I had the privilege and honor of going to Umrah a few weeks ago. Having completed my hajj in 2010, it was time to pay Hijaz another visit to pay my respects to the Prophet (saw) and his progeny in Madinah and visit the House of Allah in Makkah.
Hopefully the pointers below will help anyone planning on going for Umrah.
First, if you haven't been to Saudi before, it is best to go with a registered group. It will make things easier for you because other than following instructions, there shouldn't be much to worry about..Also, if you don't speak arabic or urdu/hindi/bengali, then it would be better to go with a registered group because language can be an issue in some places.
Anyway, I decided to go with my family instead of a group. The primary hurdle in going to Saudi is getting a visa. These are things to remember:
- We had to apply to a local consulate but individual travelers cannot apply on their own. The visa application has to be submitted through an authorized travel agency.
- Even though the Umrah visa is free, these agencies charge between $175 - $200 per person for visa.
- Also, note that you can only apply within 30 days of going for umrah.
- You need to buy non-refundable return tickets before applying.
- The other mandatory requirement is to get a meningitis vaccination. CVS, Walgreens or RediClinic can do this without a prescription. Without insurance, it will cost between $150-$200. Get the vaccination record from the Pharmacy and submit it with your application.
- Common sense would dictate that you buy your tickets once visa approval is obtained but not in this case.
- Visa application usually takes about 1 week to process...might take longer during busy times.
Next decision is where to fly in/out from. If you decide to go to Makkah first, you will have to fly into Jeddah. Since Jeddah is inside the meeqat***, you will have to wear your ihram from the point of origin. So we chose to fly into Madinah first.
I would recommend either Turkish Airlines or Emirates. We flew Emirates from the US. We had a 5 hour layover in Dubai so we went out of the airport and had a nice dinner. US Citizens do not need a visa for Dubai (UAE).Came back to the airport around 11p for our 105a flight to Medinah.
We arrived in Madinah around 345a, got out of the airport by 445a. Since we were not part of a group, I made arrangements transportation arrangements with or hotel. It took about 30 minutes to get to our hotel right next to Masjid Al-Nabawi (Mosque of the Holy Prophet).
We stayed at Hotel Pullman Zamzam Madinah. Fantastic 5* hotel with great rooms and awesome breakfast. The only downside to the hotel is that it is on the opposite end of the Ladies entrance to the mosque so it took the ladies about 15 minutes to walk to the mosque. The hotel did provide a shuttle service for women at regular intervals.
After checking-in, we took a quick shower and made our way to the Mosque just in time for Fajr - individual, not jama'ah.
After every salah every day, the Saudis open Jana'at Al-Baqi for an hour or so. Much to my surprise, the Saudis were fairly relaxed in letting people get in, recite dua/ziarat albeit quietly and even take pictures.
Imam Hasan (as), Imam Sajjad (as), Imam Al-Baqar and Imam Al-Sadiq are buried here.
If I am not mistaken, I think Hz Umm-al-baneen is buried where I have drawn the red circle:
Went back to our hotel around 7am. We ate breakfast and finally went to bed after a 24 hours journey.
We woke up around 3pm and went to the Prophet's mosque for zuhrain. We prayed some other prayers so got back to the hotel around 430p. We rested a bit more and then made our way back to the mosque for maghribain around 7p. Once again, we stayed there for around 2 hours and then had dinner and then back to the hotel.
We are recommended to pray full zuhr/asr/isha in Medinah.
After taking an early night, we headed to the Prophet's mosque around 2am where we prayed salat-e-layl and other prayers. Returned to our hotel just after fajr. Our schedule for the rest of the day was the same as the previous day. However, there are other ziarats in Madinah one can visit:
- Masjid al-Shams
- Masjid al-Zul Qibltayn
- Masjid al-Quba
- The Saba Saba Masjids
- Masjid al-Fatah
- Masjid Salman al-Farsi
- Masjid al-Ali A.S.
- Masjid al-Bidi Fatimah Zehra A.S.
- Ohud – Hazrat Hamza A.S.
I stayed in the Prophet's mosque from 130am - fajr. I had the honor to pray salat-e-layl in Riyad-al-Jannah (Piece of heaven) - it is adjacent to the Prophet's grave. After salah, I went to Jana'at-al-Baqi for Ziarah al-wida (Farewell ziarah).
We rested for a couple of hours, had breakfast and then made preparations to head to Makkah for Umrah.
The main thing required is to perform a ghusl with the niyyah (intention) Niyyat: “I am doing Ghusl for the following for wearing Ihram for Umra al-Mufradah Sunnat Qurbatan Ilallah”. You cannot use scented soap when doing this Ghusl.
The next step is to wear the ihram. Ihram for men - consists of two pieces of white cloth and for ladies their usual daily wear is their Ihram, but it is highly recommended that it be white as it is the sign of purity.
Please not that even though one is wearing the ihram, the niyyah for Ihram is done later.
We bought our ihram in Medinah for about $20 (60-75 Saudi Rial).
We checked out of our hotel to make our way to masjid-e-Shajarah. I made transportation arrangements while in Medinah. It cost just under $200 for a personal mini-van.
We stopped at Ohud for 15-20 minutes for a quick ziarah of Hz Hamzah's grave.
