Saturday, May 1, 2010

Umrah - The Journey Begins

Pak Abu leading the pack, with Naj and Joe in tow.

Kama flanked by Ann (left) and Awwa.

KFC at KLIA before boarding (departure 10.30 am). Lapar beb; we left home at 6.30 am without breakfasting.

The kids brushing up on their doas and prayers while in flight.

View from across the road in front of our hotel. Masjidil-Haram is about 20 metres to the right.

The entire reconstruction of Makkah inner city is undertaken by the Bin Ladin Group.

Just the other day Pak Abu and I were talking about the prolification of Umrah (small hajj) packages that we have today. How lucky and blessed we are at this day and age ('we' here referring to Muslims in general and Malaysian Muslims in particular) to be able to fulfil this ibadah (religious duty) at will.

It's the ease of travel that provides the impetus for the growing popularity of Umrah. Going on an Umrah trip was unheard of in days of yore when the only mode of travel (for those from our part of the world) was either the highly dangerous, brigand-filled overland route cutting across the sub-continent into Arabia, or an exhausting sea travel across the Indian Ocean into the Red Sea.

Back then, ordinary Muslims like you and I skimped and saved for a greater part of their lives to go for the required Hajj, the fifth tenet of Islam and a once-in-a-lifetime calling. Unless they were exceptionally rich, that one trip was all they had before death overtook them.

Umrah was then for the privileged few, and for Muslims residing in nations in closer proximity to the Holy Land than ours, for whom frequent travels to Makkah and Madinah were a lot less riskier, not to mention faster and cheaper compared to pilgrims from other parts of the world.

Today, all it takes is time and money to make Umrah and Hajj happen. And with the establishment of Tabung Haji, Malaysia's highly regarded pilgrims fund board that facilitates savings for would-be pilgrims, making the spiritual journey to the Holy Land has become very much easier.

For the uninitiated, Umrah is a pilgrimage to Makkah that can be undertaken at any time of the year. The Hajj, on the other hand, is an annual pilgrimage occuring from the 8th to the 12th day of Zulhijjah, the 12th month of the Muslim calendar. There are two types of Umrah; one that is done independently of the Hajj and one done in conjunction with the rituals of the Hajj.

Umrah is often called the lesser pilgrimage or 'small hajj' whose rituals are limited to a basic few, as opposed to the more arduous Hajj which is the main pilgrimage compulsory only once in one's lifetime, and that too only for able-bodied Muslims who can afford it.

As recent as the mid 1960s, our pilgrims still sailed to the Holy Land (my late grandparents amongst them and I remember sending them off at [then] Port Swettenham), and only for the Hajj (going for umrah was unheard of). They spent two months at sea (one-month journey each way) and one month in Makkah and Madinah before coming home after a three-month absence.

Today, be it for Hajj or Umrah, all it takes is an eight-hour flight to either the seaport city of Jeddah (some 100 kilometres from Makkah) or the Prophet Muhammad's final resting place of Madinah further north (447 kilometres from Makkah).

As Muslims become more affluent, many decide to perform the Umrah first before going for the 'big one' - the Hajj. Although there are many reasons for this, the main one usually is that the would-be pilgrim has not yet fulfilled all the pre-requisites for the Hajj (such as one must be debt-free etc).

Another reason is monetary; an Umrah pilgrimage costs a lot less than the Hajj because the stay is shorter (the standard length of stay is between 10 and 15 days while Hajj pilgrims usually spend a month in Makkah and Madinah combined).

Yet another could be lack of confidence in doing the real deal, thus opting for some kind of a 'trial session' beforehand. Today, it is so heartening to see a lot of young people going on this mini hajj, as some kind of preparations for the real thing.

Pak Abu and I had never expected to be back in Makkah and Madinah so soon after our Hajj two years ago. We had earlier planned to return when the monorail now being built to connect Makkah with Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina, is ready and running in 2015.

We knew Makkah was in the throes of massive reconstruction - old buildings torn down and new multi-storeyed ones erected - and we heard from friends who had been there since our Hajj that the city, besides being hot and dry, was now incredibly dusty.

