Category Archives: ‘Umrah

Day 22 – Myself Again

“3 Weeks can change everything”

11/12/11

Finished our tawaf al-wada’ last night, at 4 am. It went pretty smooth, no real issues. Alhamdulillah, Allah made it easy. We got to the Haram around 2 am, found a taxi right outside the house. Found one to come back just as easily, from beside the Library of Mecca, aka the Birthplace of the Prophet, right across from Marwa.

My mom wanted to get close to the Ka’aba, so I took her in during tawaf. By our second round, we were only 2-3 rows away from the walls, but it started getting very cramped and hot and reckless, just like it normally does that close. She freaked. My dad panicked. They immediately wanted to get out. My mom said it was the closest she’d ever been and was happy to see the door of the Ka’aba from that close, but was thankful to be out of the intensity. She claims she got so squished that her feet actually came up off the ground, and she was being carried by the crowd. I was there, I don’t remember it being that way. I still think she could’ve made it all the way, but she honestly just got really scared of how dangerous it was and panicked.

My dad started yelling at me, he got straight scared and grabbed my mom and started shoving people to make his way out. I was like yo, I just brought ya’ll this far for mom, not cuz I wanted to be all up in this, I already did all this. That’s when things get ugly of course, when you panic and freak out. There was such a contrast between them and me. I was fairly relaxed, going with the flow, and they were super tense, afraid they were going to die. My mom heard about two ladies that died there a few days earlier, they got crushed in tawaf. That thought scared her, even though I had her shielded.

It was definitely a different experience to do tawaf with my parents, not as exciting, but more calm once we got out and did it where there was more space. I wonder if my dad has no peace in his heart and that’s why he couldn’t let go and be at ease in the tawaf. Maybe, he was just super protective about my mom and didn’t trust me to look after her. He also yelled at some people doing group call & response du’as during tawaf haha! He was like, “Shut up! You’re disturbing the people!!” Me and my mom were like, wow…really? Just chill outttt. The look on his face was pure horror, right when he started pushing his way out. I think my mom could’ve been convinced to go further, but my dad’s panic escalated it. I just didn’t want her feeling like she missed out on anything. She said she was happy now, so Alhamdulillah.

I’ve been so exhausted since coming back to Aziziah. I actually missed Fajr cuz I knocked out. Seems things are returning to normal, even in ways I had hoped they wouldn’t. It’s almost 10am, I’m still in bed. People have been doing their packing and prep work for the return trip. We head to the airport tonight iA.

It was sad saying goodbye to Mecca last night. I looked upon the Ka’aba as if I may never see it again. I pray that isn’t the case iA. I’m glad to be going home though. I miss America and…civilization. And my mom’s cooking! :) I told her that yesterday, she was like, “pshhh, you don’t eat my cooking anyways!” I’m like, “yo! whatevs! I totes be crushin that joint…whenever you *actually* cook, that is.”

Real life is coming back, vacations almost over. I’m supposed to go back to work on Monday, let’s see how that goes, I know it won’t be a problem if I need to take off a few more days – perks of working for an Islamic organization ;)

My head has been shedding like crazy though! It’s kinda gross. I got crucial sunburn last week on my bald head and now it’s peeling. Hopefully, it clears up before people see me, or that’d just be unsightly. I also haven’t touched my beard since leaving home, super scruffy status. Haven’t cared much about my appearance here, it’s all a buncha old people and niqabi’s really. Not really my style :P. Soon as I get back, I’ma clean up nice though, freshen up all that. How funny would it be though if I stayed this way? Thobe, sandals, beard, kufi – I look straight Salafi actually. I should go back and be like hey, I’m Salafi now, I just went to Mecca bahaha! Here, it’s normal to dress like this, it makes sense and it’s more comfortable. There, there’s no point in it, I never wore a thobe til I got here actually, never had a real reason to. It really is just a Salafi costume there – trying to overly embody the outward of something without grasping the wisdom that’s underlying.

It’s past 10 now, I should get up and get ready to start the day, get everything packed up to go. It’s truly been an eventful adventure, a very memorable trip for sure, Alhamdulillah :).

