“Experience the spiritual journey of Ramadan Umrah: A unity of hearts” published


Experience the spiritual journey of Ramadan Umrah: A unity of hearts

Yasmin Saikia

Special to The Republic

In America, where diversity thrives and cultures and people intermingle, there exists a beautiful tapestry woven by the threads of faith, community, and spirituality. This is particularly evident among the American Muslim community, representing over 75 nationalities. During the holy month of Ramadan, many Muslims from around the world, including the United States, embark on a sacred pilgrimage known as Umrah, a journey of the heart and soul.

Ramadan Umrah holds a special place for believers, when Muslims from all walks of life come together to Islam’s holiest city — Mecca, seeking the shared pursuit of divine proximity.

For those unfamiliar with the Islamic faith, Umrah may seem like a distant concept, shrouded in mystery. However, at its core, Umrah is a deeply personal and introspective pilgrimage, symbolizing one’s submission to the will of Allah and a desire for spiritual renewal.

The significance of Umrah lies in its resemblance to the greater pilgrimage of Hajj, which is the fifth pillar of Islam. The other four pillars are belief in the oneness of God (Allah), daily prayers, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and giving charity. While Hajj is obligatory for every capable Muslim at least once in their lifetime, Umrah, which is the smaller pilgrimage and is not obligatory, holds its own importance, offering an opportunity for believers to seek forgiveness, blessings, and divine mercy.

So, why do Muslims undertake this spiritual voyage and what is its significance during Ramadan? The reasons are as diverse as the individuals who embark on it. For some, it is a fulfillment of a lifelong dream, a chance to walk in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions; for others, it is a means of seeking solace and guidance in times of difficulty, a reminder of the transient nature of this world and the eternal promise of the Hereafter. Umrah during Ramadan seamlessly brings together the pillars of Islam. Combining fasting with prayer, giving in charity, and performing the rituals of pilgrimage requires an awareness of both human strength and fragility, but, most importantly, humility in submitting to Allah.

The benefits of performing Umrah are manifold, extending beyond the physical act of worship to encompass a profound transformation of the heart and mind. Through the rituals of Tawaf (circumambulation of the Kaaba believed to be originally built by Adam and Eve and reconstructed by Abraham and Ishmael), Sa’i (walking between the hills of Safa and Marwa remembering Hager’s plight in abandonment), and supplication at the sacred site of the divine water fountain of Zamzam (which God provided in response to Hager and Ishmael’s call for help), performing Ramadan Umrah believers experience a spiritual rejuvenation unlike any other.

Amid the sea of pilgrims in Mecca this year, the American Muslim group my husband and I joined was unique. The thirty-two members represented nine diverse ethnicities (Bangladeshi, Indian, Iraqi, Pakistani, Palestinian, Somalian, Syrian, White reverts, and Yemeni), testifying to the beauty of diversity and the power of unity of American Muslims. Together, they performed Umrah, praying in unison to praise the One who created them all.

Dear reader, as you embark on your own spiritual journey, I invite you to consider the profound experience of Ramadan Umrah. Let us transcend our differences and come together as one ummah (community), united in faith and devotion, for in the unity of hearts lies the true essence of humanity.

Yasmin Saikia is the Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies and Professor of History at Arizona State University.

Yasmin Saikia and her husband share photos from their trip to Mecca in 2024. PROVIDED BY YASMIN SAIKIA

Yasmin Saikia is the Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies and Professor of History at Arizona State University.

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