Indian man walks more than 8,500km to perform Hajj

Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi covered a distance of 8,640 kilometers, crossing five countries and receiving heartwarming support and encouragement from local communities along the way. (Supplied)
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Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi covered a distance of 8,640 kilometers, crossing five countries and receiving heartwarming support and encouragement from local communities along the way. (Supplied)
Indian man walks more than 8,500km to perform Hajj
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Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi covered a distance of 8,640 kilometers, crossing five countries and receiving heartwarming support and encouragement from local communities along the way. (Supplied)
Indian man walks more than 8,500km to perform Hajj
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Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 June 2023
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Indian man walks more than 8,500km to perform Hajj

Indian man walks more than 8,500km to perform Hajj
  • ‘Lifelong dream’ to travel on foot to Makkah
  • Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi’s journey took a year

JEDDAH/RIYADH: An Indian man has fulfilled a lifelong dream to walk all the way from his hometown in Kerala to Makkah for Hajj — a distance of 8,640 kilometers.

Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi, also known as Shihab Chottur, crossed five countries — India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait — to reach Makkah in one year and 17 days.

He left Kerala on June 2, 2022, and reached Makkah on June 7.




Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi covered a distance of 8,640 kilometers, crossing five countries and receiving heartwarming support and encouragement from local communities along the way. (Photo/Shihab Chottur)

“It was a Ramadan day when I made it to the Kuwaiti-Saudi borders at 5:17 a.m. I bent the knee and I touched the sands of Saudi Arabia,” Alawi told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

Alawi first traveled to Madinah. “I felt like my journey (was) accomplished once I reached the Prophet’s Mosque. I visited (the) Rawdah, and I was sure I would be able to reach Makkah and perform Hajj.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi crossed five countries to reach Makkah: India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait.

• He left Kerala on June 2, 2022, and reached Makkah, a year later, on June 7, 2023.

• The minimalist traveler carried a hiking stick and a backpack equipped with essentials.

• Alawi has more than 4.9 million followers on Instagram, 1.5 million on YouTube, and a verified Facebook page.

Once Alawi reached Makkah, he forgot all the challenges and hardships he had endured during the year-long journey. He “prayed for hours” for those who offered him support, and who had asked for prayers in front of the Kaaba. “I have prayed for the entire Muslim Ummah.”

Speaking of his journey, Alawi said: “In India and Pakistan, people supported me and gathered around me. In Iran and Iraq no one recognized me, but once I crossed the Kuwaiti borders people who knew about the journey started contacting me, asking to see me and supporting me.”

“At every country I stopped by I received assistance from officials, police, military, and those who recognized me, invited me over to stay at their homes.”




"I used money from my savings for this trip, but I could hardly use that money as my Muslim brothers from all the countries I have crossed took good care of me all the time", Alawi told Arab News in an exclusive interview. (Photo/Social Media)

The 31-year-old father of three daughters said he took a year to prepare for the arduous journey. To ensure smooth access to all the countries he needed to cross, Alawi visited diplomatic missions in New Delhi to obtain visas.

“I had a legal visa in all countries. Iran gave me an entry visa, Pakistan gave me a transit visa, and Kuwait police also gave me clearance, and for Saudi Arabia, I received a multiple-entry visa. Authorities here gave me a warm welcome. I have got all facilities to perform Hajj through one of (the) Hajj service providers who offered me an A-category. This shows the great love that Saudi authorities deliver to all Hajj pilgrims. I am so grateful,” he said.

The minimalist traveler carried a hiking stick, and a backpack equipped with four items of clothing, pepper spray to protect himself from wild animals, an extra pair of shoes, utensils, official documents and some money for Hajj.




Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi, the Indian man who walked 6,000 miles to perform Hajj, is pictured with the Indian consul general in Jeddah, Mohammed Shahid Alam. (Photo/Shihab Chottur)

“I used branded shoes for walking, I used six pairs before I crossed into Pakistan because it was the monsoon in India. After that, I used only one pair till I reached Madinah.”

“I used money from my savings for this trip, but I could hardly use that money as my Muslim brothers from all the countries I have crossed took good care of me all the time,” he said.

During his solo walking trip, Alawi lost 18 kilograms. He said he only ate traditional food which he described as “good for (the) soul and body.”

To reach Makkah and Madinah was my dream, and to reach there by footsteps was my goal.

Shihabudeen Sayid Alawi, Indian pilgrim

“No proteins or special food. If I got halal food, I ate it. I was utterly comfortable and mentally relaxed.”

