Saturday, 21 April 2018

Iqbal In Love With Emma Wegenast

Any sensible mother in the Indian sub-continent will be petrified if her daughter ever fell in love with a nikamma sha'ir (useless and idle poet).

Through this article we shall prove that it is possible to write material of commercial and revolutionary value even if one's belly is not always full.

How do poets do it?

Disobedience caused Adam to fall from Almighty's Grace
And until the Judgement Day fallen in love must he remain.

Yours truly

To extract poetic revenge our male poets have, over the centuries, followed three secret cardinal rules formulated by some Himalayan Rishis:
Sheikh Noor Mohammad
1) Never confuse your missus or Mrs. (the daughter of Eve) with your Muses (three or nine daughters of Zeus or Apollo).

2) The best beloved is the one whom you cannot or should not marry. 

3) The best wife (not less than one and not more than four according to Islam) is the one for whom you may pretend to live but never promise to die.

To get a complete picture of it, please read the following articles which show how a Hungarian-Indian Jewish-Sikh painter named Amrita Sher-Gil played a minor role in the poetic life of Sir Dr Allama Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal:

Iqbal's lineage

Kafir-e-ishqam musalmani mara darkaar neest
(I am an infidel of love, the creed of Muslims I do not need)
—Amir Khusrow


Let us first look at the lineage of "Pakistan's national poet" whose birth and death took place in pre-partition India.

Iqbal’s mother Imam Bibi, a Sialkoti Punjabi, married Sheikh Noor Mohammad after he converted to Islam.

Khushwant Singh, in an article titled ‘Iqbal’s Hindu relations’, wrote about his Kashmiri Brahmin background:

“The family traces its origin to one Birbal. They lived in the village of Saprain (hence, the surname Sapru) on Shopian-Kulgam Road. Then the family moved to Srinagar where Iqbal and most of his cousins were born.

Iqbal (rear, second from left)
Birbal had five sons and a daughter. The third one, Kanhaya Lal, and his wife, Indirani, had three sons and five daughters.

Kanhaya Lal was Iqbal’s grandfather. His son, Rattan Lal, converted to Islam and was given the name Noor Mohammad. The Saprus disowned Rattan Lal and severed all connections with him.

There are different versions of Rattan Lal’s conversion. According to Sindh, one version came from Iqbal’s translator Syeda Hameed. In this version, Iqbal’s father Rattan Lal (Noor Mohammad) was caught embezzling money as the revenue collector of the Afghan governor of Kashmir.

The governor offered him a choice: convert to Islam or be hanged. Rattan Lal chose to stay alive. When the Afghan governor fled from Kashmir to escape its takeover by the Sikhs, Rattan Lal migrated to Sialkot."


Precocious little Iqbal
Syed Mir Hassan

Iqbal was a 'happy child' who learnt the Qur’an by heart. While Noor Muhammad was a pious Muslim tailor and embroiderer, Imam Bibi was a wise and generous woman who helped the poor and arbitrated neighbours’ disputes.

Syed Mir Hassan was so impressed by Iqbal's intellect that he persuaded Noor Muhammad to enrol his four-years old son in Government Christian High School. He remained Iqbal's professor at the Scottish Mission College until his graduation from Murray College in 1892.


There were men in those days who excelled at 'serving' Her Majesty the Queen of England by buying rare and ancient manuscripts for English libraries, and finding high-IQ children like Kim (Rudyard Kipling fame) who could be 'civilised'. Iqbal was a marked child.

Extracurricular Iqbal

Iqbal found music and poetry very appealing. Being good with words he regularly entertained friends with parodies of popular songs in impromptu shows.

In high school, he mastered arooz (the science of meter) and abjad (numerology of verses). He wrote chronograms (phrases in which Roman letters M, C, X, L, and V can be read as Roman numerals giving certain dates), composed ghazals (rhyming couplets), and learned to play the sitar.

Later in life Iqbal learnt German, Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit. While he practised the law in English, it was Punjabi that he spoke with friends. Out of 12,000 verses of poetry, 5,000 were written in Urdu and 7,000 in Persian.

Marriages and deaths

1914 was a tragic year for Iqbal; he lost a daughter (Meraj Bano) and then his mother (Imam Bibi) for whom the penned a poem titled “Valida Marhooma ki yaad main” (In memory of my beloved mother).

On 4 May 1893, Karim Bibi (1874-1947) became his first wife. She was Dr. Sheikh 'Khan Bahadur' Ata Muhammad's daughter and three years older. She bore him a daughter, Meraj Begum (1895), and a son, Aftab Iqbal (1899). The 'unsuccessful marriage' ended with a separation in 1916.

In 1913 he married Sardar Begum from whom he had a son, Javed Iqbal, and a daughter, Muneer Bano.