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I was just reflecting on my first time in ihram a few weeks ago and at my complete loss of identity while in that state. It’s part of the magic of this place, in contrast with other “vacation” spots. Those places disconnect you from the world to help you get more in touch with yourself. This place disconnects you from the world and from your own self to connect you with Allah SWT. It is its own microcosm of the Universe. You live lifetimes here in just a few days. Allah progresses the mind and expands your experiences, giving you a full stock of inventory to call upon for the rest of your life.

3 weeks can change everything. Even if nothing changes, it shows change needs to happen, everything still changes. No change is dangerous in this case. Lives need reform after a journey like this. Hearts need protection, the soul needs a shield. Ya Rabb, please protect my heart, please guard and nurture it…

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Day 12 – A Posthumous Visit

“When you are here, you understand that you are known to your Creator. You feel His Presence.”

11/2/11

This tawaf was awesome. Very tough. I got so beat up & crushed, it completely wore me out, but it felt amazing. Tantamountly worth it. I made some meaningful du’as, I got to cling to the door frame (Al-Multazam) to the Ka’aba twice & make du’as I wasn’t sure I made there last time.

There are so many people trying to reach Al-Multazam that you literally have to cling to the wall to hold on and make your supplications. I wish I could have taken pictures, there’s calligraphy on the underside of the bronze door frame to the Ka’aba that you can only see when you stand at that spot and look up. I couldn’t make out what it said, but it’s very cool to be able to see. I made sure to pray for a qalb saleem (a sound heart) – in this world & when I leave this life. It’s said that only the sound heart will enter Paradise, so I’m trying to get that iA. I also made du’a to learn the Qur’an, Arabic, the Sunnah, and to embody the characteristics of the Prophet – to be guided, protected and elevated as a model for others. Apparently, every du’a made there is answered, I hope these receive the same end iA. 

I also got to touch the walls a few times – that’s become so easy that it’s like not even a big deal anymore :P. I almost touched the Black Stone. I got to touch the silver frame it’s encased in…I think I touched the cement inside, but I’m not sure, I couldn’t see. I was stretching my arms out, reaching out over peoples’ heads, trying to touch what I could. I felt my fingertips brush across something, but I have no idea what it actually was. That was epic, though that’s were I got crushed & pushed the hardest. It’s literally the most intense space I’ve ever stood in, in my entire life, anywhere in the world. It’s probably the only physical spot in the world where there’s always people pushing and shoving non-stop, 24/7. 

The funny thing is, I totally didn’t push and would literally just let myself be carried from one place to another. I’d only make minor steps here & there to get some better positioning. I would just express with my heart where I wanted to be and it would become easier, I just had to put in the umph-effort at the last instant, much like in real life I suppose;). I would actually end up getting caught in the Black Stone scuffle each time I went around, because of how close I was. Even when I didn’t want to get closer because I was exhausted, I would still get pushed deeper & further, towards the Ka’aba. Can you imagine being so tired and drained from getting crushed and crammed tightly for so long, and not even being able to walk away? SubhanAllah, it was still such a great experience. I completely miss it.

All that exhaustion & pushing made me think of how the Prophet was crushed by the Angel Gabriel & his heart received revelation. I prayed for my heart to also be filled by Allah, as I was also being physically crushed. I imagined my physical body being drained, my soul gaining strength and my heart finding itself. That was clarity. In such situations, you realize – we’re all just a jumbled, compressed mob of bodies – sweaty, musty, exhausted & drained. We become a blurred mass. Where is that which defines me? Where is my ‘I’? It is in the heart. When you’re body is trapped & crushed, your heart still breathes easily, it reaches out & kisses the breeze. The birds, circling above, sing songs just for the heart, and the heart sings back, with a fluttering of its own.

This is why I love Mecca. This place is indescribable in its total incomparability to any other space on this planet. It is a place, not from this Earth. It is from the Heavens themselves, placed on Earth by Allah’s Closest Friend to show our hearts that the Lord knows. When you are here, you understand that you are known to your Creator. You feel His Presence. It is such a fundamentally simple structure – just a cube, in the desert. From afar, there is no magic, it seems uninspiring. Once you stand before it, once you look upon its majesty with the naked eye, once your lips…ok, your fingertips, grace its humble walls – then you will understand. Then you will be convinced and you will know that the Lord knows.

