An Umrah to Remember

umrah“What is she reading… Blank pages?” I looked in bewilderment, as this girl came and sat next to me after Maghrib Salah at Masjid Nabawi and started reciting. I realised that she was blind and was reading the Braille Quran, it was the first time my eyes had set on a Quran with blank pages with just embossed dots.

Mesmerized, I fell into Sajdah Shukr- thanking Allah (swt) for being able to see His Kalam, to see the word ‘Allah (swt)’. I pause and ponder here for a moment- how many of us have a copy of the Quran in our homes, eyes to read, and yet, are oblivious to this immense blessing.

An image of a Braille Quran

An image of a Braille Quran

Another amazing moment, as I waited with restless, emotionally charged ladies of our country to get an opportunity to enter the Riyadh-ul-Jannah, I started to talk about the virtues of where we were sitting to a stranger companion who urged me to communicate all that to the rest of the group; so seeking permission from the Arab lady group in charge, Allah (swt) gave me an opportunity to address these ladies. I told the women how Allah (swt) had chosen us to be there, near our Prophet’s (sa) grave. So many people yearn and pray to visit his mosque where prayers are rewarded thousand times over normal prayers. We, therefore, in gratitude must not push, shove or hurt anyone, nor raise our voices, and should be fearful that the rewards we have come to gain, don’t turn into sins instead; alternatively, keep reciting Durud, focus on the fact the angels will take our Salam Insha’Allah to our Beloved Prophet (sa). The women listened wide-eyed, and wept too, and Alhumdulillah when we were called to enter the Riyadh-ul-Jannah area, the Pakistani group of ladies was relatively calmer.

The spirit of sharing and caring in the Prophet’s (sa) mosque was overwhelming. As I passed a number of Miswak to my companions, waiting in the mosque for Salah, a pretty girl opened her handbag and pressed a bottle of perfume in my palms. The scent was so delicate and back home it reminded me of my companion- her Duas, her love, as she gave me that gift, in our beloved Prophet’s (sa) mosque. It was so amazing- we did not speak the same language, yet the love for Allah’s (swt) sake is such a powerful emotion that it crosses all kinds of barriers. Reflection of warmth through eyes and gestures made that trip a source of love and peace, not experienced in any other journey.

As I passed a pack of sweet biscuits to the lady next to me, I noticed her thoroughly enjoying it. She read the wrapper and nodded in appreciation- making me realize how different tastes from different parts of the world too are a source of bonding with one another.

I observed as people would pour in before the Salah time, chairs were a much sought after item. It is good to guide people to where they are stacked. And that can only be done if you are observant and earmark the places.

Mondays to Thursdays after Asr prayers Halaqas are held, young children and ladies are taught to read proper Tajweed. The love and commitment of the teachers was amazing, and the students were so disciplined. One of the lessons that stayed in my mind is to constantly make Dua for acceptance of any good deed, small or big.

we did not speak the same language, yet the love for Allah’s (swt) sake is such a powerful emotion that it crosses all kinds of barriers.

As I approached Masjid Nabawi before the  Fajr Salah after keeping a voluntary fast, feeling a bit sad that I did not have dates for Sehri, a lady standing at the entrance of the mosque was eagerly distributing something. As I passed, she pressed the most delicious, juicy and fresh bunch of dates in my hand, Subhan’Allah; how Allah (swt) nourishes and fulfils our desires, even before we have had a chance to voice them.

It’s truly amazing how the voluntary Sunnah fasts of Mondays and Thursdays are opened with such zeal and enthusiasm at both the Mosques. Simple, yet the overwhelming warmth is an experience by itself. Adults and children all eagerly beckon you to join them at Iftari time. Arabic tea, dates, bread and yogurt- so nourishing and fulfilling- are such a contrast to our rich fried table spreads.

As the time to leave for Makkah drew close, sadness of leaving Madinah was soon engulfed with the excitement of Makkah and Umrah. As we stopped at the Miqat, I kept imagining how our Prophet (sa) and his companions (rta) too must have stopped at that point for entering into Ihram.

