“Caught in stop and go traffic, we did not reach Muzdalifah – close but yet so far – until 11pm.
Led by an imam from Rabat, we were holding our evening and night prayers together, our sore knees resting on just those tiny but sharp pieces of gravel, the size of chick peas, from which we were to pick up 49 pebbles in order to be appropriately supplied for the rites of stoning (rajm), that were to take place on the following days. At about two o’clock in the morning, our bus returned to Mina and stopped near one of the three pillars that were to be stoned.
The intention was to symbolize the final rejection of evil in oneself and also in the world around us. I pushed my way in close enough to hit the pillar with my pebbles, yet also maintained a safe distance to avoid getting caught in a hail of stones from behind. A group of little boys armed with scissors waited in front of our bus. Didn’t I say so?
Since we did not opt for shaving our heads, they at least wanted to cut off a lock for the sum of three riyals, as finally happened. After that, having fulfilled all our Hajj obligations, we could have left the status of ihram and with it stopped wearing our pilgrim’s attire. Instead, we found ourselves so elated that we were swept along in a kind of pious rapture. So before dawn we decided to hurry on to Makkah.
Now we had to walk around the Ka`bah another time, this time in the cover of night (Tawaf Al-Ifadah). At least 200,000 other pilgrims seemed, however, to have had the same brilliant idea and unaccountable energy reserves. Thus the pushing and shoving was even worse than last time.
As a result, the seven-fold circumambulation of “The House”, followed by the jogging and walking back and forth between al Safa and al Marwah, also for seven times, altogether took me a total of two exhausting hours.
It was 4:30 in the morning on the Day of Sacrifice, the 10th day of the month of pilgrimage, and we had to muster our last ounce of strength and composure in order to join 800,000 other believers for the Morning Prayer in the Great Mosque of Makkah, almost in a trance. Shortly after six am, we had finally made it back to our guest house in Mina.
After being up and about for 26 hours, we felt emotionally and physically drained. My fellow pilgrims and I embraced each other, exclaiming “Hajj Mubarak! Hajj Maqbul!” (May your hajj be blessed and accepted).
Wilfried Hofmann, who was born in Germany in 1931 to a Catholic Christian family, was sent to Algeria in the early 1960s after joining the German Foreign Ministry. Witnessing the bloodiest stages of the Algerians' war of independence against the French colonizers, Hofmann observed that while the Muslim people resisted all this oppression and persecution, they were able to survive thanks to their adherence to Islam. Seeing the brutality of France up close, Hofmann thus entered a period of in-depth questioning about the civilization and religion to which he belonged. Hofmann, who started reading the Qur'an simultaneously, converted to Islam by finally uttering the proclamation of faith or Shahadah, on September 25, 1980. Continuing his official duties and representing his country as ambassador in Algeria and Morocco, Hofmann added "Murad" to the beginning of his name to indicate that he was sincerely and voluntarily committed to Islam. This sincere connection would last until his death on January 12, 2020.
The long excerpt above is from the book “Journey to Mecca,” which contains Murad W. Hofmann's impressions of the Hajj pilgrimage in 1992. It is very instructive to read the greatest convergence of the Islamic world through the eyes of a Muslim with a deep understanding of aesthetics and a refined spirit. I would recommend my dear readers to include this beautiful book in their “to be read summer lists.”