Some people may be heading out for the spiritual journey of a lifetime soon, so I just wanted to take a moment and give a few pieces of advice for those who will be traveling soon to perform the beautiful Umrah journey. The following pieces of advice are amongst those that I received and some that I thought of while I was abroad in the sacred sites:
- Do your homework
Learn about Makkah and Madinah. Learn about Umrah. When I was preparing for my journey, I came across many different books that discuss Hajj and the virtues of Hajj. However, I found it difficult to find information on Umrah. Sure, the books on Hajj made references to Umrah and had short chapters in it, but those snippets didn’t satisfy my craving to learn more. I did eventually come across a nice book on Umrah entitled, “The Ultimate Guide to Umrah.” I am not endorsing one specific book over another, but I would urge you to learn about what you are about to experience before you go. Also, make a copy of your passport and important documents and email them to yourself and your loved ones so you have a copy if something goes awry.
- Company makes a man
If you are going with other people, then make sure they are good people. A company makes a man, and it’s true when you are in the sacred sites as well. Having good company can make a lasting impact on your journey. Are the people you are with going to encourage you to pray Tahajjud in the Haram and do extra tawaf or are they going to instead encourage you to eat the 4000 calorie meal from McDonalds at 2 am so you experience a food coma and have trouble waking up for fajr?
- Know the rules of Ihram
There are simple rules that people can violate without thinking. For example, know that you can’t use scented soap when in ihram, so try to get some unscented soap before you leave. Another rule is that you can’t cover your head with your ihram (for men). So even if it’s really sunny, don’t wrap that towel to protect yourself. Another issue is it’s important to cover your awrah while in the state of ihram. Don’t expose yourself while you are wearing it, just be careful insha’Allah. If you get a chance, check out Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s transcribed lecture entitled, The Fiqh of Hajj and Practical Advice for Hajj, which has some good tips when it comes to ihram.
- Barber hygiene
At the conclusion of Umrah, it is customary for men and women to cut their hair. For men, don’t just cut a snip of your hair. Instead, cut your hair all around, even if you don’t want to shave it. If you do decide to shave it (recommended), then make sure the barber whom you visit uses a brand new disposable blade. The Saudi government requires it and most barbers follow this rule, but just be extra careful and have your barber open up your blade in front of you. You wouldn’t want some blood-borne disease such as Hepatitis C to be transferred to you from the dried blood of the customer before you. For women, don’t expose yourself and cut your hair at the Kaaba. Wait until you get back to the hotel so that you can take off your hijab and cut your hair. Don’t sacrifice your modesty because you’re in a hurry to finish your Umrah.
- Take some Vaseline
This advice is specific to men. When you are in a state of ihram, you aren’t wearing any boxers or underwear. Your legs will chaff and Vaseline can make a world of a difference.
- Visiting the Rawdah
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 but difficult to take advantage of. Many people have a goal of trying to pray in the Rawdah while in Madinah and so large fluxes of people are vying for a very small area. After talking with people that lived in Madinah, the best time to try to visit the Rawdah (for men) is at night. If you wait several hours after isha or a few hours before fajr, the rush at the Rawdah is less and it is much easier to pray and have some peaceful time for reflection in the Rawdah without the hustle and bustle that may be present at other times.
- Visit the sites in Madinah
The best time to visit the sites in my opinion is in the morning time sometime between sunrise and Dhuhr prayer. You can visit places like the site of the battle of Uhud as well as Masjid Quba, which is the first masjid built by the Prophet Muhammad . Don’t forget to pray 2 rakats in Masjid Quba and reap the reward of Umrah while you’re there, insha’Allah!
- Contact back home
If you have a smartphone, you can download apps like Viber or MagicJack that make it easier to call home for free on WiFi, which is available in some hotel lobbies. Keep your phone on airplane mode and turn on the WiFi so that you don’t get charged extraordinary roaming charges. Also, if you have an iPhone, you can use iMessaging to text other iPhone users while the phone is still in airplane mode using WiFi for free as well!
- Talk with people
Ask them where they are from. I met people from countries I never expected to meet people from. There are people from all over the world. Makkah and Madinah are places of gathering for people from all over the world. Have you ever met people from Azerbaijan or Mauritius? Become enlightened on the beautiful brotherhood/sisterhood of our amazing faith.
- Make dua
Simple to say, but very important to do. Make dua for yourself, for others, for the entire Ummah. You are blessed with being in such a spiritual place. Take advantage of that beautiful spiritual high and make lots and lots of dua, insha’Allah!
Have a beautiful journey. May Allah accept from you, Ameen!