بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
مَـالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
إِيَّاك نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ
In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful, praise be to God.
Cherisher the sustainer of all the worlds.
Most gracious, most merciful.
Master of the day of judgment.
Thee alone do we worship and thee alone do we seek for help.
Show us the straight way.
The way of those whom thou hast bestowed thy grace. Those whose voices is not wrath and those who go not astray, Ameen.
When you bring those experiences back, it puts you in touch with reality from the universal point because everybody who assisted me that I never knew; women, children, everyone.
And another thing about Mecca―nothing ever closes. The lights are on 24 hours and people are moving, so it was an experience―this continual experience with people making prayer all day, around the clock, every minute. What I liked most was even when I looked at the soldiers, everybody makes prayer. The soldier here, he'll take his rifle off and put it down beside him easily, so it was a good experience just to see the unity amongst Muslims from every aspect. Nobody was different from anybody. Actually the king had invited us to his palace hear a lecture and when we went into the big hall for this lecture I had one friend with me from Philadelphia in Mecca and when we got into this big hall, I found one of those comfortable chairs and when I did there was one that was beside me so I was saving it for my friend who was with me. An elderly gentleman came up and wanted to sit down, so I said excuse me brother, but I got this seat for a friend. So he bowed and backed up. Later on somebody came to me and said, “Listen, do you know who you just denied a seat to?” I said, “No, I didn't know the guy.” He said, “He's the emir, he’s the leader of 50,000 Muslims is Russia.” Here I am, little ole me. So that’s the type of experiences; everybody is one and everybody has on the same type of clothes so nobody knows who you are and you don’t know who they are: only by your spirit and what you say. That was a good thing. I enjoyed just being with worldwide people from universal point.
Arafat to me was like this because every nation, every nationality of the universe is represented on Arafat. One of the purposes for me was to intermingle with people from all over the earth and you can determine by interacting with them, your level of Islam. So hajj was a real experience in learning. You learn so many different things; how to contain your own emotions, how to discipline your own life from a spiritual point, because the feelings you get manifest the goodness that comes from what you’re doing. You can tell, you said well if I’m feeling this from being on a spiritual vibe, it must be the correct. Hamdulilah.
I think that hajj itself is only five days but it takes ten days to do five, because it’s too strenuous for you to just do it on a continuum; you have to go back and rest and do this and do certain things. But all in all it's an experience that you never forget. It’s a lifelong experience that you never forget. Never. Because I can just reflect, and it’s almost 30 since I was there and I can reflect on certain experiences and feel as if it has happen as if I was there in that moment. I can say Allah invites you there one time, if you’re able, but most people go back and people ask me now when are you going back. It's like going to a deep well and getting a cool drink of water. You always want to return and get a cool drink of water. It’s a new experience every time you go.
Eventually I intend, if Allah allows me, to go back at least once, one more time. It’s something that you will never forget and you’ll always wish to return to that experience.
Well I say it like this―I was, when we had a little reprieve from the hajj, I was standing, just looking up in the sky reminiscing about things that I’m seeing, and a brother came over, a gentleman, we're in ihrams so he doesn't know who I am, I don’t know who he is. He said salamu alaykum brother [I said] walaykum assalam. He said brother, where are you from? I said America. He said the big Satan. He said, “Listen, you are a better Muslim than me.” I didn’t want that on me like that so I said hold it, give me some explanation what are you saying. So he said, “I’m saying this because see I’m a surgeon at the hospital in Mina. My mother, my father were born Muslims, my grandmother, grandfather all the way back, were Muslims.” He said, “so when we wake up in the morning we're Muslims. We don’t have think about it,” he said. “But you in order for you to have gotten here, you had to come across that water,” and he said, “the only thing could do that is faith.” He said, “so I’m saying that you’re a better Muslim than me, because your faith has brought you across dangerous territory to come across that water.” I said, “I have to accept what you say.” So he said, “yeah your faith, you didn’t just come over here on no whim; you came over here on faith because this is an excruciating journey and I just wake up, I’m here."
So he was indicating that they don’t, some, do five prayers a day. They can do some and do some, because they’re Muslims. They feel as though that because they've been here, that they’re Muslim.
Faith has to develop for you to have the ability to do and the discipline to do the five principles a day, which is obligatory for them just like it is on me. It’s on everybody, it’s not on one. It’s on everybody, so you can see how people exemplify the Islamic principles in their life. If you can discipline yourself to do what Allah is saying are the main principles, then you know that you're standing on a solid rock. I appreciated hearing those things.
One thing about it, in Mecca, and I don’t want to want to bring no negativity into it, because there’s so much racism in Arabia―terrible―because that’s where I see the African who comes there for hajj. He’s not treated respectfully by the so-called powerful brother, and you witness it all the time. I know the revelation came to Arabia because the prophet Muhammad lived in Arabia, it had to come somewhere. I don’t give no real credit to them. It’s just that the prophet was born there and that’s where the revelation came.
When the prophet said that he heard his [Bilal ibn Rabah] footsteps running to paradise even before his, so that tells me. And then Hagar, when I bring those things together, Hagar, she was the founder of Mecca. From a spiritual point, I think we have a double connection with them. Bilal was calling the whole world to prayer, not just them but he called the world to prayer. So I always look behind and see the purity of their essence, their hearts, minds and know that it’s a reward for that.
ND: Previously you spoke of an experience, and you said that Arafat was like the pinnacle of the hajj, and I know that with prior recollections you told me about what time you were climbing that hill on Arafat and you somehow lost your footing.
SBA: [laughs] Yeah, somebody had me from the buttocks―somebody. I never knew these people. You can actually see blood on the rocks as you're climbing. The sharp
crevice, the sharp corners of the rocks can easily cut you. I was going up
and somehow lost my footing and somebody behind me said, “I got you!”.
