IT was my second umrah with a Prime Minister.
The first was in 2002 when I covered the official visit to Saudi Arabia by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The former premier performed the umrah (minor haj) before leaving for home.
Then, I had missed the rare opportunity to enter the holy Kaabah, the focal point of prayers for over a billion Muslims worldwide and the object of their pilgrimage to Mecca.
Tun Mahathir was accorded the privilege, befitting a head of an Islamic government, to enter it – a dream that every Muslim cherishes.
On his first official visit to the kingdom as Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was also given this privilege – and this time, God fulfilled my dream to enter the Kaabah.
And no words could match the feeling of being inside the cubicle sanctuary towards which the faithful turn to pray. It was a feeling of being close to the pulse of Islam.
InsyaAllah (God willing), all my prayers in the Kaabah will be answered.
Mecca was among the last stops in Abdullah’s three-day Saudi itinerary. He then left the Masjidil Haram (where the holy Kaabah is located) with his entourage.
The umrah was among the last things in the itinerary for Pak Lah during his official visit, as I guess he wanted to concentrate fully on the umrah.
The journey to Mecca from Jeddah took us about 40 minutes.
The over 50-member Malaysian delegation, including the media, was escorted by a police motorcade to the holy site. The journey takes an hour with normal driving.
Following a spate of terror attacks that rocked the kingdom, security was tight and heavy. But we did not expect any untoward incident.
One senior official summed up Abdullah’s visit as “fruitful and successful.”
Considering that Malaysia holds the chair of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Prime Minister has met the high expectations placed on him by member countries.
The official said he had been able to handle key issues faced by the OIC, especially in bringing about progress and economic growth among them.
During his eye-to-eye meeting on Tuesday with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the Prime Minister had also stressed on the importance of finding a long-term solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, as he believes that there is no problem that cannot be solved despite the complications.
A visit to Prophet Muhammad’s tomb in Medina was made on the last day of the PM's visit.
While Dr Mahathir has left his mark in the Islamic world for his courage in speaking out for justice for the Thrid World, Abdullah has showed that he is also a competent leader and an equally eminent one despite having been at the helm of the Government for less than a year.