Miqat is an Arabic word which literally means, ‘a stated place’. This is the place where Muslims setting out to perform Umrah or Haj stop over to assume the state of Ihram. Coming in from Madinah, our miqat was at Dhu’l Hulayfa, a town about 9 kilometers from the city. We took the government-operated bus, SAPTCO, which cost around SR 55 per person. They were very strict in checking our passports, since these buses don’t get stopped at check points.
Prior to checking out of our hotel earlier that day, we started assuming our Ihram. We showered, changed into our Umrah clothes and offered the two raka’at nafl prayer before setting out. I wore my new abaya, but there wasn’t anything unusual about my appearance. Masood, however, came out wearing his two-piece white, unhemmed sheets (more or less like towel material), feeling slightly awkward managing the lower garment. I looked at him for the longest time – my husband, the man who gave me nothing but happiness and love, stood before me ready to fulfill his obligation to Allah. I uttered a prayer for him, in my heart, right then and there.
We arrived at Masjid al Miqat in Dhu’l Hulayfa 30 minutes before Maghrib time. The driver told us we had half an hour to assume Ihram. Since we were already dressed in our Umrah clothes, we went in to make ablution. I was somehow grateful that we assumed part of our Ihram from the hotel itself. Although the masjid has a huge facility for bathing and washing, the crowd made the place a total mess. Sisters were all over the bathing and ablution areas, splashing water everywhere. There was a long queue leading to the restrooms, with older women knocking on the doors incessantly. It was total chaos. I finally found a spot to perform wudhu, but I had no place to put my bag – there was water everywhere!
After praying Maghrib and Ish’a together, we all met up in front of the food stall near our bus. We had tea, and bought juice to take along the journey. By this time, we had also made the Umrah niyah aloud:
Oh Allah, here I am performing Umrah.
There is actually no special salah (2 raka’at) established in Sunnah to be performed after adopting or relating to Ihram. It is preferred that the niyah is done after a salah, if possible. Then we started the talbiyah, words that I had been so eager to say for the past few weeks. Words that I had been trying to read aloud to myself time and time again before our arrival in K.S.A., so that I may recite them perfectly when the right time comes.
Here I am, oh Allah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am.
Surely all praise, grace and dominion are Yours. And you have no partner.
These word signify a response to the summons of Allah, for He is the one who invited us, calling us to visit the sacred mosque and worship Him. These words emphasize sincerity, submission, and seeking to draw nearer and closer to Allah. These words also acknowledge Allah’s sovereignty.
We were now officially in the state of Ihram.
The bus started its journey towards Makkah at around 7:30 pm. Masood and I recited the talbiyah as often as we could, him loudly and me silently. We stopped in between to drink, make dhik’r, or discuss issues pertaining to Umrah and Islam in general. Needless to say, we avoided idle chatting.
By 9 pm, we had a stopover in the middle of nowhere. There seemed to be only three structures in that place: a garage, restaurant and restroom. I could hear crickets. There was darkness beyond the restaurant.
We ordered chicken mandi, the only thing available at the moment. I had another cup of tea afterwards. I noticed I’ve been drinking too much tea during this trip. Maybe the caffeine temporarily provided relief from exhaustion.
Back on the highway, without the bright street lights we got so accustomed to here in the U.A.E., and driving across the desert – which seemed pretty scary in the dark – we continued reciting the talbiyah. I focused on its meaning as each word escaped by lips silently, and tears began to flow. “Here I am, Oh Allah, here I am,” I say earnestly.
A couple of hours later, my eyes heavy with sleep, I dozed off.