While Alawi explored different cultures and cuisines along the route, he also had to brave nature’s various dangers.

“There were circumstances of fear often, mainly due to the presence of wild animals like tigers, bears and more. In Iran, I saw the footprints of some wild animals and I recorded what I saw with my phone camera. But only when I showed it to some people there, I realized it was footprints of a tiger. After that incident, fear started to develop inside my mind,” he said.

He added: “In Iran, it was a different experience as I had to walk across the entire Iran in snow solo, the weather condition was changing every now and then, and that was the main challenge.”

“I stayed once on a goat farm with shepherds. Those who invited me to their homes gave me food and shelter in Iran and Iraq knowing that I am a Muslim traveler.”

Alawi was motivated by his strong faith and trust in Allah. “To reach Makkah and Madinah was my dream, and to reach there by footsteps was my goal. I kept my goal always in front of my eyes and I worked hard for it and it came true.”

Alawi said he wants to be an example to others. “Many people were inspired to perform Hajj because of this journey. Hajj is a holy ritual, and I want to inspire others to perform Hajj no matter what.”

Alawi would often share snippets of his journey on social media, where he has more than 4.9 million followers on Instagram, 1.5 million on YouTube, and a verified Facebook page.


Saudi medical team performs brain surgery on Turkish pilgrim

Saudi medical team performs brain surgery on Turkish pilgrim
Updated 19 min 14 sec ago
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Saudi medical team performs brain surgery on Turkish pilgrim

Saudi medical team performs brain surgery on Turkish pilgrim
  • 70-year-old Turkish female Hajj pilgrim suffered a hemorrhage

RIYADH: A Saudi medical team from the neurosciences center at King Abdullah Medical City performed a complex brain operation on a 70-year-old Turkish female Hajj pilgrim who had suffered a hemorrhage, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

The team acted quickly to relieve pressure on the woman’s brain, drilling a hole in the skull and inserting a drainage tube.

X-rays identified an arteriovenous malformation in a critical area of the brain, which was treated using advanced medical techniques. There were no complications.

When the patient regained consciousness she was able to be taken off the respirator.

Her health is gradually improving, and plans are being made to allow her to complete Hajj with full medical supervision.


 


Hajj pilgrims from around the world celebrate Eid Al-Adha at the holy sites

Hajj pilgrims from around the world celebrate Eid Al-Adha at the holy sites
Updated 16 June 2024
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Hajj pilgrims from around the world celebrate Eid Al-Adha at the holy sites

Hajj pilgrims from around the world celebrate Eid Al-Adha at the holy sites
  • Abdullah, a pilgrim from Egypt, told Arab News: “Praise be to God, this is our first hajj and thankfully it went smoothly”

MAKKAH: Hajj pilgrims, hailing from various corners of the globe, embarked on a profound journey from Muzdalifah to Jamarat on Sunday, culminating in a joyous celebration of Eid Al-Adha.

The diversity of languages, cultures, and backgrounds present at Jamarat showcased the universal appeal of Islam and the importance of coming together in shared faith.

Eid Al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice in English, has its roots in the story of the Prophet Ibrahim, who God instructed in a dream to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as a test of faith.

The diversity of languages, cultures, and backgrounds present at Jamarat showcase the universal appeal of Islam. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

As he was about to make the sacrifice, God intervened and sent the Angel Gabriel with a ram to be sacrificed instead.

Devoted individuals, who traversed vast distances to partake in the sacred pilgrimage, unite in shared reverence and harmony to mark the significant occasion.

Abdullah, a pilgrim from Egypt, told Arab News: “Praise be to God, this is our first hajj and thankfully it went smoothly.”

Abdullah said that he and his mother went to Arafat, and from Arafat to Muzdalifah, then on to Mina. “We came to Jamarat here, and thank God everything went well.

“Honestly, it is an indescribable feeling for someone experiencing it for the first time. It is a blessing from God that he brought us here, and may he grant us this opportunity every year,” he said.

As his son was cutting his hair, Suleiman Ali, a 70-year-old pilgrim from Indonesia, told Arab News that he is blessed to be spending Eid Al-Adha in Makkah with his family.

“The first time I performed Hajj was in 1993, and I never thought God would bless me with another chance but with my family this time.”

Asma, a pilgrim from India, told Arab News it is her first time in Saudi Arabia and performing Hajj.

“I am happy to be here with my parents, my husband, my brother-in-law, and his wife,” she said.

“It is a very emotional journey for us because we always dreamed of celebrating Eid Al-Adha here.”

