Today is 6th of Zulhijjah which means we are only 4 days away from Eid’ul ‘Adha! We are in the first ten days of the month of Zulhijjah, the month of Hajj MashaAllah. And during the month of Hajj, Masjidil Haram in Makkah is truly that crowded (picture) and more. Muslims from all over the world gather to perform the 5th pillar of Islam, performing the deed called Hajj, loosely translated as pilgrimage.
I might not be going to Hajj anytime soon now (there’s a long waiting list and you also need a lot of time to prepare physically and mentally, as well as the stability of finances – unless someone happens to sponsor you, which is MashaAllah, ah-ma-zing) but praises be to God for allowing me to have stepped into the Haramain lands 4 years ago for my umrah, or mini pilgrimage.
For Hajj, you have to go during a certain period of time and there are more specific actions to do but for an umrah, you can go anytime and there are not as many specific actions to do as compared to Hajj.
In 2009, I went to Makkah and Madinah with my mother and my male cousin. I was in my second year in uni during that time and we went after my exams during my semester holidays. It came as an epiphany to my mum who felt that it was the “right time” to perform umrah, without knowing exactly why. Surprisingly, I actually felt the same way.
Prior to the trip, I was feeling depressed over several things. Also, about 2 years had passed since my father’s death and I was still grieving over his passing (they say it gets better after a while but the first few years are always the hardest). I wanted these issues to go away. I wanted to go away to somewhere, so when the opportunity came to go to the lands of Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) who had to go through more depressing moments in his life but who was always smiling all the time, I thought “this is it”. Turns out it wasn’t about me going away, but going back to Allah…
We arrived at Jeddah International Airport in the wee hours of the morning and proceeded to Madinah. Our journey was to spend 3 days in Madinah and 10 days in Makkah, making it a total of 13 days. When the bus first stepped into Madinah, I felt overwhelmed with emotions knowing that the Prophet had been here, to step into a land he has stepped on, to finally be here in Madinah. Furthermore, the hotel that we stayed in, Dar Iman Intercontinental, was located directly in front of Masjid Nabawi. I was swept with a feeling of calmness and tranquillity being in the mosque. Marble flooring, gold-plated accessories, oriental carpeting…materialistic description aside, it was being in the space itself that was beautiful. After making my prayers for the first time there, a rush of calm swept over me. Every ounce of misery and depression that I had melted away. The feeling was just indescribable.
We visited Raudhah at night, the area where the Prophet used to live with his wife Siti ‘Aishah. At this spot prayers are accepted so my mother and me as well as the rest of our group prayed 2 rakaats of the tahiyyatul masid prayer along with other supplications. Outside, the temperature in Madinah was 45 degrees celcius. I had never felt that kind of heat ever before, no matter how hot and humid Singapore is. However, the magical thing about the heat was that even though it can be blistering hot ‘if-you-don’t-wear-sunglasses-you-can-hurt-your-eyes-hot’, it’s not humid and it’s always breezy.
Even though I wear the hijab, I had a bit of a culture shock seeing the sight of many Muslim women decked out in their black abayas, some with their niqabs and burqas. Honestly at first it kind of scared me, but after going into the mosque and discovering that the ladies were super nice and pretty and gorgeously beautiful I realized the niqabs and burqas were really just on the outside. After that onwards I started to appreciate the beauty of wearing the abaya, jubah and actually, that is one of the things I miss most about being in Madinah and Makkah.
The three days that we had in Madinah were spent mostly going to Masjid Nabawi, exploring the area including some shopping for books and abaya. Even though we had a lovely hotel room, it was such a waste to stay in! Another thing that shocked me was the fact that 5 – 10 mins before every obligatory prayer time everyone would rush to the mosque to get a space to pray and to be there in time for prayer. It was such a surprise to me because as soon as the Azan calls, the mosque would have been full house and that is why you have to come earlier. Praying in Masjid Nabawi gets you 100 times more pahala than usual, furthermore praying in congregation multiples it by 27 times. MashaAllah no wonder every prayer time is like an event over at the 2 holiest mosques! Now if only we can treat our home mosques and our prayers that way. Talk about the power of place.
When it came to time to leave Madinah, it was such a sad feeling. 3 days was simply too short. But, looking at the bright side we were off to Makkah, to the Kaabah, to Baitullah! We were encouraged to wear white and guys would wear the ihram (although ladies, not a good choice to wear white unless you are completely sure your garment is not sheer at all) and off we went in our bus to Makkah.
We reached Makkah at night when it was already dark. There was a traffic jam nearing the Masjidil Haram so our bus was constantly stopping and braking. Suddenly however, as we were very near the mosque, the bus broke down. So even though we were tired from the journey, we proceeded to walk to get to our hotel, which fortunately was located near the mosque, along with our bags.
But once we reached the mosque, all the tiredness and the efforts were so worth it. Again I was overwhelmed with emotion of finally being in the mosque where the Prophet and his companions had once been. Being in the places where Islam first began and thinking of their struggles, MashaAllah may Allah bless all their efforts and make us more steadfast in our faiths.
One of the best things about being at both mosques was the continuous supply of the waters of zam-zam. There would be tumblers of zam-zam waters in several sections of the mosque, along with plastic cups provided. Anyone can take them and drink from these tumblers. Some, like me, would fill up their bottles with them. So can you imagine, to wake up and drink air zam-zam only for 13 days? SubhanAllah. We were also told that it was not safe to drink water from the hotel taps so we turned to the best source – zam-zam water!
In Masjidil Haram we performed the tawaf; circumambulating 7 times around the Ka’abah in an anti-clockwise direction and saie; walking back and forth Mount Safa and Marwa 7 times in commemoration of Siti Hajar when she did that years ago in search of water for her son Ismail.
We also went to visit more historical places such as Mount Nur, the place of the first revelation from God to Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. Not wanting to miss this opportunity, I joined some of the team in climbing up this mountain. We started our climb at 3am and even though it was still dark and the mount was treacherous, we could navigate our way up because the light, or nur, that came from the moon allowed us to do so. that’s why it’s called Jabal Nur, or Mount of Light. One of my favourite moments was when it was time for Subuh, we could hear the call of prayer from the many mosques nearby collectively. It was truly an amazing moment.
Next we went to the museum which displayed historical items used in the history of Islam in Makkah.
On our last day we went to the floating mosque at the Red Sea to perform our prayers, and then we had a little walkabout exploring the area… before going back to the bus for our departure to the airport and back home.
May Allah give me and us all the opportunity to perform our Hajj and Umrah InsyaAllah.
Photo credits: Most of the photos are from me, except for the first photo of Masjidil Haram, Masjidil Nabawi (exterior) and the inside of Masjidil Nabawi.
- Umrah Memories: Part 3 “The First Farewell” (meshamania.wordpress.com)
- Madinah Day 5- Why I love This City (shanrana.wordpress.com)
- Umrah Memories: Part 2 “Awe” (meshamania.wordpress.com)
- New Series: Umrah Memories (meshamania.wordpress.com)
- Madinah, Saudi Arabia (rumsasubmissions.wordpress.com)
- He came from Egypt to Jeddah for work during Hajj season, then he was given permission to do Hajj, so he entered ihram from Jeddah (salafi4real.wordpress.com)
- Makkah Day 1 & 2- The Tawaaf (shanrana.wordpress.com)