My experience during Hajj 2015
Dr. Mustafa Kamal Sherwani
What I felt in my heart, what I said with my tears, what I perceived through the Divine aura, what I saw with my faithful eyes, and what I heard with my devoted ears – all lay within the ambit of my faith. But millions of devotees, representing diverse colours, languages and cultures from around the world, moving in an extremely disciplined manner, and performing the rituals within specific time-frames, is a living wonder. The hospitality of the locals - distributing essentials at hundreds of places with humility and affection, the extreme politeness of security forces were something which I can never forget in my life.
The Saudi monarchy as Khadim-e Haramain Shareefain (Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques) oversees arrangements that make this mammoth gathering possible. They deserve the deepest appreciation from every Muslim of the world. Even on other fronts, let me mention that when after Hajj, I fell seriously ill, the tour operators took me to a big hospital near Aysha Masjid in Makkah, where I was admitted for six hours. Dozens of tests were conducted and medicines given but I was not charged a single riyal. Two Indian doctors from Gorakhpur and a nurse from Pakistan were like angels for me because of the language affinity. We feel happy when we come in contact with Indians or Pakistanis, sometimes even Bangladeshis who speak our language.
While a vast majority of devotees are immersed in religious fervour and also try to help each other, the irresponsible behaviour of a small percentage of pilgrims taking selfies and clicking photographs of each other during Tawaaf (moving around Ka’ba) is irritating and foolish. The excessive zeal of some who keep standing at the green light (Maqam Ibrahim), others offering Namaaz within the Mataaf obstructing the movement of others and creating commotion is another immensely avoidable conduct. Hundreds of people with small kids, ranging from infants on their shoulders to seven or eight year olds give it a festive flavour amid the seriousness of the Hajj environment.
One would like to draw the attention of the Saudi government towards the following which produced a discordant note:
1. When we were moving from Muzdalifa to Mina,we found that half of about 300-ft. wide road was occupied, not only on both sides, but even in the middle, by buses - all standing with their engines on, emitting smoke. It left only a narrow space for hundreds of thousands of people to move. If there is an stampede, thousand would perish.
2. VIPs during Hajj: The special treatment to VIPs who come for Hajj distresses others. At all places, i.e., Mina, Arafat and Muzdalfa special arrangements are made for them, so much so that they are dropped at the helipad near Jamaraat for ramy, i.e., stoning the Satan. Theologically, VIPs are not the guests of the King, but of Allah. The King, as Khaadim-e Haramain, must not make any distinction between all those who have come in Ihraam. If anybody wants VIP status, he should not come for Hajj. But such treatment for VIPs during Tawaaf or sa’yi was not seen. There may be many others like them, but somebody told me that when late General Ziaul Haq, the then President of Pakistan, and the former Iranian President Ahmadinejad came for Hajj, they refused to avail of any special treatment.
3. At Jeddah airport, we had an unpleasant experience at the emigration counter, both on arrival and departure. On 24 October, when we were returning, two boys deployed at the emigration counter were joking and talking with each other. Astonishingly, the emigration of about 10 people, two of my group, was not cleared, while their luggage had been loaded on the plane and boarding passes were issued. The plane took off, leaving them in the lurch. These two, husband and wife, from my neighbourhood sought the help of a local acquaintance who took them to the Saudi Hajj Office outside the airport, which provided them the best of help and hospitality, and arranged their flight the next day. About the remaining, I have no information.
In the end, I express my gratitude to the staff at the Amausi Airport, Lucknow, whose fast service and hospitality towards Hajis deserves all praise. The Government of India is also making wonderful arrangements, as at both Makkah and Madina, they have opened Indian hospitals, with sufficient facilities and free medicines for Indian Hajis.
Dr. Mustafa Kamal Sherwani is professor of law in Lucknow University. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org