When I left Canada for Pakistan on March 28th, to manage the Saudi visa process faster, I was expecting to land in KSA within 2-3 weeks latest. I remember telling all who asked, that “this should not take more than 2-3 weeks.” I guess God didn’t really like that boast. I landed in Riyadh on July 24th; that is exactly 118 days, 2 days shy of 4 months.
I found solace in two things; Physical exercise and Namaz / Salah (prayer).
There is something mysteriously uplifting about Salah, especially when one makes it a priority. Maybe I will write about the grind of the prayer someday, but this blog post is about something emerging from one’s belief and prayer. As I’ve mentioned before, I started praying salah more regularly, and within the 2nd half of 2013, this somehow rejuvenated a strong desire within me to be near Makkah and Medina. There were hurdles left still in the “vocational conquering” of Canada, and too much time and effort had already been invested in that. Abandoning the struggle we had endured and the sacrifices we had made, what inclination would we have to give up on that. By December 2013, the venture funding hunt (a lame one but still) and job search effort had borne no fruit. I specifically recall entertaining the thought of moving away from Canada for a worthy enough job opportunity. I opened up my options; asked Him to take me wherever is best for our family. AND I asked if somehow I could get near Makkah and Medina. This must have been in mid-December. I asked a few of my friends for good job leads and Voila! I had a good job offer by end January 2014.
I have written about the vocational aspects of the waiting period before, but the spiritual aspects were becoming stronger day by day. I chanced upon Makkah Live and visualised myself being part of the pilgrims doing tawaf. The desire was becoming stronger. I am not discounting the wish for work and making money as that was also a part of it all. But I coveted standing before Kaaba, with my head down and my hands folded, and just bathing in the consecration.
Then when I travelled to Islamabad to manage the visa process, I developed the habit of watching Makkah Channel on Cable.
This was transformational. I would stare at the TV screen for hours at a time, and hope to be one of those tawaf-ees.
Every time there was a hurdle and my visa process found a roadblock, I would get very frustrated. I would lament my inability to reach Kaaba as soon as possible (not discounting generating income), just because there were hindrances stemming out of harsh and redundant procedures. I would look at the encircling pilgrims and wonder what kind of people they were, that God had allowed their presence at His home on earth. What qualities did they possess, which made them get so close to Him? And how strong a desire did I need to possess, to get on this bus, so to speak?
This lament would dominate my days. The 4 months were a roller coaster ride, at points draining me to the brink of emotional collapse. The anticipation, the wait, were fatiguing. The occasional highs and the more frequent lows, debilitating. I’ve had my share of demoralization in my life but this venture was at the pinnacle of sapping. Then I would dig deeper into Salah and start afresh with a new zeal and effort. I don’t really recall how many times this happened, but it was exhausting. And the fact that it persisted was torturous. And it actually turned out to be the toughest time of my entire life. This time was laden with disappointments and frustrations, to the point where I would lose it. I mean just lose it. The harder I pushed to move things faster, the slower they would progress. 1 step forward, 2 steps backward.
In the latter part of ‘the wait’, this lament got really worse. On a bad day, when things would not go my way, I wouldn’t be able to watch Makkah Channel. I would not be able to bear the thought that I was failing at this desire I had inculcated over the last few months. I would skip the channel and watch the usual crap that’s on Pakistani cable. When I would muster enough courage to actually watch it, I would weep like a small child. I would be overcome with grief.
Having said all of the above, I have a feeling that it was this lament which has finally brought me to the land of Kaaba. On July 26th, 2014, I entered Khana Kaaba to meet my Maker.