Tag Archives: tawaf

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 :).

————————-

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…

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 'Umrah, Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Mecca, Reflections

Day 21 – Fading Bliss

“The little worldly things are starting to settle back into the mind

11/11/11

Right. So my dad is really sick. He’s got a fever and a really sore throat. He’s havin a really tough time right now. We just got back to Aziziah. We went to the Haram to pray Jumu’ah. It was crazy packed. Like…stupid crazy packed. My dad really wanted to go do our tawaf al-wada’ today, the farewell tawaf. My mom & I were like, “um…you know it’s gonna be super busy on Friday, right?” He persisted, so we went. After seeing the rush firsthand, he decided he needed to get out. We grabbed a cab and came back, it’s like 2:45 pm right now.

Man-Made Sea

The jumu’ah was led by Sudais. You could tell it was him by his voice. I guess he only comes out on special occasions. I don’t see what the big deal is personally, I’m totally not a Sudais fan. I like most of the imams that lead prayer in the Haram though- even though I have no idea who they are. I wish there was a way to know who your imam was each time. Do they ever bring my man El-Afasy into the mix? He’s the only Qari I enjoy, mA. I know I prayed behind Shuraim as well, he’s good too. I don’t know who led the prayer yesterday, but it sounded familiar.

This morning was tough for me. I’ve totally returned back to my normal mental state. I barely prayed Fajr and was super tired. I had a hard time getting up to go out for jumu’ah. I’m really starting to miss home too. The comfort of being back in that familiar place is overriding my desire to be here slowly. If only there could be a masjid al-Haram in Washington D.C….maybe we could do like the Mormons & just make one up?

Yesterday was the first day, since being here, that I realized I haven’t driven in 3 weeks. I miss my car.  I don’t miss speeding tickets though. Crap! I should’ve made du’a for a clean driving record! See, the little worldly things are starting to settle back into the mind. Today, while sitting in the masjid, my mind started wandering to worldly problems I would have to deal with when I return. I had to be like, “blah! I’ll deal with that stuff when I get back, I need to focus, I’m still here- in the Masjid Al-Haram!” That’s just something I tend to do. I know I’m leaving soon, so I prepare myself mentally and act as if I’m already gone. So, whatever I miss is what I know to focus on before I actually leave. Even in doing that though, you have to disconnect with the current place and I don’t actually want to do that here.

I think I’ve had a hard time buying gifts and souvenirs for that reason. It’s a way of accepting that you’re leaving or that your time in this place is very limited. I bought some stuff, but I mostly just haven’t been motivated. All the stuff you find here is the same stuff everyone always brings back, you know everyone’s tired of it. Hopefully, the stuff I got won’t be too boring- I know I’ma end up leaving people out. Oh well, this was a spiritual journey, not a trip to the mall. I made du’a for most people I could think of. That’s far greater than a 2 riyal kufi and a cheap bottle of ‘itr, trust me.

————————-

Just got our ZamZam to go, 10L each. We were assured by the shop-owners that they’re God-fearing and only use the real thing. Ok…if you say so.

I haven’t listened to music in a while, since I’ve been here actually. Sometimes, I miss the melodies, but my mind stays so much more clear. That’s so valuable. I actually have creative thoughts and insightful reflections, rather than blasting music and drowning out all brain activity. Too much of my time would get spent like that- putting off thinking and reflecting and just getting by in a mentally vegetated state. There needs to be a balance, I don’t want to cut it out altogether. This will be one of my challenges upon returning.

————————-

It’s close to 6:30 pm, we just did some shopping and prayed Maghrib. I really need to learn how to count in Arabic, like at the very least, in addition to the other basic Arabic I need to learn. Counting to 100 is essential, shopping would be so much easier- so would haggling with cab drivers.

How cool would it be if organizations teamed up with the Hajj Ministry and worked on delivering aid, or providing education on health, hygiene, etc to Hajji’s, traveling to the Haram? I think that’d be a dope program and would reach millions of people each year- mostly new ones each time. It would also spread awareness about the organizations, in the heartland especially, and relieve some of the burden from the Saudi Ministry. Gives nonprofits a chance to do something right for alot of people, where there’s alot of room for complaint. Maybe something to help prevent people from getting sick too? Just a thought iA.

