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Memories From My First Umrah Trip

My earliest recollection of the Ka’ba is of a framed photo which was hung in our family home. I’ve always had a desire to visit the Masjid Al Haram and when I finally booked my ticket it was a dream that was going to come true. When the visa came through I was one step closer but I said to myself, I won’t believe it has happened until I’m there.

There are many incidents where people were unable to go for Umrah or Hajj even after receiving their visas due to unfortunate circumstances. Visiting the house of Allah is truly something which Allah invites people to, something which a couple of my friends reminded me.

We landed in Jeddah airport and boarded our air-conditioned coach to Makkah. Not too long ago, before air-transportation, Muslims would undertake arduous journeys on foot, on camel, by car and by ship. Allah has made travel easy for us and we thank Him for that.

As we entered the holy city of Makkah I was on the look out for the clock tower (yes, people don’t like it), it would be the first sign pointing to the Masjid Al Haram. Seeing it only increased my anticipation which prompted me to look out for the minarets.

Finally, the beautiful minarets emerged from behind the hotels which surround the Masjid, this filled me and my fellow travellers with joy, we were just metres away from the Masjid.

We were dropped off out at our hotels where we unloaded and freshened up. We were tired and jet-lagged and had to decide if we should go to sleep and perform Umrah after waking up or if we should do it immediately.

Out of eagerness, we decided that we would do it straight away and then rest for the night.

As we approached the Masjid from the courtyard, it hit me, I was here. My du’as had been accepted and I was a guest invited to the house of Allah.

Seeing the Ka’bah for the First Time

We promptly made our way towards the Mataf, all the while lowering our gaze. Finally, when we were close enough, we lifted our eyes to behold the beautiful Ka’bah – towards which millions of Muslims face everyday. Such a moment can not be expressed in words, it can only be experienced. May Allah allow you all to do so.

Performing Umrah

We began by performing the seven Tawafs and we were filled with gratitude to Allah that He allowed us to be here. Allah made the Tawaf easy and after finishing that, we prayed two Rak’ahs behind the Maqam of Ibrahim (as).

There are many who try to pray right behind it in their eagerness, however this inconveniences those performing Tawaf so we decided to find a spot at the back where we were able to pray behind it ensuring we were not disrupting others. We proceeded to drink some cool ZamZam before we made our way to the Mas’a.

The first few rounds were easy but it became difficult towards the last few rounds partly due to the fact that I was carrying my daughter who was one and a half years old on my back on a baby carrier. What kept me going was thinking about how Haajar (ra) had run between the two mountains in the hot Arabian heat. There was no cooling systems nor were there any marble tiles in those days.

Alhamdulillah with Allah’s help we completed the Umrah and I made my way to a barbers nearby to get my head shaved.

To me, shaving one’s hair is symbolic to one’s sins being forgiven (if Allah accepts). All our past mistakes and sins simply fall away as quickly as it takes for an experienced barber to glide a sharp blade across the head.

Do remember though, you don’t have to perform Umrah to have your sins forgiven, all you have to do is repent to Allah sincerely regretting what you have done and have a firm intention not to commit that sin again. Allah is Most-Forgiving and He loves to forgive.

People Everywhere

Allah blessed us to spend a week in Makkah and the high number of pilgrims and the construction work meant that we had to go to the Masjid early in order to get in. The guards had an efficient crowd control system which was in place to avoid over-crowding. May Allah reward those who help with the day to day running of the Masjid.

Every Muslim has a desire to kiss the black stone but it was something that I did not attempt. Attempting it would mean I’d inevitably have to push my way towards it and I may have incurred a sin by putting another Muslim in difficulty. We expect to be forgiven by kissing the black stone but do we really expect Allah to fulfil such a wish when it is done by inconveniencing dozens of other Muslims?

As I sat in the Mataf one afternoon, I sat there thinking how the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have walked there enduring hardships to preach the message entrusted unto him by Allah. The likes of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them) had grown up in the shade of this sanctuary and were eventually forced to leave their beloved city.