Sai’y afterwards was kind of tough, but I took my time. I went nice & slow, not rushing one bit. I finished tawaf around 2:45pm & started Sai’y around 3. Stopped for ‘Asr & then finished at about 4:15 and met up with my parents. I dedicated the reward of this ‘Umrah to my father’s father, Nazir Alam. InshaAllah, he gets the reward of this as a completed ‘Umrah, having never been able to make the trip here himself. I pray I’m able to do more for my forefathers & that I’m blessed with an even more generous & rightly guided progeny

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Day 12 – Lost & Found

“We can never run out of reasons to be thankful.”

11/2/11

10am. Finally got some sleep. The room we’re in had the A/C blasting, with the knob broken off, and we had to sleep in our ihram, so it was chilly. We’re about to catch a cab to go to the Haram and do ‘Umrah iA.

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SubhanAllah! The most amazing thing just happened. I went to the bathroom & was takin my time, you know. I took off my watch & left it on the ledge in the stall, while I was inside. I finish my business and get out, make wudu, stand in front of the fan for a while, dry off, hit the water fountain – just takin my sweet time, chillin, freshening up before I go to make ‘Umrah. This was in the bathroom of the Masjid Al-Haram by the way, which isn’t actually in the masjid, but in an underground area outside the masjid, beyond the courtyard (feels like a Subway station).

When I showed up to use the bathroom, there was basically no one around, just 2-3 other people waiting to use the stalls. There are just hallways, lined with dozens of stalls. The stall I used had a bag of clothes hanging on the wall, left there by someone who used it before. I moved it when I got inside, to hang my bag. Before leaving, I made sure to return the bag to the same place I had moved it from. When I left the stall, there was suddenly like 100 people waiting. There must have been 2 or 3 people waiting in front of each stall. I was like dang, ok. So, I go about my business, and get all ready to go. Then, as I’m about to climb the stairs to get back out, I go to check the time and realize…I left my watch in the bathroom! I was like, “Astaghhhfirullaahhhhh!” and I darted back to the stalls. While I was headed back, I was like subhanAllah, here’s another test – Allah finds ways to test each part of us, in ways we wouldn’t even imagine. I was also like, ok, let’s see how well Muslims revere the Haram – you’re not supposed to take anyyything you find here – you either leave it or you’re responsible for publicly announcing what you’ve picked up, to return it, before you can take anything.

I get back to the stalls, and there’s even more people than before, it’s packed tight in the hallway. Each stall was numbered, but I didn’t remember to look at which number I was in. I didn’t remember exactly which stall I used, but I had a general idea. So, I camped in front of like 7 stalls where I knew it’d be. Each time someone came out & the door opened, I hustled over and poked my head in to see if it was the right stall. I was thinking, man, what if it takes a while, is it worth it? I’ll be telling everyone how I lost my new watch in the masjid bathroom, is this really how it ends? And I was like, no! I need to try. Within a few minutes, the stalls I was watching were all opening up. One particular stall had a bag of clothes hanging on the wall!! I immediately went forward and saw my watch still sitting on the ledge!!! I excused myself past the man that was going in & grabbed it, and bounced out – a huge grin on my face. Allahu Akbar :) Alhamdulillah wa shukr.

This place has credibility mA. That was a huge relief & a great blessing. I’m so thankful to be able to keep this gift. May Allah shower abundantly with His Bounties & Blessings the one that gave it, the one that wears it, the one that looks upon it, and all those that benefit from that which it measures. Ameen :)

It’s funny, isn’t it? We think the possessions we have belong to us, but Allah can easily separate us from them. Even being able to keep what’s come to us is an immense blessing. We can never run out of reasons to be thankful.

Time for ‘Umrah ;) 1:20pm

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That.Was.Intense. I’m exhausted just from the tawaf. It was so hot & crowded, under the afternoon sun. I still managed to maneuver around, by letting myself go, not fighting the crowd. Going with the flow got me to my destination.

