Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Journey of a Believer...

How easy it is for us Muslims in the West to go to Hajj. Yet, many of us who are in a position to afford the pilgrimage, haven't done it. This story should serve both as a lesson of endurance and patience during Hajj for those that make the effort to take the relatively easy journey to get there (usually by plane), and also serves as a lesson for those who continue to push it off into the future, and missing opportunity after opportunity. It also reminds me of my father's journey by bus from Pakistan to Saudi in the early 70s I believe, and his experience in Iran's snows... this only makes me appreciate his effort more:

Azeri Pilgrim in 4,000-Kilometer Odyssey
M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Arab News

RIYADH, 5 December 2006 — Narrowly escaping death six times and negotiating ferocious wolves and highway robbers, a modern-day Ibn Batuta has so far trekked 4,000 km on foot from his native Azerbaijan across Iran, Kuwait and then Saudi Arabia on the way to Makkah in time for the annual Haj, which is set to take place in a few weeks.

The Azeri man, Shahid Qurbanov, 39, gave a vivid description of his two-month-and-counting journey that has been marked with perils, adventures, road accidents and other hardships including terrible weather, wild animals and bandits. Qurbanov began his trek from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and is currently in Riyadh awaiting permission from Saudi authorities to perform Haj.

“In my case, surviving the long journey became a larger test of endurance than the pilgrimage itself,” said Qurbanov in an interview yesterday with Arab News at the Azeri Embassy. Qurbanov will proceed to the holy city of Makkah once he receives permission for Haj.

A journey such as Qurbanov’s to the holy land on foot while enduring the most difficult of hardships to partake in the annual Haj is something indicated in the Qur’an: “And proclaim unto all people the duty of the Haj pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and on every kind of fast mount. They will come from the farthest locations (on Earth).”

When asked about the most memorable and fearsome moments of his journey, the fearless pilgrim described how he was stalked by wolves in Iran. “Wolves stalked me for nearly three hours, then suddenly they walked away... once the tire of a huge lorry burst on the Ahwaj Highway in Iran and it stopped just short of where I was resting on the side of the road,” he said, adding, “I also survived for three days and three nights without food and water.”

Despite the dangers, Qurbanov said he has received considerable help from generous strangers in Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He says that once he obtains his Haj visa, he will continue on foot to Makkah.

“With a target of walking 50 km every day, it will be easy for me to soon set foot on the soil of the holy city,” said the pilgrim, who says he is inspired by ancient Arab travelers such as Ibn Batuta. Qurbanov added that his journey highlights the importance of peace and love between the people of the Kingdom and Azerbaijan, as well as his love for the Islamic world. He also plans to write a book about his trip.

Qurbanov left Baku on Sept. 1. He carries a 16-kilogram bag full of daily necessities and an Azeri flag. He said he did not have a clear route planned and had set out for Iran and then Kuwait before entering the Kingdom on Nov. 25.


Anonymous said...

Jazakumullahu khayra for that inspiring story. We forget how much the pilgrims of the past had to go through. I've sent this story to my friends and family who are performing hajj this year in the hopes that it will ease their journey.

Master said...

Wow, that is really amazing. I would like to read this guy's book. I didnt think until this day people still went through struggles to perform a trip that some of the more fortunate people take for granted.