If the reader of this article is a new convert, we would like to congratulate you and wish you all the best for this great new world you have reached out to. May Allah increase your E’man manifolds with every step you take towards reaching a better understanding of Islam.
The following are a few points new converts need to keep in their mind before going to the Umrah
A Muslim is not exactly born a Muslim, in fact, a Muslim realizes that he is a Muslim over and over. Some are born into Muslim families and have a Muslim name, others are born with a different set of conditions. The identity of a Muslim resides only in his heart and is attested and approved only by Allah alone, proportional to the depth of his faith –E’man. However, there have been incidents in the past, that were ‘unsavory’ and so there is a strict implementation of allowing only ‘certified’ Muslims to enter the Meeqat. Even people coming from predominantly Muslim countries have this declared on their passports so that there is no extra hassle for them when they do go to perform the Hajj or Umrah. Most western countries are secular, and therefore do not enlist religious affiliations of passport holders on passports, unless otherwise specified. Therefore new converts, as distasteful it may seem, would have to get a certificate proving that they are Muslim especially if they still possess their old ‘non-Muslim’ name. This is for the protection of the Holy Sites of Saudi Arabia and it prevents any distasteful desecration that might occur during the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage seasons.
The Muslim certificates can be acquired from the local mosque or Islamic centre. If the convert did not accept Islam at a mosque, then an appointment needs to be made with the Mosque that issue certificates. There the Imam, in presence of the mosque administration would ask the new converts some basic questions and ask them to proclaim the Shahadah, and provide the certificate in a few minutes or so. It is important to make a few copies of the certificate so that even if the original is lost, there is some backing to prove its existence.
Clothing that you will really thank Allah for
Islam dictates that its believers remain modest and cover their bodies. While the areas of the body permissible to be publically revealed are different for men and women, the rules need to be obeyed to the letter and spirit. Men cannot reveal skin below the navel, starting at the belly button up to the knees and women cannot reveal their skin, except the skin of the hands, feet, and the face. If the female convert has not bought it already, buy a hijab and a long niqab that covers the entire body. Some hijabs are loose at the wrists, so buy arm socks that keep the wrists and the forearms covered even when the hands are raised for takbir. Most Muslims, find it difficult to remove socks to perform wudu, but wudu socks remove this difficulty. A small stretchable opening on the sole of these socks allows the foot to come out and become fully exposed. Once rinsed, the foot can be placed back in, by just a slight jerk. Save yourself the hassle, just buy some.
The climate of Saudi Arabia is hot and dry. New converts, especially with Caucasian ethnicity, have lighter skin tones and less melanin to protect their skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Bring along a good sunblock lotion with an SPF rating of more than 65+. The dry weather also usually chips lips, so do not forget to get a lip balm, preferably that has no odor. The state of Ihram does not allow you to use perfumes or scents or smells so it’s best to look for something that builds on it rather than bleed its sanctity.
Get a Quran In your own language
If Arabic is not your mother tongue, join a few classes to gain at least some proficiency. If you still think that your hold on the Arabic language is not as good, and you might not be able to give the Quran the reverence it deserves then bring along a copy of the Quran in your own language, be it in English, French, Spanish, Urdu or Farsi.
Read about how to perform the Umrah and know who the Prophet was
The Umrah has three basic pillars i.e. Ihram the raiment/state in which the Umrah is performed, the Tawaf which is the circumambulation around the Ka’abah seven times and the Sa’ee the walking/running between the mount Safa and Marwa. A detail is provided in the article below.
The Prophet Muhammad was the Final Messenger of Allah. While Allah and the Quran do not differentiate between Moses, Jesus or Muhammad, Our Prophet’s promise to intercede for forgiveness for Muslims in particular and human beings in general, brings us closer to him. Like Allah, he also has ninety-nine names that his companions gave him. Among them are As-Saadiq (one who is truthful), Al-Ameen(one who is trustworthy), An-Nur(The Light Personified), Al-Mubashir(Bearer of good news) and Al-Shafi (One who intercedes/or shall intercede on Judgement Day). There is a good chance that converts visit Medina as well, after performing the Umrah. Knowing about the Prophet (SAW) who you will meet (Inshallah) will only give you an insight into his awesome life and appreciate the sacrifices he made for the betterment of humanity.