By Ameen Talal
April 11, 2017
WHENEVER I ask myself why I visit the Grand Mosque in Makkah frequently, I don’t find a specific answer. Sometimes I feel like running away from the dirt of life. I also feel like having a retreat after spending several hectic days making money. Sometimes I had a feeling that it was to get rid of my worries.
When I review the reasons for visiting the holy sanctuary I feel unconvinced. How many times I have visited this place and most of them I had no worries and did not have any health problems. This means we visit this holy place because of our earnest desire and not because of any other reason.
When people – both rich and poor, those who are happy and those who are worried, and people who have lost a loved one or those who are blessed with a new baby – visit this valley they get an inexplicable satisfaction.
Whenever I kept away from the mosque, engaging in worldly affairs, I had a strong desire to come back the place where I experience an inexplicable spirituality.
I don’t know how to explain the feelings we have when we are in the vicinity of the holy Kaaba. So instead of explaining the features of that spirituality, I would highlight the greatness of that spirituality, which has no bounds.
In my last visit to Makkah, I felt like a balloon that can expand and shrink and I could not experience the spirituality that I used to feel in the past. This is not the talk of someone who is mad or possessed by the jinn. In the past, whenever I visited the Grand Mosque I used to experience a lot of equanimity and a feeling of peace and tranquility. I used to get that feeling even before seeing the mosque.
Now in order to get that spiritual feeling I have to get inside the mosque. What was the reason for this shrinking spirituality? Can we measure spirituality on the basis of material law? I understand that the problem was mainly within me, may be because of recurrent visits or because of the accumulation of sins or because of worries and complications of life that I cannot get rid of.
We can find several such internal reasons for the shrinking spirituality. What are the external reasons?
I am not someone who is obsessed with the past. Changes are taking place in Makkah like any other city in the Kingdom. It is quite natural that today’s Makkah cannot be the Makkah of the past. It is also natural that new high-rise buildings are coming up to meet the requirements of the growing number of pilgrims.
The problem is not with the urbanization and expansion of Makkah though development should not be at the expense of the spirituality of the place.
Makkah without spirituality is like a body without spirit. Makkah is undergoing development like Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam and I am afraid the huge projects have restricted Makkah’s spirituality to the Grand Mosque.
Today’s Makkah is not different from other Saudi cities except for the presence of the Grand Mosque. When we visit Makkah with our families we pass by flyovers, skyscrapers and star hotels, which are essential for any modern city. When our children ask about its history we can only narrate some stories without having any landmarks or signs related to those stories. Undoubtedly, these stories will soon become vague concepts because of the massive development projects that have ignored the city’s glorious history.
Today we cannot see any sign of Makkah’s history. As a result we have to tell our children that a battle had been fought at the place of this mall or an important incident had taken place during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) below that flyover or a companion of the Prophet fell martyr fighting the infidels near this tower or a group of Muslims took oath of allegiance near this hotel.
I don’t know what to tell my son when he asks me about Makkah’s history. I will tell him that he should not believe those who say that history and heritage are innovations (bid’a) or like attributing partners to Allah (shirk).
History and antiquities are greater than our illusions. We know that the so-called tree of life in Bahrain, which is more than 400 years old, highlights the greatness of God. One will be amazed to see a large number of people scramble to see the Prophet’s bristle kept in Istanbul.
I believe the antiquities of Makkah would contribute to enhancing the city’s spirituality. It will also link the new generation with their past and it would strengthen their faith and values when they see the remnants of history that remind them of those great people who lived there with their own eyes.
People will get bored by simply hearing the stories of the past and the narratives on the relics. Now we have to tell people who seek spirituality in Makkah to visit the Grand Mosque and the circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba, where it has been confined.