A Hollywood Screenwriter Goes to Mecca

I had no intention of going to Mecca this year – but sometimes God wills for us what we least … Continued

I had no intention of going to Mecca this year – but sometimes God wills for us what we least expect. I had just begun working as a producer on a new NBC series entitled “Kings” and was focused on getting the show off the ground. As one of the few Muslim screenwriters in Hollywood, I often feel the need to put my career before my faith, missing prayers and even forgoing some of the fasts in Ramadan to concentrate on my work. But I would learn this year that my focus on material success was coming at the cost of something far more precious – my relationship with God.

My mother called me this summer and told me she had a dream summoning her to perform the Pilgrimage to Mecca – and as her son, I was duty bound to accompany her. Suddenly everything I had planned was thrown into chaos. I nervously asked my Jewish executive producer Michael Green if I could leave the country in the middle of production and embark on a personal spiritual into the heart of Islam. To my relief, Michael enthusiastically embraced the idea and wished me godspeed.

And so last week I left the air-conditioned writers room at our studio in Brooklyn and flew halfway across the world to a land where time stops and man is confronted directly with his Creator. We arrived first at Medina, the city in Saudi Arabia where Prophet Muhammad transformed the Muslim community from a persecuted minority into a global power. I was filled with awe, walking amidst the palm trees in the ancient oasis where the Prophet taught and built a civilization. And my eyes filled with tears when I stood before the Prophet’s tomb and wished him peace.

Standing there before his grave, I was struck by how my priorities had become skewed. I thought I was a storyteller. But the story of Muhammad’s rise from an illiterate merchant to the founder of one of the most successful religious movements in history is far more remarkable than any of the Hollywood epics I have written. And it was a story which continues to grow over the centuries, and one in which I myself was a character. In that scheme of things, Hollywood suddenly didn’t look so grandiose after all.

From Medina, my mother and I traveled to Mecca to officially begin our Hajj. The sacred pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam, required of every healthy Muslim who can afford it once in life. I cast off my normal clothes and donned the ihram, a garment consisting of two simple white sheets that all male pilgrims wear. In that moment, all distinctions between race, class and wealth were eliminated, and I became part of a flowing sea of humanity praising God at the Holy Kaaba, the temple built by Abraham. My Hollywood pretensions were stripped away and I was struck by how small I was in the cosmos, and yet still precious to my Creator, who had summoned me here to visit His House.

The Pilgrimage will continue over the next several days, as three million believers from every nation on earth, of every race and age, perform sacred rites unchanged for almost 1,400 years. We are united in faith and in love, for God and each other. It is an Islam that is rarely seen in the medium I work in, films and television, an Islam of joy, compassion and humility. As news of the shocking terrorist attack in Mumbai rocks the world, acts committed by those who claim to share my faith, I pray that the Islam that I experienced here in Mecca will one day become the vision of Islam in the eyes of mankind

An Islam that lives up to the meaning of its name. Peace.

Kamran Pasha is a producer for the upcoming NBC television series Kings. He is the author of Mother of the Believers, a novel on the birth of Islam to be published by Atria Books in April 2009. Go here to follow his live blog from Mecca.

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  • CandyKay

    What a positive, life-affirming story.

  • sparrow4

    A beautiful story. Would that all the world’s religion stand for peace.(A good son listens to his mother!) :-)

  • mposey2

    You state at the end of your comments “I pray that the Islam that I experienced here in Mecca will one day become the vision of Islam in the eyes of mankind”. That is a nice sentiment but I fear it will not be the “vision of Islam in the eyes of mankind” until the adherents to Islam take steps to make it so. Most Muslim countries seem to be stauncly exclusionary while non-Muslim countries are villified for not accommodating and embracing Muslims. And where are the voices of Islamic leaders, especially influential religious leaders, to condemn the orgy of violence done in the name of Islam. The loudest Islamic voices we hear promote, defend or encourage the madness. If Islam means peace, then it is for Muslims to make it so.

  • DoTheRightThing

    Without a concrete definition or specific example for what Pasha means by Islamic “Peace”, I cannot share his hope that Islam live up to the meaning of its name. Hopefully, in a future posting he can point out the hundreds of millions of lives improved by this Peace, as well as the ignorance it removes, and the love for all human beings it instills. Then I will have something positive to consider.

  • EWemmelman

    “I pray that the Islam that I experienced here in Mecca will one day become the vision of Islam in the eyes of mankind”So you’d like to see a vision of hordes of brainwashed people circling around a meteor?

