UMRAH IN RAMADAN: Will Saudi Lift Direct flight Suspension on Nigeria?

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By Ibrahim Muhammed

With less than 30 days to the commencement of Ramadan, Nigeria, the fifth largest Hajj/Umrah country is still under suspension of direct flights to Saudi Arabia – the country that houses the two Holy Mosques and other Islamic holy sites. The suspension was announced in December due to the outbreak of omicron variant of Covid-19.

Though the suspension was meant to protect the Islamic holy sites and the Muslim Ummah from the ravaging Corona virus that comes with different variants, the authorities of the Kingdom did not want to take chances especially because the Kingdom is the centre of Muslim convergence all year round.

Consequently, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) in Saudi Arabia announced a temporary flight suspension via a circular to all airlines operating in the Kingdom in December last year saying that all passengers coming from Nigeria are suspended except for those who have spent a period of not less than (14) fourteen days in another country from which they are allowed to come. What many of us think is a temporary measure has now lasted three months with Ramadan coming closer and the hope of lifting the suspension becoming slimmer.

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It is noteworthy that Countries like UK, US, Canada, UAE, Australia and France has since lifted the ban placed on Nigeria and other countries after the World Health Organisation called for lifting of blanket travel bans over Omicron. The said countries have also relaxed or completely reverted Omicron related restrictions in their various countries.

Again,WHO, had said through a statement on international travel regulations that the international travel ban should be lifted or eased since the strict measures have proven to be ineffective.

WHO, in the statement calles on countries that still placed travel ban across borders to lift such bans.

“Lift or ease international traffic bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress experienced by States Parties,” the statement of WHO reads.

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However, Nigerian Muslims are getting more nervous and agitated with the countdown to the blessed month of Ramadan inching closer to our doorstep, the accruable benefits of fasting, praying and performing Umrah in the Month of Ramadan is too great to contemplate missing. It is a golden opportunity.

Moreover, the Federal Government of Nigeria has appealed to Saudi Arabia to lift the travel restriction it imposed on Nigerian travelers following the outbreak of the omicron variant.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zubairu Dada who made the appeal when he met with the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Faisal bin Ebraheem Al-Ghamdi in Abuja.

He urged the Saudi authorities to review the travel restriction it placed on Nigerians over the Omicron outbreak as was already done by many countries who have earlier banned Nigeria but have since reversed their stand having studied the measures put in place by Nigeria in the fight against the Omicron variant and the Coronavirus pandemic.

While we keep praying and hoping for an end to the pandemic, it our hope that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will lift the ban on direct flight to the Kingdom. Performing Umrah in the month of Ramadan attracts a huge reward and it is a source of annual spiritual refreshment for Muslim Ummah all over the world.

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Benefits of Performing Umrah in Ramadan

Ramadan is the blessed month which holds immense importance in the life of Muslims who fast from dawn to dusk for the sake of Allah (SWT). Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and obligatory for every Muslim to observe in the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims are also required to abstain from certain acts that displease Allah to seek spiritual reward. Whoever perform good deeds in the blessed month of Ramadan get double the reward for such deeds and those who seek forgiveness of their sins will surely be forgiven by Allah Almighty the Merciful.

Performing Umrah in the holy month of Ramadan holds great importance, virtues and benefits. Umrah is considered a lesser form of Hajj and whoever performs Umrah with pure intention earns the greatest rewards and highest pleasure of Allah Almighty. It is truly an enriching experience to see people in the blessed month of Ramadan from all over the world joined together in fasting and performing Umrah for the sake of their Lord Almighty Allah. Virtues of performing Umrah in Ramadan can be understood by the following Hadiths:

You might be wondering what is the proof of the reward for performing Umrah in Ramadan as discussed above. The evidence of this reward is found in the Hadith of the Prophet (Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam):

I heard Ibn `Abbas saying, “Allah’s Messenger asked an Ansari woman (Ibn `Abbas named her but `Ata’ forgot her name), ‘What prevented you from performing Hajj with us?’ She replied, ‘We have a camel and the father of so-and-so and his son (i.e. her husband and her son) rode it and left one camel for us to use for irrigation.’ He said (to her), ‘Perform `Umrah when Ramadan comes, for `Umrah in Ramadan is equal to Hajj (in reward),’ or said something similar.”

Ibn Abbas (RA) said: The Messenger of Allah Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said to a woman from among the Ansar – Ibn ‘Abbas mentioned her name but I forgot it – “What kept you from performing Hajj with us?” She said: We only have two camels and the father of her son and her son had gone for Hajj on one camel, and he left us the other camel so that we could carry water on it. He said: “When Ramadan comes, go for ‘Umrah, for ‘Umrah in (that month) is equivalent to Hajj.” (Bukhari)

“Umrah is the expiation for the sins committed during it and the preceding Umrah” (Tirmidhi). If Allah Almighty gives you an opportunity to go to Mecca for performing Umrah, seek His mercy and forgiveness earnestly. Sins can only be forgiven by true repentance or by the grace and mercy of Allah. Umrah is a way to purify mind and soul, and it uplifts the spirit of a Muslim by giving an inspiration of a lifetime. It is the best way to strengthen your faith in the Almighty and achieve spirituality. Allah (SWT) gives rewards for every good deed performed in His way. If you spend your time and money for the sake of Allah, Almighty Allah provides you shelter from mishaps and saves you from trouble. These rewards of Umrah get doubled in the holy month of Ramadan.

One should understand that Umrah done during the month of Ramadan cannot be a substitute for the obligatory Hajj, that is they are equal in reward, but the former does not replace the latter as a fulfillment of the obligation. Hence, whoever performs Umrah in Ramadan, enjoys the virtue of the place i.e. Mecca and time which is the blessed Ramadan. As we all know doing Umrah in the month of Ramadan is more difficult. That is because one may be fasting while performing it or breaking his fast due to the travelling involved, and then have to make up for it. This is not the case when one performs Umrah during any other month.

Umrah is truly a blessing even throughout the year but it certainly holds a special place in the holiest month of Ramadan, an experience that every Muslim should strive to achieve in order to get more blessings and rewards from Almighty Allah. May Allah (SWT) calls us to His house soon. Ameen!

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