Life and Lexis

Archive for January 2013

Labbayka Allāhumma Labbayk. Labbayk Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk.

Inna l-Ḥamda, Wa n-Niʻmata, Laka wal Mulk, Lā Sharīka Lak.
‘Here I am O Allaah, (in response to Your call), here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am.

Verily all praise, grace and sovereignty belong to You. You have no partner.’

The prayer of the Pilgrims played over the loudspeaker on the bus. We were on our way to Masjid Al-Haram, the Kaaba, the holiest place for the Muslim Ummah. We were lucky enough to have been staying just down the street. The bus was crowded and we were surrounded by other pilgrims, wrapped in their white sheets and black abayas.

The whole day passed so quickly. Myself and two colleagues arrived in the early morning from Riyadh and checked into our hotel. After a quick nap and some brushing up, we were dressed and ready to go to the Kaaba. Having made our Niyah, intention, in Riyadh, and having entered a state of Ahram, it would only be hours before we completed our Umrah or minor pilgrimage.

The bus dropped us off on the street next to the Haram. I was astonished by the cleanliness of the place. A flock of pigeons were eating, a woman wrapped in a colorful shawl offered to sell us bird feed. We walked through a street of small shops on our way to the Great Mosque. I imagined the history in this place. Though it had changed considerably since the time of The Prophet (pbuh), this is the same ground he walked. This is where it all began. Before it was the fastest growing religion in the World, Islam started as a man preaching the word of God in this little town.

We were lucky to have gone in December, after the Hajj season had ended. A woman asked me for some change showing me the face of her famished young infant. There were beggars on the street and people selling some trinkets, hand-held sewing machines and prayer beads. However, it was not crowded and there was a peace about the place. There was an air of friendliness present in this city that I had not found in Riyadh.

When we arrived in the Haram, we made wudu with Zam zam water and prayed our Dhuhr Salah. Nothing had prepared me for the first sight of the Kaaba. I did not anticipate such an emotional response, but I felt as if my breath had been taken away. I looked up and saw birds circulating overhead.


I was lucky enough to touch the Kaaba a few times and place my forehead upon it long enough to make my prayers for my loved ones. After seven circuits around the Kaaba, we proceeded to Safa and Marwa for seven laps between them.

What was astonishing to me was the difference between Makkah and my experience with living in Riyadh. There was a sense of equality between all people in Makkah. People were in simple clothing and it was impossible to distinguish rich from poor. There were people of all skin colors and no difference was visible between us. We prayed in unison towards the Kaaba, just as Muslims do on all corners of the Earth. When praying at Masjid al-Haram, there is no distinction made between rich and poor, male and female, old and young or white and black. We are all pilgrims, equal under God.

In Makkah, for the first time since I had left America 5 months earlier, I felt at home.

We left Makkah early the next morning. It was a horrible feeling to leave after having spent such little time there, though I don’t know that I’d be satisfied with any amount of time in the place. I thank God that I was able to answer His call and complete my Umrah while I was here.  In the morning, right before we departed for the airport, I received a text message from a friend in America saying she had just been accepted to Medical School. Even though not all my prayers would be answered quickly, I then knew they had been heard.


A view of Makkah from our hotel, just outside Masjid Al-Haram


The clock tower outside Masjid Al-Haram, from our hotel room


Sign above one of the Zam Zam fountains in Urdu, English and Arabic. I was proud to understand all three. 🙂