10 Tips of safe Pilgrimage with kids

Image courtesy http://ummar-homeschooling.blogspot.com

Image courtesy http://ummar-homeschooling.blogspot.com

Visiting the Holy lands of Makkah and Madinah is the dream of every Muslim; but with toddlers and babies, it can become a nerve wrenching and tiresome experience.

A toddler who needs constant attention and care makes the rituals difficult to perform with heart and soul; and a little can change into a frightening experience (as often witnessed).

Following are the few precautions that would make the pilgrimage safe, sound and a heartfelt experience.

  1. Make the identity cards of every kid displaying name, father’s name, hotel’s name and phone number in bold. Kids should not forget to wear it every time they are out.
  2. Only keep the necessary luggage with you. Use the backpacks, or hand carries as they are easier to manage.
  3. Ahram is not mandatory for kids; but if they clad them, be sure it is not over fitted or loose, as it will greatly irritate the child. Try wearing it at home first. Also tell them the necessities of it. Otherwise, clad them in simple and decent clothes.
  4. Medicines and liniments including Anti-histamines, Calpol, Thermometer, ORS should be kept handy in the luggage.
  5. Goggles and moisturizing lotion should be worn whenever outside- as the weather is usually hot in Arab countries.
  6. A wrist band or a chest jacket must be tied by the mother and the kid at the time of prayers- as this is usually the time the kids get misplaced.
  7. Avoid going to rush area with the kids as it will misbalance you and can result in a fall.
  8. A handy bag with extra baby food, baby wipes, diapers, nappy rash cream, clothes, mosquito repellant lotion should be kept every time.
  9. Be calm and hassle free. Kids usually take a lot of time doing little things. Rotate turns with your hubby while performing rituals like Tawaf and Sai; or hire a wheelchair to let the kids sit on them.
  10. Always mention a union point i.e. a common meeting place- in case anyone gets can reach to that point easily.

Wishing you all a safe and fulfilling journey.

All You Need to Know about Ihram

Image courtesy: onislam.net

Image courtesy: onislam.net

It is a widely held belief that Ihram is, the two white sheets or towels worn by the pilgrim. The two unstitched white cloth pieces worn by men are “the Ihram garments for men” and not the actual Ihram.

The word Ihram in the Arabic language means ‘entering into a state of prohibition.’

In the Fiqh terminology, Ihram of Hajj and Umrah is the intention of the Hajj and ‘Umrah by which a person enters the state in which certain things become forbidden on him or her.

Three states of prohibition

The first state is for both men and women

  • Depilatory of hair from the head or any part of the body in any manner. For this, most women apply hair oil and kneed their hair into fine braid so the need to comb hair is excluded in state of Ihram. One can also wear hair band to preclude hair from getting messy.
  • Cutting finger and toenails.
  • Using perfume on either the body or clothing is verboten. Unscented soap, shampoo, and sanitizers are available in market.
  • Sexual intercourse.
  • Hunting or assisting in hunting. Killing head lice too.
  • Wearing gloves.

The second state of prohibition for men only

  • Covering the head with something that remains on it (like a cap for example).
  • Wearing sewn clothing such as t-shirts. Using safety pins to fasten two white sheets or wearing undergarments is also not allowed.

The last state deals with women

Wearing a veil or face covering. Therefore, it is forbidden for a woman to wear the veil and gloves after crossing the Meeqat. However, she can buy the cap veil from Alamgir welfare store. The veil will not touch her face and she can easily cover her face.

To conclude, I humbly request women to not to spend on clothes a lot. It is not mandatory to buy new clothes under the banner of Ihram. Specifically, it is not obligatory to buy white clothes as your Ihram. Ihram is a state of prohibition and not white sheets and clothes. It is painful to see women wearing white thin clothes and apparently naked in Haram. You are visiting a holy place and Allah (swt) is the most worthy of our modesty and shyness. Choose such a clothing that covers your Satar completely (i.e. cover the body parts prescribed by Allah (swt)). Worldly talks, gossips are a big No! It is hard for a woman to abstain from talking; however, she can try to talk as less as possible. Hajj is a pious journey which can remove all your sins, so try to make the most of this opportunity.

May Allah (swt) bless all pilgrims Hajj e Mabroor (Hajj- that is accepted by Allah (swt)). And may He accept their deeds and struggle, by uplifting their faith and determination. Ameen.

Handy Tips to Perform Umrah with Children


By Sadaf A. Omar – Freelance writer with an interest in religion, history, and ethics

Tour operators promise you the most fulfilling spiritual journey – an Umrah package that takes care of your entire travel itinerary, a five-star hotel room that overlooks Masjid al-Haram, and a buffet breakfast. It does sound perfect until you start preparing for the journey and realize that an Umrah trip with children is likely to be a spiritually and physically exhausting experience, rather than the invigorating one you had envisioned.

I recently went for Umrah with my family, including four children ranging between the ages of one-and-a-half and thirteen. Experience is the best teacher, and I hope the following tips will ease the experience for other families planing the same journey.

