Ayyub was relieved when Zakir called him back and told him he was on his way. It was always in the air, that when one needed to secure the lower part of the Ihram, then one needed to call upon a Bengali. For Ayyub, that Bangladeshi bachelor was the one and only Zakir. As Ayyub frantically packed the bare necessities he would need for his two week trip, Zakir finally strolled in.
“Just do this, this, then fold like this again and again, then tuck-and-fold like this until it’s tight. Got it?”
“Let me try”, answered Ayyub, finding it to be as simple as it sounded. He jumped up and down, sprinted around, and stretched his legs to make sure things were secure. Test passed.
He threw a thobe over himself, and off he was to the airport.
The flight had a stop-over for a couple of hours in Qatar, so Ayyub took the opportunity to get some indoor Qatari air, and just get the legs moving for a bit. He realized he was a bit hungry, having rejected the mush served on the airline, and when the Hardees sign shone its shine orange, engulf a Mushroom ‘n’ Swiss sandwich he did.
The flight attendant announced that they would soon approach Meeqat, the point at which Ihram was necessitated, so Ayyub hopped into the cramped toilet, removed his thobe, and threw on the top of his Ihram. This was definitely the easy method, and he made du’a for his brothers who suggested it. He grimaced at the thought of what people left behind as they decided to perform their ghusl and get into Ihram at that point.
Parting with the Riyals due to the taxi driver, Ayyub grabbed his bag and called up his cousin Basim to find out where they should meet. Basim was already checked into their room, so he headed on over there. He picked up his key at the front desk, and greeted Basim in the room with a display that would have elicted nothing short of laughter by any witnesses.
“Salaamu ‘alaikum”, it gutterally began. “’Alaikum as salaaaaaam”, it continued.
Then, “weeeiiiiinnnn, schhhloooonaaaak, walla, balla, malla, galla”, and other such sounds emanated forth, completely understood by the pair, but rendered useless to all else.
Once in the Haram, they kept their eyes lowered, angling ahead just enough to stop from running into a pillar or falling down a set of stairs. They knew they were getting closer, hearing the tapping choir of skin against marble get denser and more purposed, and the light changing from harsh fluorescent, to the calm of amber, and soon to open sky.
Fresh air hit them, the chirping of birds overhead soothed them, and they both knew it was time to lift their sight from the white marble, and ahead at the sight they had been longing to see for far too long.
The tears eventually subsided, and they continued on to finish the rest of this Lesser Pilgrimage, basking in the mercy of Allaah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Seven rounds, two rak’aat, seven jaunts through a valley, a snip or more of hair, lots of zamzam, and never enough supplication found them at an end in about three hours. Invigoration followed.
They stopped by the hotel room to clean up, slip into something comfortable, and headed back out.
Standing once again at the threshold to the open sky, Ayyub sighed.
“We’ll meet back here after Fajr?” asked Basim.
“Sounds good.” answered Ayyub, “Now get away from me.” he laughed.
Ayyub grabbed one of many copies of the Qur’an found in seemingly endless shelves around the Haram, and sat himself in a quiet corner, with a clear and awe-inducing view of the Ka’bah. As flipped the cover of the mushaf, he remembered talking to his mother the night before he left. Nestled in her lap as she watched TV, she asked him what he was planning to do on his trip.
“I’m going to go around the world.”
She laughed, of course, but he continued on, and then she smiled the most beautiful of smiles.
After Fajr, Ayyub watched a group of men huddle around in a circle. He signaled Basim over to check it out. As they neared, they saw men aged from 15 to over 30, all huddled in a circle with notebooks in hand, and a tape recorder in the middle. Ayyub strained to listen in to a voice speaking in Arabic, an old and wise voice. As he listened to the speech, Ayyub smiled at realizing that the speaker was probably an Urdu speaker. He just had that “thing”.
“MashaAllaah”, thought Ayyub, “may Allaah subhanahu wa ta’ala preserve our scholars. Ameen.”
Once the lecture was over, the boys headed over to their hotel and crashed for a couple of hours.
In the nine days ahead, Ayyub kept his word to his mother. All he searched for was time to spend with the Book of Allaah subhanahu wa ta’ala. It was all there; guidance, forgiveness, supplication, emotion, power, and on and on… He treasured the pronunciation of every word, those from the tip of his tongue, to the deep of his throat. He savored for the meaning of every verse. Starting with the name of Allaah ‘azza wa jal, and continuing with complete and assured truth.
It was reading the mushaf, standing alone for prayer, standing in congregation and hearing the best of the recitors, supplicating away from all, supplicating together with all, having breakfast together, keeping fasts together, breaking them together, listening to the scholars explain, and learning what they teach.
It was the Book, the Qur’an, the Word of Allaah subhanahu wa ta’ala, that was the world.
It was for Ayyub the mission of a lifetime, to Go Around the World in 10 Days.