Market-ing Evils and God the Ever-Kind

My grandmother used to make a prayer for us everytime we left the house: الله يحمينا من السوء والسوق – الله يبعدنا عن السوء والسوق
God protect us from evil and the market – God take us away from evil and the market. The funny thing about this prayer is the colloquial Damascene Arabic which makes evil and the market into the same word. You can’t differentiate the two when said in the Syrian dialect.

I was at the mall today, just browsing for presents to take home with me. I was at BCBG and this couple walks in. Both strikingly beautiful people, with even more strikingly ugly attitudes. They storm through the store for a few moments and then walk up to the little east asian sales girl and asks why they don’t have the new something top she wants. She throws a hissy fit about them never having anything she wants. Then the man chimes in berating the sales girl too, as if she has anything to do with what they carry in that particular store. They throw a few choice words at her and the girl storms off to browse while the guy negotiates with the sales girl about calling his lady friend when they expect the piece in the store. He writes her name and number down and the girl screams out, THEY NEVER CALL ANYWAYS, even though the sales girl had already told the couple that they didn’t expect that specific piece to come to their store in the color she wanted. People are starving and this chick is mad why she can’t buy a $400 white drawstring swimsuit coverup.

These are the kinds of people who shop. And I make a small prayer for my teitei (grandmother) and send out thanks to the universe for her wisdom.

I never really understood or esteemed that prayer of hers until very recently. I was at ‘umra (the lesser pilgrimage) a couple weeks ago and I had a sudden flood of many dreams I’d had in the last year. They were all pretty incredible dreams. Some were being acted out right in front of me as I walked with my aunt, our arms intertwined, from the mountain of Safa to the mountain of Marwa. I had seen all this before, though I hadn’t been back to Makkah since the latest expansion. Another dream that came back to me was one of trying to enter Makkah. I had to go through a vortex of a market that tried to keep you locked inside. It even had an repelling force- something making it hard for you to walk towards the Ka’ba. It tried to drag you back. But my sights were set on the Ka’ba and her alone. I needed to get there. It was like walking through peanut butter without even being covered in sweet slick jelly. Like walking into the ocean, everything pushing against me, but it wasn’t a physical barrier. It was just the energy of that place. Finally I made it through in the sacred house and laid my eyes on her, the most beautiful thing on the planet. Built by Adam, resurrected by Abraham and renewed by Muhammad. I realized coming into Makkah, upon seeing the new clock tower mall, I knew what the evil energy source was in Makkah. I took a few steps into that place and felt that same strange and uncomfortable feeling. Like putting the opposite side of two magnets to each other. They will never connect. So many things were being made clear. It was then that I remembered my teitei. God have mercy on her soul. She understood how people take false idols in the things they “own.” How they become distracted and absorbed in diversions that they forget their direction. Upwards and onwards. The vertical conversation being the only one worth having.

I was struggling with something as I was entering the holy city. I found it heavy on my heart that my beloveds who are not Muslim would never be allowed to see Makkah or Madinah and experience them in the way I might desire for them. I was having these long conversations about how I thought it was unfair that they wouldn’t be allowed in, even if they desired to. I saw no rational reason for this aside from the Quranic verse which laid out that the sacred cities should only be for believers. Not that this wasn’t convincing enough….I just needed to understand why it should only be for believers. I felt like it could inspire belief. I know the way my heart sings as the sight of the minarets, the way my soul dances with the spirits around me in perfect joy at being in the first house of God on Earth. The place where so much Jalal lives…such a massive sign of God. How He hid his Jalali attribute in Makkah in such an awe inspiring way. The majesty of the place is like nothing else I will ever know.

I was finished with ‘umra. We got in the truck and now my back was to Makkah and something like a cool breeze opened itself to me. It was like a breeze from the heavens and my eyes opened and my heart and mind understood. Makkah is only for those who believe. It is a protection for those who do not have that belief yet. If I didn’t know God in His Divine attributes, I might come to find that this place that inspired such awe in me, this place bursting with Majesty, this place that drove me to my knees in submission to His Supreme Grandeur, this place that filled me with perfect sublimity, this place would come to be my Lord. I would pray to it. I would love it. I would never leave it. I would be nothing without proximity to it, because alas I would not know of the other Divine attributes. I wouldn’t know that He is close in His distance, that He is arrogant in His creation, loving in His giving and taking, Merciful in his measuring and making, Beautiful in his Benevolence in breaking and rebuilding us, close enough to hear us even when we can’t hear ourselves. Majesty would be all I had and Makkah would become my Master. It is a protection from a deep and great shirk. I am thankful to God for this blessing. I am grateful that He is so beautiful, so merciful, so loving that He protects us even from our own possible ignorant beliefs.

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