After Iqbal's mother expired on 9 November 1914 in Sialkot (on his birthday), in December he married his third wife, Mukhtar Begum, who died (along with a son) during childbirth on 21 October 1924.

On 17 October 1915, Iqbal's daughter, Miraj Begum (from his first wife), expired.

Iqbal's father passed away in 1930, and finally on 23 May 1935, his third wife, Sardar Begum went to her heavenly abode.

A rare photo of Emma Wegenast
Enter enigmatic Emma

Laazim hai dil ke paas rahay paas-baan-e-aql
(It’s good to keep the heart under the guardianship of wisdom)
Lekin kabhi kabhi isay tanha bhi chhoR day
(But sometimes the heart needs to be left alone)
—Iqbal


While in England, Iqbal realised that his eastern looks, sharp wit and gentlemanly charm attracted pedestal fans (ladies who placed him on a pedestal). Not an ordinary man by British standards, Iqbal kept this nuclear option (power over minds) under civil control, and thus turned all his favourite non-wife 'friends' into fluffed pillows to sob over.

Pension Scherer was a highly respectable boarding house where, for six months in 1907, Iqbal took German language lessons from Fräulein Emma Wegenast to complete his Ph.D.


Adoring Goethe and Rumi was easy, not falling in love with Emma was impossible for an eastern poet living in the romantic university town of Heidelberg.

Every boy who was ever taught a thing or two about life will faintly, if not vividly, remember being infatuated with a pretty school-teacher. Emma embodied everything he wanted in a woe-man: intelligence, beauty, education, refinement and the right balance between strength and femininity.

A curious case of the French toasts

Macron

Incumbent French President, Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron, developed the Oedipus Complex at school for his female French language teacher, Brigitte Marie-Claude ('schooled' by the Jesuits).

She later admitted: "At the age of 17, Emmanuel Macron said to me, 'Whatever you do, I will marry you!'"


At age twenty-one she had already married André-Louis Auzière, a banker who one fine day 'found her' with Macron, a classmate of his daughter. After tolerating her philandering for ten years, he divorced her.
Brigitte

Macron's parents later asked the then 40-year-old Brigitte to "stay away from their 16-year-old son, at least until he turned 18."

Brigitte, being twenty-four years and eight months older to Macron, finally became his aged wife (2007) and the First Lady of France (2017).

Macron is now the French Republic's President and one out of the two Co-Princes of Andorra (a micro-state landlocked between France and Spain).

Hide and seek in Heidelberg

The book, Iqbal: the life of a poet and philosopher, affords us a deeper look at our poet.

In 1879, Emma was born in Heilbronn. She was the fourth child of a businessman.

Emma was only two years younger to Iqbal but at at five feet seven inches, stood an inch taller than Iqbal. He was enchanted by her 'not being self-conscious of her superb beauty'.

She had blue eyes but her hair were black. Her hometown by the river Neckar had a considerable Jewish population.

Two questions arise: was she from a mixed race, and was this the reason she shied away from marrying our already married Muslim scholar from India?

Iqbal, instead of singing praises of river Ravi of Lahore, wrote a poem about river Neckar. He praised Germany, Goethe and almost anything that was dear to Emma. He condoled with her when her father passed away in 1913.

The two occasionally exchanged gifts. While in England, Iqbal asked unforgettable Emma to send him some photographs which she did, and those he displayed like a trophy on his study table. In return he sent Emma his photograph.

Upon his return to India, Iqbal wrote: 'My body is here, my thoughts are in Germany'.


Not only did Iqbal study hard at Heidelberg, he enjoyed life which seemed like a 'beautiful dream' which he wished to repeat.

Between 1907-1914, in 1919 and then between 1931-1933, he wrote Emma twenty-seven letters (including two postcards), not all of which discussed the weather or politics. He wrote seventeen letters in German language and ten in English from Munich, England and India.

Iqbal always addressed Emma very formally as ‘Mein liebes Fraulein Wegenast’ or ‘My dear Fraulein Wegenast’, with only the ‘Mein’ hinting at his fondness and respect for her. He used the formal and respectful ‘Sie’ in addressing her, and never the intimate ‘Du’. In one letter he wrote:

“It is impossible for me to forget your beautiful country where I learned so much. I wish I could see you once more at Heidelberg and from there we would make a pilgrimage together to the sacred grave of the great master Goethe.”

Despite the heavily coded longing the rendezvous never materialised. When Emma went through a personal crisis, Iqbal wrote more openly:

"Once a person has become your friend, it is not possible for him to live without you. A true friend...when hearts are fused together...distances become meaningless..."

Again in 1908, Iqbal asked Emma to meet her in Paris and yet again the attempt failed. Once in India he expressed his sadness and loneliness without her.

