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A different kind of Umrah 

Shakirah Hunter

Umrah season opened with a bang this year. Post covid our nerves were high and Umrah groups were formed to grant assistance to those who would soon fall under the banner of Mu’tamireen. Laundry services were shared, Halaal eating places with local numbers provided in well-formed and concisely put together lists. Hundreds joined the group, each sharing their experiences from booking visits to the Raudah to advise on the best types of shoes for the Mataf area or the best hotels to book.

This deep sense of sisterhood reminded me of a Hadith wherein the Prophet (s) describes to us the best of people as being of those who are a benefit to others and create sources of benefit for their fellow Muslims. This set the tone for the entirety of my trip. An Umrah that humbled me as I understood the beauty of Islam is only in our understanding of the word “Ikhwa”. Allah Ta’ala tells in His Holy Qur’an: “Be oh servants of Allah brothers!”

Going for Umrah with a toddler and a four-month-old meant that I was constantly running after either one of them and yet this kindness extended itself to me on various occasions. I remember vividly standing outside Masjidun Nabawi waiting for my husband after Salah and an old woman sitting in a wheelchair stood up and offered me her wheelchair to sit with the two kids. I was shocked. I reassured her I was completely fine, but her response made me think – she said in Arabic: “we are Muslim sisters, we must take care of each other.” And this sisterhood permeated the courtyard of our beloved Habeeb (s). Sisters from Uzbekistan brought homemade sweets from their countries and shared it with all the children who ran around whilst their parents were in Ibadah. Some picked up crying kids, others brought water for older ladies, some kept the children entertained.

A sister was performing salah and her child toppled out of the pram, a Chinese sister holds the baby and rocks her whilst her mother performs Salaah. After Esha we often sat outside of Masjidun Nabawi with a lovely picnic and zam zam water, whilst the kids raced around us. My son ran with biscuits for other kids and they in turn handed out sweets.

It felt a little surreal. The last two years have been all about isolation and yet this Umrah felt like it was a time of healing. A time to value your fellow Muslim and most importantly to understand the magnanimity of those small acts that warm our hearts and unite our souls.

Amidst the usual crowds and the challenges of Umrah there was a deep sense of Muslim sisterhood and brotherhood – an understanding that in putting others above ourselves we truly embody the essence of our Deen.

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