Mrs Mudpie and I have a very simple approach about going to the Holy Land for hajj.
It is not up to you to decide to go, it is up to God to decide that you can come.
When he decides, nothing will stop Him from getting you there, except your own lack of will.
You can have all the niyyat and will and preparation to go, but if God is not inviting you, then you will not go.
And God decides that you will not go because He knows something that you do not know of, and that you are not ready for it.
This year’s hajj was a lesson in this.
Many people who were approved and had paid up to go, were suddenly rejected when the Saudi government slashed the quota.
All sorts of recriminations were hurled at MUIS by the people who were rejected.
There was a lot of accusations of favouritism, unfair selections, and all sorts of other stuff, all of which were negative, and not to mention, sinful and unbecoming of guests of God. Which proved the point, if only they could see it in themselves.
Some people came to me and told me that it was unfair for me, Mrs Mudpie, and the children to be approved, because we were not first timers, and the children were still young.
Our places should have been given to those who have not gone, and those who were old. It made me feel uncomfortable and guilty.
Mrs Mudpie was clearer in her conscience.
First of all, we did not choose to approve ourselves, let alone did we do anything to cause the others to be rejected.
Secondly, our family registered to go for this hajj as far back as in 2004/2005, and passed over 3 offers of hajj in the previous years before taking up this one.
True, some people who were older or were first timers were rejected, but they all applied to join the queue only less than 6 months ago.
Why did they not get in the queue like we did, Mrs Mudpie asked.
What is the point of having a queue registration system then?
Should we be penalised for having planned ahead, and should priority be given to those who did not plan?
We had told ourselves that if we are cancelled by MUIS due to the reduced quota, we would just accept it and plan to go next year, but Alhamdulillah, we were not.
So I do not understand why others do not see it the same way.
Ah, someone said, what happens if, while waiting for next year, the person dies, or becomes occupied by something else that prevents him from going?
To my mind the response to that is simple - if that happens then it becomes proven that God did not want him to go then.
Like everything else, God's will is carried out based on His complete understanding of everything, and it is always for the best, even if we cannot see it.
One should just accept it, and move on.
God knows best. He just does. He works in mysterious ways, and He tests us.
Some examples - There was a lady with us, a very nice, unassuming lady.
She had a hard life - her husband died and she had to raise her children on her own, and take care of her late husband's parents as well, as her husband was their only child.
She had not thought seriously about going for the hajj, as finances were rosy, but a related couple was going, and invited her to join them.
She agreed, and left all the planning, etc to them. In the end, it turned out that they got rejected, but she was approved - subhanAllah.
When that happened, she did not even know what her hajj package was, as she had left it all to the couple.
Such is the way of God - He will bring to His Holy Land whomsoever He wishes.
I made friends with a fellow pilgrim who came alone for his second hajj.
He had a phobia of crowds and crowded places - he ends up in an anxiety attack in Orchard Road on weekends, and has difficulties breathing when he boards a crowded train.
When he told his family of his plan to go for the hajj the first time a few years ago, his father asked him whether he was out of his mind? Did he know the kind of crowds he was going to be caught in over there?
My friend persevered and went on, leaving the matter to God. SubhanAllah - Glorious is God - he said the minute he arrived in the Holy Land, all his phobias disappeared.
He went through all the crowds and turmoil with no problem. he thought he was cured of his phobia - except when he returned home, it was back again.
This time, again, the phobia was lifted from him the minute he entered the Holy Land.
He has no explanation for it, and neither was he looking for one, other than the Divine one.
In my group there was a very prominent person.
He was a man with one leg.
He was born with one leg uselessly deformed and diminished, and he grew up without ever learning to use an artificial leg, nor a wheelchair, nor even a walking stick.
He just hopped on his one leg everywhere he went!
You can imagine how precarious it all was, everyone was concerned that he would fall or trip or something.
I got to know him, and learnt that it was his second hajj too.
He had had a difficult life - never being sent to school as a child due to his disability, and having to work difficult menial jobs due to his lack of education - on one leg.
When I talked to him, he struck me as a person who is so full of thanks and satisfaction with life.
It made me think of all the dissatisfactions I had felt about not having this or that, or wishing I had more of this or that, when I should be thankful I have a complete physical form in the first place.
It made me re-think my attitude that I was having - that I was fortunate, thanks to God, that I had the means to afford the pilgrimage for my whole family, whereas most people would just scrape by to afford to go for themselves once in their lives.
I was blessed at an even more basic level than that by God - that my family and I had health and complete physical forms in the first place. I suddenly felt very privileged to have what everyone else had - except this man - a complete pair of feet.
Reminded me of the Sufi saying - I went to the mosque to pray for a pair of shoes, and God showed me a man with no feet - I ended up thanking God that I had feet, forget the shoes.
Whilst I was there, I saw very old, feeble pilgrims, struggling to make every step of their way in the midst of maelstorms of crowds pushing about. I saw women from remote villages from remote parts of the world confused and frightened by the size, crowd and bustle of the pilgrimage. People who were experiencing their first ever ride on an escalator. An Indian man who read from his own, very old, yellowed and dog-eared copy of the Quran, instead of reaching out for one of the thousands of new copies provided at every pillar of the mosques. An old African woman marvelling at the wonderful embroidery of a Malaysian woman's telekong. I saw thousands of pilgrims from all over the world just sitting for hours, reading and re-reading the Quran, most of them not knowing Arabic, and many with accents and reading styles strange to our ears.
For some reason, reading the Quran is something that one naturally desires to do in the Haram - somehow God's word being spoken through one's tongue in His house, as if He is speaking though you.
It is said that for every hajj, the prophets Khidr and Elyas perform the pilgrimage as well, and one could well meet one of them there unknowingly.
The truth is, if you look about, you will see the Prophet's spirit in the eyes of every one of the pilgrims.
Their externals may appear peculiar and different from us, and they may appear course or rough by our standards, but inside each one of them lay their own story of why they made the journey to the Holy Land.
It is most apparent when they first arrive and set eyes on the Ka'abah - there, at that precise moment, all that is in the heart bursts forth in an unexplainable and inexpressible manner of tears and relief.
You may not see it on their faces, but in the heart of every pilgrim is the heart of a saint - one yearning for the One, and being reunited with Him.
On the Day of Judgment, when I meet my Lord, I hope it will be with the same sentiment.