In 2016, Arif bhai went for his second Hajj, and all through the trip, he kept on recalling the saathis (group fellows) of that first Hajj of 1996 which I also accompanied. When I talked on Skype with Arif Bhai after the hajj, I found him emphasizing again and again that everything seems to have changed from what we saw during that first hajj; the fervor seems to be no more visible, and the buildings that we saw at that time were gone, the bazaars that existed then are gone, the small eateries run by Bengalis and offering chatpatta desi food seem to have disappeared, the local touch from the shops is gone, the view of haram as we witnessed then is no longer there; there is new construction everywhere, new building complexes, new malls, upscale shops, trendy restaurants, and the haram is now dwarfed and engulfed by the commercial highrises all round, and above all the local homily touch that we felt then seems to have disappeared.
We cherish that hajj of 1996 for so many wonderful memories. Whenever we would relate stories of that hajj, people often ask, “Were you there for the Hajj or had you gone there for a picnic adventure?” How can we explain that the trip was preceded by so many preparations, was looked forward to with so much anticipation and was undertaken with so much devotion by the buzurgs accompanying us that it became a great event for every one of us. Each mealtime became a party; the simple food bought from the corner Bengali dhaabba (joint) became a celebration. Converting the labban (yogurt) bought from the corner store into lassi by putting it in a 2-liter water bottle with ice and milk and shaking it vigorously became a much looked forward process that produced the most delicious of all the drinks. The relish with which food items were picturesquely described by Anees Mamoo is now legendary. We don’t know how he managed to get away from his job at Taif every other day and drove down to Mekkah to give us company and specifically to his childhood friend and cousin Rauf Mamoo. Everyone listened spellbound to the graphic description by Anees Mamoo of baray-baray (big) peaches and baray-baray tarbooz (watermelons) bought from the expedition to the sabzi mandi (vegetable market) of Mekkah where they were carefully selected with so much zest. Cutting and eating such fruit was accompanied by the fond recollections of many such baray baray fruits consumed elsewhere. The decorum with which food was laid out on the dastarkhwan on the floor mat, and the way everyone huddled together around it to consume it with so much relish reminded one of dawat e shiraz. Each mealtime turned into a mehfil with riveting stories: Stories told by Rauf Mamoo and Anees Mamoo of the time spent together in Hyderabad and stories of adventures of the shikaar (hunting) expeditions provided excitement and suspense. Fervent remembrances of the people who had passed away, riveting anecdotes from the culture that has vanished, trials and tribulations of the hard times following the 1947 migration, and of course the warmth of the connectedness of the extended family and the mutual help that was readily offered and accepted with grace and returned in kind. There was so much shukr expressed around these mehfil events that they became prayers to the bounties of Allah. The environment made each trip to haram an enjoyable and fulfilling expedition, each umra became an event which was looked forward to and each of the manasik became a pleasure-filled event notwithstanding the effort and strain. There was this beneficence of Allah that made our Hajj trip so much full of ease, comfort, and barakah.
I think the intention of Arif Bhai, Bhabhi, my eldest sister, my brother and myself for that hajj was primarily to enable the hajj of the buzurgs accompanying us to be as comfortable as possible. Three of these buzurgs were to do the hajj on wheelchairs because of their age-related infirmities and health reasons. The trip accordingly had to be planned to make their journey as exertion free as possible. This provided us with a sense of purpose to plan for and a sense of duty to diligently schedule the activities and to meticulously prepare the necessary list of required items so that we can enable the buzurgs to complete all their manasiks of hajj satisfactorily. There was this selfless and single-minded devotion that energized and kept us oriented throughout the months that we prepared for before the trip, and throughout the 40 days that we spent in Makkah and Medina.
