As I reflected back to the evening when my father received the call from the travel agency to confirm that visa had been granted for Saudi Arabia, I realised it is easy to understand life backwards but difficult to live by moving forwards. At the time, I remember thinking that it is my duty to obtain two weeks from work and leave the rest with Allah (SWT). There is no better way to describe the events that led us to perform Umrah other than: “if my servant comes to me walking, I will go to him running” (Al-Bukhari). I reiterated to myself, that if it is in my destiny, I will visit the sacred house of Allah (SWT) Masjid Al-Haram, and pay my respect to His Beloved, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by visiting Masjid Al-Nabawi. As it was, my family and I travelled to the land of Arabia to perform the pilgrimage.
As we walked to Masjid Al-Haram in the scorching heat surrounded by thousands and thousands of people, I longed to see the Ka’aba with my own eyes. I had seen photographs and live images but my soul knew that neither equated to one’s first glance or any other glance for that matter. It is considered as worship in itself by simply staring at the Ka’aba. The beautiful minarets aim for the cloudless sky, surrounded by mountains on all corners as the Ka’aba lies in a deep valley. Eagerly waiting to be guided to the most beautiful jewel man has ever built, I found picturesque scenes everywhere. Never had I seen such a large gathering and for whom? The One who created you, taught you, guided you and blessed you.
I searched continuously and then I found what my eyes, the doors to my soul, had been longing for. The Ka’aba, situated in the center with Muslims performing tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka’aba seven times). As my eyes became fixated upon the house that Prophet Adam (PBUH) initially built, the house that Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) rebuilt alongside his son, Prophet Ismael (PBUH), I raised my hands for a dua known only to Him. The Ka’aba is so beautiful, so stunning that I was completely mesmerized by its existence and beauty. With each look, I found myself wanting to capture the perfect angle and set it in my mind for eternity, knowing that tomorrow I shall have to return to the UK and pray in the direction of the Ka’aba. But something had changed and I had accepted it wholeheartedly. Previously I had imagined the Ka’aba before praying. On that day, I knew I no longer had to ever imagine the house of Allah (SWT) as He had gifted me with sight – the blind man wishes to see the beauty of this world with his eyes but can only do so with his heart. This further led me to reflect on how beautiful Allah (SWT) has created this world for us yet we cannot fathom the beauty that lies in paradise.
As we walked towards the Ka’aba, we joined Muslims from all over the world to complete tawaf, reciting various duas with each circle completed. Individually, the idea is you submit yourself to Allah (SWT) and glorify Him as you wish. Collectively, with all kinds of Muslims, it is about unity of the ummah and the oneness of Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) has made us from nations and tribes, that we may know one another and become pious through our good deeds. Having completed tawaf and no longer in tuned with worldly affairs, we walked towards the countless taps to drink Zamzam water. It is recommended to take three mouthfuls and ask Allah (SWT) whatever the heart desires. It is no ordinary water; it strengthens the heart and calms the soul. It is the same water that was once employed to wash the heart of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), giving him inner strength to see the kingdom of the Heaven and Earth (Al Bukhari). Allah (SWT)’s mercy and blessings are infinite with taps available everywhere to quench the thirst of the guests that have travelled for Him.
The final aspect of Umrah is Sa’ee: walking between two mountains, As-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times. Today, we walked between the mountains with ease, with air conditioning on throughout the day and night and water in the central aisle. Take a moment and reflect on why Muslims re-enact the historical event which led to the existence of Zamzam water. The wife of Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH), Hajar (may Allah bless her) began searching for water in the desert when Prophet Ismael (PBUH) started to cry. She ran between As-Safa and Al-Marwah, desperately searching for a traveler or water. Upon her return to her son, a spring had miraculously sprouted from the ground, and Hajar shouted zamzam / stop stop and thereby a well was created which flows today and will do so until the Day of Judgement. When our steps fall on the same ground as once did by Hajar (may Allah bless her for eternity), we commemorate her search for water and the great mercy of Allah (SWT) when He answered her prayers. Zamzam water is there right before us today, however we complete our favour upon Allah (SWT), asking Allah (SWT) to lead us to the straight path, the path of those whom He has favoured.
