Remona Aly
Tuesday 13 August 2019 Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2

The true journey of a lifetime

Journey of a lifetime
Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2, Zoe Ball Breakfast Show

The Sunday just gone was a big day in the Muslim calendar: it was Eid-ul Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice which coincides with the end of the great pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj. 

Hajj is one of the largest gatherings of people in the world – and while two million pilgrims performed their journey of a lifetime, I made a less epic trip to the park for an Eid picnic complete with kebabs and cucumber sandwiches.

As I munched on the delights with friends and family, who ranged from grey haired uncles to giggling toddlers, I felt deeply connected to the pilgrims in Mecca.

I am yet to go on Hajj myself, but a few years ago I was lucky enough to perform the lesser pilgrimage which you can do any time of year. I had grown up yearning to visit the Kaba – the simple cube building that Muslims believe was the first house of worship to One God, built by Abraham and his son.

 I circled the Kaba in a dream-like daze, my soul leaning towards the core, the direction of my daily prayers. As the sea of faces surrounded me, I saw the struggle, the tears and the sacred merge together, and I felt something bloom inside of me.

So often, I’ve felt distant from myself, I’ve wavered in grief at losing my father, built barriers to new experiences, even been angry I still can’t get a decent date. I’ve drifted from the Divine, but here in Mecca, I found the anchor of my faith.   

Hajj is challenging, it is powerful, but above all, it is life-changing. Pilgrimage strips you back to the core, you travel thousands of miles, but ultimately the journey you really make is towards your own heart.

The 12th century born Persian poet and mystic, Awhad al-Din Kirmani said, “On God’s pathway, there are two Kabas, one is the Kaba you can see, and the other is the Kaba of the heart. As much as you can, make pilgrimage to the heart – the heart’s value is greater than a thousand kabas.”

So until the day I finally do perform Hajj in Mecca, I will focus on the pilgrimage to my own heart, for there lies the true journey of a lifetime.