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This preparation and planning was necessary because this was the decade of the 1990s and there were no private luxury tour packages, only general governmental arrangements. That was the decade in which we used to hear about the shocking news of hundreds of people getting trampled during jumraat one year, hundreds of people dying of suffocation and trampling in stampedes in the tunnels the next year, hundreds of people burning to death in fires breaking out in the tents at Mina one year or the following year. We heard alarming stories of hujjaj who had gotten separated from their group members, who had gotten lost and could not find their way back to their camp for days, who wandered for hours from one place to another not knowing where to go, who lost their papers and money, and who had gotten dehydrated in the heat; hujjaj not being able to make it to Arafat on time, or not being able to spend night at muzdalifa, or not completing the rammi, or not being able to complete the stipulated rituals, or herded in suffocating buses and stuck among smoke emitting vehicles for hours in traffic jams….
Some of the returnees of the 1995 Hajj alerted us to the need for taking our parents to Hajj as soon as possible. 1996 was therefore decided to be the year we had to fulfill this farz. My eldest sister’s agreement to join us on Haj and give company and support to my mother made the decision still easier. My brother’s plan to join our group at Hajj directly from USA, further boosted the overall spirits, as now we had two young males to wheel Ammi and Abba.
To my amazement, planning for hajj suddenly got my father and mother energized. I couldn’t believe the speed with which they came out from their recluse in which I found them on my return to Pakistan. They had mostly confined themselves to their rooms and were often reporting one or the other infirmities while resting most of the time. However, once the hajj plan was confirmed, the improvement in their energy and activity was remarkable. Starting from a condition where my mother would refuse to travel by car to attend even her daughter’s house a few kilometers away often terming it as too strenuous, she not only started preparing for long walks but also started training for the arduous journey and long waits in traffic jams that she had heard were customary at Hajj. She started with 5 minutes of walk in the courtyard, and started increasing the time gradually. Remarkably, within a few weeks she was walking after fajr for about an hour and for another hour before the Maghreb. This practice that she started then continued till a few months before her last. My father got similarly energized in his prayers at the mosque and started participating in long walks after fajr with a group of namaazis. The group would go for about an hour-long walk every day. He also started regularly going for weekly dars that used to rotate among the houses of these mosque colleagues.
Soon my parents had a list of people who had recently returned from hajj and an itinerary of sorts started getting developed. I was often given a schedule of whom to visit when. Visits to these contacts were pre-scheduled. We then would visit them and conduct “in-depth” interviews, where they would explain their experiences, the issues that were confronted, the hardships that were faced, and other travel details. We attended several hajj preparation workshops at mosques where they explained the processes and the manasiks. We also saw several documentaries on the subject. Soon, a list of items started taking shape; travel items, support items, dresses, shoes, chappals, toiletries, books, finances, food, snacks, numbers, and whatever was mentioned. Books relating to hajj travels were obtained, instruction guides were obtained, and a resource base started getting built.
As the news about our hajj program had traveled in the family. The first to approach us for accompanying in the hajj group was Rauf Mamoo and Momani. Now the discussions about the preparations invariably included them, and they started regularly participating in such planning meetings. With the introduction of Rauf Mamoo in the trip party, and his strict army officer training, we soon knew that he would be commanding the hajj “mission”. Then, I learned that my younger sister in laws would also be accompanying us; her mother-in-law, Arif Bhai, brother-in-law, and his wife. Arif Bhai’s wife would provide the support and company to Arif Bhai’s mother. Although we had been meeting Arif Bhai in the family get-togethers, but this trip would eventually provide us with a wonderful opportunity to know each other and develop a friendship and association that is at a much higher plane than whatever I have experienced before or since. Haj associations are special because they are for a higher purpose and are not tainted by worldly interests.
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I will describe a few memorable events from that Hajj.
This is early morning, it has taken us the whole night to travel from Jeddah to Mekkah after waiting for hours in line to see the Saudi nincompoops at the Jeddah airport taking five hours to complete the counting of a contingent of haajis of about 200 [which is a storytelling separately in a later post]. Anees Mamoo first took us to the lodgings rented for us near Kubri al Mansoor on Shahrahe Khalil for freshening up and then we went to Haram after fajar: Ammi is with me and we have entered from Bab-e-Fahd and we are slowly making our way towards the Mutaaf. After turning around a corner, we found ourselves getting our first eye contact with Kaaba. I would never forget the zauq o shauq in Ammi that I saw there: I found Ammi to have frozen in the state in which she first laid her eyes on Kaaba. Her gaze was fixated at the Kaaba and she was reciting duas that she had memorized for this very moment and seemingly all the prayers that she could recall and could say. I saw the tears running down her cheeks. She must have been looking forward to this moment for Allah knows how long. While growing up in the 1960s-80s, we were never in a financial position to afford this fard. Ammi must have been praying for this moment for so long. It appeared as if Ammi would not let go of this time and these prayers. She must have stood there for a good half hour reciting one dua after another, praying for one thing after the other. Eventually, she lowered her gaze, offered a couple of nafils and then moved towards Mutaaf for the tawaf.
