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On Monday, 13 March 2017,Human Appeal Australia (HAA) in conjunction with Deen Academy (DA) hosted a group of young Muslim Australians for its third annual Aspiring Leaders Umrah Tour of four countries – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and UAE. The tour took place from 3 to 22 February 2017, comprising fifteen participants from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and for the first time Brisbane.

The group of young university students and graduates were led and mentored by Bashar Al-Jamal, director of HAA and Dr Zac Matthews from DA.

The journey commenced with undertaking the minor pilgrimage (umrah) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Little equates to the spiritual enrichment gained from worshippers dressed in ceremonial clothing visiting Islam’s holiest mosque, the Kaba, performing rituals of spiritual cleansing as taught by Prophet Abraham and the final Messenger of God, Muhammad (peace be upon them both). Tour members spent valuable moments connecting with the Almighty and reconciling their personal affairs with the Sublime.

The City of Light – Medina – the Prophet’s city, where his mosque and grave are located was the second stop of the tour. Standing at the very place where the profound message flourished left an indelible mark on all. Several museums and exhibitions were visited both historical cities including Assalaamu-alayka Ayyuhan-Nabiy (The Prophet’s Project), the Holy Mosques, Ninety-Nine Names of God, etc. The group also attended a lecture on the Prophet’s leadership by Dr Ammara from Taiba University in Medina. They also visited in the two cities the historical sites of Arafat, Mina, Quba, and Qiblatain. The most physically demanding event of the stay in Mecca was climbing the 600 steps of the Mount of Light to reach the Cave of Hira where the Prophet first received Divine revelation from the Archangel Gabriel.

After renewing spiritual and emotional connections at Islam’s holiest of places, the tour then moved on to Jordan. The group visited a distribution centre and personally assisted with HAA’s Winter Aid Appeal handing out gas cookers, blankets, mattresses and food packs to more than sixty Syrian refugee families. The provisions were estimated to last about three weeks in the cold winter. Witnessing first-hand the dire plight of refugees was gut-wrenching and taught an invaluable lesson about the important need to care for others. They also attended an inspiring awards ceremony at an Orphan Centre, met with the Conservation of the Holy Quran Society in Amman as well as the Australian Ambassador, the honourable Miles Armitage. The tour group also visited historical ruins at Jerash, Um Qais, Ajloun, Petra and spent the night camping in the desert at Wadi Rum. The group also attended a lecture on the importance of the Quranic message by Prof. Zaghloul El-Naggar.

From Jordan, the group travelled to Istanbul in Turkey, equally rich in history bridging the East and West. The group’s first stop was to pray at the famous Fatih mosque, followed by Sultan Ahmet, Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari and other significant places. The tour group was fortunate to be hosted by the Grand-Mufti of Istanbul, Prof. Hasan Yilmaz as well as the Mufti of Ayup, Dr Muammer Ayan. Another highlight was a visit to TRT World hosted by former Sydney ABC journalist Mohammed Taha. Other visits included a breath-taking ferry ride on the Bosphorus Strait, shopping at the Grand Bazaar and eating delicious broad beans outside the Suleimeniyeh mosque. The group also attended a workshop on managing public opinion by Dr Nasir Al-Mani` from Anadolu Leadership and Management Training.

From Istanbul, the tour moved to Dubai. The group visited the HAI offices in Ajman where presentations about its orphan program and various other humanitarian projects were outlined. The group also participated in a workshop on leadership conducted by former Sydney-sider Ahmed Elshrif and did some site-seeing in Dubai before returning to Australia.

The overwhelming feedback from participants was that the tour was “a trip of a lifetime” that they would never forget on their journey of personal development to serve the needs of humanity. Special acknowledgment goes to A&H Travel for supporting the 2017 tour.

Tour group members: Sydney (Abdulsamed Sari, Raihan Hossain, , Zafar Mohamed Rizvi, Sandy Muchtarudin, Abdullah Al-Jamal, Mohamed Mhajer), Melbourne (Walid Al-Kantar, Ismail Al-Lahham, Abdur-Rahmaan Balla, Mohammad Chehnah, Rabeea Ellaz), Adelaide (Hussein Mahmud, Asyraaf Shahrizan), Brisbane (Furqan Ahmed, Ali Rane), group leaders (Bashar Al-Jamal, Dr Zac Matthews).

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