Performing Hajj is a dream of every Muslim and obligatory for those who can afford it. But due to affordability, many can’t fulfill this dream. But you can visit Makkah and Madinah Sharif while performing Umrah cheaply. Literally, the word Umrah means to travel, desire or meet. Performing certain activities, including Tawaf of the Holy Kaaba, at any time other than Hajj is called Umrah in Islamic terms. For the intention of Umrah, putting on Ihram from outside the Meekat, performing Tawaf around the Kaaba, and Sa’i in Safa-Marwa, shaving the head or cutting the hair short of becoming halal is called Umrah in Shari’ah terms. Performing Umrah at least once in a lifetime is a Sunnah Muaqadah. Whenever this is done, there are rewards and blessings for it. Umrah is one of the most significant activities of worship in Islam. Throughout the year, many Muslims from different parts of the world travel to the holy city of Mecca to perform Umrah. I have had the blessing to perform Umrah twice so far. My wife and I performed Umrah for the first time after my marriage in October 2018. After my daughter completed two years, I performed Umrah for the second time in October last year with my wife, daughter, and father-in-law. I am writing this article today to share our Umrah experience.
Almost every Muslim worldwide has a hidden desire: to visit the Kaaba in Mecca. After my marriage was performed, I decided to perform Umrah along with my wife. Then processed our visa through an agent and took a ten-day package to stay in Mecca and Madinah. Finally, we left for Saudi Arabia to perform the holy Umrah as scheduled. In performing Hajj or Umrah, Miqat is a boundary line or boundary that must be put on Ihram before crossing. In this case, the Miqat of all the countries of South Asia, including Bangladesh, is the Yalamlam hill which must be put on Ihram before crossing. However, we were so excited that we put on Ihram at home and went out. Then we reached Mecca and completed all the Umrah rituals as usual. When we performed Umrah for the first time, we intended that when we had a baby, we could perform Umrah again with her. Almighty Allah accepted our intention and granted us to perform Umrah again. My wife, my two-year-old daughter, my father-in-law, and I decided to go for Umrah for the second time when the Saudi government started allowing Umrah after the end of the Covid-19 outbreak, and the restrictions were eased. This time we booked the hotel ourselves after completing the visa processing through an agent. Finally, after completing all the preparations, we healthily reached Mecca and completed all the formalities of performing Umrah for the second time by the infinite mercy of Almighty Allah. Then we spent four days in Madinah for the Prophet’s Rouja Mubarak pilgrimage. In Madinah, we took a hotel just fifty yards from the gate of the Prophet’s Mosque.
Although most of Saudi Arabia is desert, many prosperous and magnificent cities exist. Everything is a beautiful sign of beauty. There are many important places and famous structures related to the history and tradition of Islam in this holy land. So a trip to Saudi Arabia is always desired by the devout Muslims of the world. Every year many Muslims from Bangladesh go to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. Along with Hajj, they visited various sightseeing places in Makkah and Madinah. Apart from religiously important and beautiful buildings, shopping malls, hotels, and ancient and historical sights are spread throughout Saudi Arabia.
Baitullah Sharif or Masjid al-Haram: The first blessed house built on earth for the guidance of humankind is Baitullah or Kaaba house. The Holy Kaaba, the House of God, was built in Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Its location is in the Arabian Peninsula called Bakka. From here, the endless light of guidance and blessings has spread worldwide. Circling the Holy Kaaba seven times during Hajj or Umrah is called Tawaf. A stone specially placed on the wall of the Kaaba is the Hajar al-Aswad, or the Stone of Paradise, to be kissed directly or by gesture (if direct is not possible due to crowding) to start and end each Tawaf. A square stone surrounded by an iron ring is placed in a crystal box in the Tawaf area on the eastern side of the Kaaba Sharif. The stone’s length, breadth, and height are about one cubit. This stone is Maqam-e-Ibrahim. After completing Tawaf, two Rak’at prayers (Wajib) of Tawaf must be performed. It is better to perform this prayer before Kaaba and Maqam-e-Ibrahim. However, if it is impossible to pray here due to the crowd, you can pray anywhere in Masjidul Haram. The Kaaba Sharif has another D-box-shaped extension called the Hatim-e-Kaaba; Tawaf should be done outside this part. This part of Hatim is also significant, so if possible, we should enter here also and perform two Rak’at prayers (Nafal).
