My Umrah Experience – A Tale of Journey to Faith and Creator
I was scanning through many family holiday packages; Turkey, USA, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and many others. Just a day before my father announced that we would be going on a family holiday this year. For an eighth-grader, it was an exciting occasion. And then my father gave a decision that was to disappoint me and later give me immense happiness. We were going on an Umrah! I feel ashamed but the fact was back then I did not expect much of my Umrah Experience. So I mean what fun and excitement was I to get. I tried to convince my family but in vain.
And then the interim weeks passed by quickly. My father quickly settled on one of the top UK travel agents for some really good cheap Umrah Packages. My family quickly packed the travel Itinerary and there we were on the Heathrow; one of the busiest airports in the world. My Umrah Experience so far had nothing to warrant much for. I quietly sat down at the waiting lounge thinking of missed family holiday packages to some unvisited tourist cities of the world.
My Umrah Experience Part 1 – The Flight
We traveled via Saudi Arabia Airlines. Stepping onboard, I felt some nervous jitters run through my body. Satar Clad Men and women- the airline crew presented such an amazing and serene picture that I felt I was being engulfed in spirituality. I always wonder would I have felt the same if our Umrah Packages had some other airline travel? The wonder never ends!
The flight experience minus the spirituality was average. The food was hit or miss. But the toilets were spacious; I remember. Years later, I still remember the flight part of my Umrah Experience even with minute details. In sixteen years since I never got a chance to travel on Saudi Airlines again in my life. But seeing the airline logo on windows of UK travel agents, the memories come back so fast and so vivid!
And the announcement for Meeqat! I still get goosebumps remembering that part. I tried to act nonchalant. After all, I was the one who had the greatest doubts for a fruitful Umrah experience and this particular type of family holiday packages. But the truth was I had heard my calling. I was equally fervent and equally anticipative of a spiritual journey ahead as soon as I heard the announcement of Meeqat. As I recited the intention; rather repeated after my parents, I already knew that this journey was going to be different! Why? I could not just pinpoint at that moment!
My Umrah Experience Part 2- The Umrah Itself:
I dozed in and out of a spiritual feeling as we left Jeddah airport via taxi to Makkah. Back then Umrah packages did not include ground travels. For a strange reason, I remember the Pakistani Pashtoon driver that drove us to Makkah. My father woke me up sternly; he was angry that I was sleeping at such an important occasion in life. I woke up and saw the Ka’abah in front of me; the sun rising just behind it. And my heart flicked! I want to come here again and again! I prayed unintentionally.
In sixteen years since then, I have been lucky to perform Umrah five times. Are prayers answered so easily?
As I stepped on the white marble floor of the Holy Mosque, I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. What was I crying for? Was I repenting for my sins or was I feeling ashamed of not wanting to come here? Was I praying for something I really wanted in life? I felt Allah so close to myself that as I walked towards Ka’abah I felt I was walking towards Him.
My Umrah experience was strangely spiritual. I saw people around me from all over the world and wondered at their Faith and reverence in performing Umrah Rituals. And whenever I raised my hands for Dua, I simply became quiet. I felt as if Allah knows what I am asking for but I do not know what I want.
My Umrah Experience was a journey of resistance to reverence, a journey of indifference to spirituality and a journey of walking from darkness of heart to enlightenment of existence. Do they say those who desire hard are called? Are they? Did I desire hard? Or did I desire at all? I would never know why Allah willed me on this journey.
Peace in Madinah:
The stay at Madinah was equally spiritual. I felt peace engulfing me. While I cried hard in Makkah, I spent a quiet time in Madinah; most of the time simply closing eyes and relaxing. And the only time I cried in Madinah was when we were leaving! My father had to put a hand around my shoulder and explain that our umrah packages did not allow further stay.
My Umrah Experience and a Mother’s Prayer:
I came back a changed person; mindful of prayers, hijab, fasting and most of all pleasing Allah. My acquaintances would say I have left away from my anger and frustrations and have become a mellow and soft-spoken person.
It was months since we had performed Umrah when my mother entered my room one day. She sat across me and told me that she felt a failed Muslim as she saw my preference for other holiday package deals over Umrah. So she said that she cried nights after nights, trying to see where she went wrong in teaching me Faith in my upbringing. She prayed Allah does not take away this chance from me in return for my attitude. And then I knew why was I called? I did not desire the Umrah journey as much as my mother desired it for me!
And then she said that she was happy that my Umrah experience was so rewarding but she prayed that I never feel those weeks of anguish when I tell my kids one day about going on Hajj or Umrah. She said she prayed the same when she first saw Kaaba! January This year, my mother has left us for the eternal world.
Umrah Experience and Present Day!
Sixteen years later as my own children are talking loudly over which family holiday packages should we choose, I quietly put a leaflet of Cheap Umrah Packages by one of the UK travel agents in Hounslow? But surprisingly my kids do not show the resistance that I did. Were they already at a level of Faith that I never reached their age? Over the years, the UK has produced better Muslims, I believe!
As we put aside all other holiday package deals, I see Faith shine on my Kids’ faces. I quietly mouth “Thank You Mom” for her wonderful prayer. I wipe the tear around the corner of my eyes and pay attention to my Younger one’s question. “Mom how was your first Umrah Experience?” and this time I Laughed happily and started recounting again my Umrah Experience.