To Sir with love


The man responsible for the Nankana massacre, Sir Edward Douglas Maclagan (the British Governor of the Punjab) proposed in 1922 to King George V that Iqbal be knighted in recognition of his literary achievements.

Iqbal asked that his teacher, Syed Mir Hassan (who had taught Iqbal and Faiz Ahmad Faiz), too be awarded a title.

When the Governor remarked, "Mir Hassan has not written any books", Iqbal replied, "I am the book that Mir Hasan has produced." Mir Hasan received the title of 'Shams al-’Ulama’ (Sun of Scholars).


All that 'education' with Mir and in Europe finally paid off on 1st January 1923 when Iqbal's amenable behaviour towards the British interests resulted in a knighthood being conferred upon him. 
Signing the Armistice (1918) WWI, and in 1940 (WW2)

Iqbal's days continued to turn into nights in shy armour. He suffered from ailment of the kidneys from 1916 up until his death.

Courting the Young Turks


After the Ottoman Empire suffered a major military defeat in World war I, through the Treaty of Versailles (1919) and the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt were severed from her.

The All India Khilafat Committee in India failed to revive the Caliphate. Its Muslim-Hindu leaders (and the population in general), opposed the British designs, many were jailed but Iqbal remained free by siding with the secular Muslim League.


As one will observe today, all the 'crescent' countries have been 'liberated and democratized' by the 'lions, eagles, stars and crosses' of the British-American-Zionist nexus.

Mustafa 'Ataturk' Kemal asked for no support from Indian Muslims because he was backed by the 
Freemasonic 'hidden hand'. Iqbal's support for Ataturk's abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate reached its peak when he read the Turk's statements during a long speech at Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, in presence of 250,000 Muslims who gathered for Salat al-Eid al-Adha (Prayers at Feast of the Sacrifice):

“Let’s pray, brothers, that flag shall not fall down from those bastions till doomsday. May the sun of Islam remain bright; may Allah help Mustafa Kemal, the great leader who defends Muslims against Christians. May Allah bestow victory upon the last soldiers of Islam.”

The World Islamic Conference was held in Jerusalem from 7 until 17 December 1931 and which was attended by one hundred and thirty delegates from twenty-two countries. 'Without doing much at it, Iqbal wriggled out before it concluded'.

The cult of the '3G goddess of the compass and the square'

In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way. —Franklin D. Roosevelt (America's 32nd 'war President')

Oddly, Iqbal also supported Ghazi Rauf Pasha in India, a dissident associated with Ataturk. Was Iqbal hunting with Ataturk and running with his opposition? Was he acting both as a moving force and a controlled opposition? Today more people call Iqbal 'Allama' (great scholar) instead of 'Sir'.


The tentacles and machinations of the secret societies were everywhere. Goethe, Nietzsche, Ataturk, Sir Syed Ahmed Ali Khan, scores of other prominent men in India were Freemasons, even the first Freemason in 1775 was a Muslim Nawab of Carnatic.

Why was His (Masonic) Holiness Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III buried by the Nile and close to the Pharaohs? Why is Bahaullah's tomb in Israel along with that of Maulana Muhammad Ali Johar?

Sir Aga Khan (with his 'hand' hidden)
To arrive at conclusions hidden from the masses, readers are encouraged to conduct personal research into related events and personalities.

Atiya Fyzee on Iqbal and Emma

Atiya Fyzee found Emma Wegenast to be 'extremely beautiful and Iqbal full of humility', with his ‘egotistic cynicism’ of the London all but gone. He was ‘intelligently interested’ in his studies. He liked boating, classical music, singing, gardening, and hiking.

Iqbal sang operatic songs ‘all out of tune and with no voice’ and danced clumsily to a folk tune with his tutor Frau Wegenast. He was last in a boat race, and once cooked an Indian dish. He picked knowledge from the trees that he passed by and the grass he trod.'

Iqbal was a warm and sensitive human being pinned down by multiple marriages and their accompanying emotional baggage, the turmoil in Indian politics and his higher learning created an intellectual imbalance at home.

Emma Wegenast (and Atiya Fyzee, who will be explored in a future article) were far cries from the traditionally Muslim ladies that Iqbal married. Emma and Atiya were beautiful, unveiled, bold, almost like hooris sent down from heaven.

Relationship: It's complicated

"We have biographies of Rabindranath Tagore revealing all his love affairs but none of the Allama telling us of the kind of man he was." —Khushwant Singh

The 'dirty old man of India', Khushwant Singh, wrote thus in an article titled ‘Iqbal’s Hindu relations’:


"This secret [Emma Wegenast] was divulged by the mayor of Heidelberg in a speech in which he named a part of the bank of the river Neckar 'Iqbal Weg'. The Pakistani ambassador to Germany had the mayor’s speech mentioning the girl’s name suppressed."

Problem? What problem?


"Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here." —communications between the Apollo 13 astronaut John ("Jack") Swigert and the NASA Mission Control Center ("Houston") during the Apollo 13 spaceflight
Can Pakistani SUPARCO out-space American NASA?

We have SUPARCO in Pakistan; the above sentence maybe revised to read: Islamabad, we've had a problem here since 1947.

It is easy to offer prayers at the tombs of our national heroes rather than ask probing questions. Usually the one who questions 'uncomfortable facts' of our history is labelled a 'traitor' in Pakistan.

The invention of the printing press has not liberated the entire world through publication of truthful textbooks, it has rather plagued us with systematic cover-ups of real history designed to paralyse young minds with homogenised and expensive mass brain-washing called 'education'.


Food not cooked at home

When no food is lovingly cooked at home, men tend to dine out; for dessert they rest their tired heads in cosy laps of women with sympathetic ears.


Iqbal certainly did not commit a crime by not always walking alone in European parks. Where exactly could a Rehmatullah Alayh (may Allah’s mercy be upon him) and Hakeemul Ummat (the sage of the nation) go to relieve educational and matrimonial stress?
Eros—vulgar or divine?

Socrates, in Plato's "Symposium", explained two types of love or Eros:
1) Vulgar Eros (earthly love) is a mere material attraction towards a beautiful body for physical pleasure and reproduction. 
2) Divine Eros (divine love) journeys from physical attraction towards beautiful form or body but transcends gradually to love for Supreme Beauty. It later transforms into Platonic love in which the beautiful other person inspires the mind and the soul, and directs one's attention to spiritual things. 
Men will say things to other men but they will only say 'other things' to 'other women'. Iqbal did pour his poetic heart out to other women by posting paper-based 'status updates' in an era when absence and distance made hearts grow fonder, and when envelopes took painful months across continents to arrive into physical mailboxes.
Jinnah's hidden hand
Of rich poor men

The short and unsuccessful marriage of Pakistan's 'founding father', Muhammad Ali Jinnah, cannot be compared with seesawing multiple marriages of Iqbal.

While Jinnah charged hefty fees as a lawyer to buy sprawling properties all over India, Iqbal would 'stop accepting more cases when his monthly income touched the Rupees 500 mark'.


In 1935 Iqbal owned a French automobile and, as a husband of three wives, kept meticulous notes of what came in and what was spent. Here is an interesting analysis:
Iqbal's bill for tent shouldaries (1935)

When Iqbal died in 1938, one Indian Rupee was worth 3.73 U.S Dollars, hence, Rs 500 was worth $134.

At today's exchange rate of 65 Indian Rupees to 1$, those Rs 500 would be worth Rs 8,710.

In 1938, the price of 1 troy Ounce of gold (31.1034768 grams) was $35 (Indian Rupees 130.55). Hence, Iqbal's monthly income of Rs 500 could buy him 3.829950210647262 grams of gold.

In 2018, the price per troy Ounce of gold is Indian Rs 86,000 (worth $1,323), hence Iqbal's monthly income was substantial by this standard.

In 2018, the price per troy Ounce of gold is Indian Rs 86,000 (worth $1,323), hence Iqbal's monthly income was substantial by this standard.
Iqbal's electricity bill (February 1939)

Today 1 Indian Rupee is worth 1.78275 Pakistani Rupee. Had Iqbal been alive today in Pakistan, he would be earning 153,316 Pakistani Rupees each month.

By the time the British partitioned India, through the Indian Independence Act 1947, on 15 August, one Indian Rupee was worth one U.S Dollar. Today 65 Indian Rupees get you just one American Dollar—a devaluation of sixty-five times in seventy-one years. Blame it on mad borrowing and the insane bankers.

Doraus Lendora, the German tutor

Iqbal's encounter with Emma Wegenast cemented his faith in German ladies who seemed willing to sacrifice everything when it came to their children's upbringing. Impressed with their work ethic and culture, in 1935 Iqbal employed a German lady, Doraus Lendora, for his children Javed Iqbal and Munira.
The Indian Rupee (1918) with King George V sitting on it
The children called her 'auntie Doraus' and she stayed at Iqbal's home for twenty-eight years. We do not know if Iqbal communicated with her in German language.

Doraus died in 1962, having served for twenty-eight years. She now rests in Lahore's Christian Cemetery.

Doraus holding Munib (Iqbal's grandson)
The prodigal son: Javed Iqbal

It goes to Iqbal's credit that he was able to express pious and lofty poetic thoughts with a pen dipped in the ink of a troubled marital status. To this date, his failed romances and personal tragedies attract mud-slingers whom the majority of fans reject outright for 'national security' reasons.

