Hajj Chronicles Part 17: Memories for the heart

Previous posts in this series: Parts 1 to 16

View through a grill in the haram - Makkah

The crowning moment

I’ve heard that everyone gets a ‘moment’ in Makkah – some special experience where they receive inspiration, or some kind of epiphany. On one of our last mornings there, mine came.

For fajr that morning, I’d managed to get to my usual 4th floor spot of the masjid. After fajr, while waiting to make Ishraaq salaah (just after sunrise), I made a conscious effort to observe my surroundings: the birds above, the many people sitting, sleeping, taking pictures, making dua, or just looking at the Kabah. The most heart-warming sight was an Indonesian couple laying nearby, asleep – facing each other. It was awesome to see the love and mercy of marriage manifested right there –on this blessed rooftop where couples and families often spent time together.

After sunrise, I made my ishraaq salaah, and before leaving, decided to take a look at the Kabah. The mataf area was full of people doing tawwaf; the entire floor covered in this wheel of humanity, revolving around Allah’s House. I looked up a level, and it was the same on the next floor. Again, I looked up another level, and the same sight on the roof.

I’d seen it before, but this time, it struck me in a new way. For some reason, this moment was incredibly awe-inspiring, and the whole experience just brought tears to my eyes. Allah was enabling me to witness His sign – right there.

The ‘sign’ was hope and a positive perspective. You see, back home – and in much of the world today – it seems we’re in a hopeless situation. My perception is that society is going backwards – corrupted and in tremendous moral decline; given to hedonism, materialism, competition, ungratefulness, cruelty, and rising atheism and hostility towards people of faith.

But here, in front of my eyes, Allah was showing me otherwise. Despite those perceptions I had, there was still so much good. Here in front of me were tens of thousands of people – walking so slowly in this physically-uncomfortable ritual, so dedicated and in such recognition of Allah’s love and mercy. And this was only a small fraction of the ummah. Given the chance, I’m sure that hundreds of millions of Muslims – if not every single one – would jump at the chance to be down there, in that tawwaf.

And despite the sectarian, ideological, and racial differences, everyone was united. Everyone was unified by this one act of walking around one structure – one building, which is a symbol of One Allah. One Creator. One religion. One humanity. One.

Our world today is so overcome by negativity, and so flooded by troubling news of suffering and corruption – yet these few moments took me away from all of that and showed me the good that still exists. And because people like this – this ummah – still exists today, this world isn’t in such a bad state. It isn’t totally hopeless. And it never will be, because we, the people of Allah’s ultimate truth – Islam – will always be here, even in the worst of times, when Dajjal rules over the planet.

Jam-packed tawaaf during Hajj season 2011

Jam-packed tawaaf during Hajj season 2011

It didn’t stop there, though – the moment took me further. I remembered the ‘arsh of Allah being directly above the Kabah, so I looked up to that area. SubhanAllah…circling above the Kabah was a group of birds. And despite the freedom and space they had, they didn’t spread out wide. They flew only above the Kabah.

This was their fitrah. They had to know the greatness of that spot. The animals, trees, and all of nature – they all know Allah and glorify Him (Surah 17, verse 44). And we humans also know. It’s in our natural fitrah. Despite what we learn from our societies and what directions we take in life – even atheism – our innate nature knows Allah…just like those birds know.

If only we could stop, occasionally, to observe these creatures and be reminded of the fitrah which still lays buried within us – under the layers and layers of spiritual dirt we accumulate in our lives.

Speaking to the heart

During our final tawwaf before leaving for Aziziah, we walked by a man in sujood. He was sobbing uncontrollably, and his sincerity and emotion reminded me of similar scenes I’d witnessed in Madinah. I thought of how he, and others like him, are so humbled by being here. Perhaps they’d done such tremendous wrongs in their lives, and now they come here, begging their Maker for forgiveness and a fresh start.

His level of intensity spoke to my heart because of the common bond I have with him and others like him: we are all just powerless, error-prone humans that live our lives heedless of Allah. We transgress, make mistakes, and try to correct ourselves – but we fail and fall back into error, again and again and again. Yet Allah is so merciful that He gives us chance after chance to come back. He awakens regret in our hearts and allows us to repent and return to Him – even though He knows we’ll again falter after this.

Unless you live in extreme circumstances, it’s rare to witness such emotion: to see the tears and pleading of grown men – perfectly humbled and fully aware that no one and nothing can help them except their Maker.

Seeing this is an incredible reminder of the reality we so often forget. In truth, no matter how comfortable or trouble-free our lives seem to be, we are all in the same position as that man. We all have this tremendously-deep need of Allah. And while the veils of this worldly life may distort our perception of that, on the Last Day, we will see it as clear as the sun. So while we have the chance in this life, we should discard all attributes of arrogance, ward off all illusions of being self-sufficient, and beg our Creator to help us see things as they really are – see the reality of who we are, and how much we need Him.

