Umrah: (Part 7) – Masjid al Haram
“The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka: Full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings. In it are clear signs: the station of Ibrahim. Anyone who enters it shall be granted safe passage. The people owe it to God that they shall observe Hajj to this shrine, when they can afford it. As for those who disbelieve, God does not need anyone.” [al Qur’an 3: 96-97]
3:30 am. I entered Masjid al Haram for the first time, from Bab al Fath. I consciously took the first step in with my right foot, while reciting the du’a. I didn’t want to look up and see the Ka’aba from the distance, but few steps later I couldn’t resist the urge as I heard Masood say SubhanAllah, and I looked up.
There it stood – right in the middle of Masjid al Haram, at the center of the Earth, and in front of me – the Ka’aba. I took a deep breath and felt the calmness and serenity seep into the very recesses of my soul. My heart started to beat faster, and for a few seconds, I momentarily forgot all those around me, even myself. I am in Allah’s house!
This is where I had been facing all my life while to offer prayers.
Tears veiled my view of the Ka’aba, as I followed Masood and walked closer towards it. “Is this for real?” I asked myself. “Has Allah really deemed me worthy to be standing here in His house?” I felt so small. There is a distinct green light opposite to the Black Stone, where the tawaaf is to be started. We stood at the opposite side, so we walked all the way towards it. Masood bared his right shoulder, held my hand and we started our tawaaf, with our left shoulders towards the Ka’aba and walking anti-clockwise.
There wasn’t much crowd. This meant that we were very close to Hajar al Aswad or the Black Stone and had touched the Station of Ibraheem. This also meant we weren’t pushed around and were able to concentrate on the tawaaf itself. The weather was very pleasant and the coolness of the marble floor made it even better. On the first round, I sought forgiveness for all the sins I had committed. On the second round, I prayed for my family, including those who have already left this dunya. On the third round, I prayed for all my friends and the people I know. On the fourth round, I prayed for the Muslim ummah. On the fifth and sixth rounds, I recited all the surahs and dhik’r I knew by heart. On the last round, I prayed for myself.
After completing the tawaaf, we walked towards the Zam Zam taps and drank the cool water. Then we offered 2 raka’at nafl. By the time we finished the prayer, the adhaan for Fajr echoed throughout the masjid. We found our way and walked towards Safa. We had enough time to rent a wheelchair for Mom, her feet swollen and aching. We didn’t know that there were free wheelchairs available and moreover, we didn’t know that passport is required to borrow one. Since we didn’t bring our passports, we had to pay for the wheelchair.
Faj’r prayer was one of the best prayers I had ever had the opportunity to pray. It was my first Fardh prayer in Masjid al Haram, and though I don’t recall who lead the prayers, I was deeply moved by the verses he recited. The Imam took his time, reading out each verse with immense clarity. I wanted him to go on and on. I didn’t want this prayer to end. There I was, offering my salah with thousands of others, with the Ka’aba right in front of me!
Immediately after the prayer, we proceeded towards Safa to start Sa’ee. We had to walk from Safa towards Marwa and vice versa, completing seven laps. I found this even tougher than the tawaaf. But I shrugged off that thought, feeling all guilty, when I tried to visualize Haajar and her little baby, the prophet Ismael, alaihis salaam, in this same place thousands of years ago. I was with my family, she had been alone with her infant. I was walking on a smooth marble floor, she walked on the rocky ground of the desert hills. I have been provided with an air-conditioned environment, she had to endure the hostile weather of Makkah. I was able to stop twice and drink Zam Zam conveniently from the coolers, she must’ve been dizzy with thirst, her parched lips praying for Allah to help her and her infant survive. How ungrateful I am. How ungrateful have I always been.
Allah loved this act of hers so much that He ordained it compulsory among all the Muslims performing Umrah and Haj.
‘Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of Allah.” Al Qur’an 2:158
Ending up in Marwa, us ladies proceeded to the hotel where we cut about an inch from our hair, while the men went to the barber’s. We had now completed our Umrah and prayed that Allah accept our deeds and forgive our sins.
Masjid al Haram is the only mosque in the world, in my opinion, where men and women mingle all the time, hence the need for women to be with their mahram. There are no separate ladies’ sections within the mosque – only bookshelves, about 4 feet high, serve as boundaries. So Masood was always close by, even during prayers.
- The ideal time to perform tawaaf is before the Fajr prayers.
- Place your footwear in a bag and bring it inside the masjid with you, there are a lot of shoe racks within the masjid. The thing is, there are a lot of gates leading out of the masjid, which means you won’t necessarily go out of the same gate you had used to enter the masjid. This is very important during sa’ee – where you end up in marwa, momentarily forgetting where you left your slippers/shoes.
- You can purchase an empty container and fill it up with Zam Zam yourself. We bought ours for SR 15 / per gallon. The brother selling it was handicapped, so we thought buying from him would help him. The cab driver later scolded us for being too lazy to fill the water by ourselves.
- Maintain a positive attitude and always say ‘Alhumdulillah‘ for everything, be it good or bad. Whenever you get impatient with people or situations, make dhikr and seek forgiveness.
- Try to offer all your fardh prayers in Masjid al Haram, for the reward of eac prayer is 100,000 times.
- Make sure you offer the Janazah salah, which always follows the fardh salah.
- There are free wheelchairs available, but you’ll need to deposit your passport with them when you borrow one.
- Spend time in the masjid reading the Qur’an, for the Prophet, sallalahu alayhi wassalam, said:
“A person who recites the Qur’an and reads it fluently will be in the company of obedient and noble angels, and a person who reads the Qur’an haltingly and with difficulty will have double recompense.” Bukhari:4937
- Do NOT pass in front of a person offering salah, although a lot of our brothers and sisters think that it is okay to do so. Narrated Abu Juhaim that the Prophet, sallalahu alayhi wassalam, said:
“If the person who passes in front of another person in Salah knew the magnitude of his sin, he would prefer to wait for 40 (days, months or years) rather than to pass in front of him. Abu An Nadr said, ‘I donot remember exactly whether he said 40 days, months or years’.” Bukhari:510
Our last prayer at the Masjid al Haram was that of Fajr, where we remain seated until 10 am reciting the Qur’an. We somehow ended up on the second floor with a very good view of the Ka’aba. Those few hours were the most peaceful and calm time of my time. I didn’t want to leave this place nor wanted this time to pass.
We then went downstairs to make our farewell tawaaf. Ihram isn’t necessary for this, nor is the need to recite the niyah out loud. There is no need to do raml, or brisk walking. During the last tawaaf around the Ka’aba, I started crying. “Please don’t send me back out there!” I pleaded to Allah silently. I felt so shielded, so protected within the walls of His house that the thought of leaving this place frightened me. But most importantly, I feared losing this feeling of extreme closeness to Him and of getting lost in the world outside.
But life is a test, I tried to explain to myself. And Him sending me back out there is a test.
Reluctantly, with tears in my eyes and a very heavy heart, I walked out of Allah’s House. “Please invite us again soon,” I prayed sincerely, “And please keep this memory of love and fear of You fresh in our hearts always.”