Umrah Guide 2016
by: Muslim Travelers
Planning to go on Umrah soon but not sure what to expect? Look no further — we’ve put this all-inclusive guide together to help you make the most of your upcoming trip. Feel free to print it out and take it with you to read on your flight and throughout your Umrah. May Allah (swt) make your journey a smooth one and may He accept your Umrah!
Learn and Appreciate the History of Makkah and Madinah
The most important advice we can give you is to really learn the seerah of the Prophet (pbuh) to appreciate the beauty of the place you are about to set foot in. This will make your Umrah so much more meaningful and memorable. The 3 best sources that come to mind are:
- Watch the Omar Series on YouTube here. You will visually see Islamic history from the point of view of Omar ibn al Khataab (3rd Caliph). The series is action-packed, captivating, and reportedly the biggest Arab production ever. It’s 23 hours long but totally worth every minute.
- Listen to Yasir Qadhi’s seerah on YouTube here. It’s over 100 hours of in depth detailed knowledge, with great connections to modern day society.
- Read Martin Ling’s Muhammad here.
Get a Visa
The government of Saudi Arabia issues special visas for those making the pilgrimage. Umrah visas are offered from the 1st of Safar to the 15th of Shawwal. Most pilgrims opt to use a specialist travel agency, which will handle the considerable paperwork for them. As usual in Saudi Arabia, women must travel together with a male guardian (mahram) unless they are over 45, traveling with a group, and have their guardian’s signed consent.
Visas are assigned to countries on a quota basis according to the number of Muslims they have. Recently, those who have previously been to Makkah have had additional restrictions placed on their entry, in an effort to discourage overcrowding while still accommodating those who have not yet made the pilgrimage. If the applicant was not born a Muslim, they must present a certificate testifying so, which has been notarized by an Islamic center. Usually your masjid will be able to arrange this or at least point the way.
Book your Flight and Hotel
Most travel agencies take care of booking the flight and hotel for you. If you want to save money, just get the Umrah visa through them and take care of the rest on your own.
For flights, you can use skyscanner.com.
Our recommendations for hotels in Makkah:
Budget – $23/night – Al Aseel Ajyad – If you just need a cheap place to rest and shower, this is it. It’s a 15-20 min walk to the Haram.
Mid range – $83/night – Amjad Ajyad – This hotel is nothing fancy but gets you closer to the Haram without paying a fortune. You’ll still have to walk 5-10 minutes to the Haram.
Luxury – $200/night – Hilton Suites – This hotel has the best reviews at a reasonable price right in front of the Haram.
Our recommendations for hotels in Madinah:
Budget – $80/night – Meshal al Madinah – Nothing fancy, just a place to sleep and shower that’s about 5 minutes to Masjid an-Nabawi.
Mid range – $150/night – Royal Inn Madinah – Not too pricey and within a 5 minute walk to Masjid an-Nabawi.
Luxury – $220/night – Intercontinental Madinah – Literally right next to Masjid an-Nabawi. Ultimate convenience and luxury for the most reasonable price.
Basic Packing List
- Pocket quran and pocket dua book
- Personal dua list
- Men: Ihram (2 pieces of plain white cloth) and belt to hold Ihram
- Men: shaving razor and/or scissors for cutting hair
- Printed Umrah guide and/or Umrah app on phone
- Small journal to document experiences, reflect, write prayers, and write goals to change in sha Allah
- Sunglasses (highly recommended since the sunlight is harsh)
- A smartphone or tablet that can connect to wifi (to call and message family back home)
- Phone charger
- Universal adapter
- Slippers (2 pairs)
- Sleep eye mask and ear plugs
- Basic medicines
- If you’re planning to do a lot of shopping, take a collapsible bag inside your suitcase so you can fill it with all the new items you purchase
- And last but not least, a clean heart and lots of taqwa ?
You will land in either Madinah or Jeddah. If your travel agency did not provide transporation, you will need to take a taxi (1 hr) or the new high speed train (30 minutes) to get from Jeddah to Makkah. Taxi drivers may give you high prices which you need to negotiate. I prefer to just call an Uber and pay a base rate of 300 SAR to get to Makkah, no negotiating needed. Use Uber to get to Madinah as well. The fixed rates are as follows:
Jeddah to Makkah – 300 SAR ($80 USD)
Jeddah to Madinah – 1250 SAR ($333 USD)
Saudi Arabia has a desert climate characterized by extreme heat during the day, an abrupt drop in temperature at night, and very low annual rainfall. From May to September, most of the country bakes in temperatures that average 42°C and regularly exceed 50°C in the shade. July and August are particularly brutal. The coasts are only slightly moderated by the sea, which usually keeps temperatures below 38°C — but at the price of extreme humidity (85-100%), which many find even more uncomfortable than the dry heat of the interior. Only the elevated mountainous regions stay cool(er), including the summer resort city of Taif and the mountainous Asir region.
In winter, though, it’s a surprisingly different story. Daytime highs in Riyadh in December average only 21°C, and temperatures can easily fall below zero at night, occasionally even resulting in some snow in the southern mountains. The winter can also bring rains to all or most of the country, although in many years this is limited to one or two torrential outbursts. The end of spring (April and May) is also a rainy season for much of the country.
The Saudi currency is the Saudi riyal (ريال, SAR), which has traded at a fixed 3.7450 to the US dollar since 1986. The riyal is divided into 100 halalas, which are used to mark some prices, but in practice, all payments are rounded to the nearest riyal. Odds are you probably will never see any halala coins. Bills come in values of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 riyals, with two series in circulation.
Saudi Arabia is still largely a cash society, but credit card and debit card acceptance is surprisingly good everywhere. ATMs are ubiquitous especially in gas stations and malls, and all banks accept foreign cards. The largest bank in the country in the National Commercial Bank. Money-changers can be found in souks but are rare elsewhere. Merchants do not accept foreign currencies.
Prices are generally fairly expensive: figure on USD50/100/200 for budget, mid range and splurge-level daily travel costs.
