Makkah is not a place. It is the beginning, the Present, and the Forever, and whoever enters Makkah feels this and is shaken.
Most pilgrims come here gratefully to discharge a duty owed to God. But ever since the beginning men have come to the Ka'bah to seek refuge with God, bodily refuge from harm at a foe's hand, or sanctuary where the confused heart can find way and the wounded soul be healed. Today, again there are pilgrims for whom Makkah and the holy places are a haven after savage trials and relentless persecution - pilgrims escaped from Muslim lands under foreign, atheistic rule. Countless devout Muslims trapped in nations now Soviet, forbidden by the Communists to worship God or perform the Pilgrimage, have perished attempting to cross closed frontiers and come here. A few thousands, survivors, have made Jeddah and Makkah their house of exile, taking some solace from their nearness to the holy places.
Before, - and again one day, God willing - pilgrims came from Albania and Bosnia and Hertzogovina, from Poland and the Caucasus and Crimea, from Turkistan and Kazan and Siberia, from China and from all the other lands where today, Pilgrimage is banned. Some of these peoples, like the Crimeans, have been annihilated and never will be seen in Makkah again, the others dwell in slavery ...
And now, the eyes of the pilgrim will behold the Ka'bah. Master the emotions. This is an hour for awareness and conscious reverence. This is one of the great experiences of life...
The soul-shaken pilgrim entering the Sanctuary of Makkah and for the first time beholding the Ka'bah knows a humility and an exaltation which are but a prologue for Arafat. Here, by the mountain, the pilgrim will pass what should be spiritually and intellectually, the noblest hours of life. The tents of the Faithful will cover the undulating valley as far as the eye can see. This immense congregation with the sacred mountain at its centre is the heart of Islam. This is the day of true brotherhood...
We are promised that in these hours by Arafat, God will send down his forgiveness and mercy to those who are deserving and they will feel His presence.
This is the day of brotherhood and heartbreak - heartbreak that we have not yet learned to cling to this solidarity where we dwell and labour in valleys and on mountains far from Arafat.
This is the day of promise: the guarantee of what Islam shall be when Muslims everywhere achieve the oneness today known only at Arafat.
Ahmad Kamal was born on a Colorado Indian reservation in 1914 of Turco-Tartar parents who were forced into exile by the Tsar for participation in 1905 Revolution. He spent most of his life struggling for the independence of his fatherland from the Russian and Chinese yokes. He died a month short of the collapse of the USSR. This article is from his book "The Sacred Journey", 1964, when a number of Muslim lands were under Soviet rule.