**Guest Post By Ayesha Zaka, an MPhil student ( Biochemistry/Molecular Biology) at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.**
These are a few pages from my diary. I wrote them six years back-when I was 17. I penned them down only so that I could preserve priceless memories. Even today, reading them gives mea n Eman rush- therefore, I consider these among the most precious pages I have ever penned down.
These pages are seeing the light of the day for the first time in the hope that the readers will feel a rekindling of faith. So here you go:
“Ramadan is undoubtedly the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar. Makkah is undoubtedly the most sacred city on earth. To spend Ramadan in Makkah is an overpowering experience. I spent the last few days of Ramadan 1426 in Makkah Mukarramah. We reached Masjid-al-Haram a few minutes after Maghrib, opened our fast in the car and joined a congregation on the footpath just outside the Grand Mosque in the 2nd rakah. Tears welled up in my eyes as I finished the prayer.
“O Allah!,’’ I thought, ‘’You brought me to Your House before as well; and I promised to obey You and fulfill Your Commandments. I have not lived up to it. How then can I enter into Your presence again? How will the sinners enter into Your presence on the Day of Judgment. Help me Ya Allah.”
My legs turned wobbly and we joined the throngs of crowds, the multitudes of people from all corners of the globe entering the gates of the mosque. I recited the Talbiyah quietly. My father led us, reciting the Talbiyah in a loud voice. All around us the streets of Makkah resounded with the sounds of Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk- the slaves presenting themselves to the Omnipotent King.
What I have always felt about the Talbiyah is that as you start reciting it from the Meeqat, you recite it, no doubt with your tongue and heart, but as you get nearer and nearer to your destination, your Talbiyah seems to govern you. You can feel it everywhere, in the mountains of Makkah, in the clouds in the sky, in your own self. At the doors of the Grand Mosque, your Talbiyah becomes you!
We stepped in, oblivious to the crowds all around, aware only of what we were about to witness. Shoes off, heads bowed, quietly, respectfully, calm outwards but turbulent inside, we walked until we reached the steps leading to the Mataaf. I saw my mother stop just in front of me. “Bismillah,” said my father as he looked up and raised his hands in prayer.
I looked up. There it was- the Kaabah, the House of Allah, the same towards which we pray five times a day, the centre of the world. The Kaabah- I have seen it on TV, a picture hangs in our living room too but it is the real thing which makes you break down. The House of Allah and I am standing in its Presence. It is almost as if you are standing in His Presence.
“O Allah! You have shown us Your House in this world. Show us Your Face in the Next. Do not make us among the wretched ones who will not see Your Face. Save us from Hell, Ya Allah. Your slaves are here. Forgive us. Accept our coming. Ya Allah, do not let us exit this blessed mosque except with hearts purified and sins forgiven.” I prayed and to be honest, I can not recall much of what I prayed. We wept and prayed. We descended from the steps and entered the sea of Muslims circumambulating the Kaabah….
[For the sake of brevity, I have omitted a few paragraphs here in which I had mentioned all the details of our Tawaf, Sa’i, going back to the hotel, eating, sleeping etc.]
….We got up for Qiyam ul Layl around 2 am and joined the throngs headed towards the mosque. It was like daytime outside. The rows for prayer stretched outside the mosque for as far as the eye could see. There were people praying on bridges, roads, pavements, staircases. Even on the mountains in the distance, orderly rows were formed. We were many, but each had a direct communication with Allah.
The Dua in the Witr was overwhelming. There was quiet sobbing all around. Later, I was to hear the Dua of the Night of 27th and the Dua of Khatm-ul-Quran led by Sheikh al- Sudais too. There was sobbing and weeping all around. Hearts were being purified, vows made, sins forgiven and who knows how many were being rescued from Hellfire. I do not remember seeing a dry eye that night. The Shurtaa (police) of the Kaabah also raised their hands and wept.
I remember the Imam saying,“ O Allah! When we die make our last words La ilaha illaAllah’’ and I remember at that moment millions of people spontaneously saying La ilaha illaAllah together. It seemed as if the building would come down everytime it resonated with Ameen. We used to stand in Dua for the better part of an hour but I did not want the Imam to stop praying and would finally go in prostration craving to stand for more time.
I remember seeing the royal family joining the prayer from the palace balcony and thinking, “Who in this gathering is the most honourable in Allah’s sight?”
I remember faces of brothers and sisters I’ve met just once but I feel as I’ve known them all my lives.
I remember Amna from South Africa who comforted me when I was lying in the mosque with fever.
I remember Iranian girls who would pronounce Allahu Akbar as Allahu Ashber but it seemed to come from the heart all the same.
I remember Black Americans discussing the companion Bilal’s status in Islam and rejoicing at it.
I remember elderly Turkish women who would all look the same and would hug you and kiss you if you so much as smiled at them.
I remember the Arab girls who complained to me that its so hot and after a few seconds said (quoting form the Quran): “The fire of Hell is hotter” and looked away.
I remember meeting people from all over the world, thinking of all of them as sisters and loving them from the core of my heart.
I remember the Russian woman who could not read or understand Arabic and insisted that I read the Arabic text of the Quran to her as she listened in rapt attention.
I remember women sharing their iftar with us, insisting that we take more. I remember people distributing Qahwa and dates at the time of breaking the fast.
I remember distinctly, faces and feelings.
Love and generosity was in the air.
I remember my mother saying one day after a particularly hot and tiring afternoon Tawaf: “I’d love to have Lassi.” I laughed at the thought of Lassi which seemed out of place here. It was a world of qahwa out here. A few hours later at Iftar time, a young Pakistani girl who was offering packs of some drink all around also handed one to my mother. Believe it or not, it was Lassi! “We are Allah’s guests here, my mother said, “Be careful of every word, every thought!”