In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate

MSA Umrah 2000: Journey to the Holy Lands

    (By Sisters Umbrin & Samrin Ateequi - Michigan)

    Bismillah Walhamdulillah Was Salaatu Was Salaam 'ala Rasulillah

    "All praise belongs to God, Who made the affirmation of His oneness a refuge and fortress for His servants; Who made the Ancient House (the Ka'bah) a concourse secure for mankind, enobled it in honour, virtue and grace by attribution to Himself, and made the visitation and circumambulation of it a screen and shield between man and his doom." (Al-Ghazali's Ihya)

    On December 23d, 2000 (27th of Ramadan, 1421 A.H.), a caravan of 27 MSA students, shuyookh and their wives, from various regions of the U.S. and Canada, embarked on this journey to the Ancient House, to the land of refuge and fortress for Allah (SWT)'s servants.

    Grouping together in Frankfurt, Germany, as our flights arrived one by one, we refreshed ourselves and made our salah in the 2 rooms that constituted the Masjid on the upper level of Frankfurt's airport. Some of us donned our Ihraam at the airport… others, once aboard Saudi Airlines. Welcomed in Jeddah by Br. Tabraiz Mohammed (MSA National Umrah coordinator) & Br. Hani Abdullah (our tour guide), we immediately boarded the air-conditioned coach awaiting our arrival and set off for Makkah. As we stepped outside our coach in Makkah, our hearts were illuminated by the grand sight of Masjid al-Haram and its towering minarets. It was about 1 a.m., on the 29th night of Ramadan, and our arrival coincided precisely with the Tahajjud prayers. Our first instinct and desire was to hurry on to the Haram and join the millions in prayer… but of course we had first to complete our check-in and refresh ourselves at the New White Palace Hotel. Subhan'Allah, our window was in direct view of the magnificent Haram, and with Shaikh Sodais' voice echoing clearly, along with the live broadcast of the congregation from our television set, we joined in the Du'a for the Khatm-al-Qur'an from our hotel room.

    Refreshed and energized with Suhoor, we set out for our first Umrah around 3 a.m., reciting the Talbiyah ("Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk…" ) as we approached the Haram. It is preferable to enter Masjid al-Haram through the Bab as-Salam gate, which we found after asking several guards and perhaps making half a circumambulation outside the Masjid itself. As we entered the Masjid and proceeded towards the Sacred House, our brother suggested that we keep our gaze down until we neared the courtyard and were in full eye's range view of the Ka'bah. The moment of first sight of the Ka'bah is a special time for the acceptance of prayers… and so we raised our head once in full range of the Ka'bah. Subhan'Allah, that was a moment never to be forgotten… paralyzed in our footsteps, awe-stricken with the sight of the most Majestic House, and eyes fixated at Baitullah… we stood in supplication to our Creator, The Glorious, the Most High. Alhamdulillah, one could but endlessly thank Allah (SWT) at that moment for bringing us to this high degree, for including us in the company of those who reach Him.

    Seeking out the corner of the Ka'bah in which the Black Stone (Hajre-e-Aswad) is embedded, and from where the circumambulation is to start, we began our Tawaf with words of praise to Allah (SWT). We joined the host of Muslims, assembled from every land and belonging to countless races and cultures, circling the Ka'bah and completely absorbed in pouring out their hearts in supplication before Allah (SWT). Indeed, in this Divine presence, our hearts were filled with a multitude of emotions… reverence, fear, hope, and love… all for our Creator, Great and Glorious is He.

    Amidst the sea of worshippers within the shadow of the Ka'bah, one experiences a deep sense of timelessness and insignificance, realizing that one is only an atom in an endless ocean of believers who have worshipped at this Holy House of God since the beginning of time. In the face of Allah (SWT)'s ineffable glory and sanctity, one comes in full reach of the essence of His Greatness and our utter dependence on His mercy. Truly, we are but that one atom that comes and passes away. Truly, we will all soon come alone before the One who gave us life and receive judgment and recompense for all that we have done. And so, there we stood, encircling the House of our Great Lord, beseeching His forgiveness, His mercy, and His blessings.

    Upon completion of the seven circuits around the Ka'bah, we prayed two rakahs of salat behind the Maqam Ibrahim. Here, we were reminded of the prayer made by the Prophet Ibrahim (A) when he and his son Isma'il (A) completed the building of the Ka'bah at Makkah: "Lord, make this a city of peace and sustain its inhabitants with the fruits of the earth…". Subhan'Allah, to this day, one can witness the fulfillment of that du'a. Truly, one of the most fascinating aspects of the divine comes through assurance of the mercy of Allah (SWT), that He looks after His servants and takes care of them. That is the lesson reaped from the story of Prophet Ibrahim (A) and his family, who came and lived on this very land. Indeed, the power and fragrance of the faith of Prophet Ibrahim (A) abounds the city. The blessedness of Makkah can also be noted by the immense love our Beloved Rasul Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam repeatedly expressed for this city.

