“Everyone started running. I looked up. The wooden doors opened. Women rushed through like a swarm of bees racing towards its nest. The Arabic women by the gates shouted “Sabr Sabr!” But this was no use. Naturally, I too began to run unsure of where to go…”
Back to the beginning
My husband and I have been married for less than a year and decided (By Allah’s swt will) to perform Umrah in the two week Easter break. A lot had happened towards the end of last year and it felt like the right time to go. Late August 2016, a few days after my honeymoon, I lost my younger brother in a jet-ski accident whilst he was on holiday in Turkey. He fought for his life for 9 days and by the will of Allah swt, his life was taken away on the 31st of August. Not only had I lost my best friend growing up, I was newly married and was about to start my new job.
This felt like the right time to go.
1st April 2017.
I woke up with the Niyaah of performing Umrah and had to be in the state of Ihraam- this is a sacred state Muslims must be in order to perform Hajj or Umrah. Whilst in the state of Ihraam, you are not allowed to use anything scented. This meant, whilst showering, I was prohibited to use soap or shampoo and deodorants or perfumes.
On our way to the airport I felt nervous. What if I messed up? What if I performed it incorrectly? Am I ready? What if I forget what to do? There was a deep pit in my stomach moving in a circular motion at every thought that I made.
At the airport, my husband wore his Ihraam, we both performed Wudhu (ablution) and prayed our two rakat nafil with the intention of Ihraam. We recited ‘Qul ya ayyuhal kafiroon’ in the first rakat and ‘Qul huwallaahu ahad’ in the second rakat. Finally, we recited two duas using our Umrah guidebook.
The pilot announced when we reached the Miqat (the point in which you HAVE to be in the state of Ihraam- men have to wear the two pieces of white cloth- women wear their normal modest clothing without covering their face) and that is when we recited “Labayk Allahuma Labayk” repeatedly.
2nd April 2017
We reached Jeddah safely and it was my birthday- unplanned- but yes, I got to perform Umrah on my birthday!
After checking in to our hotel, we quickly put our luggage away and read over our Umrah guides once more. This time I was even more nervous. My teeth were shattering together, my fingertips were vibrating and my pulse rate was beating vigorously. That pit in my stomach was back but this time it wasn’t in fear of forgetting anything- it was knowing that within a few minutes, I will see the Kaba.
We both decided to keep our heads down the entire way until we felt that we were up close. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. That moment of knowing that this is the direction you have been praying to all your life. This is the place you’ve seen on TV and long to be. This is the place our Ummah dream of being and it’s right here in front of me. “Amira are you ready? 3 2 1, look up” he said.
It is beyond belief that you are in the presence of Allah’s house. You’re unable to think straight because you are in awe of what is stood before you. Your eyes well up in disbelief and you need a few minutes to take it all in. You are completely and utterly mesmerised. The Kaba is breath taking. SubhannAllah. At that moment you are so grateful for where you are and nothing in the world matters apart from you and Allah.
Upon seeing the Kaba for the first time, we recited “Allahu akbar. Laa ilaaha illallaha” three times along with any Dua we wish- mine was to see my brother again. InshaAllah.
We began our Tawaaf.
Tawaaf is a story of it’s own. When circulating the house of Allah 7 times you observe different walks of life. I remember it so clearly. We did a Tawaaf everyday during my stay in Makkah and each time there were unforgettable scenes. It is 38 degrees, you are under the scorching sun and you are sweating; every time you try to get close to the Kaba you are being pushed, squashed and shoved between people. You can feel the sweat off those who walk by and the heat suffocates you. But this isn’t bad at all. In fact, I have it easy. As I look around, everything moves in some sort of motion.
I see a mother holding her children with each hand and a baby carried on her back. I see a man limping with a walking stick, I see a woman pushing her mother on a wheel chair, I see a father with a child on his shoulders, and the thing that hit me in the heart the most- the image in my head I cannot erase- is a man with half a body walking on his hands. The circumstances the Ummah go through to complete their Umrah and Hajj to please Allah is miraculous. SubhanaAllah. Islam is truly beautiful. May Allah accept our efforts.
Not only did I witness the struggle people went through for performing Umrah, but also the absolute desperation and determination people had to get to Hajar al-Aswad (the black stone). People would stop at nothing to reach it. Some women who got close enough had their scarves removed from their heads due to the extent of the pushing and shoving. Those who did manage to kiss Hajar al-Aswad struggled to get out. It was nothing like I had seen before. Though it was understandable- I mean if you kiss the black stone all your sins are forgiven, of course you will stop at nothing for that- but it is fardh not to harm other pilgrims whilst doing so. A fardh cannot be sacrificed for a sunnah. I was so close; the black stone was five people away from me- but I could not see myself getting across without barging through. I decided to walk beside the Kaba and felt it at my fingers tips to my palms. It was soft- like velvet. I could feel the embroidery of the black material and instantly broke down at the realisation of where my hands were placed. I cried and made sincere dua then carried on to complete my Tawaaf.
During busy or rushed times the guards barricaded the masjid. There was no way to get in and this usually occurred between Maghrib and Fajr (as it was a lot cooler then). Even when you successfully made it into the masjid, the steps that lead to the Kaba may be blocked off due to crowd control. There were many occasions where my husband and I would just about make it- as one gate closed, we’d run to the next one just in time. It felt like being in a movie- or a video game- trying to get in before the rush and sneak our way in.
