THE country’s young and financially secure are increasingly looking to balance worldly and spiritual values by concentrating on religious teachings.
As the Indonesian middle income bracket burgeons, with a subsequent surge in the popularity of travel, many young Muslims are opting to spend their holidays going on umrah (minor haj) for a more religious experience.
Rani, a 27-year-old worker at a state-owned enterprise, has lately been spending every free minute browsing the websites of umrah travel agents for her planned pilgrimage next year. Besides reading reviews on the internet, Rani also visits travel fairs in search of the best deal.
“After working for three years, I’ve saved enough to go on umrah,” she said.
Juggling work and life after graduating from university, young people until recently tended not to prioritize the pilgrimage, waiting instead until they were older.
But not for Rani, who has, she said, been dreaming of umrah since she first landed a job in 2011. She said she wanted to learn new things about her religion as well as bolster her faith.
“My priority is to go next year because I am still young and I still can afford to keep saving,” she said.
Rani said she saw nothing wrong with going on umrah early in life, and advised others to do the same.
“Exercising religious activities should not be limited by age or religious knowledge,” she said.
Rani said she would go with her mother. “My mother has already gone on umrah once, so she will accompany me, since I can’t go alone,” she said. Women who go on pilgrimage are advised to be accompanied by muhrim (Male family members).
She said that besides going to Saudi Arabia for umrah, she also wanted to travel to nearby countries. “My choice is Turkey,” she said, adding that she was inspired by her favorite Turkish soap opera.
Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken any time of the year. Unlike haj, umrah is not compulsory, but highly recommended.
For Indonesia, which has more than 200 million Muslims, the ever-rising number of would-be haj pilgrims on the waiting list is a major headache, and has seen a concomitant rise in the number of faithful choosing instead to go on umrah.
The peak season of umrah is during Ramadhan, with many wishing to challenge themselves by fasting in the heat of the Saudi Arabian summer, which can reach 50 degrees Celsius .
Given the promise of the market, many travel agents combine their umrah packages with traveling to other Middle Eastern countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Palestine.
A basic umrah package of nine days costs around Rp 30 million (US$2,250), though the price varies depending on accommodation and additional destinations.
Dhanan Febrie Handita, 27, who went on umrah in 2014, said it was one of the most memorable experiences of his life.
During the pilgrimage, Dhanan said, he experienced a miracle after arriving late to pray at the Masjidil Haram Mosque.
“I had to pray on the street like many other Mecca residents. I didn’t bring a prayer mat, but when I knelt, the ground suddenly became clean [of dirt],” he said.
Dhanan added that his little brother’s sprained leg was, moreover, healed in just two days by sprinkling it with holy water from the Zam Zam well.
Dhanan said he definitely wanted to go back to Mecca either for umrah or haj. “I advise Muslims to go when they are young – it is easier to complete all the rituals when you’re in good physical condition,” he said.
“Going on such a journey at a young age is an unforgettable spiritual experience that can guide you through life,” he said.
The number of Indonesians going on umrah has shown a steady rise. The Religious Affairs Ministry recorded that 36,324 people went on umrah between January and May this year, increasing 46 percent from 24,869 in the same period last year.
The ministry’s haj and umrah development director, Muhajirin Yanis, said around 67,000 people went on umrah last year.
Muhajirin said that as the pilgrimage had no age limit, even infants could go on umrah.
“I encourage young people who have the financial capability to go on umrah,” he said.
The Jakarta Post
Thu, 9 June 2016