As the tale goes, Makkah is the centre of Abrahamic religions, the home of God and the only direction to Him. It is for this reason that millions across the globe face this simplistic cube as they perform their five prayers on a daily basis. We turn towards it, raise our hands and profess the Greatness of God. We shed tears in its direction and we humble ourselves until the peak of our crown touches the lowest of earth. This is the Kaaba, built by the hands of Prophet Ibrahim and the house of The Ultimate Creator. This is Makkah the home of the Greatest human being to ever roam the earth. This is Arabia where one of the worlds greatest and fastest growing religions was first established.
So why did I fail to find God in the holiest site on earth?
I was surrounded by millions in white, flowing around the Kaaba in a singular motion, gushing from one mount to the other like a river, buzzing around Arafat like bees on flowers. And yet as beautiful as the bigger picture may sound and seem, it dramatically differs once you refocus it. On one hand, you have the rush of millions on your path trying to execute the same rituals in minimal time, groups penetrating through while men barge past. On the other hand are the distractions of the construction sites, the cranes and the buildings towering over the Kaaba. Nevertheless, I genuinely prayed, genuinely supplicated, fulfilled my duties and left; wondering whether there was something wrong with me or if, God forbid, my heart had just not been allowed to enter Makkah with my body.
I underestimated the absolute physical and mental strength it takes to embark on this journey and was surprised at the way in which I, my self and my body reacted to the situation. Whilst taking part in what you would expect to be the most beautiful rituals of our religion, I questioned them. Why am I circling this cube not once but seven times? What in God’s name is the point of that? Why does the Creator of the Universe want me to walk from this side of the mosque to the other side seven times? How is this meant to change my life? Nevertheless, I continued to genuinely pray, genuinely supplicate and fulfill my duties.
The journey was amazing no doubt. In fact, and as cliche as it may sound; it was a true test of faith and patience. It throws you to what seems like the pits of hell and yet you come out on the other side through the gates of heaven. You truly see the Oneness of God and the universality of our beautiful deen come together in harmony. It is a hustle and bustle, yes, but it is the most beautiful chaos you will ever witness. Millions of souls from different backgrounds, each one as unique as the next, each one as different as the next, each one as distinct and colourful as the next. And yet, they are all here besides me in the same clothing, performing the same acts and praising the same Lord. A stunning, organised chaos.
Upon returning home, I noticed a serious negative change in my physical life; some were minor whilst others were heavier. My mood and attitude took a good flip and I felt a sense of despair and anger. Negative thoughts naturally transpired into tears and it was then and there, in my bedroom thousands of miles away from the Holy land where I finally felt the presence of God. I flashbacked to all those petty rituals we were made to do and realised their purpose. It doesn’t matter if they make sense or not, it doesn’t matter whether we are made to repeat them seven times or seventy times; the point is these are commands from God and the Ummah travels to Makkah every year to obey and renew their allegiance to Him. It makes no difference whether you are a CEO or a maid; at that moment in time, you and I are performing the same act because we were told to do so; a duty to be fulfilled.
And yet here I was back from a journey of a lifetime complaining about all the things that had gone wrong. Had I forgotten all the favours I requested from God? All the genuine prayers and supplications? How do I have the audacity to complain when I personally asked God for this shake up in my life? He was answering my every prayer and I hadn’t even noticed.
The reason why I felt Him here and not there is because I was forced to break here, and thus I was forced to finally open up to God. Have you ever noticed how much closer you are to Him when you are in need of Him? Have you ever noticed the difference in sincerity when you need to pray and when you have to pray? The truth is God is not in Makkah, he is not in a Mosque and he is not in a Church and that is because He cannot be limited to the confinements of these places we insist He is in. God resides in the tears of the oppressed, in the hearts of the harmed and in the words of all those who call to Him.