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Wanderlust Muslim

My Journey To Discovering The World

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Getting out of Ihram

The area around the Haram has changed so much since I had last been 10 years ago. The clock tower is pretty much hard to miss towering all the other many buildings close by. One of the signs of the last hour is tall buildings and it happening right in front the house of Allah. It reminded me of the Lord of the Rings tower!!! Brother M had done Umrah very recently and was very familiar with the area. He took us straight to the safwah towers where the men cut their hair and exchanged money. The rate is better in Mecca then Aziziyah, which is why we held off exchanging large amounts of cash. The Safwah towers is a large shopping centre with various hotels inside, like the clock tower, which is where we ended up eating.

We grabbed a taxi back to our hotel, getting back about 11pm and found our hotel was pretty much empty. Everyone had left a little while ago to do their Umrah. We cut our hair and jumped straight into the shower (it felt good washing my hair) and went straight to bed. We heard the other ladies in our room come in about 3-4 in the morning. I was so glad we left early to do our Umrah.

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Umrah

We were ready to begin our Tawaf for our Umrah, the ground floor was packed. I have seen tawaf during Hajj on T.V before but being there was something else, it was like there was more people then I see on T.V. We arranged with our Hajj buddies that we will meet them at our meeting point after we finished our Tawaf. With the amount of people doing Tawaf at the same time its hard staying in a group, it was even hard staying with Hubby. The easiest way we could do it was if I walked in front and Hubby held his arms out around me, sort of creating a barrier for me on both sides. I was scared to try and get close to the Ka’ba, seeing the people and the pushing and shoving. Plus my experience getting into the Mataf area kept playing in my head. We were half way through our first round when it started to get more congested. The crowd seemed to move slower meaning more pushing and shoving, we slowly realised what was going on. It was nearly time for Isha and people had just decided to stop where they were so they can pray in front of the Ka’ba. We were close to finishing our first round, I could see the green light, only a few more steps and we would have completed one round, and then the Adhaan goes. That’s when I felt it, I felt suffocated, squashed, scared. I kept thinking how are we going to get out, people were pushing to try and complete their Tawaf, people were not letting others get out. At one point I thought I was going to get pushed down, it truly left me shaken.

Of course once we got out of the Tawaf area people had sat down for Isha, trying to find a space was another mission. Men tend to pray right near the Ka’ba so the womens pray area is a little walk away. We managed to make our way through the little space we had, weaving through people, some just sat down others praying their Sunnah, I felt so bad we had no choice but to go in front of them. Once we found the ladies section, me and hubby went in different directions. I got a space next to a very kind lady who shared her musalla (prayer mat) with me then suddenly it hit me, where am I going to meet Hubby? Our group had provided us with sim cards but we hadn’t topped them up yet.

After I finished praying I made a quick dash to where me and Hubby has gone in different directions. To my relief he wasn’t too far away. So many people in ihram and with beards it would have been hard to find him in the crowd.

My heart sank a little when I realised it was time to go back to finish our Tawaf. The first round had scared me, I don’t deal well with small tight spaces. We slowly made our way and back and made sure we continued where we left off. The crowd seemed a little bit lighter, but I kept think it was only going to get busier, people were probably finishing off their prayers. I dared not get too close to the Ka’ba, I know it gets more congested the closer you get. My heart was racing, my eye were carefully watching making sure we would not get into any trouble like before and my mind was in constant dua. Before I knew it we had completed our 7 rounds (phew) it was only then I looked around and realised it was not that bad, the crowd didn’t seem that large. In my state of worry, I missed out enjoying my Umrah Tawaf, my first Tawaf.

We headed to pray our 2 rakahts of nafl prayer and then got ourselves some Zamzam whilst we waited on the steps for our Hajj buddies. Sitting from a far, I got to get a really good look at all the extension work. A lot had changed in the last 10 years, I could mentally picture what they were doing, and how it was all going to work.

Sai was a lot calmer and free flowing then Tawaf. We managed to make our dua on Mount Safa with a view of the Ka’ba, unfortunately there is no view from Mount Marwa. There is a small part which is lit in green lights. This is to indicate the section men are required to run, women are to continue walking at their normal pace.

As we walked from one mount to the other I couldn’t help but recall the purpose of Sai, the story of how it became. Hajar (R.A.) ran from one mount to the other 7 times in search for help in the blazing heat, no air-condition or tiled flooring. How easy it has become for us.

We managed to complete everything pretty early, the men were very eager to get out of their ihrams asap, I’m glad we didn’t plan on doing Hajj Al-Qiran!!!!