Imitating somewhat the 'ascetic ideal' of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Iqbal wrote Javed Nama (The Book of Eternity) and through Baal-e-Jibrael (Gabriel’s Wing, 1932) addressed his son Javed Iqbal:

Do not be beholden to the West’s artisans
Seek thy sustenance in what thy land affords
My way of life is poverty, not the pursuit of wealth;

Barter not thy Selfhood; win a name in adversity.

Iqbal with his son Javed Iqbal (1930)
Javed Iqbal followed his father’s advice and became a noted lawyer, the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, and a Senator. In his four-volume biography on Iqbal, he admits:

“We were always short of money. My mother wanted to buy a home instead of always renting so she wanted my father to take his law practice seriously. I can still recall my mother crying and complaining that while she was working like a servant, my father was lying on a couch and writing poetry. When upbraided like this, my father would laugh his embarrassed laugh.

Wait, the heroine has a sister!

On 16 September 1966, through Abdul Rahman Khan (Pakistan's Ambassador), a plaque commemorating Iqbal's stay at Heidelberg was unveiled.
Locating the house where Iqbal lived at the beginning of the century became possible when a Pakistani student, M. S. Boikan, wrote a letter to a local newspaper. That prompted Sofie Wegenast (then in her 80's), Emma Wegenast'a sister, to reveal the correct address.

Click HERE to see where Iqbal lived in Heidelberg.

Click HERE to see a documentary on Iqbal.

Bitten by a German love-bug

Thomas Weber (born 1974) is a German historian and university Professor of History and International Affairs at the University of Aberdeen. Himself an Oxford scholar, he challenges all preconceived notions and existing stereotypes in his book "Our Friend 'The Enemy': Elite Education in Britain and Germany Before World War I":

"In the case of Prince Rangsit of Thailand, who in 1913—contrary to convention—married the daughter of his Heidelberg landlady, the romantic image became a reality.


Moreover, Muhammad Iqbal, a poet often described as one of the spiritual fathers of Pakistan, who had studied for a few months at Heidelberg in 1907, after his return to India, wrote passionate letters to Emma Wegenast, a young woman who had taught him German at Heidelberg:

'No land and no ocean can keep us apart. We will be ever together and my thoughts like magic will run after you and strengthen our bond'.

Significantly, Iqbal recorded no similar episodes from his time at Cambridge."


It was Iqbal's captive dove status in India that made him love a female German uqaab (eagle) named Emma Wegenast.

Where are Iqbal's letters to Emma?

Now consider what Mohammad Aman Herbert Hobohm states about someone hiding the "more than 40 letters plus some photographs that were handed over by Emma Wegenast to Mr Mumtaz Hasan of the the Pakistan-German Forum in 1959".

Letters? What letters?

The forum was a bilateral cultural association of which Mumtaz Hasan was the President.

Since all governments excel at official cover-ups, the collection of Iqbal's letters to Emma possibly still remain under lock and key somewhere. Is there a dungeon where Emma's replies to Iqbal might be found? Did Iqbal, before his death, or someone later destroy that evidence?

Iqbal died in 1938. Emma never married. When Pakistan came into being in 1947, she retired from work, and at age eighty-five died in 1964.

Iqbal in the eyes of the world

A lot can be said about how Iqbal's thoughts influenced generations spread across the continents. In Iran Iqbal is known as Iqbal-e Lahori (Iqbal of Lahore) and acclaimed for the beauty of his poetry and his love for the Persian language.


The German expert on Iqbal, Professor Dr. Annemarie Schimmel (1922-2003 ) wrote:
Forget the stiff official photos, Iqbal sat this way at home

“Iqbal is an ideal example of what history of religion calls a 'prophetic' type of experience, an experience which made him soar to new heights."

Iqbal condensed his thoughts in the final lines of a poem dedicated to Emma's river Neckar: Darya-e-Neckar (Heidelberg) kay kinaray par" (An Evening On The Banks Of The Neckar, Heidelberg):


اے دل تو بھی خموش ہو جا 
You too, o heart, be still
آغوش میں غم کو لیکے سو جا 
Hold your grief to your bosom, and sleep

Where is Iqbal now?


Living on the lowly 2,918 meters high Mount Olympus, the Greek Zeus and his immoral gods and goddesses fought amongst themselves for 'flesh' and dominion.


Here we have, Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain that reaches 8,848 meters. The Nepalese call it 'Gauri Sankar' or 'Sagarmāthā', the Tibetans know it as 'Chomolungma', and the British labelled it 'Peak XV'. One could find greater comfort in imagining sage-poet Iqbal's contended spirit residing atop this very mountain.

* * *
©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2018

Stayed tuned for my next article: Iqbal In Love With Atiya Fyzee


Acknowledgement
If I were to list all the references the old-fashioned away right here, this article would be twice its current size. The web links (URLs) have been included in the text. Just click on the words in blue colour and you will reach those other pages that contain either the text used (after laborious editing) or more information. I visited hundreds of web sites while researching for material on Allama Iqbal. Omissions, if any, were unintentional. I thank those from whom obtaining permission to use some images was either impossible or who did not respond to my requests.