This is Masjid e Nabvi and I am in Riaz ul Jannah with Rauf Mamoo. We have just completed our nafils, and he had started moving towards Roza-e-Rasool. Those were the times when one can still peep into the roza from a tiny window with grills. There was a throng of people in line trying to come nearer and nearer to the grill window to take a peep. A couple of shurtas‘ were standing there trying to ward off people who would like to come too near the grill. I spotted a mischevious smile on the face of Rauf Mamoo that I can never forget. He gave me his bag to hold and asked me to wait outside for him. I then saw this man of 65 years suddenly getting energized and transforming himself into a nimble teenager. He moved left, then right, then ducked below the staff-wielding shurtaa and before the shurtaa can stop him, he was not only peeping inside but also kissing the grills and kept on kissing and crying with tears as the shurta started beating him with the staff, but that made no impact on him. Eventually, he pulled away from the grills. When I met him outside Masjid e Nabvi, his face was beaming with joy and happiness that I can not describe. Later, he was to relate joyously that he had repeated similar peeps through the grill of Roza e Rasool several times. When I asked him about the beatings, he smiled and said that those beatings were just a little inconvenience for the reward he got of expressing his love for Rasool ul Allah.
As I recall the expressions on the face of Rauf Mamoo after this adventure to Roza e Rasool, I am sure, no one would have seen in him the old man of 65 that he was, but would have only witnessed a young teenager: A teenager of a different time and place; a teenager of half a century earlier, who loved taking risks and exploration, who would often go for adventures at night to those dark family graveyards in the ancestral hometown of Manikpur (Berar) in India about which the children were expressly told to stay away. There were graves of waliullahs of Hussami-Faridia silsala; including that of my mother’s nana (maternal grandfather) Shah Mohammad Shakoor around whose tomb, I am told there is an annual urs even today. There was an old dilapidated mosque at that time in the graveyard in which someone, whom no one had seen, would light a diya (candle) every night. There were reported sightings of other strange phenomena in that family graveyard like coming across figures who were hundreds of feet in height and width and would fill the entire space in front, of having a meeting with long gone waliullah ancestors, and having other spiritual experiences. I learned of these nocturnal adventures from the stories told to me by my mother who would also sometimes accompany Rauf Mamoo on these expeditions without the knowledge of the elders; the brother and sister pair were fond of such outdoor adventures; Some of those stories were to be related by Rauf Mamoo in 1999 to us during the last night of his life before he went to meet his creator.
We are in the tent city of Mina. Fiberglass shades had not been erected till then. It was hot and felt as if someone was pumping blasts of hot air in our tents. There were coolers in the tent but the environmental heat had tremendously degraded their cooling ability. We found ice slabs in the service area for providing cool drinking water to the haajis of the maktab. We started bringing ice in place of water to improve the performance of the cooler, but that only helped a little. The buzurgs spent that tent stay with great patience. The patience of Arif Bhai’s mother and others was remarkable. It was sweltering hot, washrooms were at some distance and the winding path required negotiating through irregularly erected tents and their fastenings, the waiting lines in front of washrooms were long, and food from the corner Bengali stalls was simple, but I did not see any of them complaining of heat or any other inconvenience.
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This is Arafat. Our muallim’s has allocated spacious tents. After settling down, some of us went to bring the food being distributed there in abundance by the government. On our way back, we saw a running water hose that we quickly used to refresh ourselves by hosing water on us. On returning to tent, I found the buzargs deep in prayers. Especially, the way I saw my mother standing and praying throughout that afternoon was remarkable. Food or other refreshments did little to distract her. She did not move much from her praying place till it was time to move to Muzdalifa.
