Imam Bashir Ahmad Rafiq’s Biography
Chapter 42: My Umras
On two different occasions, the Almighty God has enabled Saleema and me to visit the land of our beloved Prophet. He enabled us to present ourselves at his grave. Before writing about our journeys I would particularly wish to record my gratitude to my son in law Dr. Abdul Waheed Khan and my daughter Amatun Naseer (Neeno). It was through their initiative, help and prayers that I was enabled to perform Umra on two different occasions. They made all the necessary arrangements that enabled all of us to perform Umra together. In that journey, my grandchildren Madeeha, Humayun, and Alia also accompanied us. Humayun Khan in particular remained close to me and took care of my smallest needs with great pleasure. May Allah shower all of them with His blessings and bestow on them all kinds of worldly and spiritual gifts.
On both occasions, we undertook our journeys in the middle of the month of December. Our hearts were overflowing with strange sentiments in that the Almighty had granted us the ability to undertake a journey for which I had been longing for throughout my life. We landed at Jeddah International Airport and stepped out onto the sacred land of Hijaz. As this was the very soil where the Master of the Two Worlds, Muhammad, Peace and Blessings be upon him, was born, grew up and was gifted with the mantle of prophet hood our viewpoint underwent a sudden change. In a matter of 23 years the Holy Prophet brought about great changes. In that period the world witnessed spiritual upheaval that resulted in a complete revolution. The revolution did not only cover Najad and Hijaz but the entire world. His teachings enlightened the dark world and once again, the eminence of humanity got established.
This was the very land where the very first House of Allah was built - the house that the Almighty Himself referred to as ‘Ba’it ul Ateeq’ i.e. a very antique house. He made it obligatory on the Muslims to visit it and named such a pilgrimage ‘Hajj and “Umra”
Malik Bashir ud Deen and our dear friend Tahir Safeer were present at the Airport to welcome us. The Malik had been residing in Jeddah for the past 22 years (since then he has moved away from Saudi Arabia). He has a very cheerful personality and in the matter of hospitality, he has no equal. Whoever met him once became extremely fond of him. Because of his naturally admirable attributes, he has a very large circle of friends. Tahir Safeer grew up in London before my eyes and we were therefore together in London for a long period. I was very close to his father Dr. Safeer ud Deen. The family can be described as a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. They were a loving and sincere bunch.
When, along with our hosts we left Jeddah Airport we found that the whole town was brilliantly lit. On arrival at Tahir Safeer’s residence we discovered that his wife had prepared a sumptuous meal. A good wife is indeed a very great gift from God. Both Malik Bashir ud Deen and Tahir Safeer are recipients of this generous gift.
Jeddah is a beautiful modern and attractive town. Some of the buildings are high-rise, the roads are wide and the Marine Drive along the coast, which is the longest in the world, further, enhances its splendour and charm. There are many large and beautiful shopping centres in the town.
The following day, so that we may perform Umra in the relatively cool part of the day, in accordance with the advice from Malik Bashir ud Deen and Tahir Safeer, we set out for Umra from Jeddah after Asar. We had bathed and had worn ‘Ihram’. Malik Sahib, his friend, Tahir Safeer and their families, in the shape of a convoy, we moved towards Mecca. My wife and I travelled in Malik Sahib’s car while Dr. Abdul Waheed Khan, Neeno and their children rode in another car. Before commencing our journey, we offered a collective silent prayer. The convoy then moved towards ‘Harem Shareef’. On the way, Malik Sahib remained engaged in a running commentary. By the Grace of Allah, he had been enabled to perform Umra on numerous occasions and he had also been able to perform Hajj on several occasions. Therefore, he had become a walking encyclopaedia. Mecca is situated at a distance of 45 kilometres from Jeddah. At one time, this distance was covered either on foot or on camels. Now, in roomy air-conditioned beautiful motorcars this journey can be completed in a matter of 45 minutes. As soon as the caravan was under way, all of us started reciting Talbia aloud i.e.
