“Grandpa, Muslims perform their hajj in Mecca, right? Is Mecca far from Malaysia?” Sarah suddenly asked her grandfather. Grandpa Aki turned to look at his granddaughter and said, “Well, it’s not that far. It will take around nine hours if one travel on a direct flight. You’ll get quite bored on the plane… Hahaha.”
“Ohhh… grandpa, did Zul also perform hajj when he was studying in Medina? Medina and Mecca are quite near each other, right? I just did a Google Map search just now.” Sarah asked intently.
“Ehh…Of course. Anyone who stays near Mecca would surely perform the hajj. Ha… let me tell you the story of when Zul went there for his hajj…,” Grandpa Aki said as he reaches for his sireh leaves (betel leaves) and kacip pinang (a type of nutcracker with pincers).
As the month of Zulhijjah begins, television and radio stations throughout Mecca and Medina start to broadcast the talbiah recitation. It is also broadcasted continuously in hypermarkets and shopping malls. The recitation originates from a hadith from Ibn ‘Umar R.Anhuma, Rasullullah PBUH said:
لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَكَ
“I am here at Your service, O Allah, I am here at Your service. I am here at Your service, You have no partner, I am here at Your service. Surely the praise, and blessings are Yours, and the dominion. You have no partner.” 
“Alhamdulillah, in two days we will be performing wukuf. As we all understand, it is sunnah to recite the talbiah recitation beginning from when we set our intention for ihram until we start our tawaf for those who are performing umrah and he begins to throw the Jamrah al-Kubra or tawaf or shave according to which he performs first when performing hajj.” Zul gave a simple briefing to his friends and juniors who travel with him from Medina to perform hajj. Ordinarily, Medina Malaysian Students Association will collaborate with Mecca Malaysian Students Association to ensure the smooth operation of the performance of the worship of hajj for students from Medina.
“In a hadith from As-Sa’ib bin Khallad, Rasullullah PBUH said:
أَتَانِي جِبْرِيلُ فَأَمَرَنِي أَنْ آمُرَ أَصْحَابِي أَنْ يَرْفَعُوا أَصْوَاتَهُمْ بِالإِهْلاَلِ وَالتَّلْبِيَةِ
“Gabriel came to me and commanded me to order my companions to raise their voices in the talbiya.” 
For men, it is sunnah to raise one’s voice for the recitation of talbiah. Allah SWT states:
وَأَذِّن فِي النَّاسِ بِالْحَجِّ يَأْتُوكَ رِجَالًا وَعَلَىٰ كُلِّ ضَامِرٍ يَأْتِينَ مِن كُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيقٍ
“And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass,”
Although the recitation of talbiah is sunnah and it does not invalidate hajj if one neglects it, it is a great loss for us for we will lose the great rewards for reciting it. The Prophet PBUH was once asked:
أَىُّ الْحَجِّ أَفْضَلُ قَالَ “ الْعَجُّ وَالثَّجُّ ”
“…which part of the pilgrimage was most excellent, and he replied, “Raising the voice in the talbiya and shedding the blood of sacrificial victims.” 
Such is the in-depth explanation Zul gave in front of all the students. Without warning, Yasir who was sitting in the back of the crowd suddenly raises his hand. “Ustaz Zul! I want to ask. If we look at our left, we can see all the pilgrims in ihram boarding a bus without a roof. Why is that?” Yasir said in a thick Sabah dialect but still understandable. Zul chuckled hearing the question. He spared a side glance at it and explained, “They are pilgrims from Iran. They are from the Syiah which hold quite a different opinion. For the Shiites, when they are in ihram, nothing should cover his head, which includes the roof of a bus. That’s why their bus is custom made to have its roof removed.”
Alhamdulillah. The arrival of Malaysian students from Medina is greeted by the Mecca Malaysian Students Association which is represented by Ustaz Abdul Mu’in, Ustaz Talal, Ustaz Zuhdi, Ustaz Saibon, Ust Syahril, Ust Abdul Razak and many others. Zul and his friends are divided into smaller groups to be segregated into the rented houses as well as the association’s houses.
