I sit looking out a third floor window at a sky scape punctuated at intervals with minarets, their spires seeming to pierce the clouds, climbing upward a physical reminder of the ultimate goal of life on this earth. I see narrow, winding paths snaking through back streets, past gardens pregnant with cactus fruits and greenery, past stone houses out of the Arabian Nights with metal doors and inscriptions to ward off the evil eye. A solitary woman in a colorful overwrap threads her way through these passages, a splash of color in the dull, sand colored street. A child runs past, a plane made of a soda bottle held aloft over his head I can’t hear him, but I can imagine the universal child sound of a plane coming from his lips.
I see, transposed over the scene, the streets of fourteen hundred years ago, when Muhammad, the Messenger of Allaah, walked streets similar to these in Makkah and, later, Madinah. I can imagine his emissary, Mu’aadh ibn Jabal teaching at one of the old masaajid that dot Old Sana’a, spreading the message of Islaam to the Yemeni people; or, later, Imaam Shawkaani, who would not leave his parents who needed him, to seek knowledge, but instead became one of the lights of Islaam for the world, in this very city.
I remember when I gave birth to my first baby. The doctor placed him on my stomach, umbilical cord attached. As he urged the baby’s father to cut the cord, I found myself overwhelmed for a moment with sadness, that this connection had to be severed. When the physical had to become the emotional, the connection of body had to shift to heart, when the unconscious nurturing of self would have to become the conscious nurturing of love and touch that sometimes seems so inadequate.
This is what I feel here, in the lands of the Prophets and Messengers, so near to the heartbeat of Islaam, the beautiful city of Makkah, so near to the second home of the Prophet, the home of the people who welcomed him and strengthened him through the Grace of Allaah, Madinah. The connection is so strong here, through the scholars, men and women of knowledge and wisdom who devote their lives to studying and teaching the people about Islaam. The soil resounds with the steps of the pilgrims, echoes of the tread of the Messenger and those who followed him. The air is the air they breathed, the sounds of the street vendors and the bleating of the goats the sounds they heard. The heart beats so strongly here, and the connection has not been severed.
Dusk falls and a light breeze gives life to the cloth covering the window. In the distance, a lone muedhin begins the call to prayer. It is picked up here, then there, then over there, throughout the city, until there is a chorus of voices calling the people to come to worship, reminding them of the glory of God. My heart hears the call and responds, and I go to my prayers full of gratitude for the generosity of my Lord that allows me to be blessed to live in the lands of Islaam.