It is compulsory for every Muslim to perform Hajj in his/her life time provided he or she is financially capable of carrying out this process. Hajj is the pilgrimage that happens at a fixed time of the year, 9th – 13th Dhil Hajj of Arabic Calendar, whereas Umrah (which means “to visit”) can be performed at any time during the year provided visa is granted for out of Kingdom Muslims.
I am writing to share the experiences that I had after visiting Kaaba to perform Umrah last month (February, 2016). I will not discuss here the rituals, obligations as well as the rules that one needs to know before heading to perform Umrah/Hajj. I would like to thank our creator Allah (SWT), the Great, the Powerful, the Merciful and the owner of this Universe. Indeed it was an experience of a lifetime! I was longing for this opportunity for the last couple of years and wanted to visit Kaaba with my family (my husband and son). Allah (SWT) fulfilled my desire!
After we received our Umrah visas, our preparation for the visit started. I still can remember how amazing feeling it was, that very moment when I received a call from the Visa issuing agent, asking to pick up our passports, and how ecstatic feeling it was. I thanked Allah (SWT) for HIS blessings once again, at the same time prayed to Almighty, asked for HIS continuous blessings and support so that we can visit the Holy Kaaba, Makkah Mukkaramah and Medina Munnawarah (Our Prophet’s PBUH grave).
That day has come. We started our journey by the name of Allah (SWT). On our way to Jeddah we had an eight hour layover in Istanbul. We decided to check in a hotel for few hours so that we could prepare ourselves and get ready for Umrah with proper clothes (wearing Ihram clothes). What an amazing feeling it was! I am sure my son and husband had the same feeling. Truly speaking, I was feeling blessed throughout our journey till then. Once again this feeling was so unique and overbearing. I was overwhelmed with anticipation and excitement. Yes, I saw Kaaba earlier in my 20’s with my parents, but surprisingly I was having the similar excitement and spiritual motivation once again. I was nervous and at the same time restless to some extent, trying really hard to be calm. I was thanking Allah (SWT) throughout my journey again and again.
This experience was unique and difficult to describe. This journey is like no other, I felt like I will be in a different phase of life. Other journeys were always exciting but my feeling this time was entirely different! Why I felt so different and special? Where did all my tiredness go? After a while we left for the airport. I felt more excited after reaching Ataturk Airport! When we reached the gate to depart we saw other passengers wearing Ihram clothes. All of us then started for Jeddah by the name of Allah (SWT).
“Labbaik. Allahumma Labbaik. Labbaik la sharika Laka Labbaik. Innal hamda wa ni’amata laka wal mulk. La sharika lak.”
“Here I am, O Allah here I am Here I am, You have no partner, here I am! Surely all praise, favor and authority Belongs to you. You have no partner.”- Talbiya
Our pilot announced while flying over the Miqat, the boundary around Makkah (designated place where all pilgrims must make intentions and start reciting Talbiya. I felt like my soul was spiritually elevated. Was it really happening or not? If I think back I can certainly say that I was at a different level of satisfaction and happiness. We reached Jeddah by the grace of Almighty Allah (SWT). We were received by my uncle in Jeddah, who lives there. Later we started for Makkah after resting for a while at his place. We reached Makkah, checked in a hotel and then started for Haram Sharif (the sacred mosque). I was anxiously waiting for so many hours, days and months for this day. When we entered Haram Sharif, I was very nervous. I heard that it’s always special for everyone whoever visited Kaaba and glanced for the first time. Alhamdulillah! I don’t remember what I asked from Allah (SWT) after my first sight at Kaaba, this time, but I remembered vividly that I thanked Allah (SWT) for giving us the opportunity to visit this sacred place, the blessed house of Allah (SWT).
I could clearly see the beautiful black cloth (called “Kiswa”) surrounding the Kaaba and its golden embroidery. What an amazing feeling I had! A feeling of gratefulness and humility! What a magnificent sight! We performed two Rakats of Salat and then proceeded to Hajr-e Aswad – the Black Stone, where one should begin his/her Tawaf (Circling of Kaaba, first ritual of Umrah), the first ritual of Umrah. We held each other hands and completed Tawaf with the help of my uncle. We all praised Allah (SWT) and prayed for forgiveness and HIS mercy, entire time while circling the Kaaba.
Alhamdulillah I could remember all my friends and family members and prayed for them while performing Tawaf. On our third Tawaf, we moved closer to Kaaba and by the grace of Allah (SWT) could touch the wall of it. Some hundreds or more people were doing Tawaf at the same time and praising Allah (SWT) while doing it. What an extraordinary scene! After performing Tawaf, we prayed two Rakats Salat behind the Maqaam-e-Ibrahim (The place is behind the Maqaam-e-Ibrahim so this place is between a person and the Kaaba), the second ritual of Umrah. Yes, Kaaba was just there, standing in front of me. All my life I prayed in this direction but now I am actually standing in front of Kaaba. SubhanAllah! After these two Rakats Salat, we went close to well of Zamzam. We drank and poured little water on our faces. The zamzam is the blessed water, which has been running for years, the miracle of Allah (SWT) since the time of Hazrat Ishmael (As) who drank this water at his infancy. I felt more purified and fresh after drinking this blessed water. The third ritual of the Umrah is to perform Sa’ee (Seeking or search), which is “walking between the two hills; Safa and Marwah”. This reminded me of that story, which I read while I was a kid about Hazrat Hajirah (AS) who ran between the two hills in search of water for Hasrat Ismael (AS). However, Sa’ee begins at Safa and ends at Marwa. We took seven rounds between Safa and Marwa which ended at Marwa (Safa to Marwa is one round and again Marwa to Safe is the second one).
This gave a true sense and feeling of Allah’s miracle, the blessed well, the zamzam. At the end of Sa’ee, we all then trimmed our hair, the completion of Umrah. My Umrah was completed and I prayed Allah to accept our Umrah. I wish I could be there longer than this. May Allah (SWT) take us to this sacred place over and over again and give us the ability to perform Hajj and Umrah. This was indeed a remarkable journey.
Yes there were thousands of people of different race, languages, cultures but we shared a common language, a language of ISLAM – Worshipping Allah (SWT).
Ayesha Murshid is a scientist by profession and working as a Junior Faculty at Harvard Medical School. She writes scientific papers and published many of her scientific findings in peer reviewed journals. Earlier she did her PhD from McGill University, Canada. She enjoys reading. She is married and blessed with a son.