Amid the unending waves of this sea are random acts of kindness that restore my faith in humanity.
There is an incessant hum as over a million Haj pilgrims make their way to Masjid Al Haram in Makkah. Supplications, chit chats, phone conversations … it’s all there in that hum as it reaches its crescendo seconds before the call for prayer. Once the Allahu Akbar (Allah is great) of the Islamic call for prayer rings through the holy city, the hum stops abruptly. It is so silent that every crackle from the grand mosque’s speakers becomes audible. As the call ends with La ilaha Illallah (There is no God but Allah), all the pilgrims supplicate collectively in Arabic in varying accents and fluency. The hum then resumes just as suddenly as it ended.
The hum is composed of hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects. Listen carefully, and you can make out the languages you know: the gentleman dressed in the black kandoora is speaking in Arabic; that lady there in an abaya is speaking in Malayalam; the man wearing the colourful turban is conversing in Urdu; and the woman in the loose floral dress is talking in French.
If the hum is the sound of Makkah, the sea of humanity that comes crashing to the Masjid Al Haram’s shores is its sight.
The sea is a kaleidoscope of colours of kandooras, abayas, dresses, shirts, kurtas, scarves and skull caps; and a blur of faces bearing the features of inhabitants of every corner of the earth.
Though there are several gates leading to the holy mosque, the sea understands just two directions: towards the mosque during prayer times and back to hotels after. The policemen, soldiers, volunteers and cleaners make the Herculean task of managing the movement of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims look easy.
Amid the unending waves of this sea are random acts of kindness that restore my faith in humanity. I saw a middle aged man carry his aged mother on his shoulders for the circumambulation (Tawaf) of the Holy Kaabah. It’s no easy feat to do the Tawaf, especially during peak times, and this man did it with his mother on his shoulders. I saw two men form a human chain and stand against the direction of the crowd during a Tawaf because a Haji got injured and bled in the area ahead.
Needless to say, the men were risking their lives by standing against a moving crowd – just so the pilgrims wouldn’t step on the blood.
In another instance, a young woman let a panicked elderly man take her arm during a Tawaf. Then there was the youth who helped a wheelchair-bound pilgrim get back to his hotel; an elderly woman who shared her last biscuit with a stranger; a pilgrim who served Zamzam water among those seated; the several men and women who sprayed water into the air as they circumambulated the Holy Kaabah so as to offer relief from the heat to their fellow pilgrims; an elderly man who gave up his chair for a young but tired pilgrim; a girl who held a stranger’s hand as they went down an escalator; and countless other selfless acts
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