The Deprived Citizens of the Land of ‘Good-Enough’

Umrah’s Life Lessons #3: The Deprived Citizens of the Land of ‘Good-Enough’
Did I mention that it was a twenty to thirty minute brisk walk to the outer premises of the Haram from our hotel? Any other month, a car would have taken us along the freeway practically to the door of the Haram. Now all traffic was blocked from the surrounding streets and we had to walk the most direct street down to the Mosque. First we went under several freeways, then there was a souk reminiscent of Middle Eastern souks only it wasn’t covered, this continued to include a few empty lots full of rubble, a small mosque and a few hotels.  Then another street merged into this one, turning the two into a wide street with fancy tower hotels and food shops on either side. Halfway down that street was the ‘tent’. Wide swaths of semi sheer cloth were draped from one side of the street to the next creating a delicately shaded area. Now it was a mere ten minutes to the outer vicinity of the Haram. We took this path back and forth at least twice a day.
We knew that if one wanted to pray taraweeh in the Haram, one had to leave ahead of time. Each day we left a little earlier. Each prayer we set a higher goal – one closer to the Haram, closer to the Kaba. We discovered that there were times of day that were less crowded than others, and when it was worth plowing through a crowd going at an inchworm’s speed and when it wasn’t. We learned where the bottleneck traffic occurred and that if we reached the tent area and people had filled the road with their cardboard pieces and carpets it was pretty hopeless to push on.
Often people would start spreading their carpets on the side of the street favoring a dry spot free of AC drippings or a thin strip of shade at the edges. Mostly these were the elderly and the women who didn’t have the strength to stand their ground among the masses. For there were times when one would go too far, not find a place and wish he had settled for a more distant spot.
Before the narrow street merged into a wider one stood a respectable looking hotel. It was not a tower building, but through the glass sliding doors one could see a clean spacious reception hall. Invariably, the patrons of that hotel would have their prayer rugs spread out in the street just outside the hotel. Sometimes the lines of praying people reached them, but mostly they were like a little island unto themselves. Even the times of day when it would have been possible to make it easily to the Haram, even when it was still early enough to make it, that is where they chose to pray. I am almost certain that some of them never set foot in the Haram, perhaps many of them only saw the Kaba when they performed Umrah. It was like good enough was good enough for them. They put forth no effort and were totally satisfied to be where they were, and so that is where they ended up.
And I remembered the story of the Messenger, peace and blessing be upon him, when he heard someone praying to just make it into heaven and he told him, ‘when you ask, ask for the High Firdaus!’  So often we limit ourselves and gingerly nibble at what is fully and rightfully ours. If you accept what is less for yourself, then that is what you will receive.
One makes friends on such a trip in the most unlikely places. Strange as it may seem, I have walked away from every tawaf of farewell with a close friend. Once it was a group of dainty Malaysian girls whom I fiercely protected from the pressing crowds. This time it was a tall powerful African woman who was making dua. Her back was straight and there were no wrinkles in her face, but her eyes had the intensity that only come from wisdom and age. And her voice captivated me. She did not whine or beg or weep; she did not make her dua in a sing-song chant. She called out to Allah in a strong, insisting, commanding voice that was both confident and respectful. I turned to her as she passed me by and seized her hand in both of mine in a gesture that was between a handshake and a salute. That is how one should pray, I thought.
And I thought of the slave and Bishr al Hafi. How on a dark night after all of Baghdad had prayed the prayer of asking for rain, to no avail, and just as he was about to close up the masjid, a black slave strode in, prayed two quick rak’as and raised his arms saying, “By Your love for me, make it rain!”.  And how when the sky broke forth in a sheets of rain, a dazed Bishr, rushed after him to ask timidly, “How do you know that He loves you?” And the amused answer was, “You must be new on this path. Had He not loved you, would he have guided you to Him?”
May we be of those who set high standards for their Akhira, and who do not accept good-enough for their religion as we don’t for our worldly life. May we be of those who ask with strength and confidence the highest of goals…ameen.
Read Umrah’s Life Lessons #4: On Three of the Components of Happiness…and making anyplace ‘home’
Read Umrah’s Life Lessons #1 and #2


2 responses to “The Deprived Citizens of the Land of ‘Good-Enough’”

  1. Subhana’Allah! This brings back my umrah memories..when we first go to our hotel, it was less than 10 mins or so for dhuhr prayer and I saw people lined up by the stairs, streets packed. Our hotel was pretty far about 15-20 mins walk (just like you described, pass that “tent”). I thought to myself subhana’Allah people lined up till here for the prayer from haram masjid. but later figured out it was a small masjid next to the hotel. I was so very shocked at the people they live so so so close to haram but would pray at some other masjid. wondered why they settled for “just enough” and not gain that tremendous reward of 1000’s of prayer..just few footsteps away…but after my stay there for a week i realized that those people are soo better off because they at least prayed..Others just sit there watching t.v..y.e.s! or like others saying “if Allah have wished that for me, or if it was written for me, i would have prayed” Allahu akbar May Allah subhana wa ta’la guide us all and help us attain THE best in this world and the next! Ameen

    Always plan to write about my umrah reflection but that didn’t happen yet. Jazak’Allah Khair for this series! I can totally relate!refreshes my memories! Ya Allah invite us back soon.

  2. sommieh flower (Um Tahera)

    loved the story of the slave in Iraq. It brought tears to my eyes. JAK

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