Sunday, 27 December 2015

Living in a Society Covered in Niqab




'Shock and Awww'
Recently on my social media outlets whereby I connect with family and friends, I posted my first Selfie, alongside my cute little daughter, just outside Masjid al-Haram, Makkah. I was somewhat reluctant at first, because I'm not really a selfie person, but mostly because I was wearing the niqab (face veil) - and I thought, will my friends and family understand? But, because I like to be quite daring at times I thought oh well, let's just see how they react! To make it less or more awkward I captioned the image 'Shock and Awww.' alongside the following statement: 

Friends and family - the images of the niqab/burka has become synonymous to the view of extreme Muslim or oppressed women. And I'll be honest I came with the view that saudi women may be of the latter kind. From my own personal observations, living in a saudi residential area where it is common to wear the face veil - it doesn't stop them from coming out to the parks, picnic-ING with their friends and family. Some lift it up in female gatherings, or completely take it off when eating in restaurants.
HONESTLY once you get to know anyone who wears the niqab in England especially when you put your judgements and feelings aside you will realise they are just human like us all.smile emoticon
BIG Respect to all those who choose to wear the niqab.smile emoticon

I was surprised by the positivity I received from my family and friends. It all started to make me think of the women I already knew in England, many of which were my own friends who wear the face veil - and I was just amazed at how they continue to do so in England where it isn't even common. Going with the majority is so much easier - ie wearing niqab here because it is the custom of many Saudi and non-Saudi women to do so. Whether it is a religious obligation to wear the niqab -  I will not be going into this because of my lack of knowledge on the subject. It is a lot common in the residential areas of Makkah. Of course in the Haram [by that I am referring to the Ka'bah masjid] it is so international that I think the international community outnumber the locals by a huge margin that niqab wearers seem a minority. The verses from the Qur'an that commands women to cover are seen here:

O Prophet! say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. [Surah al-Ahzaab, v59]

And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! so that you may be successful. [Surah an-Nur, v31]



Is it compulsory for all to wear the niqab in Saudi Arabia?
In Jeddah, the lovely coastal town of Saudi that is just over an hours drive from Makkah, it isn't as common to wear the niqab. The only thing that is made compulsory to wear here in Saudi Arabia for all Muslims and non-Muslims alike, is the abaaya - which is basically a like a long flowy dress or open front jacket for a society that wants to ensure modesty. So non-Muslim women wear the abaaya, some not even in the black colour but do not cover their hair. I like that they are given that choice especially as it is not even compulsory in their religion to cover their hair. Some of you may be wondering, well why should they have to wear the abaaya? To be honest, they could really just wear anything that was loosely modest but I think this uniformic way just makes it easy, perhaps? These are just my own thoughts.

So what is it like wearing a niqab here? 
How did and does it make me feel? This may sound strange, but I feel FREE and less image conscious. As I reflect on it more, I feel as a society in England we are as women quite conscious of how we look. I feel we are building this culture more and more because of the images that are thrown at us in the Media, on adverts, billboards etc [annoys me more to find many of these images are photoshopped!] In the work environment we want to appear presentable and professional. When going out, we want to dress up a little more than our uniformic work clothes. At home we want comfort, so we happily settle for lounge-wear or even better the bathrobe. We are always dressed according to the occasion, or so I say from my own experience! 