Choose Wisely

Apart from budget and time constraints, keep in mind the ages and physical stamina of your children. The commute to and from the Masjid five times a day is tiring. This is especially true for Makkah, where the walk is often uphill. Also, it is difficult for younger children and even children in strollers to traverse thick crowds. Parents are often forced to carry children which is an exhausting task in itself and even more so after the rigours of daily Tawaf or Umrah. Therefore, choose a hotel that is reasonably located near the Masajid.

Also, if possible, try to include a buffet breakfast or dinner meal in your package. This will save you the time and hassle involved in procuring an appropriate meal for your family within the short time slot between prayers. A buffet spread allows choices even for the pickiest eaters among your brood.

To read the rest of this article and more, subscribe to Hiba Magazine.

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”

(Part 2) Public restroom etiquettes: Meet the elephant in the room!

rest[…continued from here]

6) Extra-hygiene means extra-danger

In your effort to be super hygienic, don’t wash your hands so many times or do ablution so obsessively that you flood the whole place. Use the water reasonably.

Another extreme is flushing the toilet with foot instead of a hand. People, with hands PLEASE! Acrobatics required to use your foot to flush raise your risk of injury from slipping and falling – if you’re standing on one leg to flush the toilet. A flamingo can do it well, you can’t. It may end you up in way more mess than you thought you can get into, from touching the handle.

Some people go to extra length by not sitting on the seat and hovering closely above it. Now, if you were in the one ply cubicle, the floor art is understandable, because they move with a tiny gush of wind even. So, please, don’t hover above the seat, making it difficult for you to find balance.

You are in a world of communicable diseases, I accept! But a research says that 18% of your phones are more germ-ish than the toilet seat (unless you put the phone ON the toilet seat). So might as well save yourself the extra agony and perch your rear end on the seat. Don’t be a human spaceship.

If you are going all Indian toilet style up on the European toilet, then at least clean after yourself. Your shoe/slipper prints will be all over the seat. Roll the tissue around your hand and just clean it. I’m sure your mother taught you that as well, before you had an accident, in which you lost your memory on cleaning manners. By ‘you’ I mean people, not YOU, of course. You wouldn’t do that, would you!?!

7) Patience is virtue, lying is not

You may usually find a long line in front of washrooms, in places where there are little to no WCs available. Usually, the queue would literally be hanging by the bathroom doors (if handles are available that is, otherwise – hanging by the holes). You may just want to stand in line calmly, because the person in front of you deems every move from you as a line-breaking threat, and they have thought of every clever way to stop you. It may include physical violence as well. What impatience does to human beings sometimes!

There are times, when calm is a word in dreams only. You will enter a stampede and the next thing you know, you’re in a washroom.

And even though it sounds like a better option than waiting in line, and you may want to be the one to start that stampede through witty pretense – but it’s not! It usually involves pushing, shouting, hitting, lying, knocking each other down, etc. (perhaps hair pulling as well). Bad deeds don’t add up to success. Even if you manage to push all other contestants in line, it won’t feel like a victory. So avoid being in that group.

Don’t claim ownership of the bathroom. Or tell people that you’re waiting for your family member in there (thinking we all are after all brothers and sisters since Adam and Eve were our greatest fore-parents). Your turn will come, Insha’Allah, don’t worry.

Save yourself from unnecessary lies. (And who doesn’t know, lying is bad anyway.) Don’t render your Hajj/Umrah or any religious act that you are going to perform afterwards or performed before, useless.

8) Your kids are YOUR responsibility

Help the little ones before you help yourself. Their level of control is zero, as compared to yours. But first commode in the first row is always the bad choice, because that’s where the most uncontrolled splatters are. Which of course makes sense – they couldn’t make it any further. So walk a little (or perhaps run like a wind), holding your gag reflexes on standby, as you poke through all the stalls anticipating post-culinary exploration disaster. But there will be a cleaner one; I can guarantee (almost 90%). Don’t lose hope. Just un-witness the ones witnessed in line.

When you’re making sure that your kids are not eating their own boogers, also make sure that you are not the one sticking it on the walls. If you find such things, don’t feel ashamed to clean it off with the help of tissues, etc. I have personally witnessed women picking up someone else’s baby’s diapers and throwing them into the trash bags and cleaning up the area, just to provide better environment for the newcomers. It’s not an easy task. May Allah (swt) reward them immensely. Ameen

So, please! Those with diaper-clad babies – when you change the diaper of your baby, please, throw it into the dumpster. Babies’ faces are cute but their feces are not. Don’t just roll it in the air and let fate decide its destiny. Thus, when you clean after yourself, please, do that for the baby as well. Man or woman – whoever is taking it for the team.

9) Don’t abuse the toiletries

Sometimes the flush is not working, because of too much toilet paper clogged inside (or too much dinner). You may see the dustbin beside the pot, empty! And you wonder why do people throw everything around, while there is space for everything given? People who lead adult-lives, by the adulthood they should know how to use a chair with a hole in it. It is something that they have been taught to use and have been using since fifteen years or so. Definitely we are the disease!

If the faucet sensor doesn’t work once, no need to constantly hit the poor thing, because it may fire back, by automatically turning itself on, when you will least expect it. Be gentle with the public property. You don’t want to go outside explaining people that it’s not what they think it is.

