You are the First and the Last, the Evident and the Immanent, the Exalted, the subjugator over Your servants, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful, and the One, the Only, Self-Sufficient Master.
Your wisdom is manifested in everything and Your mercy is all-compassing.
Glory be to You. Your Omnipotence is manifesting in everything and over everything. I have no might and no power except by Allah.
In the Night of Qadr in Ramadan, Allah’s Angels carry Ramadan whiffs to purge all the year’s pain and sorrows through a sincere kneeling, a flowing tear that was long-held, or a suppressed exhaling of breath out of a chest that is burdened by one’s sins and negligent gratitude.
Allah has endowed me with Umrah journey out of the blue. It came ten years after my last visit to the Holy Lands. Everything seems to be prepared without my least awareness. It all happened when I met with a close friend who is a first-class tourism expert. He brought to me the good news that we can travel for Umrah without visa as long as I have a British passport, which enables me to obtain a one-year visa in Madinah’s airport for little fees. I didn’t even hesitate, so he booked me a flight. Coincidently, I got a call from another close friend, who is an expert in marine tourism, to invite me to spend Ramadan in Hurghada or Sharm el-Sheikh. When I told him about my Umrah Plans, he decided to join us, and took the job of booking hotels. I didn’t waste a moment in preparing for the trip, and had the full opportunity to enjoy the experience with its joyfulness and high spirits as Allah promises. In fact, religion has come to instill happiness in people not to punish them. Allah says in the Quran, “What can Allah gain by your punishment.” (An-Nisa: 137)
I should admit that I was pleased by the efforts of the tourism experts, and was completely devoted to meditating and pondering over a long-standing question that is raised from one generation to another. That is, how Muslims fell behind and became dependent on Western innovations and inventions although the first heavenly message from Allah to his noble Messenger Muhammad Bin Abdullah was to read, in a divine sign to research and learn. Allah knows certainly that development is a fact of life, and He created mankind to develop earth. Thus, reading, thinking and working are the magical recipe to achieve progress and to maintain Islam’s role in serving humanity.
The Masjid al-Haram is a place where hearts meet, in an answer to the supplication of Abraham the Father of Prophets (Peace and blessings be upon them), after the city has become a sanctuary, to which are brought as tribute, fruits of all kinds from all over the world. Indeed, Masjid al-Haram has become a place of assembly for people and a place of safety, we saw it as perceived dedication to Muslims. We drank from Zamzam water, Lady Hajar’s gift to Muslims, and performed Tawaf (i.e circumambulated) the Ancient House that was built by Prophet Ismael and Prophet Abraham, who raised its foundations, so we have the Kaaba which is adorned by the heavenly Black Stone. It is similar to the nucleus around which Muslims circumambulate in a movement that is similar to those of celestial bodies and the smallest nucleus in a clear sign to One Creator who made the universe follow a course that revolves around Him, “It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).” (Yasin: 40)
After observing Umrah’s rituals, we performed Tarawih prayers and enjoyed Sheikh Al-Sudais’ recitation and supplication for Al-Aqsa Mosque. Thankfully, we had beautiful days in Makkah al- Mukarramah before we headed to visit the beloved Prophet in Medina and sit in his Mosque in serenity. I also missed the group breakfast before Maghrib (sunset) prayers.
Truly, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not spared any effort to provide all means of comfort for the pilgrims. If the pandemic had any upside, it would be the Saudi innovative measures in the visit of the Prophet’s tomb, as it becomes much easier via the one-way path. In addition to highly sanitized breakfast meals, the measures have made circumambulation smoother as it is no more allowed to get too close to the Kabaa or the Black stone. Moreover, people who were not observing Ihram were not allowed to enter the area around Kabaa, so my Tawaf was safe from bruises or harm. I was able to safely supplicate for relief, forgiveness and well-being after a year of pain and sorrows. I also supplicated for the mercy of all Muslims, and for my family and friends without fear of stumbling due to any stampede. I should thank Saudi authorities because they are trustworthy caretakers, as they provide sustenance and hospitality for pilgrims, and keep the Holy Mosques safe and secure. It is an extraordinary season, that came after dreadful years in which Umrah and Hajj in similar numbers were impossible due to COVID-19.
On my way from Medina to Makkah, traffic completely stopped to allow the passage of a troop of monkeys led by their boss who turned around a lot to make them pass safely. Surprisingly, I encountered a similar incident last February, but that time I was in the farthest point in north England, where whales are frozen in the cold weather. I was in the fast train which took three hours to London, but it stopped after half an hour because a herd of sheep occupied the railways. The train was ordered to return back and take the western way to London, which is longer, for the sake of the animals. That’s to prove that humans are the same in Saudi Arabia or England as long as they have good will and resort to their humanity and sound instincts.
One last thing is that I caught COVID-19, but am recovering right now. I had the symptoms of severe cold, thanks to the three jabs of vaccine and Umrah blessings. Praise be to Allah, who relieves from the trouble and alleviates hardships. Certainly, nothing has come before Him, and nothing may come after Him.