Slave of Allah OR Slave of 'what will people think'?
However, when wearing the niqab - it's a face veil. Covering my face means I don't have to think about what people will think if I haven't worn make up or concealer covering the bags under my eyes. Not that I usually would care but, whenever I haven't worn make-up in the past, I have had friends, colleagues, family say oh you look tired! :)  Whilst they most likely don't mean to ruin your day by saying that, they make you conscious of that little effort you didn't put in to cover-up that look of tiredness! Make up makes us all look great, and yes it makes us feel great too. So good and so great, that the day we cannot be bothered to wear it or forget to wear it, we are reminded somehow! Also, the time it takes to decide what to wear to look 'presentable' or feel good is just crazy! You should see me getting ready for a friend's wedding for example. I am not saying the niqab is the solution to our image conscious behaviour - but that it really helps reduce it. But that doesn't mean to say I haven't stopped wearing eyeliner or make up! What I'm saying is at least when I'm trying on my pop red coloured lipstick, I won't have the whole world staring at me as I walk down the street :) The niqab for me is a reminder as someone who already wears the hijab to ensure modesty. Modesty isn't simply how we dress, it is much deeper. But the actual hijab which represents modesty for me, It is a reminder to not be afraid of what people think. For me, it has always added to my self-confidence alhamdulillah. So whilst some people find hijab and covering synonymous with modesty I find it empowering at the same time too - as do I am sure many others who wear it! As soon as we fall in to this trap of what will people think? We crumble and become weak and we are defined by society's ways. 

Some personal reflections on Saudi life:
As some one who has worn the hijab [head scarf] since I was a teen, and having lived abroad in Pakistan and wearing the niqab there as well, you would really think adopting the niqab in Saudi Arabia wouldn't be as difficult. To be honest, I was never against the idea of moving to Saudi Arabia because of having to be in niqab, but I assumed that because it is a society in which women wear niqab, they probably aren't allowed out! I know! I as a Muslim woman thought that! Clearly, being born and raised in England and knowing nothing but England, I really didn't know. But, it really isn't the case here. Yes it is a segregated society, by that there are separate entrances to the mosques for example [we have that in England too]. But the men and women work together in places like hospitals, [I visited one yesterday for my medical test to obtain my residency card]. The doctors from Pakistan and China were intrigued by my being from England and what it was like living there etc. The women, who I saw in the reception area, some in face veil, some weren't worked alongside male colleagues of different nationalities. Life was just normal, normal hospital without long waits - that's what stood out more than how the women were dressed. 


*This image is taken from Google - not my own.
To finalise, I feel the image of the black niqab has been abused so badly in the media that even I thought women in Saudi Arabia are oppressed! But they aren't oppressed as a society - these are from my own observations as an outsider. Ok, they can't drive here, I probably wouldn't want to either with the crazy drivers on road here [not that I enjoyed driving as much in the UK anyway!] however, if you could really catch a glimpse of the family time which can be seen in their park picnics, their men at the forefront, ensuring all the kids get their drinks, their ice-creams etc. And they sit for hours spending time after work together on weekdays! Yes picnics and family time is not saved until the end of the week  - they spend this time together in the evenings in the outdoors in the nature, away from the technology that is tearing up parts of our society.

Any drawbacks of the niqab? It's not easy to wear with an 8th month old baby who thinks its a game but isn't it cute that she still knows who her mama is amongst a group of women in niqab holding her! I used to find it difficult holding her and trying to keep the niqab on at the same time at first! It definitely isn't easy to eat a burger when wearing niqab either - so in some restaurants where the seating is in the family section, I simply remove it. It is fine, I don't feel guilty. Most of the time in Jeddah  I don't wear it. For the women that can wear it and eat at the same time - I salute you! :)


Monday, 21 December 2015

One Body, One Ummah

This post is a reflection of the Muslim ummah [Arabic word for community/nation], which in the past I only got to witness and felt a part of at Islamic talks and seminars in the UK or sometimes virtually online, but, now alhamdulillah I really get to see it when I visit the Ka'bah. For me it adds to the blessing of being there. We are the ummah, the nation of our blessed Prophet Muhammed pbuh! When you really reflect on that, you really feel honoured! 


I see pilgrims in their hundreds and thousands! So many nationalities and cultures, it really warms my heart to see the reality of our amazing religion that can supersede yet encompass all those cultures and their traditions to unite us into one body, one ummah. 


