Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Sinner & the Phoenix - Umrah Pilgrimage Part 19

THE FIREBIRD. The mythical firebird known as the Phoenix exists in perhaps all great civilizations across the globe. This flaming pigoen appears in Persian, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Japanese and Chinese lore. This bird is like the dragon (and also the Green Man) who appears to make their appearances in the most unlikely (and unconnected) of folklores and traditional beliefs. Where there is smoke there is fire they say (well, unless its dry ice!). But we are not here to delve into the story of the mythical Phoenix, interesting as it may be. For you see, during his pilgrimage the sinner was accompanied by his very own Phoenix too, albeit of the wooden sort. Below is a picture of my own firebird (sans beak)...KING OF SAINTS. I purchased my Phoenix walking stick from my good buddy Ahmad Alatas from Indonesia. I asked him what sorta bird whose head crowns the cane. He said it was the Rajawali bird. In Malay that means the King of Saints (or the Saint King). I chuckled thinking that I would need all the help I can get as I begin my pilgrimage, and what better help for a sinner than a saint? And a King of Saints at that! Later, I found out that Rajawali is the Malay name for the mythical Phoenix.

BROKEN BEAK. Alas, even before arriving in Jerusalem I must have accidentally dropped my Phoenix, and a bit of the upper beak was broken. Distraught (and rather tired) I resolved to just dump the bally thing in Queen Alia Airport, Jordan. But my buddy, Ariffin, advised me not to, and to at least keep it until we reach Medina. There, he said, you can leave it at Masjid Nabawi (the Prophet's Mosque). Reluctantly, I agreed.

And so my Phoenix accompanied me all day and night for the entire 14 days of my pilgrimage. It followed me into the Masjidil Aqsa and Rabia's shrine in Jerusalem, Moses's shrine along the way to Jericho, to the Prophet's Raudah (Garden) in the Masjid Nabawi in Medina, and finally, when I performed the tawaf (the 7 circumambulation around the Holy Kaaba, Mecca), it was there with me, my support and constant companion. Rarely was I ever without my Phoenix. And rarely did I not drop it, so that when it came to the last day in Mecca a friend of mine suggested, "Taufiq, if we stay just a couple more days here, I reckon not only will your bird be beakless, it will be headless." And I think he is right.

I HIT SOMEONE IN FRONT OF THE HOLY KAABA. Well, I never did leave the cane in Masjid Nabawi. I have grown too fond of its ugly and broken beak, and the crease and carving of its head have become familiar in my hands. Initially, I was worried that perhaps the guards in the two great mosques in Medina and Mecca might not take kindly to a pilgrim lugging a walking stick depicting an animal (in strict Wahabbi regulation - I do not think it is actually permissable). But nobody stopped me, nobody questioned me, even when I was raising the Phoenix's head high amongst the masses of pilgrims circumambulating the Holy Kaaba. I didn't want to accidentally hit someone's legs or body, you see - And this is the embarassing bit - because I did in fact hit someone's head - the head belonged to a poor Turkish lady, and I accidentally hit her when an idiot behind me nudged my elbow. Wait, wait... It wasn't a hard knock really, so don't judge me. Maybe it was a divine intervention because she was thinking some impure thoughts? Hehehe. Okaaay... I am just kidding!

Well, such is life. Go to the Holy Kaaba, and you get beaned by a sinner.

Have a nice day, sunshine.

Pax Taufiqa.

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