For the first time in two years, Makkah is showing signs of normalcy as an estimated 1 million pilgrims gather for the largest hajj since Covid-19, prompting countries to close their borders.
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In 2019, Makkah was filled with 2.5 million pilgrims worldwide. In 2020, 10,000 residents in the kingdom were allowed to partake at the height of the pandemic. Even last year, only 60,000 fully vaccinated Saudi residents and citizens were able to participate in this holy journey.
That has allowed Saudi Arabia to open the hajj this year to 850,000 international visitors for the five days of worship and rituals. But while there are no requirements to wear a mask or socially distance, pilgrims must be younger than 65, be vaccinated against the coronavirus, and receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their departure.
In Singapore, about 900 pilgrims were given the opportunity to do their hajj after two years! We spoke to one of them, Sujimy Mohamad, a local personality and content creator, who shared his experience completing this spiritual journey with his eldest daughter, Qistina ?
Why did you decide to complete Hajj with your daughter this year?
The Saudi embassy in Singapore invited us under what they called Mujamalah Visa or Courtesy Visa, and I was told that I had four days to decide. Since I had intended to go some years back, I did not think long and accepted it. This is my first time doing Hajj, so such priceless opportunities like these should not be missed! Initially, my wife and I wanted to go together. However, after much discussion, my wife decided to stay to tend to our other daughters as one of them is currently going through her mid-year examinations. My wife lovingly gave her spot to my eldest daughter. We believe it was my eldest's rizq to go for Hajj ?
What were some of the difficulties you faced whilst completing your Hajj?
The difficulties started even before we left Singapore for Jeddah. We were asked to leave our flight due to a new airline policy that did not allow pilgrims to enter into Jeddah or Makkah after 3rd July. Since we were on our own, we had to book another flight and attain additional documentation to enter Makkah. We could not follow any Singapore GSA as you must book your Hajj package under Saudi's Ministry of Hajj & Umrah portal. So, we head back home in the wee hours of the morning, dejected whilst trying to figure out what to do next. The next 24 hours were a whirlwind of emotions; we had to be prepared that we weren't able to do our Hajj ? Alhamdullilah, we got help from influential individuals who sought permission and relevant documentation for us to enter Makkah and board another flight the next day. I view this hurdle as a test to see whether we will work hard trying our best to solve the flight issue. When Allah wills it, all paths will open ?
After we did our Hajj, we both tested positive for Covid-19! I remembered all the plans we had after completing Hajj, such as doing Umrah and more; however, Allah is the master of all plans. All I can say is I am grateful that at least my daughter and I managed to complete our Hajj and had the opportunity to rest. After we recovered, we still managed to head to Masjidil Haram, Madinah and more ?
There were many other challenges we faced throughout our entire journey (you can check out their recent Facebook Live for more interesting stories!), but it has only made our Hajj an even more beautiful and memorable journey ?
Could you share with us some of your memorable experiences doing Hajj with Qistina?
My daughter and I are very close even before Hajj. Performing Hajj with her brought us even closer. She is my constant reminder to be patient and strong. Despite all the challenges we've faced, she reminded me of this verse from the Quran: So, surely with hardship comes ease” (Quran 94:5) I was truly blown away by this reminder. MasyaAllah, Qistina gave many more reminders as such during our journey. I'm blessed to be able to hear these from my eldest ?
When we completed our Hajj, I could not contain my happiness and tears. I hugged her and said, "Alhamdulillah, we did it." She smiled and repeated, "Alhamdulillah." We both were happy to have completed each rukun despite all the hurdles to independently arranging our hajj. We felt such a big relief and accomplishment, and we have Allah to thank ?
What advice can you share with Muslims who intend to perform Hajj & Umrah in light of your challenges?
These are some of the things I would advise anyone going for Hajj:
- Stay fit months before you go; there's a lot of walking, and you need to be physically ready.
- Mentally be ready for any situation; be positive, and always trust Allah will help you every step. Don't assume the worst when something wrong happens
- If you are invited under Mujamalah Visa for Hajj, you need to know that you are in charge of every arrangement. Be prepared to take control of the hotel, transport, food, and insurance and always ask the office assigned for every detail. Don't assume anything. But if you are the type who would rather have someone else to take care of all arrangements, then the Mujamalah Visa is not your route and best to get to a GSA to assist you in your Hajj journey. I want to thank Ustaz Husnan & Ustaz Zaky Alwie for helping us every step of the way - Ustaz Husnan gave us the Hajj crash course before we went and were there on-call every time we had queries about the Hajj rukun.
- Ask those who have been there to give you advice on things to bring and what to expect.
- Be kind and generous before, during and after Hajj. It has its merits.
- Write down ALL your prayers. You will not be able to remember everything.
Sujimy and Qistina did a special Facebook Live last week, where they shared all their memorable experiences (they did not eat for 16 hours at Arafah!), more tips and what you can expect from your future Umrah or Hajj trip after two years! If you know anyone who would love to share their experiences, drop us a message!
P.S. Here are more heartwarming Hajj stories from our community!