  • DoTheRightThing

    In response to “FormulaChamp”, I say that his command that I either “read history his way or go back to my hole” gives precisely the example of what “Islam means Peace” really means to him. Thank you, FormulaChamp, for your clarification for all to see. To be exact, Formula1champ commanded me, “Read some history “DoTheRightThing” or go back to your hole!”

  • moosemeat

    Hey — Sparrow baby, “Islam” does NOT mean “Peace”.

  • jrahimi

    What a beautiful and positive story. Sometimes we are caught up in the glitz and glamor of our societies, but when one has such a moving experience it puts everything into perspective. Its also good to hear that his Jewish boss was supportive of his pilgrimage. This shows that there are people still left who welcome diversity and and are tolerant of it.

  • strangeseraph

    All you have to do is look at Sharia law. These same 6000 Islamic clerics voting against terrorists are also closing a blind eye to honor killings, lashings, cutting off people’s body parts, executions of the victims of crimes to save face, all in the name of ‘law’.One only has to look at the humans rights abuses of places like Iran and other countries that support Sharia to show that Islam has some serious problems.If Islam wants to be seen as a Religion of peace then they should drop Sharia, and take another good long look at their holy book. It was written a long long time in the past. Its time for all religions to look at Koran/Bible/Torah in this MODERN setting and re-write it, revitalize it to fit with the modern setting we live in.

  • delusional1

    “As news of the shocking terrorist attack in Mumbai rocks the world, acts committed by those who claim to share my faith”**********************************************They do share your faith. Have you ever read the Koran?

  • formula1champ

    The real reason for crusades was financial, religious and political. Please stop distorting history. Anyways, when the crusaders first walked in Jerusalem, they killed both, Muslims and Jews in large numbers including women and children.What about the massacre of ethnic South Americans by the Spanish in the name of Christ? And convert to Christianity or die theme for Spain’s Muslims and Jews populations by Queen Isabella in the name of Christ? What about the holocaust which is a perfect example of religious hatred towards Jews? If the allied powers had good enough intelligence to know about German codes, weapons programs, etc then I really doubt that they didn’t know about the Holocaust. They just turned a blind eye. DoTheRightThing :

  • narenkumar

    Dear Kamran Pasha,I wish you well with your journey with your mom. I know GOD delights in those who honor their parents. When you mentioned peace, it reminded me about my encounter. As a Hindu I travelled to the United States on Job. During my stay I established a very true loving friendship with Jesus Christ and found peace which I lacked in my home country.GOD’s richest blessings on you your home and other pilgrimage to find the true peace and truth.Sincerely,

  • CCNL

    Until the koran is historically corrected by removing all the myths and putting asterisks by all the passages stolen from other books, Muslims will continue to follow the warmongering, “death to all infidels”, and oppression of women passages found in this Worst Book Ever Written. Considering the current fractured state of Islam (e.g. the Sunni-Shiite divide and 24/7 blood letting), this historic correction will be almost impossible to achieve in the short term.

  • marcedward1

    mposey2 WRITESI hear this refrain a lot, and clearly the folks asking aren’t really looking very hard. I’d suggest going by the CAIR website where they condemn every act of violence carried out in the name of Islam.

  • sparrow4

    Hey moosemeat- I’m really sorry your parents were brother and sister and that your uncle married your grandmother. That’s the only reason I can think of for your statement. All that inbreeding in the dreary little rural hamlet you inhabit. tsk tsk.I said I wished for all religions to stand for peace. You have a problem with that? Do I mention talking donkeys (although obviously I am talking to an a$$) or snaky sticks? Go stand in the corner with your friend, dotherightthing- his “knowledge” of the crusades and the inquisition re only matched by the extremely low level of your intellectual competence.

  • sparrow4

    “History also shows us that the Spanish Inquisition was carried out by the government of Spain against office-holders in government who had falsely sworn they were Christian (a well-known requirement for holding public office in 15th-century Spain.)”Oh, yeah-I suppose that makes it all OK then. (Of course this isn’t history, but your particular fantasy of history.)