Tipping is generally not expected, although service staff are always happy to receive them and taxi fares are often rounded up (or, not uncommonly, down).
Food and Drink
Fast food is certified halal in Saudi Arabia and thus is a huge business there, with all the usual suspects (McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway) and a few chains that rarely venture outside America elsewhere (e.g. Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr., Little Caesars). Meals served with fries and Coke cost SR10-20. Some local imitators worth checking out include:
- Al-Baik – Fried chicken – in Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah, but not Riyadh
- Kudu – Saudi sandwich chain
Cheaper yet are the countless curry shops run by and for Saudi Arabia’s large Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi community, which serve up large thali platters of subcontinental fare for under SAR10. Just don’t expect frills like air-conditioning. Be cautious about eating in such restaurants since they do not follow western health and safety standards.
The national Saudi Arabian dish is the kabsa (orange/red colored rice with lamb or chicken with strong essence and spices, but not chili). It’s similar to Indian biryani but not quite the same.
The Middle Eastern staple of shawarma (doner kebab) is widely available, with SAR3-4 being the standard price for a sandwich. The Egyptian mashed fava bean stew foul is another cheap staple, and these shops usually also offer falafel (fried chickpea balls) and a range of salads and dips like hummus (chickpea paste) and tabbouleh (parsley salad). Mandi (chicken or mutton cooked with rice in a pot suspended above a fire) is also common.
Finding restaurants that serve actual Saudi cuisine is surprisingly very difficult. Although many larger hotels have Arabic restaurants, they are usually of lower quality. Your local Saudi or expatriate host may be able to show you some places or if you’re really lucky, an invitation to dinner at home.
Pork is forbidden in Islam and is not served in Saudi Arabia.
Tap water throughout the country is NOT safe to drink. In the summer, tap water can be very hot.
Bottled water is readily available and cheap at SAR2 or less for a 1.5L bottle, so many visitors and residents choose to play it safe. Many residents prefer to buy drinking water from purification stations.
While Saudi Arabia actually has one of the lowest crime rates in the world due to regular police presence in public, a very small level of non-violent opportunistic theft like pick-pocketing and purse snatching does exist like any other part of the world.
Police in Saudi Arabia are divided into three authorities: Traffic Police (colored green), General Police (colored blue), and Special Safety Police (colored brown).
Things to See in Makkah
Makkah is Islam’s holiest city, as it’s the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and of our beautiful faith itself. Traveling through the city where so much history took place is a surreal and emotional experience.
- Jabal ar-Rahma (Hill of Arafat) – The site of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) last sermon.
- Jabal Al Noor (The Mountain of Light) – In this mountain is the Cave of Hira, where Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) received the first revelations of the Holy Qur’an.
- Jabal Al Thur – The cave in which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Abu Bakr (RA) hid for three days and nights as they made Hijra to Madinah. They were fleeing from from the Quraysh, who intended to kill our beloved Prophet (pbuh). The cave entrance was blocked by a spider’s web and a bird’s nest, leading the Quraysh to believe no one was in the cave. SubhanAllah!
- Jannatul Mu’alla – The cemetery in which several members of the Prophet’s (pbuh) family and many Sahabah are buried.
- Abraj Al Bait (Makkah Royal Hotel Clock Tower) – a huge service complex that opened in 2012 to modernize Makkah and cater to its pilgrims. It definitely makes for an imposing sight as it towers over the pilgrims inside the masjid. The tower also includes an Islamic Museum and a Lunar Observation Center.
- Mina – A “city” that hosts millions of people during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. This artificial neighborhood is made up of 100,000 air-conditioned tents. During Hajj, this is the site of the symbolic stoning of the devil.
- Muzdalifah – An area of 12.25 square kilometers of desert where Hajj pilgrims spend the night.
Things to See in Madinah
Madinah is the second holiest city in Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) had so much love for Madinah, since the small and persecuted Muslim community was able to establish themselves there and thrive. Narrated Anas: The Prophet (pbuh) said, “O Allah! Bestow on Madinah twice the blessings You bestowed on Makkah.”
- Since it is visited only by Muslims for religious purposes, the main thing to see is the Masjid an-Nabawi or the Prophet’s Mosque. Men are allowed to visit the actual burial site of the Prophet (pbuh) and pay respects throughout the opening hours of the mosque, which used to close for the night at around 10PM but has since become 24/7. Women may visit only after the Fajr and Dhuhr prayers, when they are taken there in groups according to their countries.
- Jannatul Baqi – a huge graveyard where most family members and companions of the Prophet (pbuh) are buried.
- The plains and mountain of Uhud – Where the Battle of Uhud took place.
- Martyrs of Uhud – The burial ground of the 70 martyrs of The Battle of Uhud, including the Prophet’s uncle Hamza who is considered one of the greatest martyrs of all time.
- Masjid Quba – The first mosque of Islam.
- Masjid Qiblatayn – Where the Prophet (pbuh) was ordered by Allah to turn his face from Masjid Aqsa in Jerusalem to the Kaaba in Makkah while offering prayers.
- Masjid Jumu’ah – Where the Prophet (pbuh) prayed the first Jumu’ah or Friday prayers.
- Masjid Gamama – Where the Prophet (pbuh) once prayed for rain.
- The battleground of Khandaq or the Trench.
How to Do Umrah
You’ll perform a series of ritual acts symbolic of the lives of Ibrahim and his second wife Hajar. Unlike Hajj, the Umrah is not compulsory but is highly recommended.
Travel to a miqat. A miqat is a stated place. You cannot travel directly to the Kaaba in Makkah to begin Umrah. Instead, there are five miqat surrounding Makkah. These act as holy barriers that all Muslims must pass through before proceeding to their Umrah. At the miqat, you must stop and assume a ritual state of purity which must be maintained throughout the Umrah. Passing the miqat without assuming this state not permitted — if this is done, you must return to one of the miqat before beginning the Umrah again. The sites of the five miqat (with their distance and geographical position relative to the Kaaba) are:
- Dhu’l-Hulayfah: 450 kilometers (280 miles) north of Makkah. 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) from Madinah.
