We were not called to the House of Allah this year, the beautiful Ka'ba in Makkah for the Hajj. God Willing, one day soon, however Muslim women were given a great opportunity to experience a closeness to the pilgrims in a game called "Pilgrims at Home." The goal was to create habits of getting near to Allah by doing different acts of worship. The teams consisted of 5 women, there was an estimated of 400 total women playing from all over the world. . . and it was what I needed to create habits out of different Ibadah or acts of worship.
We are a competitive family, so we are usually down to play any game, but this game was less about competing with the other teams and more about pushing oneself. Although, the winning teams did receive a real trophy and maybe a visit from Anse Tamara. For me it was a learning experience from the start and a way to discipline my nafs or the lowest inward dimension of my ego. My friend who played last year said it was so popular in her home with her children that her husband created a game to play during Ramadan. I also wanted a way to continue the game throughout the year, so I created a worksheet that of course I am sharing.
Day 1 began at Tahajjud. There was a total of 30 points that could be earned by waking up in the middle night and worshiping our Lord. That's almost 1/3 of our daily points in one setting. I would aim to earn 15 of the total points. The two rakahs of tahajjud for 5 points and salat al tasabih for 10 points. My aim was to do acts of ibadah that I could make a habit. Out of the 9 days of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah including the day of Arafah, I woke up for tahajjud 6 times and salat al tasabih 5 times.
The days that I did not wake up for tahajjud would be a little off spiritually and my points would suffer. Not waking up before Fajr also affected my ability to fast that day and eating something for suhur. I fasted 7 out of the first 9 days of Dhul Hijjah another act of ibadah that I wanted to establish regularly. The points for fasting were 5, so by waking up for tahajjud, praying two rak'ahs and then salat al tasabih I could earn 20 points fairly easily.
20 points does not sound like much out of 100. However, converts like myself, I became Muslim at the age of 22, were able to turn those 20 points into 40. All points for converts were doubled this year. The hadith that supported this rule is "Whoever embraces Islam from the people of the two scriptures (Jews and Christians) will be given double reward..." Musnab al-Imam Ahmad. So again almost half my points for the day was earned by waking up for tahajjud, praying salat al tasabih, and fasting.
Then I could earn another 5 points which would double to 10 points by staying up until the sunrise. SubhanAllah, out of the first 9 days of Dhul Hijjah, I stayed up until sunrise 7 of those days. After Fajr and before sunrise was the perfect time to do other acts of worship, including reading the Quran and reciting my 7 Adhkar 25x each. I learned that Dhikr and Tasabih were my favorite acts of worship. They were easy ways for me to get points. They filled me up literally with points and spiritually with the remembrance of Allah. My early mornings were full of tears, crying out in remembrance and the interesting thing is those days I felt the least tired.
The question may come up, if I was spending the day in Worship, what were my Beloveds doing. They spent the day reading Quran also and playing. I did not press them to do traditional school work. I really think it is important that they have their Islamic holidays or Holy days which is the true word. So yes, we do school work through Christmas and Easter break, and take off from school work for our Islamic Holy days. My Beloveds also do not do school work on most Fridays, which is another Islamic Holy Day. Many Islamic countries around the world, work Sunday -Thursday and we do something similar.
So what were my most difficulties? I have to say praying my fard salat was the hardest part for me and then praying them on time. The points for praying the fard were only 1, but the points for missing a fard was -50. And yes, I overslept one Fajr and missed 50 points. That day out of 100 points, I had earned a -1. I was later able to make up 25 of those points by doing 5,000 Istighfars. Praying on time meant praying within the first 15 minutes that the prayer comes in. So Fajr and Maghrib were the prayers that I would make within the first 15 minutes the most. But then Dhur and Asr, I hardly ever prayed within the first 15 minutes. To pray those within the time, I would hardly ever have to leave the house and I would need some type of alarm.