We are going for jumraat. I had lost my chappal the very first day that I went to haram. I then stopped taking the chappal inside in the specially made pouches that we took with us from Pakistan. I started going to haram with one pair and would leave it at the door among the hundreds lying there and on the way back would pick another pair lying there, without worrying about the color or type match. However, Arif Bhai with his characteristic meticulousness would always carefully keep his chappals in the pouch that he carried. That pair of chappals remained with him throughout our stay in Mekkah and Medinah. But, as we went for jumraat, we went through the first one, then the second one. But, were then caught in a jampacked situation before the third one, with people pressing against each other from every side and we were slowly inching forward with tension on the faces of everyone and with heat, it was becoming claustrophobic. There Arif Bhai, eventually, lost one of his chappals as it tore out from his feet. We, then felt a spray of water drops, and suddenly the tension released. I think they do it from the sprinklers on the poles to release the tension. The relief was quite visible as Arif Bhai was stoning the last shaitan and as he threw the last of the stones, I saw his dear chappal flying off to the shaitan!
After Jumraat, we sat down on the curb and Abba squatted down while the barber shaved off his head and then our heads. The sight was singularly remarkable because Abba would always get his haircuts with so much preparation, but that kerbside shaving of the head scene while squatting on the curb I can never forget. He looked so adorable and cute with his long beard and age, and getting the head shave in that surrounding! Later, near our maktab’s enclosure we spotted a hose pipe with running water. We took that hose and started hosing water on each other to freshen up after that stressful jumraat, while the road carried throngs of thousands of people walking towards their tents after returning from jumraat. This was a moment worth capturing on a camera.
We had to go to haram for tawaf e ziarat from Mina. We first went to our private lodgings near Kubri-al-Mansoor on Shahrahe Khalil which was away from what the government has allotted for us. This was a small place with two small rooms and a kitchen and washrooms. There was a Bengali living upstairs who also was the caretaker of that house. He used to take us to haram in his car. We found out later that Saudis have put a ban in anyone driving the haajis to haram. We also used to use his telephone for receiving calls from Pakistan.
After freshening up in our lodging we went to the haram. It was morning time of around 9am. We were told that mutaaf and haram is jam-packed during the days for tawaf e ziarat. Surprisingly, we found the mutaaf nearly empty. The number of people was so less that even Ammi and Abba also decided that they would walk the tawaf and would not use the wheelchairs although my brother and I were ready to wheel them. This was among the quickest of tawaf that we did. It was over in a little over forty minutes. With Allah’s blessings, the sun also got shielded by the clouds and we had a very light sprinkling of rain drops. I often wonder how could one get such an opportunity for tawaf e ziarat with so much ease in mutaaf. Such opportunities were even precious during that decade.
Rauf Mamoo describing the care that we two brothers took for Abba Jan in his characteristic teasing style would tell others: If you want to see hajj then you should have seen hajj of Ahsan Bhai (my father). Both of his sons would be there right beside him as he was ascending or descending the stairs: One on the left and the other on the right. Each time he would lift his left foot, he would ask one of his sons to help him put the feet in the correct spot. Each time he would lift his right foot, he would ask his other son to help him put the foot at the right place. This was of course an overstatement. But, we took it as an acknowledgment of the effort done by the younger ones to help the buzurgs. Arif Bhai and his wife were continuously caring for Arif Bhai’s mother. My sister, brother, and we were caring for Ammi and Abba and of course also for Momani Jan and Mamoo Jan.