Photo of Goethe
Photo of Friedrich Nietzsche (1899, by Hans Olde)
Munib Iqbal's FaceBook page
Hidden hand of Mustafa Kemal


DISCLAIMER
No one must misconstrue the information presented here about Iqbal as disinformation or insults. The information here was meticulously collected (after cross-checking) from numerous sources on the internet (without the use of proxy servers in Pakistan). If you feel something here needs to be amended, please email me the suggestions with believable references. Until then, whatever is written here shall be considered correct.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

How To Plan For An Umrah

Umrah is a 'minor pilgrimage' or 'lesser pilgrimage', while the Hajj (a resolve to some magnificent duty) is the 'major pilgrimage’.

While Umrah is highly recommended, Hajj is compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can economically and physically afford it. The Arabs address even the Umrah pilgrims as Haji (one who performs Umrah).


The Umrah (عمرة‎‎) is a pilgrimage to Makkah (Arabia) that can be performed by Muslims during any time of the year except the five days of 9-13 Dhul Hajj (during which it is considered makrooh tahreemi or prohibited). However, the Hajj is offered only during the eleventh Islamic month of Dhul Hajj based on the lunar calendar.

Why do you need to go?

Pilgrimage means more than just offering prayers at the Haram, consuming Ajwa dates and drinking Zamzam water.


Ask yourself a few honest questions before embarking on this holy journey:
  1. Am I going for Umrah for Allah’s pleasure or because it is a popular religious activity these days?
  2. Will I be able to wash off all my sins in Makkah?
  3. Will I be able to refrain from indulging in sinful behaviour after returning home?
  4. Why am I going to Makkah if I am unwilling to change?
  5. If I do not improve as a human being after performing Umrah, it means my pilgrimage was rejected by Allah. What shall I do to reverse this condition?
What is Umrah?

The word Umrah literally means ‘to visit a populated place’.

In the Shariah (laws derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah practises of the last Messenger of Allah) Umrah means ‘to perform Tawaaf (counter clockwise circumambulation) around the Ka’aba.

Running seven times between the hills Al-Safa and Al-Marwah is called Sa'i and which commemorates Hazrat Hajira’s search for water and God's mercy 
in answering prayers. This is done after assuming Ihram (a sacred state), from one of the six Miqaat points (geographically ‘stated places’). Each run is 350m or a total of 3.15 Km for seven runs.

After the Tawaaf and the Sa'i, Muslims complete the rituals associated with Umrah with halq or taqseer (shaving of the head). Pilgrims then drink water from the well of Zamzam just as the Last Messenger of Allah did over 1,400 years ago.

There are two types of Umrah:
  • Al-Umrat al mufradah refers to Umrah that is performed independently of Hajj.
  • Umrat al-tammatu refers to Umrah that is performed in conjunction with Hajj; the rituals of the Umrah are performed first and then those associated with the Hajj.

Umrah is obligatory

According to the Hadith (Bukhari 1654, Muslim 1253, Tirmidhi 821), the Last Messenger of Allah performed four Umrahs and one Hajj but some scholars insist he performed three Hajjs (two before migration to Medina and the last Farewell Hajj).
Many Muslims end up performing Umrahs for deceased relatives while forgetting that every nafs (ego) is individually responsible for deeds done during a limited earthly life and which effect the ruh (soul).

Contrary to the Christian belief, Islam does not require a believer to carry another person’s cross over the shoulders.


If your deceased spouse, parent(s), children or sibling(s) were unable to perform Umrah, it is better to pray for their forgiveness instead of burdening yourself with their sins or attempting to wash them in Makkah.

Holy business?

Even if it were to be believed that performing four Umrahs was the Sunnah (action) of the Messenger of Allah, under what compulsion do Muslims perform more than that number?


Why are the religious scholars silent on key issue and why has piety become an open display of money and fake religiosity?


Arabia has already declared that their future revenues—upwards of $16 billion each year—will mostly come from Hajj because oil has lost its artificially inflated value. The troika of Arab hotel owners, tour-operators and the mullahs are indulging in getting everyone hooked to performing repeated Umrahs.

As for the Hajj, the Qur’an imposes a simple to understand condition:
(3:97) Hence, pilgrimage unto the Temple is a duty owed to God by all people who are able to undertake it (or able to afford it, or who can find a way to it).
What the verse means is this: suppose a poor Muslim man has daughters or sisters that he must marry off, or care for an ailing family member, or get his sons educated enough to earn a decent living. If he is unable to attend to important matters at home, he is not obliged to spend a small fortune on performing Umrah or Hajj.

