As the years pass since my pilgrimage to Mecca, what I felt as I walked off the plane and recoiled from the cold Chicago air on my face has faded considerably. The glow in my eyes from the immensely powerful spiritual experience of the Hajj has dimmed a bit. The comings and goings of the life of this world have clouded the view of God that was so clear in the immediate days and weeks after the Hajj.
Yet, despite all of that, Mecca continues to call. Despite all of that, Mecca has left her mark on my heart. And I want to go back. When I first arrived in the Holy Precincts, I was instantly humbled and cowed by the awesome power of the Divine. I could not help it--His immense presence enveloped me and brought me to my knees. I needed such an experience. Being a doctor is an enormous blessing, and I do not take my profession for granted. Yet the temptation to consider myself like Him is always there.
With a quick flick of the wrist, I have the power to bring someone from the brink of death back to life. This is especially true in the intensive care unit, where I spend a good deal of my time. Add to this the immense respect and deference given to physicians many times: "Thank you very much, doctor." "Your life is in my hands, doctor." "Sure, doctor, whatever you want." The potential for corruption is immense, and I have strived my entire medical career to not let it go to my head.
You don't have to worry about that in Mecca. "There is no 'doctor' here," God says. "You are my servant. No more, no less." And I could not help but say, "Yes, Lord," looking away in humility. Yet, soon after I arrived in Mecca, God told me, "Get up, my servant" and he extended His Hands to me. "Come and let's talk." I did, and I loved it. And so, I want to go back.
He became my Loving Friend, listening and tending to my every need. This despite my sinning against Him time and time again. He never brought that up. He just listened. I talked up a storm, and He just listened. Even though He did not mention my sins, I did. I begged and begged and begged for His pardon, and He gave it to me, without even a moment's hesitation. And so, I want to go back.
And it's not like I left Him there. He came home with me, continuing to be my Loving Friend, and I have leaned on that friendship very heavily since I have come back. Yet, He never minds. And so, I want to go back. But why if He came home with me? Because, even though He is with me every day, there is nothing like hanging out in God's own House. There is nothing like it in the world. Mecca is not unlike other old Middle Eastern cities: hot, dusty, and pretty drab.
But the Grand Mosque, where the Ka'ba is located? It is a piece of Paradise. It glows with the Light of God, and I love being there. After all, it's my Best Friend's house. And so, I want to back.
Moreover, when I go back to Mecca, I will get to see (spiritually, that is) my beloved once again: the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Medina. I will get to walk with him once again. I will get to feel his cool, soothing presence once again. I will get to pray near him once again. I will get to enjoy the sweetness of his city and his mosque once again. And so, I want to go back.
This time, however, I want to go with three beautiful women. No, silly, I don't have two other wives (shame on you for thinking that). I want to go with my wife and two daughters. I especially want to take my eldest daughter. She was diagnosed with Ataxia-Telangiectasia, a crippling and ultimately fatal genetic disease. We learned of her diagnosis in the weeks after we returned from Mecca two years ago. She's always wanted to go to God's House, and I desperately want to take her. I know that she will feel immediately at home, because she came to me from Him.
I want her to see the Ka'ba, the Black Stone, the hillocks of Safa and Marwa, the glory of God's House. I want her to taste how sweet the waters of the Zamzam well are. I want her to feel the presence of the Prophet Muhammad and taste the sweetness of his city and his mosque. I want her to feel what I felt when I went to the Hajj. I know she will love it.
When I roll her in her stroller (she is not able to walk very long distances any more) up to the Ka'ba, I want to say with her, "Here I am, O God, at your service, here I am!" Some may want to go back to God's House and complain or say, "Why?" I will not do that. God chose for me to be tested with having a child with a crippling disability, and I have to be patient. I learned how to be patient with God's tests during the Hajj. Moreover, the friendship I developed with God during the Hajj has become indispensable for helping me deal with my painful new reality.
So, when I go back to His house, I will go gladly. The Hajj and my daughter will forever be intimately linked, and to have my daughter with me in Mecca will be an immensely emotional time for me.
For the rest of my life, Mecca will always be in my heart. Mecca will always call to me, and I will always feel at home there at my Best Friend's house. And I don't think this feeling will ever go away, even if I go back 100 times. And so, I want to go back. I hope and pray that day comes very soon.