After a long journey, I have finally arrived at my home. Before, I was unaware of this reality, but now I understand that this is the moment I have eagerly anticipated since discovering this amazing place eight years ago. Here in the scorching summer of Saudi Arabia, the heat is unbearable. The air feels like steam and touching anything with my oily hands causes a burning sensation. The intense heat suffocates me and I desperately crave even just a sip of water. As I scratch my hot and sweaty arm, sand brushes against my face and body, surrounding me like boiling water in a steamy shower.
The night was a cloudless black velvet curtain. Despite the departure of the dazzling sun from the endless sky, the blistering heat left me dehydrated and delirious. Salt began to seep from my fingers as I stepped on the sunbaked earth. Feathered pigeons with fluorescent feathers whooshed past my fiery face at lightning speed. The atmosphere was incredibly sticky. The sweltering heat caused my Arabian style clothes to stick to my sweaty and tired body. Sweat soaked through my greasy hair, rolled down my forehead, and dripped from my sunburnt rosy cheeks, like a rattlesnake slithering alone in the hottest desert in the world.
The night had settled, masking the blinding sky of the day with a still, black sheet. The shining stars, like silver snowflakes, illuminated the darkness. They guided the three wise men to Bethlehem, the heart of Christians. It was at this moment that I understood why millions of people make pilgrimage to this blessed land every year. This place was paradise.
The air was filled with the delightful aroma of Khubz and Aruz, evoking memories of my mother’s Indian cooking. The same spicy essence lingered in the air, enticing me to indulge. The enticing fragrance emanated from the cooking pot, wafting through the air and continuously teasing my senses, tempting me to relish its flavors. It was as if I had stepped into a Wonderland, where everything seemed surreal and perfect. I half-expected to see a group of dressed animals enjoying a tea party. It all felt like a dream.
The aroma of chillies burnt my nose, while the scent of ginger, garlic, and potato tickled my nose. The captivating smell of fresh dates filled the air. I saw the enticing red dates in front of me and couldn’t resist picking one up. The fruit felt as soft as silk, and as I chewed it slowly, it tasted heavenly. It was more delicious than a million boxes of Cadbury’s ‘Milk Tray’. The juice of the date trickled down my tongue. Next to the box, there was an old oak Victorian table with a cup on it. I drank the liquid inside the cup, which was as white as milk and sweet as honey.
The mosque atmosphere was bustling as people hurried from one end to the other, eagerly embracing their loved ones upon first sight. Among the chaos, I noticed children rushing towards the immaculate monument. Surrounding me were men with shaved heads, resembling Ghandi, dressed in Ihraams – the white sheets of wool worn exclusively by pilgrims. Every man in sight was adorned in a long milky white dress, forming a seemingly endless sky filled with cumulus clouds and tanned arms and legs protruding from them.
At this instant, I noticed a sorrowful child, approximately three or four years old. The child’s sad expression transformed into an even more sorrowful sight as tears streamed down his face. With his small hands tucked into his silk dress pocket, he retrieved a tissue and wiped his large green eyes and fear-filled white cheeks. Tears flowed uncontrollably, resembling water from a hose pipe, while he cried out for his mother. The young child wandered around, calling out in search of her among a crowd of two million towering figures. Eventually, the child gave up and collapsed onto the hard marble floor in despair. With his tiny but chubby legs, he placed his minute head in between them and continued to weep. The child had lost his beloved mother for eternity. My own eyes became moist witnessing this heartbreaking scene. Approaching the child, I dried my tears and advanced towards him. Taking his tender hand, I endeavored to console him.
Startled by someone with heavy footsteps, a short woman suddenly slapped me across the face. She swore at me in Arabic, leaving me curious about what had provoked her sudden aggression. The force of her slap made it feel as if Tiger Woods himself had swung his golf club directly at me. Despite my anger, I remained composed for the sake of the child she cradled in her arms. However, it was that very child who then explained to their mother that I had simply been attempting to offer assistance. This incident served as a reminder that passing judgments solely based on appearance is unwarranted and taught me an invaluable lesson: never judge a book by its cover.
The experience I had was incredibly memorable and had a deep effect on my life. On judgement day, I saw everyone from the human race gathered together on the plains of resurrection, coming together as a single entity. This demonstration of unity brought to mind the words spoken by Prophet Muhammad: “The believers (in God) are like a single person. If one part is in pain, the whole body feels it.” The scene I witnessed further reinforces my faith that we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of our race or wealth. It serves as a reminder to show empathy towards those who are experiencing hardship.