“So, what type of hajj are we going to perform?” Shohor Bani asked Zul. Zul closes the book al-Idhah fi Manasik al-Hajj wa al-‘Umrah by Imam al-Nawawi that he was reading and keep it back in his backpack before answering. “Let’s perform the ifrad hajj, insya-Allah. We don’t have to pay the dam and it’s convenient since we entered Mecca quite late.” Just then, Zul starts to really consider his surroundings, people from all walks of life have started to arrive from around the world, gathering and talking animatedly in the hustle and bustle of the town.
The morning sun in Arafah at 8.15 a.m. has started to burn. Zaini, Zul and Shohor Bani were flabbergasted looking at the sight in front of them. Vans, buses and several sheep cars (four-wheel drives which were usually used by the Bedouins to transport sheep) were lined outside their rented house. “Come, come… you’re welcome to choose whichever you want. As long as we safely arrive at our destination. Hehe…” Ustaz Talal joked, beckoning the students towards the transportations provided.
Zul, Zaini and Shohor Bani raced toward the vans. “If I make it early and be at the front of the queue, I’ll get to sit shotgun,” Zul thought to himself. Zul grabbed his friends’ hands as he jogged towards the nearest van. There they stand, waiting for the doors to the van to be unlocked and opened by the Meccan Arab driver who is nowhere in sight. Unknown to the three young men, this will be their first test in their hajj journey. The once vacant van just 2-3 minutes ago was suddenly swarmed by dozens of people like ants attracted to sugar. Considering their smaller physique compared to the Arabs and Africans who were all trying to squeeze through to get into the van, they were pushed further and further back at the end of the line. “We’ve been waiting for ages standing in a queue but were just pushed to the back. Even just getting into the van is a battle with these guys!” Zaini grumbles to himself. The driver who suddenly appears glowers as he glances at Zul, Zaini and Shohor Bani who were blinking in disbelief. “Where are you going? Namirah Mosque???” the driver who was in his 50s asked with a scowl. The three of them nodded their heads quickly in unison. The van driver smiled and raises his head looking up. His index finger points towards the van’s roof.
“Ah, let’s go. As long as we can get there. We don’t have to argue or face them…” Zul whispered to himself trying to console himself as he quickly boards the bus climbing on top of the van with his friends. That was the first experience all the three young men ever sit on top of the van’s roof on their journey to perform the Fifth Pillar of Islam. The old van combined with the fast-driving style of the driver makes it feels like they were riding on a camel, it greatly amuses the three friends as they laughed and have a great time throughout their journey. Arriving at Namirah Mosque, each went to find their own place to perform their wukuf. Zul chose a small clearing area near Jabal Rahmah and laid a mat that he brought. Some other students were fortunate enough to get a place to stay in a tent prepared by Muassasah and Tabung Haji. It was more comfortable there.
“For your information, this hill is famously known as Jabal Rahmah. But its real name is Jabal ‘Ilal. Some of us like to come here and supplicate for a partner. Then, carves a name on this stone. Place the name of one’s girlfriend in between the rocks. There’s supposedly a blessing. In truth, it is a form of falsehood. If we want to get a great partner; may it be a husband or a wife, then ask Allah. Don’t do superstitious stuff here. Syeikh Bakr Abu Zaid discussed this issue in his book Jabal ‘Ilal bi ‘Arafah.” Zul chatted with Zuhri as they watched endless people going up and down the Jabal Rahmah.
When the hour hand showed it was 12 noon, it was blazing hot that the sun felt as though it was right on top of one’s head. The aerial view of the area in the vicinity of Arafah starts to turn white, as it is filled with millions of people wearing white in ihram. The old, young, poor and rich all dressed in the same attire. Everyone made use of the time left to perform worship, supplicate and remembering Allah SWT, chasing the rewards and forgiveness on the honoured day in a blessed place. Some were weeping as they prayed, others focused on their recitation of al-Quran and dhikr hours on end. From Aisyah RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
مَا مِنْ يَوْمٍ أَكْثَرَ مِنْ أَنْ يُعْتِقَ اللهُ فِيهِ عَبْدًا مِنَ النَّارِ، مِنْ يَوْمِ عَرَفَةَ
“There is no day when God sets free more servants from hell than the day of ‘Arafa.” 
