This story was published in the Muslim Views newspaper.
(Please do remember to read the customary salutations after the mentioning of Prophet Muhammad’s name – peace be upon him)
Picking up an old favorite, “Payambar-The Messenger” by Zeinolabedien Rahnema, I opened the book randomly, and landed on the chapter entitled “Read…!” It started off… “There stands in Makkah a mountain famed in history, and in the story of that mountain one man closer to it than all others.”
I was soon engrossed, and memories of my trip to that blessed mountain, one year ago, were conjured up so vividly, I could smell the fresh mountain air, and feel the throbbing of the pilgrim’s fervor to reach the cave. “This mountain, by the will if God, saw the birth of Muhammad, the Prophet of God” writes Rahnema, and experiencing that mountain, saw the birth of a renewed love and devotion in me, to that great man, the Messenger of God.
It was early morning, immediately after the Fajr(dawn) prayer, when my husband and I set out on this great escapade. During Hajj, everyone becomes a taxi driver in Makkah, and we quickly reached our destination, which was only really the beginning of our journey. The mountain of Light towers six hundred feet above the ground, a tiny feat for the experienced hiker, but a daunting prospect for me, who had never climbed a wall, not to mention the near impossible task of attempting to climb a mountain decked out in an abaaya! However, determined to reach the top, and behold the scene of the first revelation, we began. About ten minutes into our journey, I was ready to give up, intimidated by the steepness at this stage already. My husband pushed me on, “a little longer, just till that rock, you can do it”, he lovingly encouraged. Half an hour, and all my energy was spent, no encouraging or coaxing would work, I was determined to wait there until he got back, but Allah the All-Knowing, would not have me come all the way to Makkah and not visit this sacred site, so he sent me a sign and a little lesson.
Just then, a Turkish woman, belonging to an age past, nearing a hundred years of living, came into sight. She was wrinkled, extremely bent and walked with a stick, but how beautiful she was to me, in her love for her Prophet, she dared the mountain and defied nature, and here she was now, climbing up at an alarming rate, oblivious to everyone, not even noticing how amazed we were at her agility, she walked as if on a mission, with only the objective in mind. It was inspiring, and humbling, for there I was, in the full bloom of youth – healthy, strong, and able-bodied. If anything got me up that mountain, it was that lady! After an hours climb, with a short rest at the halfway station carved into the mountain by the pilgrims, we reached the cave.
I thank Allah for allowing me that experience; it will remain etched in my memory forevermore. “One feels oneself nearer to heaven than to earth, and all around is a vast and spectacular panorama… from the top of the mountain of Hira, the caravans on the road seem no larger than ants…” continues Rahnema, in the story.
Truly, at no other place did we feel the presence of the Prophet than here, this mountain and cave which were his only companions in the days of darkness before revelation, when Makkah was its height of Fitnah, when even the Kabaah itself was surrounded by such Jahiliyyah, that 70 Idols it is said, surrounded it, clinging to its walls like lizards. “It was only to this mountain and to his beloved Khadija he could turn.” It brought tears to my eyes, thinking of all those lonely days and nights that my beloved Prophet spent there, sick at heart over the base thoughts and habits of his people, but then I found comfort, knowing Allah watched over him, preparing him for his great mission. “On the mountain once more, he immersed himself in his observations and meditations, observations that had their source in heaven, meditations that entered his mind with the twinkling of the stars.” pens Rahnema.
After much thought and prayer, hubby and I took out our copies of the Quraan, and proceeded to read Surah Alaq, the first words spoken to Muhammad by Allah. We felt at peace and on edge at the same time, reading those same words that were once long ago revealed at this very spot. I felt at that moment a deep connection with an Arab man, who lived 1427 years ago, in a land so far removed from my home. The story of Jibra’il and Muhammad’s meeting is well known to us all, but being on that mountain, I felt as like I was discovering it for the first time. “Muhammad trembled, sweat broke out all over his body, his soul fluttered frantically like a suddenly disturbed bird; and then he felt a strange warmth within him, which later he thus described, ‘I felt that death had taken hold of my body, and sweet gentle life my heart and soul’… Instinctively he fell on his knees and wept… The morning breeze caressed his voice.” Thus ended this chapter in the book, but what started after that day, was the greatest renaissance of all time, it gave Muhammad to the world, it taught people a new life of morality.
People flock to the mountain of Hira, and it becomes a sort of pilgrimage on its own – for me it certainly was no less than a sacred journey. Usually my husband and I were overwhelmed by the different types of people around us, hailing from every nook and cranny of the world, we would gasp for breath between speaking to diverse ranges of people, but on this particular occasion, we were so absorbed in our own thoughts and feelings that we took no notice. We passed the rest of our time there pleasurably, snacking on some food, feeding the mountain monkeys, and taking pictures. Soon we headed down, and it took us no longer than 20 minutes, floating on love of the prophet as we were. The journey had ended, but its lessons have not, and what I learnt on that adventure, was determination (the old Turkish lady), and natural prowess at hiking (I made it to the top) among other things, but most importantly I learnt a lot about the man I thought I already knew everything about, the Prophet of Allah, was human like us all, but what we ordinary people find inspiration in like love and music, “he found straight from its prime source, which is eternity.”
I truly felt and understood the greatness of this man, but mere words do not convey love and devotion, only actions do, so I pledge that if I love him as truly as I say I do, I will follow him and continue his mission, as a vicegerent of Allah in this world. The season of hajj has once again set upon us, and my heart pines for the sacred lands, but I am happy for those people who are setting out on the pilgrimage. Once again the mountain of Hira will have some company, but I am sure that it would rather have for its companion the great Messenger over any other, and just as we all pine for the haramain, it must pine for its great friend.