Over the spring break in Education City (EC), the Cultural Exchange Club at Texas A&M University in Qatar (TAMUQ) took 20 males and a number of females on Umrah. Despite being a Texas A&M club, students from all over EC took part in pilgrimage. The group included lifelong Muslims as well as recent converts like Steven Stelljes, a chemical engineering major at TAMUQ. Stelljes eagerly reflected on his experience in Mecca.
Photo credit: Mohammed Hamouda
Can you please tell us why did you decide to go on the Umrah Trip this year?
I wasn’t going to go to be honest. I just didn’t think I was ready for something as important as this. But after a lot of thought, I realized that an opportunity does not come very often and that being able to perform Umrah is a blessing from Allah. I realized this was a great chance to strengthen my iman.
Since this is your first time to perform Umrah, what were your initial thoughts about this trip?
Yeah, it was my first time. Alhamdulillah I was with a great group of people who were there with me every step of the way, making sure everything was going accordingly, so I felt very secure. But in all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect! I was very excited about it though.
Can you please describe your feeling when you entered Makkah the first time?
We entered Mecca as the Maghrib call to prayer was happening and the first thing I notice was that all the shops were closed! Amazing how a whole city fit their lives around the Salah, and not fit their Salah in their lives.
Entering the Masjid al-Haram for the first time though was absolutely incredible! I remember feeling a very overwhelming sensation during my first prayer in the mosque. It really is quite an indescribable sensation. Strange, but in only 3 days there, I really felt as if the Masjid had become a home.
Photo credit: Mohammed Hamouda
How did you feel about travelling with our students from the EC community? Do you think you would have enjoyed it if you went alone?
The students from EC that came on the trip were an amazing bunch of people! I especially bonded with the members of our group who were all great people. We spent our nights talking in our room sharing our stories and really made a connection with each other. We helped each other become better Muslims. I am particularly grateful for being able to spend time with my roommates though. We spent many hours at the mosque praying and reflecting on our lives and set an example for each other. It clearly showed us what it meant to be brothers in Islam! I wouldn’t have wanted to go with anyone else!
In short, can you describe how did you benefit from this trip as a whole?
The benefits of this trip are already so clear! I just feel like a better person with Islam in my heart and in my life. I feel motivated to educate myself more about my religion and strengthen the iman (faith) that I had built up during the trip. Right now I’m starting to read Sahih al-Bukhari.
The trip put a lot of things in perspective as well. Most people only focus on the things that Islam prohibits, such as drinking, eating pork, etc, but many people miss all the beautiful things that Islam commands you to do, such as speaking with kind words, being truthful, and being kind to your parents, etc. There are a lot more things I learnt but they all just made me a better Muslim.
Do you have any additional comments that you would like to add?
I recommend everyone to take advantage of such an amazing opportunity and take part in Umrah with sincerity inshallah!