Here O’Lord I am present …
As our car had Saudi number plates we were not stopped for checks anywhere on the way and we entered the Holy city of Mecca. At a very short distance from Haram Shareef we booked into the Kaki Hotel. The hotel building has six-stories, has a lift, is fully air-conditioned with all other facilities. Once again, we took a bath, wore Ihram and proceeded towards the Haram Shareef. Although the sun had, set the House of Allah was so brilliantly lit that one could imagine that it was daytime. Because of the excitement, our hearts were racing and we had Durood on our lips. It is stated in a Hadeeth that the Almighty accepts any supplication offered when the House of Allah is first sighted. In my heart, I had a whole collection of prayers and I could not decide what to ask and what not to ask. I said:
“I am in need, am helpless and have empty pockets. O My Lord, I need your help at every step.”
Engrossed in these thoughts, when I first caught sight of the House of Allah I began to tremble, my heart was overflowing with emotion and I was shedding tears. It was a strange form of elation. At that moment, I recalled an incident experienced by Hadhrat Maulana Noor ud Deen, Khalifatul Masih 1. When he first saw the House of Allah, he supplicated in these terms:
“O My Lord, I am in need of your help all the time and my heart is overflowing with supplications. Therefore, I pray that whenever I supplicate You may grant acceptance to my prayers as indeed You are prosperous and self sufficient.”
I supplicated in a similar manner and I am sure that my prayer was accepted.
Haram Shareef has five entrances and one can enter through any one of them. As our hotel was in the direction of Babb Abd ul Azeez, we entered through that gate. Deeply occupied in prayers, with moist eyes we approached the House of Allah. The floor on which we walked was of marble. It was beautiful, cool and comfortable. Even in the extreme heat, it was always kept cool.
At one time, there was just gravel around the House of Allah. Because of the heat of the day, it became as hot as live embers. Therefore, the feet of those who performed circuits were often injured.
Performing circuits around the House of Allah was an emotional experience. Every eye was shedding tears and the sound of Durood and Salaam seemed like intoxicating music. We entered the holiest of the holy places and reached the corner in which the Hajr e Aswad ‘Black stone’ is installed. There is a white line opposite the black stone from where one begins the circuits. Whether by day or by night, every single hour, approximately four to five hundred people always remain engaged in the performance of circuits. The number is further enhanced in the evenings.
We stood opposite the black stone and blew a kiss towards it. Because of the crowd, it was impossible to actually kiss the stone. When I had performed the circuits Malik Bashir ud Deen said that he could arrange for me to kiss the stone. He is indeed a strong man. He held my hand and took me close to the black stone. He safeguarded my head and thus I was enabled to kiss the stone to my heart’s content. I thanked the Almighty. I could not contain my happiness as I knew that other than the black stone nothing exists in this world that had actually touched the lips of Hadhrat Muhammad Mustafa (saw). There is not the slightest doubt that he had kissed the black stone repeatedly and again. In a way, my lips touching the stone were practically the same as kissing the Holy Prophet himself. This thought formed great elation in my heart.
One is required to perform seven circuits during which one can either supplicate in Arabic or in ones own language. Here again Malik Bashir ud Deen proved to be a guardian angel. As he had memorised the correlated prayers in Arabic he kept on reciting them in aloud and we kept on repeating them. When one is engaged in prayers during the circuits, one has a strange confidence that the prayers are being accepted. We prayed for the domination of Islam and Ahmadiyyat, our parents, our friends and the Muslims in general. During the circuits one can become choked with emotion. I saw an African lady who was unable to walk and was crawling to perform a circuit. In a way, this setting was distressing as well.
After having performed seven circuits the Holy Prophet used to offer two Nawafil near ‘Maqam e Ibrahim’. We too offered two Nawafil there and then, following the example of the Holy Prophet, had our fill of water from the Zamzam.
After having our fill of water from Zamzam, revitalized we moved towards the Safa and Marwa hillocks. Passing through Baab us Safa we walked between Safa and Marwa seven times. The first trip begins from Safa and ends at Marwa.