Zamzam Well: Historic Zamzam well is a beautiful natural sign of God. It is a famous well located inside the Masjid al-Haram and only thirty-eight yards from the Kaaba. Zamzam water is very blessed and holy for Muslims. Hot and cold water fountains/drums are placed around the Mataf. It is Sunnah to stand and say Bismillah and drink Zamzam water after performing the Tawaf prayer.
Safa and Marwa: Among the signs of Allah Ta’ala are the hills of Safa-Marwa, located near Masjid al-Haram. One of the rituals of Hajj that Allah Ta’ala taught Hazrat Ibrahim (as) was Sa’i or running between Safa and Marwa. Therefore, when performing Hajj or Umrah, after completing the Tawaf of the Kaaba and drinking Zamzam water, one should perform Sa’i between Safa and Marwa. After performing Sai seven times, the head should be shaved, or the hair of the head should be cut short.
Al-Masjid a Nabawi: Among the holy signs of Allah, after the Holy Kaaba Sharif, the most vital and holy sign is the Holy Mosque of the Prophet (PBUH). This majestic Masjid Nabawi means Prophet’s Mosque. This mosque is the second-best and most sacred place in the world. One Rak’at of prayer with love is rewarded with 50,000 Rak’ats of accepted prayers from Almighty Allah. There are numerous instructions in the Quran and Hadith about the importance and dignity of this mosque. Which is located in Al Madinah Al Munawwarah, Saudi Arabia. The Rouja Sharif of Hazrat (PBUH) is located south of this mosque. It is recognized as the best place in the world after the Holy Kaaba.
Also, among several other significant places are Mount Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah, Jabal-e-Rehmat, Ghar Thawr and Ghar e Soor, Jabal Al Nour, Taneem Mosque or Aisha Mosque, etc.
The first-time Umrah visa through an agent costs around 13 thousand BDT per person; the second time, it costs about 30 thousand BDT. Airfare has also increased almost twice as usual. The first time the airfare was 43 thousand BDT per person; the second time, it was 78 thousand BDT. The airfare for my two-year-old daughter was twenty-five percent less, but that too was about sixty-nine thousand BDT. For the first time staying in Mecca and Madinah, we went with a ten-day package for thirty-five thousand BDT. But we told the agency that we spent the whole time in Mecca and did not have to pay any extra money. The first time in Mecca, our hotel was on the Misfalah side, and the second time was in the Al Ajyad area. The second time we booked the hotel by ourselves. We had to spend 230 Riyals in a three-star hotel in Mecca. In Madinah, we contracted to book a four-star hotel for four days through a broker at 330 Riyals per day. However, the exciting thing is that after we arrived at the hotel, the authorities accepted 1060 Riyals for four days, which is 265 Riyals per day. Then when I called the broker and told him about it, he didn’t care much. After we left the hotel, the broker went to the hotel and was upset that he had not received his commission. Later he did not take that commission from us. We bought and ate food as per our choice; it would cost a bit more for a single person. However, since we were family members, our meal was completed within 15 riyals per person, and we ate a combination of rice, meat, pulses, and vegetables. It costs us 650 riyals to go from Mecca to Madinah by taxi, but it costs us much less to get back by bus.
Some Essential Tips for Umrah:
- Before performing Umrah, we should know about Umrah well in advance. Many books and even internet searches provide detailed information on the rules of performing Umrah. Also, it is excellent to learn from experienced people.
- Approaching the right agency is most important. Without a good agency, the full benefits of performing Umrah are unavailable. However, those who have already performed Umrah at least once can process everything themselves and go again for Umrah if they wish.
- Ihram is an essential aspect of performing Umrah and Hajj. Therefore, before doing Umrah, it is better to know how to wear Ihram and perform Niyat.
- If one falls ill due to excessive heat or any other reason while performing Umrah, the entire effort will be in vain. So it would be good to carry essential first aid medicines with you.
- People from different countries and different professions are usually seen during the time of performing Umrah. It would be wise to mix with them. Knowing the people around you can help you get the correct information and know each country’s rules.
- Pay no heed to any difficulty of the holy Makkah-Madinah or any faults of its inhabitants, and refrain entirely from slander and gossip.
- Spend most of your time in Masjid al-Haram in Makkah Sharif and Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah Sharif and think, will it be such a good fortune to come here?
- Spend more time in dhikr of Allah, tauba-istigfar, tasbeeh-tahlil and recitation of Quran.