7: EXPEDITION IN MAKKAH
After a light sleep on
our first night in Makkah, we were wide awake well before the Fajr
Prayers. We were lucky enough to get a hotel very close to Al Haram
- I could actually see the corner of the great Masjid from my hotel
window. There were bright lights radiating from the Masjid all the
time, which gave it a mystical aura.
There were four of us
sharing the room with its facilities that included a small bathroom
and fridge. We got up very quickly and within a few minutes we were
all washed and ready to go. There was no messing around, no fighting
or queuing outside the bathroom. Simply, we wanted to get a good
place for prayer so we needed to leave at least half an hour before
the prayer started. The prayer time was approaching quick and we
got on with it.
After getting ready we
braced ourselves and stepped outside into the 24-7 rush hour of
Makkah. It wasn't a rush to get to work or even get home that was
causing these conditions but a rush to get to this place of immense
spiritual blessing. A rush to get to Allah's house - to do extra
dua, worship or even to complete the Umrah or Tawaaf.
Hajj is the greatest
invitation anyone can get and every moment that lapses is precious.
Everyone wants to grasp the opportunity, who knows if we will get
this invitation every again! Makkah is genuinely an extremely busy
place and even though we were early, we could not get a good place
for our prayers.
When we got there, we
were surprised to find that it was packed out, even though we were
early for prayers. We decided to explore the middle story of the
mosque, which we expected wouldn't be as busy. We thought that most
people wanted to pray close to the Kabbah so were concentrated on
the ground floor.
Just getting to the middle
story was tough with all the stairs and escalators packed out and
almost at a standstill. After battling our way through the crowds
and winding our ways through the masses, we finally managed to get
to the middle floor. Our jaws dropped when we discovered that this
too was filled with worshippers and close to full capacity. I had
never seen so many people in my life - the Kabbah gets busier by
the minute as the days of Hajj rapidly approach.
We had a quick discussion
and decided it would be better to make our way to the top floor,
which we hoped would be quieter. Getting to the top floor was again
very tough but once we got there it was much more spacious. We headed
towards the middle of the masjid that is towards the centre of the
mosque. It becomes like a balcony from which we can see the centre
of the mosque and also see the Kabbah itself.
When we set eyes on the
Kabbah and the multitude of people performing the Hajj around it,
we were absolutely gob smacked. From here we got the full impact
of the people going around the Kabbah, performing the Tawaaf. It
was unbelievable! When I performed the Umrah yesterday, it had seemed
full with so many people performing Tawaaf. Its only when you step
back and see it from a high vantage point you appreciate the number
of people present.
I thought to myself,
back home, the only time you get big queues and attract large crowds
is when a major retail shop has a big sale. You find many people
lining up to gain materially but here the people are lining up and
attracted only for spiritual gain. Where you get 24-hour supermarkets
selling goods, nothing is for sale here - only mercy, peace and
forgiveness is distributed in abundance.
The people were like
white dots but so many of them; it was an incredible and unbelievable
sight. It was like a fantastic dream world in which we could scarcely
believe we were there. We looked at each other seeing the over-awed
expressions on our faces. We then scrutinized this amazing place,
trying to absorb every minute detail.
The scene before us reminded
me of the Milky way you see in pictures - with the millions of planets
and stars circling the centre. It made me appreciate how small my
world really is - putting life into perspective. I felt like an
insignificant part of this universe called humanity. We strut around
the Earth as if we are a magnificent creation, causing havoc and
strife as this self-centred person runs riot. We think we can do
anything and we are so powerful but the reality is that we are nothing,
just another soul, just a grain of sand on the seashore!
I looked around into
the calm black starry night above our heads. I noticed the birds
flying around; they must have made their nests in the high minarets
of the Masjid. You will never see any bird dropping in the whole
masjid it seems as if even they respected the sanctity of this holy
All of a sudden the speakers
burst into life and the beautiful melodious voice of the Muezzin
filled the air from every direction. With these sweet words of the
Azan he invited the worshipers to come to their Lord and perform
their prayers. Words that reasoning with the soul to come to peace
and success and leave the temporary material world in which we are
all absorbed. These same words were used at the time of the Prophet
(pbuh) until this very day to invite the believers to the daily
This was our first fajr
and we enjoyed it immensely. We completed the Salah and we sat there
reflecting and resting at the same time. This was a cold winter
night in Makkah but the warmth of faith, love, happiness, peace
and the immense blessings radiated from each being. We never felt
tired, hungry, lonely nor any other such emotions, for once our
lives were complete. To be honest, the only thing I would change
would be that my wife and kids had been there besides me and shared
in this joyous and moving experience.
