It was about two years after becoming Muslim that I first really had the opportunity to make the Hajj (literally 'great journey') and I jumped at the opportunity. I can still recall my excitement as we left the Heathrow tarmac; and of course the many hours spent in the Hajj terminal at Jeddah International Airport, surrounded by a sea of pilgrims from all corners of the earth, also invokes vivid memories.
We travelled first to Medina - the city of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (may God shower him with peace and blessings). This land was, and remains to my mind, an epitome of illumination. For it was Medina and her people who were blessed with the ability to recognise the truth of God's message and His final emissary.
Our stay in Medina was relaxing and this short stay helped me to acclimatise to the scorching July desert sun. We made the long and arduous journey from Medina to Mecca by coach. Our fatigue was transformed into a real sense of anticipation on arriving in Mecca as all strained to capture that long-awaited first glimpse of the Holy Ka'bah.
I cannot forget, nor can I explain, how this simple, yet majestic, cuboid structure captivated me it was just so awe-inspiring.
Later that day, as I performed the first rites of the pilgrimage the circumambulation around the Ka'bah I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace and inner security. This was a sense of belonging that I had never previously encountered and it can perhaps only really be compared to the sheer relief a lost child must experience when first re-united with its mother. Like this child, I too had at last found my way home.
As a scientist, I have for over a decade now struggled to make sense of these thoughts and experiences. It was however at a recent Islamic study group that this subject re-surfaced as I heard a middle-aged Scotsman explain how he had since childhood wanted to make a pilgrimage. Now, a Muslim, and about to have his life-long aspiration fulfilled, he looked for some insight into the source of this overwhelming pull.
As we both (and perhaps many others) learnt from the response that ensued, this desire to undertake this 'great journey' is imbued within the heart of each and every one of us, for this is a yearning that exists in response to the call made by Prophet Abraham the Friend of God.
Shortly after completing the building of God's House, Abraham (may God's peace and blessings be with him) was instructed by God to invite his brethren to come and make the pilgrimage. He ascended a small hillock and trusting in Providence called to an, at the time, non-existent audience. And the rest, as they say, is History
`Proclaim the Pilgrimage among people. They will come to you walking or riding on various exhausted (means of transportation). They will come from the farthest locations
Holy Qur'an 22:27
Dr Sangeeta Dhami