Yes, I am in awe when I see groups of Malaysians circulating the Ka'bah with the women dressed in their uniform pink head scarves so they don't get lost in the crowds. I don't even have to turn around whilst making tawaf [going around the Ka'bah] to know the group behind me that recites the prayer out loud after their one appointed reciter is a possible group from Iran or Afghanistan, because I can hear that beautiful Persian accent coming through. You certainly can't miss the Turkish if you've been to any Turkish restaurant or have happened to visit Istanbul, the fair skinned, dark haired men surrounding their women all dressed in purple head scarves [a lovely shade as well!]. I notice the women from the far east and how practically they drape their hijabs with an elasticated band that sits behind their head putting it all in place - the no pins needed scarf -genuis!


View of the Ummah & clock tower
Then you notice the age ranges, from the elderly to the little babies strapped around their mamas or dads. Many families take advantage of the wheelchair for their children, but especially for their elderly. So, when you are ushered to make way, you turn around and catch a glimpse of the noor [light] in the old gentlemen's face. You can see his determination to complete the tawaaf and Umrah [lesser pilgrimage] - it really is amazing to see.

In the case of gender, there seems to be more men, perhaps because of the visibility of the 2 pieces of cloth draped by the men, you notice the pilgrims performing their umrah straight away. However, there is a good presence of females as well as children, mothers, daughters, wives, sisters covered in black or colour coordinated scarves if they have travelled from abroad specifically for their Umrah. 

And then you marvel at the beauty of the Ka'bah and the people that walk and pray around it and think, this is the ummah  that the Prophet pbuh prayed for. This is on the largest scale I have seen it and I feel honoured and proud to be a part of this religion regardless of what anyone else thinks of it.


It was narrated from Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: 
“Glad tidings to the one who believed in me and saw me, and sevenfold glad tidings to the one who believed in me but did not see me.”   


Over the past few weeks I have felt part of a greater sisterhood here in Makkah and on the on-line sphere, connecting and being part of something amazing. From the kindness that friends and new friends have shown, surely no good deed is ever wasted especially when you are unaware of the impact it can have of on your fellow human. Feeling part of something and knowing you are helping others for the sake of Allah feels so rewarding. The encouragement I get from friends is beautiful. Their voices and words fight that satanic whisper that tells you you cannot achieve or do anything, or you are simply worthless! The following verse comes to mind and when it is seen in practice, in reality you really do see Allah's verses of the Qur'an in everything, if only we gave ourselves time to reflect.

So my advice to everyone is do not isolate yourself from the ummah; you are a part of it! Together we can make positive change when we are united. Think good of your fellow Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Don't hold grudges, excuse people for their short comings and live each day in progression. Be better than you were yesterday, do more than you did yesterday and together as you hold on to this Rope of Allah, you will find life more beautiful by the will and power of Allah. :)




Monday, 7 December 2015

Allah is with the Patient...

And seek aid in steadfast patience and prayer: and this, indeed, is a hard thing for all but the humble in spirit [2:45]

The beautiful greenery around our local park, Makkah
When I found out we were finally moving to Makkah - upon reflection, I felt two things helped me most - Patience and Prayer. Although I really felt I struggled with being patient, even Allah says it is a difficult thing for all [2:45] except for those who are humble. THIS is what I was and probably still am being moulded into - a more humble spirit by Allah's will. May Allah keep this verse a reminder for us all especially with the current climate of the world and the backlash on Muslims and people of faith.

The mountains of Makkah surround us - such beauty mA!