- Juhfah: 190 kilometers (118 miles) northwest of Makkah.
- Qarn al-Manazil: 90 kilometers (56 miles) east of Makkah.
- Dhat Irq: 85 kilometers (53 miles) northeast of Makkah.
- Yalamlam: 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of Makkah.
- In addition, some Muslim scholars believe it is appropriate to assume ihram in the city of Jeddah, which is not one of the five traditional miqat but is 86 kilometers (53.5 miles) from Makkah and is home to Saudi Arabia’s busiest airport. However, in this case, you may be required to make an additional animal sacrifice.
- Finally, most people who live in Makkah use a special miqat called Tan’eem which is only about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the Kaaba.
Assume the ihram (state of purity). At the miqat, you must assume a special state of religious purity called ihram. Externally, this is marked by putting on certain clothing. For men, this clothing is two pieces of unstitched white cloth, while for women this is ordinary but loose, conservative clothing. However, ihram is more than just a uniform — it’s a mental state and a code of behavior that marks your complete devotion to the duties of the Umrah. The state of ihram forbids:
- Arguing, shouting, using impure language or acting aggressively
- Showing affection to one’s spouse or having sexual intercourse. Note that you also may not marry while in the state of ihram.
- Joking and immodest behavior.
- Shaving any part of the body, clipping the nails, and using perfume or cologne.
- Wearing a head covering, socks, or close-toed shoes (for men). Women may wear head coverings and socks. Umbrellas are acceptable for both sexes.
- Killing animals except in self-defense or in the case of annoying pests like flies and mosquitoes (in both cases, driving the animal away without killing it is preferable).
Recite the Talbiyyah. At the miqat, you must recite a special short prayer called the Talbiyyah. This recitation announces your presence to Allah and cements your intention to complete the pilgrimage. It is best to repeat the Talbiyyah throughout your Umrah when you have time. The words of the Talbiyyah are:
- Labbayka-Allahummma labbayk, Labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Innal-Hamda wanni’mata laka wal-Mulk, laa shareeka lak!
- In English, this is translated as: “Here I am O Allah! Here I am! Here I am, there is no partner for You, here I am! Surely, all praise, blessings, and dominion are for You. There is no partner for You!”
If flying, consider assuming ihram before/during your travel to Makkah. Today, Muslims from all over the world make the trip to Saudi Arabia via air travel. However, since Saudi Arabia’s busiest airport is in Jeddah, which is technically within the miqat boundary, many Muslims choose to assume the state of Ihram before or even during their travel. If this is the case for you, you should bathe before leaving and make sure to change into the proper clothes for Ihram at some point before the plane crosses the traditional miqat boundaries.
- It is generally considered better to assume the state of ihram well before crossing the miqat boundary than waiting until the plane nears the boundary and running the risk of crossing the boundary without becoming pure, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to change.
Proceed to the Kaaba, reciting Talbiyyah. Once you have assumed ihram at one of the miqat, you will proceed to the Kaaba, the holiest site in all of Islam. Until you reach the Kaaba and begin to perform the rituals of Tawaf, you are encouraged to repeat the Talbiyyah to yourself continuously (or as often as possible when it is reasonable to do so). You may also offer your own unique, special prayers to Allah or recite portions of the Qur’an — the precise words you offer aren’t as important as maintaining a solemn, humble, devoted mindset.
Perform Tawaf around the Ka’bah. At the Kaaba, you’ll complete the Tawaf — the act of walking around the Kaaba seven times in a counterclockwise direction. Each “circuit” starts and ends when the Black Stone is on your right. There is a brown marble line marking this starting point. Before beginning, you’ll recite a short prayer to express your intention to complete Tawaf. This prayer is:
- “In the name of Allah, Allah is the Greatest. O Allah! Having faith in you, confirming the truthfulness of Your Holy Book, fulfilling Your promise and following the sunnah of Your Prophet (peace be upon him)”.
- After making your intention, you’ll begin to walk. The first three circuits should be completed quickly; the next four slowly. While completing the seven circuits, try to touch and kiss the Black Stone in each circuit if possible (if it is too crowded to kiss, it is appropriate to kiss the fingers and touch the stone.)
- Men should expose their right shoulder (and only their shoulder) by tucking their robes under their right armpit.
Offer praise to Allah while performing Tawaf. The Tawaf is a very special experience during which Muslims have a greater opportunity to express their devotion to Allah than during their ordinary life. While completing the Tawaf, your thoughts should be pure and focused on Allah. You may also choose to offer oral praise as you walk. The most common recitations used for this are:
- Labbayka Allaahumma Labbayk. Labbayka Laa Shareeka Laka Labbayk.
- “My God, I have responded to You. I have responded to You, and I proclaim that there is no other god besides You; I have responded to You.”
- Innal Hamda, Wan Ne’mata. Lakawal Mulk. La Shareeka Lak
- “For You alone is All The Praise and All The Bounty, and for You alone is The Sovereignty. You have no partners.”
Make the Say’ee walk between Mounts Safa and Marwa. After the Tawwaf, you will complete another special Umrah ritual called the Say’ee. The Say’ee involves walking back and forth between two small mountains called Safa and Marwah. Starting from Safa, you will complete seven circuits, making a total of four stops at each mountain. At each stop, you will recite the following short prayer:
- Allahu Akbar! (repeated three times) Laa ilaaha illa Allah wahdahu laa shareeka lah. Lahul-Mulku walahul- Hamdu wa huwa ‘alaa kulli shay’in Qadeer. Laa ilaaha illa Allahu wahdahu, Sadaqa Wa’adahu, wa nasara ‘abadahu wa hazamal-Ahzaaba wahdah!