3 Comments

Filed under Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Aziziah, Mecca, Reflections

Day 18 – The Walls

There’s no way to fight it, the drop of water cannot move the ocean. You have no choice but to let yourself go

11/8/11Hajj, Day 5

When we started tawaf, I was like yo, let’s just go to the ground floor, but my parents weren’t feelin it. We split up and they eventually went back up and made tawaf in the gallery of the first floor, while I went in closer. It took me 3 rounds to get closer. Alhamdulillah, as painful and packed as it was, I managed to make it to the Ka’aba, with Allah’s Help of course. I touched the walls on different sides on my 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds. On my 4th round, I even got to hang on the door of the Ka’aba (al-Multazam) and make du’a, Alhamdulillah. I also got to go to the little half-circle (Hijr of Isma’il) and pray 2 rak’ahs! It was the first time I had done that, Alhamdulillah. That section used to be part of the original dimensions of the Ka’aba, so praying there is like praying inside the Ka’aba, according to the Prophet. It was a great little break from making tawaf, I was dying. I felt like I was gonna pass out, it was so physically draining and tiring today, more than any of my other tawafs have ever been.

On the ground floor, amidst the crowd, the temperature felt like it was no less than 110 degrees. Thousands of bodies are packed together so tight, and you literally have no control over where you go. If the mass sways, you sway, if the mass turns, you turn. There is no separation, only the congealed mob of bodies of Believers, crying out to the Lord of the Ka’aba.

It’s an incredible experience. Phenomenal. So many people, from all over the world, Chinese, Indonesian, Pakistani, Russian, Afghan, Egyptian, Iranian, Malian, Bengali, and more and more…all crying out passionately, weeping as they circumambulate The Sacred House out of complete devotion to The One. It’s so profound to see how touched everyone is, the universality of this experience is amazing. It’s also pretty dangerous, honestly, that many people fervently crammed together, all trying to move through the same space. Many times, I almost fell or would get caught with my body turned so awkwardly, unable to even stand straight from the lack of space. I would be twisted unnaturally and then have to continue to keep walking this way for many yards, while trying to keep my balance so I wouldn’t fall and get trampled. There’s no way to fight it, the drop of water cannot move the ocean. You have no choice but to let yourself go, to submit yourself to it, to the Will of Allah. He it is, who controls the waves. He creates openings you can jump through, don’t hesitate, just go. Jump through every open door, rush at every opportunity. That is how we’re meant to interact with Allah’s Bounties. Take advantage of them and He will show you why. Open yourself up to the openings and receive Him directly into your heart.

Pilgrims Embrace The Sacred House

Pilgrims Cling To The Ka'aba During Tawaf

I got to take some pictures and video at the walls of the Ka’aba. That was dope. I figured, this was a chance not many people have – to be at the foot of the Ka’aba during Hajj, surrounded by record-setting millions. I had to get some footage. My memory card was full though. Also, took some time  to find my camera in my bag, but i wasn’t going to give up. That was one thing I’m sorry for. I was on the wall of the Ka’ba, rummaging through my bag and then scanning through my camera to delete pictures and make space. But, I got some shots up close and some video of me getting to touch the Ka’aba. So dope, subhanAllah. I’m really thankful for it, it’s epic. Definitely gonna run those online when I get back iA.

Placing My Hands on the Ka’aba During Tawaf

You can see from this video how spaces open and close rapidly throughout the path. I wasn’t sure I was even going to get to it while I was recording, but I kept trying until there was a space that opened just for me :). I tried showing the mass of people present that day, from the center of it all. Excuse the shaky hands ;)

Ok, so, it was such a beautiful experience, but it was surrounded by difficulty, like gift-wrapping a Quattro’s cheeseburger in some barbed wire. For example, there’s trash all over the ground around the Ka’aba. You have to be so careful when you walk to not step on anything sharp, but…you can’t even see the ground! Everyone is that packed together. So, every step you take, for the duration of the 7 rounds, has to be delicate and careful. I was pretty much tip-toeing the whole time. I would get so much stuff on my feet, and I’d constantly be reaching down and trying to wipe them off as I was moving along. I came across so many safety pins, you don’t even understand. I would see them and dart down and pick them up real quick, so no one else would accidentally step on them and puncture their feet.

