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Stories of Today

Stories of Today

Issue 74 November 2010

An emotional awakening



When Sofia Dewji met her future husband, Chris Mortimer, he had already been a Muslim for four years. Converting to Islam was, for him, a rational choice; logically he couldn’t accept any other religion. A week after getting married, Sofia and Chris decided to embark on a second life-changing journey. Sofia exchanged her dream dress for a plain white ihram and Chris was by her side. Even though Chris was aware of the enormity of Hajj, nothing could have prepared him for the moment when he first saw the Ka’ba. He broke down into tears and fell into prostration. “I’m generally not a very emotional person, but in that moment, what I experienced can only be described as pure feeling. For the first time, I understood my position in this world and my insignificance compared to the majesty of God. For me, the most awe-inspiring aspect of Hajj was the sheer magnitude and diversity of people. Conceptually, we all know that Muslims come from a wide-ranging ethnic spectrum, but to see so many Muslims congregated around a symbol of their faith and driven by the same purpose is breathtaking.”   


An enabling experience



At the age of 52 Zarina Hudda, a long-term sufferer of polio, decided to brave the Hajj for the second time. With the disease affecting the muscles in her arms, legs, and spine, Zarina has experienced flaccid paralysis since the age of two. Even though she retains sensation, everyday activities like walking and standing up unaided are now an impossibility.
 “Even though the polio had gotten progressively worse with age, I really wanted to go for Hajj again. My first Hajj in 1990 was particularly taxing, but I was nostalgic for the spiritual experience I’d had. People kept advising me not to go but I knew I was capable of carrying it out and al-hamdu-llillah God helped me through it.” 
“There were times when I was really tested. It was the little things that most people take for granted. For example, in Mina, getting myself onto the floor at night was a near impossibility; I would literally have to let myself fall to the ground in order to reach the mattress. There were times when I would wake up in the morning and be unable to get up because I had nothing to support my ascent.  Sometimes, I would have to wait for hours bursting for the toilet, but unable to lift myself.”
“To most people, these limitations seem difficult to deal with. And whilst they are, I was grateful for them. Hajj is supposed to be challenging; it’s supposed to test your patience, and strengthen your perseverance. Even though I went for Hajj nearly a decade ago, the strength it instilled in me still persists today. Since then, I have felt more confident about travelling alone and making the most of the opportunities that I am presented with.”


A lifetime of Hajj




After getting married in 1994, Siddika Chuzi has performed Hajj almost every year since. In 2007, she undertook the journey with all six of her children, the youngest twins being only two. “Initially, it was difficult and frightening to take so many young children, but now that I have had so many years of experience, it feels like second nature. My eldest daughter is 14 and I’ve been going to Hajj with her since she was only a year old. And there are perks of going with children. People are much more amenable when you’re circumambulating the Ka’ba during tawaf or running between Safa and Marwa during sa’ee.” She adds, “At the end of every experience, I’m awash with emotion. Even though I’ve been going to Hajj for so many years, I still feel an overwhelming sense of sadness and grief when I leave.” 





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