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Experiences of my maiden umra
By Aftab H Kola

Umra season has just started. There will be thousands who will be going to perform Umra this time. What are the rituals connected with it and the feelings attached. Mr. Aftab Kola, our special correspondent, who undertook a sojourn to Saudi Arabia before this year’s Hajj pours out his feelings.

I was wearing my ihraam (unsewn white cloth) when I landed at Jeddah international airport. My father Abdullah, who is earning his livelihood in Jeddah for the past 20 years, my mother and cousins Qamar and Shakeel received me at the airport. Jeddah is a sprawling metropolis and the Gateway to the holy cities of Makkah and Madina. It took us around 40 minutes to reach my father’s residence in the heart of old Jeddah. After a light meal my parents and I headed for Makkah, the sanctuary for which I longed to visit. As soon as we sat in the car we started chanting the talbiyah. And my agogment enhanced after every minute as my greatest desire to see the House of God and to perform Tawaf and prayers in the Haram is soon going to be realized. I am responding to the call of the Almighty Creator and feel privileged to be one of its humble visitors to the Haram. As we approach Makkah we pass across a huge ornamental Riyal, which is a treat to the eyes. We reach Makkah after an hour’s drive, my pulse beating quicker as I alight from the car. I am really delighted to see the façade of the Haram Masjid campus housing the Ka’ba inside, it’s a beautifully carved structure with stately minarets kissing the sky. My father reminds me to pray the following on my very first glimpse of the Ka’ba: O Allah, grant me a place in Paradise and answer all my prayers supplicated here". It is believed that one’s prayers are answered at any cost at the first sighting of the Ka’ba. My heartbeats accelerated as I entered the grand Haram Mosque. It is the most beautiful specimen of architecture in the universe in all aspects. It seems as if I have landed in Jannat. As my lips were engaged in uttering ‘labbaik Allahumma labbaik’ I could see a movement of concourse of devotees and there stood the Ka’ba in all its grandeur. I stood in awe in a state of unbelievable spirituality. It was the greatest feeling of my life. At no time did I ever felt so high. My lips automatically prayed what was told by my father. And subsequently prayed for other things and for all those who had specifically told me to do so. And also prayed for all the Muslims of the world. I could see people belonging to different Nationalities, some engaged in worship and some in Tawaf. At any given point of time, we can see convoys of people getting inside or making exits. It was a moment of great Honour for me to be inside the Haram for my Tawaf with a spiritual aura writ large on my face. Ka’ba is a beacon of guidance and a sanctuary of Peace radiating true faith. Laying my right shoulder exposed, which is considered to be a Sunnah, I approach the starting point of the Tawaf. Here I feel it necessary to emphasize that the exposed right shoulder should be covered while offering salat. There was a modest rush, as it happened to be a Wednesday. The rush is heavier on Thursdays and Friday, being the weekly offs. As my steps march for the first of the seven Tawafs (rounds) my mind gets blocked from all sorts of evil thoughts and a feeling of sublimity engrosses it. I sing God’s praises, glorify Him and supplicate as I finish the first round. I see a group of devotees doing the Tawaf with a leader among them reading aloud from du’a books with the rest repeating it in chorus. One can read passages from Qur’an, glorify Allah or say any other supplications while doing Tawaf as there are no set du’as. I notice people clinging to the Ka’ba, crying and asking for God’s forgiveness – a scene that touches every heart so dearly. There is also Maqam Ibrahim near to the Ka’ba. People glances into the glass-cased enclosure occasionally. I finish my 7 rounds in 15 minutes. And then I offer two rak’ahs of Tawaf at a convenient place. Then it’s my turn to ask Allah what I want. It’s a very special place to supplicate. I see a fairly long queue waiting either to touch or kiss the stone, just beneath the door of Ka’ba. After some light pushing I manage to touch that special stone. O what a feeling! You get strange images through the galleries one’s mind befitting a paradise. You feel you can speak to Allah. After sipping zamzam, which is recommended after Tawaf, we proceed to the hillock of As-Safa to do Sa’ee, the other obligation of Umra. Standing on Safa, it hardly looks like a hillock, I proclaim, ‘Bismillahi Allahu Akbar’ by pointing my palms in the direction of Ka’ba and then start my first Sa’ee towards the Marwa. The distance between the two hillocks is about 200 metres and the pathway has marbled flooring. After some distance we reach a certain portion which is clearly marked with green tub lights on the wall and ceiling. I cover this portion by accelerating my walk and running. 

After reaching Marwa I again repeat what was done at Safa and return to Safa thereby completing two rounds. It is really a wonderful sight to see a concourse of people, young, aged and women doing Sa’ee. There is an arrangement to carry frail and old people in wheel chairs which has a separate pathway. One can hire these chairs by paying reasonable charges. Some old people still prefer doing Sa’ee by walk - a sight that brings joy tears in one’s eyes. After we finish seven rounds men are supposed to either cut a few strands of hair or shave one’s head completely, the latter preferred. That completes my Umra. Now I pray Allah to give me an opportunity to perform Hajj-my lifelong wish. Amen!
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