Islamic Help

My Umrah With 700 Palestinian Orphans

15 th February, 2016

In January 2016, Islamic Help took more than 700 Palestinian orphans from Jordan to Umrah. It was one of the most ambitious and challenging projects we had ever undertaken. Orphans programme officer Imran Boota gives a personal account of this blessed journey.

Alhamdulillah, with the permission and blessings of Allah swt, I was fortunate enough to accompany and facilitate orphans on a blessed journey to perform Umrah in January 2016 with Islamic Help. It’s a programme that has captured the hearts and imaginations of so many people since we launched the pilot project in January 2015.

My personal journey with it, however, began even before any of us at Islamic Help had thought about undertaking such an ambitious undertaking. It started with a dream that I was stood outside Islamic Help’s offices, dressed in ihram with our dear colleagues Shaukat Lal and Kamran Uddin (Islamic Help staff). What I remember from the dream was that I turned to brother Shaukat and asked what should we say, he replied ‘Labayka Allahhuma Labbayk’ (Here I am at your service, oh Allah, here I am)

Little did I know that this dream would become a reality and only a few months later, in January 2015, I would be travelling with brother Shaukat and 27 beautiful orphans from Jordan to undertake our first journey as part of Umrah for Orphans.

That occasion, I felt, was a great success, Alhamdulillah. The impact the journey had on the orphans was incredible.

Hearing their duas and seeing their tears as they first saw the Ka’aba is a memory I will always cherish.

In June 2015, Islamic Help officially launched the Umrah for Orphans campaign to the public and the response was overwhelming. It was a campaign that focused solely on the experiences and stories of our orphans and it captured the hearts and imagination of our donors.

With such a response, we began to plan one of the biggest projects Islamic Help has been blessed to carry out. Organising a group of 700 Palestinian orphans to travel by coach from Jordan to the blessed lands to perform Umrah was a huge task.

It was a massive logistical challenge that needed great planning, from colour co-ordinated flags for each orphan area, to detailed booklets for each orphan explaining how to perform Umrah. These were just some of the details that were needed to make the experience as easy and smooth as possible for all involved in the journey.

With all preparations complete, we were ready to travel with over 700 orphans to the blessed lands. It was a long drive to Saudi Arabia but it allowed us the time to build relationships with the orphans.

The travel is also a great test of patience. We can expect to get very little sleep on such trips and we sacrifice all our worldly comforts; however such sacrifices are for the blessings to take such beautiful children on this special journey.

Once in Makkah, we rested before preparing everyone to make our way towards the Haram Shareef to perform what was to be a very special Umrah. The walk to the Haram Shareef was an experience which brought goosebumps.

The sight of 700 orphans marching towards the Ka’aba, pronouncing the Talbiyyah at the top of their lungs was breath-taking. Passers-by were stunned at what they were seeing, not knowing who the children were, but knowing that these children were special and something incredible was taking place.

I was stopped by people and asked who these children where, as if the orphans were celebrities and they wanted to join in with what was happening.

When we explained that they were Palestinian orphans, their faces would light up with delight, some even offering donations for the orphans.

How lucky were we to be amongst them, looking after them on this spiritual journey.

Medina was the second leg of the Umrah trip. We were now in the presence of our beloved Prophet, the best of mankind, Muhammad sallalahu alaihi wasallam. The orphans have an experience and connection here that is exclusive to them.

Our beloved Prophet (saw) was an orphan and he bestowed a revered status on the orphan and those who look after orphans. Again in Medina, the orphans were met with great curiosity, and we would see people enquiring as to who these special children were. The orphans did not want to leave the beautiful city and often spoke about how they did not want this journey to end.

Travelling with and staying with the orphans during such an intense journey allowed us to form a strong bond with many of the children. Yusuf was one of the children that had an impact on me. There was never a moment along the journey where he was not smiling, it was infectious.

On days where some of us staff members had fallen ill, he would see us and ask us how we were and tell us he was making dua for us. I pray Allah swt accepts his duaas and the duaas of all the amazing orphans that had travelled with us on this blessed journey.

Performing Umrah with the orphans was, for me, the stuff of dreams. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like for a Palestinian refugee orphan. They very rarely travel outside of the poverty-stricken camps in which they live in Jordan, and to see a world outside their camps was a huge experience.

The orphans have seen and understand that they belong to a bigger Ummah. It was a journey they thought possible only in their dreams, but it was made a reality by all those involved, with the permission of Allah swt.

Although they would not like to be mentioned, I have to thank brother Shaukat and Dr Khalid (our Jordan country manager Khalid Alsoudani) for all the efforts and sacrifices they made for this project to go as smoothly as possible. I pray Allah swt accepts it from them and from all involved.

Surely Allah swt was the most Magnificent host to the most blessed of children on this trip, and we were fortunate to be a part of and a witness to it. Alhamdulillah.

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