The student online newsmagazine of SHS

The Journal Rewired

The student online newsmagazine of SHS

The Journal Rewired

The student online newsmagazine of SHS

The Journal Rewired

Regaining the connection

Students reflect on spiritual pilgrimage to Mecca
Senior+Tamer+Alsalloum+prays+in+the%0AProphet%E2%80%99s+house+in+Medina%2C+Saudi+Arabia+on+Oct.+20.+In+his+community%2C+they+pray+by+raising+their+hands.%0APhoto+contributed+by+Alsalloum
Senior Tamer Alsalloum prays in the Prophet’s house in Medina, Saudi Arabia on Oct. 20. In his community, they pray by raising their hands. Photo contributed by Alsalloum

Fresh tears of happiness flowed down the faces of two brothers as their prayers echoed against the walls of “paradise,” closer than ever to their Prophet. 

As this feeling overcame them, so did the realization that the Muslims who have come before them and those who will come after them have all journeyed to this sacred haven in search for the same sensational connection they felt with their Prophet.

photos contributed by Tamer Alsalloum

The brothers, senior Tamer Alsalloum and freshman Zeid Alsalloum, hold this emotional visit close to their hearts. 

“It was just so beautiful and peaceful,” Zeid said. “Everyone was praying and crying out of happiness. I would say it was the best hour of my life.”

 

Tamer and Zeid found themselves at Prophet Muhammad’s final resting place, known as Al Masjid an Nabawi, or as they call it, “paradise,” one step closer in the journey of their dreams.

The two brothers’ dreams extended beyond the familiar halls of high school, and so they traveled with their family to the sacred city of Mecca, where the echoes of prayers and the call to pilgrimage beckon.

Where it all began 

Both brothers were born in the nation of Syria. They lived there for about five years with their family, and then they all took off to Jordan. However, their stay in Jordan was short-lived as their family was granted visas to come to the U. S.

After living in Jordan for three to four years, they packed up their belongings. On Aug. 10, 2016 Tamer, Zeid and their family flew 6,957 miles to their new home in Indianapolis. 

As they stepped foot on foreign soil, new traditions and practices greeted them.

Aspects such as the temperature change, the praise of fast food and the holidays celebrated here surprised both of the brothers, but the biggest shock was the diversity around them. 

In the Middle East, Islam is the dominant religion. Being from Syria, Zeid and Tamer grew up in an Islamic household and hadn’t experienced other religions around them till then.

photo contributed by Tamer Alsalloum

 

In awe of the new diversity that surrounded them, they learned about the culture and religions around them. 

“You can see multiple religions, which I love,” Tamer said. “I love to see that diversity.” 

Though they were surrounded by a new culture, they stayed true to their identities and maintained a strong relationship with their religion. Whether it was taking Quran (holy book of Islam) classes or preaching at their local mosque, they participated in activities to help strengthen their faith. 

They understood the importance of their religion and how it would help them to achieve their dream of taking the pilgrimage to Mecca, a journey that stands as one of the five pillars of Islam. This trip serves as a spiritual awakening to bring Muslims closer to God. 

“It has been a dream for all of us, for all the family members, to go there,” Tamer said. “It’s a dream for every Muslim to go there.”

Knowing that this dream meant more than anything to them, their family took all the necessary steps to get their trip into motion. 

After years of saving money and being granted U.S. Citizenship, the family reached their   ultimate goal of traveling to Mecca, and they embraced it wholeheartedly. 

The pilgrimage experience

On Oct. 1, Tamer and Zeid found themselves once more in the desert-stricken, palm-tree-filled country of Jordan. As they traveled deeper into the capital, the land turned

photo contributed by Tamer Tamer Alsalloum

into familiar architecture and the trees turned into familiar faces.

 

Before embarking on their journey, the boys felt it was only appropriate to pay a visit to their inspiration behind the trip: their grandmother. After years apart, they wanted to reconnect with relatives and strengthen the connection that was lost through translation. 

“Regaining the connection between me and my cousins (and) regaining the connection between me and my grandma was really big for me,” Tamer said. 

Since their grandma and relatives were not expecting them this year, when they finally made it to their grandma’s house, all the emotions those seven years apart caused were finally let out. 

As they all broke into tears, the connection that was lost started to strengthen, and the realization that they were back home had finally sunk in. 