I reflected on the events of the day: to have stood in front of the Ka’aba, to have prayed nafl behind Makam Ibrahim (the station of Ibrahim encloses the footprints of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him), and prayed my five daily prayers in Masjid Al-Haram. My first reflection fell upon all the men and women who travelled to Makkah Al-Mukaramah. Those who have left this world, it will remain in clear record, that they travelled to Masjid Al-Haram and completed their duty that was set for them. It is mind-blowing when you consider in one space, millions and millions of Muslims have set foot, past, present and to come again inshAllah, to gain the blessings that await them. It is the place where Allah (SWT) is glorified continuously. There is not a moment when people are not praying, performing tawaf or zikr. Allah (SWT) hears duas all over the world but Makkah Al-Mukaramah is so very special for numerous reasons, emphasisng Islam is a religion of unity, and so Muslims should come together as one entity.
Masjid Al-Haram is also home to Hajr-e-Aswad, the black stone from Heaven. Although you deeply wish to touch the stone, it is next to impossible without causing harm to another. Therefore, you reflect on the existence of the stone but you accept that according to shariah, raising your hands to Hajr-e-Aswad and kissing your palms is equivalent to touching it. SubhanAllah, even with limitations to the pilgrimage, Allah (SWT) provides us with the opportunity to gain equal reward. He is the Provider, and there is no end to His giving. Furthermore, a Muslim must accept the journey is difficult albeit not as difficult as it was during the time of our Prophet (PBUH). Today, there is water everywhere, air conditioning in masjids and transport, and endless more provisions. Nonetheless, the journey will involve hardship, aches and pains but no hardship goes unnoticed; after all with every hardship comes ease. Umrah is one of few tasks in life that you do solely for Allah (SWT) in order to gain His pleasure. This is the true essence of submission.
Throughout my stay, I reflected on the colours of Islam under one roof. People from all corners of the globe will travel to Makkah Al-Mukaramah and Medinah Al-Munawarah. With such huge crowds, your differences are extremely apparent: race, language, attireand even etiquette. But you accept your differences do not matter here. Nowhere in the world will you see the definition of equality better than when Muslims perform tawaf, shoulder-to-shoulder as one ummah; men and women, elderly and youth, disabled and the supposed ‘social norm,’ rich and poor, white and black and all the shades in between. Everyone is wearing ihram to highlight that today in the eyes of Allah (SWT) you are equal and tomorrow at your death, a white cloth will be used to wrap you in a similar fashion. The affairs of this world do not matter; what matters are the good deeds noted by the angel on your right shoulder, and may they be in abundance inshAllah.
As the weeks went by, I started to think about my last few prayers in both cities. I thought regarding the acceptance of my Umrah: did I sin along the way and hurt another Muslim? I prayed deeply asking Allah (SWT) to accept the Umrah of my family and I, as well as of fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. Further, I asked Allah (SWT) sincerely to accept all the duas I called for: for myself, for my family, friends and the entire ummah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); for those in Syria, Palestine, Burma, Indian subcontinent, Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the world.
I began placing my hope in Allah (SWT); that He would forgive me for all my sins, major and minor; that He would show mercy upon us all for straying from the straight path. I hoped that my first glance of the Ka’aba would never leave my memory, and that my Umrah weighs heavy upon my scales, and equally the same for any Muslim who performs the pilgrimage. Hoping….that above all, I could continue my life beyond the borders of Arabia by glorifying Allah (SWT), sending salutations upon Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and maintaining prayers in the same manner.
Reflecting, accepting and hoping are my way of living Islam every day. I should reflect on the blessings bestowed upon me: from imaan, health, family and friends, education to walking and breathing. To say alhumdulillah is a blessing within itself. I should accept that whatever Allah (SWT) has decreed for me will reach me, good or bad. It is the qadr of Allah (SWT), when two years ago (2011) I planned to perform Umrah but could not and two years later (2013), Allah (SWT) opened His doors, removing every obstacle in my way. I hope that after leaving for the UK, Allah (SWT) hears my duas and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) hears my salaam and replies. That I would continue to raise my hands, show gratitude and send salutations upon His Beloved. My life is lived by reflecting upon Islam, by accepting all that is bought with Islam and to hope Islam prospers in the lives of Muslims around the entire world.
We are one ummah, the ummah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the creation of Allah (SWT). May we live in such a manner that we reflect upon the sacrifices made by our Prophet (PBUH), accept his sunnah (practices) and hope for Allah’s (SWT) mercy and forgiveness.