The Arrogance of feeling incensed…How difficulties expose the diseases of the heart

Umrah’s Life Lessons #5:  The Arrogance of feeling incensed…How difficulties expose the diseases of the heart

So everyday I get a little wiser in the dua I make all along the walk to the Haram. I prayed for a space that no one would crowd in on me in, and my spot seemed invisible to those late-comers looking for half a space. The next day I prayed that I would have space and be early enough to be allowed inside, and we prayed in a lovely, albeit hot, place on the second floor (that was the day the young girl from Aleppo accused me of wearing makeup). Tonight I pray for space large enough for the two of us, inside the Haram, peaceful and air-conditioned (ok, so I forgot to say facing the Kaba!). My wish seems almost impossible as we are turned away from door-for-women to door-for-women. Finally we are directed to a mixed entrance and ushered down an escalator. We are going down to the basement. I have a mild case of claustrophobia, but I try not to remember that we are underground. We look around: there isn’t a place for a slip of a child to stand. I turn to the guard, “Please,” I say, “we were directed to come down here and there is no room. Could you possibly find us a place somewhere?” “Follow me,” he says and off he goes. We walk through wide corridors full of men praying, we walk through enormous halls filled with men praying. We walk for maybe twenty minutes going deeper and deeper inside, I get nervous the prayer is going to start and here I am lost in a sea of men. Finally behind the brass book shelves at the far end of a hall is a closed-in area for women. I believe we are now under the Marwa. I thread my way past the first three or four lines of women and then stop. There is nowhere to spread a tissue much less a prayer carpet. The women look me squarely in the face, protective of their spaces. Go to the back, go to the back they motion in a dismissive manner. I almost start to until I realize they just want me out of their way – they haven’t even looked behind them. The few places I find that could fit us, I am waved away. One woman holds up two fingers, for people that are coming, one holds up three. A woman shakes her head and mimes wudu’, she is holding the place for someone making wudu. I send Fatimah three times to comb the lines all the way to the wall at the end and back, with no luck. Two boys push past me to stand with their mother; they are perhaps seven and nine. I begrudge them the place they take from us, but say nothing. More and more women arrive, as I stand clutching my carpet. They ask the guard to push back the bookcase to give us more room, and he objects.  I have been standing for close to forty five minutes now and my throat chokes on tears of disappointment, estrangement, and defeat. It will be time to pray soon and I cannot face that long walk through the men’s section again.  I feel like a total outcast.
An elderly woman dressed in a Moroccan cream-colored hooded robe stand up for me, “Come stand here she motions next to her.” She stands against a side wall and behind her there is a large mound of baggage all wrapped in plastic and tied with rope, beside it a woman sleeps covering herself from head to toe with a white sheet, and next to her are two young girls. Where does she want me to stand, I think. For a moment it seems that she is mocking me. Then a young boy in his early teens comes through and all my pent up feelings come loose. I cannot believe with the little place we have we are going to accommodate a youth who should be praying with the men. “Isn’t it bad enough in here, without the men coming in to pray in the women’s area?!” I do not raise my voice, but I am incensed and my face reflects how upset I am. “I have been standing here for close to an hour, after coming early, after walking long, so that grown boys can crowd us out of what little place we have!” I am expressing not really my anger at him, but all the frustration I have endured. The Moroccan lady pounces upon me with a smile, “Sabr! Sabrrr…”she purrs. She holds my arms with both her hands and breaks into a cascade of Moroccan that I understand very little of; but her sign language leaves no doubt as to her meaning and it makes me feel like the spoiled child I was acting. She is chiding me, humoring me and distracting me while the boy makes off.  But what she really is doing is reminding me of how I should be, “Smile!” she says, “Look around you. All these Muslims, from this country and this country and this country,” she waves her hand in different directions, “they are all here like you because they love Allah and want his pleasure and reward. Be happy. Be happy you are here and be patient. We must tolerate one another. You think jihad is (she mimes shooting and says Takh! Takh!) no! Jihad is sabrrr and putting up with others.” And I thought of surat al Asr and how the believers are described by Allah as “advising one another to do what is right and to be patient.”
And so my nafs totally deflated, I allow myself to be led to the non-existent place next to her. Just before the prayer begins she excuses herself to go stand with a friend of hers. “Where are you going?” calls a young Egyptian girl after her. Then she apologizes to me, “I hope you are not upset, I called her back, but I must look after her. Her bus left this morning without her, and she is stranded here with her son.” another lesson – from a child now. Spoiled, selfish and self-centered… may we never remain. But the Moroccan lady does not return, and when we turn sideways toward the qiblah, there is roomy room for both our carpets and a place that is peaceful and cool. So my prayer really was answered after all.
We made friends with the Egyptian girl and exchanged email addresses. Well, actually I gave her mine and she gave me her brother’s – the same young boy whose existence amongst us had been so insulting to me.
We are taught early to demand our ‘rights’, to stand up for ourselves and to get upset when anyone infringes upon what we are entitled to. We are insulted by other people’s ignorance or uncivilized behavior.  ‘How dare they’ we think, but is that the way we should be with everyone? and in all situations? I think not. I believe in times of difficulty we ought to remind each other to be tolerant and patient. Think Moroccan elderly woman and Egyptian young girl.  Maybe we could even remind each other to be generous and altruistic as well.

Read:  Umrah’s Life Lessons #6: Real life is raw, sans glamor… but naturally sweet


One response to “The Arrogance of feeling incensed…How difficulties expose the diseases of the heart”

  1. Nour Zarka

    Every lesson that I read of these Umra series I discover deep inside a need to change . Thank you for sharing with us your experience with lessons to be ememberd 🙂

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