Radio Islam International | 12 September 2017
Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, is the pinnacle of faith and the ultimate human story. Each individual pilgrim carries to and from the Holy Lands a unique set of circumstances and experiences, which when considered, only accentuate the poetic diversity of the Hajj.
Here are heartwarming stories that emerged from coverage of Hajj 1438 reflecting just some of the richness of this odyssey of discovery.
REBIRTH: Spirituality suppressed in Soviet era resurfaces at Hajj
Russia, where the concept of God was frowned upon for seven decades under communism, is witnessing a rapid religious renaissance. This has resulted in an increase in the inflow of pilgrims from Russia; this year making it the highest number ever.
Saudi Arabia this year received pilgrims from a number of Russian Federation states; as well as a maiden flight from Chechnya.
Besides air pilgrims there were those who came by road through transit from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
This year a total of 23,500 pilgrims from the Russian Federation came for Haj. Last year the number stood at 16,500.
The number of pilgrims has been increasing since the disintegration of the Soviet Union when around 20 pilgrims used to make their way to Makkah amid all obstacles and difficulties. Now, this year the figure is reaching over 23,000 pilgrims that makes the Russian Federation as one with the highest number of pilgrims in Europe and higher than some of the Arab countries. Spiritual administration of the country is looking after Haj affairs.
Most of the Russian pilgrims come from the North Caucasus such as Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia and also from Tatarstan, according to Rushan Abbyasov of the Russian Haj Mission.
The pilgrims embark from Makhachkala, Grozny, Magas, Mineralnye Vody, Kazan and Moscow airports.
Unlike European countries, where Islam was introduced by migrants, in Russia many indigenous people professed Islam for centuries and lived side by side with Christians. However, during the Soviet era, all religions were frowned upon. Islam has always been the second largest religion in Russia, but it had never been as visible as it is now.
TRUE FRIENDSHIP: 80-year-old Pakistani friends perform Hajj side by side
Two Pakistani pilgrims have set a real example of true friendship. Ejaz Dalali Ahmad and Ahmad Dalo Raj, both over 80 years old, decided to perform Haj together. They made a promise to one another decades ago that they would raise money together and go to Haj together. What make the lifetime journey all the more interesting is that Ahmed Dalo Raj is blind; he lost his sight many years ago.
When they finally made it to Makkah, the two friends showed the world that the bonds of friendship is so thick, that even at this age they disclosed that they could depend on each other — for Raj, who is totally blind, depended on his friend Ahmed for guidance and direction.
The two close friends from Pakistan waited for 25 years to come to the Haj together. Ahmed refused to do Haj alone and insisted that his longtime friend, Raj accompany him but the latter did not have enough money to meet the expenses of Haj.
"I always had enough money to meet Haj costs but my friend Raj did not. So I had to wait for him for about 25 years until he had collected sufficient funds needed for Haj," Ahmed said.
He said he was overjoyed and exultant when his friend told him that now he had the required amount of money so they could realize their dream of a quarter of a century of doing the fifth pillar of Islam together.
"My friend Raj is blind. We were together since our early childhood. We agreed to do the Haj together when we were both 55 years old but it took him about 25 years to save the amount of money needed for the Haj," Ahmed said.
"I always had the money which was enough for Haj but I waited for my friend until he had the sufficient amount. This only came true this year, following 25 of wait," he added.
Raj depended completely on Ahmed during his movements in Makkah and the holy sites. "Ahmed is the guide on whom I depend on going to the tent, the toilet, the Jamarat and other places," he said.
Raj said he could not thank Ahmed enough because he waited for him for a long time until he was able to save the Haj costs and also for guiding him during the Haj.
"Ahmed is my eyes by which I can see. He is the stick I am using to find my way. He is the power on which I lean. He has always been faithful and loyal friend to me," he said.
Raj said he could not thank his friend enough and does not know how to reward him for his good deeds. "I prayed for him during the Haj and will continue to pray for him for the rest of my life," he said.
Raj said: “Over 25 years have passed since Ejaz raised enough money to go to Haj alone but he did not go. He waited for me. I will always be indebted to him and will never forget what he has done for me.”
SERVITUDE TO PARENTS: Hajj dream realised at 98
Haj Noor, a 98-year-old pilgrim from Pakistan, said though he is only two years shy from completing a century of living, he never lost hope of coming to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj, the dream of his lifetime.
He said his only son worked diligently for 45 years to be able to save the Haj costs and enable him to realize his dream.
Noor said he was married when he was only 20 but his son was born when he was nearing 60. "The years and life troubles have pained me but I never lost hope of doing Haj one day," he said.
He said when his son grew up and came to know about his dream, he promised to bring him and his mother to Haj no matter how much it might cost.
"My son has fulfilled his promise. He worked hard all these years to save money that would enable me to come for Haj," he said appreciating his son's noble gesture and thanking him for keeping his promise.
Amid hot tears, Noor said he lost his wife about five years ago. He was sorry that she had died before realizing her dream of coming to Haj. "If I lived for some more years and Allah gave me money, I would do the Haj for her," he said.
He said he kept praying for her during the entire Haj days and made solemn dua to Almighty Allah to accept his supplications for her.
"The only thing that bothers me is that I have come to the Haj without my wife though we shared this dream together for so many years," he said.