With a sudden glance forward, my body shot back in disbelief. The sight before me left me bewildered and unable to comprehend its construction.
At this moment, a sensation rushed through my body like a diving eagle.
This was a new, unfamiliar sensation.
There it stood.
The shrine, in all its splendor, stood tall and square, cloaked in darkness. It resembled the shrine depicted in our books at home, yet possessed a unique quality. Unlike the photographs in the books, it had depth and emitted a sense of liveliness. It breathed heavily like an exhausted elephant that had run for miles without rest. The monument appeared to interact with the lively crowd and became intertwined with everything around it. This led me to believe that there was more than meets the eye regarding this structure. It felt as though it transcended being simply a shrine; instead, it served as the headquarters of the All-knowing confined within a box.
The Ka’bah, a box-shaped structure that everyone was astonished by, seemed to be rotating and spinning on its axis right in front of me. The constant rotation made me feel weak and my eyes burned from the bright white moonlight. I couldn’t look away, fearing that I might miss something. It felt as if the Ka’bah was about to spring alive any moment, while hundreds of patiently waiting people surrounded it.
I had travelled extensively to witness this event, enduring the scorching heat in a long white dress, which was not my typical attire. Throughout the arid desert, I faced hunger, thirst, and painful sunburn. However, this particular moment made all the hardships seem justified. The gratification I experienced immersing myself in that surroundings was unprecedented.
The Ka’bah, a structure built with bricks and covered in a luxurious black velvet cloth, featured verses from the glorious Qur’an that were sewn onto it with real gold thread, just like the image I had seen. The shimmering writing caught the sunlight and stood out distinctly from its surroundings in the area. The elegance of the black cloth was unparalleled, as nothing else in the entire area shared its color. Additionally, the flawless brickwork, credited to the father of Hebrew Abraham, was exceptionally attractive.
Observing this building more closely, I experienced a moment when the sound of the pilgrims chanting their rituals and the enticing smells of Arabian food seemed to fade away. The surroundings became enveloped in a silence that felt powerful and overwhelming. While everything continued as usual, I couldn’t hear any of it. A sense of panic overcame me as I thought I had suddenly become deaf. Then, I realized that my intense focus on the Ka’bah had caused me to become oblivious to all other sounds. It was as if my love for it had intoxicated me, making me blind and deaf to everything else. This brought to mind the famous saying of the messenger Muhammad: ‘Love blinds and deafens’.
Approaching the Ka’bah filled me with a thrilling sensation, causing every hair on my body to stand on end. The sight was both powerful and awe-inspiring, similar to a soldier standing tall before their commander-in-chief. Alongside numerous others, I took part in the rituals surrounding the Ka’bah, which surpassed all explanations given by my mother in my childhood. Positioned at the center of the universe, much like a nucleus within an atom, the magnificent building had four large protons occupying each corner. It remained constantly encircled by millions of people who resembled orbiting electrons as they engaged in their rituals. Against the dark night sky, the lights of the grand mosque shimmered like stars.
Water flowed from the well of Zam Zam as the pilgrims completed their Wudhu (ablution). I approached the well and as soon as the refreshing water touched my feet, an unfamiliar tingling sensation arose. While cleansing myself, I also cleansed away all impurities and sins from my physical being. I was overwhelmed with a sense of deep gratitude. This water was just as pure and delightful as the water offered to a repentant sinner upon their pardon from hell, right before entering paradise. That water truly satisfies every need they may have.
In the midst of a tornado, I found myself encircled by the warmest heat imaginable. The burning sensation in my feet was a result of standing on a marvelously crafted marble, adorned with heavenly colors. Gazing up at the spectacular door, I realized it was the largest door in existence – a gateway to paradise. The door was meticulously engraved with verses from the glorious Qur’an, highlighted with the most beautiful gold I had ever seen. As I touched the Ka’bah, an electric shock coursed through my body, sending waves of sensation through every cell. It was an unparalleled buzz, unlike anything else in the world. Running my hands along the door, it felt as if each verse was like being pricked by the sharpest needle imaginable. The experience resembled a car traversing an incredibly rough and bumpy road.
I observed the picturesque night sky, as darkness blanketed the clouds and silence filled the air. The sky dazzled with the brightness of the stars, flickering in perfect harmony. With unwavering focus, I gazed at the Ka’bah, allowing it to consume my attention. It became the center of my world, captivating me without end. Eventually, I surrendered to fatigue and closed my heavy eyelids. This place was truly remarkable, the epitome of excellence, and a paradise.