My heart began thumping in my chest six hours and fifteen minutes ago. Now there was a feeling of emptiness somewhere in myself, as I laid eyes on the King Fahad gate in front of me. It is here, with my feet on the cool marble, that the guilt started settling in. I don't deserve to be standing here in this garb of purity, about to enter the gate to the Greatest Place on Earth. I had heard tales of such a visit from people on many occasions, and not once did my heart not soften and the tears not flow. Now it was my turn, and as I gave salaams and stepped onto the even cooler marble indoors, all I could think was just how much I have lacked in my Deen, and my ears were filled with whispers telling me that I will not cry at my first sight of the Ka'ba, because I'm here only to accompany my mother, I'm just here as a technicality. My head was bowed down as we walked further and further through the cool hall. We walked down stairs, and more stairs, and the lights took on an amber hue, and I could FEEL something coming. My heart was beginning to sink, that's the only way I can describe it. Then down more stairs, and the pure white light returned, and I was in the open space of the Haram. My gaze was still on the marble of the floor in front of me as I walked ahead thirty or forty feet, suddenly feeling the cool breeze of those engaged in Tawaf. And then I raised my head and the might of the Ka'ba stood before me. Brothers and Sisters, if I was sitting in front of you and was verbally relating this to you, it is here that I would pause. The first time you lay eyes on the magnificence of the Ka'ba is a moment meant for you to cherish and hold on to in memory. It is a moment that affects each person differently; for some they will let out all the tears of their life, and from that day forth you shall only ever find a smile on their face. For others, the heart and soul will shake at having realized their place in this measly Duniya, at realizing that they are a GUEST of Allah's for these precious few hours ahead. I would pause because I would want to tell you that if you haven't been there, you must go. You have to make the plan, make the du'a, set your intention, and just go. The experience of that first sight is something you must have etched in your soul; something to cling on to when things go awry in life or the Deen begins to drift away.
And so the 'Umrah began, as I began circling the Ka'ba, walking so close that I was at times no more than an arms length away. You go through this little journey, feeling like the slave of Allah that you are, begging your Lord for forgiveness, and praying that He bestows upon you and those around you all the blessings of this world and the Hereafter. The process ends with my hair shorter than it's ever been, along with a feeling of happiness, contentment, and a forgotten satisfaction in my soul. It was past midnight at this point, so back to the hotel we went, for a bit of rest after a tiring day of travel and a bit of worship.
After a couple of hours of rest, we headed back out in the dark of the early morn. I prayed my first prayer wearing The Free Thawb(a tale best told at another time), after which I just sat down. I was watching everyone, in an attempt to understand how "things work" down here. I was on a mission to pray in the first saff, but didn't want to break any rules or push people out of the way in accomplishing that, so I played it cool and watched. The pre-Fajr period sported a cool breeze, with birds flying so low you'd think they were making Tawaf themselves. Soon it was time to get up and pray my first congregational prayer in Mecca: Fajr. After the prayer, as I got up and started walking in the direction of the yellow gate, something inside me said to stop and turn back; it was time to make a go for the Black Stone. For those who don't know, getting to the Hajr Al-Aswad is done for the most part only by pushing and shoving through a suffocating mass of people, all of whom are trying to kiss a piece of Heaven in a place just big enough for one head. But make the niyyah, and you'll end up saying subhanAllah at how you actually get there, and what it makes you feel. What a blessing that Stone is upon us; a piece of Heaven that was the purest white, but due to the sin of this duniya, it has become the pure black it is today. A piece of Heaven, my brothers and sisters, a token of Jannah for the Believers of this world. SubhanAllah, subhanAllah, subhanAllah, it is truly an incomprehensible gift.
