Those who have never performed the Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage or “minor hajj” to Mecca) would not understand fully how a person’s mind and perceptions could be changed and become a better and more devoted person to Allah and Prophet Mohamad (peace be upon him), nor would they understand how Muslims feel while they are in Umrah performing their religious rituals.
Recently Malaysia World News (MWN) interviewed some Malaysians who were performing their Umrah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. They were on an Umrah package tour from a Malaysian travel and tour agent, El-Izzah from Johore.
An executive woman working with a government agency in Johor Baharu, Malaysia, Siti Khadijah Rappa, 48, who had performed Umrah for seven times, said she came to Umrah to clean her soul from sins she committed.
“I often come to Mecca because I miss the Prophet Mohamad (peace be upon him) so much.
“I feel i am close to him (Prophet) as the Allah’s messenger whenever I come here.
“Each time I come here I pray to Allah to die either in Mecca or Medina.
“My wish is to die here after asking Allah to forgive my sins.
“I prayed to Allah so that I will be the first few to be judged for my deeds during my life time,” she said.
Muslims in Malaysia have to register with “Tabung Haji” to perform the Hajj and waiting to be in the pilgrimage list takes a long time.
Before their turn comes many people choose to perform the Umrah first. That is the reason many affordable Malaysians go for umrah package all the year round either before Hajj season or after they have performed their Hajj pilgrimage.
For a nurse, Siti Sara Kemat, 46, from Simpang Renggam, Johor, she regards Mecca in particular the Kaaba as a holy place where she could ask Allah to forgive all her sins.
“I am very happy to be one of the luckiest persons to be the guest of Allah to Mecca this time. When I first saw the Kaaba, the place for unification and the common direction (qiblat) when the Muslims pray, I sobbed.
“I am feeling sad and happy because finally I am able to come here to perform my Umrah. Mecca is the birth place of Prophet Mohamad (peace be upon him) and he had led us to embrace Islam and follow the right path to Allah.
“Having a lot of money does not necessarily bring a person to perform Umrah without Allah’s blessings and invitation,” she said.
She also describes the performance of the Sa’i as a philosophy where a person has to pray and ask Allah for what he or she needs in life and not depending on others to help.
The Sa’i or ritual walking serves to commemorate Hajar’s search of water for her son (Ismail) and Allah’s mercy in answering prayers.
Meanwhile, a Felda Settler, Shamsuddin Tasri, 65, said Umrah has made him understands and feels deeply about the history of Islam.
“I learnt a lot about the history of Islam and how difficult it was to introduce and spread Islam to the people both in Medina and Mecca by Prophet Mohamad (peace be upon him) and his “sahabats” and followers.
“I gathered all this information from the tour leader or mutawwif while we were performing the Tawaf, Sa’i and while visiting various places that were related to the prophet,” said Shamsuddin.
He added, he was amazed to see thousands of Muslims from all over the world gathered in Masjidilharram and the Kaaba to perform Umrah.
“Despite raining, the people still continue to perform their Umrah.
“I feel very happy and want to return here again if given the chance. Upon looking the Kaaba I feel sad and really repented to Allah,” he said.
Millions of Muslims from all over the world throng to Mecca, Saudi Arabia all the year round to perform Umrah and Hajj pilgrimage.
Umrah, according to the dictionary, is the non-mandatory lesser pilgrimage or a “minor hajj” made by Muslims to Mecca, which may be performed at any time of the year.
In Islam, it means to perform Tawaf round Kaaba and Sa’i between Al-Safa and Al-Marwah after assuming ihram in places from Miqat like Dhul Hulifa Bir Ali, Tanaim, Juhfa, Qarnu ‘l-Manazil and Yalamlam.
Umrah is sometimes called the “minor pilgrimage, the Hajj being the major pilgrimage which is compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended, according to Islam.
The Umrah is of two kinds, firstly that is performed independently of the Hajj and the second kind is performed in conjunction with the Hajj. The independent Umrah can be performed at all times of the year though it is meritorious to perform it during the month of Rajab according to “Imamiyyah” (Shi’ah) and in Ramadan according to the four Sunni schools.
According to alFiqh ‘ala almadhahib al’arba’ah, whatever is “wajib” or compulsory or sunnah (prophet Mohamad’s routines) for the Hajj in certain respects” there is no specific time for performing “Umrah; it does not involve the halt (wuquf) in the plain of Arafat; neither the departure thenceforth to alMuzdalifah nor the ramy aljamarat – the stoning of the devil.
The stoning of jamarat (place of pebbles) is part of the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. During the ritual, Muslim pilgrims throw pebbles at three walls called “jamarat” in the city of Mina just east of Mecca.
It is one of a series of ritual acts that must be performed in the Hajj. This is a symbolic re-enactment of Abraham’s hajj where he stoned three pillars representing the temptation to disobey Allah and preserve Ismail his son.
According to the Umrah Mutawwif (the person who guides the pilgrim) Ustaz Mohamad Hamizan Sayuti, Umrah is a visit to many historical places relating to Phophet Mohamad (peace be upon him) and his sahabats (close friends and followers) in spreading Islam in Medina and Mecca.
“The Umrah has its rules and regulations and forbids a person while in “ihram” from doing things.
“The basics in performing Umrah are: 1) to read the intention (niat) at miqat 2) to perform Tawaf round the Kaaba and Sa’i (seven times each) 3) to cut few hair strips (tahlul) after completing the Sa’i and 4) to closely follow the procedures.
“Allah will grant 1,000 rewards to the religious performers or “ibadah” at Nabawi Mosque in Medina and 100,000 rewards at Masjidilharram in Mecca. All Muslims should take this golden opportunity to repent and ask for forgiveness from Allah while performing their Umrah,” Ustaz Mohamad Hamizan, who is also the Assistant Director, Family Development Division, Islamic Religious Department, Johor, said. -Malaysia World News