Dear Hajj travelers, in 2006 I visited the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina as part of an Umrah trip along with an American youth group. The following descriptions of what I experienced may help the reader and especially those of you who are blessed to be apart of this years Hajj program. I hope you will benefit from my experience and that it helps you to gain a glimpse of the incredible life changing journey you are about to embark upon. May Allah protect you and keep you safe and accept your Hajj Ameen. Please make dua for us as well.
As I stepped into the sphere of the Masjid-Al-Haram under a desert night sky in the city of Mecca; I hurried closer and closer, closer towards the magnetic pulse of the house of the one true God on earth, and finally as my eyes set upon the Kaba (House of God) built by Abraham and Ismail some 3000 years ago, a planet of peace fell upon my heart and all the desires of my heart came temporarily crashing down; worry and anxiety, silver and gold no more weighed heavy upon my heart. And then I had an arcane vision of meeting Allah; that I felt so close to my Rab (Lord) and as I looked up I could not take my eyes off the Kaba. A heat wave of love and awe and the thought of Allah (God's) throne up above me and who knows how many light years up into the abyss of the sky belay the throne of my Creator. I began to remember that I was there to beseech Him and make amends for the sins, the horrible sins that I committed, weighing heavy on my heart. What do I say? What should I say? I could not remember a thing as my senses were in tuned with the peace and serenity of the black shrouded house as if I were walking through a golden field where upon the sky breathed red, purple and yellow tints billowing out of an October sky.
I did not shed any tears and I don't know why, perhaps the result of many years of a hardened heart but I felt that I had a chance now and then I began to recite the talbiyaah (prayer)," Labayk Labayk Allahumah Labayk (here am I am my Lord, here I am to worship you)! "Please put a great distance between me and the sins I committed! Rabi! Please forgive me for all that I did against you and myself! Yah Rabi, please forgive me, I seek refuge in you from the sickness in my heart." In chapter two verse 125 or the Holy Quran, Allah (God) says "Remember when we made the House (Kaba) a center and sanctuary for mankind saying, "Take the station of Ibrahim (Abraham) as a place of prayer; We entrusted Ibrahim and Ismail to cleanse Our House for those who walk around it, who meditate in it, and who kneel and prostrate in prayers."
And as I circled around the Kaba as instructed by our lord as an action of devotion and worship (Ibadah), I wondered why I had placed so many barriers between my creator and myself. How long had I been sleeping? How long had I been drifting on through the night with one day blurring into the next and not remembering the honor of being chosen by Allah to be a Muslim (believer). He loved me so much even when I gave my heart to something else. He guided me here and it was in this place where I found myself prostrating and meditating as the belief in my heart reached its apex.
I could not take my eyes of this life force called the Kaba as much as I tried. And as the birds circled up above the House of God in sync with us, I realized that I was in a place where all existence seemed to merge into one idea and one end and one white shroud. I hope that I was forgiven, I don't know if I was, but perhaps I can take comfort in the wing of hope and the wing of fear as described by Ibn Al Qayyim who said that, "The heart is like a bird, love for Allah is its head, and its two wings are hope and fear." The House of Allah s (God) made me feel at home, like I returned to my home in a world untouched and sanctified like fresh rain-drops upon the earth.
This spiritual journey allowed me to experience the roots of the Abrahamic faith and the birth place of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I personally gained a realistic vision of what Islam really was and is through being in such a magnificent place and taking it in.
Before the trip I began reflecting upon my past life and how I had lived it. I asked myself what I had done to change myself and come closer to Allah. I began to fear change, and the inevitable change that I was certain would come after visiting the House of Allah and the Prophet peace be upon him. I knew that it was time; time to come back to the fitra which is the original state that Allah s had created us upon. It was time to renew my faith and exit out of an empty idea of life, an idea that we learn by what surrounds us in this civilization. A friend once related a story to me about a man who was sitting in a cell, yet the cell door was open. He sat there looking out at the freedom that lay before him, but it was his heart that imprisoned him to his cell, it was his sins that bind him to his fear of change and hope. I remember this young American Muslim teen walking the streets of downtown Los Angeles at six o clock in the morning; a scared kid with no sense of direction and so far away from the shade of Islam and the sweetness of brotherhood and Imaan, and all the while, "he was trying to throw his arms around the dunia (world)."
And as we surround ourselves with hatred and love of something other than that what was intended for us, our heart is covered with calluses like when the feet gain calluses from walking too much. This trip for me was a pursuit for the heart and soul described in the Quran as the tranquil heart and soul called kalbin saleem (tranquil heart) and the nafs-ul mutmainah (the peaceful soul). Mecca was truly a city of mercy and I felt closer to my Rabi.