Ibrahim (as)’s Prayers Answered

Once, as the Maghrib adhan was being called I thought to myself that it was this Kalimah which the polytheists of Makkah were trying so hard to quell but little did they know it would continue to be proclaimed for hundreds of centuries, and now, through loud-speakers, it reaches the mountains surrounding Makkah. Allah’s promise was true and the Muslims prevailed at the end.

No matter what hardship we endure, let’s remember that Allah’s promise is true and the good-outcome will be for the believers. If we don’t see the fruits in this Dunya, our reward is waiting for us in the hereafter insha Allah.

It was also here where Ibrahim (peace be upon him) implored Allah to bless the city with safety and provisions, to turn the hearts towards it so that people came in their numbers. His prayers was answered and what I observed attested to that.

I saw people from all over the world from all walks of life. From the rich to the poor, those from the southern-most parts of Africa to those from the far-east. From the lightest of skins to the darkest, they were there for one purpose – for Allah.

Coming from a metropolitan city like London, seeing people from different backgrounds was not astonishing but I couldn’t help but wonder how those who were from remote villages – who have never seen a person of another race or colour – felt seeing fellow Muslims from all over the world.

Turks Show Love

I was sitting reciting the Qur’an sitting on the upper platform of the temporary Mataf after Fajr prayers, gazing down at the beautiful Ka’bah when an elderly Turkish gentleman came and sat next to me. He sat there with his Tasbih invoking the name of Allah whilst listening to my recitation. After I finished the Surah I was reciting I turned to him to say Salam. I didn’t expect to be able to have a conversation with him as I hadn’t met many Turks who knew how to speak English or Arabic but to my surprise he was fluent in Arabic. He was from Konya which is known for the religiosity amongst its population.

He asked me where I was from and expressed joy to learn that I was from Britain. He prayed for the Muslims in Britain and kissed me on my forehead.

Another story I’d like to share about the Turks is of a middle-aged brother I observed whilst waiting for Jumu’ah. I had gone extra early to ensure I got a space in the Masjid. The man probably spent over an hour going back and forth with three plastic cups (as many as he could hold at a time) from the containers containing ZamZam water, providing a much needed refreshing cool drink to worshippers waiting for Jumu’ah.

Why didn’t the eager worshippers get up and help themselves to the water? Probably because they dared move from their space as space was at a premium with gaps snapped up as soon as someone seemingly vacated their spaces.

I noticed the Ottoman-era porticos which were being restored and it just got me thinking how must it have been when the Turks were in charge with serving the pilgrims. I must say though, despite the many criticisms leveled at the Saudis, they are doing a great job.

Arab Brother Rescues My Daughter

Finally, I’d like to share with you an incident which I will remember for a long time.

We were going up the electric escalators in the King Fahd extension and I was carrying my daughter on my back on a baby carrier. All of a sudden the escalator above us stopped causing a bottle-neck but our escalator was still moving. As we got to the top a crush started to happen as people weren’t moving due to the stalled escalator. More and more people started to come up from behind until I felt people pushing against my daughter on my back but I had nowhere to go. I feared that she would get crushed so I shouted ‘my daughter! my daughter!’ in Arabic whilst pointing towards her. There was nothing much that could be done as the escalator we had come off was still moving people up.

An Arab brother heard my calls and he quickly went behind me forming a physical barrier between the crowds and my daughter, taking the force of the crowd on himself. He reassured me by saying in Arabic; ‘I am with you’ – words which truly illustrated what Islamic brotherhood is about. The crowds soon eased and we were able to walk up the stalled escalator but I was unable to properly thank the brother who had come to our aid as he had disappeared into the crowds. May Allah reward him.

May Allah invite us to His house time and time again. Ameen.

Written by Rafiq ibn Jubair

Rafiq ibn Jubair is the founder and Director of IlmFeed. He is a graphic designer and digital marketing specialist by profession. Rafiq is also a graduate of the Islamic Sciences and has Ijazas (formal authorisation) in Hadith, Tafsir and Fiqh amongst other subjects.

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