Ka’ba

My sister in-law told me how her father had felt when he was going for Hajj. He was so scared and nervous he apparently nearly had a heart attack. Of course Bengalis can over-exaggerate but I didn’t understand why he felt that way. My sister inlaw told me he was like that because he was going to be standing in front of Allah’s house a big achievement he was scared, all his lifes sins etc were playing on his mind. I know everyone reacts differently but I was eager to be there, my belief is that my Lord is Ar-Rahmaan and Ar Raheem (The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful)

With all the works happening at the mosque we found ourselves wondering around trying to get to the ground floor. As it was Hubbys first time seeing the Ka’ba he didn’t want to get glimpses of it whilst walking towards it, so he kept his head down whilst we tried to figure out how to get to the ground floor. Once we managed to get into a spot with a full view of the Ka’ba we stood and made dua.

I had done Umrah about 10 years ago, and even though this was my second time seeing the Ka’ba, the emotions I felt seeing it I cannot describe. It was like I was seeing it for the first time, it took my breath away. We all see pictures of the Ka’ba on T.V, facebook, Instagram etc. But seeing it with your own eyes, there is nothing as beautiful as the Ka’ba. This is the centre point of our religion, the direction we face towards five times a day, the image most of us have whilst praying. I broke down straight away.

I found myself starring at the beauty of the Ka’ba, tears rolling down my cheeks, hands raised asking Allah to forgive me. I had not planned what I would ask for when I was standing in front of the Ka’ba, I left that all to my heart. I stood there asking for forgiveness, apologising for my sin. I knew what my sister in-laws father was talking about. I promised I would not repeat any sins anymore. Many people say that when u first see the Ka’ba, make dua and it will come true. Now there is no Hadiths mentioning this but a dua is a dua. Being a Muslim is believing Allah will grant you your dua if not in this dunyah then in the ahkirah, unless it is sinful.tumblr_nzbe1iYMPr1ug61y2o1_500

 

 

Planning My Holidays

Since being married, we have managed to do 5 city breaks and only one resort holiday, we soon realised we are more the backpacking explorer types then the relaxing sun, sea and sand type. Don’t get me wrong after our first adventure week of our honeymoon we were ready to relax and finish it off with a nice resort.

But whilst we have time to ourselves and our youth I think it’s better to explore the cities now. My sister keeps telling me “once you have kids, it will be harder to do city breaks” I understand where she is coming from, every city break we have gone on has been jammed packed with daily activities and lots of walking! We love waking up early and exploring and coming back late ready for the next day of adventure, so I can understand why that would be difficult with children.

Our honeymoon was planned so well by Audley Travels I was left speechless by the whole trip, Hubby did very well! They spoke to Hubby to ask where we would like to visit and what activates would interest us. They came up with a beautiful 2 week trip visiting 3 different destinations in Malaysia. We went from seeing the hustle and bustle of the city to going to a rural town famously known for their street food ending with a relaxing beach resort.

I would love to travel with Audley for every holiday, unfortunately my bank balance wouldn’t like that at all. I guess we could justify spending so much on our first holiday together, but since then we have tried to keep our other holidays along the same wavelength as our honeymoon but on a budget.

Itinerary

Audley introduced me to itineraries, they gave us a small zipped ring bound folder with all our travel information. I was amazed (I know it doesn’t take much to take my breath away)

Since then I have always created an itinerary for our holidays. We may not follow it to a T but it always nice to have a plan before you go. Whilst I was planning for our short break to Paris I came across a brilliant itinerary website to make me plan my days better, Vist A City 

I absolutely love this website and use it whenever I can. The only problem is that they don’t have every holiday destination on the site, I guess that would mean they would have to put up every corner of the world, but they are working on adding a few more popular destinations.

What I love about this website is that it calculates the time it takes to go from one place to another, which I think is very important information when on holiday. It also allows you to add location breaks, so anything not on their list of to do’s don’t worry you can add whatever you like.

I’m such a visual person, so I love the map they create for you showing where you will be visiting. It’s handy seeing all the top tourist attractions on a map, that way you can plan to do the things that are close to each other and save the rest for another day. For this I also love looking at the app Tripomatic they bring up the top places to visit and also hotels. It’s always good to know where everything is before you go.

Hotels

I tend to use Tripomatic to look for hotels, I bring up the map and try and search for places next to a few tourist attractions. I write a list of possible hotels and read the reviews on Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor is my go to for hotel review, pictures do not tell you the whole story. I have seen so many fancy hotel pictures and when you read the reviews and see the travellers own pictures you realised how easily we can be fooled. Trip Advisor searches prices for you too, so you can get a rough idea on how much you are likely to spend. I like to check the hotels own website as sometime they can be cheaper.

With short city breaks I don’t book anything too fancy, we hardly spend any time in the hotel so it’s not worth it.