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Finally got some food & a little time to recharge after that grueling ‘Umrah. My parents & I met up around 4:30pm, after I finished. We had lunch at this pretty good Turkish “kebap” joint, just up the street from Marwa. Alhamdulillah, we showed up beat, tired and just outta shape. We found a table and just collapsed down, exhausted. There was another man next to us who was joined by his friend, who came holding three large trays, full of meals. He had brought at least 10 meals, which he and his friend were going to go to town on apparently. We looked at the two of them like…dang, they gon eat all that…? SubhanAllah, without hesitation, the man picked up 3 of the meals – plates of freshly grilled kebabs – and placed them in front of us, telling us to help ourselves & eat. What great hospitality, it was such a generous & pleasant gesture. May Allah show them even more hospitality on the Day where we will be at His total Whim, ameen.

The food was pretty good. I still went up and ordered some chicken for my mom, who typically won’t touch red meat. I also got a rack of cold drinks. We shared sodas with the men at our table and all enjoyed our meals together. Such a huge blessing Alhamdulillah. Another ease to accompany the hardship…starting to see a pattern, aren’t we?

Afterwards, my dad cut/sawed off some of the curls from the back of my head. Ihram complete :) I love being in ihram, but fulfilling the rites & being done with it is such a great feeling too, Alhamdulillah.

My mom & I grabbed some ice cream too – we were serious about recharging :). The ice cream, or “scream” as the store owners called it, was really good. It was just a bunch of different flavors in one cup, all soft-serve. Even the chocolate wasn’t bad, and I hate chocolate ice cream usually. This wasn’t bitter at all. We went on to pray Maghrib & now we’re sitting inside the mosque, waiting for ‘Isha.

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Day 4 – The Ka’aba

How one man touched the hearts of so many people is….incomprehensive. It’s a feat only Allah could pull off. This is proof of the Almighty’s Truth.”

10/25/11

That didn’t work out so well. I definitely knocked out, so exhausted yesterday. So, before I get into describing yesterday – I need to state that I’m writing this while seated in the Masjid Al-Haram. If I look up from my page, I am in viewing distance of the Ka’aba. Surrounded by people – literally surrounded. There’s such a soft, cool breeze blowing around – there’s this hum of voices, not overpoweringly loud, but comfortably present in the background. Over it all, there is the sweet chirping of birds, darting & maneuvering through the air inside the masjid & outside, around the Sacred House. It’s bliss. There’s dhikr, there’s laughter, there’s joy, there’s peace here. Serenity. Yes, you can say it’s chaotic & busy, but it’s captivating. Something will catch your eye & I swear you’ll sit for 20 minutes staring w/o even realizing it. When you finally break free of the trance and move to walk away, you turn & see that 20 others were around you, entranced by the same sight. It’s universally magnificent.

I swear the Ka’aba is one of the most beautiful things I have ever laid eyes upon. It’s said there’s reward in just looking at the Ka’aba. When you’re here & you look upon it, no further justification is needed. It calms the heart, the sight of it is absolutely mesmerizing. Seeing waves of people slowly circling it is almost equally as captivating. There is such proof in the Glory of The One in this place. What’s incredible is how many people there are. Haha, I know that’s what everyone says. But, what’s amazing is how many people are devoted to the same thing. Completely devoted. Not passively, not minimally, not conveniently – completely devoted. How one man touched the hearts of so many people is….incomprehensive. It’s a feat only Allah could pull off. This is proof of the Almighty’s Truth. I’m sitting in a random spot & I’m next to people from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Indonesia, West Africa, Turkey, North Africa – who knows what else. It’s spectacular, subhanAllah. What’s great is knowing that this feeling is shared by everyone here. Okay :) I think that does if for me in this place, let me try to recall last night now, iA.