Or suppose that he must pass through a war-zone (and risk getting killed) to get to Makkah. What answer will he give to Allah on Judgement Day for endangering his own life and ruining his family's? Islam, therefore, is a practical religion which does not commands believers to burden themselves unnecessarily.
The Prophet's house (birth place) in Makkah
If one is physically straightened or economically unstable, presenting himself at Allah’s House is bound to displease Him. It is best to go for Umrah in good health—physically, emotionally and economically.

Sadly, many performers of multiple Umrahs are unable to wash off their sins in Makkah because upon returning home, their conduct is not purged of lying, cheating and sinning. This clearly indicates that their visits have not be blessed and the Umrahs (or Hajj) rejected.

Basic preparation

A few weeks prior to your departure, start building up your stamina for long brisk walks. If you wish to offer five congregational prayers in the rows nearest to the Prophet’s mausoleum in Medina. This translates into walking for ten 
Kilometres daily.

Our lifestyles at home are such that usually the ladies and the children rely more on chauffeur-driven luxury cars than their feet. Physical stamina is in short supply.

While wheel-chairs and attendants are available for hire at Makkah. Carrying along your own wheel-chair for a disabled person does come handy while moving about for food and shopping.

A spiritual package

Let the travel agent make a small profit for making your life easy. Resist the temptation to arrange for accommodation on your own as that may not be a cheaper proposition. Travel agents can rent hotel rooms in bulk and get better discounts.


The star-ratings of hotels are important if you prefer 5-star luxury or insist on acting like a VIP in Allah’s House. That said, it is not a sin to ask for some comfort especially in hot weather.

Go for a travel 'package' as it normally includes everything: 
 visa processing fees, return tickets by air, hotel accommodation (with a sumptuous breakfast), and travel between the airports and the hotels (but not ziarah of historical sites).

Group-travel with your extended family or strangers is cheaper and provides greater support.


Taking women, children and aged folks along will drain you of energy. 
The truth is: family matters distract from praying properly, lessen focus, and waste precious time and energy. If you insist on taking along difficult-to-handle family members along, nobody can stop you from earning extra sawaab (Allah’s reward points).

Although hotel rooms can accommodate anywhere from two to six people in each, it is best to keep the maximum number of persons per room down. Sleeping with crying infants or snoring aged folks will cause sleep deprivation which must be avoided to gain maximum benefit from the pilgrimage.

Trips range from 4 nights to as many as 30.  Avoid religious overkill. Staying longer means unnecessary expenses, crowding inside hotels, pushing and shoving at the Holy sites, and feelings of claustrophobia. 
A longer stay may not make you more pious. Do not be a selfish hoarder of sawaab by assuming that the longer you stay in Arabia, the more spiritually dry-cleaned you will emerge.

What to look for in a travel agent

Get an authorised travel agent with links to a reputable Arabian agent. His good reputation will result in fewer headaches in a foreign land. Prior to Ramadan, the visa fees start shooting up from Rs 14,000 to 25,000 and reach up to Rs 35,000.


These days, many rich Muslims feel the urge to spend the entire month of Ramadan in the cities of Medina and Makkah. May Allah have mercy on the poor who imitate the rich and the starved who go hungry because the rich waste food.

Charity and prayers go hand in hand but it seems that many Muslims these days are fixating only on prayers.
Transportation

Any decent package will take care of travel between the airports and the hotels.


A good travel agent will provide a luxurious American GMC vehicle able to comfortably transport 6-8 passengers. Anything less will mean reduced comfort level during the 5-hours long journey between Medina and Makkah.


If the GMC’s driver can speak your language—or at least English—it will reduce stress. An alternative is to enquire from your hotel’s concierge; he will present a much cheaper solution as taxis of all sizes are readily available at the doorstep.


If you wish to go for ziarah (visits) of important historical sites in Medina and Makkah, the travel agent will invariably quote you a higher price.

Be mindful of the fact that many sites of historical importance have been demolished by House of Saud to make room for commerciality and ugly sky-scrappers.

The documents you require

The documents required for travel may vary but the following are essential:
  1. Two coloured passport-sized photographs with light blue background. Women’s heads must be covered in the photographs
  2. Valid passport (with not less than six months remaining to expiry)
  3. Leave certificate from your employer
  4. Air travel tickets with confirmed two-way booking
  5. Original CNIC (computerised national identity card)
After the travel agent has confirmed your hotel booking, filled out relevant forms and obtained visas, he will issue his agency’s ID card which is required for identifying yourself at various points during the trip.

The agent should provide you with a detailed printed plan with names and cell-phone numbers or relevant persons. Once you pay the full charges of the tour; do obtain a receipt for your record.

The passport

This document must not have less than six months remaining for expiry.