Flights

Flights are always the harder part of holiday planning, I wish there was a website that would show you the price to your destination over the whole year. As I am not limited when I can go on holiday, perks of being a D.I.N.K (Double Income No Kids) I will always choose for the cheaper flights. We all know flying during school holidays is a lot more expensive then term time. But some months are cheaper than others. It would be nice to see it all on one page so I can then decide when to go. I like using skyscanner to search, they tend to have all the correct filter and best prices. I always check the airlines website too, to see if it’s cheaper booking direct, sometimes it is. What annoys me with searching for flights is after a while the prices slowly go up. A friend told me this was a trick the airline does using your internet history. The more you search the higher the flight prices seem to go up. Make sure you clear your browser history every time before booking your flight, EasyJet is a big culprit for doing this.

 

Places to Eat & Places to Pray

Food is a very important part of our holidays, it can really make or break your day. I remember coming out from the hamam in Istanbul and craving donner and chips. A local restaurant owner flagged us down and shoved his menu in our face. We were starving and pictures on the menu look so good. Unfortunately the food was cold and stodgy, the chips looked like they had been soaked in oil instead of fried and the donner was cold and hard. It really did ruined our entire day (over dramatic much)

Finding food in Malayasia and Istanbul was very easy, as they are both Muslim countries. Food in non-Muslim countries can be daunting, for non-vegetarians there’s only so much veggie dishes you can have before you start craving meat! But I’ve come across Zabihah a brilliant website allowing you to find local halal places to eat. I like to note down a few places that have good reviews in different areas. I don’t like adding these to my itinerary, I feel like what you want to eat can change on the day, or you might even walk past a place that is even better. I always read the reviews as some places can say they are halal but when you get there they only have a few items that you can actually eat. Islam being such a fast growing religion is isn’t hard to find halal food.

I try my hardest to not miss my prayers, especially when on holidays. Zabihah allow you to search for places to pray too. Again I always read the reviews as some places are small rooms that offer prayer spaces for men only. I always print a copy of prayer times from Islamic Finder to take with me so we know roughly when each prayer starts. Worst case scenario if there is nowhere to pray whilst out, we always head back to our hotel.

If anyone has any advice to make planning my trips better and cheaper, let me know.

I don’t want to sound like a cliché

2016, I don’t want to sound like a cliché, but this year will be my year, this year will be better. In Shaa Allah (God Willing)

The past few years have been amazing, to sum it up the highlight of 2014 was getting married and starting the next chapter of my life. The highlight of 2015 would have to be completing my Hajj, the journey of a life time.

With each highlight I can think of many low points that I have been through throughout the year.

Being married isn’t all sunshine and roses, the honeymoon period was well over after 6 months. But I’m glad to say after getting married to a complete stranger, I feel like we know and understand each other. It was hard at first I won’t lie, I look back to my honeymoon and as much as I loved it I felt a little on edge solely because I didn’t know him. I have fonder memories of our 2nd holiday together, by then I knew what made him laugh, when he was serious or angry.

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Wedding Day – 2014

 

For me the low of 2014 has been moving away from my family. I am only 5 mins drive from them but it’s still not the same as living with them. You live with them for many years and it’s almost expected for you to forget all that and make do with your new family. How can I not cry over my mum who fed me and looked after me, even on days when she was not feeling so well herself? How can I not feel sad when I don’t see my sisters who I’ve bought up and looked after? How can I not run home when my dad needs me to look through some paperwork for him, he did the same for me and much more?

They say the first year of marriage is the hardest, I found the second year to be even harder! I was frustrated in not have my own space, not being able to do things on my time table. The house hunt was slow and not going anywhere.

But what pushed all the negatives of 2015 away was my journey to Hajj with Hubby. Everyone feels differently on their journey. I have wanted to go for a while and it had become Fard (Compulsory) for me before I got married. But I had a dream to go on this journey with my husband and I do not regret it. I think the journey strengthened our relationship, made it more special. Our journey to Allah made our journey to each other easier. We often talk about our time there, how we expected things and how they really where, our favourite part of the journey and our lease favourite.

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Trying to be creative whilst capturing the beauty of the Ka’ba

 

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Praying at Prophet Muhammad S.A.W mosque

 

We recently spoke after a big argument, yes marriage means arguments whether you like it or not. Hubby had realised he was in the wrong and had lost his temper too quickly. We then started speaking about how we were when we were in Saudi, the promises we made to Allah when we first set our eyes on the Ka’ba. We spoke about how we both feel like we have failed and how we have recently started questioning if our Hajj was valid, this is one of the worst things you can do. It just goes to show how the devils whispers can cause you to doubt yourself.

