Anjum Anwar reflects on her mixed feelings about her recent Umrah – the honour of visiting the House of Allah (SWT) and the Prophet (pbuh), but the sadness at the commercialisation of the Haramain.
My anticipatory feelings before travelling for Umrah were confusion, worry and excitement.
The flight to Jeddah was via Istanbul and there was a big rush from one end of the airport to the other to get on that plane which would take us to two places on the planet which I knew would give me peaceful moments.
As we touched down in Jeddah, my heart was beating faster than I was comfortable with. I guess memories of 2006 were fresh in my mind – it was chaotic back then, to say the least. But this time we sailed through the airport checks, which was so very different to our last visit when I thought: “Damn, I’m not going to see my passport again.”
We had a car booked for us outside the airport and all those apprehensions went out of the window. We were received and taken to our rooms at the hotel in Mecca in the early hours of the morning.
We all couldn’t wait to go to the Haram, and hurriedly did our unpacking, showered, made duas and headed for the House of God. Every step was as if it was bringing me to the ultimate destination on the planet – a place where our Prophet (saw) and his family and companions (ra) walked, talked, slept, ate and delivered the words of Allah (SWT) to the world. Where he, his family and companions suffered poverty and death, where women like Hazrat Summaya attained paradise on earth, where Allah (SWT) would send His salam to Hazrat Kadija (ra), where the final Prophet (saw) would deliver the last sermon.
We walked towards the Haram with lowered eyes, waiting for that moment when we would see the Kaaba for the first time in real life, and make a dua that Allah (SWT) accepts all our valid prayers. The Kaaba looked magnificent in all its glory; however it was dwarfed by modernity in the shape of a clock tower, which reminded me of Big Ben with a difference of course.
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The sea of people from all over the world confirming that Islam does not belong to the Arabs, nor to non-Arabs, but to humanity at large. The call for prayer was the most soothing to my ears and watching people circumambulating the Kaaba all with the same purpose, following the command of Allah (SWT).
Sadly, some of our sisters and brothers in their excitement did forget the decorum of how one should behave. I was surprised to observe that Qurans were placed on the carpeted floor, something that I was not used to seeing. Some sisters appeared as if they were going to a party rather performing Umrah, something I had difficulty understanding.
But the coolness of Zam Zam and just siting and watching the world go about was sufficient for me. This was the place which Hazrat Ibrahim (ra) left his young wife and child in the middle of the desert, and where Hazrat Hajra (ra) asked: “Has Allah commanded you to do this?” He said: “Yes.” She replied: “Then Allah will not cause us to be lost.”
Today men and women walk from Safa to Marwa honouring the woman whose belief in Allah (SWT) was sufficient for her, although the thought of being left alone without much food or water in the wilderness sends shivers down my spine.
Today both men and women need to learn the lessons from Hazrat Hajra (ra); both need to learn the concept of taqwa from Hazrat Hijra; both need to honour each other, not just from Safa and Marwa, but on their return to their homelands too. The high status of women in Islam is embedded in the story of Hazrat Hajra (ra), and if her story is understood in its entirety it should wipe out ill-treatment of women altogether.
Walking to Masjid Quba near Madina, we passed the colourful shops (Oh! the temptation) but we had decided that any shopping and gifts for those left at home would happen on the last day. We were not going to give into Shaytan’s temptations… not a chance in hell.
We visited Masjid Jinn, Jannet Maula, Jabal Noor, but most of our time was spent with ibaadat in the Haramain. There is no doubt the commercialisation has taken its toll in both Mecca and Madinah, but slightly less in Madinah. Could commercialisation be the cause of loss of spirituality in Mecca/Madinah, for I saw much ritualism instead of spirituality.
Sadly, all the historical places have been demolished to make way for hotels which is heart breaking. However, I had to smile as there was a massive billboard saying “Heritage.” Not much heritage left; but I guess building museums to replace the real thing didn’t do much for me.
I remember seeing the house of Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) and the houses of other Sahaba and the infant graveyard on my previous visit; now all gone. The price of progress I guess, but I am dying to go back, may Allah (SWT) recall me. Ameen!