We sat down and talked
about our lives and experiences in the past as if we were bidding
farewell to the past. We talked to many of the brothers that were
at the Hajj and from that moment on we cherished every instance
in Saudi Arabia, until we headed back home.
There was a week or so
before the actual Hajj began which gave us an opportunity to do
our prayers, duas and worship to our hearts content. This also gave
us a chance to explore al-Haram and look around at the marvels within
the Masjid and Makkah. We witnessed the genius that Allah had put
inside mankind, which manifested itself in the beauty and craftsmanship
of the Masjid.
During our stay in Makkah,
Brother Ashfaq gave us a guided tour of Makkah and the Al-Haram.
We were shown the many historic sites, bringing all the books of
history and seerah into life. We saw where the prophet (pbuh) rode
to Makkah when it was conquered without any bloodshed and the oppressors
were forgiven for their crime against the Muslims. We saw the place
where the Makkans tortured Hazrat Bilal tying to make him leave
Islam. We were shown where Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived which is
now the location of a library. We witnessed the contribution the
Ottomans had made in the renovation and extension of the Masjid.
It's fascinating how the city of Makkah has captured and retained
so much history of our deen.
What disappointed me
about Makkah was the commercial side of things, which was developing
in Makkah. We saw the major junk food giants of the world rearing
their heads in this holiest of places on Earth. It somewhat spoilt
the atmosphere as it distracted some of the Hajjis who were focused
on Allah to draw their attention towards these places. I suppose
Islam is the middle path, which incorporated both sides - the spiritual
and material. It is not a seclusive religion but more of a living
and vibrant reality where both these aspects co-exist in harmony.
It's getting the balance between the two extremes within the material
and spiritual worlds that is the key.
One of my goals in Makkah
was to meet up with my parents who had travelled from Turkey to
perform the Hajj. They had come with the Turkish community so were
in a different part of Makkah. I had thought it would be straight
forward finding them, after all with modern communication and an
abundance of information - hotel names, room numbers… but
was I wrong? Very wrong!
I first started my quest
to locate their Hotel by asking other people and consulting the
people at the information kiosks. I had the hotel name written on
a piece of paper, which I would show the people. Unfortunately,
no one was able to direct me or even acknowledge that such a hotel
existed! I think the language barrier contributed a large part towards
this as I only communicated with them in simplified English and
body language. So my initial attempts to find my parents drew blanks,
frustration and dead ends.
The next time, I took
our new roommate, brother Farage, who had just recently joined us.
I thought that the task of finding my parents was actually achievable
because Farage was from Libya and spoke fluent Arabic. We decided
the best plan was to head to the Turkish area from which we could
identify the hotel and then track down my parents. We quickly identified
where the Turkish area was and got directions… before long
we were on our way.
We walked through the
hussle and bussle of Makkah, passing through impressive man-made
tunnels that passed through entire mountains. Makkah is te heart
of quite a mountainous region. It's all connected together by underground
roads and a network of massive tunnels through the mountains. When
you are in Makkah you don't appreciate this and it looks like a
normal city because of the tall building, massive skyscrapers and
After walking for a short
while, we found it tough so we stopped the nearest bus. It was a
normal Saudi bus that was operating as a free service for the Hajjis.
We were not sure where it was going but it was in our general direction.
We got on board and when we saw the Istanbul palace we got off.
We went to a number of
different hotels that had similar names; everyone turned us down
and directed us towards another hotel. What started as a tough task
soon became more and more difficult until we finally conceded defeat
and return to al-Haram for Salah. I also tried to find my parents
during the Hajj but conceded in the same manner.
Although I was disappointed
that I never met up with my parents, it was quickly forgotten the
next day when I was approached by the Saudi authorities, threathened
to be handcuffed and then taken away to the Police station for questioning!
Apart from this, things proceeded smoothly until Hajj.