Saturday, 10 September 2011

The lesser pilgrimage with the reward of Hajj...

20th Aug 2011 - - - 6am

We were off. Ready. Leaving the blessed city of the Prophet pbuh for Makkatul-Mukarramah - the most blessed city in the world. I was a little sad I wouldn't be eating iftar and breaking my fast with the hospitable and friendly ummah in Madinah, but at the same time a little nervous and excited for what was in store: the Ka'bah. All I kept thinking was, this is an invite from Allah swt. Did I prepare well? Alhamdulillah the hours meeting we had the night before prepared us well. The Shaykh had gone over the most important elements of what makes your Umrah correct, what could nullify it etc. In preparation, he mentioned  the need to make tawbah - repentance. He gave us the example of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh - a Prophet, a sinless man as one who made forgiveness 100 times a day. Well what does that say about us?! So having showered before we left, using no soap or shampoo, I became very conscious of being in my Ihraam clothes. Once we had reached the point of meeqat which was a special boundary point where one would pray and renew and correct their intention before entering Makkah. The intention was for Umrah. The meeqat point was not too far from Madinah when we left. We prayed our 2 raka'at in a masjid outside of Madinah called masjid bi'r Ali en route to Makkah and made the intention for umrah. We were off once again. The time was 8.05am and the temperature was 34 degrees. As we left my father reminded us of the importance of the talbiyah. We continued to make talbiyah for the next couple of minutes together as a group.
Labbaika Allahomma Labbaik. Labbaik La Shareeka Laka Labbaik. Innal-Hamdah, Wan-Nematah, Laka wal Mulk, La Shareeka Laka. 
In Arabic لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لاَشَرِيْكَ لَكَ
It was translated as"Here I am at Thy service O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners. Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty. Thou hast no partners."

The Zam Zam Towers clock.
Throughout the journey on the coach, I tried my very best to remain awake, thinking I'd miss out on an important site we'd pass, but I kept falling asleep. My dad did inform me that the route we took from Madinah to Makkah, ya'ni the motorway was the very same route the Prophet pbuh had once taken on his migration from Makkah to Madinah with his trusted companion Abu Bakr Siddeeq. The drive took us just over 5 hours. We eventually arrived in Makkah at 1pm. We began to recite the talbiyah once more. The excitement grew as we could see the clock tower from the zam zam towers complex in the distance. We knew we were very close. I couldn't wait to go see the ka'bah. When we arrived, my dad had advised us all to get rest as it had been a long day. He announced the time of 11.30pm that very same day that we were going to perform the Umrah. We had 11 hours to go! But alhamdulillah with the journey we had, I did become very tired and went to sleep for a few hours. Many from our group had performed their Umrah already by the time I had got up. We met for iftaar in the hotel dining area. Immediately after prayers and eating, we began to get ready to go the Haram [pronounced haram as opposed to haraam]. I took with me all I needed to be ready for the Umrah. As we walked down the lenghthy Ibrahim al-Khalil street, I could see the green clock from the clock tower and realised how close we were. There were many people! It was just before 9am when we reached the outside of the Haram. The grey marbling took me by surprise as I absolutely no idea what the exterior of interior for that matter looked like. I stood in awe. We frantically searched for a place to squeeze in to the rows in order to join in for Isha prayers and the call to prayer [adhaan] echoed through the air. It sounded absolutely surreal live, really amazing to hear mashAllah. Alhamdulillah we found space outside to pray. After Isha prayer we stayed put until some or very little of the crowds started to disperse. Among the crowds we spotted my dad. He remained close to where we were as he would lead us inside the masjid and to the ka'bah. We waited for others at the time agreed, but amongst the large crowds we couldn't find anyone from our group. 
The crowds during tawaaf around the Ka'bah.

