Kindness shines through in Haj


Saudi Gazette

For the many people I spoke to who went to Haj, they unanimously said that despite the intense heat, the Haj this year was smooth, trouble-free, extremely organized, and beautiful and enjoyable beyond words.

What struck me the most this year and really shone through my entire pilgrimage was the kindness, the humanity, the love, and compassion that is alive in the hearts of the believing Muslims.

Before setting out on the pilgrimage, I was apprehensive especially because my 15 year old daughter would accompany me to perform her first Haj. I was nervous. Would she be terrified by the massive crowds? Would she get lost if people shoved and pushed her away from me? Would she appreciate that during her pilgrimage she would be walking in the footsteps of Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Ismail, Hajar, and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)? Would she become impatient because of the physical hardships?

However, as each hour went by, my worries melted away and we were touched by the kindness of other pilgrims, the Saudi security forces, young volunteers, and the guides and teachers leading our group.

The first ritual to perform was visiting the Grand Mosque in Makkah. A security woman cloaked in black rushed towards us just as we were about to enter the Grand Mosque. At first I thought I had done something wrong and she was going to reprimand me. But instead, I realized that the security woman was greeting us.

She said to us, “Welcome! Welcome! You are the guests of Ar-Rahman!”

My daughter beamed with happiness; she was the guest of the Most Merciful.

We completed the tawaf, walking seven times around the Kabah. When we approached the area of Safa and Marwa which we were to walk seven laps back and forth from, my daughter took a step back at the sheer sight of the massive sea of people. A woman next to us noticed the frightened look on my daughter’s face and she called out to me, “You can go upstairs, the upper levels are not crowded!”

However, I insisted that we stay and walk on the ground floor and I explained to my daughter why. By staying on the ground and walking up the hill of Safa, and climbing up the hill of Marwa, I wanted to imagine Hajar, rushing between the two hills, searching for water for her baby son, Ismail. My daughter agreed, and slowly as we walked and supplicated to Allah and retold the story of Hajar, the crowds became less and less intimidating.

From the heat and physical exertion, I noticed the beads of sweat on my daughter’s forehead and her perched lips. We needed to stop for a drink of Zamzam water. Bunches of men were huddled around the station of Zamzam water, filling up water for their families. Too shy to get in line with the men, I stood aside, hoping the group of men would soon disperse. All of a sudden, an elderly man came to me with two cups of cold, refreshing water, filled to the brim. I thanked him profusely and he nodded his head.

Over the next few days, staying in the tents in Mina, all I could see was kindness everywhere. We made friends with the women staying at the same camp as us, women who had come from all over the world, seeking to complete the fifth pillar of Islam, women from Jordan, Egypt, Senegal, Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon, and women who were from various and different regions of Saudi Arabia. We ate together, talked together, drank tea together, prayed side by side, and we showed each other pictures of our little children who we had to leave at home. My daughter went around showing everyone pictures of her two beloved cats!

Some rituals of the pilgrimage were more challenging and exhausting than others. Waiting for hours in what seemed like endless lines to get on the train and walking several kilometers to find a place to camp in Muzdalifa truly tested our patience. Our group somehow got divided and we got lost. We were unable to reach where the rest of our group was camping and we kept running into blockades that would not let us pass through. We ended up sitting by the side of the road, but we tried not to lose our patience or lose our temper.

What kept our spirits high even through the most difficult times, was the kindness of the Saudi security forces and our group leaders.

While standing in line in congested areas, security men carried large water pumps and sprayed water on us to keep us cool. Volunteers were distributing cold water bottles. Men in uniform were stationed at the foot of staircases just to alert us to watch our step because we could not see the beginning of the stairs due to the crowds and to prevent pilgrims from toppling over. Other officers reminded us to walk slowly and calmly and to keep chanting the talbiyah, “Here I am at Your Service O Allah, here I am. Here I am at Your service, You have no partner, here I am at Your service. For You alone is All Praise and All Grace, and for You alone is The Sovereignty. You have no partner.”

I remember one afternoon we were on our way to throw the stones at the Jamarat and the sun was beating down. We were momentarily confused by which way to take to get there. Then we saw a chain of security men, linking their arms together in a straight row alongside the path to the Jamarat. They made a human wall, under the scorching sun, to separate the mobs going to the Jamarat and those returning to their tents, to prevent the pilgrims from colliding with one another. I looked at the security men; they were smiling, greeting the pilgrims with, “May Allah accept your worship,” and “Congratulations!” and “Eid Mubarak!” We owe these men much thanks and gratitude, as we owe the janitors and sanitation workers, trying their best to keep the area clean.

Back at Mina on the first night of Eid, happiness spread throughout our tents. Women were going around with trays of dates, chocolates, and candy. We greeted one another with the honorable title of “Hajjah”, one who has performed the holy pilgrimage.

On the last day of our stay, while packing our bags, I looked over at my daughter sitting on the floor with an Egyptian girl she had befriended. They were munching on some biscuits, chatting and giggling, and I overheard them say how grateful to Allah they were that He had accepted them among His guests this year.

My daughters chocolate brown eyes locked with mine and she said, “I wish it wasn’t over. I wish I could come every year.”