  • DoTheRightThing

    I thank FormulaChamp for embarking on an issues-based discussion. The revisionist historians whom FormulaChamp seems to regard as “true historians” trace the roots of their academic discipline all the way back to the mid-twentieth century (unless one chooses to acknowledge the discipline’s ultimate ancestry in Soviet Communist propaganda documents). Revisionists try to explain all things historical in economic and socio-political terms, which explains his belief that the crusades were financial and political in origin, as much as (or more than?) religious. Apparently as an aside, he points out the undisputed and regrettable fact that large numbers of Jerusalem’s inhabitants were killed by the crusaders when they first took the city. He fails to point out that such was the method of warfare at that time, and that comparable acts and worse (deemed rightly today as atrocities) were the mainstay of Muslim warfare at the time as well. It should be noted that the Crusades, though sometimes called for by the Pope (for the relief of Christians suffering at the hand of the Muslim governors of their long-occupied lands) were, once launched, not under the Pope’s control and direction. With respect to the Spanish subjugation of South America, historians have well-documented that the Catholic Church opposed European mistreatment of the natives of the Americas. Lastly, with respect to the Allies turning a blind eye to the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe, an historic understanding of the death struggle between the Allies and Axis powers that was World War 2 would go a long way to clarifying why the Allies, with resources stretched to the breaking point, did not go on an excellent adventure across Europe in 1943-4 searching for tangible signs of a reality behind the rumors of an unthinkable racist extermination campaign by the Germans. To the Allies, such a bestially-unthinkable, unnecessary, and resource-wasteful campaign was inconceivable, the same as the bestial 9/11 conspiracy was to our generation of security experts. By the way, the Allies hadn’t read the book or seen the movie on how World War 2 would turn out, so they had no assurances of victory prior to its attainment.FYI, formula1champ said: What about the massacre of ethnic South Americans by the Spanish in the name of Christ? And convert to Christianity or die theme for Spain’s Muslims and Jews populations by Queen Isabella in the name of Christ? What about the holocaust which is a perfect example of religious hatred towards Jews? If the allied powers had good enough intelligence to know about German codes, weapons programs, etc then I really doubt that they didn’t know about the Holocaust. They just turned a blind eye.”

  • sparrow4

    Actually, revisionists try to rewrite history. History is usually taught as a series of events, with causes but from the perspective of hindsight. We very often forget, or don’t know what life was really like in ancient times, or medieval times. We can only know from artifacts and writings. which for most of recorded history was done by the educated few, and much of it by monks, for instance in the Dark Ages. There was no internet so communication was much slower. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips via the web- it was vastly different then. Historians today try to integrate more information and understanding into our understanding of history. All warfare was, is barbaric. the Christians were no different than the Muslims in that respect. The Inquisition was not a response to lying office holders. It was the eradication of Jews, Moors and other non-believers in Catholic Spain. In fact, even converts to Christianity were all looked on with suspicion. In terms of the Americas, there were many who tried to protect the native populations, but the overall attitude of the churches was convert or get rid of. That was policy- they had land, we wanted it- simple and as brutal as that.However, regarding the Holocaust and the Allies- your explanation seems plausible. Not everyone takes that point of view, but history is never as black and white as we want it to be.

  • ptandcarol

    Nice of your Jewish boss to let you travel to Mecca….If it was the other way around, I believe the Jew would have been given the luxary of paying an extra tax and not having the right to own any property…How is the Jewish population doing in Saudi Arabia right now anyway? Did you you bring a Hebrews friend to Mecca to enjoy the festivities?As for your mother and her trip, did she enjoy watching the men do their worship circle-jerk, where all were equal except half the population?All evidence shows that followers of Islam are doing a great job of destroying world peace….my suggestion to the author is to follow the words of Christ, only then shall he know eternal peace? Maybe a Muslim follower can answer this question, if 27 virgins await a male Muslim upon his death, what awaits the women?