Now closer than ever to achieving their dream, all that was left to do was wait. For two weeks, they would stay in Jordan, connect with relatives and do the dreaded task of catching up on school work. 

Though catching up on school work wasn’t as fun, the country offered a variety of interesting monuments and landmarks to see such as the Dead Sea and Roman Castle.

The two weeks in Jordan came to an end, and it was time to leave for Medina, where they would pray in “paradise” and take a 24-hour bus ride to do so.

After staying in Medina for two days, they took the two-hour drive to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. On Oct. 21 at 8 p.m., they finally arrived in the city of their dreams. 

“We were hungry, tired (and) we were thirsty,” Tamer said. 

Upon their arrival, they went to a mosque, and the men put on white towels to symbolize rebirth. Then, they went to a hotel to take a quick bath with no soap, shampoo, and no other fragrance, just water to be in the purest form possible. 

The time had finally come for them to walk through the gilded golden gates that would turn their dreams into reality.

As they entered through the gates of the holiest mosque in Islam, the Masjid al-Haram, they saw the Kaaba, the black stone building in the middle of the site. Circling were thousands of Muslims that walked counterclockwise around the Kaaba. The Kaaba symbolizes unity in the Muslim community.

“It brings a sense of community under one God,” Tamer said.

Even though it was very crowded, everyone walked at their own pace.

Though the space immediately was very packed, Tamer, Zeid, and their parents were a few of the lucky people who got to touch this holy monument.  

“I completely started crying and started praying and asking God to give every Muslim a chance to come here and visit, to witness (what) I have witnessed,” Tamer said.

Sticking to tradition, they walked around the Kaaba seven times. Seven is the significant number of Islam. 

“It was just magical,” Zeid said.

The process took an hour and a half and left nothing but joy in both brothers’ hearts. 

“I was so nervous and got anxious because this (was) a big moment for me,” Zeid said. “It was overwhelming in a good way.”

Afterward, they went to Safar al-Marwa, where they walked seven laps up and down hills. 

The final step in their journey was to cut their hair. Looking up to their role model Prophet Muhammad who believed that shaving all your hair would grant triple mercy, Tamer and Zeid cut off all their hair in an effort to replace their bad deeds with a good deed.

The seven-year-long dream that they would someday make it to Mecca was finally fulfilled. 

Returning Home

After spending 45 days in the Middle East, Tamer, Zeid and their family returned home from their journey on Nov. 16.

As reality set back into place, the lives that Tamer and Zeid once knew had been changed. 

The memories from their once-in-a-lifetime trip set into their mind, and they found themselves as changed men. 

“I’ve learned multiple verses of the Quran that I use in my daily life now,” Zeid said. 

As Tamer and Zeid’s family members see the changes grow in them, they reflect on how encouraging and motivating the trip was for both of the brothers. 

Tamer and Zeid’s mom, Hala Monia, had a similar response as she believes this trip was an amazing opportunity for her sons.

“Most of the trip reminded them of the Motherland, … ” Monia said. “It helped them strengthen their connection with God (and) strengthen their faith.”

With their rejuvenated faith, both brothers’ lives will forever be altered from the trip of their dreams. 

As Tamer is prepares to start his journey of becoming a doctor in January and Zeid is following in his brother’s footsteps, the encouragement and motivation from their trip will forever live on in their hearts.

Their dream started off with echoes of prayers and the call for pilgrimage to beacon but ended with encouragement and motivation. Now a new dream is born for both brothers, a dream filled with love and faith. 

 

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About the Contributor
Simran Baidwan, Culture Reporter
Hi! My name is Simran Baidwan, and I am a sophomore this year at SHS. This is my first year on The Journal, and I am a writer for Culture. I took the full-year Journalism course my freshman year, and I decided that joining The Journal would be a great fit for me. Some things to know about me are that I am Punjabi. Quick side note: My parents were born in a northern state in India called Punjab, so I am Punjabi, and the religion I practice is Sikhism. Other things about me are that I love to travel. So far, I have traveled to Canada, India, and England. I have also been to various places in the U.S. Over the last year, I have developed a love for reading. My favorite genres include fiction and true crime. If I’m not reading, then you can probably find me watching TV. One of my all-time favorite shows is “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”  I also love music. It is part of my everyday life from playing the violin, learning to play the piano or just listening to music. I’m so excited to be on staff, and I can’t wait to see what The Journal brings this year!

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