COMPASSION FOR CHILDREN: Parent’s saving discipline sees entire family perform Hajj together
A disciplined savings regime and patience has paid off for two families performing Haj together this year. disciplined savings regime and patience has paid off for two families performing Haj together this year.
Retiree Abu Bakar Mohd Yusof, 60, and his wife Faridah Adam, 58, opened Tabung Haji (TH) accounts for their five children soon after they were born, and deposited RM20 each every month through salary deductions.
“Whenever our salaries increased, we would deposit more. Our intention from the very beginning, was to save enough so that when they are older, we can all go for Haj together as a family,” Abu Bakar told Malaysian media.
Their wish came through this year, and the proud parents are accompanied by their two sons, three daughters and one daughter-in-law.
Their ages range from eldest son Muhammad Amir Fitri, 29, to youngest son Muhammad Amir Firdaus, 18.
“Alhamdulillah, God has granted what we wished for. What is special is that we are not homesick because everyone is here,” Faridah said.
“The only thing we left behind is the house,” her husband added.
Abu Bakar said while in the Holy Land, the family of eight move around together, whether it is to stay overnight and worship at the Grand Mosque or to visit the shops near their hotel.
“Whatever we plan, everyone’s in agreement. You can say we are of one heart, one soul (sehati, sejiwa),” he added.
Speaking on behalf of his younger siblings, Muhammad Amir Fitri said they are happy to be in Mecca as a family, including his wife Nur Farhana Mohd Razali, 31.
“As a young man, there’s obviously a heavy responsibility after completing the Haj. We have to mind our morals, actions, words, and everyday behaviour. We will keep improving ourselves, Insya-Allah,” he said.
Abu Bakar’s advice to other parents is to save money for their children early on, even if it is a small amount, and to register early with TH for Haj.
(New Straits Times)
REUNITED: Palestinian father and son, brother and sister
Two Palestinian brothers who live in Norway reunited with their father after 17 years of separation at this year's Hajj pilgrimage, Sabq reported.
Ayman and Ziad Abu Younes left Gaza for Norway years ago and were never able or allowed - due to it being a besieged area - to make it back to see their father or any of their relatives.
During a phone conversation ahead of this year's pilgrimage, the duo's father told them he had received a permit to attend Hajj.
"This is when I thought to myself: Maybe we could meet him there," Ziad explained.
Ziad and his brother wasted no time. They immediately headed to Saudi Arabia's embassy in Norway, hoping that they'd still be able to apply for Hajj permits.
"When we arrived there, an employee told us the deadline for permit applications had already passed. We then asked if we could speak with the ambassador and he immediately agreed to see us," Ziad added.
After meeting with Issam Abed, Saudi's ambassador in Norway, he promised both brothers that he would try to get them exceptional permits.
"A few days later, we got a call with someone telling us we'd gotten the permits and I just couldn't contain my happiness. We were finally going to see our father," Ziad explained.
After flying to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, the family finally reunited.
Speaking to Sabq, they all expressed their gratitude to Saudi officials who allowed for the emotional reunion to happen.
Two Palestinian siblings were reunited by coincidence in Mecca on the first day of Eid Al Adha during Hajj after 15 years in a pilgrim camp in Mina, east of the city.
Neither Sameer or Bushra, a pilgrim benefiting from King Salman’s program that allows parents of Palestinian martyrs to go on pilgrimage to Mecca, expected to find each other in Mecca.
According to media sources, Sameer only learned that his sister is in the same camp as he was only two hours prior to meeting her, after which he proceeded to search for her with the help of the workers in the camps.
Bushra said that she did not expect to be reunited with her brother on the first day of Eid, in Mecca, saying that God had “willed this reunion.”
The siblings endured a 15-year separation due to insecurity in the occupied Palestinian territories, and Samir’s migration to Australia.
Bushra, a guest of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Hajj and Umrah Program, could not control her emotions as she saw her brother.
She said she still remembers the last time they were together. “Praise to Allah, on the first day of Eid Al-Adha we met again as pilgrims,” she added.
‘HAJJ BY DRONE’: Ghanaian villager’s wish materialises
A Turkish film crew were filming in Ghana using a drone when a villager innocently asked “can you make it a little big and take me to Makkah?”
Later, TRT World employee, Mucahid Durmaz posted the following tweet recalling what the villager had said:
“The question uncle Abdullah asked when he saw a drone for the first time, “can you make it a little big and take me to Makkah?””
Soon, the story went viral among social media users in Turkey and around the world. Turkish individuals and businesses got in touch offering to fulfill the man’s wishes.
However, no one knew where the man was and what his name was. He was soon tracked down by a police officer from the Turkish embassy in Ghana and he was identified as Al-Hassan Abdullah.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu then arranged to send Abdullah to the Hajj pilgrimage.
Abdullah was flown into Istanbul where he was welcomed by a Turkish charity whose work focuses on Ghana.
Abdullah told Anadolu Agency,
“I am grateful to God and I pray to everyone who helped this dream come true. Turkish state’s assistance is valuable for me and I believe this will help improve friendship, brotherhood between Muslims.”
Completion of Hifdh at Arafah
Speaking to Radio Islam International on the morning of Arafah, renowned Capetownian Aalim, Moulana Dawood Sampson, reported on an upcoming highlight of his Hajj journey: A South African sister travelling with his group would be crowning her Arafah experience with the completion of her Quraan memorisation at this pinnacle of the Hajj.
Social media posts named the fortunate sister as Maryam Vania Bejambee.