A Journey Towards Wisdom & Truth

Iftekhar Ahmed

Ashraf Ali Bastavi

Islam encourages learning and search of truth. The Qur’an and tradition of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) are full of such references. The Prophet’s saying that ‘the best form of worship is the pursuit of knowledge,’ establishes this point. These golden words yield best results when they are amalgamated with our day-to-day life. Our recent visit to KSA for Umrah was a step in this direction.

My children were looking for an appropriate occasion to go for ‘Umrah’.  The reasons given were, they will be enriched, learn many thing and that Umrah is the best deed at a young age.  I got convinced and felt that the proposed visit with right intention would be enriching to all of us.

We were excited and full of joy for our forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia for Umrah.  My children studied books & websites to understand Umrah and how to perform it. They read the history of Mecca, Medina and other important places, & made themselves acquainted with the weather, custom, people and various related matters.

Sketch : A sketch of King Fahad Gate by my daughter Arshiya, made while waiting for the Maghrib Prayer.

I talked to my relatives & friends who had recently been to Mecca & Medina for Umrah and Hajj to get more information.  My wife, who always starts early to pack the luggage for any journey, was at work.  My brother, once he knew our plan for Umrah decided to join us.

We were issued visa by the embassy of KSA, Delhi in a very short time.

Picture : The joy of successfully completing the Umrah; my family, sister, her daughters and my brother.

We started our journey from Delhi to Jeddah.  The change of flight at Abu Dhabi gave us time to enter into state of Ihram.  Reached Jeddah in the afternoon where I was joined by my brother, sister and her daughters.  The incident of missing one of our bags at Jeddah airport took two hours to trace.  Help of the Indian consulate, Jeddah was enormous in tracing the bag and providing us a vehicle to go to Mecca from Jeddah airport.

We reached Mecca by evening & checked in a hotel booked in advance.  After a brief rest, we walked to Masjid al-Haram. We entered the premises of the grand mosque with recitation of Dua.  And there was KAABA, the most beautiful and holiest place on earth for the Muslims.  People try for years to see it. We were mesmerized by the sight & kept looking at Kaaba till someone at the back asked us for space.

There were a large number of people inside, many in big groups. People of different races, countries, colours, gender & ages were there but in one spirit and mind. This was a different world altogether, no politics, no hatred, no deceit, no exploitation, no war and no unfair means.  Everyone was equally absorbed in prayer with all humility and zeal.  We started ‘Tawaf’ in the same spirit, one–after-another completed 7 circles, prayed to Allah in each of the circles for providing us strength to overcome our bad deeds & make us good Muslim, i.e., a good human being .

We completed the Tawaf, had glasses of water of Aab-e-Zamzam before proceeding to Safa & Marwah. I noticed th

Sketch : Views sketched of walking towards Haram Shareef by Arshiya

e extraordinary arrangement of Zamzam water everywhere. The management officials must be on their toes 24×7 to provide the ease, entry & exit of people, & other affairs, e.g. security, keeping the place clean & cool etc.

 

We realised the level of our tiredness when we got up after 9 hours of sleep in the hotel room after Umrah.  Next four days our schedule was to be at the grand mosque for prayer and to come to hotel only for rest, refreshment, and meeting the relatives & friends who used to come to meet us. We visited important places in around Mecca & reached Medina in the evening after 5 days of stay at Mecca. I found not only climate & environment was better at Medina but also the food in restaurants when compared to Mecca.  We spent our time mostly in prayer at Masjid an-Nabwi & also visited nearby historically important places & mosques. We bought varieties of dates & gift items from market.

As per our initial plan we did not stay at Jeddah. After 3 days stay at Medina, we reached Mecca again, to perform Umrah with the same fervour. We stayed in Mecca & Medina for 12 days. Finally we packed our baggage to depart to Jeddah for our flight to India.  We prayed a lot, enjoyed every moment, met many persons, visited important sites and above all learnt so many things that are now part of our personality & memory.

My elder daughter, Arshiya, has her own interesting observation regarding her visit :

Umrah was an invigorating and a humbling experience for our family and me specially.  As an Architect and an Urban Planner, I am always curious to explore and travel different places and observe different locations.  The trip to KSA, apart from the religious and spiritual fulfilment, I had a unique & varied experience on human issues.

 The trip was a study in contrast.  The organic development of Mecca gave a feeling of home away from home.  Though I had personally expected a bit more of the old world 7th century charm with more visual importance given to Haram Shareef.   I was slightly disappointed to see Makkah tower, a commercial building, to be more dominant in the skyline even when I was right in front of Khana-e-Kaaba.  Medina with its planned growth and city layout contrasted in the organisation of the built structures.

  Here too Masjid-e-Nabwi did not get the visual importance I had expected even though it looked more prominent in the city skyline.  It was later I understood that like in our life, our religion should be an inseparable part of it.  It should not stand apart but merge itself inherently in every facet of our life. The same philosophy applied to build structures too. I soon realised what really matter is the significance it has in our daily life.

Picture : An image of my family after the Umrah in front of Kaaba Shareef

 What were common in both the places were the excellent services provided.  Language was rarely an issue.  People were united in faith and common intention. Seeing people overcome their disabilities to perform Tawaf was humbling for me, making me more grateful for what I have been blessed with. 

 There were places where pedestrians were given preference on roads.  The people were soft spoken and yet firm when needed.  Order was maintained and discipline was expected from everyone whether residents or pilgrims. It depicted the success of the government and the people in developing the city for the huge influx of pilgrims it has every year.  

In simple terms, Umrah journey left me wiser, more open minded and humble.”

  Arshiya I. Ahmed.

  Thus ‘Umrah’ for me & my family was like an enlightenment & enhancement of knowledge & wisdom as we tried to tread on the path of God.  The Prophet (PBUH) had very rightly stated:

“He who travels in search of knowledge walk in the path of God”(Al-Tirmidhi).

The writer  Iftekhar Ahmed is Head of Department of Media Communication and Research Center (MCRC), Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

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