Sunday 4th February, 2007


Where money doesn’t matter

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I spent the last month with more than three million people who had all set the same financial goal.

The goal was to save enough money for the Hajj- the pilgrimage to Mecca. Many had saved for years accumulating sufficient for air-conditioned buses and two star hotels.

The pilgrims came mainly from Africa, India and its surrounds, Arab countries, Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. When we landed in Jordan, the Russian pilgrims were delighted to see us. They had been waiting on our flight for long hours, but the pre-Christmas London fog, had caused delays. They had waited in humility!

When we crossed the boundary-line for the pilgrims entry into the precinct for Hajj, the entire plane load prayed in one language.

Thereafter money and material things, position and social status fled off the recesses of our minds, and we joined a mass of humanity in humility. We spent five days in the desert sands, retracing the journey of Prophet Abraham, the temptations that faced him in the desert, and drinking water from the Well of Zam Zam.

When Prophet Abraham took his wife Hagar, into the desert in the Valley of Becca, and left her there with his son, she had begun a desperate search for water for the child. The Well of Zam Zam dates back to that time, and the water is free and flowing even today!

The awareness

Yes, we Trinis sat squat on the desert sands and ate common meals, and we slept on the desert sands.

But it was when we began the journey to the plains of Arafat, to make confession and to plead forgiveness, that I saw the hundreds of thousands who didn’t save for air-conditioned busses or tents in the desert, and who had made their way on very lean camels who had walked thousands of miles, with their necessities bundled on their backs, or in hardly road-worthy vehicles, it was then that I caught a gist of man’s relationship with God.

I felt too that one had to be extremely pious to walk the distance, in the desert heat by day, and in the desert cold, by night. And from the luxury of our air-conditioned bus, their faces, the faces of the pedestrians, was all I saw for miles and I wanted to trade places with them.

The male pilgrims dress in two pieces of seamless cloth, and nothing else; the women wear normal clothing—all white. In this sea of white, there is no class or caste, no dignitary, no commoner. There is equity before the Law, a Law that has existed even before society.

For days no one had to shop, or call home, and money was of little merit in the vast desert. We developed a kinship and a love for a million strangers a day, with whom we shared desert bathrooms. We smiled a lot because of language barriers, and we united in a universal bond, subtle and eternal.

When we returned to life at the hotel, the business desk was an unfamiliar concept, and the one PC that was available, didn’t have an English keyboard. But with desert sands in your clothes, and money well spent, why fuss about money matters?

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