After putting our Ihram, the next step was to perform Umrah. My heart was bubbling with anticipation and excitement- a very quiet type of excitement. This was my 4th overall trip to Mecca but the first time I laid my eyes on Ka’aba on this Hajj, it felt like the very first time I saw Ka’aba. The heart melted instantaneously, the eyes welled and a feeling of calm and peace overcame me. I am including a few short videos of Ka’aba on this post.
After reaching Mecca by bus on an overnight trip that lasted about 10 hours instead of the usual 5 hours, we checked in the hotel and went straight to the haram- the masjid that surrounds Ka’aba. We left Medina around 8 PM, hoping to pray our Fajr(dawn) prayer at Ka’aba but due to the long traffic delays, we missed the Fajr but went straight in anyway.
Umrah is one of the major components of the Hajj pilgrimage and in itself consist of several rituals. Starting with circling around Ka’aba anti clockwise seven times. We offered two rak’at salat after the tawaf, and then headed for the hills named Safa and Marwa, now part of the grand mosque (haram) to perform Sa’ee. We walked seven times between Safa and Marwa to commemorate Hajira (Hagar) quest to find water for her infant son, Ismail (Ishmael) who was laying on dirt near Ka’aba (which was not built at the time).
This incidence happened after Abraham had left Hagar and Ishmael in the valley of Mecca and returned home to stay with Sarah and Isaac. Soon Hagar and the very young Ishmael ran out of water and lay on the desert sand, crying in thirst while Hagar ran back and forth between the mountains of Safa and Marwa searching for water. God showed mercy on them, and a spring of fresh and sweet water gushed forth from the earth under the feet of Ishmael, from a well that came to be known as Zamzam. The Zamzam well is present to this day and the water is available throughout the grand mosque.
What is very interesting to me is that the Qur’an does not make any reference to the Zamzam well, but the Bible does!
And she departed and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was used up, she left the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, ‘Do not let me see the boy die.’ And she sat opposite him, and lifted up her voice and wept. God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink. Genesis 21:14-19
It is of note that Ka’aba was not built by Prophet Muhammad. It was established as a place of worship by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Muslims believe it was built at the site of the very first place of worship Adam had built.
And remember Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For You are the all-hearing, the all-knowing. The Qur’an 2:127
Walking back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa took me back thousands of years, visualizing the desert where a mother was running around trying to find water for her infant son. Abraham left his family in the desert valley on the commands by God and the family complied and submitted to His will. I could not help but think how much they must have endeared themselves to God, since that act alone was made mandatory for us pilgrims- to commemorate and honor her actions-for all pilgrims who will ever come for Hajj or Umrah!
After performing Sa’ee, we trimmed our nails. In another set of Sa’ee. This completed our Umrah. After finishing, we could remove the Ihram and put our regular clothes on. We were no longer in the state of Ihram. We had few more days before the next set of rituals to be performed at Arafat and Mina which I will cover in the next couple of posts. The following three videos were taken before and after a Fajr (dawn) prayers. The last one was taken while we just finished round 7 of the tawaf.
Even though this was not part of the Hajj rituals, we went back to Ka’aba numerous time. In fact that’s what we did most of the time- eat, sleep and visit the grand mosque. Ka’aba is like a magnet that kept pulling us in, and we simply could not afford to miss on this huge opportunity to be next to Ka’aba. We offered multiple optional salats, various supplications and spent time in Dhikr. Sometimes we did nothing but gazed at Ka’aba- that alone brought so much peace to my heart and mind- even to this day.