Although temperatures hit 40, we made a routine of going during Zuhr- it was most quiet during this time, and so we took this opportunity to do our Tawaafs, pray and sit and stare at the Kaba in astonishment. Not even talk to each other. Just stare.
We took a taxi to Medinah. It was a year since our Nikah on this day- unplanned (I promise). We had the honour of giving our salaams to Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam on this day. And the experience became more intense…
It was Zuhr. We walked towards Al-Nabawi Masjid. The spirituality and serenity of the air soothed me. It was so different to Makkah. It was peaceful. So peaceful. I instantly fell in love with Madinah. This was the city of our beloved prophet (peace be upon him) and you could feel this with every fibre in your body. The Masjid itself was mesmerising. It was pure with utter beauty. Beauty that captivated me.
My husband and I separated and decided to meet back at the hotel after we visited Raudah. Raudah- Masjid Nabawi is the only place on earth which contains a piece of paradise (marked with green carpet). The Raudah ul jannah opens for a short time for ladies (after Fajr, Zuhr and Isha).
My first experience was unforgettable. Alone and confused, I asked one of the Arabic women in charge where I was meant to go. She was very firm in her manner and as she couldn’t speak English, she pointed towards the direction I had to sit and wait. I observed the women around me. There was an eagerness about them. The Arabic women kept ordering them to sit down and I could not grasp why everyone was so desperate to stand up.
Half an hour went by. The women around me stood up. Everyone started running. I looked up. The wooden doors had opened. Women rushed through like a swarm of bees racing towards its nest. The Arabic women by the gates shouted “Sabr Sabr!” But this was no use. Naturally, I too began to run unsure of where to go. I picked up my abaya and ran for what seemed like my life. I didn’t even know why I was running. All I knew is if I stayed behind, I would be at loss. I finally reached to where the path had led me. I was one of the first women there. A gush of sweet musk filled my nostrils. The green carpet was beneath me.
In front of me was a plastic white board used as a barrier across the whole room. I placed my hand on top knowing our beloved prophet (peace be upon him) was on the other side. In that instant, my legs fell numb, my mind scrambled and I burst in to tears. I was in the presence of Rasulallah sallallahu alaihi wasallam; the best of Allah’s creations. I sent durood upon our beloved (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) and began to pray my two rakat nafil where I stood. Throughout my namaaz, I was unable to comprehend where I was and the tears kept flowing. Women around me were pushing and shoving to get to the front. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Women were being stepped over whilst in sajdah, women would directly pray in front of someone who was already in prayer, women would shout out as if to say move out of the way. It was manic. Getting out was manic. It was at this point I understood the firm manner of the Arabic women in charge. They had to be if this is how women behaved. I understood why everyone ran. It seemed impossible to reach the green carpet once you were there.
I made dua for my husband, family, friends and our ummah. I didn’t want to leave. But I knew that I had to. Someone else was desperate to be in my place. I continued crying as I left. I couldn’t control my emotions. It was painful to leave such a precious place. As I left, I looked up at the green dome where our beloved (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) was placed beneath and gave my final salaam.
I remember the feeling of seeing the Kaba for the last time. Usually, we'd sleep after Fajr and wake up for Zuhr- but this time- we didn't sleep. After we had breakfast we went down to the masjid one last time to complete our final Tawaaf.
Upon rotating the house of Allah, my eyes were fixated at the Kaba. No matter how much you stare at it- it's never enough. I tried to take in as much of it's beauty and recalled every single dua I had made during my stay pleading Allah swt to accept them. As we walked up the steps to leave, we both kept looking back. My heart sunk. I could feel the tears building up. I didn't want this to be the last time. What if I never get a chance to come back? My husband is not an emotional person, but on the final step he sat down, faced the Kaba and tears tumbled down his cheeks. I've ever only seen him cry twice since we've been married. The first time was at the news of my brother and the second was at that very moment. I sat beside him and glanced what could be my last time at the Kaba. I thanked Allah for giving me this opportunity and prayed he'd call me again.
As much as it hurt to leave, we still had the City of our beloved Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam to look forward to. Leaving Madinah was worse.
Our last prayer in Masjid Al-Nabawi was Asr. We still had some last minute packing to do so we went back to the hotel. Our taxi driver was pre-booked and was already on his way. I didn't feel ready to go- everything was rushed. We decided to go back to the Masjid one last time and give our final salaam to the prophet (peace be upon him). I waited in the hotel (incase our driver arrived) and my husband went first.
After my husband returned I left. I remember my last walk. I knew I had to be quick but I didn't want to. I wanted to take my time- remember every step, remember the faces which surround me and remember the first thing I saw when I walked in through gate number 37. The green dome was right across from me- I walked as close as I could, "Assalamu alaikum Rasulullah" were the words I uttered before walking away- tears rolling down my cheeks.
Returning to Reality
Empty. Coming back home makes you feel empty. It's difficult to hold on to the grips of reality when you return. You wish you could stay there forever. There is no where else in the world that made your life revolve around Salaah. You're spiritually and mentally closer to Allah. You feel at peace. The tranquility and serenity of the atmosphere is soothing. You understand the purpose of life, standing side by side during salaah- everyone is equal. Everyone is there with the same purpose. Not only was the experience life changing, but truly unforgettable.
I pray that Allah accepts your duas and fulfils your desires to visit the blessed Cities of Islam. I pray Allah provides you with the opportunity to undergo this unforgettable and life changing experience- Ameen.
Love Amira x