September 15, 2015
When I woke up the morning after [Umrah], I was afraid to go outside. I was afraid of the crowd. But more than that, I was afraid that I would look at the Ka’ba with an empty heart.
[However,] I knew that sitting and stewing in my hotel was not only a waste of time, but wouldn’t help me find the answers or understanding I was seeking. So I got dressed and headed out. I went into the [Haram] and found a spot to pray… I felt like I was having a crisis of faith. After prayer, I walked over to the railings overlooking the Ka’ba (I was on the third floor). And this is what I saw: people. People moving steadily, as if the crowd was water, all at once fluid and solid. I continued walking around the second floor, the Ka’ba always on my left, like I was performing another Tawaf. And as I walked, I kept glancing to my left. It’s not like I was expecting it to be gone, but everytime I did, I could see it from a different angle. And always, always the people.
In front of me: people.
To my left: people.
To my right: people.
White people, black people, everything in between. Within the span of a few footsteps, I could see people from all over the world: Iran, Indonesia, Somalia, Nigeria, China, Bosnia, Pakistan, India, of all shapes and sizes and cultures, men and women—and at the center of it all, the Ka’ba. The focal point of our prayers. The locus of humanity. The spoke in the wheel.
To my left was the Ka’ba; to my right, across the world, a man in Alberta could be praying in this direction. A few more steps, and a woman in Greenland could be praying in this direction. A few more steps, and China. A few more, and Germany. To my right, people around the world were praying to the Ka’ba on my left. And to my left, people from around the world were circling the Ka’ba in worship. The Ka’ba, at the center of it all. God at the center of everything.
Islam—from the very beginning with Adam—has always been about people and their relationship with God. It has been preserved in the hearts of mankind since our creation—Islam, submission to God, our natural state. And here, in this holy city, mankind has come to show their submission to God.
“And proclaim unto mankind the pilgrimage. They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine, that they may witness things that are of benefit to them…” (22: 27-28)
We finished Umrah by about 6:30 AM, and so I slept until noon. When I woke up, I was afraid to go outside. I was afraid of how I would feel. In the year leading up to Hajj, I kept telling myself that I would feel a certain way—rapturous, spiritual, emotional—when I finally encountered the Ka’ba. And when I didn’t feel that way, I felt guilty, confused, empty. On the contrary: I was scared. In moments of trial like these, simply walking is a great remedy to clear my mind. And so I figured why not walk around the Ka’ba? I would stay on the upper levels and stay away from the massive crowds.
Looking out at the crowd of people circling the Ka’ba is almost hypnotic. It’s like watching planets rotating around a sun. And rather than telling myself how I was supposed to feel, I just let myself feel how I wanted.
It was in this moment where I began to feel the universality of Islam. People from all around the world were gathered here, a large and diverse collection of humanity all there for the same purpose: to worship God. I began to understand the significance of the Ka’ba. It was not just a building; it was a gathering place and a focal point for mankind to worship their Creator. The tenants of Islam are universal, for all people; you don’t have to be from a specific part of the world to accept it and follow it. Everything from the Qur’an to the life of Prophet Muhammed (p) has been there as a guide to show mankind how to worship God.