I want to share this important reminder of something that took place right here in Makkah which has some striking parallels to what is happening to Muslims today. So in Makkah, there was a group of people who were despised by the elders [You could say their Government then] so much so that this very 'Government' plotted to kill their leader because they were different, because they believed something new, something unheard of to the 'Government.' Luckily for this group, their tribesmen and those who knew them [some of whom hadn't even adopted their new faith] vowed to protect them.  Instead the 'Government' agreed to boycott this group, ensuring no one traded with them, none would marry them, or have anything to do with them. A pledge was drawn up and signed by the 'Government' and hung in the Ka'bah. For days, weeks and months this group endured patience, they did not retaliate, they remained patient, even though there were some that died because of hunger as food eventually became scarce - they did not demand justice and take action against that 'Government' - only because their leader had advised this. However, even during these years of torment, many MORE people joined this group. This group was being strengthened and cleansed by the hardships they suffered and were being tested in their faith. As the years went by, the pilgrims came to the Ka'bah and saw the harsh cruelty of the 'Government' towards this group that the 'Government' themselves became ashamed. When they decided it was time to end this boycott and they went to tear up their pledge that was hung inside the Ka'bah, to their surprise they found it had been eaten up by worms, all except the words 'In Your name O Allah' which was written at the top of the pledge. SubhanAllah! This group was none other than the early Muslims lead by their leader and our beloved Prophet Muhamamd [peace be upon him] and the 'Government' or elders was none other than his own people, the Quraysh.

Look at the many lessons we can derive from this story alone:

1. The Prophet [pbuh] did not retaliate to the torment by his own people, the Quraysh, but remained patient and advised his followers. This not only displayed their good character, but helped to strengthen their faith and increased their followers.

  *The same can be applied in our lives today - While the Media continuously tries to cause a rift for Muslims - know that this is the time to practise your faith even more. Show people the reality of Islam through your good character by adopting the tradition of the Prophet pbuh. Speak out with wisdom and leave the rest in Allah's hands.

2. The Prophetic Sunnah was that our beloved Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] did not give up on his mission even though he and his followers had much hardship to face - they didn't give up, nor did their non-Muslim supporters give up on protecting him.

 *During this difficult time today, know that we mustn't give up on practising our faith even though fear can overcome us - but seek help and pray to Allah. Don't for a moment think that every non-Muslim person will read into the Media bias that Islam promotes terrorism. I have read some beautiful stories on-line, of how non-Muslims have come to the defence of vulnerable Muslim women, in particular on buses and the underground in London when they were faced with verbal or racist abuse.

3. Justice will prevail whether it takes months or years or a lifetime - we just aren't in control of it. It took 3 whole years before the Quraysh themselves felt ashamed by their actions that they themselves decided to end their pledges of the boycott. The early Muslims even though they had gone through hardship, were seen victorious when the pledge itself was eaten by worms, except for the name of Allah.

 *Alhamdulillah for Muslims, our belief in the hereafter gives us conviction that Justice will surely prevail, whether in this life or the hereafter - so even as we wake up with a heavy heart to the constant handful of terrorists all over the world including people indulging in war and killing innocents for worldly gains, and those who retaliate on more innocent people - know that the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth is well aware of what we do and what is in our hearts. 


So I want to end this with another reminder of being patient from the Qur'an. Allah has not abandoned his creation no matter what injustices take place in the world. In fact He is with those who are patient!

O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient. [2:153]

Saturday, 21 November 2015

On a Trip to the Bookstore

This is my view from the car -
Jabal Thawr Mountain range
Whenever I have lived abroad - I have always craved books. There always seems to be a lot more time on our hands here, except with two children time really does fly too. So my husband mentioned a bookstore, he said I would like it - Jarir Bookstore. He said it wasn't far, the north side of Makkah. So I thought nothing of it until our journey became a full tour of Hajj! As usual we passed by our mountain range of Thawr - [where the Prophet pbuh and Abu Bakr hid from the Quraysh as they were migrating for Madina]. 

The thought of going through mountains excites me. There are many tunnels built through the mountain to get you through to other side a lot quicker in Makkah [there were similar tunnels when we drove in south of Spain - it reminded me of passing through them except they were much much greener!]. We spotted the usual signs that we see as we were driving - signs for Ta'if, al-Haram, Mina, Muzdalifah. 