The worst part though, is how panicked people get. As they would be moving along, when it would get too intense, some people would really freak out. Don’t panic in the ocean, that’s how you get drownded. Trust me, I know from experience. I almost drownded before, good thing Amer  saved me :). You have to completely let yourself go, no fighting or freaking out. People cling so tightly to each other, looking for support with those they know, forgetting they are with Allah, the best of Caretakers. That’s when it gets ugly. That’s when they start getting divisive and start pushing, and others fight back, self-serving through self-action. The wave guides and provides, the droplet can do nothing for itself, save what the wave allows and facilitates. Be patient, you will be get yours when the time is right. Stick with the struggle until then, that is your role.

The Black Stone Scuffle

This video shows the scene surrounding The Black Stone, where many pilgrims push and shove to get close enough to kiss the stone, as the Prophet would do. There is a guard overseeing the corner where the stone is mounted, he’s the one that put his umbrella out in front of me when he saw me approach with my camera. You can’t actually see the stone, it’s entirely covered by the mob surrounding it. If you notice the man on the left, at the end of the video, wearing blue and leaning down, his face is where the stone sits. It’s the most intense and difficult spot to be in, throughout the entire Haram, nearly impossible to reach without putting up a serious fight. The closest I ever got, was touching the stone with my fingertips, by reaching desperately over the heads of dozens of other pilgrims.

The best technique for moving in and out is to tag along. People are going to link up and fight their way through, you dont even have to do anything physical, just follow. Space will usually stay open long enough for you to pass through if you stay close. As the train of pilgrims passes by you, just jump to the back of the line, and go along as far as you want. Keep looking for openings, keep moving. I imagine that’s how the Sirat Al-Mustaqim is, visually. At each step, the next best step is not always the one directly ahead of the last. Quite often, you’re better suited for reaching your destination by stepping side-to-side, slowing down, speeding up, taking a step back – it’s forever-shifting, never constant. With every step, you have to re-evaluate and strategize the next move, with the ultimate destination clearly in mind. You’re never set for life, along one track. Everyone must always face moments where they have to make decisions to change things up, this world is entirely temporal, and so must be our plans and paths.

Sounds like Sirat Al-Mustaqim to me. It’s so difficult to catch and even more difficult to stay on. You’re bound to fall off and slip, that’s why new openings are always emerging, if you miss one chance, stay alert, stay hungry, don’t settle. Don’t give up on trying to move forward out of frustration or loss of confidence. If you stop, let it be to sufficiently rest, then get up and move on. You’re not defeated or lost until you stop moving and looking for opportunities to grow. Eventually, you learn to recognize when you’re on the path, and you develop the knack for staying on. The quest for balance and the middle way :). No wonder it takes time, you have to fall off so many times before you learn how to keep your feet firm. You must look within and know which of your actions knocked you off track, and stop them before they occur again in the future. Finding that middle ground takes time and patience, but once you’re there, you have experience and expertise to keep yourself, and others, firm, on the right.

I realize I talk alot about tawaf, and talking about tawaf leads me to talking about so many other things. It’s literally one of the most inspiring and thought provoking rituals I’ve ever done, Alhamdulillah.

It took me 2 hours to do tawaf. I did 6 rounds inside, on the ground floor, and I was beyond exhausted. I started to make my way to the outer circles and completed my 7th round in the covered gallery of the 1st floor. That one round alone took me half an hour. It’s tight and uncomfortable, but it goes by much faster on the inside.

Afterwards, I wanted to do Sai’y upstairs, where there were less people. After getting so crushed and pushed around, I didn’t want to be near anymore people. It was so bad that as I was walking from one place to another, people would continuously bump into me or push through, against traffic, and I’d cower and curl up. I had to. Otherwise, I may have gotten crazy frustrated and snapped. I had to push all that way, way down deep inside and just take it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Hajj, Mecca, Reflections

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

Leave a comment

Filed under 'Umrah, Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Mecca, Reflections

Day 5 – Contemplating Context

“There’s so much that can be gained just from standing in a landscape that is unchanged, to get an idea of the context for past generations.”

10/26/11

I have time, I’m in my hotel room, calling it early tonight, it’s about 10:30pm. I’m gonna try to start from the first day & fill in everything I’ve left out so far, iA.