  • CCNL

    There is a body count in everyone’s past:For the believers in Jewish scriptures/OT/bible, there are these atrocities: Exodus 32: 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf. Numbers 31: After killing all men, boys and married women among the Midianites, 32,000 virgins remain as booty for the Israelites. (If unmarried girls are a quarter of the population, then 96,000 people were killed.) Joshua: Joshua 8: 12,000 men and women, all the people of Ai, killed.Joshua 11: Hazor destroyed. [Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987), estimates the population of Hazor at ?> 50,000] TOTAL: if Ai is average, 12,000 x 9 = 108,000 killed.Judges 1: 10,000 Canaanites k. at Battle of Bezek. Jerusalem and Zephath destroyed. Judges 3: ca. 10,000 Moabites k. at Jordan River.Judges 20: Benjamin attacked by other tribes. 25,000 killed. 1 Samuel 4: 4,000 Isrealites killed at 1st Battle of Ebenezer/Aphek. 30,000 Isr. k. at 2nd battle.2 Samuel 8: 22,000 Arameans of Damascus and 18,000 Edomites killed in 2 battles. 2 Samuel 10: 40,000 Aramean footsoldiers and 7,000 charioteers killed at Helam. 2 Samuel 18: 20,000 Israelites under Absalom killed at Ephraim.1 Kings 20: 100,000 Arameans killed by Israelites at Battle of Aphek. Another 27,000 killed by collapsing wall. 2 Chron 13: Judah beat Israel and inflicted 500,000 casualties. 2 Chron 25: Amaziah, king of Judah, k. 10,000 from Seir in battle and executed 10,000 POWs. Discharged Judean soldiers pillaged and killed 3,000. 2 Chron 28: Pekah, king of Israel, slew 120,000 Judeans TOTAL: That comes to about 1,283,000 mass killings specifically enumerated in the Bible. The battle of 2_Chron_13 is so much larger than all the others that we probably should doubt it.”The irony is that Islamic terrorists get their guidance from the Worst Book Ever Written aka the koran which was written by scribes who plagiarized from a number of sources to include

  • Arif2

    Can a Jew, Christian, Hindu or Kafir accompany a Muslim to Mecca? What would happen to a Jew or a Christian if he/she were caught in your grand mosque? Also, is the punishment (I’m assuming there is one) the same for all, are Hindus or idol worshipers going to die (loose head now) if cought in Mecca?Seriously I would like to know.

  • marcedward1

    Dotherightthing writesOh horse manure. It was the Pope calling Europeans to ‘liberate’ Jeruselem, which they did via putting the population to the sword, be they Jews or Muslims (and no doubt they killed a lot of non-European Christians as well). If you ‘read your history’ you’d know that unlike Christian Europe, the Muslims tolorated Jews and Christians in their lands.’History also shows us that the Spanish Inquisition was carried out by the government of Spain against office-holders in government who had falsely sworn they were Christian’Uhh…no.

  • marcedward1

    Arif2 writes Probably not, same way a Jew nor a Protestant can recieve communion in church.’What would happen to a Jew or a Christian if he/she were caught in your grand mosque?’How would they know if a person was a Jew or a Christian were there, unless the person announced it? Why would they go there? Just to be disrespectful?

  • asizk

    Qamran,God bless u for taking your mother to Hajj-I envy u because my mother died before I could take her to Hajj so I have to perform it on her behalf.Instaed of seeing this piece for what it is-the usual dogs are barking loud in an attempt to distract from its message:PEACE.

  • ladymacbeth977

    I’m a little amazed that so many people logged in just to trash Islam; one assumes that, if similar comments were left on an article about a Christian pilgrimage, they’d be deeply insulted. I’m a Christian myself, and I appreciate this article about one American’s hajj. I just wish it had been longer, with more detail about the journey.

  • spidermean2

    Eboo wrote “As news of the shocking terrorist attack in Mumbai rocks the world, acts committed by those who claim to share my faith, I pray that the Islam that I experienced here in Mecca will one day become the vision of Islam in the eyes of mankind”The Hajj is performed in Saudi Arabia, a nation which strictly forbids religious freedom. THIS IS A VERY STUPID ARTICLE. Similar attacks like that in Mumbai will continue unless the Muslim world don’t realize the STUPIDITY of their religion.Attending this Hajj means SUPPORTING SUPRESSION of freedom of conscience. Those terrorists are just doing what they’ve been taught in Islam that there’s no other religion but Islam. IDIOTS.

  • sparrow4

    You mean, spidey, just like Christians are taught there is no other religion but Christianity?

  • spidermean2

    True Christianity supports freedom of conscience. True Chritianity’s salvation doctrine is thru the work of the Holy Spirit and not thru COERSION. Catholicism is not true Christianity coz its history showed that forced conversion is its method just as what it has done in its conconquered colonies.Sparrow, when will you learn?

  • CCNL

    jamil, jamil, jamil,Reiteration is an important part of education.

  • abhab

    Mr. Pasha pontificates from Mecca:You further claim:Abraham was never within 500 miles of Mecca. Besides Mecca was built in the Fourth Century AD; over 3500 years after Abraham’s death.

