6: THE UMRAH
Magrib was my
first Salah in Makkah in the Al Haram. I found it quite unusual
with the second Imam reciting the Takbir behind the Imam in such
a beautiful voice. This is not common in our part of the world.
I think in the past, before microphones, this was the only way prayers
could be perfomed with such large congregations. It was very pleasant
and was a new experience that appealed to me immensely.
The hair on my body was
standing on its ends during the whole salah. I had prayed my salah
many thousands of times in Scotland but this was something quite
different, something special. It was a deep and moving spiritual
experience. Everything around me seemed super charged with barakah.
Every breath I took, every moment that lapsed was blessed. It was
like positive spiritual energy was concentrated in one place - in
the holiest of places on Earth - the spiritual focal point for every
I was so relaxed and at total peace. It's like when you put everything
on the line, your whole life, your past, your future and it pays
off! It would be the ultimate high and the best feeling ever. This
is what I felt, the ultimate feeling of achievement and success;
I was in heaven… and as close to heaven as can be (literally)
in the holiest of places.
Towards the end of the
salah, it was difficult to contain myself with the sheer power of
excitement and pleasure. Its like when we were kids and were waiting
for an Eid present, we would be jumping up and down with excitement
and at the same time be ready to rip the wrapping paper within an
instance. It was like subduing the excited kid inside me that was
ready to burst with emotion and anticipation.
After the main Jamaat
prayer I perform the Sunnah, the optional prayer, which unusually
was so difficult. I'm sure the soul from my body was running away
from me, eagerly trying to perform the Umrah itself. It was a battle
to get myself together and complete the salah with every part of
my being pulling me in different directions. When I finally did
the salaam which completing the salah I was relieved. After a very
short dua I headed immediately towards the Kabbah.
Let me describe the scene
to you. This is the peak of Hajj season, the city population swells
exponentially. The whole focal point of this huge mass of people
is the Kabbah. When you turn in any direction there is always someone
in front of you. There's always a head with two ears facing you.
In every direction you look, there are eager faces looking towards
the Kabbah. It's like when a special VIP guest visits and everyone's
eyes are hooked onto this guest. I felt a little ashamed that I
was looking around gazing at the faces whilst all the faces were
facing and gazing at the Kabbah. It is said that even gazing at
the Kabbah is an act of worship.
The floodgates had been
opened and the Kabbah was overflowing with souls as more and more
people were entering the area around the Kabbah. It was as if a
dam had burst and a surgence of people was flooding the area. It
was like a race with everyone rushing to get there, eager to please
his or her lord, eager to complete this final pillar of Islam.
I too wanted to get to
the front and touch the Kabbah, kiss the black stone as billions
had done before us. Muhammad (pbuh) the last prophet, the greatest
of all mankind had kissed the same black stone and the only thing
that stood between the black stone and me was a huge crowd of thousands
Then the wisdom of my
guide put things in perspective as he placed his hand firmly on
my shoulder and said " Brother, you don't want to go there
just now, you will break so many hearts to get there, lets complete
our Umrah in peace and complete the command of Allah."
It was completely true
and this crushed me. I thought I would be emotional and cry the
minute I saw the Kabbah but I was strong. However, when the brother
said this I just wanted to cry but his words were completely true
and I respected that!" I continued completing the Tawaaf around
the Kabbah but my eyes kept falling on the Kabbah.
The Tawaaf was very emotional
for me, and as the emotions flowed so did the duas from my lips…
I didn't think about it, they were from the heart. I made so much
effort in planning and learning the duas and when I got there they
had completed deserted my mind. I don't think I can remember my
feet ever making contact with the ground, with dua after dua carrying
We were quite near the
edge of the people going around the Kabbah so it was much slower
and longer but less of a mission. When I gazed towards the centre
I could see the crowds were moving quicker but there was a little
pushing and shoving as groups of people made their way through the
crowds at their different speeds. The nearest thing I can relate
to would be like traffic in India or Istanbul, organised chaos and
mayhem. I thanked Allah that we did not have to cause any inconvenience
or heartache to any of his guests.
I remember an old couple
who had probably travelled many thousands of miles like us were
performing the Tawaaf. They also completed the Tawaaf and were only
a small distance behind us throughout. They looked very old and
weary as they started but managed to remain close to us. I joked
to myself afterwards, forget the Duracell of this world, I am sure
Allah's batteries keep us moving during the Hajj. Maybe it was the
burden of the sins we had been carrying, maybe it was getting lighter
as we performed the Tawaaf? (Inshallah)
After the Tawaaf, we
prayed two Sunnah and also drunk the Zamzam. Then we navigated our
course to the hillocks of Safah and Marwa, snaking our way through
the crowds of worshippers.
As a bit of a reminder
for everyone, the Zamzam is the same spring of water that gushed
forth from the ground at the time of Prophet Ibrahim. Ibrahim had
left his wife Hajar and his baby son Ismael in this barren valley,
near the hillocks of Safah and Marwa. When they ran out of food
and water, Ismael began to cry and Hajar made a frantic run between
the two hillocks looking for somewhere she could get some water.
When she returned to Ismael, there was a spring of pure drinking
water where Ismael had been kicking his feet.
It's the same pure water
that we drink from in Makkah when we perform the Hajj, the Zamzam.
Its also the same hillocks we move between the Safah and Marwa as
part of the Umrah ( the lesser pilgrimage) and the Hajj. Both these
have become part of the great mosque in Makkah which has expanded
from around the Kabbah, incorporating the Zamzam spring and the
We completed moving between
the hillocks of Safah and Marwa. This is repeated seven times and
by the size of each trip you would think that it would be quite
an expedition but we completed it easily without feeling tired.
Many people perform fourteen trips between the Safah and Marwa but
it is a total of seven.
After this stage of the
Umrah, all that remains was to get the hair trimmed and that would
complete the Umrah. Immediately, we began to trace our steps back
towards the hotel. There were many barbers on route and we chose
one barbershop, which was close to the hotel.
The barber asked me if
I wanted it trimmed, I just said "Take it all off, I'm leaving
the old me behind!" I was leaving my old world behind me, the
old me was finished and a new chapter had begun in my life. I wanted
every reminance removed from me just as some lizards shed their
skins; I was shedding the old hammy!
As I was getting my hair
shaved, I recounted the terrible sins I had done in the past as
the hair fell to the ground. It was as if I was shedding those sins
along with it. It was as if Allah was making me comfortable, as
if acknowledging that these sins were purged from my system. After
all, many souls come to Makkah with sins piled like mountains and
return with only a clean start, a clean heart and a new purpose
and outlook in life.
Finally we returned to
the Hotel and as I briefly rested in our hotel room, I was relaxed.
Even the sounds, smells and feelings around me felt foreign but
I knew I belonged here; my soul was at peace and at complete ease.
I reflected on my journey here and the great hardships I had to
endure. I reflected on the Umrah itself that took about three hours
during which we had completed everything correctly. We managed to
squeeze Isha into the whole thing. It was quite a job.
For now my eyelids were
dropping and I knew I would be woken by the sounds of the Azan calling
all the worshippers to return to their lord's presence in complete
submission and obedience. For now, I was at peace and rested, even
though by body was ready to go again and my mind was active, absorbed
in deep thought