Saturday, 19 December 2009
So after checking in with the Hilton, making sure I had my ID tag and my wrist band on, I headed with a few of the brothers to perform an Umrah. (For a detailed look at what are the rituals involved in the Umrah, visist this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umrah)
Our hotel: (Hilton Makkah)
I was apprehensive as we headed towards the Haram Sharif (the Grand Mosque where the Kaaba is located is also called that). One misconception that I'd like to clear up is that the Kaaba (the black cube we circumnavigate around) is not actually the mosque. The area around it is known as the Grand Mosque, this is the only mosque in the world that has a four direction Qibla (direction of prayer).
Why was I apprehensive? Well I was on he greatest religious journey one could imagine, full of trials and tribulations. It's said that when you see the Kaaba for the first time on your journey, hold your gaze as long as possible and make as many prayers as you can because in that instant you are directly connected to God and any prayer that you make at that time that is beneficial to you will be granted.
Since we were staying in the Hilton, we were close to the King Fahd Gate to the Grand Mosque. There are a bunch of gates leading to the mosque and towards the Kaaba but the only one I remember is the King Fahd one (by name) It was also called Bab-e-Fahd (I think), which also means King Fahd Gate. If you look at the picture above, the marble part is actually part of the King Fahd gate and we were looking towards the hotel from the gate.
As we began to approach the Grand Mosque, we kept repeating:
"Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik. Labbaik Laa Shareeka Laka Labbaik Innal Hamda Wannimata laka walmulk Laa Shareeka Lak"
“I respond to Your call my Lord I respond to You, there is no deity save You. All praise, grace and dominion belong to You. You have no partners.”
Regrading "the call" that is the call towards pilgrimage which we, as Muslims, must complete once in our lifetime if we can afford it. Little Brother Imran was happily clicking away with his camera and then he said, "Whoa." I kept my eyes to the ground, wanting to keep my gaze lowered until I was up close to the Kaaba so that I wouldn't break my concentration and when I finally did look at it, I would be able to keep my gaze locked as long as possible.
"Brother, brother, you have got to see this," Imran said as he tugged on my Ihram. (The Ihram is the outfit we wear when performing the Hajj. It consists of two plain towel like sheets, wrapped around our bodies kind of like a toga. We wear these to symbolize unity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, to show that in the eyes of God, we are equal, there is no rich, poor, healthy, sick, we are just Muslim). I finally looked up and this is what we saw:
The Kaaba was also wearing the Ihram since it was the month of Hajj. Once the Hajj is completed, the white portion of the covering is removed and the Kaaba goes back to it's normal black covering.
As you can see there were plenty of people there but since it was still pretty early on, there weren't as many Hajjis (people who have done or are doing the Hajj are known as Hajjis) there. The swine flu scare was pretty rampant though so many people had on masks as they circled the Kaaba.
As I gazed upon the Kaaba, I tried to think of as many prayers I could and tried keeping my eyes directly on the Kaaba. After blinking, I looked at Imran's father and wrote on my note pad, "Should we do Tawaf?" The Tawaf is walking around the Kaaba 7 times in a counterclockwise direction while praising God by saying "Allahu Akbar" meaning God is Great.
Again I'm going to use Wikipedia as a source to explain the Tawaf rituals
"The circle begins from the Black Stone on the corner of the Ka-bah. If possible, muslims are to kiss or touch it, but this is often not possible because of the large crowds, so it is acceptable for them to simply point at the Stone on each circuit. They are also to make the Takbeer prayer (Allahu Akbar) each time they approach.
For men, it is recommended to make the first three circuits at a hurried pace, followed by four times, more closely, at a leisurely pace.
At the end of the circling, Muslims go to the Station of Ibrahim to pray two rak'ahs, and then try if possible to drink water from the sacred Well of Zamzam, before proceeding to the next ritual of the Hajj, the Sa'i." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tawaf)
Well that's my update for today, stay tuned for part 4 of my exciting Saga (Muahahahaha! Eh, I felt like doing that)