So, when I got into Mecca, I performed ‘Umrah. I talked about the tawaf & events there already. After the tawaf, I drank some ZamZam, which tasted amazing. Something about it here, at the source, is so much better than how I’ve always had it. When people would bring it back with them, I never really liked drinking it all that much. This was legit though, Alhamdulillah.

It’s really such a blessing to have this well here, in the middle of this desert, right with the Haram, to sustain its people. Its interesting to imagine all the factors that come together to make this place so special, just geographically even. Sure, there’s massive appeal because of the Ka’aba, but even historically, it was a major city before Islam. I think ZamZam was a major cause. It’s this never-ending supply of clean, delicious water in the middle of the desert. It gave people a reason to settle here. Perhaps this place became sacred to preserve the well & access to it – in addition to the spiritual motivators. It’s also situated in between a series of mountains, giving it a natural defense. Tragically, it seems like the Saudi’s have blasted away much of the original mountains around the Haram, to build hotels & shopping malls. There’s so much that can be gained just from standing in a landscape that is unchanged, to get an idea of the context for past generations.

I’m going to try looking at pictures of the landscape historically. I think it’d be really interesting to see everything in its original form. That’s my only major beef with the Saudi’s so far. They’ve taken liberties with the landscape, altering it dramatically, leaving behind very little of what was originally there. That seems to be the central theme here, in the developed areas of Mecca at least: strip everything of its originality & replace it with a flashy, lifeless, contrived placeholder. The alternatives are unnatural, unsustainable. It’s so clearly evident. Take food for example. I’ve been here almost 3 days, and have yet to find a healthy meal. You have either grocery stores, full of pre-packaged & processed foods, or you have street restaurants with fried food or fast food. I know people don’t actually live eating this way. It’s horrible for you. Especially when you’re in a place so holy, trying to eat foods that will support spiritual enhancement. I’ve basically been living off ZamZam, with an actual solid meal maybe once a day. Even then, I end up regretting eating at all afterwards.

I imagine the original landscape being so heavily dominated by the mountains – especially Safa & Marwa. When you step out from the masjid at Safa, you’re faced with an enormous mountain. Isn’t that probably the original mountain? [No] Next to the Marwa side, to the East, is another large mountain, which I imagine was an early Marwa [Wrong]. Unless, of course, they’re both just very small hills & the entire Haram is just surrounded by that many mountains [Bingo!].

So, I completed my Sa’iy. That’s been the toughest part of the rituals so far. Having to walk that much, barefoot, on solid marble floors really takes a toll. You’re feet end up aching so bad. Nevertheless, I got through it, Alhamdulillah. It wasn’t as exciting as tawaf, but I still got my du’as in, so it’s all good :). After Sai’y, I went to find a barber. I wandered around what I learned to be the Northern side of the city, outside of Marwa, & found a barber area, got my haircut for 15 SR [$4].

Leave a comment

Filed under Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Mecca, Reflections

Day 5 – Blame It On Al-Baik

“Paranoia lingers and brings such unrest to the heart.”

10/26/11

It’s 7:50 am, I just made it back inside my room. That’s right, I’ve been out since 2:30 pm the day before, with only a 45 min power nap in the Haram. I feel fine though – apart from my feet, which currently need amputation. I just had *quite* an adventure. Some excitement, some exploration, some rude awakenings, some failures, & some successes. Yes, all that since I last wrote in the journal. So much to tell, I hope I can get all of it down…

As soon as I walk in to the room, my dad’s like, “Are you ok?? Everything alright? You should have told us you were going for so long…we have a tour in an hour, go take a shower.

Uh…ok…

More adventures I suppose. That’s fine, pack it all in. Before I forget, the search for Al-Baik is the reason I did all this in the first place. I’ll have to start from when I left the room yesterday to really paint the whole picture of my recent adventures.

——————

Ok, managed to shower and freshen up, sitting on the bus now, waiting for this tour to start. Not really looking forward to it – apart from potentially seeing historically significant sites. This group is the only thing I don’t like about this trip – I can’t stand some of these people. Loud, self-righteous Punjabis just get under my skin like no one else can.

