Friday, December 11, 2009

Dagestani pilgrims’ journey of faith real test of patience

Most of us may not know the existence of Dagestan, a republic in the Russian Federation.

Dagestani pilgrims’ journey of faith real test of patience
Badea Abu Al-Naja | Arab News

Dagestani pilgrims set up tent along a street in Makkah. (AN photo by Badea Abu Al-Naja)

MAKKAH: Haj 2009 may have come and gone, but for Abdul Fattah Dove, a 30-year-old pilgrim from the Republic of Dagestan in the Russian Federation, this journey will remain in his memory for the rest of his life.

Dove said his journey to Makkah took him a month because his car was old and unreliable. He said it took him years to save up the money for the most affordable Haj visa, the one that doesn’t come with transportation, room and board.

“I refused to marry so as not to lose anything of the amount of money I had collected,” he said.

Dove said when he reached Makkah, he sought shelter in the city’s Kudai district where many of the pilgrims from the Russian Federation stay.

“I lived at the water-distribution station there,” he said. “The hospitable Saudi citizens supplied us with food throughout our stay.”

Dove, who was preparing to leave for home recently, was overjoyed that he had finally come to Saudi Arabia and performed Haj.

“I have realized my dream,” he said. “I can now marry.”

Abdul Aziz Yuv, 32, said many pilgrims from Dagestan and other places in the Russian Federation are faced with Haj-tour fees of up to $10,000, a princely sum for most people.

“I cannot afford to pay such a big amount of money, so I agreed with a number of other pilgrims from my country to pay only the minimum charge of the Haj visa and to do all other things on our own, including transport, accommodation and food,” he said.

Yuv said his group crossed Azerbaijan and Iran in a rickety bus. The trip took three weeks. It took Yuv six years to save the money needed for the journey he considered urgent, because “you never know when you are going to die.”

“I brought a small tent, which I erected near the water distribution station with other pilgrims from Russian countries. The moment we arrived, Saudi citizens started supplying us with large quantities of food on a daily basis,” he said.

Aminu Kuv, a 75-year-old Dagestani pilgrim, said it took him 30 years as a farmer to save the money to perform Haj. “One of my relatives had an old minibus,” he said. “All seven of us got into this minibus and reached Makkah after a month.”

Kuv said he brought with him some Russian products, including electric tools, knives and photographic equipment to sell during the Haj to help cover the cost of the pilgrimage.

Commenting on the phenomenon of pilgrims going to extreme lengths to be able to come to Haj, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Suhaili, the imam of Princess Sheikha Mosque in Makkah, said though these people were not obliged to do the Haj considering their financially inability, their insistence to come to Makkah is evidence of their strong convictions and faith.

“I often tell the story of a young man from Chechnya who walked from his home to Saudi Arabia,” he said. The imam recalled that the young man also walked from Makkah to Madinah to pay homage to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and pray at his mosque.

“Islam does not ask people to save money throughout their lives in order to be able to do the Haj or walk all the distance from their countries to Makkah, but when these people watch pilgrims doing tawaf (circumambulation of the Kaaba) or standing at Mount Arafat they feel such a yearning that they sacrifice to come,” he said.