The city of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. I felt the Prophet's presence as I entered his city. I felt his healing presence in the depths of my heart. The Prophet Muhammad w, my Prophet and my healer and teacher who's message gleamed brighter than Hailey's Comet and soared 1500 years touching the life of a human being living thousands of miles away in America. Who would have ever thought that I would be following in his footsteps, Alhamdulillah (thank God) that I was chosen to be from the family of the noble one Al-Mustafa w. I love him and I felt it there in his city. As I walked between the endless tall columns within the mosque of the Prophet , I felt the healing hands of love and my heart began to speed like a runaway train. I prayed my two rakah and began to make my way to the Prophet's grave and the grave of his eternal companions in this life and in the next including Umar ibn Al Khattab and Abu Bakr As Sadiq who lay beside their leader and Prophet.
Sweetness fell upon my heart as I walked through the area between what used to be the membar (podium) and the house of the Prophet Muhammad . I felt the presence of the Prophet and my eyes grew soft and my heart melted and was in need of feeling closeness to Him like when a desert is in need of rain I needed the Prophet and as I passed by his resting place, I said Asalamu alaykum Ya RasullAllah, "please recognize me as your brother on the day of judgment and please don't turn away from me; It is reported by Muslim that Prophet Muhammad said, "I wish I could see my brothers," and when asked what He meant, He said He was referring to his brothers that came after him. It is for this reason that I asked my Prophet to please recognize me on the Day of Judgment as his brother God willing.
I never prayed more a peaceful prayer in my life than I did while praying in the Prophet's mosque in Medina.
So here I was destined to be near my leader and beloved Prophet and now that I look back, I miss him. So what will I do for him? Will I let Him down and forget the allegiance I made to him?
As we continued in the footsteps of Muhammad standing upon the Mountain of Uhud where the archers disobeyed the Prophet while fighting in the way of Allah swt. We were reminded by a brother who said that the Prophet did not become angry with the archers and that Allah forgave them; Then the idea of Allah's mercy hit my heart like a needle piercing into it and I realized that Allah could forgive me as well so I laid my sins upon the Mountain of Uhud because the Mountain was strong enough to bear them and I wasn't.
The Road Back To Change:
Eleven days had passed and we made our way back for a final two days in Mecca. On the bus ride back I began to reflect on the days that had passed while viewing the rough terrain that the Prophet Muhammad and his companions had to endure. I had gained a closeness to Allah, Islam and the Muslim Ummah and it was like icing on cake.
So as the bus ride blurred into a plane ride back home and I stepped out into the world again, leaving Mecca and my brothers for the last time and a few steps later I felt the test of the world hit me. This time it was deep and it ran through my veins because I knew that I would be tested by Allah to implement the honor and strength of faith I had gained in Mecca. It felt good to be back in the States yet the thirst for knowledge and closeness to Allah, his Prophet and the brothers made me feel sad. But I know that the only way to quench this thirst and remain within the shade of Islam, Quran and Allah is to seek the company of good people, work for Allah and the Ummah on a daily basis and read the Seerah (biography of our Prophet Muhammad).
Advice from Sheikh Suhaib William Webb and Sheikh Saddullah Khan
And we were reminded of change by our leader Sheikh Suhaib Webb and Sheikh Saddullah Khan that God mentions in his book that Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what it within them," Chapter 13:11 of the Quran.
Sheikh Suhaib William Webb provided us with some useful tips on change that the reader can also benefit from including the following,
1. Don't look for one moment of change because he said that change is a holistic process and includes a multiplicity of events throughout ones life.
2. Time, effort and planning are required for change.
3. The law of nature is such that when planted and nurtured the small stem becomes strong overtime. Sheikh Suhaib Webb reminded us that the Prophet received and learned the Quran over a period of 23 years.
4. Study the environment around you and know it.
5. Then study the internal environment in yourself.
Lastly, he said that we should make goals for ourselves that are realistic and measurable. Prophet Muhammad was quoted by his wife Aisha as saying, "Only do things that you are capable of." I hope we all make it back to Jannah, Amen.
as muslim woman who grew up in a very westernised environment it was soul food, your article was wonderful shukran but we seldom get a womans perpective right from the deciding moment i have in my humble way kept score yet i don't quite know how to publish these 19 pages but i do feel it might bring some insight to some female out there inshallah contact me on my email addy if u have any ideas or would just like to read it inshallah.
My one suggestion to all Muslims who write about these blessed cities is to please use the correct form of addressing the names of the two blessed cities:
Makkah Mukarramah (as opposed to Mecca) and
Madinatul Munawwarah (as opposed to Medina).
In everyday English the names Mecca and Medina have taken on a life of their own. For example people write about a place and say things like "it is a mecca for shopping and purchasing exotic consumer goods" which, has a totally different connotation to the reality of Makkah Mukarramah.
Medina is also the name of cities and towns in various parts of the world and to those who do not understand the sacredness of the two blessed cities of Makkah Mukarramah and Madinatul Munawwarah it can create a great misunderstanding.
These are just my humble thoughts on the subject, it is not meant as a criticism but a sisterly observation.
Yours in Islam