People around you don’t know who you are, but they do know who you are because you’re Muslim and you’re in that environment, so everybody is a brother and a sister. Everybody's brothers and sisters there. Particularly in that experience; the one on Arafat. I think everybody submits closely to the principles when they go on Arafat. Some people who are very emotional, it’s difficult for them to discipline themselves when they come into an environment where they see certain things that they don’t feel is Islamic, the emotions come out and make them act other than they should be acting. I’ve seen that too. I knew what I was there for.
ND: How did the Hajj experience affect you of coming back?
SBA: I’ll say it like this―before I came back, I had actually forgot about America. I was there 14 days and somebody mentioned the day before I was coming back America. I said, WHOA! America I forgot I even had roots here. It did happen and then I reconnected and said yeah I’m from America.
ND: When you did get back home how did the community receive you, and was
your posture different?
SBA: My posture was totally different, but I think it was too early for the people here to
recognize the real experience that you receive over there. The real spiritual experience you feel. Coming back―it’s a big difference now. You see when people go to hajj now and they come back and they have hundreds of people waiting at the airport. They had that on that trip that I went on too, but no one greeted [us]. There were only two of us from Philadelphia, my brother and myself. When we came back everybody was greeting everybody else. They didn’t recognize us at all, but it was okay.
But now what happens when people go on hajj from here, they have bus loads that go to Newark airport. I think people are becoming more and more awake about this journey. It’s really a journey that should be recognized, particularly if you perceive it in your mind that someway you’re going to go too.
ND: Do you remember what year it was?
SBA: Yeah, 1980. The experience is so strong that I can relate to, internally, certain things and I feel it just like it was yesterday.
ND: You said your job had gave you some extra time to be able to go on Hajj. Did they want a report? Was everyone curious about your experience?
SBA: Yeah, well I talked to them.
ND: And they weren’t Muslims?
SBA: No. That was the thing, they weren’t Muslims. Actually on the job, they didn’t want people wearing Muslim garb. When I first started working for them in 1978, I was wearing the kufi and they look at that disdainfully, they didn’t know how to approach me and say anything. Now some of them are Muslims.
ND: Were people curious about your experience when you got back to work?
SBA: Yeah. Being a counselor, many people were coming in who needed assistance from the program who were Muslims. Many of them had more of an intelligent perspective concerning life, than a lot of the counselors but they were the ones who needed the help. So they could over talk the counselors. So what they did―they allowed me deal with that aspect of it. So I said to them, since you have so much knowledge it’s incumbent upon you to see where you need the help so what you should do is come in and aid the counselors in giving assistance to people, rather than rejecting what they’re saying and try to lower their standards.
That was good because they were also seeing it my way. I could deal with the book and then I could deal with the street too, so I was most successful dealing with that well.
ND: Also in the beginning you spoke about how certain things―really you said that the preparation for Hajj begins here. Now, that you’ve been back and it’s been 30 years since hajj, how has hajj served you in your daily life since then?
SBA: Oh listen! it put me on a certain level from a spiritual point. I understand that from a material point now, you have to work on that. But from a spiritual point, it gave me the ability to reason mentally with every situation where I could always find a balance and never was totally disturbed by whatever is happening around me.
Before you can get frustrated by not having certain things from a material perspective. You get frustrated, but one thing about it the spiritually is going to make you reason with everything and show you that whatever confronts you is just an opportunity for you to become spiritually balanced and bring you to a balance. So you never get out of sorts really. You can handle things and no doubt about it, hajj really showed me that.
I’ve seen other people that come back and hajj tested them so thoroughly that clearly they’ve changed. It indicates that when you go there on hajj so you can have your five pillars, five pillars that Islam stands on here. Everybody sees you, you can put on your different face when you see these people and you can act this way because of this. But there―see everything is real. Either you're going to miss the mark or catapult into the heavens of your own being.
It took me on a skyrocket climb to the heavens upstairs. I think it brought a sense of balance for me so I don’t have too many problems when I'm confronted with any kind of situation. The Prophet himself in the days of jahiliyya, he faced every kind of situation there is and he never faltered, that’s to tell us that we can all do the same thing. So he exemplifies the example for us to follow and he showed us that whatever is in this environment, you can handle from a spiritual point. You have to discipline your spirituality.
It works. There was a time when you couldn’t handle pressure, I couldn’t handle it either until I really reasoned with my ability from a spiritual point to be able to balance it and withstand, because I know that nothing or anyone can hurt you today unless they bring something from your past. If you’re moving forward, then you're in a spiritual position, nothing can hurt you unless they bring a hurt from your past. So if you can deal with your past, on an Islamic basis then you've got a clear sailing for what’s in front of you. It’s only the past that can get you confused and can destroy you, if you just lock in on the past.
ND: Have you got any closing thoughts on hajj overall.
SBA: Well, human life needs that experience to bring a balance. Because it says The first house built for the worship of God for all mankind. So that's implicit in the religion that the house, kaaba, was built for the worship of all mankind, not just Muslims.
Muslims understand it but other people think that you’re separate from me. No,
because we are all born in the same state. God didn’t give you something different
from me, it's just how we deal with it. We're all equipped with the same principles.
I know that we all have the same purpose, because in the religion our Prophet Mohammad says we are all born Muslim but it's your parents and your circumstances that make you otherwise. So you come into that faith, because everything that’s
created is born in submission to God. Everything. I don't care what you turn out to be you’re born in submission to God, but then your parents, your teachers, your preachers and whoever molds your inner structure; you to become something else. But the original purpose for you has been laid down by God.