A Visit to Makkah My Spiritual Rebirth
How does it feel knowing that you are stepping into the oldest city of the globe? Can you feel the warmth of the touch of all the Prophets and angels, when you touch the Kabah, the house of Allah! How it is possible that you treat each and every unknown face around you more softly than your own brother? Well, it’s all about the feeling that will overwhelm your body-mind and soul, if you ever pay a visit the Kabah, and the city of Makkah.
Lucky for me, I got a chance to accompany my mom and grandparents to this spiritual journey which has given me the opportunity to explore me, my deen (Islam) and my Ummah more vividly and deeper than ever. Though we weren’t sure at all that we would be able to make it, because the killing of a Saudi diplomat at Dhaka just the day before our flight casted a dense cloud of tension among us, even we were stuck inside the 747 jumbo jet at Jeddah Airport for more than 2 hours, without any apparent reason. But I must admit, Saudi govt. always show utmost respect to the pilgrims who come to their country for Hajj-Umrah.
Jeddah is the nearest airport for the pilgrims coming to Makkah, the distance is nearly 90 kms. But my first impression in the lands of Arabia wasn’t that good. There are people waiting outside the arrival lounge, (won’t understand English at all) who managed to take away our passport and then tied us with a taxi driver with whom we were bound to go, at an overcharged rate. It’s become obvious for every Hajjis now. They’ll mark you as a pilgrim from the Ihrams you wear, and tired and newcomer Hajjis have no option left but to say yes. However, our cabby was a jolly Arab who drove his Hyundai Elentra at an average speed of 135 kph, so it was “okay….. Lets just go to Kabah” for us.
The first wonder waiting for me in Makkah was the people. Clock says its 3 a.m. at night and still, a huge number of people are just walking, chatting even eating around the Haram area. Later on I understood, Makkah is the city, in fact Haram Sharif is the place which never sleeps.
After freshen up, we rushed to Kabah for performing Umrah. The first sight of Kabah – the place towards which billions of Muslims of the whole world bow down their head in fear of Allah… no human language can describe what you are feeling inside, tears come out from deep of your heart and you say – Allahu Akbar. On later days, I loved to sit beside Kabah, just to watch the same feeling of a Muslim brother or sister; no matter whether he or she is a European, Asian or African, adult or a kid, strong or physically challenged… Kabah is the place where everything but praising Allah is stopped for a while.
Swimming across the golden memories
Rituals of Umrah are simple… you need to do Tawaf (Circular motion) around the Kabah for seven times, then you have to perform Sa’yi – the Run, in memory of the historical run between Safa and Marwah by Bibi Hazera, wife of prophet Ibrahim (aws) and mother of prophet Ismail (aws). During the Tawaf and Sa’yi, don’t forget to drink Ab-i-ZamZam as much as you can (simply unbelievable how refreshing it is). After all this, hair must be shaved (my mom and grandma cut about 5-6 inches of their hair, for women that’s enough) – then Umrah is complete. Now we’re free to move without Ihram – the two piece clothing along with its several bindings.
Life in Makkah for a Hajji is very simple. Get up, say prayers, read Quran or religious books, eat, roam aimlessly in the streets of Makkah, and watch people of different cultures. Such a global convention of the people who are bound by same faith is impossible to arrange or attend anywhere in the whole universe. I passed hours and hours by just sitting in the Mataaf (the large white premises circling Kabah) to watch people, and it was so interesting.
We took a half day tour in the surroundings of Kabah and Makkah City to visit the places which hold memories of Prophet Muhammad (saws). After fazr prayer, taxi drivers and Microbuses start calling “ziyarah…. ziyarah …. ziyarah !!”, meaning short trips to those religious places. We hopped in one of them and started the journey towards 1400 years old history. First stop was Zabal Al Thour, the place where Prophet and his companions hid from the Kafirs on his way to Madina. So high, so tough to trek… and yet, Prophet (sm) stayed in a cave there for three days. After that we visited the places of Hajj – Mina, Mujdalifah and finally Arafah. It is said that the trial of the Judgment Day (Hashr) will take place in this vast open land. Standing upon the top point of the hill from where my prophet (sm) gave his final sermon at the Hajj, I was simply speechless. Then Zabal Al Nur which was inside Makkah city, on top of it stands the gaar-i-Hira, the cave where the first verses of Quran was revealed by angel Zibrael (aws). After touching several famous mosques and graveyards of Makkah, our taxi finally dropped us at Haram Sharif. One thing just popped into my mind during this trip. Hazrat Khadiza (ra), the prophet’s first and most beloved wife, was 65 years old when the first revelation came. She climbed up the whole mountain (which is very straight at some places) to provide food for his beloved husband, Prophet Muhammad (sm). Now, was it only her energy, physical stamina or pure love for her husband, or something else like inner spiritual power… which drove the old lady to climb up the hill so high? No wonder, she is the only woman (only human being in fact) in the whole world to whom Allah SWT himself conveyed Salam through Zibrael (aws).
Climate, People and Food
Though surrounded by high mountains, the scorching heat of the desert sun still bothers the pilgrims and the inhabitants of Makkah. It was very difficult to get out in noon, especially in the Dhuhr prayer. Unlike Bangladesh, there was no sweat as the climate was extremely dry. So though the heat was unbearable, it didn’t give us the ‘sweaty damp’ feeling after all!!
Watching and meeting people from all around the globe was one of the most amazing experiences of a Umrah trip. Turkish, Iranian and Indonesian – people from these three countries outnumbered all others. They always formed small or big groups during tawaf by holding each others hands and marked by distinct signs (even national flags!). Those groups were so strong that nobody could penetrate through that. Though it causes some inconveniences for other Hajjis, and also someone may think this attitude unfit for the Ummahtic concept of Islam, still there expression of solidarity and unity was notable. Sub continental people were present there, but mostly not as Hajjis (!!!). Pathetic fact is most of the cleaners and sweepers of Masjid-al-Haram are none but Bangladeshis.
If you are a food lover, Makkah can be a place for you to remember. Apart from the KFCs and Arabian chains like Kudu or Al Baik, local restaurants were also clogged with people. A distinct type of Sharma was very popular among the Hajjis. Two chicken or prawn nuggets with some fries and coleslaw, rolled into a flat arabian falafel bread – a perfect sandwich for 2 riyals only!!! It became the staple for breakfast for most of the hajjis. Besides, Khabsa, the Arabian form of Biriyani and such other foods were tasty. Chicken Broast, from different outlets of chain shops were also very popular. But none of them were not as spicy (and hot!!) as ours, which I figured out as the prime characteristic of Arab cuisine. As my grandparents weren’t that comfortable with those, we switched to our very own Bhaat-Daal. At the Misfalah area adjacent to Haram Sharif, there were lots of Bangladeshi restaurants from where you will get even Mola machh and Palong Shaak !
Indeed, Makkah is the place that every Muslim will feel more comfortable even than his home. Like prophet (sm) said, ‘a woman will travel thousand miles alone with a fear of none but Allah’ – Makkah is the perfect scenario of this hadith. Every Muslim must pray and act in such a way, that Allah allows him/her to visit his house Kabah at least once in life. It felt like my faith, my I’man and my soul- everything had a rebirth. I can still remember the blatant view of Kabah, the way I saw that for the first time.