The ‘Arafah sermon was delivered passionately by Syeikh ‘Abdulaziz Aal al-Syeikh. Zul heard some rumours that the Syeikh is among the shortlisted candidates who will be the next Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia after Syeikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Baz. After prayer, each resumes their own worship until it is Maghrib.
“Hey, I heard Tabung Haji just issued an opinion stating that it is impermissible to throw the jamrah before zawal . I disagreed with it. What do you think of my idea of distributing a brief discussion on the matter? I’ve finished writing on the matter since we were still in Medina?” Zul asked Zaini when they were on their way to Muzdalifah. “I think that’s great Zul. You should distribute it to all the Malaysian hajj pilgrims.” Swiftly, he grabbed his pen and notebook jotting some notes.
Groups of Malaysian students from Medina march towards Muzdalifah while flying the Malaysian flag. They were very proud for the world acknowledged the discipline and character displayed by Malaysian hajj pilgrims. Upon seeing the Malaysian flag, several foreigners gave them a thumbs up praising them. Small rocks were picked to be thrown the next day and put in a small plastic bag and tied neatly. Zul and friends spend the night sleeping soundly on their arms under the night sky of Muzdalifah. That was their Five Thousand Stars Hotel, which promises comfort and rests for the tired. It does not discriminate against skin color, wealth or status. As long as there are from the dhuyufurrahman, then anyone can stay there.
In the Tabung Haji committee room in Mina, there were clamour and confusion when several pamphlets discussing the ruling of throwing the jamrah before zawal were found amongst the pilgrims.
“Scholars have agreed in stating that it is permissible to throw the jamrah before zawal on Eid and this is the most prioritized (afdhal). They have also agreed that throwing the jamrah on Tasyriq days after zawal before or after the Zohor prayer is afdhal. It is also a sunnah thabit from the Prophet PBUH. From Jabir R.Anhu, he said:
رَأَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَرْمِي الْجَمْرَةَ وَهُوَ عَلَى بَعِيرِهِ وَهُوَ يَقُولُ “ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ خُذُوا مَنَاسِكَكُمْ فَإِنِّي لاَ أَدْرِي لَعَلِّي لاَ أَحُجُّ بَعْدَ عَامِي هَذَا
“O people, learn your rituals (of Hajj) for I do not know whether I will perform Hajj again after this year.” 
According to the sunnah of the Prophet PBUH, throwing the seven stones at Jamratul Kubra is the first worship done by hajj pilgrims on the 10th of Zulhijjah in Mina. It is an honour for Mina. Among the sunnah that is encouraged when one is throwing the Jamratul Kubra are:
- Stop the recitation of talbiah and replace it with takbir.
- Recite the takbir every time one is throwing the jamrah.
- Throw the stone using one’s right hand. For men, it is sunnah to raise his hands high, whilst for women, it is not sunnah for them to do so.
- The stones used to throw the jamrah is of the size of a chickpea.
- When throwing, the qibla should be on his left side and Arafah on his right while facing the Jamrah reservoir.
- Throw in succession (muwalat).
- Throw clean stones without najis (considered impure in Islam).
Scholars have differing opinions as to whether throwing after the sunrise and before zawal is permissible or otherwise? There are several opinions on the matter. The first opinion, it is absolutely impermissible to throw before zawal on the days of Tasyriq and whoever throws before zawal should rethrow it again. This is the opinion narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas, Ibn al-Zubair, cited from ‘Ata’, Tawus, Ikrimah, ibn Tawus, Abu Jaafar al-Baqir. This is an unpopular opinion of Abu Hanifah, the opinion of al-Juwaini, al-Rafie and al-Isnawi who are Syafi’iyyah scholars. Ibn al-Jauzi, Ibn Az-Zaghuni are Hanabilah scholars. In the knowledge of the author, this is also the opinion of current scholars such as Syeikh Mustafa al-Zarqa’ and Syeikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di.
