But for me, the niat had always been to make the trip this year; no ifs or buts. And the feeling of "apprehension"? Well, it was more of my own level of confidence in carrying out all the duties while performing the Umrah. Of course I wanted everything to be perfect, and the thought of disappointing Allah Himself was something I couldn't really shake off.
The flight to Jeddah itself was a smooth and comfortable one. And we didn't even have to wait that long at the arrival hall before we made it through the immigration checkpoints. Then we got on to the bus and headed for the holy city of Makkah.
It was a feeling of wonderment and great anticipation. There was no time to admire the sights though as the mutawif led us in the "talbiyah", reciting doa and verses of the Quran as we approached our destination. The journey had truly begun...
We reached the hotel after Isyak, and after a quick dinner and short rest, we began our walk towards Masjidil Haram. Only 6-7mins from the hotel, the sight of the Grand Mosque totally blew me away; not only because of its sheer beauty and magnificence, but also the realization that we had been invited by Allah and there was no greater blessing than that.
As we entered the mosque, my heart was pounding and tears were about to flow, knowing that we were getting closer and closer to the Kaabah. And as I finally laid my eyes on the Sacred House, I felt a string of emotions that mere words can't possibly do justice. I felt the closest as I had ever been to the Almighty, and as we started our "tawaf", I must admit it was tough trying to calm my heart down whilst reciting our doas and keeping count of the rounds.
Upon completion of the tawaf, we performed the solat sunat behind Prophet Ibrahim's "makam" and raised our hands in doa towards the Kaabah. This proved to be one of my favourite spots as for the next seven days, I was fortunate enough to seek forgiveness from Allah and poured out everything that's in my heart.
After the tawaf, we proceeded to perform the Saie. I must say that despite being in good physical condition, the Saie was no walk in the park. Still overwhelmed with raw emotion, and after a journey of more than 13 hours from home, the last few rounds of the Saie proved to be physically challenging.
But Alhamdulillah, we completed it and after performing the tahlul, we had completed our first round of Umrah.
I can't possibly share every moment, every feeling, every awakening that I experienced, but I can say that those seven days were the most special and most meaningful ever in my life. (Of course this would later extend to 10 days with the inclusion of Madinah)
Seven days of worship and enlightenment. Of spiritual fulfilment and submission. It was beyond everything I had expected and dreamed of.
The days were hot then, but it was when the conditions were the toughest that I felt the most fulfilling. That the word "submission" was given its full meaning.
And the miracles I experienced, I can't thank Allah enough. The first of which happened on the 2nd day we were there. I was performing my tawaf sunat in the morning when during my 2nd pass of the Hajar Aswad, I saw a woman who looked exactly like my late mother. She was walking towards another person and she was smiling. I almost called out to her, but stopped myself as I reminded myself that my beloved mother was no longer here. But I felt a sense of peace in my heart, a feeling of "rindu terubat", upon seeing her. For seven years, I had only "seen" her in my dreams and doa, but Allah wanted me to see "her" in the flesh. What a moment that was.
As with other Umrah trips, we were also taken to see some very important sights to remind us of and understand deeper the struggles and successes of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, as well as the history of Makkah and the Kaabah.
Modern Makkah is also a city of marvels, with the Clock Tower standing gloriously opposite Masjidil Haram.
It was really sad when our seven days were up, but the memories will forever live in our hearts and minds. And yes, it was nothing short of life-changing...