July 18, 2008
A Journey from the Sacred Valley
A little more than a month ago there was a movie playing on MBC2 called Juggernaut. It was about a ship that was about to explode of bombs planted by a smart terrorist (a pre- Qaeda movie). The chief of the bomb squad team was having an interesting conversation with the captain of that ship about life and death. Till they got to the point where he looked the captain into the eyes and asked him “What did the goldfish say?” and as the captain looked puzzled the bomb squad chief completed “There must be a God … I mean who changed the water?!!!”
That goldfish swimming in the tiny tank thinking that it is a whole world was the only picture I had in mind for the past 10 days. The moment I laid feet in Medina and mingled with the crowds I knew that we are just different shaped goldfishes who know that there must be a God because someone keeps changing the water. It wasn’t until I headed to Mecca for Umrah when I knew that it is not about the fact that there must be a God, it is really about how I perceived this fact into my life.
It wasn’t easy for a person like me to perform the Umrah rituals. For someone who weighs actions with commonsense and for a true believer of the Oneness of God performing such rituals of Tawaf & S’ai seemed out of this world. It wasn’t till I laid feet in “Masjid al-Haram” when I really knew that whatever I am going to do is the most honest proof that I do acknowledge that there is a God. I am doing a ritual because it was never about the stone or the ritual itself. It is about letting go and believing that the force does exist. And that there was never a way to run and there will never be a way to hide.
The moment I started circumbating Kaaba and started saying my little prayers I felt that force taking over me. I felt how arrogant and disgraceful a human can be. I felt how tiny a human is. I knew that this hand that keeps changing the water is literally everything and everywhere. By the end of every cycle I learnt something new, by the end of the Tawaf I knew that who ever started it wasn’t the same person who ended it. The new person is someone who learnt to let go and accept whatever that force decide. I was a believer but I guess it wasn’t till I was done with my Tawaf till I exercised that belief.
As a new believer I moved to perform my final ritual of S’ai , where I have to move back and forth between the hills of Safa & Marwa. If Tawaf was the thing that taught me to let go, it was S’ai that let me to discover the need of humans to have a religion & a ritual, a ritual that symbolize things that they know and things that they can’t understand ,a ritual that address the unknown part of the human construction, the soul.
As I stood up the Safa saying what the prophet (PBUH) said at the very same position “I start from where God started “and reciting what God said in Quran “Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of Allah. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times, should compass them round, it is no sin in them. And if any one obeyeth his own impulse to good,- be sure that Allah is He Who recogniseth and knoweth." I discovered that the soul is like anything else in this life that needs to be maintained in order to fully function. And because the soul is the unexplained part of the human construction, it has always needed some unexplained forms of maintenance that took different forms of rituals over history. Being it a polytheism religion or a monotheism one whether it is a Hindu Circumambulation of a temple or a Jewish weeping on the Wailing Wall. That soul has always needed a way to keep emotional sanity, a ritual to purify and get closer to that invisible hand, the force that keeps changing the water.
I moved back and forth between the two hills and the more tired I got the more I got closer to the core of that ritual. The more tired I got the more I related this ritual with many different rituals that included physical effort, where a person approach different degrees of tiredness. I came to the point where I discovered that this physical tiredness was one of the rarest moments when I managed to stop thinking without falling asleep. I turned to be a tongue that praises God, an eye that sees the way drawn by that invisible hand. It was the unexplainable soul in command of the situation. By the end of the seventh round the fear that got over me with my first steps into the sacred mosque subsided to be a form of satisfaction and a different form of inner peace.
When I finally packed to get back home, I knew that my journey wasn’t a journey to the sacred valley as it was supposed to be. My journey started from that sacred valley, my real journey is a journey to re-discover another sacred valley that resided deep inside me. A sacred valley that resides in each and every one of us, the place where we know that hiding is of no use as God is everywhere, the place where we believe that running is no good as God is everything.
Before leaving I said that I am not the type of person who smiles proposing toasts for ends and new beginnings. I am still that very same person; I didn’t miraculously discover myself, God or even the deepest philosophies of this world. The only difference that I am aware of is that now I know where the sign to the road of letting go is. Now I know that sometimes I can stop thinking without falling asleep. Now I can see the light emerging from me secret sacred valley.
To that light and that goldfish who led the way to believe!