"These stories and conversations brought us closer to each other, and we left the building together for noon prayers. Haj Abbas and I prayed under the dome we were particularly fond of. The mosque was a haven of peace where I often found refuges. Tired out by the city, its noise and its heat, I was becoming used to staying here in the shade, breathing the less polluted air, between the midday and the evening prayers. The smell of people's bodies diminished after the peak hours, and one could find a little space to meditate, read the Qur'an, or stretch out for a short nap. I had started reading the Qur'an again in Medina, and I was continuing in Mecca. Despite the devastating urban growth and the disappearance of every vestige of the old city, Mecca's name, as well as the mosque and the Kaaba, influenced my reading. The words rang in my ears: the injunctions were imperious, and the immediate evidence of the narratives resumed their bewitching calls. The verses of the apocalypse with their sonorous scansion raised the mountains and moved the stars. The dome communicated its serenity to me; the voices and movements of people praying lent me a helping hand. But as soon as I recited the suras, with their injunctions, reminders, and threats, the rhythmic syllabic slap of the words struck me very hard.

"I left the place after having marked the necessary pause before the circumambulation. Trembling a little, my step uncertain, I hoped to leave the paroxysms of this music behind me along with the prayers for the dead. At the end of the day, these prayers always invited me to wander off into the night. My night. Those who passed on had crossed a threshold that remained open, awaiting those who would follow. A door, like the one a great painter once drew, cut out of the clear night, often sprang into my imagination. But this time the black cube sent it back into nothingness. This time the circle, seen from above, looked like a gigantic white flower with innumerable petals. Around the cube, life affirmed its energy. And the cloth covering it revealed precisely what it purported to hide: the will to bring life about. The cloth clothed nothing.

"Under the sign of the Kaaba, differences didn't disappear, as apologists never tired of claiming. On the contrary: they stood out clearly and gained strength. They were recognized and simultaneously subjected to the values of solidarity and justice. These values did not imply that conditions had to become equal. Around the black cube, the circle consecrated the equal dignity of all Muslims, but it did not eliminate differences in class or status. People accepted these differences; at the same time, they subordinated them to religion and to testimony, which placed them in the realm of contingency. Equality was expressed in contingent difference, not through measures that would impose it by a universal (and abstract) definition of humanity. I felt this intuition of contingency sharpen in my mind and others'. Injustice that threatened dignity was refused here more firmly than elsewhere."