8: ARREST AND MORE REST
After a few days in Makkah,
all my room mates and most of the original Hajj group became ill.
Some of us got the cold and before long it had spread to the whole
group. I bought a small stove and pans so that I could make lemon
drinks and tea for the group. After a short while, I was making
hot drinks for everyone which helped to improve their condition.
This became my duty for the next few days until Hajj.
It was a beautiful afternoon
in Makkah with a calm tranquil breeze blowing through the warm air.
It was close to the days of Hajj and some of my colleagues - Sister
Azrah and Brother Bashir from Stirling - asked me to join them in
a fruit picnic outside Al Haram. The day was beautiful and there
was plenty of time until prayers so I agreed. We thought we could
sit and talk for a while, share a few thoughts about Islam and our
experiences in Hajj so far.
As we sat down and spoke,
the topic fell back to my expedition to find my parents. As I explained
to them about my trip, they suggested I should try and contact them
by phone or at least contact someone close to them. This way I could
send a message to them to get in contact with me or at least look
out for me.
At the time it seemed
like a great Idea. I knew one of my dad's close friends who maintained
a good contact with my parents. As we sat outside al-Haram, I typed
out a quick text message in Turkish to my uncle. When I finished,
I passed the phone to a small group sitting next to us who were
from Turkey. I asked them to check it over since my written Turkish
wasn't the best. One of the sisters in the group quickly obliged
and nodded, approving the message and I pressed send.
Suddenly a policeman
appeared who had been watching us. We were chatting and eating at
the time and I assumed he wanted to join us or maybe wanted some
fruit. I offered him some fruit which he politely refused using
a few gestures. He then pointed to the phone and I wondered what
he was on about. He took the phone off me and started inspecting
He then made another
gesture towards me, indicating he wanted me to follow him. At this
point, Bashir was in fits of laughter and unable to control himself.
I looked around trying to read everyone's faces which had either
an expressions of horror or laughter. Was I supposed to follow this
policeman or was this all a bit of a carry on?
The policeman again indicated
towards me to follow him and then made a gesture that he was going
to handcuff me. I thought to myself surely I have done nothing wrong
so what does he want with me? He was very polite and too gentle
manner to be a policeman. Putting my cards on the table, he must
have been a young sixteen, at a push, more like the age of my son.
Did he really want me to follow him or was he just having a laught?
Was he really arresting me? Did he want me to follow him to the
police station? or was this some sort of misunderstanding?
I thought it was better
to follow him; I didn't want to make things any worse - even though
I didn't know what was happening or how serious things were. I was
wondering what has upsetting the policeman; did I break some law
or something? I was very perplexed and was actually a little paranoid.
I left behind my small
group of friends who had stopped eating the fruit and were watching
the situation develop. They too must have been confused about what
was happening and were sitting with their jaws dropped. Well, everyone
was except Bashir who was still laughing uncontrollably.
I followed the policeman
past al-Haram to the opposite side. As the journey progressed, I
was getting really worried, even though I knew I had done nothing
wrong. I felt that Allah was testing me and I was walking into this
unknown situation - not knowing what to expect at the end of this
trip. Would the police be notorious like in some countries or polite
and gentle mannered like this young man had been so far.
We arrived at the police
station and I was taken to someone who must have been in authority,
maybe a sergeant. The Police station was more of a porta-cabin that
seemed to only be use at the time of Hajj. The sergeant was much
older… probably in the mid thirties. He had an air of authority
when he spoke with everyone in the room going quiet. From his body
language and gestures he seemed much more aggressive which made
After being given a short
lecture in Arabic I was accompanied out of the police station by
the same policeman. The gist of the lecture was, from my interpretation
of it, that cameras are banned in Makkah and by extension so are
the camera phones. I was told to take my camera phone, which had
been de-assembled and was in a bag, and to keep it in my hotel room.
The officer then tapped the skin next to his eye and then pointed
at me. I think he meant that he would be keeping an eye on me and
next time he wasn't letting me off so lightly.
We have to respect the
law of Arabia, which is the land of the Prophet (pbuh). We should
avoid taking camera phones and anything else which is contrary to
their system. Camera phones are a part of everyday life at home
and every new phone that gets sold usually has a camera built into
it. What we take as being normal and acceptable may not be accepted
in other countries where laws may be stricter.
