By Rob L. Wagner
12 June 2016
Jeddah – The first time Abdullah Muhaaraq performed umrah, the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca, while fasting during Ramadan he fainted. When he regained his senses, he resumed his rituals as if nothing had happened.
“I was overconfident and not really prepared,” said Muhaaraq. “This time I will be smarter about how to do it.”
Muhaaraq said he hopes to perform umrah again during Ramadan. Umrah can be performed at any time of the year independently of haj, which is considered the major pilgrimage.
With the exception of haj, performing umrah during the last ten days of Ramadan is the most crowded period at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Laylat al-Qadr — Night of Power — holds special meaning for the faithful because performing umrah on that night promises forgiveness of all their sins.
Millions of worshippers perform tawaf — circling the Kaaba seven times counter-clockwise. They then rapidly walk between the hills of Marwah and Safa seven times to re-enact Ibrahim’s wife’s desperate search for water. The shaving of men’s hair or clipping women’s hair at the end of umrah symbolises submission to Allah and concludes the rituals.
Even under the best weather conditions and smaller crowds, umrah can be a challenge for the elderly or for people with disabilities. Performing umrah while fasting, or even in the evening after breaking fast, presents its own challenges because worshippers often have difficulty balancing fasting, eating and the physical exertion of the rituals.
Although the exact day is unknown, Islamic scholars say Laylat al-Qadr occurs on the 27th of Ramadan (expected on July 2nd this year). It is the time in which the first verses of the Quran were revealed by the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. Many pilgrims stay up all night to offer prayers, blessings and ask forgiveness for their sins.
Most worshippers revel in the fact that they are fasting and simultaneously performing umrah.
“What’s hunger? It only brings me closer to Allah,” said Navi Hussein, who plans to leave Jeddah for Mecca on June 22nd to spend the last ten days of Ramadan in the holy city. “The benefits are important to me and to my wife. The best thing for Muslims is that by doing umrah on Laylat al-Qadr. It unifies us and strengthens our cooperation among each other.”
According to the Quran, Allah said: “We have indeed revealed this (message) in the Night of Power. And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months (83 years). Therein come down the agents and the spirit of Allah’s permission, on every errand: Peace! This until the rise of Morn.”
To Hussein, whatever discomfort he may endure by performing umrah during Ramadan will be washed away by the Prophet’s words: “Whosoever offers voluntary prayers during the Night of Power out of belief and expecting its reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven.”
Irfan Mohammed said he often sees worshippers get the wrong idea about performing umrah on Laylat al-Qadr and having their sins eliminated to start anew.
“Sometimes I see or hear my co-workers or friends commit sins thinking that all is forgiven because they repented on that special night,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way. Yes, their failings in the past will be made good but it also leads them to disregard God in the future and that is forbidden.”
Mohammed, who performs umrah during the last ten days of Ramadan about every two years, said he almost weeps with joy when he walks shoulder to shoulder with his brothers and sisters to perform the rituals. “There is no feeling like it in the world,” he said.