The nights have drawn in and a biting chill now pervades; the end of the year is upon us, and although time will, of course, carry forth seamlessly into what signifies the beginning of a new year, the now is oft a time of reflection. Whether impacted by trial and tribulation, or blessed with triumph, over the course of this year, life has been lived, and we have been moulded indelibly by our experiences. How exactly have I been changed and to what extent? What have I achieved? Am I broken or made, working on my healing, and if in deed it is the former, how should I now chart the course of repairing myself? So on and so forth. The questions you ask of yourself, and the relative scrutiny one can pile upon oneself when in a state of reflection can be unrelenting; we tend to be far more unforgiving of ourselves than when being of counsel to those we care about, holding ourselves to impossibly high standards. How then, do we go about utilising self-reflection constructively so as to recalibrate our course and find the resolve to pursue said course?
For me, this process begins with the finding of one’s peace. In the oft all-consuming routine preoccupations of life, moments of genuine peace can be relatively few in number. The re-imagining of such a moment in time within the recent past, in which a visceral and pervasive comfort was experienced, can readily lend itself to the clearing of mind and focusing of one’s energies thereafter. My peace is currently found through the revisiting of memory pertaining to an umrah I was fortunate enough to perform this past month.
لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لاَشَرِيْكَ لَكَ
It has rained heavily on a few occasions since my arrival; an unrelenting rain, more akin to the monsoon rains that sweep across northern Pakistan, for example. The sky remains overcast, an amalgam of greys and blues, heavy with a pleasantly warm moisture and the smell of formerly parched earth; an almost melancholy sky, but somehow beautiful still? I walk onto the white marble floors that surround the Masjid-al-Haram, it’s only just past 8am, and although umrah season is in full swing, there are relatively few in number present – mildly reassuring as I’ve a slight apprehension pertaining to navigating my way through large crowds of people, having to do so can leave me a little anxious. Prior experience, however, has taught me how to channel my energies so as to immerse myself fully in the worship itself. Save a general idea as to where my family may be at any given time, my mind tends only to be home to the echo of the recitations one undertakes whilst performing tawaf and sa’i.
I can feel my mood shift with every step taken towards Malik Abdul Aziz Gate, a stillness begins to make its way into my consciousness. It feels as though the adding of milk in the strongest of brewed teas looks; a milky cloud forming instantly, mushrooming until every last drop of tea is overcome, it’s composition changed irrevocably. I remove my slippers outside Malik Abdul-Aziz Gate, the white marble floors so very cool under my feet, and as I set foot into the Haram, a gust of equally cool wind blows inward, as though ushering me into its bounds.
How many times have I repeated the words of Tawheed thus far?
Labbayka Allahumma labbayk, labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Inna al-hamd wa’l-ni’mata laka wa’l-mulk, laa shareeka lak | Here I am, O Allah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty, You have no partner.
It is in this moment that I arrive. It is in this moment that these words have borne the sweetest of fruit; O Allah, here I am, here I finally stand, drawn close to You. It is in this moment that I am overcome, my disposition changed in its entirety, the strongest of brewed tea finally changed wholly in its composition; nothing save the anticipation of that first sight of the ka’bah, and the dua I would like to make, occupies my mind. I am calm.
I can hear my mother’s voice talking to the little girl she once carried into the haram in her arms, explaining how upon setting eyes on the ka’bah for the first time, I should make dua for all and sundry, for mercy, guidance, patience and more. And just like that the ka’bah comes into view; my eyes widen at the sight of worshippers moving in rhythmic unison around it and the echo of their recitation rising upwards towards the heavens, the brilliant white of many thousand ihrams a stark contrast to the magnificent black of the kiswah. My hands rise instinctively and I begin to make dua. It is in this moment that aforementioned calm has permeated every fibre of my being and I have found my peace. I am at peace.
So, where were we?
How exactly have I been changed and to what extent? What have I achieved? Am I broken or made, working on my healing, and if in deed it is the former, how should I now chart the course of repairing myself? Find your peace; re-live your moment, then ease into asking yourself whatever you may please. You may find that with said peace, a clarity of thought, an altered perspective, pervades. You may find that the answers to questions you ask of yourself are somehow measured; you are kinder to you, and you may well find yourself in command of the resolve required to walk your path hereafter, inshAllah.