Yet, I kept thinking how wonderful it would be if the kids could experience at least a fraction of what we had. Taking them to the Holy Land would be the fulfilment of my dream. The visions of us doing our ibadah together in Masjidil-Haram in front of the Kaabah and visiting the mausoleum of Prophet Muhammad (saw) in Masjid Nabawi in Madinah were too vivid to be ignored.

Alhamdulillah, no prompting was needed when we broached the subject. They were supercharged upon learning we wanted to take them on an Umrah pilgrimage. In fact, Nawwar was beside herself with excitement and studied all the doas and rituals religiously in preparation for the trip.

We opted for the 9-day, 7-night package offered by Triways, in which 5 nights were spent in Makkah and the remaining in Madinah. At slightly over RM5,000/pax, the all-inclusive package was reasonably priced. The duration too was just about right; the kids didn't have to take too long a leave from their respective jobs.

To familiarise themselves with the rituals, they (and us too) attended one briefing session at the Masjid At-Taqwa in Taman Tun Dr Ismail a week before departure. The mosque, in conjunction with Tabung Haji, organises regular sessions for would-be pilgrims. All one has to do is turn up; the sessions are free of charge.

As a mother I still cannot describe my feelings upon seeing my two grown sons in ihram. I got all choked up each time I cast a look at the four of them suitably clad for their spiritual journey, looking a tad apprehensive yet excited at the same time.

I was reminded of my own feelings of trepidation, and fear, in the moments leading to our own departure for the Hajj two years before. Of course there were funny moments too, especially as the guys had to 'go commando' in the two-piece ihram clothing. [Men are not allowed to wear anything stitched during the ihram period, thus no underpants]. They said they felt vulnerable!

I guess having one's 'family jewels' free and easy for an eight-hour flight plus those additional hours until the umrah rituals were completed were very daunting indeed. Pak Abu, being a veteran of one Hajj, wasn't so concerned. I am inclined to think he enjoyed the freedom!

The flight to Jeddah was uneventful and we arrived in good time. We expressed our niat (intention) to do the Umrah about one hour before landing, when the flight passed over the prescribed miqat (umrah/hajj boundary) at Qarnul Manazil.

At 9.30 pm we finally left Jeddah airport for the 90-minute road trip to Makkah Al-Mukarramah. As we approached Makkah's boundary, our guide, Ustaz Nasir, led in calling out the prayer, which had us choked up once again.

Tears coursed freely when Makkah came into view; Ya Allah, we are here, within the sight of Majidil-Haram and the Kaabah! "Labbaikallah Hummalabbaik. Labbaikallah La Syarie Kalakalabbaik. Innal Hamdah, Wannekmatah. La Ka Wal Mulk, La Syarie Kalak."

[Here I am at Thy service, O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners. Thine alone is all praise and all bounty and Thine alone is the sovereignty. Thou hast no partners.

Hamba Mu datang menyahut panggilan Mu Ya Allah! Hamba Mu datang menyahut panggilan Mu Ya Allah! Sesungguhnya segala puji-pujian dan nikmat dan kerajaan adalah kepunyaan Mu dan tiada sekutu bagi Mu."]

Because this wasn't the Hajj season, commercial vehicles were allowed to drive into the inner city; thus our coach delivered us right to the doorsteps of Hotel Mawaddah, our abode for the subsequent five nights. The hotel was only three walking minutes away from the Grand Mosque.

Mawaddah was admittedly a bit ho-hum (most Makkah hotels were, by the way, with the exception of the premier ones like 5-star Hilton and 6-star Inter-Continental, both of which located right smack in front of the Masjid, facing its main entrance), but we had no reason to complain.

It doesn't do them justice to compare such hotels to the ones in the same category in Malaysia. Firstly, a great majority of hotels in Makkah cater to the ordinary pilgrims who just need a place to bunk in for the night before going back to the mosque for ibadah.

Secondly, all hotel workers are male, mostly from the sub-continent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and Indonesia. Believe me, men are not as thorough (or as polite) as women in this department. One guy in our group (CEO of a big company) complained loudly that his bathroom wasn't as spotless as it should have been, that he had travelled around the world and this particular hotel wasn't up to mark.