Then we made our way to masjid-e-Shajarah. This is a designated point of wearing ihram per sharia. There are 6 other places as well in different parts of Saudi.
If you are already wearing ihram, you can take off the top portion and put it on again and make the niyyah (intention):
“I am wearing Ihram for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Illallah”. Immediately after making the niyya, recite the talbiya (calling) in arabic:
Labbaik, Allahumma Labbaik,
Labbaik La Sharika Laka Labbaik,
Innal Hamda WanNe’amata Laka Walmuka
La Sharika Laka Labbaik
This is to be recited as many times as possible until you reach the vicinity of Makkah.
After wearing the ihram and reciting talbiya, proceed to the inside of the Mosque and recite 2 rakat salat with the niyyah, "Offering 2 rakat salah for wearing ihram qurbatanillah".
Once you adorn the ihram and make the niyyah, there are about 25 things that become haraam upon a person.
Once we completed our prayers, we made our way towards Makkah, reciting talbiya as much as we could.
One thing to note is that in Shia fiqh, men ar enot allowed to travel under shade during the day while in ihram.so it is advisable to plan your journey such that you arrive in Masjid-e-Shajarah around maghrib. If traveling during hte day, then there is a kafarah (penalty) of 1 sheep.
We made a couple of stops on our way to Makkah which was about a 5 hour drive (430km or 250m)
Day Three - Arrival in Makkah:
We arrived in Makkah around 5pm. Since we had already prayed zuharain en route, we decided to rest a bit in our hotel. We woke up, did ghusl made our way to the Holy Kaaba around 730p. One has to be in wudu (or ghusl) for tawaf.
We prayed maghrib and isha and then started our umrah. These are the steps for umrah:
1) Perform tawaf (circumambulation) around the Kaaba 7 times. The niyyah (intention) is:
I am going round this Ka’aba seven times for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah.
Since the masjid has several floors, it is important to remember that we can do tawaf on any floor as long as your height is below the top of the kaaba.
2) Upon completion of tawag, recite 2 rakat salat-e-tawaf behind the Maqam-e-Ibrahim (place of Ibrahim) - recited just like fajr
I am offering two Rakaat Salaat for Tawaaf of Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah
3) Perform Sa'ae (wudu not necessary). This is where you walk from Safa'a to Marwa 7 times (about 3.5km in total). Niyyah (intention) is:
I walk between Safaa and Marwah, seven times for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah
Going from Safa'a --> marwa = 1
Marwa --> Safa'a = 2
Safa'a --> marwa = 3
Marwa --> Safa'a = 4
Safa'a --> marwa = 5
Marwa --> Safa'a = 6
Safa'a --> marwa = 7
So you start at Safa'a and end at Marwa.
4) Once Sa'ae is over, the next step is taqseer (cuting part of mails of hair). Niyyah is:
I am performing Taqseer so as to be relieved of Ihram for Umra al-Mufradah QurbatanIlallah
It is best to do the 4 steps without too much of a break in between them. At this point, you can take a break and even take of your ihram.
5) Whether you take a break or not, the next step is to perform tawaf-e-Nisa. Everyone has to do this - young/old, man/woman, married/unmarried, etc.). Niyyah is:
I am doing Tawaaf-un-Nissa by going round this Ka’aba seven times for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah
6) Last step is to perform salat tawaf-e-Nisa. Niyyah is:
I am offering two Rakaat Salaat for Tawaaf-un-Nissa for Umra al-Mufradah QurbatanIlallah
The entire umrah took about 2 - 2.5 hours to complete.
This is the completion of the umrah.
After completing our umrah, we went back to our hotel, had dinner and went to sleep.
We went to the Kaaba about 2 hours before fajr to perform Sunnah tawaf (each tawaf is 7 rounds). After each tawaf, reciting salat-e-tawaf is obligatory. You can make the intention of perfomr tawaf for others alive or deceased. This day was spent between our hotel and performing salah+tawaf throughout the day. There are other ziarah to be performed in makkah:
- Hajr al-Ismail
- Makaam al-Ibrahim
- Zam Zam
- Hills of Safa and Marwa
- Janab al-Khadijatul Kubra
- Janab al-Abu Talib
- Janab al-Abdul Mutalib
- Hazrat Abdullah
- Hazrat Amina Bint al-Wahab
- Masjid al-Jinn
- Cave of Thawr
- Cave of Hira
- Jabal al-Rahmah
- Muzdhalifa or Ma’shar
- Masjid al-Kheef - In Munna
We were able to perform the green ones above. We also had the opportunity to pray salat in the hateem which is not always open. We were able to touch the kaaba several times including rukn-e-Yemeni (corner from where Hz Fatima bint Assad went inside the kaaba to deliver Hz Ali (as).
Pic in hateem under the kaaba
Cloth of the kaaba - it is actually pieces of cloth sewn together instead of a very large piece of cloth.
We performed our final prayers and then checked out of our hotel to go to Jeddah airport. We flew from Jeddah --> Dubai and stayed there overnight, then flew back to the US.
I was pleasantly surprised that the Saudis were pretty lenient this time.People were free to pray and take pictures as they wanted...for the most part. I would recommend taking salah, dua and ziarah information on your phones rather than books.
I will also try to upload the guidebook I used for most of the trip.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I tried to cover the most important aspects of umrah.