- Translation: There is no god but Allah. He is One and has no partner, to Him is the dominion and all praise is due to Him. We are returning, repenting, worshipping, prostrating, and to Allah we are very grateful. Allah is true to His promise, He gave victory to His servant and defeated the confederates all by Himself.
- Other desirable (but not required) behaviors for the Say’ee include walking at a fast pace between the two green signs on the side of the path, making small prayers or reading the Qur’an, abstaining from talking to others, and reflecting on the Day of Judgment.
Have your hair shaved or trimmed and leave the state of Ihram. After the seventh circuit of Say’ee, the major events of Umrah are over. At this point, you will have your hair shaved or cut as a sign of your symbolic “renewed” or “rejuvenated” state. Men are strongly encouraged to have their heads shaved. Trimming the hair is permitted, but shaving the head entirely is preferable. Women only have their hair trimmed.
- After this hair-trimming, congratulations! Your Umrah is complete and you are released from the state of Ihram. You may revert to your normal clothes and behavior, though you should maintain a devout, humble mindset as long as you are in Makkah.
Below is a good 1 page summary you can print.
Good Things to Do in Umrah
- Say Salaam to strangers
- Smile at your fellow Muslims
- Buy tea for someone
- Read Qur’an with the tafseer
- Do the authentic dhikr of the morning and evening
- Make dua during your sajdah
- Stand to the side of a gate and offer people water/tea as they leave
- Give major attention to shy people in your group
- Purifying your actions for the sake of Allah
- Make dua for forgotten friends (and the author of this list :))
- Remember – during the heat – the unending torment of Hellfire
- Say ‘Laa ilaaha illa Allah, wahdahu laa sharika lah, lahul Mulk wa lahul hamd, wa Huwa ‘ala kulli shay’in Qadeer’ 100 times
- Give charity to those who sell meager things
- Forgive people that wrong you
- Talk to 10 different people from 10 different countries
- Compliment someone sincerely
- Visit the hospital and thank Allah for all that He has given you
- Offer perfume to those around you
- Remember specific blessings Allah has bestowed upon you and say Alhamdulillah
- Pray Allah using his 99 most beautiful names (al Asmaa’ al Husna)
- Use a Miswak
- Fill your pockets with candy to give to the children that you meet
- Always intend reward from Allah for everything you do
- Donate a Qur’an: When you visit Makkah and Madinah you will see thousands of Qur’ans in the Harams. You may wonder where they come from. You will be surprised to know that a large majority are donated by people like you. Yes, you can donate Qur’ans to both Harams in Madinah and Makkah. It’s very simple; there are tons of bookstores outside the Masaajid. Just go to a bookstore and tell them you want to buy a Qur’an or Qur’ans to donate to the Harams. The bookstore will know which Qur’an to give you, and they’ll stamp the inside for you as well. It costs about 20 to 30 Riyal (about 8 dollars/4 pounds). You then take the Qur’an and put it anywhere you like in the Masjid. It is that simple. Can you imagine the reward you would get for people reading from a Qur’an you donated? If the Qur’an lasts until Ramadan, then you would get the reward of all the people reading the Qur’an you donated in Ramadan in the holiest places on Earth, while you may already be back home!
- Give water to others: You will see people start coming in the Masjid especially in Makkah for Jumu’ah a few hours before it starts. It is not uncommon for people to arrive around 9-10am for Jumu’ah that starts at 1pm. The reason being that the crowds swells so much that people end up praying up to a mile away on the streets. To get a good spot near the front of the row, people have to brave scorching heat and sun by sitting in the open courtyard for hours. A good way to capitalize on this is (in terms of ajar) is to bring to two 2-liter empty water bottles when you arrive. Fill them with Zam Zam before you sit down in the courtyard. Grab some cups as well. As the crowds begin to increase and it gets hot, start passing out water to those near you. When the bottles finish, ask someone to save your spot. Go refill the bottles and repeat passing out the water to those in the courtyard near you. Remember the Hadith Qudsi regarding giving people water to drink.
- Wheelchairs: Would you like to be able to do multiple Umrahs/Hajj/Salahs at the same time? Donate a wheelchair. There is a hadith that says whosoever becomes a means for something good get the reward for that good act. So imagine, if you donated a wheelchair and someone was able to do Umrah/Hajj and go to the Masjid on the wheelchair. Can you imagine the reward! Donate a wheelchair and register it at the office by Door 25 (in Madinah). It cost about 200 Riyal (50 dollars/25 pounds). Or just buy a foldable prayer stool for those people who cannot sit down and leave it in the masjid. This costs just 30 Riyal (9 dollars/4 pounds).
The Why’s of Umrah
Now that you know how to do Umrah, learn the fascinating wisdom behind all of the rituals.
Why wear Ihram?
- Ihram is a sacred state where things are literally “haram” for you. Ihram is from haram. Both meanings, to be sacred and to be forbidden, are carried in it. Through the ihram, the heart is meant to leave the temporary and the finite – to make it, in a sense, “forbidden” – and to prepare for the sacred audience of Allah’s presence.
- Prohibitions – cutting or shaving hair, cutting nails, perfume, hunting, marriage, foreplay, and intercourse. Additionally, men cannot cover their hair or wear stitched clothing.
- These prohibitions remind us not to worry about vanity. This is like Qiyama, and you have better things to worry about.Our uncovered hair shows that we don’t have dignity and are slaves to Allah.
- The muhrim has disengaged from everything and anything that distracts him or her from Allah and, consequently, from remembrance, peace and stillness. The muhrim has left his or her home taking taqwa or Allah-consciousness, the best sustenance, as a provision.
- You are now putting on the clothes of your death, and this symbolizes you being physically dead. Is there anything you regret not doing before you “die?” This is the time to ponder and think.
- Just think that one day you will really “die” and you will be wearing these exact clothes. Once Ihram is worn, all focus (just like in salah) should be on ONLY Allah. Free your mind of all the worries of the world, and return back to your Creator.
