Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2005--It only occurred to me a few hours earlier how important and real my journey to Mecca is. When I decided to go for Hajj a few months ago, the thought of it all was somewhat intriguing. My mind would wander here and there, thinking about everything from the Ka'ba to the masjid of The Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wa salaam (SAW) in Medina, to being able to eat a halal whopper from the Burger King next to the Haram (Grand Mosque).

But now as I sit on my bed less then 24 hours away from leaving the United States, my thoughts lie elsewhere.

Today a lot of people, who I am blessed with being close to, said good-bye to me. For the next three weeks I will have no communication with them whatsoever. I am leaving behind the emails, the instant messengers, the blackberries, and the text messages. When I put my hand in my pocket it won't be to silence a vibrating cell phone that beckons me with rhythmic tremors to answer it.

When I awake in the morning, my first inclination won't be to run to my laptop to see what new correspondence I might have received during the course of the night. When I return to my place of rest in the evening from a day out in the world, it won't be in a state of tiredness that disallows the formulation of any coherent thoughts--a state that is further inhibited by an array of broadcasted images spewing notions of violence, hatred, anger and injustice from all over the world.

None of this will be with me when I leave from here. What I will take is myself and the advice that has been given to me.

People from all around have been telling me what I should do, and what I shouldn't do. Literally about 200 people have sent me emails with their advice and insights, but most importantly their requests for du'aas (prayers). The idea that their name might be mentioned in the holiest city in the world is an opportunity that they cannot let pass them by. But then the thought enters my mind: Who am I to seek anything on their behalf?

It is true that I will be in the city of Mecca, but what justice can I do to the sanctity that embodies it? Here is the place where Hajar alayhi salaam (Hagar) ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa, ascending to their very summits in search of nourishment for her infant child Ismael alayhi salaam (Ishmael). Here is the place where Ibrahim alayhi salaam (Abraham), the friend of Allah, built, or rebuilt, the blessed Ka'ba along with Ismael alayhi salaam, many years ago.

This holy house, the Ka'ba, was under the protection of Allah throughout time, even when armies marched with elephants against it and the people fled to the hills. Their fleeing was done with the understanding that Allah would protect His city, and protect it He did. And most importantly in this city, some generations late, the best of creation, The Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah (SAW) was born. The streets of Mecca are not just streets, but they are more then that because he walked on them.

The winds are unique in that they carried The Prophet's blessed words throughout the town to anyone who would hear it. His blessed forehead prostrated on that same ground that potentially two million hajjis will be prostrating upon in the coming weeks. What then can I possibly offer to such a noble place?

In trying to find an answer to this question, I was reminded of some words that a close friend and teacher of mine sent to me when I was going to visit Mecca before. Although at that time I was going for umrah, a smaller pilgrimage, his overall message still applies.

"Dear Khalid, umrah is a great blessing to this ummah (Muslim community) and the tawfeeq (ability) to perform it is indeed a special mercy from Allah ta'ala, a manifestation of His love for you. For with the open invitation . is His guidance for you to actually embark on this noble and virtuous journey to the sacred house of Allah subhanahu wa ta'aala (SWT).

"Any invitation to one's home is a symbol of affection and care, and remember the nonbelievers are not even allowed therein and of the believers only a privileged few. This [umrah] is the smaller pilgrimage, and [any] pilgrimage is a migration from all else to Allah (SWT), an act of devotion and a quest of the pious. Every prayer therein is multiplied, every [utterance of] Subhaan Allah, every Allahu akbar, even to gaze at the holy Ka'ba itself is an act of reverence and a measurement of your love for Allah ta'ala.

"You may pray and beg for everything and every one and maybe even for me, but most of all ask for the victory of Allah for the ummah of His beloved Muhammad (SAW). Pour your heart out; let the heartache you feel for the rest of this glorious nation find representation in your du'aa. .

"May almighty Allah change our hearts and the material mindset we have cultivated and [forgive] the negligence to salaah (prayers) and our collective distance from the sacred sunnah (the ways of The Prophet Muhammad). For victory comes from--and only with--righteousness, and verily everything else is temporary and deceiving. May Almighty Allah in His greatest kindness accept and bless your sacred umrah."

So from these words I start my journey. I request of all of you who are reading to please keep me in your prayers--that Allah accepts my Hajj and the Hajj of all those who have gone before me, who are going now, and will be going in the future. Please pray that He makes things easy for those we are leaving behind and allows us to be together again soon, and that He accepts all of our prayers and secret wishes, as there are no secrets from Him. He is the All-Knowing, the Merciful. Ameen.

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