First of all, Muslims know that, anything with
Allah - is easy. He merely says, “Be! –
And it is.” We humans on the other hand, do
not have this power.
Keeping that in mind, I recall thinking about turning
down the offer of going to the conference for “PEACE
– Vision of Islam” to be held
in Bangalore and Chennai, India. The events where
scheduled to take place in the last two weeks of December
and the first two weeks of January, 2005.
Hajj (the pilgrimage to Makkah)
is estimated to be the 19th or 20th of January, and
in order for me to go, I knew I would need at least
two weeks in advance of that date to present my passport,
photos and medical documents to the Saudi Embassy to
secure a Hajj visa. Even then, it would be doubtful
there would be enough time, not to mention the cost
of the tickets. To put it in simple terms, there was
no way I was going to be able to go to India and still
do Hajj this year. No way!
No way – for a simple human. But with Almighty
Allah there is always a way. Hajj is by invitation only
– Invitation from Allah. He has the Power to do
whatever He Wills.
I had spoken with my daughter, who very much wanted
to go for Hajj and naturally, for me to go along as
her “mahram” (chaperone). She offered to
take care of the paperwork and even help to raise the
money for our expenses. We stayed in touch between my
home in Washington, DC and the conferences in India,
trying to work things out. But the problem was, we couldn’t
submit my passport until I returned from India with
it. I tried to console my daughter and tell her there
are just some things we can’t do. And it looks
like this year, Hajj is one of those things.
I began something to consider, Hajj is the pilgrimage
to the House of Allah (although of course, we know Allah
is not in the “House” nor is He even in
His creation). Hajj is by invitation by Allah to His
servants and devotees whom He invites to come and celebrate
the rites of pilgrimage established by Ibrahim and his
son Ismail thousands of years ago in the Arabian Desert
in Bakkah or what is now called Mekkah. No one will
be able to come to Hajj unless Allah makes a way for
them, and no one will avoid going if Allah has ordained
for it to happen.
Yes, I wanted to go. But there were so many things
in the way. How would I get there in time? How would
we get the visas? What travel agency would handle the
paper work now required by the Saudi government? Most
of all, where in the world would I get the money for
the tickets and pay the household bills while I’m
away? After all, I am coming back from a three week
trip to India to face a number of expenses that have
been piling up during my absence.
There was more to this problem than simple timing logistics.
We learned that visitors to the conference held in Canada
were detained, fingerprinted and “registered”
with the government, when returning home over the Christmas
holidays. Even those who were American citizens, we
were told, had to experience this same ordeal. I knew
this indicated I would be “detained” in
customs and questioned by agents for days instead of
hours, and I was not going to accept being fingerprinted
like a criminal simply because I happen to be a person
worshipping Almighty God, without partners or praying
to Jesus, peace be upon him. I had prepared my family
and those concerned with operating our websites for
the worst, and told them to pray for me.
I also thought inside of my heart, if Allah would make
a way for me to get through all of this and have any
chance of going for Hajj, then I would recognize this
was truly an invitation from Him to take my daughter
and go for Hajj. Naturally, I didn’t think it
could happen, but still if I could get through all of
this and find the money and the way was made easy, I
would go, inshallah (God Willing).
Allah made it all work out. My prayers and the prayers
of our friends and family were answered by Allah, Al
Hamdulilah. Allah tells us to be patient and to make
thikr (remembering Him) and dua (asking and supplicating
to Him) for our needs.
I had been scheduled to fly from Bangalore, India to
Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) and then connecting
to another airline in Paris and finally home to a different
airport from where I had left. The problem was I was
not in Bangalore when the conferences were over. An
oversight during booking meant I was scheduled to leave
from a city hundreds of miles away.
The day of departure, one of the volunteers with the
conference came up to me and handed my new tickets,
telling me that I was not going to be leaving from Bangalore
in the morning, rather I would be flying directly to
Mumbai later on that night.
What about my connections? He assured me things would
somehow all work out. I would still be able to make
the connections, just a little less time.
Chennai to Mumbai, I remembered you have to change
airports – their international airport is not
the same as their domestic one. This needs time. The
bus was crowded and the wait long, but we did make it.
My flight connections were delayed and according to
the tickets, even if they were all on time, I was not
going to arrive until 10:30 at night Wednesday the 12.
This would mean by missing a single connection there
was no way to make the last deadline for presenting
the passports, even if my daughter’s school would
have someone personally take them to the embassy and
wait there for the visas. Then there was still the problem
of being detained for interrogation and questioning.
