I feel disoriented. I’m still really nervous about hajj and feel like I’ll be in a fog the whole time in NJ. I do want to stay focused on hajj and preparing myself for it.

So strange – melange of the many “ME’s” I’ve been – kid, high school, wife, mother, single girl, Muslim, then much more Muslim. When I broke away from my old life, I didn’t go in the direction I planned. This is the alternative, one that is, of course, quite superior. I’m almost – well, just about – to the point of not regretting my choices of the last few years, and maybe somehow this trip is the thing that will seal my acceptance of the life I chose and the life Allah guided me to.

I never actually thought about that before – that if I do hajj seriously and I do it well none of the other stuff I’ve prioritized or valued will seem so important. Hajj – pilgrimage – should make me feel like I’m truly a Muslim first and everything else secondarily, and in support of, my deen. I imagine that when I see the kaaba and when I see Arafat, places of such ancient history, I will feel so rooted in the beliefs Allah has given us since the days of Adam that nothing else will truly matter. If I can open my heart wide enough and absorb the experience enough I can feel content and satisfied. I look out the plane window and see the clouds. I’m traveling in a beautiful place above everything else, a place whose essence is much purer and simpler than life below. When I descend I hope I will be purer and simpler too.

December 27, 2005, ~ 6 p.m. At my parents’ house. I’m a little weary. We went into the city [New York] today – me, husband, Dad, daughter, sister and niece – and went to the MOMA, walked around Rockefeller Center (which was crazy crowded) and had lunch at a restaurant on 48th Street and 5th Avenue. It was so crowded we didn’t get to do much more. I feel bad for niece because she really wanted to go to the American Girl store (whatever that is; I think it’s a kind of doll) but the line was ridiculous.

December 28, 2005, ~10:30 p.m. Last night at my parents’ house. Tomorrow is Dad’s birthday and we’re going out for brunch at 11:30. Then the limo comes for us at 2 p.m. It all seems unreal. I finally got shoes for the trip that I’m happy with. I’ve been way overeating. Tomorrow will be a day to move on. I am nervous.

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