By Asma Khan
You go for a journey. You see the place, eventually you come back home.
But there is one place which refuses to leave you, even after your leaving it. You find it lurking there, in your being. And, man, the way it keeps haunting you! Whether you are driving, sleeping or shouting hoarse in a classroom full of impatient teenagers, it stubbornly sticks to that wide screen of your brain. Your grey cells get charged with that image, again, and again, and again.
Kaba makes you crave for more, once you have met it in person.
It makes you covet it, crave for it. This Black Cube of a strange and majestic blackness is the most unique structural design in the world. It fascinates me and millions of others to a shattering extent. I have found myself staring at the photographic depictions of Kaba all my life.
The magnetic power of Kaba remains indefinable.
From Jeddah airport it takes around one hour to reach Makkah. The window of my bus was extra-large; never ending array of huge bare rocks were strewn along the way. Rocks after rocks, humongous boulders, the desert desolate, this was the terrain chosen for Islam. Soon that big clock began protruding.
Have we reached? Reached where? Kaba? Impossible, nay unbelievable!
Such questions my exhausted brain threw at me!
There is one thing we long for, for the whole of our lives. From the moment we get to understand things, we start seeing this black cube everywhere, in homes, offices, framed on big walls in equally imposing frameworks. We grow up seeing it, listening about it. Going for hajj becomes a major event like birth and death. When we can’t even comprehend what it is all about, it becomes the most important thing in life.
We read so much about the history of Kaba that our mind is abuzz with the history that changed the destiny of the world.
Prophet Muhammad saws, while prostrating at Kaba, was struck with the innards of a camel, on his holy neck, thrown at him, by his enemies. Since it was heavy, he could not lift up his head. Someone informed his daughter Fatima RA. I started seeing a young delicate girl running furiously towards her bowing father. With her soft little hands she struggled to remove the filth and she was crying profusely.
I woke up. We had reached Umar bin Khattab RA Road.
I am used to reading this name in books but not for a road, surely? History was spilling out of the withered pages of my books. Umar bin Khattab Road is transacting the pathways with Abu Bakr Siddique and Usman bin Affan (RA) Roads. What a junction of history it was!
We started walking towards the gates.
With shops all along, big labels mocked at us from giant billboards. As the construction cranes buzzed, I kept gazing in disbelief.
You sinful soul, how could you manage to have a glimpse of your Lord’s home? But it was right there, couldn’t be denied. I don’t remember what I prayed for. We had to move on, but my eyes didn’t. I was facing Kaba that has ensorcelled millions and trillions since last 1439 years. The circumambulation started. I had an overwhelming sense of something great happening to me. My eyes streamed in joy. That lifelong desire of walking around the house of Allah had been fulfilled. The sentiments are beyond words. I am not going to try to describe it even. I fear it will appear superficial and pretentious.
I also realized how sensational the feeling of being closer to the Creator is. Kaba was that phenomenon and this perhaps enhanced the terrific appeal of worshipping here.
The Sa’ee was nourishing and calming, I was reminded of a mother who had left a legacy behind her.
As we were coming out, I saw my friend being reprimanded by a man, for the little tufts of hair that stubbornly jutted out of her headgear. He was an elderly Arab; she smiled and did the needful. As we came out, I saw men in ihram, smoking right in front of the compound of Haram, but no elderly rotund Arab interrupted and scolded them with Haza, haza. Perhaps showing little tufts of hair inadvertently is more ‘hanikarak’ than smoking.
Kaba itself is a centre of huge activity. You never feel like an outsider. Some large men sat on larger than life chairs at the gates. So it’s their job to come here every day and sit staring at Kaba? By Allah, this must be the most beautiful of professions for all times.
Makkah is a place where time looks frozen yet flows smoothly, taking you along in its tide, in the home of history itself.
Walking on the roads of Makkah grips you into a trance. Oh, here, just outside Kaba, Rasool Allah saws too might have stepped with his holy feet; oh, there he might have walked towards his home; how did old time Makkah look like? My mind went into a safari of sorts trying, imagining, re-imagining, erasing, and re-constructing images from a lost time. An eternal ecstasy!
But soon, the tall intimidating structures jolted me back. Makkah Hilton?
People from every possible ethnicity sat next to you. Most of the women, whether Turkish, Malaysian or Indonesian, didn’t know English. It was interesting to see the Pakistanis who didn’t speak Urdu but Punjabi, Saraiki, and Pashtu. I had a hard time following their heavy Punjabi accent. Water bottles, dates, goodies were passed around amicably. Hot Qehwa, Shaay [chai] would do the rounds in gigantic flasks and tiny cups. Half sentences, common words, some known expressions, gestures glued us together.
Our mother Hajra asw was the first one to step in this desert. She brought with her, her own story: a struggle that was long, hard, and lonely. Her determination and grit despite odds is what makes it memorable. Even today women come here to revive that spirit of total surrender to their Creator. The sharing of their cultural experiences can teach us lessons in solidarity and fraternity.
Women are those beautiful fine tassels that run through the spheres of the earth. Wherever you go, whatever is the place, women become that essential glue due to their shared experiences. Their pain, love, woes, concerns, and even their mess carry a distinctly consonant flavor.
Women are the connecting chord of humanity. Their stories can bring forth the universality of Muslim ethos, the savoir-fare that would reveal the commonality of existence despite myriad hues of Islamic culture. The everyday reality of Muslims worldwide, their peculiar ways of clothing, finery, food, styles of living, their stories, that age-old wisdom should become our ever evolving new cultural heritage. These tales possess the power to commingle the myriad cords of Muslim ethos scattered all over the globe. We are one, yet many. We are similar yet different, in our own unique ways. Our Prophet PBUH and majestic Kaba connect and bind us all together.
Dr. Asma Khan, based in Maharashtra, teaches English. Speaking and writing are a passion with her. She has written for various prestigious national and international publications and websites on social, ethical, and gender related issues. She runs an NGO, FEEL (Foundation for English and Ethical Learning) that wants to bring change by equipping people with the language of English. Twitter: @AsmaAnjumKhan
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