But then strange things began to happen. The connections
were delayed but so were the connecting planes. The
lines were exceptionally long, but so were the delays
for the next flights.
I hurt my back muscles while trying to lift my overstuffed
carry on suitcase and my travelling companion, Yassir
was carrying it along with his gear to assist me. We
arrived in Paris on time and thought the hard part was
over. Changing terminals in these huge airports, as
anyone who has done so will tell you, is not that easy.
Waiting and being crowded is a way of life for travellers
The long lines to enter the next terminal in Paris
had hundreds of people all trying to get through the
security checks to catch their planes. Yassir and I
got separated and after standing in line for what seemed
like a very long time, I found out I was in the wrong
line and had to go back to the beginning. Now for sure,
I would miss my connection and maybe have to stay in
France overnight for the next flight. Again, no way.
When I finally passed through the security check points,
I was pleased to find my gate was at the top of the
escalator, but where was Yassir – and where was
my bag? What could I do? I started walking to the gate
where Yassir would have to go to fly back to California.
Naturally, it was at the other end of the terminal.
I saw the people in line waiting to board, and no Yassir.
Maybe he would be waiting at my gate. I walked back.
I looked at everyone there over and over. No Yassir.
Then I walk back to the other gate. They are boarding
now – where is Yassir? Where is my bag? Back to
my gate, they are boarding now, still no Yassir. O boy.
This is going to be a long day, and Hajj – no
Finally, I see Yassir over by my gate. He is looking
very concerned and trying to find me. I call out his
name, he doesn’t hear me, so I start waving. Finally,
he spots me, smiles, quickly delivers the suitcase,
gives me a hug and takes off for his plane. Al Hamdulilah.
I am one of the last people in line but I don’t
mind. I will use the time to think about Allah. Thikr
(remembering Allah) is something I never seem to have
enough time for, but now I do, Al Hamdulilah.
The flight across the Atlantic is long – very
long. We leave the ground while the sun is still out
(although well covered in the Paris clouds). The flight
goes on through a very long night. We are going along
the same direction of the sun’s path, so it seems
to be going very slow. The night is long and we are
well fed and cared for by the most excellent crew of
Air France. I watch as the sun’s first glow of
morning slowly appears on the eastern horizon and think
about Allah. Hours later I look out the window and the
sun is still coming up over the horizon line.
When we finally touch down in Dulles at Washington,
DC I am pleased with myself for only bringing along
the carryon with the high hopes of somehow getting past
the customs and immigration in a shorter time period
than the rest. Again, I am wrong. There are hundreds
of others from another flight well ahead of me in line.
Finally I reach the desk and the agent smiles, stamps
my entrance papers and then draws a line all across
the document. I know what that means, special selection.
After going through my bags and asking many questions
about my trip and what I have with me and what I am
carrying, they turn me over to another agency who also
would like to ask some questions. I figure this is it.
There is not going to be any chance at all of going
for Hajj or maybe of even going home tonight.
The nice thing about being wrong is that it works both
I was wrong again, only this time I was happy about
it. The agents did ask a few questions similar to those
asked by the agent outside and then in the kindest way,
they asked if I would explain some things about Shiites
and Sunni Muslims. I told them I was neither of the
two and had written an article on the subject about
differing groups or sects of Islam. Once they realized
I was not an adherent to some extremist group or cultist
part of what they call “Fundamentalist Islam”
they told me I was free to go and have a nice day.
Nice day? Well, at least I was out of there and could
now try to locate my family and see if they were prepared
to drive for an hour to come and get me.
Wrong again. I thought I was too late to even talk
about going to Saudi for Hajj. I called my family’s
cell phone to let them know I was back. Everyone was
surprised when I called and told them I was in the airport
waiting to be picked up. They had all thought I was
coming in late at night around 11:00 PM or so. That’s
right – I thought; I did get a different schedule
and the day was not over yet. It was only about 2:30
in the afternoon. And the good news, my family happened
to be near the clinic not too far from the airport.
More good news. The person in charge of helping students
get their hajj visas lived along our route home. We
called, he told us to drop off the passports, photos
and medial records at his home and he would do his best
to get it all in before the deadline in the morning.
We stopped at the Kinkos Printers and got passport
photos, my daughter had the medical records with her,
we then passed by his home delivered the papers and
And now, it appears we will be leaving on the very
last flight on Sunday for Mekkah to do Hajj.
Only Allah has All Power and He is capable of doing
whatever He Wills to do.
Salam alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatahu,
Keep up with our journey for Hajj & ‘Umrah:
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