So, about yesterday, I left the room at 2:30 pm, went to the Haram & prayed ‘Asr on the roof. After ‘Asr, I went down & sat near Mount Safa to write in my journal & wrote until Maghrib. I ended up moving around until I was on Mount Safa during Maghrib. The imam, I think Shuraim, recited a verse about Safa too. Then, I headed out to get something to eat, but by the time I made it through the crowd and got outside, it was ‘Isha time. So, I prayed ‘Isha in the courtyard outside of the masjid, in front of the ‘Abd Al-’Aziz gate. I went after ‘Isha to Burger King, had a double whopper, ate with some Algerians and felt disgusting afterwards. I went around to find some water, or a big bottle to fill with Zam Zam. I went to this Super Food Mart & got all kinds of drinks (juice, water, soda). Took it back to the hotel & found everyone but my dad in the room, so I didn’t want to stay. I bounced after a few mins & headed back towards the Haram. Picked up a bottle of water on the way to try & clean out my system, I felt so gross.

I went to the roof and chilled for a while. I eventually left & started to head to the hotel, but got curious about this restaurant I kept hearing about, Al-Baik. Everyone said I HAD to go there, so I wanted to find it. I also wanted to see the other gates to the masjid, so I started walking its perimeter. I discovered the other gates…and went all the way around, to the outskirts in the North, still couldn’t find Al-Baik.

I continued walking around, when I was approached by a random man, just outside Marwa. He looked like any other devoted follower – big beard, head covered with the red-checkered garment, loose robe, warm smile. He came up to me and gave me salaams, with a big smile on his face. He grabbed my hand, gripped it with two hands & started asking me questions. I thought nothing of it & started to answer as best I could. He spoke only in Arabic though, didn’t understand my attempts to get through to him in English or Urdu, my usual backups when my sparse Arabic runs out. I understood enough to get that he asked my name, whether I was here for Hajj and where I was from. Then he asked, “kam auwlad?”, right after I had told him I was from America. I know “auwlad” is baby/child, I didn’t know what “kam” meant. I thought he wanted to know how old I was when I went to America, or how long I had been there. I didn’t know enough Arabic to tell him I was born there…and felt apprehensive about even giving him that information.

He started to insist. While holding my hand, he repeated the same question at least 30 times, very seriously. Why I stood there that long is beyond me. I didn’t want to be rude and pull my hand away and bounce, which is what I should have done. Instead, I tried to be respectful and answer him. To try to help me understand, he would mimic cradling a baby in his arms, and even “wah-wah’ed” like a child to show that he wanted to know how many kids I have. I started to get it…but…why do you care so much about how many kids I have? I started to get creeped out. Then he asks, “wife?”. I go, “No”. He frowns, “no wife?”, followed by an unnecessarily sad, pouty face. “Parents?” He asked if my parents were alive, here for Hajj, or back in America. I’m still staring at him, thinking, ok…why does he want to know all this? Then, I catch him looking up behind me, as if there was someone back there. I look back to see who was there. This felt really shady now. He plays it off, “Ahh, parents..here? Where?”, starts pointing to random spots and looking inquisitively at me. I ask him in English, “What do you want??” He was confused. I ask him again, and he had no idea how to respond. I pull my hand away, say salaam, turn my back and walk away. It only took me 10 minutes to break him off, real smooth.

At this point, I’m super paranoid. I mean…I’ve seen Taken, I know how kidnappings work. I’m thinking to myself, maybe this guy is a spotter, picking people out that look vulnerable – such as myself, a brown dude walking around in jeans & a bright green “Prince William Lacrosse” t-shirt, clearly standing out from the robed majority, all alone at 2 in the morning. So, I’m thinking, if he’s a spotter, there’s gotta be a tracker too, someone that’s going to follow me around until the time is right to babynap me. So I stop about 50 yards down, next to one of the doors of the masjid. I turn and start scanning the crowd to look for anyone suspicious, anyone noticing me. I stood for almost 10 minutes, but couldn’t find anything, there was just too much of a crowd, I couldn’t even see the guy that talked to me amongst the mass. I kept walking, but still felt paranoid.

