Pilgrim reconnects spiritually with loved one as she performs Hajj

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Danyah Bennett, pictured with her husband, Muhammad Siddiq, says she has thought about her mother during every moment of her Hajj pilgrimage. (AN Photo/ Huda Bashatah)
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Hudifah Abdul Rahim, father of Danyah Bennett, was a talk-show host of a Saudi TV program called ‘The Rap Session’ in the early 1990s. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 11 August 2019

Pilgrim reconnects spiritually with loved one as she performs Hajj

  • “I feel my mother is with me on Hajj every step of the way,” says Danyah Bennett
  • Her American father was a talk-show host of a Saudi TV program in the early 1990s

MAKKAH: The Hajj pilgrimage is an obligatory spiritual journey for Muslims around the world, but for many it also a time to connect with loved ones.
“I feel my mother is with me on Hajj every step of the way,” Danyah Bennett told Arab News.
The 25-year-old’s mother died four years ago, just a week after her daughter’s wedding.
“I think about her a lot during Hajj. I wish she was here with me,” Bennett said.
Bennett — an American national born and raised in Saudi Arabia — said that her father had performed Hajj for her mother after she died.
Her father, Hudifah Abdul Rahim, was a talk-show host of a Saudi TV program called “The Rap Session” in the early 1990s. Bennet explained that he had converted to Islam after he moved from America to Saudi Arabia. He met her mother after moving to Makkah to study Arabic.
While Bennett remembers her mother during her pilgrimage with a heavy heart, she says she feels a mix of emotions during Hajj.
“I feel sad because I miss her, but I also feel happy and blessed,” she said.
Bennett left her two-year-old son with her sisters in Jeddah to perform Hajj with her husband, Muhammad Siddiq.
“I felt it’s something I have to do to complete my faith to God,” Bennett said.
She explained that she felt her son was too young to endure Hajj as it is physically demanding and his immune system is not strong enough.
For Muslims, performing Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is the annual pilgrimage to Makkah — the holiest city for Muslims. It is mandatory for Muslims and must be carried out at least once in their lifetimes.
However, with more than 2 million people making the journey, the spread of diseases is considered a risk. The Saudi government states that it is mandatory for pilgrims to take vaccinations for meningitis and influenza before arriving in Makkah.
Aside from the spread of illness, scorching temperatures that reach 42 degrees in August also put pilgrims at risk of heatstroke — which if left untreated can be deadly.
Despite the physical challenges of Hajj, Bennett said that it has been an “amazing” experience for her.
“My favorite part of Hajj is the holy feeling,” she said, explaining how she enjoyed walking to Mount Arafat.
Mount Arafat is a hill that reaches a height of 230ft. On the ninth day of the Dhu Al-Hijjah Islamic month, pilgrims go to Arafat from Mina for what is considered the most important part of Hajj. Pilgrims spend the whole day on the hill, praying.
“The view was beautiful and there were so many nationalities. It was amazing,” she said.


Give your heart to everything you do, Duchess of York tells Misk Global Forum

Updated 30 min 40 sec ago

Give your heart to everything you do, Duchess of York tells Misk Global Forum

  • Sarah Ferguson delighted by warm welcome in Riyadh during Misk Global Forum
  • Ferguson shared her experiences of working to help children worldwide during a panel discussion at the Misk Global Forum

RIYADH: Sarah Ferguson, Britain’s Duchess of York, said that she was moved by the warm welcome she has received from the people of Saudi Arabia. She added that it was a reflection of the good example set by the country’s rulers.

Fergie, as she is known worldwide, said she was excited and thrilled to visit the Kingdom to appear at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh.

“I love the feeling of kindness that I’m getting from the people of Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News on Wednesday which, appropriately, was International Kindness Day. “Everyone has been so nice here in Riyadh; I think that comes from good leadership.”

She compared this wonderful reception to her experiences in other places “where people are judgmental of you,” adding: “I don’t feel that here. I feel people are embracing me as ‘Sarah’ and that is such a beautiful feeling.”

The duchess said that she hoped to return to Saudi Arabia to help the government build health centers in less-developed areas. But she admitted that it can be tough sometimes to keep going.

“We are all human and have human failings, so the best we can do is keep battling on,” she said. “It’s hard not to beat yourself up sometimes, if you’re feeling down or upset.”

Ferguson revealed that her inspiration is her daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, and that she has always tried her best to be a “great mum,” urging them to “learn from my actions rather than my words.”

She added: “If your actions are of honesty and kindness and you unintentionally trip up on the way” people are likely to see you are good-hearted.

The duchess was open about her own bad decisions which, she said, happened because she believed everyone thought the way she did.

“They didn’t, and I didn’t realize that,” she said. Despite past betrayals, she said still trusts and believes in people, and has passed on the lessons she learned the hard way to her children: “I have taught my daughters not to fall into those traps.”

In the past, she said, some people in Britain might have viewed her philanthropic work as “attention seeking,” but did not let that divert her from a path of kindness and a desire to do good.

The duchess later hosted a showcase of her retail brand, which includes room infusers, flavored teas, and jewelry. She said all profits from the jewelry sales will be used to help children through a trust she founded in partnership with the charity Humanitas.

Ferguson was invited to attend the Misk forum by Badr Al-Asakir, head of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s private office. The prince is chairman of the Misk Initiative Center.

During a panel discussion on Tuesday titled “The Resilient Philanthropreneur,” the duchess shared her experiences of working to help children worldwide, and the resilience and persistence it had required.

“Don’t let anyone doubt you and, especially, don’t doubt yourself,” she said, encouraging people to keep an “open mind” and pursue the path they believe is right.

“Give your heart to everything you do,” was her parting advice to young people.