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How Hajj Taught Me to Love Myself

by in Identity on 7th July, 2021

Dear Reader,

Alhamdulillah, I made Hajj with my brother and mother in 2007. We had so many obstacles that I didn’t believe that we’d complete the Hajj until I was standing by Mount Ar-Rahma on the Day of Arafah. It’s probably worth writing about that but today I want to share with you two contrasting memories I have of Hajj. Pictures. One in my mind and one I tore up soon after we arrived back in the UK.

A cherished memory I have of Hajj is sitting not too far from the Ka’bah. Gazing on it. Feeling connected with everything. Serene in my heart with the sense that Allah’s mercy was descending on me like warm shimmering sunshine seeping through my head and shoulders and illuminating my heart and body. This is the memory I tapped into when I got to the driving test centre a few years after coming back from Hajj. This was my fifth time taking the practical test and if I had failed it I would have had to also retake my theory test. Yep, it’s been two years of lessons, revising and failing this test and I really wanted to pass and be done with it! But I was so nervous. I could see my hands shaking. Then I remembered how I confuse my right and left when I get nervous! I asked Allah to help me and he guided me to bring back to my mind that beautiful picture of me sitting and gazing at the Ka’bah. He guided me to bring back those feelings and calmness. Alhamdulillah, by the time the test instructor came out to call my name, I was cool as a cucumber and felt peace within. Glad to report that I passed the practical driving test with ease!

While we were on Hajj my brother took many pictures. Of us three, of people in our group, of different places in and around Makkah and Madina and of people he met during the Hajj.

A picture taken by the author of the piece while on Hajj

One day we were going through the pictures after we came back from Hajj. Remembering what we did and telling the rest of the family all about our trip. It was wonderful to relive the hajj experience through the pictures. That is until we got to one picture of mum and brother with me in the middle. I moved on from it quickly. I hated it! Later on, I took that picture because I didn’t want anyone else to see it again. It bothered me so much that I eventually decided to tear it up. I didn’t want the picture taken in the first place. I didn’t think I was beautiful and felt pictures documented that “fact”.

For a long time I had thought of myself as too fat, too short, too dark…too much of all the not nice things! I’d look at my picture and zoom into my imperfections. My heart was conflicted. Hajj was one of the best trips of my life but this picture was spoiling it for me. It had to be destroyed! Now, I remember the picture as three people on Hajj with mountains behind them, street lights on and other pilgrims walking by. Three people who made it to Hajj despite the obstacles. Three people who were grateful to Allah that he invited them to make the Hajj that year; grateful for their aching feet and good company. Glad to report that I am working on nurturing my self-love. Today I am able to look at my reflection in the mirror,  direct into my eyes and say ‘I love you’ and receive this with a genuine smile and affection. Life is a journey taken on different terrains. Be prepared and take your time or speed up as best works for you.We are all journeying to Allah and that is what matters.

Yours lovingly,

Hajja Hanan

Hanan Basher

Hanan Basher

Hanan Basher is an educator, coach, speaker and passionate community builder. You can find her on Instagram: @h4n4nb