  • spidermean2

    sparrow4, there are correct anwers and WRONG answers. Im not sure if you know what’s the difference.Everything to you seems to be CORRECT except the one which is correct. Amazing.Try to visit a mental institute and talk to these guys. Maybe you would learn what Im talking about.

  • spidermean2

    mental institution, sorry.

  • spidermean2

    What Im saying is ALL religions (Islam, Catholicism, evolution, etc ) which supports conversion thru coersion is a WRONG religion. History proves that these said religions practice forced conversion. Waht is it in that statement that you don’t understand?

  • sparrow4

    “sparrow4, there are correct anwers and WRONG answers. Im not sure if you know what’s the difference.Everything to you seems to be CORRECT except the one which is correct. Amazing.”You mean because the guys in the mental institution are the ones who know what you are talking about. Um…ok.Attending this Hajj means SUPPORTING SUPRESSION of freedom of conscience. Those terrorists are just doing what they’ve been taught in Islam that there’s no other religion but Islam. IDIOTS.”and we’re supposed to take this particularly well thought out, well written comment seriously? This passes for intelligent social commentary in your neck of the woods?

  • asizk

    abhab,Abraham originated in southern Iraq,moved to Palestine and finally with his elder son,Ishamel,to Mecca, where the two built the most ancient house of worship of the one God in Mecca,pure Monothiesm.Hajj is the zenith of worship in Islam because it combines all five pillars of Islam at once-and is a univesral and divine celebration of the equality of the human race-absloutely color-blind where all races,cultures,ranks unite in worshipping of the One and Only God.Muslims,those who know and those who don’t know Arabic, fully understand what Islam means.The greatness of Islam is in its simlicity and transperency:One God,many messengers and prophets,with Muhammad being the seal of all Prophets,Prayers,Charity,Fasting and Hajj once in life time for those who are able physcically and financially.

  • thopaine

    The arrogance of these believers who think they can divine the supernatural is astounding,and borders on delusional thinking.

  • abhab

    Asizk:

  • DantheMan1

    I’m not Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Hindi or Buddhist or anything else. However this does not proclude me from having faith and believing in God. I deeply appreciate the profound experience a pilgrim might enjoy during the hajj. We should all go on a hajj to our spiritual center, the great outdoors for me. Merry Christmas (I’m bond to the traditions of my family. My Christmas tree looks really nice this year).

  • jamil51

    Part 2O People, listen to me in earnest, worship God, say your five daily prayers , fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth tax. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.Remember, one day you will appear before God and answer your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the QURAN and my example, my examples and if you follow these you will never go astray.All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O God, that I have conveyed your message to your people”.READERS: Don’t believe twisted cut/pastes about Islam. Read the Holy Book Quran your self.

  • Arif2

    Marc-Edward,More of your ignorance;What if they did announce it?It is far more disrespectful to bar people from your places of worship. In mohammeds last sermon he made it clear to his followers to rid the peninsular of all Jews and Christians. Witness the first ethnic cleansing? The truth is muslims consider people of other faith inferior and filthy to enter the once pagan Kaaba.

  • Manoo

    THE NEO-ATHEISTS and their “innocent” quest for religious knowledgeThe neo-atheist which is a new “religion” is a form of “militant atheism” which is against all the religions. There questions to you on this forum are not as innocent and they seem to be. They come here with a mission to create doubts about all religions may it be Islam, Christianity or Judaism.Before you answer their questions about your religion is it not befitting to have the introduction of the person i.e. what he himself believes in. Internet do not mean you hide a dagger to attack other religions while you hide yourself.Atheism is a rejection of all religion, or at least of all theistic religion, and since Islam is usually considered a theistic religion, atheism is in principle opposed to it. However, as a phenomenon with its roots in Europe, atheism has concentrated its opposition to religion on Christianity. The new atheism, by contrast, emphasizes Islam as a particularly virulent form of religion that must be opposed. Often, the new atheists claim that because of the events of 9/11, they feel compelled to take a strong stand against religion in general and Islam in particular. Because of this, atheists who focus primarily on Islam, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, may also be considered to be a part of, or at least allied with, the neo-atheists.Atheists do not have anything new to offer. The neo atheists tend to show no interest in professional philosophy, religion, or theology and target the mass market. The arguments against the existence of God are generally versions of scientism, the view that all of life’s problems may be solved by appeal to the natural sciences, and the moral argument against religion, that religion brings out the worst in people. They hide under humanism and pretend to be kinder species. There aim is just to confuse those who have faith in God and religion.