Haj impressions from 80 years ago unveiled

Haj impressions from 80 years ago unveiled
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Many of the problems that were face by pilgrims ended when King Abdul Aziz took charge of Haj affairs in 1925.
Haj impressions from 80 years ago unveiled
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HAJ SAFETY AND SECURITY: King Abdul Aziz paid special attention to the security and safety of pilgrims, and took specific measures to increase both through the establishment of military and security teams responsible for ensuring the safety of pilgrims until they were ready to begin their journey home. (SPA)
Updated 16 September 2016

Haj impressions from 80 years ago unveiled

Haj impressions from 80 years ago unveiled

JEDDAH: There is a substantial body of 20th-century travel writing which go back as much as 80 years and gives varying impressions of Haj.
Some of the travelers met King Abdul Aziz and recorded their impressions of him.

This travel writing explains the Haj, describes Makkah, Madinah and the holy sites in detail. Differences in Haj services before and after the reign of King Abdul Aziz are also detailed.
For example, one officer in charge of a group of pilgrims in the first quarter of the 20th century, Haji Abdul Jalil Zainuddin, described the hardships endured by the pilgrims on the Haj; he writes about diseases, the lack of security and the chaos in the performance of the rituals, not to mention the long, exhausting trip from Jeddah — where he was posted — to Makkah and Madinah.
In his story, written in 1923, Zainuddin says: “The trip from Jeddah to Makkah takes about two nights using camel caravans. On the back of every camel there is a wooden saddle filled with palm fronds, and every camel can carry up to two pilgrims.”
“The caravans stop in a place called Bahra to rest and continue the trip to Makkah,” Zainuddin added.
The trip from Makkah to Madinah, he said, took 12 nights and had 10 stops on the way: Wadi Fatima, Usfan, Saraf, Kadid Valley, Rabigh, Mastura, Sheikh’s Well, Hassan’s Well, Khurais Well and Darwish Well.
The Haj trip in those days was fraught with great danger and performing it was a huge challenge. It was even customary in many Muslim countries that pilgrims should write their wills before leaving for Haj. If they managed to return home, they were always welcomed with traditional songs and feasts.
Many of these problems ended when King Abdul Aziz took charge of Haj affairs in 1925.
The long trips that previously had taken days and months were reduced to hours and minutes as transportation methods improved and more regulations were put in place to serve pilgrims and ease their passage to the holy sites.
King Abdul Aziz paid special attention to the security and safety of pilgrims, and took specific measures to increase both through the establishment of military and security teams responsible for ensuring the safety of pilgrims until they were ready to begin their journey home.
These improvements in the Haj attracted the attention of a reporter working for the Manchester Guardian in Baghdad. He wrote an article in which he praised the success of the 1927 Haj season because of King Abdul Aziz’s efforts.
A number of non-Arab travelers also visited Makkah before King Abdul Aziz established the Saudi Kingdom, and some of them converted to Islam.
Thinker Ahmad Mohammed Mahmoud compiled travelers’ accounts in a book called “Jamaah Alrahlat” (A Collection of Trips). It is divided into eight chapters, of which the third is about his trips to Makkah and Madinah.
The Encyclopedia of Haj and the Two Holy Mosques records how some travelers who met King Abdul Aziz wrote about his personality, saying that they were impressed by the king’s political acumen and his ability to unify the Kingdom in the face of challenges from both inside and abroad.
Among the travelers was the American Dr. Paul Harrison, who visited the Kingdom with his wife in 1941.
Another traveler who wrote about Haj and King Abdul Aziz was the Jewish-born Austro-Hungarian journalist Leopold Weiss, who later converted to Islam and called himself Mohammed Asad.
Asad wrote his book “The Road to Makkah” in which he describes Haj and his encounter with Islam.
Many other travelers described Islam, the Haj and King Abdul Aziz in their books. Among them were British national Eldon Rutter (“The Holy Cities of Arabia“), Mohammed Amin Al-Tamimi (“Why I like Ibn Saud“) and Ghulam Rasool Mehr (“Diary of a Trip to the Hejaz).”
A Japanese traveler, Takeshi Suzuki, wrote a book in 1935 entitled “A Japanese in Makkah.” In the book, Suzuki wrote of his visit to Makkah and the holy sites and his conversion to Islam when he became Mohammed Saleh.
He also spoke about life in the Kingdom during the reign of King Abdul Aziz and his encounter with the king in 1938.
“He is an invincible man,” Mohammed Saleh said of King Abdul Aziz.