It was when we went through the second tunnel of our journey and we came out on the other side that I was in complete awe! We had landed in Mina! Rows and Rows of white tent tops could be seen as far as the eye could see. As we drove through Mina, I noticed new toilet facilities that were built which I hadn't noticed on my tour 4 years ago. We drove for at least 5 minutes on completely empty roads until the Mina tents seemed to have been behind us. We came across the 3 places for stoning the devil during Hajj - Muzdalifa. It was all completely empty of course but I tried to imagine the scores of people here draped in white sheets, women in black Abayas all walking in the hot sun trying to perform each ritual in time to ensure their Hajj is complete. May Allah swt fulfill our intentions for Hajj and accept the Hajj of all those who have completed theirs. Ameen.  

Again no matter how far north or west of Makkah we were, we can always spot the enormous Clock Tower [which Ammarah now refers to as Clocksy] enabling us to know exactly where we are in terms of the Haram. Jarir Bookstore is near Jabal Noor which hosts the famous Cave of Hira - where the Prophet pbuh received his first revelation. It is pretty high! But we could see people in white climbing to the top. Wouldn't it be awesome to follow in the footsteps [quite literally here] of the Prophet pbuh, to climb to the top and view Makkah as the Prophet pbuh once did in the Cave of Hira? I pray Allah swt can allow me to do this one day inshaAllah - I love mountains!        

My reflections on this journey to the book store have been all about performing Hajj one day by the will and power of Allah. I was also really impressed by the facilities the Saudis have invested in, to improve the Hajj experience for everyone. In my own personal opinion, regardless of the criticism the Saudis receive for their other extravagances, they really are investing into Hajj, into hosting millions and millions of pilgrims to Makkah each year - by extending and expanding the Masjid too. Just imagine hosting a family dinner each year and making one portion of your house completely dedicated to this event - this is what it feels like for me but on a completely different scale and for an even more important cause of course - allowing Muslims to fulfil their pillar of Islam - Performing Hajj.

Makkah really is the city of Hajj, the city of pilgrims, the city of safety and the Mother of all cities - Umm ul Qurra.


"This is the blessed Book, like the one given to Musa (Moses), which We have revealed, confirming what came before it, that you, O Muhammad, may warn the people living in the Mother City (Makkah) and those who live around her. Those who believe in the hereafter, will believe in this (Book) and will be steadfast in taking care of their Salah (prescribed prayers)." [Qur'an 6,92]                                                                                   

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Living with Prayer - Living with Salaah

{Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah -- blessed and a guidance for the worlds.} [Quran 3:96]


A few days ago, we visited Masjid al-Haram for the second time since we have arrived. We had planned to go the day before, but it rained causing floods in parts of Jeddah. So we tried for the following day. This time we wanted to pray our Isha Prayer. As we left pretty much after our Maghrib prayer, we arrived at Masjid al-Haram in 20 minutes exactly. We had a whole 40 minutes before Isha Prayer began! We drank zamzam water and sat and with the Ka'bah in full view. People were happy. Some were draped in white sheets - they were performing Umrah. Others were taking family pictures, feeling proud, having accomplished something great mA. There were people of all nations, hands up in prayer, crying, begging for their Lord's mercy and forgiveness - You could see it in their eyes! Anyways, after a while, Ammarah and I were ready to make our tawaaf, my husband and Hibah joined us too. It was our first ever family tawaaf - mashaAllah. 

As the mataaf [area you walk or do tawaaf around the Ka'bah] wasn't as busy - we moved in towards the Maqam-e-Ibrahim [the place that is marked by where Prophet Ibrahim stood when making the Ka'bah] which is quite close to the Ka'bah. From there it looks HUGE! Ammarah walked with us through 6 whole rounds mashaAllah and only as we were finishing I picked her up. She loved it! She watched the birds flying around above just like they were making tawaaf too. A kind man was handing out sticky dates to the people in the Mataaf area - he knelt down to give Ammarah one - I think she was a little confused but did recognise that it was a date. During tawaaf, every time I looked at the Ka'bah I'm just in awe! Sometimes I don't know what to say, what prayer to read. That's why I've collated all my prayers, including those requested by friends and family in a book so I remember.

