It has been quite a long time since I’ve last spoken about our journey, and once again I apologise for this.
We left my beloved Madinah last Wednesday, 3rd October for the city of Allah’s house, the Holy Ka’bah. When one enters the city of Makkah for the purposes of Hajj or Umrah, it is required to enter with an umrah, and to cross the meeqat (border) in ihraam.
The requirements of the umrah is as follows:
To enter into ihraam
Khalq (cutting the hair after completion of the above)
Because we were coming from Madinah, the meeqat that we would use is at Dhul Khulaifah, and the specific place, Bi’r Ali, which is approximately 450km from Makkah.
We made ghusl and donned our clothing of ihraam at the hotel, and left at 12 noon. This was the first time ever that I would enter into the state of ihraam, and I must admit I was a little bit scared and overwhelmed by it. The state where things that are normally halaal become haraam.
What if I mistakenly broke the conditions of ihraam?
What if I do something I’m not supposed to?
What if I used the hand cream in my bag that had an aloe fragrance?
What if someone makes me angry?
What if I step on an insect?
Would I be able to successfully pull off this non-human, near-angel state for the next (approx.) 24 hours? Especially during a 8-10hr bus ride through the desert, where the seats would not even allow me the leg room to have my knees in front of my legs and I was forced to sit skew?
I eventually convinced myself that if millions before me had done it successfully, why not I? After all, we can only do the best that we can, and make duah that Allah accepts our sacrifices.
Making the ghusl for ihraam is one unlike any other. Being the ghusl of ihraam, it is also the ghusl of death. And donning the clothing of ihraam is also donning your own kaffan, the clothing of death. If the muhrim is to die in that state, they would not wash or kaffan them, they would be buried just like that because they are already in the purest state that a human being can be in. These are the things I thought about as I got dressed.
We arrived at Bi’r Ali at the time of Thuhr, made salaah and the 2 raka-aat of ihraam there. We then made our niyyah as a group under the guidance of sheikh. At this point, this was it. We were now completely in the state of ihraam, both physically and spiritually, and our umrah had begun.
We were very well fed during the journey by the muassasahs. They gave us food boxes, water, juice, dates and other little eatables at various points during the journey. However, most of what was provided was not suitable for myself and Fadeelah to eat because they were wheat-laden (biscuits, rolls, etc) and sugar-laden (juice). We were prepared for this though, so we packed in our own suitable snacks for the journey, most of which we had brough from home already.
About 4 hours into the journey, we stopped at a place with a salaah facility and a very dodgy-looking ‘restaurant’. Some of the people who didn’t want to make jamm salaah at Bi’r Ali made Asr there.
I took the opportunity to get myself some real food to eat. I got myself a piece of chicken with rice as soon as we got there. The others in the group were making fun of my food, saying it’s not a chicken, it’s a chick, and also asking how I could even bring myself to buy food at such a place. LOL. Well, my reasoning was that I’d take my chances there instead of eating the wheat products and suffering the consequences that I knew would occur later. I couldn’t scratch myself if I started itching from eating badly. And the journey to Makkah would still be very many hours, and when we got there I would need my strength for the umrah. My family at home all told me that I must eat to stay healthy, and that is exactly what I was doing. One man commented that he can see I can travel, because of what I’m prepared to do. Hahaha.
Most of the ladies pulled their noses up at the eastern toilets (the ones in the ground) too, but we (me and Fad) were quite prepared for that, because we were warned of it at home too. The toilets weren’t that bad really. They even had istinja pipes that we could use. I really don’t know what those people will do on Mina when they need to go to the toilets. I am becoming more and more grateful for all the valuable advice that was given to me before we left.
We ended up staying at that stop for quite a while, and other people also ended up buying food. I think they first waited for me to eat and saw that I didn’t die from food poisoning before they ventured to eat! LOL
We arrived in Makkah at around 9pm, where there were a few admin stops and passport controls where we had to wait in the bus while our stuff was sorted out. We eventually arrived at the hotel at 9:30pm. My legs were sore from sitting skew and not having used my muscles for so many hours. Makkah feels a lot hotter than Madinah. Although the temperature difference is only about 2-3 degrees, it’s the higher humidity that makes a big difference. We checked in and were advised that the sheikh would lead a group umrah at 11pm. We (me, Fadeelah and Dad) are not very keen on group tawaaf and sa’ee, but we thought we’d just do it this one time, and maybe it would be a special experience.
I was very excited to see the ka’bah for the first time. I asked the sheikh at which point we would see the ka’bah because I didn’t want to see it before I was prepared to. He told me it’s fine, he will take us to the place that used to be Baab Salaam (the place that has the best view of the ka’bah) and we must just look down until he tells us we can look up.