Coming up next, insha-Allah:
Farewell, Makkah

Related lessons:

  • In the haram – particularly on the roof levels – remember to take in your surroundings. Observe the people and what’s going on, and look for beautiful sights that your heart will remember for a lifetime after you leave Makkah.
  • If you ever need a reminder that this ummah is strong, and that there are still so many people in this world that take their deen and connection to Allah seriously, remember the packed tawaafs you witnessed in Makkah.
  • And if the sects and divisions of the ummah get you down, again remember those tawaafs – which prove the unity that’s still possible despite our differences.
  • Every single human has a natural recognition of the truth of Allah – whether they choose to accept it or not, even if they’ve buried it under years of heedlessness and sin. Be aware of this fitrah, and remember that we can all return to it if we try, insha-Allah.
  • When you see grown men crying and witness the desperate duas of fellow pilgrims, take it as a reminder of your own insignificance, your own complete helplessness, and your own complete need of Allah for every single thing in your life – whether big or small. Remember that even if you don’t feel the same right now, a Day will come when you will feel that way. So use your life on Earth wisely so that, when you reach that Day, you’ll be in the best possible position before your Lord.

What happened next?

Update: The entire series (30 parts) is available at this link – post by post. Alternatively, you can download the complete series as an e-book in PDF format. Feel free to share with anyone you think may benefit.

Image sources: Opening picture taken by me; tawaaf picture by Dr Z. Parker.


6 thoughts on “Hajj Chronicles Part 17: Memories for the heart

  1. The best post in this series so far because it’s so reminiscent…..tearful..

    The birds fly around the Kaaba, I never once saw them fly across it. Like they’re doing tawaaf as well……amazing. I wonder if they’re the same birds from Surah Fil…I know they’re not…just like to think it…..

    In Madinah, it was the sound of crickets which got me. The sound of crickets offset against the sound of nothingness 🙂

    Can’t wait for the Farewell post. Its good to hear other people’s experiences. I hope other people write in with their experiences!

    Being a Muslim rocks – well that was my discovery anyway!

  2. I’m hoping to wrap up this series by Ramadan or Hajj time this year – though it’ll be a big push to get there.

    JazakAllah for the beautiful comment. If I ever get the chance to go back, insha-Allah I plan to observe those birds more closely next time round.

    I take it you’ve been more than once, right? Does each new time reveal to you new subtleties you hadn’t noticed before?

  3. I’ve only been once…. Alhamdulillah Allah (swt) accepted my prayers.

    I’m just very observant and I spent a lot of my time between prayers just staring at the Kaaba. You get rewarded for it so I made the most of just contemplating.

    It’s been a month since I’ve been back but the series below and your blog are keeping me in touch so I can keep focussed for Ramadhan in sha Allah.

    This is the link for the series (30 parts)….It’s about Umar’s (RA) caliphate but also consists of the historical origins of Islam and what happened afterwards.

    I know not everyone will want to watch it as they show the ten promised sahabas (using actors). They don’t show the Prophet SAW at all…but it’s such a good series which actually made me proud to be a Muslim and encouraged me to progress within Islam even more. Allah (swt) knows best.

  4. SI:
    May you get to go again many more times – including lots of Hajjes (despite quota and other restrictions that limit people nowadays).

    JazakAllah for that link. It can’t be a coincidence that you posted this now, and my wife brought the whole series home the other day. Watched the first few and it is very interesting so far. Even though you know the stories, it’s nice to watch it in this form – controversies aside. The punishment meted out to Bilal r.a. is especially brutal to watch. It just goes to show how reading a story, or listening to it as a lecture, is one thing. But to actually see visuals – that has an incredibly effective impact. It reminds me of one scholar who specialises in da’wah: he showed a clip of “Passion of the Christ” – as an example of Christian da’wah, and how effectively they use the medium of film. While many of us Muslims are still sitting back primarily relying on methods that – in most cases – can never have the same impact as film and visual media.

    Of course we have to be careful in how we use it and try to keep within the boundaries of Islam. If you look at a series like “The Arrivals” – its producers had good intentions and have a good core message, but the whole series was undermined, and many people don’t respect it – because of their many unsubstantiated claims (and apparent propganda), and their flagrant venturing beyond Islamic boundaries of what is acceptable to show. Nevertheless, the series was still very powerful because it used the medium of video.

    So we do need to venture into these mediums in a big way. Combine the truth with this kind of medium – on a large scale – and imagine the impact it can make.

    JazakAllah for the comment. Many people get affected by many places in the world, but this is an experience that simply can’t be matched. There’s absolutely no gathering anywhere on earth that can match Hajj. No human or organisation can bring this many people together, and unite them in a single purpose like this. Allah alone does it.

  5. Ameen 🙂

    Agreed about the use of video etc in Dawah. It’s a shame that many Muslims fail to recognise this as one of the many reasons why we are losing our younger generations…

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