In Arabia, the laws are
stricter but at the same time promote the privacy of the individual
that we must respect. Even the holy sites are protected from it.
This is not like Disney land where people go and please their desires
but has a deeper and a spiritual dimension to it. It is not a holiday
resort but a place of worship and prayer!
It was a bit of a shock to the system because we live in such an
open and liberal society in Scotland. However, it exposed my naivety
and ignorance but as a Hajji and Muslim I should have known better.
Some people smuggle cameras in and are crafty but in my case I had
just overlooked things.
The prophet (pbuh) said
that there would be different groups of people coming to Hajj. The
rich will come there for holiday; the middle class were coming there
for shopping and the poor would be coming for begging. During my
stay, in Makkah I met with all these groups of people!
Hajj isn't a place where
we should go for a Holiday. If you want to go on holiday go to Turkey
or Egypt but don't come here. We shouldn't forget who we are or
why we are coming here. Our minds should be clear and focused on
the task at hand. By all means do your shopping and look around
Makkah and indeed around Saudi but that shouldn't be the reason
you are here.
We are all human beings
and tend to have a lot of things to do, many goals to achieve in
a single trip. When we go to Hajj we should be single-minded and
completely focused on Hajj and only Hajj. There is usually time
for shopping and sightseeing, if one so desires. Its also good to
take gifts back to the people you have left behind. Whether its
Zamzam, dates, prayer mats, athar… they are always appreciated
by the people who receive them. It also contributes to the local
economy of Arabia, which is surely a good thing but never get so
absorbed in all these things that we forget the real goal of the
The next few days were
the lead up to the Hajj and our whole group was stressed out. They
were all suffering from colds or some other ailments. I think it's
a combination of different factors that contributed to this state.
Many people want to seize
the opportunity and want to do too much when they get to Makkah.
The fact that we have come from a not so sunny Scotland to the desert
life of Arabia, it has an effect on the body. Allah has made the
body so that it can adapt to the changing conditions but we must
give our bodies time to adjust. Another factor was that we were
all packed in the hotel rooms so that any colds and flues spread
very quickly. Thirdly, illness is a means of purification, how many
of our sins are forgiven when we are in this state of ill health.
I continually make everyone
tea and hot lemon drinks. I use this remedy in Turkey and it worked
for me. We would then muster our energies and travel to the mosque
to perform our prayers before we returned to our beds. In our rooms,
we would recover and read the Quran. We tried to build up our energies
as much as possible before the days of Hajj. When Hajj starts, there
is little time to relax and recover.
Brother Hassan had so much love for the Kabbah that he would spend
a lot of time there not allowing enough time to recover. When the
days of Hajj became very close, he became very ill and was unable
to shake off the cold. This was also a test from Allah. As it so
happened he became so ill, he had to be helped to the bus during
the days of Hajj.
The Saudi authorities
provide an excellent bus service to make it easier for the Hajjis
to travel. This helped many people, especially the old, weak and
ill who would otherwise not be able to complete their Hajj. Sometimes,
people had families with them and this made it a lot easier for
them to travel to the different areas. However, many people avoided
using the transport and complete the Hajj by foot.
In our group, there was
a mixture of people from different backgrounds. Some with families,
some fit and able whilst others old and tired. Some wanted to perform
the Hajj completely by foot whilst others were prepared to rely
on the services provided by the authorities. In this mixed group,
I was fully behind brother Abdur Raqeeb who had the intention of
completing the Hajj by foot. The only problem was that this was
his first time and he was as familiar to this territory as I was!
Tomorrow would be the
big day, the first day of Hajj. We were all focused and ready to
complete the Hajj. Many of us were performing the Hajj for the first
time and were daunted as well as excited at the same time. There
was a rush of adrenalin as we recalled all the steps we had to complete
during the Hajj. There was a lot to remember and some of it I hadn't
fully grasp. However, I was confident that during Hajj things would
naturally fall into place.
I slept a light sleep
that night where my fears and aspirations played their parts in
my dreams. With the early rising the next morning, I would take
my first steps of the Hajj - the pilgrimage to Makkah.