Estimated expenses person (does not include the cost of air travel)
  1. Tickets: 79,000 (self-financed economy class tickets Rs 55,000-110,000 each)
  2. Package (3 nights in Medina, 3 nights in Makkah): 456,000 (hotels, transportation, visas)
  3. Expenses: Rs 35,000 (food for six persons twice a day), Rs 45,000 (shopping etc.)
  4. Total: 620,000 (103,000/person with my free tickets)
  5. It is best to carry a reasonable amount of foreign currency, say SR 600-1200 per person. The legal limit for Riyals allowed into Arabia is 60,000.
  6. While leaving Pakistan the limit is Rs 3,000 of Pakistani currency or $10,000. It is best to avoid using credit cards abroad unless you wish to make the banks rich through charging of double conversion rates (Rupees to Dollars to Riyals).
Health

To avoid fatigue, it might be best to land at Jeddah, perform the Umrah and then proceed to Medina.


I followed the travel agent’s advice, landed in Medina and then proceed for Umrah to Makkah because the Messenger of Allah went from Medina to Makkah as well.

As you leave Pakistan, the health department’s officials will make you drink anti-Polio drops and issue certificates that have no value in Arabia.


Upon arrival at Medina, the officials will again make you drink more of that anti-Polio concoction. Only pregnant ladies are exempt from drinking these drops.

I strongly advise you to take written prescriptions from your doctors and carry sufficient medicines for the entire trip. Carry along a small medical kit will take care of aches, cough and fever because medicines are expensive in Arabia.


I was advised by a friend; "In case something goes wrong abroad, visit a government hospital instead of a private clinic."

As for poor health, I recall seeing a man with his aged father offering prayers inside Masjid-e-Nabwi. The poor son had to repeatedly gather in a plastic bag the saliva of a father who coughed frequently. This not only disturbed others, it felt repulsive in that Holy environment.

My own mother fell sick during the last days of the Umrah. This kept her away from congregational prayers, hence less sawaab for her. Perhaps I got extra sawaab for caring for her, but then if Islam is turned into a sawaab-machine for scoring spiritual reward points, selfishness and self-centeredness tend to creep in.


Rituals and prayers

VERILY, God does not forgive the ascribing of divinity to aught beside Him, although He forgives any lesser sin unto whomever He wills: for he who ascribes divinity to aught beside God has indeed contrived an awesome sin. Qur'an 4:48

Outlining the finer points of rituals and Umrah prayers is beyond the scope of this article. It is best to conduct research on the internet or ask a Haji friend. Be mindful of one thing: unintentional slips will occur during the journey no matter how well-prepared you go.

The rituals and supplications will vary somewhat for Muslims belonging to:
  1. Sunni madhhab (Hanbali, Maliki, Shafi’i or Hanaffi school of thought)
  2. Sub-sect (Barelvi, Deobandi etc.)
  3. Shi’a fiqh (jurisprudence) schools of Ismaili, Bohra, or Khoja varieties
  4. You are strongly advised to rid yourself of the poisonous ideology of takfir (labelling others as unbelievers worth killing). Imagine other fellow beings as travellers on different roads headed for the same destination.
  5. Ensure that the rituals and prayers do not make you commit shirk (associating partners with Allah) as this is the only sin that is unpardonable according to the Qur’an:
Be careful about what you ask for in your prayers. Cherish the simplicity and purity of Islam as it was practised long ago.

Be humble and sincere in your intentions. Seek much forgiveness and Divine guidance, and happily tolerate whatever hardships come your way during the Umrah.

Conclusion

Pilgrimage has become quite dangerous because of official corruption and deaths that occur yearly due to stampedes and accidents at Makkah. It is not guaranteed that the government of Arabia will send back the bodies of publicly-executed convicts or of those who die in stampedes at Makkah.

Unfortunately, performing Umrah has become a religious VIP tour that brings varying levels of happiness and peace to the pilgrims. Long trips are not only expensive but unjustifiable considering the depressed economies and political turmoils plaguing most Muslim states.

Minor irritants might overwhelm you on this sacred journey if you habitually leave everything to Allah. As they say in Arabia: first tie your camel and then place your trust in God. 

If you find that this article has helped you in some way, please pray for me. If you feel it can be improved, kindly post suggestions. May Allah accept your repentance and Umrah.

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2017

Acknowledgement
Some pictures courtesy of Native Pakistan
Bahraini man who performed tawaaf around the Kaaba during 1941 floods is dead
Destruction of early Islamic heritage sites in Saudi Arabia
Video of door opening of Kaaba
Tawaaf on a hoverboard
Women with periods
Grand view of Kaaba from high point

Disclaimer
I have used the word Arabia instead of KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) throughout this article as this was the original name of the land whose king the Messenger of Allah never claimed to be. Had he wished, he could have renamed it after his own tribe's name. With this in mind, I sincerely hope that KSA’a authorities will not mind my pious choice.