We made our way into the vast courtyard of the Haram housing the Ka’aba, to perform the umrah (minor hajj) and, in the process, also to get my first physical glimpse of the famous Ka’aba. It was really a mesmerizing moment for me. I felt my heartbeat grow faster and my pulse rise and a strong feeling of awe and excitement gripped me as my eye caught sight of the holiest shrine in Islam – the Ka’aba – of which I had heard and read about so often and which had always held an alluring fascination to my imagination. The cool evening air was filled with the fragrant and hypnotic chant in praise of the Lord by the milling crowd of pilgrims doing the taw’waf around the Ka’aba :
“Labaik, Allahummah Labbaik !
 (”I’ve heard the Call, O God ! Here I am !
You have no partner.
Here I am at your service.
Verily to you belong all Praise and Benevolence and Sovereignty.
you have no partner !”)

The sight of the huge crowd of pilgrims doing the taw’waf is a humbling experience for us, mortals. It is overpowering and emotionally mind-blowing to behold the taw’waf the highest deck at the Ka’aba. The sight is unique and breath-taking. It is an unparalleled cosmic scene with a sea of humanity swirling around the most fabulous he Ka’aba that symbolizes God’s House on Earth. It is, without doubt, a most tangible demonstration of the Power and Majesty of God on earth and the adherence and devotion of his Creations to His commands
Indeed, if one hankers to see the marvelous hold faith in God has on Believers and their submission to His will and eagerness to fulfill His commands in the face of all odds, one should come to the Ka’aba and watch the sea of pilgrims perform the taw’waf. One would decidedly conclude at that unequalled sight that the taw’waf is a solemn exercise that is symbolic of the Power and Glory of God on
Earth to all who have faith in Him. The Hajj experience is, to a Hajee, very unique as is, undoubtedly, the whole auspicious occasion itself. Nowhere else in the world does one see such a huge sea of humanity comprising every nationality and race that inhabits the earth, converge to the Holy City of Mecca, to fulfill God’s commands and seek His forgiveness. It is a gathering that has no parallel in human history. So much so, the Hajj experience not only helps affirm but also and invigorate one’s faith in God and, understandably, it endures with us as one of those very glorious moments in our lives that will stay with us till the end of our days. I know because I’ve experienced it.
The towering Black Cubicle
It was the first time that I was standing in front of the Ka’aba and gazing at the towering Black Cubicle draped in its glorious black cloak adorned with Qur’anic inscriptions in eye-catching Arabic calligraphy in gold. I stood in awe and mesmerized at the sight.
The Ka’aba is huge and imposing ; and commanding ; and intimidating too ! It looks ever grand ! Ever majestic ! I felt overwhelmed with emotion. ‘Glory be to God, ‘ I found myself saying to myself. ‘All praise be to God. There’s no god but God and there is none like him. ‘ My heart literally shook inside me and, I felt overcome with emotion. Tears came to my eyes as I gazed at the Ka’aba – the first House of God built on earth while thousands of pilgrims swirled around it in taw’waf, chanting His praise and glory. It was a sight that I would never ever forget. Thoughts of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) came to my head and my emotion grew. I knew that I was treading the very ground that was once trod by the Prophet Muhammad himself some fourteen centuries ago. Indeed, I had not the least doubt that I was standing on hallowed ground.
The taw’waf around the Ka’aba is an act of worship ; it is a ritual unique in the history of the humankind. It consists of going seven times (anti-clock-wise) around the Ka’aba. As a matter of fact, the first Ka’aba was built by Adam at God’s command. However, that House was destroyed in the Flood ; so it was rebuilt on the same spot by the Prophet Abraham, and his son Ishmael at God’s command. So much so, Muslims doing the taw’waf around the Ka’aba, are carrying on a tradition that goes way back to the time of Prophet Abraham and which, in the process, reminds every pilgrim that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not bring any new religion into the world but rather he brought perfection and the finality to the same monotheistic faith – Islam – that was preached by the earlier Prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon all of them).
To a Muslim, who fulfills the rituals of Hajj, is a very satisfying spiritual experience ; which also, in most cases, culminates in the fulfillment of what is generally a life-time wish and dream. Yet no two pilgrims experience the glories of Hajj the same way. In Islam, man’s relationship with God is a very personal one. To God and to God alone is a Muslim answerable for his/her all her actions. God alone is the judge of all his/her actions and deeds. So much so, the Hajj becomes all the more a poignant and an emotional experience to a Muslim as it is an act of worship enjoined on them by God and in doing so, they in fact honor a religious tradition that goes back several centuries in time. It is therefore understandable that whoever has lived the Hajj experience ever feels its impact on his/her day to day life. It is an experience that cleanses him/her of all sins. God Al-Mighty forgives all his/her shortcomings and trespasses. So much so, the onus then falls on the hujjaj to keep it that way.
A mind-boggling sight
The hujjaj (pilgrims) usually arrive in Mecca two to three weeks ahead of the Hajj – which not only enables them to familiarize themselves with the place but also gives more time to spend in ibaddat (worship) in the Haram (Grand Mosque) ; perform the taw’waf around the Ka’aba, drink from the Well of Zam Zam and also do the Sai, which consists of running seven times between the two hills of Safa and Marwa – a re-enactment of the desperate run for water of Hagar, wife of Prophet Abraham, who had left her infant son, Ishmael, in the valley of Mecca near the Ka’aba at God’s command. The poor mother desperately scoured the desert sand for water for her baby, who was crying of thirst. Finally, God came to her rescue causing water to ooze out of the sand that became the sacred Well of Zam Zam. The blessed Well still exists within the precinct of the Haram and millions have been drinking its blessed water for generations and there seems no end of it. Besides, it is required of all pilgrims to drink from the Well and, as they do, they remember God and thank Him for his Bounty and Mercy. Indeed, remembering and worshipping God is what Hajj is all about. In fact, it is the only thought that occupies the pilgrims’ mind while they are in Holy city.
The Hajj crowd is a mind-boggling sight. It baffles the mind and arouses tremendous emotion by virtue of its mammoth size and the spiritual fervor that oozes out from the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who gather in the Holy City from every corner of the world, braving the odds and going through great sacrifices and hardships to fulfill the command of God ; to undertake what is to them the journey of their life-time. It is therefore not unusual to see pilgrims, often overwhelmed with emotion, crying like children at the Ka’aba.
Hajj is, after all a spiritual and very personal experience. Only the pilgrims and God know the magnanimous feelings that brim their heart as they stand at the “House of God” and seek His Mercy and Munificence.
(to be continued)
1) Moomtaz Emrith : Hajj – A very personal experience – The journey of a lifetime (14th and 15th October 2011 ; Forum)