    We had just finished offering our 2 rakahs of nafls wajib al-tawaf and supplication when the adhan for Fajr salah was called. Subhan'Allah, there we experienced the beauty of our first congregational salah in the open courtyard of the Haram, enveloped in the heavenly breeze just after dawn. Immediately after, we stood to complete our Umrah with the Sa'ee. But first, we refreshed ourselves with the blessed water from the spring of Zam-Zam situated underground within the compound of the Haram and about 200 feet from the Ka'bah's door. Alhamdulillah, the miracle of this sacred water is incomparable. It has been bestowed as a gift from Allah (SWT) to the faithful, as it refreshes pilgrims like no other water. (In fact, a study has proven the Zam-Zam water to be higher in its quantity of calcium and magnesium salts, and plentiful in fluorides).

    At a nearby area within the compound of the Haram, we began our Sa'ee, hastening back and forth seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, commemorating Hazrat Hajra's search for water for her son. While going back and forth between Safa and Marwah, we are reminded of how we will oscillate between the two scales of the Balance at the site of the Resurrection… between the scale of good deeds and the scale of bad deeds. Indeed, the Sa'ee is a stark reminder of our efforts and movements in this life, of our soul's ceaseless striving for good over evil in our journey through this Dunya.

    Alhamdulillah, as the sun rose over the blessed city of Makkah, we had completed our first Umrah in the month of Ramadan. Alhamdulillah, we resided in Makkah for 5 days… completing Ramadan, enjoying the festivities of Eid-ul-Fitr, and praying our first Jummah in Masjid al-Haram. During our stay there, there were many more fascinating experiences and holy places we visited during Ziyarah that could be described in length; however, we will only mention them briefly.

    Perhaps the most tremendous and humbling experience was the Tahajjud prayers we offered on the 30th night of Ramadan. Alhamdulillah, we were blessed to pray this Tahajjud on the floors of the courtyard surrounding the Ka'bah. In fact, we stood directly on the black line that points to the direction of the Hajre-e-Aswad. Subhan'Allah, as the Imam made a lengthy supplication on this last night of Ramadan, every breathing soul in the Haram must have weeped in the intensity of awe and devotion to our Creator. One could hear the millions of hearts trembling, the hundreds of birds above the courtyard glorifying Allah (SWT) endlessly, and it felt as if the entire Haram was shaking before the divine presence. We wished this prayer would never end, feeling a tremendous sense of sadness upon the culmination of the blessed month of Ramadan.

    Amongst the many holy places of historical significance we visited in Makkah were: Jabal Thaur, Jabal Rahmah, Arafat, Muzdalifah (or "Masha'arul Haram" ), Mina - Jamarat, and Jabal Nur (or the Mount of Hira). On the morning of Jummah, several members of the group set out immediately after Fajr salah to climb to the top of the Mountain of Light. It was truly a fascinating experience to stand before the Cave of Hira, a place of respite and meditation for our Beloved Messenger Muhammad Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam , and also the site of the first Divine revelation.

    On the evening of the 4th of Shawwal, we made our Tawaf al-Wida and bid farewell to the Blessed City of Makkah. Boarding our coach again, we set off comfortably in route to Al-Madinah al-Munawwarah. D uring our five hour drive to Madinah, we slept, conversed, recited Durud and Salawat frequently, and even attempted to sing "Tala'a al-Badru 'Alayna…" in our humble excitement and fondness upon entering the city of Madinah.

    Subhan'Allah, from our very first step onto the soil of Madinah, one can feel the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam breathe within it, radiating an atmosphere of the deepest serenity and peace. Acquainting ourselves in the spiritual and historical environment of our Beloved Rasul Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam , we strove to derive warm inspiration and strengthen our Faith throughout our weeklong stay in Madinah.

    We are reminded of how the Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam 's Masjid in Madinah was the center of the first Islamic community. The Masjid served not only as a place of prayer, but as an educational institution, a court of law, a political assembly, and a center for all activities of the community. From this Masjid, the Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam and his followers established a society in accordance with the ideals and teachings of Islam. Indeed, it was from this small city-state that the message of our beautiful Deen spread to all corners of the world.

