The Chained Chair…The Blessing of Having a Guide

I would like to share a series of reflections that were written last year after I went on Umrah with my husband and ten year old daughter. Our accommodations were at a good distance from the Haram, we had no one with us to help and the crowds were greater than ever before, a grand seven million! I am not saying I wouldn’t do it again in an eye blink, I am not saying we did not benefit and enjoy our stay. Just that things were more difficult than I expected, and that each situation was laden with myriad pointers.


Lesson One: The Chained Chair…..The Blessing of Having a Guide
Our last day in Mecca was physically grueling. We were up almost all night, then fajr jama’a, then over an hour’s search for an empty space to pray Eid, then another two hours to get to the Kaba and tawaf of farewell, and then the long walk back to the hotel. After some quick last minute packing, the two hour trip to Jedda is something I am looking forward to. I can’t wait to get into a cool spacious GMC car to catch up on some sleep.
To my surprise the forty-five degree celsius temperature (113 F) outside is no different inside the car, maybe worse because the tinted windows are closed. When we ask for the AC, we get unintelligible mumbles. When I ask for the windows to be rolled down (to get through to him that we are that desperately hot) he swears he will do no such thing – in the city. “Once we leave the city, you can get the sea breeze”. And so it is that we travel to Jedda, with an oven-hot, scorching ‘sea breeze’, blowing full blast in my face, shriveling my brain to a raisin in my baking skull. The air is so hot mirages shimmer inside the very space of the car.
  “Some people find the heat uncomfortable” the driver chuckles conversationally, “frankly, I never could adjust to the cold.” And so rattles on his dinosaur of a car. I feel like a toasted lizard, no, like an eyeball-searing-white, sun-bleached bone, that’s been in the desert for years. I try to imagine the heat as something comfortable and cozy. I try to imagine the cold as he views it, perhaps something that slithers through cracks and wraps its unwelcome clammy fingers around one. I normally have a vivid imagination, but this heat interferes with my ability to even pretend.
When I finally arrive at the airport, I am not only exhausted from all the walking, stiff from the position I sat in to avoid the sun in the car, but terribly hot as well. The line we stand in snakes into the folds of two S’s and I can barely hold myself up. Then I see the chair.
There are two of them side by side, black leather, swivel, large and with arm rests. A woman sits in one with her belongings around her. The other is invitingly empty. I can’t believe my luck. I look for some catch; does it belong to some employee? Is it connected to some desk? Nothing unusual about it but a thick iron chain wrapped around the metal base that seems to fasten it to the ground. I claim it quickly and the first few minutes are pure bliss. Then I start getting banged up.
The chair is against a wall and across from a long line of trolleys. The narrow space between my chair and the trolleys is a pathway for passengers pushing their luggage on trolleys. Invariably a bag or more would stick out and bang into my knee or shin, if I turned the chair it would hit my thigh. At first, I figured it was just that one person or two who had to pass through, but as their numbers increased and their haste, I began to get seriously bruised. Still too tired to stand in line with my family, I suffered my fate resignedly.
Then came the unexpected guide, someone who saw the true picture, who wasn’t taken in by appearances, someone who didn’t accept a difficult situation unquestionably. “Ya Hajjah, just move your chair out of the pathway to the side!”
“I would, but don’t you see the chains?!” I ask
“The chains have been cut off, just move the chair.”
And I did. And it did. And I was out of the trolleys’ pathway and still in my comfortable chair!
And I wondered at all the chairs we suffer pain in, just because we believe them to be chained, just because we are taken in by appearances. And I thanked God for the passing ‘guides’ whose passing interest in us is just to make things easier for us and others, by showing us the reality of the situation we are in.
So, look at the chair you are sitting in, are you sure it is really chained? And listen to your guide, even if only a passing one.
Umrah’s Life Lessons #1: The Chained Chair…..The Blessing of Having a Guide
Umrah’s Life Lessons #2: On Dirty Clothes and the Volume of Sin
Umrah’s Life Lessons #3: The Deprived Citizens of the Land of ‘Good-Enough’
Umrah’s Life Lessons #4: On Three of the Components of Happiness…and making anyplace ‘home’
Umrah’s Life Lessons #5: The Arrogance of feeling incensed…How difficulties expose the diseases of the heart
Umrah’s Life Lessons #6: Real life is raw, sans glamor… but naturally sweet
Umrah’s Life Lessons #7: Burning passion required to accomplish…anything worth accomplishing
Umrah’s Life Lessons #8: To teach: understand… experience… respect
Umrah’s Life Lessons #9: The Ummah’s Prescription: moving a step beyond mundane motherhood


One response to “The Chained Chair…The Blessing of Having a Guide”

  1. Alhumdulilah for the blessings of guidance, in every shape, form, time, and place! May Allah continue to bless us with loving guidance. Ramadan Kareem to our guides and to my fellow travelers. Love!

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