After spending five wonderful days in Madinah, I left for five more days in Makkah.
The van took off and I started to miss my beloved Madinah. About 20 kilometers later, we stopped at “Abyar Ali” for ihram. And this part is actually why my family chose our umrah program to start by Madinah; in order to follow the Prophet’s sunnah of ihram from Abyar Ali.
At Abyar Ali, I was fascinated by the big number of people around me clad in white; men and women. I’ve never imagined the white towels coffin-wannabe ihram clothes of men would look that handsome!
Those who finish their two rakaat of ihram start talbeya; men have to raise their voices while chanting it, while women have to lower theirs. The chants created a unique aura of spirituality. After I finished my ihram rakaat, I joined them, smiling to myself.
Throughout the road trip from Madinah to Makkah I was thinking of Prophet Mohammed, and how he walked the desert all this way. I was in an air-conditioned van and I was tired of sitting for hours. The prophet left his city and his life in Makkah behind him, and took this way on the sunbaked desert for long exhausting days to continue his dawah at any price.
Enormous efforts were exerted for this religion to reach us, but we don’t appreciate that!
When I Saw the Ka’ba
I’m Egyptian. The greatest stone structure I’ve ever seen is the great pyramid, the serenest mosque I’ve ever been to is Sultan Hassan mosque in Cairo, and the most crowded place I’ve been to is Tahrir square during the revolution. The Ka’ba beat all these records.
Unlike the white marble of the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, the marble of the ground and the minarets outside the Makkah haramis dark grey. It looks very serious! When I first saw it I remembered my cousin who says that this dark marble scares her.
She always feels like the marble is looking at her, telling her “you’re going to see the Ka’ba now, are you prepared for this?” I had the same feeling of dread and anticipation.
As I walked in, the whole body of the Ka’ba suddenly appeared. I couldn’t help but burst into tears. I cried and sobbed for I can’t remember how much time.
No picture or video or sculpture can ever do the Ka’ba justice. That’s why I didn’t take a picture of it or of myself near it.
I’m not going to squeeze my brains for words to describe the grandeur and charm of the Ka’ba. This is because I am sure they are beyond my ability or the ability of any writer or poet to describe them. Simply because it is truly divine.
When you see the Ka’ba, for the first time or the millionth time, whatever feelings or thoughts run to your heart or mind, there is one thing I’m sure everyone feels and realizes; this place can never be anything but the house of Allah, the Almighty.
Islam is definitely the true religion, and Allah is the true God.
A while later after my first look at the Ka’ba, my brain was back to functioning. The Ka’ba juxtaposed a museum of thoughts in my brain. I remembered every mistake I made in my life. And this drowned my heart in an ocean of unprecedented regret.
Likewise, I remembered Allah’s forgiveness and the mercy. And this drowned my heart in another ocean of shyness from Allah.
I also recalled that as a little kid, when people said that Ka’ba is the house of Allah, I used to think that Allah lives inside it. I then knew I was wrong. Looking at the Ka’ba’s extraordinary majesty I told myself “Allah is here. Everywhere!”
I thought of Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail who were around the place I was in, building up the Ka’ba. I wondered; how did the Ka’ba look like when it was first built? How did it look like at the days of Prophet Mohammad?
Moreover, I remembered that this Ka’ba was surrounded by idols before Islam, and people circled it naked! This thought made me so angry with those who vastly under-valuated the Ka’ba. Satan was very powerful on such heedless people!
During Tawaf, I felt I was a part of something larger. I was swept by the crowd but not lost in it. I was buoyed by the piety, and the energy of the flowing circles around the Ka’ba. People from the four corners of this world were circulating with me, praying in different languages and in broken Arabic, supplicating, weeping, seeking Allah’s forgiveness, asking avidly His Paradise. They made a symphony of heterogeneous prayers; each was heard and, inshallah, answered by Allah.
Safa and Marwa
I’ve always thought about them as mere long corridors, but when I went there I was dazzled by their loveliness. I don’t know how to describe the innate beauty of walking between Safa and Marwa over and over, there is something magical about it. It feels very comfortable and spiritual.Those who went on umrah before me when told me about their Makkah experience always talked about the Ka’ba, the tawaf, the prayers, but no one told me enough about Safa and Marwa.
Safa and Marwa reminded me of lady Hajar. I imagined how feverishly she was looking for water in the middle of the desert for her baby. Though I’ve known this story for as long as I can remember, my heart ached for her for the first time.
I love the fact that the whole ritual of Safa and Marwa is nothing but imitating a woman. How can Islam possibly be accused of sexism? Hold on, lady Hajar was Egyptian woman! Can I be prouder?
Mount Thour and Mount Nour
I visited mount Hiraa. The mountain is very huge and its stones look very, very tough, and the cave is at the top of it. I thought it would be a much easier climb. It takes an average of two and a half hours to ascent it. Once I saw it I told myself, “Prophet Mohammed was an extraordinary human. The one who chooses this place to meditate must be extremely serious in his meditation and pondering about life. This is prophetic”.
I also visited Mount Thour where Cave Thour lies. It looks even tougher. “How did the prophet climb it when he was 53?” I wondered. My brother replied, “Well, I’m wondering about Lady Asmaa who climbed it for 3 consecutive days to bring them food while she was pregnant!”
Again, huge efforts were exerted for this religion to reach us, and we don’t appreciate that.
Now I’m back home. I watch the Ka’ba live on TV, I still use the odorless soap, deodorant, and body lotion of the ihram, I drink the remaining Zamzam water I got from Makkah. I’m tremendously nostalgic. I want to go back to Makkah; my home out of home.
I pray Allah from the bottom of my heart to grant every Muslim the honor and the pleasure of visiting Makkah and Madinah.
First published: May 2014