On our part, we just kept mum. I reminded the kids not to sweat the small stuffs. We were in the Holy Land to do our ibadah, so we should always be mindful of our words and actions. Perhaps Allah swt was testing us, so we ought to exercise patience at all times. They understood. Not a squeak from any of them, Alhamdulillah.

In any case, we were blessed with relative comfort and ease all the way, thank be to Allah swt. I fully believe it pays dividends to be patient and not to let your heart rule your head. It wasn't easy, being in the company of hundreds of thousands from all over the world, but we persevered and came out alright.


Wan Sharif said...

Alhamdulillah again as six of you telah di beri rahmat dan nikmat dapat menyempurnakan Umrah.
You were right that we should always be mindful of our words and our actions when we are in the Holy Land, in fact we should be as mindful outside the Holy Land as well.
Hopefully segala hajat dan doa kalian telah di makbulkan atau akan di makbulkan segara InsyaAllah ..May ALLAH bless you and your family sokmo-sokmo

hazeleyed lady said...

Semuga segala doa dimakbulkan...Selamat kembali dan memperolehi sepenuh keberkatan.

Kak Teh said...

Puteri, it is every parents' dream to share this experience with theor children. When I went, my youngest wanted to come with me, but it wasnt the right time for him as it was during his school term. Insyaallh, one day, one day!

_deli said...

Salam Kak Puteri,

Alhamdulillah. Welcome home. Semoga suatu hari nanti saya pula akan menjejak kaki ke sana. Hopefully, not too late...

mamasita said...

Salam..congrats to you and your family dapat buat umrah sama2 and with ease..Alhamdullillah.

Kama said...

wan - betul tu. tuturkata dan perbuatan sentiasa kena jaga dimana saja, bukan kat tanah suci aja. kami syukur sangat2 Allah swt bagi ruang pi ziarah rumahNya.

hazel - tq for your kind words.. begitulah hendaknya..

kak teh - i cant even begin to explain perasaan pi tanah suci dengan anak2, especially anak2 yg dah adult. happiness yg luarbiasa..

deli - insyaallah satu hari akan sampai jua, deli..

mamasita - and kama doakan agar one day you too diberi ruang oleh Allah swt ketanah suci dengan keluarga.. sukanya tak terhingga..

3yearshousewife said...

Bertambah2 semangat saya nak ke Makkah lepas baca entri nih. Semoga dipermudahkan niat saya tu hendaknya.

Kama said...

3YH - Insyaallah you will be there soon and will have the most beautiful experience of your life beribadah di hadapan Kaabah...

kay_leeda said...

Alhamdulillah semua ibadah dipermudahkan. I know just how the feeling is when having the children next to you in the Holyland. Sayu, sedih, proud and you feel so blessed kan.

We stayed at Mawaddah too. Tak kisah lah bathroom dia macamana pun, yg penting kita selesa seadanya.

umar said...

Sickening to read our rombongan artis pergi Holy Land nak nikah and buat shooting drama. I won't be surprised soon they get their divorce cases filed in Syariah Courts and buat malu lagi.Sampai bilalah artis kita nak faham agama!Dah mula pula dengan umrah, nikah and shooting drama all in one.
Your family umrah trip should be a lesson for all our friends, hope they too cherish every moment spend in Mecca and Medina.

Quran said...

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Kama said...

umar - salam. tu bergantung pada nawaitu....Allah swt juga yg maha mengetahui. tapi betul macam you kata, seharusnya cherish every moment semasa disana..

Mari La Ko Masjik said...

Salam..selamat semuanya, Alhamdulillah. Kak Puteri, sy masih menunggu keputusan dari MediaBiz tp belum mendapat maklumbalas dari mereka. PESENI ingin mendapatkan maklumat lanjut mengenai pameran tersebut. Lukisan sudah melebihi 100 keping dan kami berharap sebarang masalah dapat segera dimaklumkan kepada kami. Lukisan yang telah siap belum lagi dikumpulkan memandangkan belum mendapat apa-apa perkhabaran dr Mediabiz.