A few hours were then spent roaming the city, and after some more rest I went right back into the Haram. This is your routine while you're there. You never want to leave sight of the Ka'ba unless you absolutely have to. I got back a couple hours before Dhuhr, when the sun was BLARING down on the marble so harshly, that its reflection was nothing short of blinding; it took my eyes a few minutes to adjust. The sun really was scorching down on us, and there was no escaping it unless I went back into the masjid, which I wasn't doing. That first saff was mine (InshAllah I said then). I was circling the Ka'ba as the time for Dhuhr crept closer. When you make Tawaf, you have this unbelievable opportunity to make du'a, to supplicate to Allah, but the time feels short. The experience makes you forget the names of even the ones you love most, but you don't want to "waste" time, so you just think of their image while making du'a for them. I completed my seventh encirclement of the Ka'ba, and now Dhuhr was only moments away, so I stayed "following" the crowd around, watching for signs of people forming a line. It suddenly happened, and somehow, subhanAllah, alhamdulillah, I claimed a spot right in front of the Ka'ba, only a few feet to the right of the Black Stone. I always had trouble looking at the Ka'ba directly; it felt as though I had to force my neck up to lock my eyes on the entire structure. I just naturally had my head down as I was sitting, sweat dripping off me like water, my head being slammed with massive amounts of heat, tightly surrounded by endless others going through the same thing. I just decided to crane my neck up, to see the top of the Ka'ba and once again experience its magnificence (an experience which never gets old). As my sight reached the peak of the Ka'ba, I felt something... it was like... it was the feeling you get when you see something that horrendously scares you, but at the same time, your heart yearns, out of an immense love, to be in front of it; if you can imagine it, I felt like my soul gulped, that it was something which went far beyond my physical self, to a place called fitra; the only place capable of comprehending what my eyes were beholding. "InnAllaha Rabbi wa Rabbukum fa'budooh... hatha Siratu-Mustaqim".
There's so much more to say, see, do, and feel, but at the end of the day, it is YOU who must say, YOU who must see, YOU who must do, and simply YOU who must feel. I urge you to the utmost to make this journey if you haven't. You know that spiritual upliftment/cleansing you feel during the month of Ramadhan? Here's your chance to feel it at any other time in the year. Getting married? Say bah-humbug to putting honey on the moon; what better way can two people have of beginning a new journey in life together, than by going to a place that reveals their innermost beauty. Reclaiming the Fitra, my brothers and sisters, is what Hajj and Umrah are here for. They bring our selves back to their innate state of understanding that the duniya is naught more than a temporary stop before a place either much dreaded, or one incomprehensibly beloved. May Allah grant us all the privilege of being his guests again, and again, and again, accepting our submission, and granting us the reward of Jannah. Ameen.
As Salaamu Alaikum
"May Allah grant us all the privilege of being his guests again, and again, and again, accepting our submission, and granting us the reward of Jannah. Ameen."
on June 11, 2004 3:15 PM
Asalaam Aleikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatu,
There is not one place I believe you can feel any more at peace then in Mecca or Medina...and the funny thing is that you never really notice that until you leave. Then all you want to do is just to go back.
Salaam Warahmatullah Wabarakatuon June 13, 2004 5:03 PM
I remember my biggest tearful regret was that my parents hadnt allowed me to spend the night on the whiteness beneath me and had made me return to the hotel. You get this feeling that you dont have enough time, mind, or heart to hold the experience and that if you got just a little more time, just a few more moments, magic will happen and pierce through the grime upon your heart and flood your soul with surrender of self. You cry and beg for it like a slave before a Master, gasping for forgiveness and mercy, praying that He takes you back and never allows you to stray from this Realization, from your fitra, ever again....
Pray for all of us at the feet of the Kaaba...
WasalaamuAlaikumon June 15, 2004 2:54 PM
Subhanallah Talal, you brought tears to my eyes. Maybe because I know EXACTLY what you were writing about, being it less than a week since I've been back from performing 'Umrah. Wow, you are so right in everything you said. Insha'Allah I'll embellish on it forever. You know they say that one of the signs of your 'Umrah being accepted by Allah is that you have a yearning to go back again and again and do it all over. I loved it there, such peace and tranquility it brings to your heart, when you have NOTHING to worry about BUT your Deen and your Ruh. May Allah give us all the tawfeeq and invite us back again to His House.
The Ka'bah has an aura that one CAN NOT explain, you just have to FEEL Allah's presence there so it seems.
wa billahi taufeeq