Zulkifli bin Mohamad al-Bakri
The pamphlet that was widely spread amongst the Malaysian hajj pilgrims was read and analyze by the Chairman of the Tabung Haji Advisory Committee. “This young man’s argument is strong. He has a great spirit. I heard this Zulkifli is a Malaysian student currently enrolled at the Islamic University of Medina. Insya-Allah who knows, maybe he will be among the members of this committee one day or holds even a higher post.” He said and shared the pamphlet with several other Tabung Haji at the Mua’ssasah.
After completing the throw of the Jamrah al-Kubra in Mina, each shaves their heads while some others chose to cut some of their hairs to fulfil the commandment of tahallul awwal before departing to Mecca to perform the tawaf and gathering at the Malaysia House in mecca. Tahallul awwal can be performed by hajj pilgrims when one has completed two of the three matters which are throwing Jamrah al-Kubra, rukun (essential requirement) tawaf (circumambulating the Kaaba seven times) and sai’e (walking back on forth from two hills Safa and Marwa seven times) and shaving or cutting one’s hair. In performing the tahallul awwal, hajj pilgrims can perform any of the acts in order or otherwise.
Allah SWT states:
لَتَدْخُلُنَّ الْمَسْجِدَ الْحَرَامَ إِن شَاءَ اللَّـهُ آمِنِينَ مُحَلِّقِينَ رُءُوسَكُمْ وَمُقَصِّرِينَ لَا تَخَافُونَ
“You will surely enter al-Masjid al-Haram, if Allah wills, in safety, with your heads shaved and [hair] shortened, not fearing [anyone].” 
After Asar on the Eid of 10th Zulhijjah, Zul and his friends’ hajj pilgrim group departs once again headed towards Mina and stayed there for 2/3 of the night. When the clock displayed that it was 2 a.m., they cleaned up their belongings to go and throw the jamrah for all of them are performing nafar awwal. In performing hajj, one is given a choice of whether he wants to perform nafar awwal or nafar thani. The purpose of nafar awwal is to shorten the duration of the performance of hajj while nafar thani is to perform hajj the normal way. Allah SWT states:
فَمَن تَعَجَّلَ فِي يَوْمَيْنِ فَلَا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ وَمَن تَأَخَّرَ فَلَا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ
“Then whoever hastens [his departure] in two days – there is no sin upon him; and whoever delays [until the third] – there is no sin upon him.” 
Among the conditions to perform nafar awwal is the hajj pilgrim must leave Mina before the sun sets on the 12th Zulhijjah. The hajj pilgrim must also have completed all the three throws of jamrah for the two Tasyriq days (the 11th and 12th Zulhijjah) a total of 42 stones. Other than that, one must have spent or stayed two complete nights in Mina. Hajj pilgrims who perform nafar awwal has to set his intention in his heart to perform nafar awwal before departing from Mina and his nafar intention should be hastened before he leaves Mina and is determined to not return and stay in Mina. Thus, he should perform his nafar before the sun sets on the 12th Zulhijjah. If the pilgrim starts his journey, but he is still within the city limits of Mina and the sun sets, then in this circumstance, the nafar is still valid.
Hajj season is a happy time for Zul for it is the time for him to meet people from his village and family who came to perform hajj from Malaysia. “Zul, here, I brought some keropok from Losong. Ustaz Mad send some for his son here. You can’t possibly find any keropok here in Mecca, right? Hahaha…,” Pok De gave a plastic bag filled with keropok, neatly tied and wrapped in newspaper. “Alhamdulillah, thank you so much Pok De. I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to buy anything for you and Mok De. Let’s go and eat at Mat’am Hana’ which serves the most delicious Nasi Bukhari. Come one… we’ll take the cab there. After this, I’ll have to call you Haji De then…” Zul invites his neighbour to join him to have a meal together politely before teasing Pok De.
______________________________________ Sahih Muslim (1184)  Sunan al-Tirmizi, no. 829  Sunan al-Tirmizi, no. 827  Sahih Muslim no. 2402  The sun passes its zenith  Sunan al-Nasaie (3062)  Surah al-Fath: 27  Surah al-Baqarah: 203