- Whether you are a king, prince, doctor or a janitor, you are all wearing the same two pieces of clothes just as you will at your death. Thus, in the eyes of Allah, as you get ready to enter His house, everyone is equal in His “eyes.” Family, creed, color, job… here, nothing matters to Allah except your obedience.
- Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) stated: “The earth was rolled out from Makkah. Allah stretched (the earth) from underneath it. Thus it is called the mother of all cities.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
- “The first mountain that was placed on the earth was Abu Qubais.” (Abu Qubais is the name of a mountain near Makkah.) (Ibn Abi Shiba, Ibn Abi Hatim and Dailmi from Ibn Abbas.)
- “The angels were the first beings to circumambulate around the sacred house, two thousand years before Allah created Adam.” (Ibn Abi Duniya from Anas lbn Abi Shiba from lbn Abass/ Shafi from Ka-ab Alqirti)
- “There is no city on earth through which Allah multiplies one good deed by a hundred thousand except Makkah.” (Sahih Bukhari , lbn Hibban)
- “Whosoever offers a salat therein, then that salat is enhanced a hundred thousand fold over.” (Sahih Muslim / Sunan Nisai)
- “Whosoever gives one dirham therein in charity, Allah writes for him the reward of having spent a hundred thousand dirhams in charity.” (Ibn Abi Zubair in the Jamul Latif from Sunan Tirmizi)
- “Anyone who completes the recitation of the full Qur’an once therein, Allah records for him the reward of a hundred thousand recitations.” (Baihaqi , lbn Majah)
- “Whosoever glorifies Allah once therein, for him is recorded the rewards of having glorified Allah a hundred thousand times elsewhere. Every good deed which a servant enacts in the haram is equivalent to a hundred thousand deeds enacted elsewhere.” (Sunan Nasai)
- “Anyone who falls ill in Makkah for one day, Allah renders his body and his flesh haram (forbidden) from the fire of Jahannam.” (Sahih Bukhari)
- “Anyone who falls ill in Makkah for one day, Allah records for that person the rewards of having done good deeds equivalent to sixty years worship in any other place.” (Muatta)
- “Anyone who endures the heat of Makkah with patience for an hour of the day, Allah will distance that person from the fire of Jahannam by a distance of a journey of five hundred years and bring him closer to Jannah by a distance of a journey of two hundred years. Indeed Makkah and Madinah eject any impurities within them like flames eject rust from iron. Understand carefully! Difficulties and calamities abounded in Makkah right from its inception. Great stages are realized by enduring these difficulties.” (Sahih Muslim)
- “Anyone who endures any difficulty experienced in Makkah (with patience), I will intercede and bear witness for him on the day of Qiyamat.” (Sunan ibn Majah)
- It is the knowledge of over 4,000 years of history which really renders a pilgrim to tears. It is that history which one must study in depth before embarking to Makkah.
- Keep in mind that you are now entering the precinct of the King of all Kings. Remember that when you were present in your own house, you did not follow His orders and commands. You did not respect His wishes, but yet you are now entering His home. Are you not ashamed to approach Him in a sinful state? Would you allow someone whom you did not respect to enter your house?
- You are now entering the house of your Host. Pay respect to Him and show Him how much you have missed Him. Talk to your Lord.
- Understand the fact that this house represents the house for the people. Therefore it is your home too. Allah’s house is your house, because you are from Him, it belongs to you, thus, you are no longer a traveler, and Qasr salah is not required.
- Various individuals around the world come and visit the “wonders of the world.” Yet, every year 2 million Muslims come and visit a hollow cube made from bricks. No architectural beauty to this building, yet everyone is infatuated with it. Why? Because the Kaaba is like the sun, and we are like the planets that circumambulate around it, and our mere existence is based on its energy.
- Today this ancient city is Makkah, lying in a harsh, rocky, and mountainous desert landscape where, in antiquity, no crops seem to have grown and a climate of suffocating heat, deadly winds, and clouds of flies prevailed. For reasons known only to Allah, this land is the most beloved on earth to Him. It is far removed from the lush comforts and adornments of this world in greener, leafier and more fertile parts; it is a place that none would think to visit but those devoted to worshiping Allah, compelled by His instruction: Pilgrimage to the House (Ka’bah) is a duty mankind owes to Allah, those who are able to undertake it.” [Q3:97]
Why do Tawaf?
- We are literally putting Allah swt at the center of our lives.
- Tawaf is like prayer, except we can speak.
- Lexically, tawaf means to turn, walk, etc around something. Everything in the universe, from the tiny atoms to huge galaxies, is in a state of tawaf. In the atom, electrons turn around the nucleus; in the galaxy, billions of stars rotate around the center of the galaxy with an incredible speed. As it is stated in the Quran, each swims along in an orbit. (Yasin, 40) The view formed by tens of thousands of Muslims walking around the Kaaba is like the view of a galaxy turning together with billions of stars. Therefore, it is necessary to let oneself be on the orbit in order to get full spiritual pleasure in tawaf. A Muslim who can enter this orbit lets himself be controlled by that spiritual flow and gets the pleasure of becoming a drop in the sea of the believers. The circumambulation around the Kaaba is regarded to be the symbol of the summary of the universe and creation, and surrendering to the divine pre-ordainment.
- The sky has seven layers; man has seven souls. Each turning around the Kaaba represents a phase, a stage; man covers a phase and is elevated up to the seventh sky, above the material realm. Besides, it means to rise from the lowest step of the soul, which has seven steps, to the highest one. That is, from nafs al-ammarah (soul commanding the evil) to nafs al-mutmainnah (tranquil self); from the animal life to the spiritual life. Circumambulating the Kaaba is a kind of worshiping taken from the order of the universe. The planets rotate around the sun, the electrons around the nucleus, the moth around the candle; rotating around such a center means allegiance with love.
- A person starts tawaf leaving the Kaaba on his left. It has a symbolic meaning. The heart of man, which is the place where Allah looks, faces the House of Allah in Tawaf. Allah looks at the heart of man, not his shape, appearance, money and property. In this sense, there is an interesting relation between the Kaaba and the heart of man. It also indicates that Tawaf should be performed heartily.
