In less than 12 hours, I will be leaving home to fly to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I am in the middle of packing, making last minute preparation and going over my checklist for the trip.
But this is no ordinary flight. This is no ordinary checklist. This is no ordinary trip.
I am embarking on a spiritual journey to perform the Hajj- the pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.
I will briefly go over some of the rituals and why the Muslims perform them but first off I just want to share my excitement and the “spiritual high” with you.
A “high” that’s keeping me grounded.
To visit Mecca to perform Hajj is a dream of all Muslims. I have performed the minor pilgrimage, or Umrah, a few times before but this journey is going to be very different. It is considered more ritualistic, much more physically demanding (the temperatures are expected to be in the 100-110 degrees), yet more uplifting.
Mecca is the birth city of Prophet Muhammad and Ka’aba is the holiest shrine in all of Islam. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. Unlike daily prayers, charity, and fasting, Hajj is mandatory only once in a lifetime, for those who are able (physically and financially). Each year, in the month of Dhul-Hijja, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar, millions of Muslims from all around the world from various ethnicities, colors, and socio-economic backgrounds meet in the city of Mecca and perform various rituals in a show of unity, simplicity, harmony, and submission to God.
Pilgrims spend most of the time in remembrance of God, supplications, and deeds of charity; they are to avoid major and minor sins. You are to avoid backbiting, cursing and any form of immoral behavior. Even killing of the insects is prohibited. More than just a set of rituals, the experience is considered a purification of mind and soul, and pilgrims after performing the Hajj are said to be as pure as a newborn. Most people upon their return from the Hajj report that it was a life-changing experience, and that they had never felt so much peace in their hearts before. Malcolm X, in one of the letters shared his experience.
Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all color and races here in this ancient Holy land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad, and all the other prophets of the Holy scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed by all around me by people of all colors. There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist.
It is very true that the Hajj rituals as we know them today were taught by Prophet Muhammad during the only Hajj he performed before he passed away. But it is worth noting that most of the rituals are to honor Prophet Abraham and his family, and not Prophet Muhammad as many assume.
Ka’aba was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Muslims believe it was built at the site of the very first place of worship Adam had built.
And remember Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For You are the all-hearing, the all-knowing. The Qur’an 2:127
The walking back and forth seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa near Ka’aba, for example, is in the memory of Abraham’s wife Hagar and their son, Ishmael. This happened after Abraham had left Hagar and Ishmael in the valley of Mecca and returned home to stay with Sarah and Isaac. Soon Hagar and the very young Ishmael ran out of water and lay on the desert sand, crying in thirst while Hagar ran back and forth between the mountains of Safa and Marwa. She ran back and forth seven times in search of water. God showed mercy on them, and a spring of fresh and sweet water gushed forth from the earth under the feet of Ishmael, from a well that came to be known as Zamzam.
What is very interesting to me is that the Qur’an does not make any reference to the Zamzam well, but the Bible does!
And she departed and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was used up, she left the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, ‘Do not let me see the boy die.’ And she sat opposite him, and lifted up her voice and wept. God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink. Genesis 21:14-19
OK, I am going to stop here. My heart is starting to thump a little harder just thinking about it.
I am planning to share my experience via short videos or short posts, time and broadband permitting.
I will do my best to continue to share my experience in the next three weeks. I hope you would understand and forgive me if I do get carried away, and stop posting while there. My focus obviously will be to immerse myself in the remembrance of God but I am leaving with the intention to also share my experiences with you, Insha’Allah (God willing).
Please do not forget me in your prayers.