So there I was, walking along the outer walls of the Masjid Al-Haram on my 2nd night in Mecca at 2:15am, convinced that someone was following me with ill intentions. I decided I needed to get away from the crowd, to somewhere more secluded to draw out anyone that was behind me and see what was going on. I walk across the courtyard to the As-Safwa towers shopping mall that loom over the Haram. The shops were all closed, but the buildings were still open. I duck inside. I get in, it’s dark, completely empty. I get on the escalator, directly in front of the entrance, and go to the second level. While I’m going up, I turn to watch the glass doors to look for anyone coming in behind me. When I’m almost at the top of the escalator, I see someone run inside. If there was anyone who was following me, this was him.

I get off the escalator and walk to the wall across from it. Leaning against the wall, sipping from my water bottle, I stare down the escalator to see who was coming up. I see a young African boy, maybe 14 or 15 years old, coming upstairs. He sees me standing there, looks surprised and quickly looks away, turns and goes up the next escalator to the third floor. Doesn’t look back at me. This would’ve been the perfect opportunity for me to find another exit and leave. Too bad I didn’t do that. I went after him. I rode the escalator up to see where he went. I got to the next floor and found him standing in the corner, talking to a group of Saudi police officers that were posted in the mall. I was assuming he was playing off going upstairs by looking like he was trying to talk to them. I stood across the lobby, watching. After a minute or so, the police start looking at me suspiciously and I realize how shady I must look now – posted up on the wall, carefully watching all of them. So I just turn to leave and I see the kid go up another escalator to the top floor. I head back out, through the same front entrance I came in from.

I would say that I still didn’t feel completely settled. Paranoia lingers and brings such unrest to the heart. It was close to 3:30 am now, and I didn’t want to risk leading anyone else that was potentially still watching me back to my hotel room. So, I went back into the masjid. SubhanAllah, I was able to find a spot on the ground floor, 30-40 yards from the Ka’aba. Tawaf was still going strong. I prayed some tahajjud, and made du’a, to feel at ease if I really was clear and safe now. After I finished, I felt a complete calm overcome me. Alhamdulillah. I stayed in that spot, until Fajr, at 5am. I prayed with the Ka’aba directly in front of me, Alhamdulillah. Thank you Rabb, for protecting me & not testing me with more than I can bear.

I left, intending to go back to my hotel to rest. Instead, I went exploring again. I was just captivated by the crowd. At 5:30am there were hundreds of thousands of people pouring out into the streets, in every direction. It’s a spectacular sight. There’s literally a sea of people continuously flowing over every path leading away from the masjid. I’m standing there, looking around, thinking – where is everyone going…?? So I pick a direction, and decide to see for myself. I  just start following the crowd. I ended up heading Southwest, which I thought would lead me towards my hotel. I figured, after I was done exploring I could just turn a corner and be near my room since our hotel was also South of the Haram. Didn’t quite work out that way. I got so mixed up in the streets that I ended up wandering for another hour just trying to figure it all out. I got lost in the real city. I had finally found Mecca. This was what I wanted to see here – real outdoor markets – not air-conditioned shopping malls – massive crowds, street food, the hustle & bustle. Though I was lost, I enjoyed every minute. I was exhausted though. I eventually gave up on trying to route myself to my hotel from where I had ended up and decided to head back to the Masjid, in the center of the city, and to go back to my hotel from there.

——————–

I’m so drained. This tour showed all the places we will be going for Hajj – looks pretty serious. I’m hoping I can actually complete it iA.

I’m back in the hotel now, it’s 1:15pm. I’m going to try to finally get a little sleep. I can’t even concentrate enough to write more. Hopefully, I don’t forget what happened, so I can write everything in detail & not oversleep ‘Asr! Ok, yalla Hajji!

Leave a comment

Filed under Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Mecca, Reflections

Day 4 – My 2nd Home

So maybe stability is the beginning of serenity. Remove the unknowns & find ease. Provide constants, standards, absolutes…and society will be at peace.”

