journey to mecca


Ibn Battuta: Journey to Mecca

I think the reason why the Hajj is marked as a life changing event is not only because the actual act itself, which serves as a paradigm shift in it’s own right, but because of the process that leads you to the act of worship. The journey once brought people in contact with people from all walks of life and while it still does, it is a bit more commercial now I feel, and a little less spiritual. With flight classifications segregating people based on financial class, I don’t think these type of interactions are as typical. Maybe when you actually reach your living arrangements will you have access to that, but the actual process of getting there, maybe not. I could be wrong, I don’t know. 

Faith is universal. Our specific methods for understanding it are arbitrary. Some of us pray to Jesus, some of us go to Mecca, some of us study subatomic particles. In the end we are all just searching for truth, that which is greater than ourselves.
—  Dan Brown

Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS (19 March 1821 – 20 October 1890) was a British explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He was known for his travels and explorations within Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures. According to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian and African languages.

Burton’s best-known achievements include a well-documented journey to Mecca, in disguise at a time when Europeans were forbidden access on pain of death; an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights (commonly called The Arabian Nights in English after early translations of Antoine Galland’s French version); the publication of the Kama Sutra in English; and a journey with John Hanning Speke as the first Europeans to visit the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the source of the Nile.

“Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller"- Ibn Battuta

The essence of traveling was once that of a silent master, one that by the way of austerity and distress would not only test but bring about patience to the traveler. Contemporary travels are unduly gentle on the self and soul. Instead of camels or horsebacks we mount comfortable seats of airplanes with catered foods, relatively clean bathrooms where we do not brawl with the desert heat nor the wintry winds. Furthermore, even if we so desired to contemplate our self midst our journey, we are surrounded by convenient portals of entertainment: movies, songs, newspapers etc. 

Journey- provides the opportunity of severance from ones home so that one may reflect upon oneself. Through travels the dust of years that lays upon the soul is slowly washed, by the way of ones tribulations. Today, we must seek the hardships of such a journey in the stride to Mt. Kilimanjaro or through the Sahara desert, where water is scarce and resources minimum. Where we survive in filth and find satisfaction in any meal- essentially the loss of every material desire. That is when we may potentially rid our souls of our fleshes grime and possibly experience a moment of enlightenment. That single moment is what every soul seeks and if attained it will suffice to initiate a new journey of our lives towards Him. 

I highly recommend everyone to watch “Journey to Mecca”- a film on Ibn Battuta’s travels for pilgrimage and a superb depiction of the very hardships as key to enlightenment.

This is not about Islam, it is about humanity. If the world understood Islam as it were meant to be lived, one would realize that it is nothing mutually exclusive from what we refer to as humanity. Being a good Muslim is equivalent to being a good human, and I hear you saying… “Being a good Hindu/Jew/Christian/Buddhist/Zoroastrian/Atheist etc. is also equivalent to being a good human”- and you speak the truth. As all religions rise from roots of morality and ethical good- all religions inherently lead to the same goal, however each chooses a unique set of guidelines.  

Authored by: Ghaziya Ghulam-Nunvi