- A person enjoys the pleasure of being a believer around the Kaaba. It is very difficult to taste that pleasure, which takes place so vividly and enthusiastically, in any other place.
- There is no difference among people who perform a prayer in congregation; similarly, there is no difference among people who circumambulate the Kaaba. All believers are equal there. There is no sign that differentiates a person from others. There exists unity, which is the symbol of oneness. It is necessary to be lost in the sea of believers and to melt in the congregation.
- The angels encircle the heavenly Baitul Ma’mur in an ever-lasting Tawaf.
- Some reports teach that it was in Makkah that our father Adam (‘alayhi al-salam) longed to go back to Paradise and be in the presence of Allah. To console his loneliness, Allah commanded him to do tawaf around the space of the current Kaaba. Adam did, and he felt whole again.
- Other texts teach that Nuh (’alayhi al-salam), Ibrahim (’alayhi al-salam), and many prophets before them (’alayhim al-salam), all did tawaf around Allah’s sacred House. Their spiritual energy and legacy fills the air. You will be walking in the footsteps and the heart-steps of Rasulullah (sallalahu ’alayhi wasallam) and his noble companions.
- In Tawaf, you will be mirroring the worship of the angels, the mala’ikah, those heavenly creatures created of pure light and enveloped in the worship of Allah. Texts teach that the Kaaba is connected in an imperceptible way to the Bayt al-Ma‘mur, the heavenly Kaaba of the angels, around which they are constantly in tawaf. Seventy thousand angels perform Tawaf around this house and are replaced with others, never to return.
- It feels so great making Tawaf around the Kaaba when you’re submerged in waves of human beings, hundreds of thousands from all walks of life, and you’re just one of many. It feels so great knowing that Allah sees you there, deals with you individually and answers your calls.
- There is no compulsory recitation while performing Tawaf.
- This is the center of the world of worship.
- Angels have circumambulated beneath the Majestic Throne from time immemorial, praising and glorifying His Majesty in such throngs that, it is narrated, the heavens creak with their sheer numbers.
- No one will make Tawaf against the flow. No one is going to do sa’i from the opposite side just to make a statement. No one can do that. Regardless of how you put your ihram on, it will look the same.
- Regardless of how much you try to carry with you, what else can you carry except the belt around your waist? Not much. You will carry the essentials. That is exactly the essence of this dunya. When you stand before your Lord, you should carry nothing but the essentials, the things that will help you go through the journey.
- Tawaaf is approximately 1.2 to 1.86 miles depending on the crowd present.
- One idea is to pick different dua or prayers for each round, or to pick the first round for seeking forgiveness, the second round for making dua for the community, etc.
- Each Tawaf represents us tearing down one of the veils that prevent us from seeking nearness to Allah.
Why do Sa‘i between Safa and Marwa?
- Sa‘i means to work, to strive, to act.
- We remember in sa‘i the actions of Hajar (‘alayha al-salam) as she climbed, walked and ran up both Safa and Marwa looking for sustenance for her starving child. The miracle of zam zam was gifted to Hajar for her efforts and sincere reliance. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) teaches that if we drink zam zam with firm faith and certainty, Allah will most definitely answer our supplication.
- Remember your own mother and everything she’s sacrificed for you as you’re doing Sa’i.
- As servants of Allah, we are embedded in time and space. We must act, all the while cognizant that it is Allah who creates both cause and effect. To see waves upon waves of pilgrims walking and running between Safa and Marwa is to recognize that the reality of our life is constant sa‘i between struggle and reward, struggle and reward. On the hills of Safa and Marwa, where the pilgrim alights in reflection and supplication, the heart exalts, seeing Allah’s power in all matters, yours and others, large or small.
- Remember that Hajar was in a state of tawaqqul, but she did NOT just sit around waiting for something to happen. She had already checked Safa and Marwa for water or sustenance… but instead of giving up (most of us would give up — we’d think that we already tried Safa and already tried Marwa) — sa’i literally means “to strive.” She continues to run back and forth even though she’s already tried. She doesn’t give up. This is not just a lesson in striving. It is a lesson in hope. She hoped that she would be saved, and that the provision from Allah swt would come. Tawaf is repetition as well. We are circling again and again. In repetition, consistency, and perseverance, THAT is where we get results. We see the same theme with all of our ibadah: prayer, fasting, tasbeeh. This is analogous to lifting weights. You have to repeatedly perform the exercise. Repetition brings results.
- Another lesson from Sa’i: The water did not come from her efforts. It came from Allah swt. It is not our efforts that bring the results, but the effort itself is STILL necessary because it is part of our worship and our servitude to Allah swt. Hadith that Prophet (S) said to his companions: “None of you will enter jannah by your deeds.” It is only through the mercy of Allah swt that we enter Jannah. Even for the Prophet (S) himself! The dependence needs to be on Allah swt. Do the efforts, do the deeds, and put your full reliance on Allah swt.
- Another lesson from Sa’i: Allah swt would not put you in a situation if you cannot handle it. Allah swt does not burden us with more than we can bear, or more than what is beyond our potential.
Significance of the Door of the Kaaba
- At the top of each door is inscribed: “Allah Jal jalaalah Muhammad sallallaahu alaihi wasallam” Beneath all of this is inscribed: “In the name of Allaah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.” “Enter with peace and safety” [Surah Hijr, verse 46] “Allah has made the Ka’bah the sacred house, as well as the sacred months a means by which (the physical and spiritual safety and well-being of) mankind is maintained.” [Surah Maa’idah, verse 97] Say, “O my Rabb! Allow me to enter a pleasant place, allow me to leave pleasantly and grant me such authority from Yourself that is coupled with (Your) assistance.” [Surah Israa, verse 80] “Your Rabb has made mercy (towards you) compulsory upon himself.” [Surah An’aam, verse 5] Your Rabb says, “Supplicate to Me and I shall respond.” [Surah Mu’min, verse 60] Beneath all of this is inscribed: Say, “O My bondsmen who have wronged their souls (by committing kufr or other sins)! Never lose hope of Allah’s mercy.” [Surah Zumar, verse 53] The words “Allahu Akbar” are inscribed on the two rings and Surah Faatiha has been engraved beneath the lock.
