During our conversations over Zoom, some of the fellows in my cohort expressed interest in the Islamic pilgrimage, Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. Two years ago, I had the privilege of going on Umrah, the lesser pilgrimage. I decided to share my reflections on that enlightening journey, though to do it justice I will do it in two blog posts.
“Labbayka-Allaahumma-labbayk! Labbayka-laa-shareeka-laka-labbayk!” (“Here I am, O Allah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am.”)
The mass of voices in the airplane rang out with these beautiful words as we descended into Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The entire plane was filled with people of all ages and colors, coming from different backgrounds and social classes, many wearing nothing more than two large white cloths. These simple clothes are called the ‘ihram’ which pilgrims wear to humble ourselves as we present ourselves to our Lord.
I look out the window, eagerly waiting for the plane to touch down so I can continue my journey to one of the holiest places in the world, Mecca. As we arrived, the spiritual energy in the air was tangible.
I had yearned to see the Kaaba for as long as I could remember.
After settling down in my hotel, I began walking the couple blocks towards the religious symbol that Muslims all over the world know as the Kaaba. My family and I lowered our eyes and pushed through the crowds, staying as close as possible, then all together we lifted our eyes. We saw a box-shaped structure, shrouded by a sleek black robe with intricate gold patterns. The Kaaba itself is not what melts the hearts of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. It is what the Kaaba represents. It is a symbol of God’s pact with Prophet Abraham, his son Ishmael, and devout Muslims.
As I watched the tens of thousands of Muslims circling the structure, I stood in awe, realizing that I was at the center of Islamic history. The Kaaba was built by Prophet Ibraheem (Abraham), as the first structure built on earth for the worship of the one God, and a symbol Muslims use to connect with their Creator.
I began the ritual of walking around the Kaaba seven times, glorifying God. As I got closer to the Kaaba, I lost myself amongst the swarms of people. At first, I watched the people walking by me, all so different yet all there for the same reason, reconnecting with God and asking for His mercy. There was not a single dry eye in the sacred place. Then I turned my attention to the Kaaba. This was the direction toward which all Muslims in the world turn their faces countless times a day during our prayers, symbolically showing that they worship the God of Abraham.
Is there a place that you feel a personal or spiritual connection to that you’ve never been to/seen with your own eyes?