We arrived at the hotel around 1:30am probably. Maybe 12:30 actually. I immediately decided I was going to do my ‘Umrah that night…

Man, I keep looking around & getting distracted. I had to get up and move somewhere else, it was getting too crowded where I was. I’ll just skip to the good parts. We walked to the Haram, about 10 mins from the hotel, very convenient & easy. We get there & decide to rendezvous at a police post near the ‘Abd Al-’Aziz door, South of the masjid, at the end of the night. Once we’d debriefed, our guide gave some quick pointers on what to do & we headed in. As we neared the masjid, I started getting nervous. I slowed & walked separate from the group, so I could collect my thoughts. I almost didn’t want to go, like I wasn’t ready, but I also couldn’t stop myself from pushing forward. We entered the mosque and I see the Ka’aba after a few steps. And, I froze. 2:03am, when I first laid eyes upon The Sacred House. I found the whole group lined up, hands raised, making du’a & I remembered the virtue of du’a when seeing the Ka’aba for the first time. So I prayed for two things first, as I was taught:

1 – Allahuma ja’alni mustajab ad-da’wah [O Allah, make me of those whose prayers are answered]

2 – O Allah, honor this Ka’aba & all those that look upon it.

The first, I’m told, was a du’a of Imam Abu Hanifa, when he first saw the Ka’aba – basically asking for all of his prayers to be answered – the wish for more wishes :). The second was from Imam Magid’s workshop. Once I had those two, I continued to make du’a for myself & others, & began to tear up. I was standing next to my mother, who was weeping.

We then moved down to begin our tawaf. My parents grabbed hold of me & wanted me to stay with them. After 1 round, we found that it wasn’t busy so I pulled away from them & went on my own, to try & get closer. I think I ended up doing 7 more – but each time I was able to touch the Ka’aba, Alhamdulillah :). I didn’t need to push, though I got pushed, stepped on, crushed, & coughed on. But, honestly, I didn’t care. It didn’t make the experience any less spectacular. The first time I touched the Ka’aba I began to cry & made du’a – or tried to make du’a. The whole event was very overwhelming & made it so difficult to remember anything. All I could think to do was ask for forgiveness & Jannah (Paradise), freedom from Hellfire, the best in this life & the next. It took a few rounds to actually settle my thoughts & to remember others & to pray for them.

So, I was able to touch the wall of the ka’aba, before the Yemeni corner. It was very easy, I was able to do it almost each time around. A few times, I touched the Yemeni corner – where it’s said that wiping the hands clears sins. I touched the corner & moved on.

I did not get to touch Hajr Al-Aswad [The Black Stone, brought down from Heaven by the angel Gabriel and given to Abraham to mount upon the Ka’aba]. I came pretty close, but not close enough. That was the most intense part. I was doing my best not to push anyone, I would only stand my ground against others trying to push me out of their way sometimes. Specifically, while trying to get to the stone, I would move in, hold my ground, & move in, & hold my ground, continuously, until I got closer. I ended up about 5 ft away, but there were so many people, crushing me, that I wouldn’t have been able to go any further w/o pushing. So I left it & moved on. By the way, I loved the proximity. I loved the fact that everyone is pressed together, musty, sweaty, pushing, a bit unruly – it shows the determination & heart of everyone there – shows their passion & persistence – shows their love & need for the Divine. I was honored to be a part of that.

Hajji's Swarm The Black Stone Corner

It’s crazy when you look at that picture to imagine that I actually made it through to the spots that I did. Allah is Generous :)

I was able to touch the door. Well, the ledge [Al-Multazam, where all prayers are accepted] & the door frame – I’m not tall enough to reach the actual door. I grabbed the ledge, and while hanging, I prayed for Allah to release me when I would be forgiven of All my sins…and I was still holding on. I was like, um…ok, so like, now would be good. Still holding on. So, I went ahead & made other du’as. Still holding on. I got nervous, like maybe Allah didn’t want to forgive me? So, I got more desperate, said “release me & forgive me!” and I slowly got pushed to the side…sort of loosened my own grip & waited for the right push to let myself go. Don’t know how successful that was, but Allah definitely has a sense of humor :).

The wall next to the door was also fairly easy to touch. This time, I grabbed it & lowered my head & pressed it to the wall. I wept and made du’a after du’a. My hand trembled, my face was hot w/tears & sweat, but I felt like I had all the time in the world, so I kept making du’a. I don’t even remember what I prayed for, but I know I said everything I wanted in my heart. I pray my du’as are accepted.