Significance of the Yemeni Corner
- Because this corner is still standing on the foundation that Ibrahim (AS) built, the narration of Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) states that the Prophet (pbuh) made “Istilaam” of it.
- “Istilaam” refers to the touching of the corner whether this is done by hand or by kissing. Since the Prophet (pbuh) touched the Rukn Yamaani by hand, this practice is Sunnah. However, there is no harm if one is unable to touch it due to the crowds.
- It was the practice of the Prophet (pbuh) that when he passed between the Rukn Yamani and the Hajar al-Aswad, he recited the following du’aa: “O Rabb, grant us (all that which is) good in this world, (all that which is) good in the Aakhirah and save us from the punishment of the fire (of Jahannam).” [Surah Baqarah, verse 201]
Significance of Maqam Ibrahim
- The significance of Maqam Ibrahim relates back to the construction of the Holy Kaaba. Maqam Ibrahim is the large black stone on which Ibrahim (AS) stood while he was building the upper walls of the Kaaba.
- One of the miracles of Ibrahim (AS) is that when he stood on that stone, it became soft and his feet left impressions in the rock that can still be seen today.
- The Prophet (pbuh) said: “The stone is the station of Ibrahim. Allah made it soft and made it a mercy. Ibrahim would stand on it and Ismail would hand the stones up to him.”
- At the time of Ibrahim (AS) the Maqam was attached to the Kaaba. Umar (RA), seeing that leaving it where it was would make the space too crowded for Tawaf or for prayers, had it moved to the place it is now to make it easier for people. There was consensus among the Sahabah for Umar’s (RA) action, for he was the one who had suggested it should be taken as a place of prayer.
- Juhm bin Hudhayfah (RA), a Sahabi who was present when the Quraysh rebuilt the Kaaba as well as when Abdullah bin Zubair (RA) rebuilt it, says that the blessed footprints of the Prophet (pbuh) very closely match those of Ibrahim (AS).
- Note that the significance of the Maqam Ibrahim is that it is a place for the performance of salah and not for touching or kissing.
- Ibrahim (AS) constructed the Kaaba using rocks from five mountains: Hira, Thubayr, Labnaan, Toor and Jabalul Khayr. Toor Seenaa is actually situated in the eastern desert of Egypt.
- When Ibrahim (AS) completed the construction of the Kaaba he was commanded by Allah (swt): “And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform Hajj).” [al-Hajj 22:27]
Significance of Zam Zam
- The Zamzam well has provided some 4,000 years of almost continuous water supply, a living miracle.
- On Allah’s instruction, Ibrahim (AS) took his son Ismail (AS) and the child’s mother Hajar (AS) to Makkah where he left them with only some water and dates as provisions. Once the provisions ran out, mother and son became thirsty and restless. Hajar (AS) climbed up Mount Safa to see whether she could spot any people from whom she could get water. When she saw nothing, she crossed the valley and then climbed up Mount Marwah for the same reason. When she saw nothing here either, she started running from Safa to Marwah and back again in her anxiety. When she had done so seven times and was atop Mount Marwah, she heard a sound. When she returned (to where her son lay), she saw that an angel had struck his wing on the ground, causing water to gush forth from the spot. The name of the well comes from the phrase Zome Zome, meaning ‘stop flowing’, a command repeated by HajAr (AS) during her attempt to contain the spring water.
- The Zamzam well is approximately 30m deep. Up until 1953 water was drawn by bucket. electric pumps now pump water into tanks.
- Even the Zamzam well was moved down to the basement so that Tawaf could be performed above it. The buildings in the Mataf and the dome of the Maqaam Ebrahim were also demolished so that the Mataf could accommodate even more people. Towards the end of the expansion, a rare quality of marble was used to pave the Mataaf that does not heat up even in the most intense heat, thus making it possible for people to perform Tawaf barefoot even on the hottest days.
- The water of Zam-Zam has countless of virtues and it is extremely pure and clean. It is the most blessed and pure of all waters on earth.
- Its position is upon the most blessed place on earth, i.e. near the Kaaba and within the Haram.
- This well is surrounded by three such sacred places: Hajre Aswad, Safa and Marwah which grants it virtue (over all other wells).
- This is such blessed water, from which Prophets, pious and Allaah-fearing people have drunk.
- This is the same water with which Angel Jibraeel (AS) bathed the pure heart of our beloved Prophet (pbuh).
- This water also has this virtue that our beloved Prophet (pbuh) twice rinsed his blessed mouth in the bucket of its well, thereby granting it the virtue of having the effect of his mubarak mouth.
- Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) requested this water from Makkah, while he was stationed in Madinah.
- It is reported from Hadhrat Jaabir (RA) that our beloved Prophet (pbuh) said: “That person who has completed seven Tawaafs of the Kaaba Shareef, then he performs 2 Rakaats Salaat behind the Maqaam-e-Ebrahim, and he has a drink of the water of Zam-Zam, all his sins will be forgiven.” (Tafseer Waahidi]
- Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) said: “For whatever object Zam-Zam is drunk, that object will definitely be fulfilled. If one drinks it with the purpose of being cured, then Allaah Ta’ala will grant cure for the drinker, or if one drinks it for his thirst to be removed then Allaah Ta’ala will remove his thirst. Because it is the well of Jibraeel (alaihi salaam), and with it Allaah Ta’ala quenched the thirst of Hadhrat Ismaeel (alaihi salaam).
- Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) has said that the water of Zamzam will have the desired effect of whatever intention is made at the time of drinking Zamzam. Zamzam should be drunk with the intention of quenching the thirst of the Day of Qiyaamah (resurrection). It should also be taken with the intention of shifaa (cure) from spiritual and physical ailments. It is commendable to drink Zamzam with the niyyah of being granted the tawfeeq of conforming to the sunnah of our beloved Prophet (pbuh).