As our tawaaf ended we headed upstairs to the new temporary ring to get ready for the prayer. This was one of the first times I would be praying salaah with the Ka'bah right in front of me! Although I had come for Umrah before, it was in Ramadaan and I always prayed outside the masjid! So this was a pretty special day for me. We prayed on the first floor of the temporary tawaaf ring - it's great for wheelchair uses to make their tawaaf. We waited in our rows ready to hear the Adhaan. My two girls were with me, whilst my husband stood with the men in front. Ammarah recognised the Adhaan [call to prayer] immediately - I was very proud of her, it was loud even for Hibah but she listened attentively [I can tell when she does this]. Throughout my salaah Ammarah remained quiet and observant [ at the Mosque in England, she would usually cry] she tried to entertain Hibah when she started wondering where her Mama was. All praises be to Allah for these countless blessings. May He accept our worship, our good deeds and continue to keep us on the right path of Islam. Ameen!

This is not my own image - taken from Google :)


For all my readers out there who are immersed in their life problems as I was once, and I'm sure will also be in the future, I want to share one really important bit of advice with you all - Live with Salaah. It's like the most obvious piece of advice ever as Salaah is our connection to our Lord, our Creator. But what I mean to say is REALLY live with Salaah.

I know it is so easy for me right now, because I can hear the Adhaan [call to prayer] and actual prayer from my local Masjid through my kitchen window - and I'm forever reminded to pray. But I also know how difficult this is in our busy lives in the West - well I can only speak for London/Luton. It really is so difficult because of daylight saving, meeting deadlines, balancing the work-home life especially for the women and home-makers [can only speak from own experience]. But I know we can still make this possible - and your reward is with Allah for your every effort - Make it such a habit that you cannot let go of it and see the blessings in your life increase inshaAllah!

 Here are a few tips and reminders I've noticed since being here:

1. Our call to prayer - the Adhaan should be heard LOUD and clear - it leaves an amazing impact with children - who will constantly remind you it's Allah time - that's what Ammarah says every time "Come on, It's Allah time!"

2. Planning your day around Salaah - The one amazing thing about being in Saudi is - everything shuts down at prayer time - literally the shops in the malls close, the shutters come down for some! - you see all the women go to one side of the mall for their prayer room and the men the other. It's a country that has really focussed and facilitated for the people's prayer. Yes this is not possible in England - BUT, if we plan ahead which most of us can try at least whilst commuting or planning our days out in town or work, we can make it possible - I have lived that life so I can say too. I have, like many of you, probably prayed in changing rooms in Next :)

3. Be around people and places that remind you of Allah - one of the most important things in life is companionship -and I'm not just referring to the other half. Having friends, family and colleagues that remind us of our Lord - whether they are of the same faith or not. Their actions and their words will remind you of Allah - their kind gestures, their good intentions, their good mannerisms. We all go through ups and downs in our level of Imaan [faith] - just don't ever give up on the Mercy and hope from Allah swt. He hears our every call - whether we live in Makkah or England :)

Click here for a good link to Productive Muslim article/discussion that looks at ways in which to 'Observe Salaah when you're out and about'


Most of all, these posts are reminders for me but iA if you read them and benefit then alhamdulillah. May Allah bless you in all aspects of our lives and accept our good deeds, intentions and worship. Ameen! 


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

On Umrah with the Kids

So after all the excitement of getting the visa and getting ready for our move - we caught a bug, a norovirus  - it's horrible! If anyone caught it as we left - I apologise as it's contagious. Unfortunately my girls were feeling poorly and are actually still recovering from it. But, I knew I had to do an Umrah, in fact I wanted to visit the Ka'bah so much to thank Allah for his numerous favours upon us. I wanted to repent, to pray, to feel the peace, to taste that sweetness of Imaan once more.