At one time walking between Safa and Marwa injured the feet of the pilgrims. The whole passage was then covered with gravel and during the heat of the day; the gravel became hot beyond description. However, now the whole passage has a roof and it is air- conditioned. Now the marble floor is made cool.
Even during the walk ‘Saayee’ between the two hillocks our eyes were moist and we begged from the Almighty for whatever we could think of.
Comparable was the condition of Dr. Abdul Waheed Khan and my other companions. They too were overwhelmed with emotion. For Humayun, Madeeha and Alia it was a strange faith boosting and fascinating experience.
In accordance with the practice of the Holy Prophet, at the end of Saayee we also had our haircut / trimmed. In this manner, by the Grace of Allah, our Umra was concluded. We stayed on in Mecca for the next few days during which we were able to perform further Umras.
The Almighty additionally blessed us in that Brother Shahid Ahmad Bengali had also come for Umra. He is a devoted Ahmadi and had performed Umra many times. He is fluent in Arabic and for us his being there was like the presence of an ‘Angel of Mercy’. He was staying in the same Hotel. As he had performed Hajj and Umra on many occasions, he was an excellent guide for us. In his desire to serve us and show hospitality towards us he left no stone unturned. His wife became intimate with the ladies in our group. Guided by him we were able to visit all the historical locations and were enchanted at his running commentary.
The Cave of Hira is situated at a distance of approximately 5 miles from Mecca. Neither Salima nor I could climb up to the cave and I wished we had attempted an Umra in our younger days. However, Dr. Abdul Waheed, Neeno, Madeeha, Alia and Humayun, along with Shahid Ahmad decided to climb up to the cave early in the morning. They took their water bottles with them. Shahid Ahmad had, on many earlier occasions been blessed with opportunities to visit the cave. The Cave of Hira is that Holy place where the last Law was revealed to the Holy Prophet of Islam SAW.
When Dr. Abdul Waheed, Neeno and the children came back to the hotel from the Cave of Hira their faces were lit with pleasure and delight. Therefore, the government has now prohibited an ascent. We stood at the base and prayed. We also visited the Plain of Arafat. After spending a few days in Mecca; we proceeded towards Medina in taxis. Having started from Mecca early in the morning we reached Medina in time for Zohur. Along the route, we could only see rock-strewn fields but the road was wide and the taxis were comfortable and air-conditioned.
When we arrived at Medina, we found Brother Abd ur Razzaq waiting for us. He had reserved accommodation for us in a hotel quite close to the Mosque of the Holy Prophet. Abd ur Razzaq belonged to Azad Kashmir and had lived in Medina for the past 18 years. He has vast business interests there. He is most sincere and loving. Soon after our arrival in Medina, he announced that although we would live in the Hotel he would provide all our food for us. I insisted that we could eat in the hotel but he would not agree. May Allah reward him abundantly. Abd ur Razzaq told us that he would return in a matter of two hours and take us to the Holy Prophet’s Mosque. He said that in the meantime we could take a bath and relax. When we were ready for the move, we waited somewhat impatiently for Abd ur Razzaq to appear. We were so keenly looking forward to presenting ourselves at the mausoleum of the Holy Prophet (saw). That the moment of realisation of our dreams throughout our lives was drawing near made us edgy.
Compared with Mecca Medina is a lot more green and fertile and the weather is relatively pleasant. Only at night had one had to cover oneself with a sheet or a blanket. Guided by Abd ur Razzaq we reached Mosque of the Holy Prophet. The Asar prayer had already been offered in the Mosque. As there were quite a few in our group I led the Asr and many who were not even in our group joined in. The Mosque of the Holy Prophet had recently been extended and its appearance and eminence is impressive and worth seeing. After a visit to the Mosque of the Holy Prophet, Salima, Dr. Waheed Khan, Amat un Naseer (Neeno), Madeeha, Alia and Humayun and some others proceeded towards the holiest Mausoleum. It is impossible to express in words our feelings at that time. There was a big crowd around the mausoleum. Therefore, we started supplicating and lost track of time. Perhaps, for a whole hour, we remained engaged in presenting our sincere and devoted sentiments before our master.
