Labbaikallahuma Umratan (“Oh Allah. Here I am answering Your call and intending to perform Umrah”)
From 9 April to 16 April we went for Umrah by bus. What a mind enlightening religious trip.
The Umrah or (Arabic: عمرة) is a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year. In Arabic, Umrah means “to visit a populated place”. As a technical term used in the Sharia, Umrah means to perform Tawaf round the Kaaba and Sa’i between Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, after assuming Ihram (a sacred state). It is sometimes called the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’, the Hajj being the ‘major’ pilgrimage and which is compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.
The pilgrim performs a series of ritual acts symbolic of the lives of Ibrahim (Abraham) and his second wife Hajar, and of solidarity with Muslims worldwide. These acts of faith are:
Perform a tawaf, which consists of circling the Kaaba seven times in a counter-clockwise direction. Men are encouraged to do this three times at a hurried pace, followed by four times, more closely, at a leisurely pace.
Perform a sa’i, which means rapidly walking seven times back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah. This is a re-enactment of Hagar’s frantic search for water. The baby Ishmael cried and hit the ground with his foot (some versions of the story say that an angel scraped his foot or the tip of his wing along the ground), and water miraculously sprang forth. This source of water is today called the Well of Zamzam.
Perform a halq or taqsir, meaning a cutting of the hair. A taqsir is a partial shortening of the hair, whereas a halq is a complete shave of the head, except for women, as they cut a little amount of hair instead.
These rituals complete the Umrah, and the pilgrim can choose to go out of ihram. Although not a part of the ritual, most pilgrims drink water from the Well of Zamzam. (Wikipedia)
Through Hamlah Al Haramain, we paid QR1700 per person for Umrah trip that included visa, transport (Doha-Mekkah-Madinah-Doha), 3-night stay in Mekkah, 2-night stay in Madinah, and ziarah(devotional visit to sacred places) in Mekkah and Madinah.
One of the advantages of taking a bus trip for umrah is we can sleep and relax and don’t bother with a long 1440-km driving (Qatar-Mekkah). Unfortunately, it can be tiring due to its non-stop driving and longer trip owing to longer border process and lower speed.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed the trip and met new people in the bus. But most importantly to pay a visit to places where every muslim want to.
This is our bus ready to enter Qatar border. It took us about 5 hours in the Qatar-Saudi border!
20 hours later, we arrived at Miqat (lit. a stated place), a station at which pligrims put on Ihram. For those coming from Qatar the Miqat is situated at Taif (Miqat Qarn Al-Manazil (Alsail Al Kabir)), about 90km from Mekkah. We took a bath, changed the normal clothes to two pieces of white unstitched fabrics, then we paid a two rakaat prayer. From now on we entered a state of ihram (a sacred state) when there are restrictions to comply with.
Arriving in Masjidil Haram, we performed the umrah rituals: thawaf (circumambulation), sa’i, and taqsir (shortening the hair).
After completion of umrah, we then spent every possible opportunities to have a prayer in Masjidil Haram. Prayers in Al-Masjid Al-Haram are equivalent to 100000 Prayers in any other mosque. In addition we also paid a visit to some sacred places and important Hajj places.