Monday, May 18, 2009

Back to Cairo

I'm sitting in the Jeddah airport waiting for my plane to leave. Today has been a good and bad day. Good because the experience of Umrah has been amazing, and I am thankful that I got the chance to do it. Bad because I feel very sad and emotional about leaving Makkah. I've come to love it here and I wish I could spend the rest of my life praying at Masjid al-Haram and sitting by the Kaabah. My last prayer at Haram was Duhr and I couldn't stop praying. It was very emotional and before I left I went and looked at the Kaabah one last time. Inshallah I'll be back soon. It'll be difficult because I'm not married and I don't think my dad is coming again soon. I don't understand how a woman can't come to Makkah or Madinah alone until she's 45. Another one of Saudi's ridiculous rules, which I'm sure has no basis in Islam. So a woman is a mature adult when she's 45. Great. And I'm assuming a male reaches maturity at age 16. Ugghh. Anyway I'm trying to ignore all the annoying gender-related stuff that happened and focus on the good.

Someone asked me to elaborate on how Umrah changed me. I'm not sure how exactly, but I know something is different now. It's not that I didn't take Islam seriously before, but I feel like praying was something that I would do quickly before I went back to whatever I was doing. Here in Madinah and Makkah, my day revovled around prayer, and I would interrupt whatever I was doing to go and do it. I need to try and continue this in Cairo. I guess I'll have to wait till I get back to Cairo to see what exactly has changed. I feel more at peace, more calm, and definitely more happy. I've also been so inspired to become a much better Muslim, to focus on Islam as much as possible, and to study it. I'm planning on starting my MA this September inshallah, in Holland, and I'm planning on doing my dissertation on something to do with women and Islam. Umrah definitely made me even more excited about this.

I also can't wait to do Hajj now, even though I'm not ready for that yet. Learning classical Arabic is another to-do. Inshallah all these things will happen soon.

Overall the past 6 days were the best 6 days of my life, and I'm really sad that it's over now. I hope I'll be back in Makkah soon.


Mrs. S said...

Ma'shallah it sounds like you've had such a beautiful experience making Umrah. I especially love what you've just said about striving to make prayer a priority rather than an afterthought. We’re all guilty of it at one time or another. I consider myself a repeat offender, so thank you for the reminder.

Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us. Be safe on your trip back to Cairo.

Jaz said...

It must have been sad to leave this amazing place but be glad you had the chance to go. It sounds amazing and I wish I could go too, but for now I am just so happy for you!
About Saudi law, I don't know what possesses some people to name it Sharia, because Sharia implies it's authentic Islamic law and I really don't know where half of the stuff comes from. Perhaps they justify it by saying a woman shouldn't travel alone without a mahram and by age 45 she needs to get a move on with her hajj with or without one? Who knows! Especially in this day and age, traveling no longer involves a 14-day camel trek across the desert.
I wish you the best of luck in your studies in Holland! Will it be in Amsterdam? I love the idea for your dissertation, I bet there's been a few of these "Women and Islam" studies done by non-Muslim men but it will be fresh to hear it from a Muslim woman.
Thanks for posting and sharing your experiences, you're getting me excited for when I'll go on Umrah (next year) INSHALLAH!

Lisa said...

I could understand 21, maybe even 30 but 45??? In addition to the mehram issue, mybe they seek to discourage those not on menopause.

The concern could also be that the woman is still not completely out of menopause and could have her period while there. As you know, many women take birth control before they go to "schedule" their period. Maybe this is where the Kingdom is coming from on the issue? Because they think BC Pills are wrong to take?

Funny how an 8 year old is "mature" enough to marry a 47 year old, but you can't go alone until your 45.

I have loved your experience so much dearest one. I hope you have a safe flight, and return someday soon.

ellen557 said...

Oooh sister I'm sure you will go back. I've seen documentaries where women without mahrams go to KSA in groups for Hajj, so don't think that you have to wait - it can be done.

Inshallah you will return soon!

Umm Omar said...

Congratulations again, sister. You've really inspired me.
I was just thinking, a few years ago when my friend went for hajj, she came back and told me that her hajj leader told her group that one can know if a deed like hajj or omrah has been accepted by reflecting on one's own feelings. If one's heart is softer after, and the person changes for the better in any way, than insha'Allah, that is a good sign that the omrah has been accepted by Allah. Again, very happy for you. Have a safe trip back.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Mrs S.: I think it's easy to get caught up in life and just do the prayers out of habit, but I think if we consciously make an effort we can change that.

Jaz: I'll be living in The Hague, not Amsterdam, and I'm not sure where I'll be studying yet because I'm still waiting to hear back from 2 universities. I've been accepted at the Institute of Social Studies though :)
Inshallah you'll go for Umrah next year!!

Lisa: I also had to take a pill to delay my period, but it wasn't birth control. This could be the issue for Saudi or it could also be the fact that they're just incomprehensible when it comes to issues to do with women.

Ellen: Yes I heard women can go as a group. Why don't we all go?? :)

Umm Omar: Wow, that's a nice way of telling whether it has been accepted by God. I think in Islam God is kind and forgiving, and so will accept your Umrah as long as your intentions are pure, even if you make mistakes. I made a few mistakes during Umrah but next time I'll know better :)

Thanks everyone for your kind words!