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The Pilgrim X Journals – Part 1: The Days Before Hajj

Our entry into Makkah has been unusual of sorts. The air is hot and sticky, the streets are crowded with pilgrims from foreign lands, and stalls fill the streets selling hajj garb and prayer memorabilia. 

I cannot delve into details as this would jeopardize our entire trip, but considering how difficult they’ve made it for Westerners to come here by charging exorbitant amounts of money for the Nusuk packages, I can’t begin to imagine how lucky I am to be here. Personally, I believe visiting the house of God should be free for everyone. 

At the hotel, we were assigned roommates. This was the part I was most worried about, as I have never shared a room with anyone besides my husband. I noticed a young girl who was in the group with us and I asked if I could room with her. Perhaps, I thought, things would be easier for me considering our similar age. She refused to room with me, saying her mother and another woman wanted only three people in the group —  all Iraqis.

I pulled back tears as I was roomless and patiently awaited my fate. I was then roomed with a young Lebanese woman and an older African woman. I could immediately tell they were kind and generous, and I was right. They turned out to be the best roommates that I learned so much from. I realized that God had looked out for me and replaced my loss with something so much better. 

After having spent a few days in Makkah before the streets got crazy with travelers, I’ve had beautiful and intimate moments at the Kaaba and in Masjid al-Haram. There are few words, if any, to describe how it felt to do my very first Umrah Tamattu’ upon our arrival. We dressed in Ihram at the hotel and headed to the Haram full of energy; we couldn’t believe we had made it with our unusual travel circumstances. 

As we entered the Haram, I immediately noticed how people of many cultures and lands had come to the house of Allah (SWT). They were all dressed the same, so I couldn’t tell the rich apart from the poor. Old men with hunched backs and faces that told stories of toil stood side by side with us as we were packed into the opening in droves.

As we climbed on to the escalators that would take us to the ground floor, I felt that all the escalators would collapse from the sheer amount of people on them. I had never seen such a sight: a sea of white all around me. 

And then we were there, at the mouth of the entrance of the Kaaba. I caught a glimpse of it from far away. I quickly reminded myself to ask for the three wishes I would be granted at the Kaaba’s first sight. I’m so glad I remembered, because little did I know I would forget everything —  including my own name — when I entered into the Tawaf, or circumambulation around the Kaaba. 

Tears filled my eyes as I gazed upon the house of God before me. I imagined my grandmother having come here, her own grandmother, all my forefathers, and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself. To be on the same holy grounds that generations of Muslims had been on made me feel frozen in time, as though I was truly just a passenger in this journey called life.

I thanked God again and again for having called me here, for making me His guest. I felt so loved and so important even though I was as insignificant as a moth in an ocean of moths circulating around a singular source of light.

Despite how hot it was everywhere else, the breeze around the Kaaba was cool and airy. The sky above was clear and porous as birds flew around. I had a feeling of being filled up from within, a state I’ve never felt in my entire life. Though I was being squeezed from every corner and carried by the crowds at times, I felt I was inhaling heaven. 

As we completed the seven rounds starting from Hajar al-Aswad, the black stone from heaven, there were moments where it was bearable and others where I was squeezed like an orange. I asked God to forgive my sins and to save me from the squeezing of the grave. 

In the sixth round, I let my hands flop like a fish and I closed my eyes, allowing the crowd to carry me. I didn’t want to push or shove, as I suddenly became very careful of my actions with a profound sense of God consciousness. In this moment of time, I let myself go completely and let God take control. I was in His house, after all.

As I walked away from the Kaaba and performed Salaat Tawaf at the Haram, I gazed upon the holiest of houses. It was a black cube, smaller than I had imagined it to be, covered with a black cloth. The most majestic of homes was so simple. 

It made me think about my own home. If this was good enough for God, why do we spend so much time beautifying our homes and striving to buy the bigger and better ones? It was easy to see that God loved simplicity and humility. From the Kaaba to the two pieces of white cloth wrapped around the men, simplicity adorned the Haram from corner to corner.

As we climbed into the taxi after leaving the Haram, I couldn’t imagine it being more crowded. The cab driver said to us, “this is nothing yet, the crowd is going to be 10 times bigger in the coming days.” I grew anxious. Would it be possible? 

Could the Kaaba hold this many people? And more importantly, why was I here right now, under the most unusual of circumstances? Why had God called me to this place from thousands of miles away? What was I to find, and what would I do when I found it? 

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