Asma said that they still have not performed their animal sacrifice but they are excited to do so.

The annual pilgrimage to Makkah and the holy sites brings together people from all walks of life, breaking down barriers and fostering a sense of unity among believers.

The diversity and unity among pilgrims serve as a poignant reminder of the universal bond that transcends geographical borders and cultural differences.

 


1bn liters of water pumped on Arafat Day

1bn liters of water pumped on Arafat Day
Updated 16 June 2024
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1bn liters of water pumped on Arafat Day

1bn liters of water pumped on Arafat Day

MINA: The Saudi National Water Company has reported that the amount of water that was pumped and distributed to Makkah and the holy sites on Arafat Day reached around 1 billion liters.

It added that the holy sites consumed 286 million liters, while over 704 million liters were distributed through Makkah’s public water systems.

It said the distribution was supported by the supervision and follow-up of the company’s engineers and supervisors from the working areas covering Makkah and the holy sites.

The company said its operations and water supplies work were in accordance with the plans set in advance to serve pilgrims. These plans included pumping water to the holy sites and the Grand Mosque’s facilities 24/7, in addition to maintaining pumping 21 hours per day for the neighborhoods in Makkah.

It emphasized the absence of any disruptions to its operations, affirming that field teams were always ready to handle and address any emergency.

The company said it carried out about 4,840 laboratory tests on Arafat Day to ensure the quality of water provided to pilgrims.


Saudi crown prince receives Eid greetings from Bahraini king, Turkish president

Saudi crown prince receives Eid greetings from Bahraini king, Turkish president
Updated 17 min 41 sec ago
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Saudi crown prince receives Eid greetings from Bahraini king, Turkish president

Saudi crown prince receives Eid greetings from Bahraini king, Turkish president
  • King Hamad lauded the exceptional organization witnessed during this year's Hajj season

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a phone call on Sunday from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa during which they exchanged with them Eid Al-Adha greetings, Saudi Press Agency reported.

King Hamad lauded the exceptional organization witnessed during this year's Hajj season, which facilitated pilgrims performing their religious rituals with safety and ease.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed his gratitude to King Hamad for his noble sentiments, asking God to accept the pilgrims’ Hajj and good deeds.

The crown prince also spoke with Turkish president Recep Erdogan on Sunday, as both leaders exchanged Eid greetings.

The Turkish leader praised Saudi Arabia’s handling and management of this year’s Hajj.


Hajj pilgrims reach Jamarat Bridge

Hajj pilgrims reach Jamarat Bridge
Updated 16 June 2024
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Hajj pilgrims reach Jamarat Bridge

Hajj pilgrims reach Jamarat Bridge
  • It is here Muslims believe devil tried to talk Prophet Ibrahim out of submitting to God’s will
  • Pilgrims then return to Makkah to do Tawaf, circumambulation of Kaaba

RIYADH: Hajj pilgrims on Sunday reached Jamarat Bridge as they advanced through Mina for the final rite, the stoning of the devil, on the first day of Tashreeq.

It is here that Muslims believe the devil tried to talk the Prophet Ibrahim out of submitting to God’s will. On the 10th day of Dul Hijjah, Hajj pilgrims collect small stones that they throw at three pillars in the Jamarat Al-Aqaba, representing the devil.

Huge crowds lined up to perform the rite, many holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun. The pilgrims say “Allah-u Akbar” (“God is the greatest”) each time they cast a pebble.

Pilgrims can stone the pillars any time from midday to midnight on the day of the ritual.

After finishing the ritual, male pilgrims traditionally shave or cut their hair and change out of their ihram. Women cut a lock of their hair.

The ihram symbolizes equality, religious unity and the pursuit of spiritual renewal.

Security guards sprayed the pilgrims with water as they braved searing heat to reach the Jamarat complex. Temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius have been recorded at the Hajj this year.

The pilgrims will then return to Makkah to do Tawaf, the circumambulation of the Kaaba.

Junaid Nizami, a pilgrim from Pakistan, told Arab News that he was impressed by the arrangements in place to ensure the safety of pilgrims.

“My experience in Jamarat was good and they prepared very well for the pilgrims. Also, the system (is created) in a way where no one can clash with each other. There are police, medical staff and helpers who are supporting the people.”

After dawn prayers, when pilgrims leave Muzdalifah and proceed to Jamarat to take part in the stoning rite, women and older pilgrims can delegate this responsibility to a male in their spiritual journey.