I didn't post anything yesterday, the eleventh of November, 2011. I initially wanted to... but then couldn't think of anything significant enough to write about. Well, a friend of ours did complete her wedding vows yesterday but the reception was earlier today. So I guess, let's forget about this eleven, eleven, eleven thingy for a while and talk about something else. I mean, really... did you do anything special on the 3x10 date last year or on triple 9 date the previous year? And what about 12.12.12 for next year? That day falls on a Wednesday.
Ok then, let's write about some real stories... or maybe I'll start with just a sampler.
The Hajj season for this year is now over. In the next few days, pilgrims would be returning from the holy land, hopefully in good health and in high spirits. Most would be very grateful for the experience despite the difficulties and challenges. Pilgrims returning from Makkah always have plenty of stories to tell... and these stories range from the sad, the tragic, the heartmoving and sometimes even the mysterious too.
Before pilgrims embark on the holy journey, they are often reminded to be on their best behaviour when they reach there. This sounds like common sense but humans being humans, reminders are definitely needed. Especially when it comes to controlling what comes out from one's mouth. People tend to say things without giving much thought to what they are saying. If improper things are said while you are in the holy land, it wouldn't be a surprise if the payback is almost immediate. `Cash on Delivery' is the term that I use... God uses his discretion to decide if you get your dividend on the spot rather than wait for the hereafter.
There are many stories that fall into this COD category. If you complain that the air temperature in Makkah or Madinah is too hot for your liking, then don't be surprised if you'll feel the heat throughout your stay there, even when you are in your air-conditioned hotel room. If you grumble that the food served by the hotel is not to your taste, then you run the risk of eating tasteless food no matter where you buy the food from. If you think that you live in a big city and proudly claim to know your way around places, then you might just get lost within Masjidil Haram mosque itself. If you complain that some pilgrims within your group are always late getting on the bus and causing delays, then just wait for the time when you get lost and couldn't find the bus to get you back to your hotel.
Does it mean that we cannot complain about poor service or bad conditions? I don't know... but what I know is, it doesn't hurt to be doing otherwise. The underlying message here is always to be kind, patient and humble, especially when you are His guest.
A few of my friends are on Hajj trips this year and I await their return... not just to listen to their interesting stories but primarily to know that they are back home, safe and healthy.
In the meantime, I'll share with you my own story from Makkah... also in the cash payback category, although this is not for having bad intentions (I hope).
The hotel where I was staying is only about a few hundred metres from the mosque. When walking to the mosque from the hotel for the daily prayers, I would pass by a shoe shop with a large window display. In the display was a pair of leather sandals that caught my eye and I thought that maybe I'd buy it on my way back. After prayers, I stopped by the shop window, looked at the sandals again but decided to defer the purchase. This went on a few more days... I stopped by the shop window every time on the way back to the hotel but never stepped inside the shop. Nak beli ke tidak? Nak beli ke tidak?
Until one day, the decision was made for me.
When I go the Masjidil Haram for the daily prayers, I would normally enter by the same gate and store my footwear in a pigeonhole-type shoerack just inside the gate. In fact, I would try to keep it in the same pigeonhole every time so that it is easy to remember. Stories of lost or stolen (or probably misplaced) footwear is so common in Makkah. I had been quite lucky in not losing mine... until one day, after Asar prayers, I note that my sandals were not in the particular place where I had stored them.
This of course meant that I had to buy a new pair... and so that day, I walked barefooted from the mosque to the shoe shop and finally bought the pair of new sandals which I had been eyeing the previous few days. Now, let's ponder this : if I had not been indecisive in purchasing that leather sandals, or no footwear in that shop window had taken my interest, would fate still determine that I lose my existing pair?