We entered the haram at approximately 11:40pm. I made sure I had ready what I wanted to ask for the first time I saw the ka’bah, and made sure I looked down and not look up no matter what. We entered through Baab Malick Abdul Aziz and walked around until the point where we would stop. It was a strange feeling…knowing the kabah is on my left and that I could see it if I just looked up, but forcing myself to look down. I wondered what I would feel when I saw the ka’bah. Would I have a ‘moment’? Would it be an emotional experience or would it not? I guess I’d find out in just a little while.
The sheikh made a duah and when he said we could look up, I still didn’t. I wanted to make sure he was done so that I could make my own duah. He told us earlier that the duah you make the first time you see it is very readily accepted by Allah. Also, you only have one chance to see it for the first time. If you look, and look away, the opportunity is gone. Next time you lay eyes on the holy house of Allah, even if it is a second later, it would be the second time. So I faced the ka’bah and looked down until he was completely done, and then looked up, held my gaze and made my duah. I was in awe of this building. I am finally at the house of the Almighty, the place I had been making salaah toward my entire life. It was majestic. But it also looked smaller than I expected. It was a big moment for me but it wasn’t emotional. I didn’t have a ‘moment’. But it was okay. One of my teachers told me that for each one it happens in its own time, and it isn’t the first time for everyone. Maybe my moment would come, and maybe it will never come. Time would tell.
We made our first tawaaf in a group, with the men in the group surrounding the women in order to protect them. Even though it was the middle of the night, it was HOT. I sweated loads. It was also very strenuous for me to walk so slowly. One thing that looked bigger to me than expected was the Hijr Isma’eel. It was higher and wider than I expected for some reason. When we passed the Ghajr ‘al Aswad there were loads of people fighting to get to the stone. I hope I will get a chance to kiss the stone at least once during this trip inshaAllah. But it is a dangerous place, especially for women, and I don’t think I will risk an injury there before the days of Hajj. We completed the tawaaf, made the 2 raka-aat behind the maqaam Ebrahim and went to drink some zam-zam. The zam-zam in Makkah tastes different to that in Madinah. Makkah’s zam-zam tastes like the ones at home that the hujaaj bring home. Maybe it’s the piping process to get the water to Madinah that changes its taste.
After that it was time for the sa’ee. I would love to explain the significance of the sa’ee because it is very special to me, but I’ll leave that for its own post. It deserves a completely seperate explanation.
We start at the hill of Safar. One can see the rocks of the actual hill. I immediately thought of the stories we were told of my brother climbing on the rocks during the sa’ee when he came to Umrah with my parents when he was 4 years old. The kids can’t climb the rocks any more because it is now cordoned off with a glass fence.
It was now very late and I was taking strain, and I was tired and hungry as well. The umrah is strenuous. My legs were sore, and I was wearing socks, which was causing me to slip on the marble slightly. I was starting to really feel for the older people in our group. If us young ones were taking strain, imagine how hard it must be for them who have even less energy than us. May they receive an even greater reward insha-Allah. However, I also thought of the mother Haajar, who did this original search for water in the desolate desert with nobody around, alone with a crying baby. This is surely nothing compared to what she went through.
We finished the sa’ee some time after 2am, and then went to relieve ourselves of ihraam by cutting our hair. Our umrah was done, Alhamdulillah. We were also very hungry and hoped that we would still be able to find some food outlets open at that hour. Luckily, we found that most of them are open throughout the night, so we (the 3 of us) went to get some food.
It was now about 3am, and Fajr was at 4:54am. We had now been awake for close to 24 hours. I was so tired that I didn’t trust myself to wake up for Fajr if I had gone to sleep now. Fadeelah and Dad was brave enough to take a nap. I decided to take a shower, change and go back to the haram to make my own sunnah tawaaf by myself, seeing as I wasn’t very free with the group.
I went down at 4am and did the tawaaf and enjoyed it a lot more. I was free to move on my own and get as close to the ka’bah as possible. It was very full. I sweated a lot again, and wondered why I even took the shower to begin with, LOL. Even though it was so full, I managed to get really close to the ka’bah. By the 2nd round I was right against it, and stopped at Rukun Yamani a bit when I realised I could touch the corner, stay there a bit and make duah with my face against the holy house of Allah. I finished in time before Fajr and there was still time to make Tahajjud, but I hadn’t slept yet so I wasn’t allowed to. I made Fajr salaah on the mataaf with my gaze upon the majestic black box of the Holy Kaabah.
Back at the hotel, we went for breakfast as soon as we could (it opens at 6am). We couldn’t really eat much. Firstly, we had eaten just over 3 hours before, and secondly and more importantly, we were just too tired to eat. Body called… no CRIED OUT for a bed.