Compiled by Alhaji M.B. Jalloh, Press Attaché, Saudi Arabia
The greater Muslim pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca of 2016 has come to an end. But Hajj is still an experience to write home about. I spoke to a good number of Sierra Leone pilgrims shortly before they board their flight last Monday for Lungi International Airport and this what they had to say :
First to talk was Haja Fatmata Daramy from Bo, Southern Sierra Leone. Sitting on her wheel chair, she said: “When I arrived in the Prophet Muhammad’s Mosque, Al- Masjid al- Nabawi, where he is buried, I wept bitterly. When they showed me the graves of the first two caliphs, Abubakar and Umar, I continued weeping. As a matter of fact, it was an incredible experience full of emotions.”
Another emotional scene, she said humbly, was when she saw the Holy Kaa’ba. “Visiting the Kaa’ba and seeing thousands of people; ranging from the young, middle aged, old to disabled converging on the black stone, reciting, Allahu Akbar, meaning God is Great, your tears will drop unnoticed.”
Alhaji Lamin Bangura lives in Murray Town in the West End of Freetown : “The experience of being one among millions of pilgrims from all walks of life, from the richest to the poorest, all dressed in white, all performing the same rituals, particularly touched me.” We are one single brotherhood, one single sisterhood, says Alhaji Lamin.
Alhaji Ibrahim Sillah from Kabala in Northern Sierra Leone shares similar experience: “Ihram is the traditional dress of the Hajj experience. It is made of two white pieces of cloth, designed to remove distinctions of class between the pilgrims.”
When you are circling the Ka’bah, or walking to Mina or Muzdalifah, he says, “You cannot really distinguish people from each other, because everyone is wearing exactly the same kind of clothes. You completely lose the distinction between either races or stature. You just move among human beings.”
Alhaji Alfred Sao Kpukumu came from Sendumei in the Pujehun District, Southern Sierra Leone. He has a different take. Hear him: “Fulfilling the rituals of Hajj is a very satisfying spiritual experience; which also, in most cases, culminates in the fulfillment of what is generally a life-time wish and dream. Yet no two pilgrims experience the glories of Hajj the same way. In Islam, man’s relationship with God is a very personal one.” Alhaji Kpukumu furthered: “Hajj is an emotional experience to me. It is an experience that cleanses Muslims of all sins.”
Haja Sallay Bango is from Bo District in Southern Sierra Leone: “One of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been is Mecca. It’s unbelievable, I can’t stop crying. I’ve cried so many times. I can’t share my experience with you now, Mr. Jalloh. I would like to do that to my children when I arrived. I am really excited.”
But she managed to say this: “I’m still in awe of how the Saudi authorities manage millions of pilgrims who have to carry out rituals at the same time and the same place.”
Alhaji Foday Murray Bangura from Kambia District in Northern Sierra Leone was quick to give accolades to the Saudi Government : “The Saudi government made excellent arrangements to keep us cool in the hot weather, as cool water was being sprayed to keep pilgrims cool, and even some security personnel were fanning the crowed with hand-held fans.”
“We didn’t face any problems or crowding during the stoning of the devil; we did the ritual with so much ease and with satisfaction. I even saw elderly pilgrims doing it by themselves. May Allah bless them for their endless efforts. Haj was the best experience of my life,” he said.
Haja Malador lives in Freetown. “My dear Jalloh, sharing spiritual and emotional experiences of this extraordinary pilgrimage through the media gives me an opportunity to tell the world the unity of Muslims.”
She added: “We are a united global Muslim nation who gathers from different parts of the world to worship Allah in the same place, wearing the same clothes, irrespective of status, race, or language.” Ours is a religion with no sense of superiority and the media is the best platform to educate people of this amazing concept of Islam, she said.
Haja Khadeeja Jalloh hails from Kenema, Eastern Sierra Leone: Hear her: “Hajj is the most humbling experience of my life. I was fortunate enough to be called only after a few years of being married. I pray that my husband will be fortunate to perform next year’s hajj. I also pray for the financially disadvantaged to be able to attend. It is definitely a great experience.”
Alhaji Abass Bundu came from Makeni in Northern Sierra Leone. This is what he told me: “Hajj is not just about performing rituals, the pilgrimage is also about connecting with other people. You get to meet people from other countries, so it becomes a cultural exchange of information and knowledge. I enjoyed the cultural socialization and I want to come again next year, God willing.”
Alhaji Sallieu Barrie, 26, is believed to be the youngest Sierra Leone pilgrim this year. He also shared his experience with me: “I am glad I have been able to complete the fifth pillar of Islam at a young age. I want to encourage young Muslims all over the world, particularly, Sierra Leone, to also take advantage of performing Hajj, if they can afford it.”
He added that: “Hajj doesn’t mean that you should be above 50 or 60 years before you perform it. The exercise is physically demanding and that explains exactly why we should perform it when we are young.”
“I pray to the Almighty Allah to give the opportunity and courage to my contemporaries to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam. Hajj is an amazing experience to me.”
He concluded: “One thing that I will miss is the voice of the Imams, particularly that of Abdul Rahman Sudais, the Chief Imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Wow! His voice brings peace to my mind.”
Finally, I caught up with Mohamed Alie Bah, the Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President: The Minister was quick to praise the host country and his bosses before he shared his Hajj experience.
“First of all, I must applaud the Saudi authorities for organizing such a safe and wonderful Hajj.”
“I think we should also thank our President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma for the financial assistance he gave to the pilgrims without discrimination. I was not surprised when I saw almost all the pilgrims offering prayers for him, his government and the country on Arafat day. He is indeed a leader with distinguished and positive qualities.”
“For my boss, Hon. Victor Foh, I think he deserves and accolade for all the support he gave to His Excellency the President to ensure that Sierra Leone takes part in this year’s pilgrimage after 2 years of absence.”
“Let me also commend the Ambassador, Alhaji M.S. Kargbo, his entire staff and
Sierra Leone nationals in Saudi Arabia for the hospitality they gave us since we arrived. To my colleagues in the Hajj committee, let’s congratulate ourselves for the excellent team work which led to a successful Hajj.”
“To me, Hajj is perhaps the greatest experience I have ever had. I have performed it for 10 times now. I will never forget the experiences for the rest of my life. My impressions about the whole Hajj exercises from Mecca to Mina, Arafat to Muzdalifa and to Mecca again, are a vivid reminder of the trueness or the whole truth about what Islam stands for.”
“It is very consoling, motivating and convincing about the certainty of the existence of the hereafter – that’s after death. If man sincerely worships his Creator as taught by His Prophets, he will surely receive salvation.”