From Guantanamo To Makkah - Umrah, A Prologue

During UMRAH

In May 2011, MUSLIMNESS writer Terry Holdbrooks, also known as Brother Mustafa embarked on a life altering spiritual experience - the Muslim pilgrimage called Umrah. Having VIP access to exhibits and hands-on conversations with iconic imams, Mustafa shares his unique Umrah perspective in part 1 of this exclusive series. Read on.


Wow. How lucky are you, I ask myself, nay, how blessed are you? Allah has provided for you the means to make Umrah, to see Makkah, to apply at Al-Madinah the city in person. So many Muslims all around the world may never get the opportunity in their life to do what you are about to do, let alone, do it for free. Not that money here is really the big issue, no, it’s a question of deen (lifestyle), of faith.

I was sitting there wishing for a normal life. I was wishing for a job and to blend in with society, leave Guantanamo Bay prison in the past and move on and forward. Most importantly, I was having doubts in myself, and in Islam. I had no doubts that Islam was right for me, but I did in how strongly I lived Islam. Am I “Islamic”? Can my belief stay strong? Then, in all of His wonder, Allah shakes you up in the head and He says "I am always here".

Everytime I feel that rope slipping, and everytime I feel the grip beginning to loosen, He tightens it and gives so much rope you could hang yourself. I have survived near death experiences several times now. I have lived through more than some ever will, and yet I still have the tenacity to question Islam and how strongly I feel? Allah has a purpose for everyone, He has a plan for me. But how many more proofs and signs do I need to stay “Muslim”?

And so, I was invited to Makkah.

Maybe this is something you can relate to, and maybe it isn’t. I feel, perhaps due to my lack of Ummah (Muslim community), that my deen is low, and so my faith drops. It feels as if I am putting Islam on the side, and replacing it with other matters. I spend more time in schoolwork and reading books and watching movies, instead of learning more about my faith and helping my people. My grip on the rope of faith loosens from time to time, and it takes an active believer to hold on strong.

It also takes the support of a family and an Ummah to help that believer hold on stronger. And it takes clarity of the mind and the eyes. Recently, my mind has been foggy and my grip has been slipping. Allah is truly great in His works, and guides whom He pleases. As a Muslim I believe He has a purpose for all of us, this is inarguable. Some people of this world never find Islam. Some do and give up on Islam. I have nearly lost Islam before, a few times, and Allah has brought me back, each time stronger than before.

Today I am embarking on my Umrah, the lesser of two pilgrimages but a major step for me. I am excited to see what I will be as a finished product upon my return to the United States. There are many people I will be making du`a (supplication) for, but I also intend to make du`a for all my brothers and sisters in Islam. Although I still have not really accepted that this is about to happen, but it seems that it is, I am so incredibly excited.

I am a very fortunate individual to have this opportunity, and I hope that I make the most of it, spiritually, religiously, in my prayers and du`as, as well as in my life changes and adaptations. I hope that I grow after this experience to become an even better person, and a better brother to you all. I hope I gain the clarity and insight to understand what Allah wants me hear and what I should do with this time here on earth. Lastly, I hope that my work and efforts can help others grab hold of the rope and hold on steadfast, insha’Allah.

Part 1 | Part 2

Image: Holdbrooks ©



Read Mustafa's interview about Umrah on Arab News.

More on MUSLIMNESS by Brother Mustafa.

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