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We are at Jeddah Haj terminal, the one that had at that time a beautiful tent-like arching architecture. On reaching there we found that we would have to wait not only the night but all through the next day because our flight will be late on the night of the next day. For the first time, we found the large number of luggage items that we carried from Karachi to Mekkah, to Medinah, and back to Mekkah had a different utility. Our extensive preparations before the Hajj had ended up with each of the elders having luggage that consisted of three bigger pieces; a suitcase, a larger travel bag, and a smaller bag. Only the younger three of the group had limited themselves to one big bag each. The luggage that Arif Bhai and I had to load on top of the buses and then lift down typically consisted of 20 pieces that also included three wheelchairs that we had bought on arrival at Mekkah. This luggage now also included huge sacks containing prayer rugs bought by each of the four family representatives, and there were nine huge cans of zam zam water of 15 liters each. Foam mattresses bought for our sleeping at our private lodgings in Mekkah and the floor mats on which they were laid were also with us, rolled in a hold-all style. We could carry all this courtesy of the good old days when there was no restriction on the number of water cans and their sizes and the number of luggage items. By the time we came back after finding out about the flight schedule, we found that all the bigger luggage items had been used to make a perimeter wall in what would be our private enclosure for the next two days. Foam mattresses were unrolled and soon the comfort necessities were neatly demarcating the boundaries. As it turned out our flight was not on the night of the next day, but on the night of the subsequent day. We spent two nights and two days in that Molvi Musafir Khana but like all other delays and waits during this hajj, this time was spent with huge sabr and shukr.
|Similar cross straps for water
bottles and pouches for papers.
Whenever Rauf Mamoo would move out for any trip to haram or for any of the manasiks he would always be wearing two items with their straps crossing across his chest and back: One strap was holding the pouch containing his traveling papers, essential medicines, cash and other stuff. The other strap is for holding the water bottle. This indicated that he was ready to go on the expedition and brought to my mind the image of what soldiers often wear on their expeditions as seen in the picture.
I can never forget that evening, three years after we returned from that Hajj. It is 1999 and we are at Khala Jan‘s place, a couple of months after Khaloo Jan had left for the hereafter. I saw Rauf Mamoo cross-strapped the same way he used to be during Hajj before any of our movements. Without thinking, I started to recite Inshallah Khan Insha‘s famous couplet’s first verse but stopped after a few words, because I suddenly realized that it was not appropriate:
kamar baNdhe huye ……..
and then I stopped, but Rauf Mamoo was quick, he had picked it up, and in his characteristic walihana and lilting style completed the entire couplet:
……………. chalane ko yaN sab yar baiThe hain
bahut age gaye, baqi jo hain tayyar baiThe hain
Little did I know that the very next morning, at the breakfast table, as he was describing his impressions of the writings of Quratul Ain Hyder, he asked for a glass of water, took the sip, and then took a sigh, and collapsed. He breathed his last sometime later at NICVD.
Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.
Both my mother and father used to pray that they should be on their feet when their time comes. Alhamdulillah both were on their feet when their time came in 2003-04. Abba walked to the car and from the car to emergency room of Liaquat National Hospital where he had another heart attack and left. Ammi was standing and performing ablution for Asar prayers when she breathed her last. Inna Lillah e Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.
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PS: (written March 25, 2015 on fb)
Yesterday we lost our dear Mansoor Bhai, one of the saathis of this Hajj. Inna lillah e wa Inna Ilaihi rajioon.
What a “har-dil-azeez shakhsiat” who would meet everyone with so much “apnaaiat” as if that person was closest to him. It was so sudden. We had met him a couple of days earlier at a Nikah reception where he was in his natural jovial self, and the parting comment of his was an invitation for us to come for Umrah and have a good time.
May Allah give him the best of abodes in the hereafter.
He was in Jeddah when we went for Hajj in 1996 with my father, mother, brother, sister, and Areff Bhai’s family; Areff Bhai, his mother and Bhabhi [he was her brother], and of course our dear Rauf Mamoo and Momani. During that haj, he used to often drive down from Jeddah to meet us and gave us such a special VIP feeling. On certain days he would come even twice a day and meet our party. We stayed at his place in Jeddah for a couple of days and he took us shopping. Of an on, since then, he had been a regular visitor to Karachi. We enjoyed his company and remember the wonderful time at the farm when we had a jolly good time with his family.
At his funeral, everyone was remembering the small things he did with care and consideration. The big things he did to support the needy were never mentioned by him and always executed with the left hand not knowing what the right hand giveth.
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