2016 has started and I am determined to stay positive. I will strive to do the best I can to achieve my goals, the rest is in the hands of Allah. I know my prayers will be answered, I won’t stop praying till I achieve what I want, till I get what I need. I will never lose hope in Allah and I know Allah will never lose hope in me.

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Never give up on Allah

Lone Wolf

I’ve come across an Islamic statement recently that has touched my heart. I’ve probably seen it before but didn’t pay much attention to it. I guess that’s what happens when you can’t really relate to the situation.

Hasan al-Basri, may God have mercy upon him, was asked:

“Why do you appear unconcerned with what people say about you?”

He said, “When I was born I was born alone, when I shall die I will die alone, when I am placed in my grave I will be alone, and when I am taken to account before God I shall be alone. If I then enter the Fire it will be alone and if I enter Paradise it will be alone. So what business do I have with people?”

Recently I have been trying to change myself, to better myself for my Lord. It’s surprising that in this day and age we have people who look down at those who are practicing. It’s not said but its felt, and I feel like that has a stronger effect.

It may just be in my culture but I find that we are expected to look a certain way, to act a certain way, to please certain people. You hear “what will people say, what will they think”

I am not cruel or rude to anyone, but yet I am expected to please them in other ways. What does it matter if I am not dressed like a Christmas tree all the time and if I don’t have make-up on all the time?

I remember a short while after I got married during Ramadan, we were going to an iftar party. I was told to wear make-up because someone was going to be there. Don’t get me wrong, I like getting dressed up for special occasions, but not during Ramadan. I was fuming, I have never felt like this before and because I was a new bride I felt like I had to hold back my thoughts. I couldn’t understand why I had to please this someone?

As I look back, I say to myself, who are they for me to please them? How will their opinion benefit me?

We should look past what others think and say about us and focus more on what Allah thinks about us.

I always ask myself “If I die tonight, can I look at my Lord and justify my actions”

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Makeup

I started wearing proper makeup when I first started working years ago. In the beginning it was a small amount of blusher and eyeliner. Eyeliner was my best friend since high school. I remember one morning waking up late, rushing to school with nothing on my face. The amount of people who though I was ill! It’s amazing what a small black line under your eyes can do for you.

My skin started to get worse after I started working. I have always suffered with spots but this was different. I felt horrible my confidence was so low the only solution was foundation.

I can’t even think of the amount of different foundations I went through. I found my skin kept changing so the foundation I was using was just wrong for me.

I remember my first real foundation, not the cheap collection 2000 ones our mums buy on our trips to the chemist.

It was L’Oréal’s mineral powder foundation. The first time I used it my skin was clear and everyone kept complementing me. Once the spots started coming it just wouldn’t sit right it made me look cakey.

I wouldn’t step out of the house without makeup, my sister once told me maybe you need to let your skin breath, give the foundation a miss. I snapped, “You don’t understand what it feels like to have bad skin”

I wasn’t the best Muslima at the time, I would miss my prayer during work hours and come home and catch up on them.

It’s after I got married that I started to realise what I was doing was wrong. There were many empty rooms in my office and my colleague were more than happy for me to pray. It took a while for me to register that my makeup wasn’t helping me either. But that was harder than me taking a 5 min break to pray.

I was so conscious about my spots and marks I couldn’t bear the thought of wearing no makeup. I made up so many excuses in my head to try and justify it. It was until I came back from Hajj that I actually stopped wearing it to work. I had spent 3 amazing weeks on a journey of a life time and not once thought about wearing makeup. I stood in front of the Ka’ba for my Lord, I stood as he created me, no make-up or fancy wear. Why modify something that has been created by the best.

I woke up on the first day back to work tired from the journey but more depressed because I was missing Saudi so much. I looked at Hubby and said “I’m not going to wear any make up today” Hubby kind of shrugged his shoulders and said “OK”

That day went by quick, everyone was asking how my journey was and I was re-telling stories over and over again. But no one seemed to question why I had stopped wearing makeup, what a relief! It was always playing in the back of my mind throughout the day. Every time I would go to the toilet I would shock myself when I looked in the mirror, I just wasn’t used to it. My work colleagues just assumed I was really tired from the journey and some of it was true.

I had managed to get through the day and I felt so happy. I came home looked at Hubby and said

“I don’t know what I was so worried about, If Allah can accept me like this why can’t everyone else?”

P.s Don’t get me wrong I haven’t given up wearing make all together. My guilty pleasure is watching make up videos and reading reviews.  I still like to doll myself up for special occasions, but I do wudu before I paint my face

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My small collection of makeup. I now look forward to special occasions so I can put a bit of slap on ;P

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