“Hadrat Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah's Messsenger (May the blessings of Allah be with him) said: One Umrah is an expiation for the sins commited between it and another Umrah and an accepted pilgrimage has got no less a reward than paradise.”
(Bukhari and Muslim)
Six years ago, I thought that I would not be perform umra anytime soon and hajj, well…probably when I’m old and wrinkly. Like most people my age, I felt that I needed to enjoy life first. From my observation, only the elder generation goes for hajj. Very rarely that I hear young people performing the hajj.
My husband kept telling me for the longest time that he wanted to perform umra. I kept giving him one hundred and one excuses, why I couldn’t go. Truth be told, there are only 2 reasons why I did not want to go. One, I wasn’t ready. Two, I was scared out of my wits! I was genuinely terrified that I would be punished for all my sins there.
Makkah is such a sacred place. It houses the wonderfully majestic Kaaba. Kaaba is where all Muslims turn their faces to, for solat. Kaaba is also where the black stone called ‘hajarul aswad’ is imbedded. The stone is said to be from Jannah and it was not originally black.
“A hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Abbas states that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "This Black Stone has come down from Paradise, and it was whiter than milk. But sins and mistakes of mankind turned it black."
One day, in 2007, I think an Angel slapped me and it made me change my mind overnight. The Wise Owl was very happy that, I had finally agreed to go to Makkah and my husband....he went into shock!
Prior to going, I have seen many photos of the great masjid and Kaaba but it did not affect me the least bit. It was like looking at any other masjid. It is true that “We can only love what we know, and we can never know completely what we do not love. Love is a mode of knowledge…-Aldous Huxley.”
Once I have decided, I knew that I was ready to accept whatever punishment that would be meted out to me when I’m there. I resigned to the fact that I can’t keep on making excuses forever. If God wanted to punish me for my sins, I could be in Timbuktu and it won’t make a difference. I will still get my dues.
So, my husband and I packed our bags and went our way. I imagined the scene from one of those horror movies involving planes and lightning and thunder! I can’t help it!!! I’m such a dramatic person…Thankfully, nothing as such happened. I arrived in one piece. The other thing that I had a hard time doing was, to keep my thoughts to myself and to refrain from commenting. OOoooooo it was sheer agony!!! Oh! One more thing, I had to keep the devil in me and my temper carefully hidden. I was supposed to be on my best behaviour.
My first test was in Jeddah airport. There was a group who tried to cut the line and pushed their way through. My husband could me see slowly turning purple. I really wanted to swallow them whole and digest them slowly but then I remembered the horror stories I heard about people who lost their temper. So, I slowly turn myself brown again and my husband stopped turning blue. He started breathing again because he was sure that I was not going to burst into flame like a phoenix.
After that it got easy. Actually, I realised, if we just adopt a nonchalant attitude, it is quite difficult for satan to rouse our anger.
I still remember how I felt when I first set eyes on Kaaba. My heart was beating so fast that I thought I was having a stroke. My palms were sweaty, lips were dry and I had palpitations. Tears automatically flowed non stop. The funny thing was, despite all that, I felt that I had finally come home. I have stopped running around in circles and found my center. I could only describe, best, how I felt but honestly, it is difficult to put into words the true emotional rollercoaster that I went through. Nothing I read about umra, in the books, could ever prepare me for the real thing. The feeling is priceless.
Alhamdulillah, the rest of the days were calm. I could focus and savor my moments. I don’t know how many hours I sat in front of the Kaaba, staring at it open-mouthed. I couldn’t believe that I was actually there. It was surreal. Did you know that one of the easiest way to collect brownie points is to just stare at the Kaaba?
“It has been narrated from al-Baqir [Imam Muhammad Ibn Ali] (peace be upon him) that: "As long as a person is looking at the Kaaba, good deeds will be written (in his record) and one's evil deeds will be erased until one turns away one's glance (from the Kaaba)." Hadith
One of the itineraries of the trip was, visiting historical sites in Makkah. First, we went to Jabal Rahmah or Mount of Arafah. There was a pillar that was constructed, to mark where Prophet Adam a.s. and Eve met, after years of separation. I was contented with watching the pillar from the bottom of the mount. The mount looked way too strenuous for me to even attempt climbing. I don’t do outdoors and never been a fan of hiking or mount climbing…no..no…no….
Then they took us to Mina. The most obvious thing that I noticed, was the permanent tents and the camp sites. The tents in Mina, are the ones that the pilgrims use during hajj. When I saw them, I was aghast! I turned to my husband and said “ Yang, I don’t do outdoors so there is no way I can perform hajj!!!!”. I then started hyperventilating. My husband looked at me gently and told me, ‘don’t worry, you’ll overcome it someday especially when you put your mind to it.” Hhhmmm….
To make the story short, my husband was right. I ended up harassing him about going for hajj despite my initial reservations about the tents. Maybe this is what people meant about receiving their ‘calling’. Once I had the urge, I just wanted to push everything aside and ran to Makkah. I didn’t even mind if they put me in a boat and I had to row all the way! Just get me there!!!
I could go on rambling about Makkah for ages , but the point I’m trying to make is, if you have never been to Makkah, you should. You will never regret it. It will actually inspire you to take the next leap…hajj.
Now, when I look at photos of Masjidil Haram and Kaaba, my heart will perform flip flops and I will get fluttering at the base of my stomach. It has a completely different effect on me now and it is the nicest change that I have ever undergone…..