Sobia Hussain is a Toronto based soap artisan. She runs the Olive Tree Soap Company and specializes in all natural skin care products. Since she’s also Muslim, she’s launched a unique skin care package catered to Muslims embarking on pilgrimage. With Eid al Adha drawing near, pilgrims will be getting ready to leave for Mecca in about a month to perform Hajj. If you’re in the process of packing for pilgrimage or know someone who is, we talked to The Olive Tree Soap Company to learn more about their products for pilgrims. The “Hajj and Umrah Skincare Kit” for pilgrims comes in a convenient travel size suitable for airplanes and is available online and at select independent retailers across the Greater Toronto Area for $15.99.
Hello Holy Days: “What inspired you to start making this line of soaps for pilgrims?”
The Olive Tree Soap Company: “My husband has been taking Hajj & Umrah groups as a mu’alim (spiritual group leader) for about 10 years. While a Hajji (a person who is performing Hajj) is in the state of ihram (the sacred state in which the pilgrims carry out the required rituals to complete Hajj or Umrah), they are not permitted to use perfume or perfumed products. Soaps and cleansers typically have fragrance in them so it is advisable for a pilgrim to use only unscented products during ihram. I have been able to accompany my husband on some of these trips, and one of the things I found challenging while packing was finding reliable, halal unscented soaps for our journeys. So, one day I thought how great it would be if I could create my own line of unscented soaps. At this time, I hadn’t even considered launching my brand, The Olive Tree Soap Company. However, several years later, soapmaking stumbled upon me and my journey as a soap artisan began.
Soon after launching the business, I introduced my first batch of unscented soaps for Hajj & Umrah. A few years later, I also created a Hajj & Umrah Kit which contained basic skincare you would need such as unscented lotion, shampoo and soap. I also created the Unscented Natural Deodorant to keep pilgrims feeling clean and dry in the hot desert climate of Saudi Arabia. This year, I finally launched my Complete Hajj & Umrah Care Package which includes all the things I personally use to prepare for my trips; I thought these items would be extra helpful for anyone else as well. The Care Package includes: Step-by-Step Hajj & Umrah Guides, A Packing Checklist, Miswak (an Islamic traditional toothbrush made of a blessed tree branch which Prophet Muhammad used), Unscented Natural Deodorant, Unscented Soap, Unscented Lotion, Unscented Shampoo and a Tawaf Tasbih (a 7-bead tasbih which helps you keep track of your rounds around the Ka’ba and walks from Safaa to Marwah at Sa’ee). This new care package is great as gifts for Hajjis or also people who want to save the guesswork of their journey so they can focus on other important aspects of their preparation for Hajj & Umrah.
This is one line of my products which I get rather emotional about. I have been to the blessed cities of Makkah and Madinah several times now and each time is a new spiritual awakening for me. You come back with new perspectives on life, how you can be a better person and be of service to others. Each person’s journey is different, but it’s always impactful in so many meaningful ways. The idea of these blessed pilgrims using my products during their own spiritual journeys moves me greatly. It’s a deeply humbling feeling and I feel so blessed to be able to have a tiny part in it.”
Hello Holy Days: “How do these soaps differ from unscented soaps found in markets? How many bars do you recommend a pilgrim take on Hajj?”
The Olive Tree Soap Company: “There were unscented soaps on the market but they were made with ingredients I didn’t trust 100%. I would find animal fats, SLS (a foam boasting chemical), a mysterious ‘masking fragrance’ and/or other ingredients that made me uncertain of the reliability of the products to use during ihram. I wanted to make sure the worship of all the pilgrims was accepted without violations being made by accidental use of products which may not have been permitted. So I created my own line of unscented products which would be in tune with their needs and requirements. The Olive Tree Soap Company’s line of Hajj & Umrah Unscented Skincare are halal, natural, eco-friendly and vegan. They are also free from SLS, parabens, phthalates and other harsh chemicals. You can feel assured that these soaps are acceptable during your journey as they are also approved by many prominent Muslim scholars. I would recommend one bar of soap or kit per person which you can comfortably use throughout your trip.
Hello Holy Days: “What’s one item that people often forget to pack for Hajj but that you highly recommend? I always tell people to take socks – it can get really cold in the mornings!
The Olive Tree Soap Company: “One of the best recommendations I received from a friend which I always suggest to others is getting gel in-soles (eg. Dr Scholl’s) and placing them into a pair of socks. Since you cannot wear shoes on the marble floor inside the Grand Mosque, the hard flooring can be tough on your feet and heels. After 7 rounds around the Ka’ba and 7 walks back and forth at Sa’ee from Safaa and Marwah, your feet can get very sore and sometimes even form blisters (as in my personal case!). To avoid this, these makeshift slippers are a genius idea that helped me greatly during my Hajj in 2013 and I’ve been using them (and recommending them to others) ever since!”