Mount thawr which hosts Cave Thawr
[We live right near it - south of Makkah]

It is Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Calendar. The Umrah visas are not open yet to International folk so my husband told me it shouldn't be so busy. We went after Isha prayer on Friday evening - the sky is not dark here at all, it's a navy blue  - the kind of sky we get in British summers. We live close to Jabal Thawr [Mount Thawr] on which is a special cave you may have heard of - Gaar - Thawr [Cave of the Bull]. It's where the Prophet [pbuh] and Abu Bakr as-Sideeq hid from the persecutors on their migration to Medina. This is south to the Haram - whereas Medina is actually North of Makkah. So the Prophet pbuh and Abu Bakr as-Sideeq came to the south of Makkah to hide even though they were headed north! I didn't even realise this until now! There's loads I learnt on this Umrah trip actually.

So we drove to Khuday Carpark which is the closest car park for residents, out of towners to park up for free and catch a taxi to the Haram. We did just that. All in all from our flat to the Haram, it's about 15 minutes, depending on traffic. We didn't take the double buggy. Ammarah was happy as usual to walk and my husband held Hibah. It was just surreal being here with my husband and kids! As I mentioned I was here 4 years ago before marraige with my dad during Ramadaan - it was such an amazing experience mA. But, with my children and husband, it was just surreal - felt unreal. As we approached the Masjid - I couldn't recognise it, it looked different - there were so many cranes! but not just that, there were new WC and wudhu areas for the men and women in front of the masjid. Of course it was very much needed too.

I kept trying to remember the street I would walk up 4 years ago - it was Ibrahim al-Khaleel street, which I spotted on the right hand side of the Zam Zam Towers - and there was the clock tower which Ammarah was amazed by when we could see it in the distance as we were driving up. It is HUGE! Some would say it is a bit overwhelming and overpowers the Ka'bah...but I kinda like it now. Makkah is full of mountains, and the fact that the clock tower rises above the mountains, I can actually spot where the Ka'bah is and thus know the direction of Qiblah. It definitely has some benefits.

Our Eid ul Adha Song made up by Ammarah and I.
[to be sung to the tune of 'There was a farmer who had a dog and Bingo was his name-o']

As we went into the Masjid, we walked between a few crowds of people [It was actually a bit busy because of the weekend] through pillars and temporary tawaaf ring pillars I could see the black cloth of the Ka'bah. I felt a sudden excitement inside. I just kept saying to Ammarah 'Do you want to go round and round the Ka'bah?' She was excited too! See, in run up to our move, Ammarah and I made up an awesome song because I wanted her to understand and relate to the vocabulary [yep, you just can't get the teacher training out of me!] So it was amazing, just amazing taking her around the Ka'bah, picking her up a few times because she was overwhelmed by the people at times. Then swapping her for Hibah who was extremely tired by then.  And at Safa and Marwa which I really found more peaceful to do this time, maybe because Hibah had fallen asleep and I could relax by then.

Whenever I walk between Safa and Marwa, I can't help but think of Hajirah and the anxiety she must have felt being all alone. I was walking at a normal pace. I was reminded that she ran between these mountains seven times when men and boys of all ages dressed in 2 pieces of white cloth ran from behind me, some walked at a fast pace. The men are expected to do this between the green light zone! But our dear Hajirah ran between these mountains 7 times looking for water! In my last lap of Safa and Marwa, the girls and my husband walked with me. I showed Ammarah Mount Safa - the excitement on her face was adorable especially as we sang our song.'Hajirah ran 7 times between Safa and Marwa, Safa and Marwa, Safa and Marwa, Safa and Marwa, she was looking for some water.' I discovered Mount Marwa's peak was also preserved - I don't think I ever saw this 4 years ago  - it was a lot busier in Ramadan. See the mountains of Safa and Marwa have the masjid built right around and between them but the peaks of the mountains are still visible as below.