I continued around in tawaf a few more times – I think I did 8 rounds total, maybe more – I’m not really sure. I got so caught up at the time, I lost track. It was a beautiful experience. I wanted to live in that moment forever. The angels in the Heavens, making tawaf above the Ka’aba are blessed to be able to do that perpetually. It was also amazing to look up in the night sky, illuminated by the bright lamps of the Haram, and to see birds, flying all around the Ka’aba. They looked so free & beautiful. That is a blessed & envious existence. I made du’a that I could be so free in Jannah. I’m trying to recall if they ever crossed directly over the Ka’aba [they did] or sat on it, & I don’t think they did. Interesting. The birds are always singing here – very vocal, chirping away with their sweet songs as they help themselves to the skies & airways all throughout the Haram & inside the masjid – to be continued! Maghrib time, be back later!

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Day 3 – Mecca

We seek to retreat to a place the Prophet used to retreat from. That’s how crazy our lives are? Or are we just not doing it right?”

10/24/11

It’s about submission. Tawaf is completely about submitting yourself to the Almighty & finding peace & bliss in that submission. Give yourself up to it & just go with the flow. Like a drop in the ocean, with the waves being controlled by The One.

We finally arrived at Mecca. Still haven’t gotten off the bus though, it’s about 11:30pm. We first went to a Pilgrim Welcome Area – where we were given boxes of crackers & Zam Zam water & free CD’s – “Hajj gifts” for pilgrims. Alhamdulillah, it’s cool I guess, we’re all fienin for some real food though & it looks like it’ll be a while before we’ll be getting any.

We then went to the receiving office for “Pilgrims of Turkey, Europe, America, & Australia”. Maktab (office) #39, whatever that means.We’re sitting in the bus still, some kids came on & handed out more boxes of crackers & water, haha. They also handed each of us elastic wristbands with our maktab number handwritten along with some other Arabic writing. I think we’ll get to go to the hotel soon iA.

The landscape around Mecca has been interesting. It’s all desert & mountains. Everything looks so unnatural in its appearance – the buildings I mean – the architecture, crazy lighting, grandiose scale. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I can totally see this being like Vegas. All this flashy development in the middle of nowhere. It’s kind of sad, but that’s human nature I suppose. Even a mile away from the Haram, people feel the need for worldly distractions & attractions – carnivals, restaurants with jungle themes, things made to look like they belong in other parts of the world. A place like this should focus on the attraction it has, rather than bring into it things it doesn’t have. That’s the real way to honor the Haram – preserve it, keep it as a place of worship.

The clock tower is enormous. I saw it from at least 10 miles out. Driving up to it feels just like approaching the Empire State Building. The “downtown” area, where the Haram is, is poppin. very alive & grand. Just driving through briefly has been cool. It’s just past midnight & we’re pulling up to our hotel now. Khair iA, let’s see what happens next.

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Chillin in the hotel lobby. Holding this cell phone my parents bought, with a TV blaring behind me & a guy on his iMac in front of me & I’m wondering how much of a retreat this will really be. It’s funny though, that we seek to retreat to a place the Prophet used to retreat from. That’s how crazy our lives are? Or are we just not doing it right? One thing came to mind, from Tariq Ramadan’s book, “In the Footsteps of the Prophet”, his emphasis on how connecting with Nature is critical in the advancement of Faith. We don’t need to retreat to a city, we have nature around us where we live – the Prophet used to retreat outside of the city. I’d like to start doing the same. Maybe one weekend a month, head out into some mountains or woods or something.

I saw signs for Ta’if & it reminded me of the history behind that place during the Year of Sadness. I kind of want to see it. I want to do a tour actually, of significant places from the Seerah (Life of the Prophet).

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Just completed ‘Umrah. It’s 7am, I’m finally getting to bed. I am exhausted – physically, mentally, even emotionally. Tonight was epic. I started writing a journal to capture times like what just transpired. I’m so overwhelmingly tired though that I don’t feel like writing anything – but I also don’t want to risk forgetting anything. I’ll try my best to get it all down before I pass out….zZzZz….

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