10/25/11

The Ka’aba just makes me so overwhelmed sometimes. It’s 11:45 pm – for the past 20 mins probably, I’ve been standing here, staring at it. After I woke up, I moved from my spot and wandered back up to the rail to look at it again. It’s just so fascinating, especially from up here [on the roof]. This is a great time to be exactly where I am, Alhamdulillah. I haven’t gotten moved yet, so maybe I’m supposed to be here & enjoy it, this time :P

When you look into the ground floor, you see two completely different phenomenons, simultaneously. The first, all the people there – walking, chanting, praying, struggling, moving – being together. The second, even greater than the first, is the stability of the Ka’aba in the center of it all – like a mountain in the middle of a turbulent sea, unmoved, unwavering, constant. I feel like this structure represents Allah’s role in this Universe. The Absolute, The Constant. Everything else is fluid, changing, fluctuating, temporal. He is the Source of Stability, and we, unstable, desperate beings, are drawn in – seeking to cling to His stability to find stability within. To find peace, tranquility, success.

This place feels like home. Not home in the sense that I’m super comfortable, I can kick back & lounge anywhere I want & help myself to anything in the fridge – though, I do feel like I can rest anywhere & I have been getting my fill of Zam Zam at every opportunity. But, the feeling you get when you’re here is the feeling you should have when you’re home. Serene & peaceful. Allah, The Most Generous, has opened His Sacred House to us all & shown us the greatest hospitality by making our hearts the concern for care. Please repair our hearts ya Rabb. Help me to leave this life with a pure, sound heart & to live in this world with such a heart so I may benefit others.

My experience here last night, compared with tonight, is so vastly different. Last night was like a riot – everything bombarding me all at once, me diving right in, head first. I pushed through, trying to go all the way, not holding back & achieving what I strove for in some cases. But, I poured out everything in my heart. I saw the Ka’aba and I dumped out all my worries, hopes, dreams, wishes, desires, fears – everything I could think of. I poured it all out & now I feel at ease – like I’m ready to receive something new. Ya Rabb, fill my heart with something better – better for me, better for this world, better for the Hereafter. That’s one of the reasons I write as well, to clear the heart & mind. In my struggle to retain my experiences, my mind gets overwhelmed & stressed. Writing captures my heart & allows me to let go so that I can have new experiences & appreciate them fully. Ya Allah, help me to write well always – to convey ideas beautifully, to capture my heart’s words perfectly, and to inspire & move others with these words of truth & expression.

LOL…ok, after I wrote that, I had nothing else to say. I’ve been staring off at random things for the past 5 mins. Maybe I can say more about last night:

After I completed tawaf, I was trying to make my way back out, to do 2 rak’ahs behind the Maqam of Ibrahim [The place Abraham stood in prayer to Allah, facing the Ka’aba]. I managed to get to it, touch it & look inside – you can see the cemented footsteps. [I later learned this was actually a stone from Heaven, brought by the angel Gabriel, for Abraham to stand on while building the Ka’aba. His feet sank 4 inches into the stone, leaving behind clear imprints] I went further back, still on the ground floor, and prayed 2 rak’ahs, directly facing the Ka’aba, not more than 30 yards away from it. That was awesome. It’s such an elegant structure – stands very tall [43 ft] & is very tastefully decorated. I’d say the same for this whole masjid actually. It’s very tastefully ornamented & adorned, very elegantly designed.

So funny. I moved a little while ago, I was getting crowded at the rail. I moved back against the wall, where there was no one around. Maybe 20 mins go by, and now there’s a group of 5 men that just came & laid down around me – making me want to move again. Nothing is constant except The Constant. We are indeed transient & ever-shifting, as is our nature. Even the nature of our very hearts, which lead us, is to constantly change & flip. It’s a beautiful contrast, again, to The One, who will always be as He always was. He is The Reason, He is The Source, He is The Absolute. This universe would not function any other way. There would be confusion & conflict – not just the internal & societal discrepancies we perceive to be universal conflict, but actual catastrophes in the cosmos. Celestial unrest. There would be no stability in this Universe. La ilaha illallah (There is no god but Allah).

So maybe stability is the beginning of serenity. Remove the unknowns & find ease. Provide constants, standards, absolutes, relatively speaking, and society will be at peace. That’s a mission I can grasp, something real I can focus on, subhanAllah. Provide everyone with basic standards of living – remove those worries from their minds & hearts, let them find peace. Let them be guided to Allah’s fields & hopefully they will settle in its gardens.

Wow, time flies when you’re at peace & you’re being inspired. It’s 12:45 am. I should go sleep, I need to be here for Fajr in 5 hours. InshaAllah khair.

2 Comments

Filed under Al-Masjid Al-Haram, Mecca, Reflections