As you get going with your day, it is easy to forget about your obligations to your Lord. I don't have that internal alarm throughout the day that I strongly have for Fajr (the Dawn prayer). It is almost like I am a bird, I know internally when the sun is rising and it is time to start chirping. I also feel internally and see when Maghrib (the Sunset prayer) approaches. So my test, that I need to work on is stopping midday for the Dhur and Asr prayers. Dhur is usually not too hard when eating lunch, but I was fasting these 9 days and I did not stop to each lunch. Plus, I rarely eat lunch anyways and that is why Dhur and Asr are difficult for me, once I get into the rhythm of my day it is hard to pull away and take a break. I am sure my Beloveds will benefit greatly from a mother who is more inclined to taking breaks during our school work day ♥
Out of 900 points, 100 each day of the first 9 days of Dhul Hijjah, I earned 669 points. For the day of Arafah and the 3 days of Eid, another 400 points could be earned. For Arafah, I could earn 40 points out of 100 for reciting Surah al Ikhlas 1100 times. I could earn 10 points for reciting Surah al Fatihah 100 times. Then there were more Adhkar and reciting Surah al-Hajj and Surah al-Anbiyah. I only missed 5 points because I couldn't read Surah al- Anbiyah.
In fact, I was at a huge disadvantage because my Arabic reading is not very good. For all Quran reading including finishing the whole Quran by the end of Eid which was worth 100 points, I had to read the transliteration and listen to either Quranexplorer.com or theOnlyQuran.com. This is why Anse Tamara helped converts out by doubling our points this year. I have no excuses why I have not learned to read Arabic and moreover, the Quran. But I do want to spend a minute addressing the dialogue surrounding learning Arabic. From the beginning of my conversion, I have been hit with strong anti-Arab sentiments. Part of this anti-Arab rhetoric is a reaction based off the racism that many Arabs have displayed towards non-Arabs. One Palestinian boy told me "Who are you? You don't speak Arabic, you are not an Arab", he had been taught by his parents or siblings that only Arabs have any worth. This is not the Prophetic way. In the last sermon before the Prophet Muhammad's death, sall Allahu alaihi wa salaam, he said "an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has superiority over a white except by piety and good action" However, hurtful it may be, racism is not a valid excuse to not be proficient in your Deen.
I have also heard excuses like it is not part of our culture to memorize the Quran. Well if you consider Bollywood and/or Tyler Perry/ Dream Girls/ Sound of Music movies a part of your culture, which are new inventions and are much younger than the Quran, then it is time to change your culture. We must put our culture through an Islamic filter, rather than putting our Islam through the filter of our culture. The excuse with the most validity is the emphasis on rote memorizing and not on being able to understand the meaning. As I teach Lil A how to read, I have been thinking alot about this excuse. Part of Lil A's phonetic reading program is reading non-sense words with no meanings. Learning Arabic, although the words do have meaning, the point of reading is to learn to read, not understand. Understanding comes with repetition. For example when Lil A and I read together, she may point out a word she knows and every time that word comes up, she will read it instead of me. As I read through the transliteration of the Quran, I also understood the meaning of many Arabic words because of my repetitive use of those words. Now let's imagine the last 15 years of my conversion I did not make any excuses and I read the Quran in Arabic everyday that I could, how many Arabic words do you think I would have picked up by now? Now imagine, if I took it a step further and put in some effort to study Arabic outside of reading the Quran, how proficient do you think I would be by now? Well, no more excuses for me or my Beloveds, may God make us successful on this road to reading and understanding the Quran in Arabic.
I did manage to read through the Quran in transliteration and get my full 100 Khitma points at Eid. However, I started late and was very rusty. I want to set a goal for myself to read the Quran in Arabic at least 9 times a year, so next year I will not be as rusty. InshaAllah, it is also good to use the full 12 days of the game to finish the Quran instead of the last two days of Eid to complete most of it (like I did this year).
Other Eid points were earned by doing the Takbeerat, the Salat al-Eid, making up prayers that have been missed, and the Udhiya (sacrifice). The Hajj ends in the slaughtering of a lamb to commemorate the story of Abraham and Ishmael, where Abraham shows full submission to his Lord and is awarded with the life of his son. Each women in the game could earn a 100 points if we arranged for the slaughtering ourselves, here is where Anse Tamara is requesting for women to take responsibility for her Deen outside of normal worship. I used Islamic Relief and all of my meat went to the people of Niger in Africa. However, something special also happened we were able to witness the sacrifice being performed and Z Man was able to assist in it at our local Masjid.
Thanks to Pilgrims at Home and our wonderful Masjid, I felt the most connected to the Hajj than I have ever felt in the 15 years I have been a Muslim. I can not Thank you enough. May Allah reward all that was involve and accept the Hajj of the Pilgrims in Makkah. Ameen.
Please also read my teammates post on her experience with the Pilgrims at Home game: The Taste of Light