This is a continuation of the first post I did on performing Umrah as a convert.
Umrah can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some of us, so make the most of it. There were times when I lost my temper, when I was grouchy because I didn't have enough sleep and when I judged others. No one is perfect. And no one is going to be. So don't fret! When you find yourselves in these moments, seek His forgiveness and resolve to be better after that.
WHEN YOU ARE THERE
1. Be thankful
It is easy for us to get caught up in asking for what we want from Allah when we visit His home. And it’s a natural thing to do, for Allah loves to listen to his servants. But you’ll never fully be humbled in the presence of His home until you reflect upon the blessings you have been given.
Personally, thanking Allah for what he has blessed me with allows me to develop the deepest and most profound connection I have ever had with Him.
The first time I was in sujood in front of the Kaa'bah, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. My tears flowed incessantly as I thanked him for leading me back to the straight path, for blessing me with the most supportive and accepting family and friends, for filling my life with so much love and light, and for inviting me, this stubborn convert who insisted she wasn’t ready for Umrah, to His home, 10 months after I recited the Shahadah.
When you pray for something you don’t have, you harbour that hope and faith that one day it will be answered. There's a sense of anticipation, of uncertainty that lingers. But when you’re pouring your heart out to Allah about the things you are thankful for, it is real; it is there and it is already yours. Without you even asking, Allah has made it yours. Subhanallah!
During my flight back to Singapore, I was again overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude for the countless blessings Allah had bestowed upon me. I thought about all my friends, my family, about my conversion, about how I had just performed Umrah and I couldn’t stop crying. Aizat was taken aback by that and asked me what was wrong.
I would have given anything to return to the Kaa'bah to utter the words: Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah. Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.
At that moment, I resolved that if I ever get invited by Him again to the Holy Land, the first thing I would do is to prostrate in gratitude before anything else.
The view of the Kaa'bah from the mataf in Masjid Al Haram, Mecca
2. Sabr, Sabr, Sabr
Before we left for Umrah, my mum-in-law would remind us repeatedly that we will surely be tested. So whatever happens, always exercise patience, seek forgiveness and dhikr.
A lot of small things are going to set you off: someone pushes you during Tawaf, your family members are going to be the most annoying person you ever met You feel tired and exhausted. Your feet hurts from Sa'i. Whatever it is, remember it is just a test. Sabr. Do lots of taubah, dhikr and tahlil.
3. Assume the best intention in others
One of the best ways to exercise real patience is the practice of assuming the best intention in others. We often get mad at others because we readily assume their intentions and believe our assumptions to be true. This person shoved me during Tawaf because he is being rude. This person is tapping my shoulder and yelling at me because he is being impatient. This person is ramming the wheelchair he is pushing against my feet because he is inconsiderate. Are they really?
The person might be pushing you because he tripped and thankfully, he was able to regain his balance because of you. The person might be trying to tell you that your family member has been trying to call out to you from afar and he doesn't know how to gain your attention except to tap you and raise his voice. The person might be exhausted from pushing his elderly grandmother in a wheelchair for Tawaf and Sa'i earlier. He is now using every ounce of his strength to keep the wheelchair from hitting you as people are shoving him violently from behind. It is crowded, he has struggling to maneuver a wheelchair in such a cramped space. He looks up to see you glare at him with anger, and he feels terrible.
Is that what you want to do to a brother?
It can get pretty crowded in the mosques
When something does not go our way, we think that it must be others who are being insensitive, others who are being inconsiderate, and others who are wrong. You’ll never know what they are truly thinking, so why not assume the best? It doesn’t hurt you nor does it cost you anything. On the contrary, it makes you a better person.
It was noon time in Masjid Al Haram and it was really hot. There is quite a crowd on the mataf (temporary ring) performing Tawaf.
A lady had filled a spray bottle with cold Zam Zam water. As she weaves through the ring of people performing Tawaf, she sprays anyone she can with the cold Zam Zam water to cool them down.
She gets to one brother and sprays him with Zam Zam. He turns and glares at her with malice. He raises his hand towards her and mutters “Sabr”. She doesn’t actually sees that as she was already walking ahead, spraying someone else with her bottle.
Another brother saw what she was doing and calls out to her. He removes his prayer hat and lowers his head towards her. She proceeds to spray the top of his head with Zam Zam. He thanks her and resumes his Tawaf.
The lady had the same intention for everyone - to cool them down with Zam Zam in the hot weather. But not everyone assumed the same intention in her, and hence reacted differently towards her.
Also in Mecca, I saw a smaller sized man lose his balance and fall onto a bigger, taller man. I cringed as I saw the latter turn around slowly to face whoever shoved him, almost sure that he was was going to give whoever it was a piece of his mind. Instead, he smiled at his brother other, and guided him into a space he created if front of himself. He then placed his arms lovingly upon the smaller man’s shoulders and asked if he was okay. Subahanallah.
Our first day in Masjid Al Haram, Mecca. My sis-in-law is wearing the slip-on Khimar and arm socks.
4. Keep a sincere intention and avoid transgressing against Allah
Umrah should be performed with the sincere intention of seeking Allah's blessings. Do not fall into the category of pilgrims mentioned by Prophet s.a.w:
"There shall come upon mankind one day where my followers perform the hajj for four reasons: The wealthy goes to Hajj for touring, the middle classes go to Hajj for business. The poor goes to Hajj to beg, The Qari and Ulama go to hajj for pride and name."
[Hadith narrated by Ad Dailamy]
Avoid the obvious sins such as lying, back-biting, belittling others, judging others. Also, being arrogant and boastful about your Umrah. For instance, looking down on the accommodation of others, judging the way they dress, These can easily corrupt your intention for Umrah. Avoid taking excessive insta-worthy pictures for vanity and pride, and do not engage in debates or squabbles.
5. Get comfy but not too comfy
It’s not a fashion show, so don’t waste unnecessary time and effort dressing up and putting up make-up. Make use of every minute you have been blessed with in the Holy Land, focusing on just your relationship with Allah, seeking forgiveness and making dua. That being said, do give some thought to what you’re wearing out because you will end up taking some pictures and you do not want a picture as regrettable as mine. Here I am, standing where the great battle of Uhud was fought and I look like a dumpling.
My sis-in-law and myself at Jabal Uhud, Medina. Also pictured: Slippers on socks.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER
6. Be prepared to love a lot more
I developed so much love for the people I went for Umrah with. When we returned to Singapore, I just felt an outpouring of love for my husband. I thought I would never be able to love him more than I did on the day of our nikah. But I did. and I loved him so so so much more.
Me: I don’t know why but I love you so much after Umrah!
Aizat: Me too!
Me: From a scale of 1 to 10, how much more do you love me after Umrah?
Since we returned, I got my aunt-in-law to be my godmother, and I kiss my grandma-in-law whenever I see visit her now. You’ll be amazed how much Allah opens your heart, and how generously he fills it when you commit yourself to praise Him and to serve Him, and place him above all else in this world, even for a week or two during your Umrah.
My aunt and grandma-in-law in Masjid Nabawi, Medina
7. You're gonna miss it. A lot.
Just yesterday, I was at the mosque for Isha and Tarawih prayers. The bilal recited the Azan. He sounded so much like the bilal in Medina and Mecca and I suddenly felt overwhelmed with a sense of longing. Tears began to flow. Umrah isn't exactly a holiday. It is hard. You don't get enough sleep. You fall sick. You experience fear and frustration. So why will we miss it so bad? Why do we cry at the thought of returning to it? We cry because our soul cries. Our soul cries because it doesn't ever want to be apart from their Lord. So make lots of dua, ask that Allah invites you to His home, year after year.