About Umrah

5.11pm on the 11 of Ramadan. Alhamdulillah I have completed my first Ramadan umrah for this trip. I had already done 2 umrahs, but those two were done in the month of Syaaban. The first one upon our arrival in Makkah on the 16 July and the next one just a day before Ramadan.

For the uninitiated, the rituals of Umrah is not the entire trip per say. The umrah ritual happens when one comes into Makkah from outside, be it overseas or Tanah Halal ( halal for non Muslims to be on), and take the Miqat or the intention to perform Umrah. Before the Miqat is taken, one has to be in ihram, wearing two pieces of white unstitched cloth for the men and full white gear for ladies. Something close to how we would be when we die and about to be buried. There are many dos and don’ts when we are in the state of ihram. And if we break any of these, we have to pay the penalty for it, the lightest eg putting on perfumed or covering the face — the penalty is to give a poor person one kilogram of rice or money equivalent to it. The highest penalty is for husband and wife in the state of ihram to have sexual intercourse. They would have to slaughter a camel and distribute the meat to the poor.

So if we are already in Makkah, to take Miqat we must first travel to Tanah Halal and the two nearest to Makkah are Tanaim and further but still near is Ja’ranah. At these two places, there are mosques which we do our two rakaat prayers as recommended by the Prophet, the prayers of being in the state of ihram, make our intention to perform umrah and that’s it, we are in the state of ihram. From then onwards, we are supposed to call out the Talbiyah. It goes like this “labaikkallah huma labaik.. Labaikkallah syarikallah kallah baik! Innal hamda, wal nik mata, lakalwalmuk, la syarikallah!’ — it means ‘Here I come My Lord! Here I come! Responding to YOUR call, Here I come! Verily You have no partners and all Sovereignty belongs to YOU!’

Calling out the Talbiyah never fails to send chills down my spine. It’s that moment when we are dressed down to sheer simplicity, putting everything in this world behind, to just answer HIS call for us to perform this rite.

Then we would travel back to Masjidil Haram, at all times we should be calling out the Talbiyah, softly like the South East Asians or with gusto like the Turks or East European people. Once we reach Masjidil Haram, we make intention to perform the tawaf umrah, walking 7 rounds around the Kaabah. Once we are done, we do two rakaat prayers before proceeding to do the Sai, in honour of prophet Ismael’s mother Hajar when she ran between two mountains 7 times looking for caravans when her husband, Prophet Ibrahim left them there in the barren valley under Allah’s command. Which will then lead to the formation of the zam zam well from Ismael’s feet but that’s another story on its own. So unlike Hajar, we weak people, heh, don’t run, but we walk from the Mount of Safar to the Mount of Marwah 7 times. In the valley, the men are required to jog instead of walking. Each time I do the Sai, I will cry. How the heck did Hajar have the strength to do this, bearing in mind at that time, it was a bare rocky desert path instead of, thanks to the Saudi govt, who put aircon, nice marble tiles, ice cold zam zam along the way, fans, mist sprinklers and what have you. What a pampered generation we have evolved to, since the time of Hajar, in desperation looking for water for her baby Ismael!

Anyway, once that’s done, the men would shave their hair and women cut part of our hair. This is called the tahalul, symbolising the state of newborn babies (spiritually) that we have become, forgiven from all the sins we have committed in our lives, back to grown zero and supposedly we make intention to be better persons from then on. And that’s it, the umrah is done and we are out of the state of ihram.

The whole process can take about 2 hours min on a non crowded time, but half a day or a day in the case of Ramadan, when there are a million others or so with you.

I am totally knackered today. Umrah+fasting+summer is not a good combi for me, but I persevered , Alhamdulillah. I hope my umrah today is accepted insya Allah.

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