Forego the hand dryer altogether, because it probably won’t work anyway. Because you may stand there with your hands outstretched (crowding the place) waiting for some magic to happen – but it won’t. If the restroom looks well-maintained, then probably it will work, but usually it doesn’t; and all you do is make the crowd turn into a mob.

Save people some space and wipe your wet hands with tissue instead, if you wish.

Under dire circumstances, don’t jiggle someone else’s door handle angrily. Either you will lock them inside permanently or break the handle. Both ways, your future isn’t bright.

Don’t take your overloaded purse/bag inside the toilet. Sometimes the hooks aren’t very strong. Sometimes there are no hooks at all. Either way, draping it around your neck may be the last resort. Hand it over to someone close outside the restroom. Don’t bring them in, just so they could wait outside your stall, holding your bag. It will crowd the area unnecessarily.

(If you think this all as a mere exaggerated joke, I would just say you’ve been extremely lucky. But these guidelines will help you in the future, whenever you get out of the warm folds of your home sweet home.)

10) Stay God-conscious

Jokes apart, this is something serious, because one of the grave punishments includes someone not being conscious about cleanliness.

We can’t single-handedly eradicate the lack of hygiene issues in public restrooms, but we can dilute its strength. We will not be fighting. We will go on patiently and will always work upon this issue, until it doesn’t need to be worked on anymore. This is just a small step towards some basic awareness – but a small step is better than nothing, better than an intangible ideal.


Please, make purification your half faith! Our religion is so beautiful and complete. It teaches us how to live a life – from the smallest details to the biggest of issues, and bathroom etiquettes are the very basic of life.


Basically, a good policy is:


Try to leave the vicinity in the condition you would wish to find it. Treat it like you usually treat your own toilet at home, especially when the guests are coming. Be the best version of yourself that ever existed. Be the super-you. You got it in you somewhere, so just be that.


Be the change you want to see in the world. And if we, Muslims, are not going to practice the best of the manners taught by their religion, how are we ever going to preach? Actions speak louder than words. Even if nobody is watching you, Allah (swt) is. Angels are taking notes. You will be rewarded. Insha’Allah.


May Allah (swt) guide us all to the best behaviour that wouldn’t hurt us or people around us. Ameen.

HajjBound: Your Hajj information portal

hajjboundHow do I choose my Hajj package?

How do I choose my Hajj package?

As the first few flights to Jeddah take off this year, those who are not performing the Hajj this year but are planning to do so in the coming year might mull over this single very important issue: Choosing the Hajj package! This represents the interface of an aspiring Haji leading to the massive logistical operation spanning millions, which exists on the fringes of what will perhaps be one’s most mesmerizing spiritual experience ever.

For most, the choice is dictated by advice from friends and family members who have already performed Hajj. The amount of information that needs to be absorbed can be daunting, and the sources are varied and often unclear.

To facilitate this elementary yet highly significant part of your Hajj, an online service called HajjBound (www.hajjbound.com) has been introduced. HajjBound is a public service website that lists Hajj and Umrah packages offered by operators from across the globe in one place. The aim is to provide an easy-to-use interface for prospective pilgrims to plan their Hajj and Umrah, Insha’Allah.

HajjBound has a special focus on details and precision, often times providing greater insight into a package than available at an operator’s website. HajjBound augments basics with useful information like distances from important landmarks, TripAdvisor reviews, and specifics on room and board, etc. Ever wonder which package your favourite scholar is traveling with? Wonder no more. HajjBound provides a listing of Shuyukh and pairs them with the operators they travel with.

HajjBound does not want users to sift through lines of text in order to glean information. Information is presented in a visually intuitive fashion. You can scan your trip dates by inspecting a prominent colour-coded calendar. Camp locations in Mina, for instance, can be seen on a map and help develop a sense of its proximity to the Jamarat. Such visual elements go a long way in not just comparing Hajj packages, but also for developing a feel for the Manasik!

HajjBound provides an egalitarian listing. It does not discriminate between different operators and packages, in terms of inclusion or prominence. This is in line with their objective to provide unaltered and impartial information. Consistent with this objective is HajjBound’s policy not to inundate users with any online ads etc., so that aspiring Hujjaj may have a pleasant and focused experience.

If you have been for Hajj, consider being a part of this project. Post your reviews and experiences, and encourage others to do the same. HajjBound aspires to have a useful collection of reviews that aspiring Hujjaj can refer to in making their choices. This is a significant challenge since Hajj and Umrah reviews suffer from a negative bias. Reviews are generally left by disgruntled customers who seek a forum to vent their frustration. This is where your help, in the form of posting your own reviews, and encouraging friends and family to do so, is invaluable. Of course, once you are using the website, you can forward suggestions on how to improve it as well.

In the end, here is a small message from the Hajjbound team: “We hope that HajjBound is of some assistance to you in performing an Ibadah that if accepted has no reward except for Jannah. In doing so, we wish to be a tiny part of your Hajj and Umrah, and beseech you to find a mention for us in your Duas once there!”