“Brother Abu Ja`far! Brother Abu Ja`far!” I received a nudge and then shove that was quite heavy. “Huh?” I looked around after giving salam and groaned. “A brother fell down and he’s ill. I think he had heat exhaustion and he’s dehydrated. There is going to be a slight delay.Are you okay with that?”
Thump. My head went back against the window. I heard the salam of the hajj gift givers as they came onto the bus and replied but slept on. Food was passed around and I merely held my lunch box under my arms. Every stop that had a layover longer than 10 minutes and ID checks offered basic foodstuffs, drinks and also facilities for free.
The Ottomans had a system similar to this but it was for the whole way. When Sultana Begum went on hajj, Ottomans came to the border from where she left and escorted her and several other poor Muslims of India all the way and gave inns and residence. The fact that they atleast tried to adhere to a fraction of what the legitimate khilafah and leadership 100 years and more used to do was good news alteast in part.
My next shove and jostle came when we arrived at our hotel. Now I was awake and I could see seas of people, most of them not in ihram yet. Perhaps just under half were locals while the rest were people that also had the same idea about coming early and were preparing themselves. I soon found the sign for our street: Ibrahim al-Khalil Street. Wonderful! What a beautiful street. One by one, we disembarked from the bus and headed up the steps to the hotel. Welcome to the Mira Hotel, the sign screamed out to us in big Arabic letters.
I met our hajj guide’s assistance, a brother by the name of Muhammad Ishaq. A Bengali by birth, he spoke Arabic, Bengali and Urdu. The only problem was that no matter what language he spoke, no one seemed to know all of what he was saying. A raspy voice and a strange cadence in speech made people raise their eyebrows in trying to understand him. He was a great brother and had the ability to sort of combine all of the languages he knew into a pidgin that was functional for the whole group.
I was informed coming in that my room would be on the 6th floor and we would be walking up the steps in 90 degree weather with the external air conditioning not working. I laughed as I listened to the brothers, some younger than me complaining. Once in my room, I found brother Khubaib and three elder uncles as roommates. Good, I had an easy going group of people.
I really like these guys. I already found some happiness with them. I quickly made wudu,’ combined and shortened prayers while the brothers, wholly Hanafi, shortened only. When the first food came, brother Khubaib and I decided that it was too heavy for the hot and arid weather, so we became “the bread brothers.” We would only have bread, dates, bottled water. This was the only plan and the only way we could be sure that we could stay alive.
And with Allah is every success,
brother in Islam,
al-Hajj Abu Ja`far al-Hanbali