It is that time of the year when thousands of people will be flocking to the mubaarak lands of Makkah Mukarramah and Madeenah Munawwarah for the performance of ‘umrah and ziyaarah. Indeed, it is very encouraging to note that the trend of spending thousands of rands on idle holidays overseas is gradually fading. Instead many people are now opting to spend their money to perform the tremendously great ‘ibaadah of ‘umrah. May Allah Ta‘ala accept their ‘umrah and make it a means of guidance for one and all, aameen.
While those blessed with this excellent opportunity are extremely fortunate, nevertheless it is important to fully appreciate the significance of this noble journey. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said: “The haaji and the person going for ‘umrah are the delegations of Allah Ta‘ala. If they ask, it will be granted to them. If they seek forgiveness, they will be forgiven” (Sunan Ibni Maajah #2892). Subhanallah! What an absolutely excellent journey this is.
While the virtues and significance of this journey are extremely great, what each individual will personally derive from this journey will differ from person to person. Some will attain the forgiveness of Allah Ta‘ala for all their past sins. They will be showered with hidaayah (guidance), as a result of which they will return as new people — people who have been blessed with a fervour and zeal to live as true Muslims every moment of their remaining days on this earth, people who have sought forgiveness for the past and also made sincere taubah for the future, people who will be themselves on the path of guidance and be a means of guiding others as well.
Intention of Hidaayah
This group will be those who, together with utmost sincerity, performed ‘umrah with the intention of gaining hidaayah (guidance). ‘Umrah is really very simple. It entails donning the ihraam, performing tawaaf and sa‘ee and shaving off/cutting the hair. From these aspects, the most important is the tawaaf of the Ka’bah Shareef. As for the Ka’bah Shareef, it has been described by the Noble Quraan in the following words: “Verily the first house (of Allah) that was built for the people is the one in Makkah, which is blessed and a place of guidance for the worlds (Surah Aal ‘Imraan, v96).” Thus the Ka’bah Shareef is a house of guidance. However only those people will truly attain hidaayah who visit the Ka’bah Shareef with the intention of seeking guidance, and who will fully apply themselves in such actions that will draw down the showers of mercy and guidance on them. They indeed will return as changed people.
A second group will be those who will perform much ‘ibaadah for which they will be greatly rewarded. They will also seek forgiveness for the past (without truly resolving to abstain from sin in the future). They will side-by-side spend a great amount of time roaming the bazaars. Finally they will return to their previous lives.
This second group, inspite of their sincerity, are those who undertake the journey only for thawaab (reward). They will, insha-Allah, be blessed with much thawaab (which is a great thing) but upon their return the signs of the ‘umrah will be non-existent. Despite having sought forgiveness for the past, due to the lack of sincere taubah for the future, their life pattern remains the same. Hence life comes back to abnormal (as far as the sharee‘ah is concerned) upon return. Therefore it is necessary to rectify one’s intention and ponder over the true purpose of this journey. ‘Umrah is not just “a trip” or “a tour.” It is an ‘ibaadah. It is a means of building one’s contact with Allah Ta‘ala. Therefore, the intention for this journey must be to attain the pleasure of Allah Ta‘ala and to be blessed with hidaayah.
There will yet be a third group who will come back worse off, compared to the time when they left. They are the ones who involved themselves in sins in the mubaarak lands. They indulged in sins of the eyes and washed away the spiritual benefit of their ‘umrah. Their tongues remained occupied in backbiting (especially about the locals). This is indeed a great tragedy.
Therefore the most important aspect is the determination of the object and purpose of this journey. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind the following important aspects when going for ‘umrah or hajj.
The laws of hijaab are an integral part of the sharee‘ah. They are to be upheld at all times, more so when one is on such an auspicious journey such as ‘umrah or hajj. Many families often travel together and sometimes also live in the same quarters. The laws of hijaab are violated and suddenly total strangers (non-mahrams i.e. a person with whom marriage is permissible) become “brother and sister.” Many unspeakable problems with drastic consequences have ensued from such situations. Therefore no intermingling between non-mahrams should ever take place. Rather this should be the journey to resolve to fully adopt the laws of hijaab in future — if this important command of Allah Ta‘ala was not yet being implemented in one’s life. Much more care should be taken to ensure that one’s young sons and daughters do not intermingle with any non-mahrams while travelling or while in the Haramain. Do not take these aspects for granted and regret later. It should also be known well that just as the rewards of good actions in the Haramain are multiplied manifold, the sin of evil deeds in these places is similarly increased.
Also keep in mind that these mubaarak places are the heart of Islam. Whatever actions will be practiced here will remain with one upon returning home. One leaves behind an environment of materialism back home in order to imbibe the spiritual effects of the Haramain. What a tragedy it will be if we become engrossed in the material environment even in those mubaarak lands! The bazaars have been described in the hadeeth as the “worst parts of the earth.” Hence only genuine necessity should compel one to venture into the bazaars. The real gifts of the mubaarak lands are only the water of Zam zam and the dates of Madeenah Munawwarah. Other items can be purchased anywhere else in the world. Thus the precious little time we have should be spent fruitfully in ‘ibaadat, ta’leem, etc., and should not be wasted in idly roaming the bazaars. Especially ensure that that one’s young daughters do not ever venture into the bazaars even for the most urgent necessity without the father or any other mahram. Some people have suffered dreadful experiences in this regard.
Another extremely important aspect is to be extra careful in protecting the gaze. This applies while travelling and especially in the Haram Shareef. While performing tawaaf, it is incumbent that you do not intermingle with non-mahrams.
Since ‘umrah is a great ‘ibaadah, one’s preparation for this journey can never be restricted to tickets, passports, visas and packing bags. A top priority and fundamental part of the preparation is the spiritual preparation. Repent from one’s past sins before departing, read authentic literature in this regard and take advice from the ‘Ulama. Read the section on visiting Madeenah Munawwarah from the book “Virtues of Hajj” by Shaikh Zakariyya (rahimahullah) to the family before departing. Chalk out a programme in advance as to how one will spend one’s time in the blessed lands. If one leaves time free, one will inadvertently end up in backbiting, nonsensical talk and other sinful actions. Long before leaving, daily make fervent du‘aa to Allah Ta‘ala to enable one to make this journey a turning point in one’s life. Beseech Him to enable one to fulfil the etiquettes of those mubaarak places. Remember! Allah Ta‘ala has granted you this opportunity out of His special mercy. Many wealthier people have not been blessed with this opportunity. Therefore, true gratitude for this bounty is to use this opportunity to revolutionise and transform one’s life and enter into complete deen — not partly in and partly out.
Nevertheless, ‘umrah is a great ‘ibaadat. It is an excellent opportunity to sit in solitude and ponder upon the purpose of one’s existence on this earth, upon the shortness of life, about the life in the grave and about the reckoning of the Day of Judgement. Let us ponder about the innumerable favours that Allah Ta‘ala has blessed us with and how we have “re-paid” these favours with sin and disobedience, more sin and more disobedience, and yet even more sin…
May Allah Ta‘ala forgive us and enable us to make the ‘umrah a means to change our lives for the better.