Many people often reflect on their first hajj, or their first Umrah. Their first moment, as they keep their head down when walking through Baab Malik Abdul Aziz, and just before they enter the mataaf, they lift their head and are astonished. Almost like a moment frozen in time. The first time they look at the ka’bah. The magical enchantment that sends chills through the veins, as they realise the legacy of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). And it truly is magical. It feels like nothing you can ever compare it to. Think about the best day of your life; perhaps your wedding day, the birth of your first child, or maybe even your A-Level results. The day you see the ka’bah for the first time will completely demolish those memories. A feeling like no other incomparable to anything else you have felt. A deep intimate connection between you and the almighty.
By the grace of Allah, I was born into a family, where my grandfather came over to the UK and started his company. G A Travel, a travel agency dedicated to specialising in Hajj & Umrah. As a result, I’ve been blessed to be invited to His house ever since I was a young boy, so I don’t quite have that kind of memory. I certainly remember the first time I took my sandals off, in the boiling heat of what must have been around my Easter holidays. Around April, during dhuhr, temperatures can easily climb up to 50 degrees. I certainly do remember the moment I could only compare to as if though you’re walking on fire.
But one moment that occurred, that truly felt like the closest I’ve ever been was a moment during my last Hajj. In all my time of travelling to Saudi Arabia, I have a confession to make. Yes, I knew the fiqh side of things, how to do tawaf, how to perform sa’ee, how to wear the ihram, but I had never properly spiritually prepared myself. I never revised the story of Ibrahim, the seerah of our beloved, the verses of the Qur’an that talk about the significance of Makkah, and the virtues of Hajj. It always made me feel guilty. I knew that this is what stood in the way of a hajj that truly felt like a Hajj mabroor. A Hajj that truly will be life-changing upon my return.
With my previous Hajj experiences, I used the same excuse most people use. I was busy, I had work, I had exams, I couldn’t find the time to properly prepare. I just hoped that by being there, I’d automatically benefit from the blessings, without any effort or willingness. It certainly did benefit, but I could feel a lacking in my worship. I’d be tired after dhuhr on Arafah, I would not be driven to perform many nafl tawafs, sometimes only just about grabbing the fardh salaahs. Have you ever felt the moment you perform your takbir tahreem in prayer, and promise yourself to focus on your salaah, but by the last rakah, you think “Oh wow, how did I get here? I can’t even remember my second or third rakah?”
Such is the feeling with a Hajj that you perform, without any prior preparations. So last year I promised myself, that my next visit is going to be different. I did as much reading as possible to Hajj related issues, from reading the stories of Ibrahim (AS), to the fiqh of janazah for the person passing away in Ihram. Because truly, the only way you could value what you are about to go into, is to put that value into it prior to it. You can only expect to reap the efforts you sow into in the first place. Only then did I feel prepared, from understanding even the word ihraam, sacred, that you are in a sacred state. There are things that are only permitted or prohibited because of the state I am in. My white ihraam will be my dafn if I pass away because upon resurrection I still will be uttering the words “labbayk Allahumma labbayk”
Then upon wearing my ihraam, proceeding to my journey to Makkah, knowing that I am the guest of Allah (swt), my reason for saying “labbayk Allahumma labbayk” (I am present Oh Allah, I am present) is because I am responding to His invitation. This must mean that just as you are a guest to another individual’s house, you proceed with decorum, maintaining etiquette, in the presence of your host not raising your voice or transgressing, but rather honouring the guest. But also, to note that being the guest of Allah is a noble thing. Something unique, and an opportunity that only Allah (swt) has chosen. Out of all the people He could have invited, He invited me.
As I arrived at the Haram, I proceed to perform my Umrah. This starts off with the tawaf, 7 circuits around the ka’bah. Have you ever walked into a house as a guest, and be asked by the host, what would you like? Tea or coffee? You have this dilemma; you can choose what you want, you have a wish to go for one, or choose the other. When performing tawaf, this is a key moment to get all your asks in. This is Allah (swt) asking you what would you like? This is your opportunity to ask for forgiveness, for mercy, for khair in this dunya and the akhirah, to carry on praising Him declaring your love and loyalty to Allah the Most High. Once completing my Umrah, it settles in, my tough seven rounds of sa’ee (rounds between Safa and Marwa) following the actions of Hajar, in desperation of water, the moment I drink Zamzam I feel like a young Isma’eel (AS) thirsty for water, and Allah (swt) comes to my aid with the miracle of Zamzam.
My completed umrah, sent me back, as the feeling started to settle in, I had just completed a unique form of worship that not every Muslim can do. Furthermore, I had followed the sunnah of Ibrahim (AS) the Khaleel of Allah. But even more so, I had just visited the home city of our beloved Rasoolullah (SAW). I am performing sujood at the place where at one time, mid-salaah, Abu Jahl had mocked Rasoolullah (SAW). 1400 years now, where is Abu Jahl, as millions around the world gather in one place to perform the very act that he tried to mock our beloved Prophet for.
This is a feeling that is quite like no other. A unique intimate connection with Allah (SWT), that increases you in imaan, it allows you to increase your khushoo’ in all other forms of worship. If you ever feel that your worship, in general, is almost perfect but lacks something, perform Hajj or Umrah, it will tip it over to that feeling of contentment. As for those who will be making plans for the first time in the future, and need advice, above all forms of preparations, is your spiritual preparations. Everything I have mentioned and described above; you will not feel if you do not prepare spiritually prior. May Allah (SWT) accept all of our worship, and grant those who are performing Hajj this year Hajj Mabroor, and open His door for international Hujjaj very soon!