At just after 11.30pm, we entered the masjid through the largest gate called Baab-King Abdul Aziz. There were crowds and crowds of people on our right and on our left. The familiar zamzam coolers we spotted in Madinah were also lined up besides the pillars. As we got closer and closer and walked deeper and deeper into the masjid, we continued our talbiyah. Suddenly between the moving of people, I saw the black cloth of the Ka'bah. We walked some more, until we could see more of the ka'bah. We said our own personal prayers. From the distance, I could see the crowds of people circumbating or making tawaf around the kabah - which literally means walking around the ka'bah as part of the ritual of Umrah. As we entered the place of tawaf called the mataaf. I noticed how small the ka'bah seemed or perhaps this was because of the extra large Zam Zam clock tower overshadowing it from above.. But actually the closer you got to it through your tawaaf the bigger it seemed. I had held on to my dad's Ihraam with all my might. I feared the thought of getting lost in the crowds and not knowing what to do! My friend held on to me and another friend on to her. We began the first tawaf from the hajr-aswad, the point of the black stone on the ka'bah. We with the crowds as one body. Very close, very crowd. But the feeling one felt was indescribable. Occasionally we'd pass by someone with a water spray bottle, spraying at the worshipers to cool them down or someone with a box of tissues handing them to worshipers to wipe off sweat. Due to the immense crowds resulting in extrememe heat around you, by the time we had finished your 7 rounds of tawaaf, I for one was sweating from head to toe! As we tried to exit the mataaf [place of tawaaf] we headed up a small set of stairs to pray two raka'at for tawaaf. It is recommended to pray near to the maqam-ibrahim [which is where the footsteps of Ibrahim can be seen through golden rimmed glass covering], but because of the number of people there performing their umrah or simply doing additional tawaaf, we just prayed in inside. After which we went to drink zam zam. I drank to my full, put zam zam on my face and poured some on my head to cool me down. 
The zam zam water coolers.

Safa and Marwa
A birds-eye view of the moutain of Safa inside
the masjid.
Straight after that we headed for the mountains of Safa and Marwa which were the two locations Hajara, wife of Ibrahim [May Allah swt be pleased with them both] ran from in search of help, water when she was tested by her Lord. The location of Safa which is were we began from is within the actual masjid. The lower part of the mountain is covered in good grip marble tiles to prevent accidents. I could see the top of the mountain of Safa which is probably the size of a medium sized hill. We supplicated the prayer at Safa whilst looking at the Ka'bah through the pillars of the masjid now and the crowds of the people ahead. We began our walk from Safa to Marwa. The were scores and scores of people ahead of us, which was more visible from our higher view on Safa mountain. As we walked, we recited duas. I had around my neck a handy book called 'Hajj and Umrah made easy.' It was the size of my palm and with a cord attached I could put it around my neck. Our walk to Marwa was approximately 450 m away, and with the 7 rounds to make, we walked approximately 3.15km. At some point during our walk, I lost my father. The main reason was the crowds and also the green light zone which indicate the slow-placed running for men as Hajara most likely ran when searching for food or help for her newly born son Isma'eel. Suddenly, I began to feel my phone vibrate in my bag. I knew it was my father alhamdulillah. He called to inform that he was in a lot of pain from an infection on his leg, so he would be finishing his remaining 5 rounds on a wheelchair. The wheelchair service in the Haram is brilliant mashAllah. The wheelchairs run in the innermost lanes between Safa and Marwa allowing those unable to walk perform an Umrah too.By the 5th round, my legs started to feel heavy, and my pace began to slow. Yet knowing I had two more rounds to go and many more duas to say, I kept on going! The crowds were at their peak at the mountain of Safa and Marwa where we stopped to supplicate. As we continued, my friends and I thought how amazing it was that we were performing this ritual in commemoration of the test that Allah had given Ibrahim and Hajarah and their son Isma'eel [May Allah be pleased with them all]. 
A view of the crowds taken at Marwa.

It was really here, that I realised how important they were in the religion of Islam. In fact, even the rituals of Hajj are a combination of the Prophetic sunnah and the footsteps of Ibrahim [May Allah be pleased with him] including the compulsory sacrificing of lamb, cow, camel in Allah's name as opposed to a son. [Ibrahim had seen in a dream that he was slaughtering his son Isma'eel, so he wanted to fulfill this order from Allah swt, little did he know Allah was testing him. But Ibrahim and Isma'eel were both ready to sacrifice their lives for their Lord. Allah swt saw this and sent down a ram to be sacrificed instead and thus we sacrifice an animal during Eid ul Adha]. Alas, we had left Safa and we were approaching Marwa. This was our seventh round. At one point, I didn't want it to end! But as we walked uphill slightly to reach Marwa, there were already crowds of people. We had completed the sa'ee [walking between Safa and Marwa]. But our umrah was not over yet. The last important part of the Umrah is to get out of Ihram by the snipping of about and inch of your hair, or men can have a trim or full shave of their heads. We walked back through the crowds, extremely exhausted. We stopped to buy some ice cream too. Finally at the hotel, we found somebody to snip our hair, and at that we knew we had completed our Umrah. 

I pray Allah swt accepted our Umrah and accepted all our good deeds during our trip in Ramadhaan. Ameen.

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