Journey of a Lifetime This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Certain experiences in life become part of us, instilling elements that return each time we awake. The power of being able to absorb something exceptional is personal, but when one does, I believe it can miraculously alter a mundane life into a reflective realm of beauty. For me, this event took place on April 11, 1998.

I was to perform the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage that takes place in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. After a 14-hour flight, I was more than relieved to reach our destination. I made my way through the airport, inhaling the humid air. As my excitement propelled new forms of energy within me, I hastily prepared to embark on the main reason of my journey. I exchanged my khaki pants and t-shirt for two white cotton garments to symbolize the unity and simplicity associated with the Hajj.

More than the external transformation, internally I was prepared to see what attracted millions of people each year. As I embraced the city, my eyes darted in all directions. Luminous minarets and towering buildings showered the city with a florescent glow. An amplified voice reciting chants echoed from every angle and vibrated into my soul. The scorching sun descended, leaving streaks of red and orange, and the humid air was cooled by a breeze. I placed my slippers in the cubbies and cooled my feet on the marble floor that led to the pilgrimage.

Entering the gates of the Kabbah threw me into a deeper surreal state. Arabic calligraphy and architecture decorated the immense five-level structure, converging in an enormous aperture where I could see the pilgrimage.

Before entering the massive crowd and becoming subservient to its movement, I took a moment to reflect and witness what Malcolm X once had. For that one moment, it was as if there were no racial barriers, no social hierarchy, no discrimination. Everyone wore the same white, moved in the same path, and treated each other without preference. In the words of Gandhi, I could imagine what it would be like if the whole world could "Live simply so others may simply live."

More than any other religious event, the Hajj was a human experience for me. Even those who are there, though, cannot fathom its scope because they are only concerned with their own salvation. The event's expanse and emotional intensity are overwhelming. When millions meet in one place, presenting themselves in the purest and most genuine form with the sole goal of being forgiven, it creates an emotional tidal wave that sweeps over everyone in its path. It is as if the entire universe has stood up and taken note of itself and its Creator.

The Hajj is an excellent laboratory of human behavior and reflection. It not only demands a unified physical action, but also its results are quite different. As you perform one ritual after the other, you slowly discover the universe's rhythm. I have not only gained great insight into the human psyche and ethnic differences, but also greater self-awareness and patience. This experience has changed my vision of the world as well as myself, and I am forever thankful to have been able to endure such a journey.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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MuslimahThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Feb. 3, 2015 at 12:35 pm
really like this, well done i always wanted to go hajj
 
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