Bits & Bytes

A Pilgrimage Within


With Hari Raya Haji (Eidul Adha), the Muslim festival of the sacrifice, just a couple of days away, Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal ponders the idea of having her own mini pilgrimage with the family.

Interview with Jamilah Samian as published in The New Straits Times Malaysia on 13th October 2013.

by Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal

I’VE never been on the Hajj, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca. Suffice to say, it’s one of the items on my ‘To Do’ list that I hope (God willing) to do in the not too distant future. Those who have gone on pilgrimage, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, undertake this journey of faith to places considered sacred for a variety of reasons, including healing, penance, thanksgiving, worship and enlightenment.

While a pilgrimage is often associated with making an outward physical journey, it can also take the form of personal inward reflection on your own and with others. Perhaps it’s not necessary to wait to get to a holy place to attain spiritual benefits. Why not make a mini pilgrimage right here, now.

And what other “site” can be more special and “sacred” than our very own home with its history, meaning and values attached for those who reside in it? This is where the energy is. And fellow pilgrims? Your family. There can be no better companions to embark on this journey of discovery than your family members.

“The home is where our first relationships are born,” says parenting expert and author Jamilah Samian. “It’s the first environment that we’re exposed to and one that deeply colours our perceptions of humankind.”

Living in our harried world today, it’s easy to ‘leave’ members of our family behind in our rush to fulfil our material commitments. Even sitting around together for a family meal may be a relic of the past if we continue with our present pace of life.

For Muslims, the question of how best we can serve Allah is something that should be asked every day, says Jamilah. “But to serve our Creator best requires excellence in two kinds of relationships — one with the Creator, and the other with the Created (humans and other creations). Both can’t be separated. Muslims begin by reciting the Kalimah Syahadah, and followed up with solat (prayers), fasting, zakat, and Hajj … but the journey doesn’t end there.”

Adding she says: “All our lives, Allah demands that we build positive, meaningful relationships with others around us as only this kind of relationship will result in productivity for humankind. More importantly, it begins with our family.”


A mini pilgrimage in the home can be used as an opportunity to stop and smell the roses together as a family. It doesn’t have to be a big occasion requiring months of meticulous planning. Just the ‘niat’ (intention), the willingness to prepare for possible compromises and sacrifices, patience, tolerance, and desire to be enlightened.

Think of the physical journey of a pilgrimage. The act of travelling itself requires a lot of effort and some sacrifice to get there. Chances are, if you’re willing to go to the trouble of making the journey, then you’re quite likely to be open to change and growth.

Similarly, if you’re game to put together a mini pilgrimage at home, or to embark on a journey of discovery with your family and of your family, then you must be open to an outcome that will bring about change and growth.

As with the physical pilgrimage, mindset is very important as this is what will determine the outcome of an individual’s journey. Those who benefit most are those who are willing to free themselves of old wounds and resentments. Then there’ll be space for improvement and growth.

To achieve Haji Mabrur (Hajj that’s blessed and accepted by Allah), says Jamilah, one has to be prepared for discomfort, be sincere, patient, and be willing to sacrifice one’s pride and ego. “When you’re conducting your mini pilgrimage in the home and having that all-important talk session with your family, be open to criticisms, complaints, discomfort and such likes when you ask questions like where you’re heading as a family, or when the children express their issues.”


A mini pilgrimage with the family need not be a journey taken with the family from time to time. It should be done every day, says Jamilah, who offers ideas in her book, The Groovy Guide To Gen Y And Z, which touches on the importance of ‘disconnecting’ in order to ‘connect’. “Everyone in the family put away their gadgets to connect with the family. It’s recommended to be done on
a daily basis.”

Continuing, she says: “In Islam, there’s a concept called muhasabah where we self-reflect on our daily actions to see where we are in terms of our relationship with Allah and His creation, to see if we have been as productive as we could and should have. It’s typically done before we go to bed. Plus we must forgive everyone. It helps to clear hard feelings for the next day … another important step towards bonding with the family.”

Just like a pilgrimage, life’s also a journey that one needs to be prepared for. And how best to prepare the children for this journey is a question often on the minds of parents who want to see their children soar.

“Equip your children with the right attitude,” advises Jamilah. “Pride should be built upon doing the right things, and not on looks or material wealth. Focus on values — respect, honesty, excellence and doing your best — and always look for teachable moments when you can impart these values.”

Planning for a mini pilgrimage

Decide when to go: Perhaps the family is going through troubled times, or members are seeking guidance, comfort or just some family time. However, a pilgrimage can also be conducted during happy times to offer gratitude for your blessings.
Choose your ‘sacred’ site: Preferably a place that holds meaning for everyone in the family.

Before embarking

Set an intention for the journey: Ask yourself what you’re hoping to accomplish together. Contemplate issues that have been plaguing you, resentments you’ve been harbouring and strive to clear them before embarking on this pilgrimage.

Preparation: How well you prepare for this ‘journey’ will determine the end benefits.

During the pilgrimage

Be open-minded: Be willing to accept the unexpected.

Togetherness: Engage in activities that entail doing things together and being focused on each other. Strive to do things that bring forth the best of everyone’s qualities and abilities.
Express gratitude: At the end of your ‘journey’, spend some time to express gratitude for the opportunity to connect with your family and for every aspect of the journey even if not everything went according to plan.

After the pilgrimage

Time for reflection: After your ‘return’ to the world as you know it, continue to reflect on the journey that you’ve just made. Were you transformed in any way? Did you get the answers you were seeking? Did you come to some useful resolutions and solutions? What more needs to be done?

Half day pilgrimage

• Wake up early and prepare breakfast together. In a pilgrimage, everyone’s equal, so ensure that there’s equal distribution of responsibilities or tasks.

• Abstinence from all gadgets, technology and other distractions. Have breakfast together.

• Offer du’a (prayer) of gratitude for the family’s wellbeing and the food in front of you.

• Have quiet time — either for contemplation or to read together.

• Get rowdy together by playing board games or create games that can be inspired by the respective religions’ Holy Book. Sit together and discuss expressions/verses from the Holy Book and use them as a source for collective improvement and development. Alternatively, you could also put together a pop quiz based on the Holy Book. Or pose your kids with everyday moral dilemma and see what solutions they offer. Be prepared to coach them on how to view situations that may arise in their daily life.

• Prepare lunch together and enjoy a family meal.

• Family talk: The culmination of the day’s journey. Share with each other issues that are pressing, grouses that need to be aired, compliments to be shared and any other matters that have hitherto been kept silent.

• Prepare to be tolerant, patient and strive for a most beneficial outcome for all.

• End with a group hug and vow to conduct another pilgrimage very soon. Most importantly, walk the talk when this is all over for that’s what pilgrimage is all about.

Millions of Muslims flock to Mecca for the holy pilgrimage each year.

Read more: The pilgrimage within – Sunday Life & Times – New Straits Times

About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 540 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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