We entered Makkah just before Asr.  By that time, I had developed a slight fever and my throat was hurting too, coupled with the exhaustion of the drive. I decided I would wait till the next morning to perform my Umrah. Praying Asr in my hotel room, I decided to go to the mosque for Maghrib. I realized that the entrance had changed, and I never saw so many people before. Reading Duas I tried to reach the Kaaba, but due to the change I could not reach it, so I decided to retrace my footsteps in order to catch my Salah. Lo and behold, I had to visit the washroom. What to do? Where to find it? I tried to follow the instructions, but just could not seem to find it with so many people. I asked a sweeper, he tried to explain it to me but after seeing my eyes watery, he threw his broom to another and beckoned me to follow him, may Allah (swt) reward him. I cannot forget his act of kindness. Reminded me that a small gesture of ours can be too big of a help for others- it was a great comfort for me to have someone guiding.

The next morning Alhumdulillah, I performed the rituals of Umrah

The rush, the construction, the noise of the equipment, all seemed to fade away when compared to the over powering emotions one is engulfed with as one approaches the House of Allah (swt); I am the Guest of Allah (swt)- the honour, and love Allah (swt) bestows are beyond my capacity to express here in words. The peace, one just wants to sob and the nearness of the Almighty, wants one to never leave the Haram.

During Tawaf, a hand was placed on my shoulder. Instantly, I wanted to shrug it off, but when I looked carefully- a lady was supporting her other arm with a lady and she needed to stabilize so had to sought my help. I slowed downed my pace, so she could comfortably walk.  It was amazing how smooth that Tawaf was. And later, my husband inquired how could I manage  the Tawaf in a much lesser time than him. It reminded me of a beautiful Hadeeth:

I cannot forget his act of kindness. Reminded me that a small gesture of ours can be too big of a help for others

“Allah (swt) is helping the servant, as long as, the servant is helping his brother.” (Muslim)

After Salah, a group of Turkish ladies on my left invited me to eat with them. It was an amazing experience. There was so much energy and warmth in that group. They unrolled plastic sheet, placed bread, cheese from Turkey and olives. One of them would break the bread, spread the delicious cheese, add olives and pass it around. As soon as we had eaten, I shared my dry fruit from Pakistan. The most loved item was the dried round apricots. Once eaten, quickly the sheet was gathered, crumbs were cleaned up, and each of the ladies took out their copy of the Quran. One beckoned me to read first, while others listened. Turn by turn each one of us read a Surah and then just before Isha Salah, hands were lifted for Dua. We kissed, hugged and prayed for each other without speaking a common language. I felt I was in a dream. A dream I did not want to wake up from.

Later in the day, I paved my way through looking for a place for Asr Salah. Finally, as I identified a spot and had comfortably settled down with the Quran in my hand, a wheel chair edged next to me. Instantly, I felt disapproval as to how that wheelchair would fit in such a small space. The surrounding women too gave disapproving looks. And that is when I remembered how one should make space for other. I Squeezed, and beckoned others to do the same. The lady on the wheel chair gave a nod, and I noticed she managed to maneuver herself on the floor. And soon, she was lying down in front of us and started to read the Quran. No one said anything, but looks say it all.

The peace, one just wants to sob and the nearness of the Almighty, wants one to never leave the Haram.

After a while, she again managed to sit in her wheelchair, that is when we got to talk. She was from Argentina and came to Makkah with a group of women. She had a brace to support her spine, and she could neither walk, nor lie down, or sit for too long. I felt so ashamed of my negative thoughts for her and clasped the hands of that brave lady. She spoke English and soon we had our hearts pouring out to each other. After Salah, amidst tears of love for meeting each other, she asked me when would we ever meet. Knowing no answer, spontaneously I said, ‘Jannah!’ Ameen. More hugs and tears rolled down our cheeks praying for our friendship for Allah’s (swt) sake.  .

“Allah (swt) will ask on the Day of Judgement, Where are those who loved each other for the sake of My glory? Today, on a day when there is no shade but Mine, I shall shade them with My shade.” (Muslim)

There is yet more- in fact, I could go on and on, but lastly, a glistening pearl Tasbeeh was handed out to me during Tawaf. Memories of precious moments flood back only to engulf me to pray for more return visits.

”O Allah (swt) I ask You for Your Love and the love of those whom You Love and the actions that will cause me to attain Your Love”