Anyone who knows me knows how profoundly I love Masjid Al Haram.
All praise, thanks and gratitude belongs to the One who made me fortunate enough to be born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – a place I like to call home. This meant that I was going to Makkah before I even knew how to pray. I would use the rolled up rugs as balance beams and skip with my family during Tawaf ( the act of circumambulating the Ka’aba). As an adult, Makkah became my every alternate-weekend-adventure. I remember coming home from work on Thursdays at 4:00 P.M. and then rushing to catch the 4:30 P.M. bus to Makkah. During the ride, I would pray that Sheikh Maher Muaiqly leads Maghrib and Salih Al-Taleb leads Ishaa.
At night, I would spend hours sitting and staring at the Ka’aba, looking in awe. It was magnetic, majestic and mesmerizing. It was pure love! My father would tell me that just looking at the Ka’aba is in itself an act of worship. And truly it was. It was a reminder that this House belongs to the One I worship, the One I prostrate to and the only One I ask help from. The One who listens when I make dua’a and the One who loves me more than 70 mothers. The one who is Al-Wadud (the Most Loving). No thought in the world would cross my mind, no worry would bother me, and no distraction could compete with what my eyes could behold.
When it was time to leave, I would turn back, look at the Ka’aba, and begin planning for the next trip. Wondering all the way when and how I could come back and who I would coax and cajole to accompany me for the next visit. All I would do was envision a revisit to the place that had captured my heart.
Allah’s plans are indeed the best and surely He is Al-Aleem (the All-Knowing) and Al-Hakeem (the All-Wise). I recently relocated from Saudi Arabia. This has left me completely shattered and it’s something I am still struggling to accept. As the date of my departure neared, I was told that this would be my last trip to Makkah.
I remember that trip so vividly. It was 3:00 A.M, the 29th of Ramadan. When it was time to leave, my heart pounded and I held my crumpled tissue a little tighter. I turned back to see the Ka’aba just as I always did at the end of every visit. Only this time, I was overwhelmed with shock and sorrow, not knowing how or when I could come back. My vision blurred as I stared at the black outline of Allah’s house. My hands were raised in dua’a, but my tongue was silent. My heart trembled with uncertainty and grief. Tears were gushing out of my eyes. All I could say was,
This isn’t a good-bye.
There is no place on Earth dearer to me than Your House. I’ll come back for it and I’ll keep coming back for it until I breathe my last with whatever capability You have given me. My heart maybe shattered today, I may not know what my future holds but I know Who holds it. So take care of me.
I cried silently all the way to the car, and home. My heart cried as I packed my bag and boarded the plane. Even when the tears stopped, the inconsolable sense of loss inside remained.
Having moved miles away, not a day goes by when I don’t pray to Ar-Rahman (the Most Compassionate) to take me back to my Makkah. Not a day passes except that I see who is leading the salawaat on my Haramain app. The only way to stay connected to my beloved city is through social media sites. I check who is giving the Khutbahs on Fridays and wait impatiently to see my favourite Imaams lineup for the week ahead. But live streams and mobile apps aside, my heart aches knowing how far I am. It is not just a 50 minute drive anymore. It is a long flight with weeks of paperwork and paychecks preceding it.
While there is immense sadness, I think of all the people like me who long to visit His House and the Prophet’s Mosque. I have had the great blessing of having lived there for more than 20 years. I have played around the Ottoman built pillars and cartwheeled on the red and green rugs. Today I realise that even though we may not be close to His House physically, we can still achieve a closeness to Him no matter where we are. Our prayers can still go straight to Him. He is that close to us, closer than our jugular vein.
If you feel the same, if your heart aches for the Haramain as much as mine does, then call out to the One who knows about the unseen, the moving of leaves, the intermingling of the seven Heavens, and the directions in which birds fly. He’ll listen to you just the way I know He will respond to me. He makes ways and creates avenues. The rules of this physical universe change because of a single sincere dua’a, so have faith and keep praying. You never know when a package with your ihram and ticket comes knocking on your door.
To the ones who reside there – whether you are a local or a foreigner – take advantage of the opportunity before it is too late. Visit the Haramain more often, make Tawaf, do Umrah, supplicate or like me, just stare at the Ka’aba. Pile on those extra rewards. There are so many who wish to visit the Haramain just once and may not have the physical or financial means to do so.
I pray I stand on the Day of Qiyamah with all my salawaat in Masjid Al-Haram, wondering how that happened and then knowing deep within my heart that Allah took me there on the basis of my intentions, and that my reward was preserved. Those nights, like this one, the ones I spend crying yearning to see the Ka’aba, I was there. I was always there. Allah counted me from amongst them.
Similar to Aasiyah (R.A), the wife of Firawn, who asked Allah to build a house for her near His House in Heaven, I too ask. I ask Allah to grant me a house near His House in this world and another one in Heaven.
I pray Allah grants us all multiple opportunities to visit Makkah and Madinah. May He make these trips a means to rekindle our faith, strengthen our bonds of humanity and fill our hearts with hope.
Featured Photo credits: Muhammad Waqqas
About the author:
Manal Soherwardy is an ESL instructor by profession and a life-long student of Quran and Arabic studies. She works at an NGO in pursuit of her belief of removing barriers of class and privilege and to provide quality education for all. She unapologetically indulges in anything that involves sugar. She is fond of nature and humor and also loves engaging in conversations entailing spirituality and the importance of self-development. She finds happiness in little things and aspires to make the world a better place before she bids her final good-bye. She may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.