- If you are sensitive to light bring sunglasses as it gets very bright at the Kaaba.
- Learn the funeral prayer (salatul Janazah). You will pray it 5 times a day.
- Don’t be put off by the hot weather. Even though it is very hot you really don’t feel it.
- The Medina Haram closes after Isha; it’s not open all day like Makkah’s Haram.
- The cemetery in Madinah is open for men only two hours after Fajr & Dhuhr salah.
- You can come as late as you want to Masjid an Nabawi and still make it into the first row. I didn’t understand at first but then I learned that the first row continues from inside the Masjid to the outside courtyard and extends all the way to the gates circling the entire Masjid. That’s one massive row!
- The best act of ibadah in Makkah is tawaf and the best act of ibadah in Madinah is prayer.
- The best time to visit the Rawdah in Madinah is at night time. The Rawdah is a piece of Paradise found in the Prophet’s masjid in Madinah. It is floored with green carpet and so it is easy to identify.
- Make sure that you have your ihraam in your hand luggage so that you can put it on at the airport or at your stopover.
- Try to perform Duha prayer as much as you can.
- Watch the sunset from the rooftop of the Haram
- Pray Fajr on the roof of the mosque and read Qur’an until sunrise.
- Follow a burial procession to the Baqi.
- Take great care and be punctual in the performance of all salaat with jama‘a.
- There are air-conditioned areas in the Haram (area around the Kaaba) in Makkah on the first and second floor (enter through King Fahd entrance and stay on the left). Plan on praying/sitting there during the hottest part of the day.
- Treat tawaf (walking 7 times around the Ka`bah) like prayer and strive for khushoo’ (concentration). The virtue of tawaf is well known: it is recommended to perform tawaf in the Haram before praying 2 rakahs (units of prayer) as the ‘greeting’ of the masjid!
- Always have at least 100 riyal cash with you.
- When entering the mosque, to avoid losing your sandals you can pop them into a plastic bag and carry it on your back.
- Do wash all fruits including dates in clean water before consumption. Stick to fruits that have to be peeled before use. Avoid pre-cut fruits, salads, and food handled in an unsanitary fashion. Avoid all food exposed to the elements. Fast food is available at some places but tends to be of somewhat lower quality than its American counterpart. It is, however, safe and sanitized.
- Pace yourself in everything, including acts of worship. Know your physical limits and stay well within them. It is only too easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment and exceed the boundaries of your strength and stamina. Pilgrims often try to spend every spare moment of their time in prayers and devotions in Haram-ash-Shareef and often become sick. It is very painful and frustrating to get sick in a foreign country and an illness during Umrah/Hajj is even worse as it distracts you from the purpose of your visit.
- Whenever entering either of the two masjid or any other masjid, form a niyyah for nafl i‘tikaaf.
- Perform nafl salaat with the niyyah of expressing one’s gratitude to Allah swt.
- During your stay in Makkah abundantly increase your recital of the Kalimah Tayyibah: Laa’ilaha il lal’lahu, and istighfar: Astaghfirullah.
- Beggars will present a real problem especially if you are not used to seeing them. For those who have been to Middle Eastern countries or the sub continent, you will be able to pick the difference between the authentic beggars and those that are there for business. They will be ruthless in their pursuit of you and will not hesitate to interrupt you while you are deep in prayer or even overcome by emotion due to your prayers. Don’t be swayed by their stories of having lost passports, or loved ones, or tickets, etc. If you offer to buy them a ticket or food they will clearly reject it and demand money. I even had a man come up to me in Arafat while I was deep in prayer and interrupt me. At first he made dua for me and then started his sad story. I personally refused to give money to anyone that asked for it. If they looked genuine I offered to buy them food, or a bus ticket or petrol or what ever they were asking for; but I wouldn’t give them money. The beggars really affect your heart. Every time you pass by a beggar (and you don’t give them money), it makes your heart that little bit harder. There is no doubt that 95% of them are professional beggars. One safe bet is just to give money to the South Asian custodial workers who need money to send back home.
- Try to meet as many Muslims as possible. The diversity of nationalities, cultures that one experiences is mind-blowing. Meet the Turks, the Malaysians, the Russians, the Europeans, the Africans… meet everybody. Feel the common bond that exists within us all and that pulls us to this wonderful piece of Heaven on Earth.
- Everywhere you go always make a rendezvous point with whoever you’re with (whether it’s just your spouse or your entire group).
- There are no restrooms inside either of Masjid al-Haram or Masjid an-Nabawi. The bathrooms are located outside of the masjids and they are super crowded (and not to mention unclean even though the custodians do the best they can). Always use the restroom before you leave your hotel/apartment. If you have to go, then find a nearby mall or hotel, go up a few floors where it’s less crowded (and therefore cleaner as well) and use those. If you’ve broken your wudu, just do it at the Zam Zam or water stations. But be clean about it and don’t let water spill all over. Respect the sanctuaries and the custodians.
- Every shop owner knows you’re not Saudi. You’re a traveler, an outsider who is desperate to take souvenirs back home. They WILL rip you off, there’s no question about it. Don’t be the type of person that agrees to any price because you think he won’t give you any better or the shop owner next door won’t be more flexible. Give up a couple minutes of your time and save a few dollars, then you have more money to buy food and drinks for all of your friends and the poor and needy you’ll run into every day.
- If you plan on doing some major shopping, avoid the malls in Makkah and buy most of your stuff in Madinah. It’s cheaper.
- Bonus: Try to find the 4th floor of the haram. (Yes, it exists!) Few people know about it and you pretty much have the whole place to yourself. Only 1 escalator will get you there.
Most have waited their entire lives for the encounter with the House of Allah. Many will never return. In truth, there is no certainty that any of us will ever gaze on the Kaaba again. Make the most of it.