Dealing with a small bout of homesickness. Not surprising; ever since going to Camp Maskepetoon when I was 11, I’ve had to deal with varying degrees of homesickness when I’m away from home and everything that’s comfortable. But this isn’t Camp Maskepetoon. This is Saudi Arabia. I had to help one of the brothers in our group recharge his pre-paid phone, and I found myself just listening to the automated voice explain menu options in English. The pre-recorded lines were comforting… On top of that we’re leaving our hotel and going to some place called Aziziyah which is like an apartment and then Hajj starts in just a few days so now things around me are changing…
We’re now staying at Aziziyah, which is on the outskirts of Mecca. It’s like a dormitory: rooms have 4 beds in them, and a shared washroom (which is literally a toilet in a shower stall). Dinner is buffet style. Beds are hard and pillows are thin. I think it’s good training for Hajj.
A while ago, I was out with a friend and he asked me if I ever thought about becoming a sheikh. And the truth is that, yes, I have thought of doing so.
Many times I’ve thought about leaving to study Islam overseas. There was something almost romantic about leaving the world behind and going to live in Medina and study Islam with scholars. Every time I hear someone tell me about these kind of experiences, I can’t help but feel a twinge of (positive) jealousy. Ever since I was in university, I was drawn to scholarly learning and teaching. Studying the religion in-depth appealed to me. Prophet Muhammad (p) once said, “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” When it comes to knowledge, Islam is like a giant ocean; you can spend your life safely wading along the shallows, or dive into its bottomless depths.
During my Hajj journey, there was a sheikh in our group who was a young guy, about my age, and I think he grew up in Texas or some place in the States. But at some point after (or during) university, he decided to move to Medina and study Islam. He was a great guide and was warm and relatable and also very knowledgeable. But I saw in him a version of myself that I could have been.
However, my experiences in Hajj also taught me something very important: Canada is my home. Its people are my people. My life is in Canada. There on the other side of the world, in the extreme heat and unfamiliarity of a culture that wasn’t mine, I longed to be home. I came to realize that I don’t think I could live that dream, to study Islam in a foreign country. But more importantly, I realized that perhaps I wasn’t meant to live that dream. God places people where He wants them. And now, more than ever, I feel like my place is here, in Edmonton. I look at the Muslim community here at home, and the hard working volunteers and the struggle that Muslims go through on a daily basis. I realize that I can do more good here than I can living across the world in a foreign land, living the life of a scholar. I believe I’m where I’m meant to be, with who I’m meant to be with, doing what I’m meant to do.
I may never become a sheikh. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a good Muslim, and a good man.