On Three of the Components of Happiness…and making anyplace ‘home’


Umrah’s Life Lessons #4: On Three of the Components of Happiness…and making anyplace ‘home’

The day we performed Umrah was a long day. It started in Medina, walking, walking, walking to visit the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, walking back to the hotel elated, packing and taking the trip to Abyar Ali to do Ihram for our Umrah; then the long trip to Mecca. In Mecca too, another two hours of driving during and after Maghrib to reach our hotel, on account of getting lost and traffic, and then the walk to the Haram. By the time we had finished seven times of tawaf and seven times of sa’ee, we were exhausted. The walk back to the hotel must have been the hardest thing I had to do on the whole trip. My feet felt like two stumps of throbbing agony engulfing me in excruciating pain, what with the fact we had not eaten yet and I probably had low blood sugar, it was understandable that visions of foot amputations danced in my head. So was it any wonder that my face did not show any happiness on the long walk back? But that was commented on, too.
So the next morning, I am rested but still annoyed. I look around me and figure out it must be our room. Here I am in Mecca with an Umrah just accomplished, and I cannot transport myself beyond my surroundings. The hotel we are staying in as a building is very fancy and new, but this is the height of the high season and it seems the standards for cleanliness cannot be kept up. Once I let in the man responsible for our floor to clean and was revolted by his method; anyway the floors remained streaked and the bathroom dirty. I wasn’t about to lose my Umrah fighting with him. I am not a neat-freak, nor do I suffer from OCD concerning cleanliness, but the smudges on the wall and the general chaos of the room and the filthy floors are making me miserable. So I decide to take my mood into my hands and with the help of Fatimah, we tidy up the room. We smooth the sheets we brought with us over theirs, put the ridiculous blankets away, find a nook for all the bags, stack our books and put away the clothes. Then we go to taraweeh.
The area just outside the Haram is all marbled and rigged up with fans that spray a mist of cold water to temper the heat. There are several roped in areas overflowing with women. The ropes are to keep their prayer rugs from spilling into the pathways leading to and from the Mosque. But the pathways are wider than needed and from my Medina experience I know that they will expand the area once the prayer starts by moving the posts and stretching the thin plastic roping. No sooner do we put down our prayers rugs behind a woman in a wheelchair then the attacks begin. “Move your rug!” “No, you can’t.” “Pathway, pathway!” (which it really wasn’t at all). The women inside are as crammed as they can get, so seeing no alternative, we stay and pray Isha and we are left in peace. It seems the fard prayer is one they do not bother anyone in, so when I begin to pray the first two rak’as of taraweeh, this officer in a long robe and cloak takes it as a personal affront. He whips up my rug from in front of me and throws my bag aside. “Stop your prayer! I told you before not to pray here, stop your prayer!” Poor Fatimah interrupts hers and runs after our things. She stands next to me to defend me while I pray. “By God you will neither do ruku nor sujood,” he swears and he stands facing me, his anger shows one whose patience has worn thin. This is our first taraweeh in Mecca since the first night we did Umrah, and the reading is beautiful and long. Finally he turns his back to me, still as close as ever, then he moves on. The guards who witnessed this take it upon themselves to stand with their boots where I would go down for sujood. The two rak’as over, we move to the back of the area and find a friendly guard there making room for two rugs, quick as quick we slip under the rope and spread our carpets. He smiles, “I was getting that ready for someone else he says, yalla it is your naseeb. Welcome to it.” He keeps up a light and humorous conversation with the women trying to break through. “Come on, you really believe you would fit in there? By God if I thought half of you would fit, I would let you in. Go try over there…” I turn to Fatimah, my maternal teaching instincts getting the better of me, “You see why Prophet Muhammad peace and blessing be upon him, said ‘Al Deen al Mu’amalah’? You see why one’s religion is reflected in how they treat others? Both guards were doing their job, one with harmful behavior and harsh words and the other with kind and gentle ones.”
Back at the hotel, I go to work making our hotel room ‘home’. I scour the sinks and bathtub, then scrub the bathroom floor until the water poured over it runs clear. With an-about-to-be-grown-out-of T-shirt of Fatimah’s, I wash the greasy, sooty smudges from all the walls. Now I am ready to do the floors. I find with all my weight and age, where there is a will there is a way. I am actually able to bend over and do all the floors (not on my knees) thrice! Once with soapy water, and twice with clear water until they gleam. “Look, Fatimah, what do you think?” I beam. The room is fluttering with angels, I feel like I am in the Haram. The room looks beautiful and clean, it even smells different! I dip a wet wash cloth in ‘itr and hang it out to further perfume the room. We spend the night reading Quran and praying.
As she helps me get suhoor ready, Fatimah turns to me knowingly and says, “The three most important things in life are: neatness, cleanliness and treating people kindly, right Mama?” I smile.  Should I worry, I wonder? Am I giving the child reason to make simplistic conclusions? I decide for a ten year-old it is a good beginning . I smile at her, “Well, they certainly do help make you happy,” I say.
Read Umrah’s Life Lessons #5

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