    In the same spirit of this great learning center, and from the comforts of our amazing accommodation at Taibah Hotel, our Shuyookh (Shaikh Faisal Abdur-Razak and Imam Muneer Fareed) graced us with knowledge of the Deen daily during 3-hour morning class sessions. May Allah (SWT) reward them immensely for the inspiring knowledge they bestowed upon us, and also, their wives (Sr. Nazeema and Sr. Wardah) for the wisdom imparted during our day-to-day interactions. Ameen.

    In Madinah, of course, our first yearning was to visit the Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam 's tomb, and to pay respect to the greatest teacher that humanity has ever known. Every day, we would enter the Rawdah and perform two rakahs Tahiyyat al-Masjid near the tomb of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam , and then proceed to present our salaams to him and to his two blessed companions who are resting next to him, Abu Bakr ® and Umar bin al-Khattab ®. Each visit was a unique and overwhelming experience, as one could feel the tremendous dignity and nobleness of the Rasul Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam in one's heart. All this, and the realization that he is aware of our presence, of our standing there and our visit, and that he is receiving our greetings and benediction. May Allah (SWT)'s blessing be upon Muhammad Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam and his family and his Companions. Ameen.

    Of the many other places in Madinah of great historical importance in Islam, we visited: Masjid Quba (wherein the offering of 2 rakahs nafl is equal to one Umrah), Masjid Qiblatain, Masjid Jum'a, Masjid Ghamama, Well of Uthman ibn 'Affan, Jabal-e-Uhad (where lie the graves of Hazrat Hamzah and other martyrs of Uhad - may Allah [SWT] be pleased with them), Jabal-e-Sal'aa (the site of the battle of the Ditch and the seven Masajid ), and Jannat al-Baqee (the graveyard of Madinah, where a large number of the Sahabas ® are buried). Certainly, these visits were of deep spiritual and emotional value, with some places, such as the visit to the martyrs of Uhad, enveloping us with an overwhelming sense of sadness and grief. May Allah (SWT) grant all the Sahabas forgiveness, mercy, and pleasure. Ameen.

    Our time in Madinah was truly a peaceful recourse for Ibadah, seeking knowledge, increasing our love and appreciation for the Beloved Rasul Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam as we traced his footsteps throughout the Enlightened City, and yes, between it all, shopping in the outdoor markets for everything from Qur'an CDs, prayer rugs, books and dates to kufis, thaubs and abayas.

    On the 11th of Shawwal, as we offered our last Asr Salah and exited the gates of Masjid al-Nabi, our hearts were overtaken with sadness as we now came to full realization that it was time to part from the Rasul Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam and his beloved city. But do as we must, we boarded our bus, catching a final glimpse of the beauty and grace of the Prophet Sallallahu 'Alayhi WaSallam 's Masjid, and headed off to Madinah airport for our flight to Jeddah and back to the U.S.

    In just two weeks, we became so accustomed to the intense spiritual life in the two blessed cities, that we could only feel a poignant sense of loss upon returning to our "homes" in the States. Feelings of nostalgia that have gripped our hearts stimulate a constant yearning to return time and again to Makkah, the Enobled and Madinah, the Enlightened. D uring our blessed journey to the Holy lands, this caravan of 27 was equally nurtured, by the Grace of Allah (SWT), with strong bonds of brother/sisterhood. The memories of Makkah and Madinah have captivated our hearts together. Still enveloped in the peace and tranquility of our momentous journey, Insha'Allah, we pray that Allah (SWT) enables us to carry with us the same level of spiritual devotion we experienced and more, until we are blessed by His favor to return again. Ameen.

    With this, we would like to conclude by thanking the many hands through which this Umrah trip was actually made possible. May Allah (SWT) bless the following Zonal Umrah coordinators immensely for all the time and effort they put forth to embark us on this journey: Sr. Asma Rehman (Central Zone - U.S.), Sr. Sana Fadel (East Zone - U.S.), Sr. Asma Ghori (West Zone - U.S.), Sr. Amal Kander (East Zone - Canada) and Sr. Omaira Alam (VP - Canada). Jazakum Allahu Khairun! After all that they did to organize this trip, it was of great sadness to the remainder of the group that none of these sisters (along with a large number of other brothers and sisters) were able to join us on this journey due to unfortunate visa circumstances. Again, may Allah (SWT) reward everyone's intentions, remunerate the efforts of everyone who made this trip possible, and bless all of you with an even greater opportunity to visit the Holy lands in the very near future. Ameen. And, finally, a very special thanks to "Leader" (Br. Tabraiz Mohammed) and "Entertainer"(Br. Hani Abdullah) for taking on the role of Ansar, and making this a most enlightening, comforting, and enjoyable experience for the MSA-National Umrah group. Baarak Allahu Feek!!

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