I write to remember. There are things that happen along the way that I wouldn’t want to forget and one of the best ways is to write about them and share with some others, so that in case I forget, there are people out there who can remind me of these episodes of my life.
And the 40 day trip to Saudi Arabia this year was a walk to remember alright. I wouldn’t want to forget anything from that trip and I need to find the time to pen down some of the more important episodes there, so that I can revisit them as and when the need arise. To learn from, to seek comfort from, to laugh at or just to remember.
In the very first place, the trip itself was a dream come true. I found an old journal of perhaps a couple of years ago. I came across a page where I wrote my wishes and dreams. That was written after I watched and read The Secret. Heh. We shall leave that and my opinions on it for another day. But in that entry in that journal, one of the things I had written under the Dreams column was ‘To spend an entire month of Ramadan in Makkah’. Of course, ‘short-attention span’ me had forgotten that I even had a journal two years ago, let alone writing as specific as that. But while I forget, Al Mujib, The Responsive One, doesn’t. He listened, He knew and being Al Karim, The Generous One, He simply gave me what I asked for. Even when at the point of asking, it was just a wishful thinking on my part. At least I felt that way. But He being Ar Razzaq, The Ultimate Provider, gave and when He gives, He gives only the best, because He is Al Azim-The Incomparably Great.
The trip was full of challenges for me, beyond my expectation. Challenges which blew my top away were aplenty, but right now instead of those, I want to remember the heartwarming ones first.
The first was when we were in Medinah. I had gone to visit the Prophet’s tomb in the Raudhah. Alone of course. I decided from that day onwards that all my movements to perform any ibadah other than the umrah ritual– I was going to do them on my own so that I could take a reflective approach towards them and internalise the experience without any distractions. So after much stampede, which I felt was unnecessary–if only the ladies could be patient enough to wait for their turns, I reached the front of Rasulullah’s s.a.w tomb. Of course when I was there, emotions got the better of me and tried as I could to control myself, I soon started weeping. The weeping then turned into soft sobbing. Not that I wanted it to happen. It just happened. Then somehow, I felt arms around me. I looked up and realised the lady sitting next to me was hugging me tightly and she too, was weeping and sobbing quietly. Then there were the two of us, in our quiet little moment, just crying into each other’s arms, making du’a, making salawats, sending salams and yes, crying while still in each other’s arms. I didn’t know who she was, where she came from, what was her name or what language she speaks. We bonded through our love for Rasulullah s.a.w. just like that. It was beautiful.
Next incident was a few days later in Makkah. We had just arrived, quite tired after a 6 hour bus ride from Medinah to Makkah. We performed our umrah and when it was all over, it was 2.30 am. No point going back to the hotel so we decided to just stay in the masjid to iktikaf. I got a special gift from Him that morning, in the form of a place right smack behind the multazam or the door of the Kaabah. The place every other person would actually scamper for. I sat down and next to me was this beautiful Arab lady about my age, sitting down and reciting the Quran. She couldn’t be local Saudi, I thought, as her face was uncovered and she was not wearing black. She was reciting the Quran softly, but loud enough for me to hear. Her recitation was beautiful, so beautiful that it made me cry. I sat and listened. Sometimes, in the midst of her reading, she would sob softly. Noticing that I was actually listening to her, she put her arms around me and pulled me closer to her. After she was done reciting, we started talking. She said she was from Syria. Situation back home was too terrible. She had come with her husband to do umrah Ramadan to pray for Syria. To pray for justice and to pray for her family, friends and all Syrians. She asked me to help pray for Syria too. Of course I would, I told her. Then she hugged me and made prayers for me. Her family in Syria was in danger and here she was, making earnest prayer for me. Subhanallah. I didn’t know what to say.
…. To be continued