Ebrahim Moosa - Radio Islam International | 09 Dhul Hijjah 1439/21 August 2018
" I'm blind but when I touched the Kaaba I saw it."
Hadj Ismail Dollie is an elderly pilgrim currently on Hajj in Makkah.
His travel operator, Rasool's Travel recently posted touching photos of the Hajji touching the Multazam and Rukn Yamani at the Ka'bah as well as the Maqam Ibrahim as per his wishes.
His memorable journey, experienced in a multi-faceted way, whilst thoroughly spiritual for him, has also formed a rallying point for fellow Hujaaj, who have eagerly thronged to his support.
"Everyone in our Hadj Family has so much love for the elderly and especially for Hadji Ismail Dollie who has such a beautiful soul. Hadji Ismail continuously inspires us all," Rasool's Travel said in a Facebook post.
"To our Hadj family he has become our Pappa in the group. Last night Hadji Ismail was taken by Hadji Omar, Hadji Reza, Hadji Naeem, and Hadji Abdus to the Hadjrat Ismail, Maqam Ibrahim, to touch the Kaaba, the Rukan Yamani to the Multazam.
"The group is truly a beautiful family with a balance as it should be in life they perform their ibaadah and tears flow and their is time for laughter and the tears roll as well. Pappa is no exception he has a beautiful balance. Shukr Alghamdulilaah to all forming a part of our family."
Pictures showed how fellow Hujaaj formed a protective shield around Dollie and guided him through the Mataaf, an essential service due to his visual impairment as well as the potential perils that could arise from high crowd density and perils.
Blind couple from Malaysia
From an entirely different continent, but sharing the same experience are blind husband and wife, Esah Long and Abd Aziz Yusof of Malaysia.
"As I am not familiar with my surroundings, I need someone to assist me. Back in Kuala Lumpur, getting around is not a problem," Abd Aziz told the New Straits Times(NST).
The Hajji lost his sight due to illness when he was three.
His wife, who once worked in a factory assembly line, was introduced to Abd Aziz by mutual friends when they were both in school.
Abd Aziz was then studying at Sekolah Menengah Pendidikan Khas Princess Elizabeth in Johor Baru, while Esah was at St Nicholas Home, a school for the blind in Penang.
They corresponded in Braille, fell in love and got married in 1974.
The couple applied for Hajj in 2009, and finally received the green light this year.
As their daughter was unable to accompany them on the journey, they have relied on fellow Hujaaj to serve as guardians and helpers.
According to NST, they had not managed to go to the Haram many times since their arrival as their accommodation is nestled within a hilly area.
"I do not want to trouble others too much," said Abd Aziz.
Travel operator Tabung Hajji has, however, assured them that they would be given all the assistance required, moreso during the key rites of Hajj.
Reflecting on the interaction with the Ka'bah, the couple said lack of physical sight hardly deprived them of perceiving the House.
"We could not see the Kaabah or the interior of the Grand Mosque but something just felt different when we stepped inside," Esah was quoted with tears rimming her eyes.
"I don't know how to describe it but we both felt the difference.
"I remember what the Kaabah looks like as I have seen it in books before I went blind. During my tawaf, I could picture it in my head and felt calm and happy."
Hajj is compulsory on blind persons with means for the journey just as it is on able-bodied persons. People with visual impairments are however entitled to enlist the necessary support to assist them in completing the rituals.
The General Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques offers a number of services to aid pilgrims with special needs during the Hajj season. Among these, according to Arab News is a small talking watch for the visually impaired that helps tell the time and salaah times via audio alerts.
Other services provided by the Presidency’s special needs department are exclusive entrances to the Haram for Hujaaj with mobility challenges. This is offered at gates 63 and 68, which forms part of the King Fahad expansion.
Other provisions reportedly include a pen that serves as a Qur’an reader for the visually impaired and elderly, and a service for holding and carrying copies of the Qur’an for those who are unable to hold them.
Another service being offered is the distribution of canes for the blind and visually impaired to help guide their path while walking.
A device that assists in Tayamum is also available.
The special needs unit has also distributed booklets on how to perform Umrah and Hajj, and has trained guides who can show Hujaaj with special needs how to perform important rituals.