We were blessed with opportunities to offer all five obligatory prayers and Tahajjud in the Mosque of the Holy Prophet and we were able to visit the mausoleum on several occasions. We were able to pray there and evoke Durood and Salaam. We spent the next few days visiting other places of interest such as the battlefield of Uhud, the Quba Mosque, the Mosque of Two Qiblas and the place where the trench was dug where there is now a Mosque.
I been have written another book covering my journeys of Umra which will, Inshallah, be published soon. In it I have made an attempt to relate further details.
It may be appropriate to mention here a faith-boosting episode. It enhanced my faith and that of my children. One can be reassured from this experience that not only does the Almighty hear our prayers but, if He so wills also accepts them. In this way, proof is provided that He maintains a living relationship with His creation and a positive proof of His existence becomes evident.
Before proceeding for Umra I was grievously ill. At the end of 1978, I suffered from a bout of depression and acute anxiety. The interval between attacks kept on decreasing. I felt that my heart was sinking and I did not have a moment’s peace of mind. For longish periods, I would continue walking up and down and the depression made me very helpless. Finally, I sought medical help and was prescribed anti depressant medicines, which resulted in giddiness but brought no real relief. I also tried Homeopathic and Greek medicines but even then, the problem kept on developing. I was so anxious that I had considerable hesitation in stepping out of the house or undertaking even a short journey. I would suffocate in closed rooms. Often the attacks occurred during the night and I had to spend the whole night awake, walking up and down both inside and outside the house. During this period, my wife kept a keen eye on me all the time. In the year I was to proceed for Umra I made up my mind that at the first sight of the House of Allah and then later on during the circuits and walks between Safa and Marwa all my prayers would be centred on a plea to be rid of this predicament. I asked my wife also to particularly pray for my malaise. By then I had become despondent. During the circuits, the visits to the Mosque of the Holy Prophet and his mausoleum I supplicated with great humility and compassion that I may be rid of this grievous illness.
After Umra, we proceeded to Pakistan. We also visited Qadian for a few days. There in the ‘Bait ud Doa’ during one night, I was again enabled to pray in great anguish.
I do not have the words to express my gratitude to the Almighty as while still in Qadian I saw in a dream that someone said to me:
“The Almighty has accepted your prayers and now you will not have another attack of depression.”
I related this dream to Salima in the morning and I expressed my gratitude to the Almighty. I swear by Him that since that day I have never had any depression.
Salima is my witness. While in a Hospital, the night before my open-heart surgery, a nurse gave me a pill to swallow. I asked her what it was for, she said that during the night prior to an operation one becomes extremely anxious, and this pill helps to sleep. I told her that I was not in the least anxious. I did not take that pill but I was enabled to sleep flawlessly. After the operation whilst I was still on a stretcher the same nurse said to me:
“In such circumstances most people are deeply concerned and you were not in the least fretful.”
I was my usual self.
My brother Col. Nazir Ahmad gently rubbed my hand and reassured me. I cannot recall whether I was fully under sedation but later on, my brother told me that at that time I recited the following verse composed by Hadhrat Musleh Maood:
“Whether we are recipient of Your mercy or under a trial we are contented in any circumstance in which You are pleased”.
I always advise my children never to neglect prayer. It is a very potent weapon. It also results in tranquillity. It can solve the most difficult problems. Whether by day or night there are blessings in it. It is not necessary to pray aloud or even move your tongue. One should train oneself to pray all the time. The Promised Messiah has said:
“Your hand may be engaged in any task but your heart should be engaged in the remembrance of the Beloved.”
I.e. one can remain engaged in any task as long as one’s heart is filled with the remembrance of Allah. Hadhrat Chaudhry Sahib once said to me that while the first astronaut was in space I remained in a prayerful mood and kept on praying for his safe return. What he meant to say was that although words were not emerging from his lips throughout that period he was in a way supplicating for the safe return of the astronaut. May our hearts and souls be enriched with the blessings of prayers.