It’s hard to live at the mercy of a sixty five year old man, who has the stamina to walk up twelve flights of stairs, and reserves the energy to mock you all the way. It makes you wonder, whether effective channeling of maniacal power is less disease and more tool, at the end of the day.
My parents recently returned from Hajj, the compulsory pilgrimage all Muslims must go on at least once in a lifetime, when they have the financial means to afford it. Depending on the spiritual window of the pilgrim, the experience is either an exercise of faith, or simply a series of exercises. Some people come back with a new recognition of God in every space. Others come back having merely visited God. So it’s entirely possible to return having had your tendency towards intro- or extrospection completely altered. It’s also possible to go on the pilgrimage, do every ritual by the letter, and come back with tales of how wonderful you were on the trip.
Suffice to say, I have one parent per category. The one who actually has had her soul truly stirred, keeps getting interrupted by the other one blithering about how he was mistaken for an Arab, a British man, a Nordic man, or whatever the whitest variant of man is. And in one room, you have a succinct summary of what it is to be Muslim- one, who loves the spiritual connection her religion helps her forge. A second, who is still heady off a lifetime of authority being a ‘good Muslim’ accords him. And a third, who hasn’t figured out how to hold on the tenuous but lilting call of faith, when every practical aspect of it in every day life has been so thoroughly cruel. A burr in a horse’s backside under the saddle. Or God’s fingernail. Whichever metaphor works on the said day.
Waves of visitors have been crashing onto our doorstep today. Everybody asks the same questions. People who’ve been to Hajj already, seem to inquire with almost a competitiveness. People who haven’t been yet, also have the same air of ‘Oh, did you do this? I read online that you’re supposed to.’ Barely a handful seemed to be genuinely interested in the answers they were getting, and not in the answers they were giving. It makes you wonder, how much of our conversations qualify as conversations. But then again, when you’re well versed in standing or sitting in a corner and serving, being the audience isn’t so bad either. Especially since you have better conversations with a blank page later, in the privacy of your head. Ruminating about belief, the validation of it, our sense of seeking reinforcement from those around us. The subliminal tang of jealousy that people seem to have about something as inherently humble as going on a pilgrimage. The bizarreness of the exchanges, and the laughable overtones. It’s enough to drive an already sputtering belief system to a full stop, and then tumble headfirst over the line into full blown nihilism.
Then again, maybe it’s not God I need to be giving up on. It’s people.