On 23rd May 2017, my dream came true, Alhamdulillah.
On the way to Makkah, while everyone in the car was tired and taking a nap, I was a little tense. I was wondering whether I’d be able to catch Isha’s congregational prayer. As the cars were moving at a snail’s pace, I kept looking for the clock tower. One of my friends had mentioned to me how rapidly her heart was beating when she saw the clock tower, as it was indicative of her closeness to the House of Allah. I kept looking for it, but somehow I could not see it. I was thinking, maybe I could not see it because of the tall buildings, or maybe the traffic, or maybe I was on the wrong side.
Suddenly, the car stopped and we arrived at our hotel. I quickly rushed and made wudu, started wandering, and asked a few people which way I should take to go to the Masjid al-Haram. Whilst I was rushing, the congregational prayer started. Alhamdulillah, I was able to attend the prayer, but unfortunately missed the first minute.
At that point, I was outside Masjid al-Haram, praying. I was late, and I didn’t have the time to enter the mosque as it was very crowded. I stood to pray at the very first space, I got. It was near King Abdul Aziz Gate. After the salah, I saw people standing and sitting in parallel rows facing Qiblah. It was then that I knew I wasn’t far from the House of Allah.
“The first House [of worship] to be established for people was the one at Bakka (an old name for Makkah). It is a blessed place; a source of guidance for all people.” – Qur’an (3:96)
People were exiting the masjid like flocks of birds. A few minutes later, when the crowd got lighter, I started walking towards the beautiful architecture of the mosque. I walked past endless rows of pillars and high archways, the big halls with rows upon rows of thick and richly textured rugs. The colors, textures and the environment was overwhelming. While I was walking, I saw something I had never seen before. I saw people seated, relaxing together despite coming from different backgrounds, children of all ages maintaining modesty and playing with each other, women reading the Qur’an. There were people with tasbeehs in their hands, doing their Dhikr of Allah. There were Saudi male and female police guarding the gates, and young men and women who were wiping the marble floors, organizing the plastic cups near the Zamzam taps, piling the Qur’ans on the shelves and cleaning the masjid constantly. Everyone looked the same, all men and women in ihrams. Men wearing the white ihrams and women in hijab and long beautiful abayas.
Entering Masjid al-Haram, with my right foot forward, I recited the supplication:
“Allaahum-maftah lee’abwaaba rahmatika”
There were escalators, and people walking from every direction. I was lost. I didn’t know which way I’d find the Kaa’ba. I spent a few minutes going in circles, and getting stuck in the crowds of people who came from all over the world. Finally, I found arrows pointing me towards the Kaa’ba. Deep down, I was feeling the closeness. As I took my steps forward, there was turmoil inside me- there was a sense of fear, a sense of commitment, and my love for Allah (SWT). After continually walking around in circles for a while, I suddenly saw a side, huge, overwhelming, and the deepest black in color.
As I tilted my head to get a better view, finally my eyes fell upon the beautiful Black Stone – the Kaa’ba. Right when I saw the whole of it, tears rolled down my face. They were happy tears. My heart was beating faster than ever, and I could not take a step forward. I felt as if I was paralyzed, and could not walk. I stood in the same spot for a good five minutes, staring at the Kaa’ba. It was as if life had paused for a while. I have never seen anything more beautiful than that. It was that first sight, which took my breath away. I was awed by it’s beauty. It was the compass point of Muslim prayers. It was a magical image, an ancient image, framed between contoured pillars, with what looked like a human wheel surrounding it (doing tawaf) effortlessly. It was perfect. I immediately got a hold of my senses, and started glorifying Allah (SWT) with, “SubhanAllah, Allahu Akbar and La ilaha illAllah”
There was a lot to process, to take in and digest. I gave up trying to marshal my thoughts into any coherent order and simply allowed the astounding visual panorama around me to flow into my consciousness. Finally, after a while, processing the reality, I started taking steps forward. I was going to perform tawaf around the Kaa’ba. All this time, while I walked towards the Black Stone, I was getting pushed, pulled, and rushed, and interestingly enough, not for even a moment did all that bother me – I just kept walking, staring at the Black Stone. While doing tawaf, I made sure to follow the procedure of Umrah. I started doing tawaf from Hajaral-Aswad, which is embedded in one corner of the Kaa’ba, pointing hands towards it and said:
“Bismillah, Allahu Akbar”
While doing tawaf, I supplicated:
“SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar and La ilaha illAllah”
At the last corner of tawaf, I recited:
“Rabbana aatina fid Dunya hasana wa fil Akhirate hasana wa qina adhaban naar”
There were men, women, aged people, young girls, and young boys, children, babies, people on wheelchairs, men carrying their parents on their backs. People came from all around the globe – of every complexion and ethnic variety, all busy with their devotions. While doing tawaf, people were rushing, pushing, pulling, and with all that hustle and bustle, it was very difficult to walk.
After finishing the final tawaf, something magical happened. Right near the Kaa’ba, the crowd got light and I was able to sail through and stand right in front of it and was one of the chosen ones to be able to touch the kiswah. The cloth is soft, woven from silk, and adorned with verses from the Book of Allah – The Qur’an. It is black with gold embroidered calligraphy. Usually there is a tight knot of pilgrims around the Kaa’ba, all going towards it in an attempt to touch or kiss it. The heat and sweat overwhelmed me, and the physical presence of the crowd of pilgrims pressing in around me became a direct focus. I wiped the stream of sweat off my forehead and walked forward, swept along by the flood of pilgrims in which I was engrossed.
“We showed Abraham the site of the House, saying, ‘Do not assign partners to Me. Purify My House for those who circle around it, those who stand to pray, and those who bow and prostrate themselves. Proclaim the Pilgrimage to all people.’”
– Qur’an (22:26-27)
While doing my farewell tawaf, when I was leaving the Kaa’ba behind me, leaving the beautiful mosque, I was sad. I felt the pain of separation and a soothing closeness towards what I was leaving behind. I knew after I flew back to my homeland, a part of my consciousness, a part of my heart, would always turn, like a magnet attracting an iron when I faced the Qiblah to pray to Allah (SWT).