Among Many, Many Believers

It's 3 a.m. and I am in the Grand Mosque of Mecca standing before the ancient Kaaba, a rectangular stone room sheathed in black silk and cotton embroidered in gold with Koranic verses. I am about to perform one of the most significant duties of a Muslim: to circumambulate the Kaaba seven times, counterclockwise, after proclaiming, "Bismillah! Allah-o-Akbar!" (In the name of God! God is Great!).

Well, not I exactly. We are about to circumambulate the Kaaba. The crowd of pilgrims is an utter crush, completely filling the mosque. Most are waiting to do their rounds, others hang...

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