“Even though time is important in performing the rites of Hajj, those rites –in many ways- exceeds time and place. It continuously reminds Muslims to move with steady steps to the determined end on this earth, death. Then, back to the other life, with a system differently created compared to our current world, where time becomes strange and imaginary.”writes Jeffrey Lang, a Math Professor and author of “Even Angels Ask”.
In his book, he explains “The Quraan tells us that Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, was the first to make Athaan to call people for Hajj.”He continues,”When Muslims perform their Hajj rites, they realize that the rites they perform not only taught by Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, but it is a return to the religion taught by other prophets, a religion that exceeds time.”
During Hajj, Lang heard people talking about him while he was in a line waiting to use a phone. “He might be German” said one of them. ”no, no, he must be American” the other replied. The third person jumped in, “Ask him!”. Lang turned around and said in English “I am American”. They smiled and one of them said that he wants to ask a question. Lang knew what that question would be about and agreed. The person asked with a curious big smile, “How did you become a Muslim?”.
”I started my story to Islam and he took the role of a translator for the audience in front of me, that kept growing. Some of them were smiling, some were breathing with a sigh, and others were nodding with agreement. Some eyes were filled with tears. It took me 20 minutes to share the story, and I started answering questions that kept coming for 30 minutes. Finally, the phone was available and I called my wife. When I hanged up, I turned around to my audience, waved my hand at them and said, “asalam alikom” as if I were an important person. They all replied, ”walikom asalam.””
In the coming days at Hajj, the same scene was repeated with many curious pilgrims asking the same questions. At first, Lang did not mind the questions, answered with interest, and threw jokes here and there. He writes in one of his books, “I rarely have an exciting audience like them here, but I started feeling like a museum displayed item and I was bored by repeating the story that it felt old.” The more he answered, the shorter the answer he provided. He felt the need to be alone in a quiet place away from people, which is not quite possible in Hajj. He faked sleeping so people would leave him alone.
After he completed the rites of Hajj, he still felt that his Hajj was not complete as if something was missing. It made him feel devastated.
When he entered a bus going to Mena, he was looking for an empty seat to sit alone and avoided eye contact. He writes: “I have been asked about my nationality and my Islamic story more than 200 times last week. Now I had enough. I was ready to punch in the face anyone who asks.”
Lang laid down and closed his eyes hoping nobody would bother him. When he opened his eyes for a second, he saw a man sitting in the front staring at him with a smile. He closed his eyes again and hoped this person would stay where he was. In seconds, he felt someone was sitting next to him. The man politely asked the same question. Lang’s cold answer took him 30 seconds this time while his eyes were still closed. He told the man his background and the reasonable answers he found in Quran that have led him to Islam. He snuck a peak at the man and saw that his cold answer touched the man and brought tears to his eyes.
Lang was embarrassed, asked God for forgiveness for being a snob, and wished to have this man’s faith who realized the greatness of God from such a brief conversation. Lang introduced himself and asked the man for introduction. His name was Ahmed and he was from Bangladesh. Ahmed described the day he arrived to Mecca and how pilgrims cheered in one voice “Labaik Allah”, which means we come to you God. When Ibrahim first called for Hajj, he did not think why am I calling in this empty land. His strong faith made him call for Hajj.” Ahmed then said, “I wish Ibrahim can come now and see millions of people coming from all over the world to answer his call. I wish he can see us now. I’m from Bangladesh and you from the United States sitting in this bus to Mena as brothers.”
Lang resisted crying. He realized what was missing in his Hajj. He felt that his Hajj lacked the feeling of brotherhood and unity. He felt that he allowed himself to feel superior and performed Hajj as a personal business while it should be the opposite. Ahmed’s words showed him his mistake. When they arrived, Lang said to Ahmed, “I was lucky to see you my brother Ahmed. God bless you. Asalam alikom.” Ahmed replied, “Wa alikom asalam brother Jeffrey.”
Source: Even Angles Ask, Jeffrey Lang