Growing up Islam had always played a role in my life. We have always observed the five pillars at home, I learned reciting the Qur’an at a young age and have consistently been doing so for as long as I can remember. Though practicing Islam has always been a part of my life, I had never taken the time to reflect on why we perform all these acts of worship. Then, at age sixteen, I had the opportunity to perform ‘Umrah and it changed everything for me.
In 2014 my family and I went to perform ‘Umrah for the first time. We completed our ‘Umrah in the last ten days of Ramadan 1435. I remember arriving in Mecca, it felt surreal. I kept thinking to myself that سبحان الله, we’re here. The place I have only seen in photos and videos all my life, now I am actually here. After arriving at our hotel and resting for a bit, it was time to go to Masjid Al-Haram. I had butterflies in my stomach just from the thought of getting to see it all in real life. That it was a matter of minutes and then we would be inside the Haram, in front of the Ka’ba.
We made it to the Haram and we walked towards it. I could not comprehend the fact that I was actually there. When we reached the main area, before I could even look up and before I could even take it all in, I was overwhelmed by my feelings. Hearing the call to prayer being made, seeing the people doing tawaf, I had never seen anything like it before in my life. The way the people doing tawaf looked like a stream of water flowing around the Ka’ba. The unity. I was in awe. And that moment must have been the moment I knew, that this is what I was created to do. That worshipping Allah is my purpose. It is one thing hearing it from your parents growing up, but it is an entirely different thing finally realizing it for yourself.
I feel like I can divide my life into two parts. The first part was my life before I became aware of my purpose and the second is my life after I became aware of my purpose. And this moment, my sixteen-year-old self about to perform my first ‘Umrah, seeing all these people worshipping Allah, no distinction between young and old, black and white, male and female, all there for the same purpose. This was the turning point for me. It is as if in that moment everything became clear. As if a veil was lifted from my eyes. And though I did not necessarily notice this in the moment, I realize now how significant that moment was in my life.
When I came back from ‘Umrah, I came back with a newfound interest in Islam. Prior to performing ‘Umrah, I wasn’t necessarily aware of the fact that I was missing something in my life. But then I found Islam. And after tasting the sweetness of faith, now that I look back, I truly realize that there was a void in my life. I was going through life without a clear purpose in mind. When I found Islam, that void was filled. Life suddenly felt complete. I understand that everything is from Allah. That to Allah we belong and to Him we will return. This has changed my entire mindset for this life. Finding my purpose has made me complete. And I will forever be grateful for that one ‘Umrah that lead me to Allah.
If I could give a piece of advice to anyone performing Hajj or ‘Umrah for the first time, it would be to be mentally prepared for challenges. Pilgrimage is not a comfortable or easy journey, no matter how well you prepare for it. Your patience will be tested so be patient over what befalls you. See the discomforts you may experience as part of the journey. In the grand scheme of things, these challenges are insignificant so do not let them take over your emotions.
May Allah grant us all the opportunity to perform Hajj and ‘Umrah in our lifetimes.