Mount Safa - where the sa'ee begins
With this, my Umrah was complete alhamdulillah. May Allah swt accept our good deeds and intentions, forgive us for our errors and wrongdoings and guide us and our children to continue following the footsteps of the Prophet pbuh. Ameen!

A few important tips:

1. Make a small prayer book to take with you - with your written personal duas and any duas others have requested.

2. Take a drawstring or carrier bag for all the shoes, a bottle to fill with zamzam and even a light weight prayer mat.

3. Take some light weight socks - your feet can start aching especially if the floor is cold as it was between Safa and Marwa.

4. When taking children, pace your Umrah, ie feed them, make sure they are happy so you feel at ease when performing your rituals.

5. Teach your children the vocabulary if they are young as mine, but if older ensure they understand why they are going, what they will be doing etc.

Monday, 9 November 2015

The answer of a Dua...

Say: “Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our Mawla (protector).” And in Allah let the believers put their trust.)
Quran (Surah Tawba, Verse 51)



Getting ready to leave

I began this blog two years ago. Two years ago I thought I would be going to Makkah, but I was still in England waiting, waiting for my visa. Life carried on, my husband was working in Makkah and we were expecting our second child. I was living between my parents' home and in laws, I was socialising with friends and family, but nothing felt the same without my husband and that feeling of still not reaching our destination. My first child Ammarah is now 2 and half years old, Hibah [we named her Hibah - because of the gift we were given by Allah] is now 6 months. We were so close to giving up our move altogether because of the complications in the visa process - but Allah swt really is the turner of hearts and here we all are today together living in Makkah, alhamdulillah :)

Sunset from the air plane

Over these 2 years of waiting I have learned amazing life lessons/reminders that will probably stay with me forever inshaAllah - I wanted to share with you all.

1. Never ever underestimate the power of dua/prayer - even those casual prayers you make when you feel so content - as I was 4 years ago when making tawaaf around the Ka'bah. I actually forgot that I made this dua but I remember uttering 'Oh Allah, [I loved doing tawaaf] I could really do this for the rest of my life!' At the time, I didn't realise I was making a dua - I was simply connecting and conversing with my Lord, as I looked up in awe at the amazing house of Allah and the pretty birds flying around it. Little did I know, my dua was accepted - along the 2 years of waiting, this dua kept giving me hope :)

2. Everything is in Allah's power - when He wants it to be, it will be, because he knows when the time is right for us! The time couldn't have been any more perfect mashaAllah. I travelled alone on a very empty Saudia Airline flight. At Heathrow, I barely had to stand in any queues for security. One of the staff members was so impressed that I was travelling alone with 2 children - At Jeddah airport, a Bengali man came to help as he could clearly see I was struggling with my hand luggage [I didn't have my buggy at this point], he helped me skip all the queues and we made it out with all my luggage with a few minutes to spare before we spotted my husband. I could literally feel Allah helping me throughout this!

3. There's a lesson in every test that Allah tests us with - we just have to contemplate on it! The gist of each test and struggle we go through in life is Allah's way of helping us to reconnect with him. The importance of maintaining our good character and total reliance on Allah swt is reflected in the art of being patient - it is ultimately how we deal with ourselves and others while we are struggling. Afterall, when we have that strong faith in Allah and expect Allah's help then why worry right? Of course in reality, this is difficult at times - therefore constant reminders, good company and a good relationship with Allah are the way forward.

A view from my kitchen window, Batha Quraysh, Makkah

I can hear the Dhuhr Adhan from my kitchen window from the local masjid - Masjid ar-Rahma which I'm yet to visit iA! MashaAllah this place draws you towards prayer - it really is a blessed city! :)



Stay tuned for the next post - on Umrah with kids!