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Monday, October 31, 2011

Tabung Haji ~ An Oasis of Hospitality for Malaysian Hajj Pilgrims

It's been 10 days since I first stepped foot here in the Holy Lands of Makkah al Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia.

My first ever umrah was quite eventful and also an eye-opening experience of seeing the Blessed Kaabah with my own eyes for the very first time in my life.



The grandeur of the Masjidil Haram and its ever expanding infrastructure is really quite humbling and to be caught in the sea of humanity coming from all over the world is an experience that will forever be burned into my memories.
One has to take it all in and absord the atmosphere, adjust to the extreme temperature searing one's skin and inducing one to a stage where to those of us Malaysians who are used to a tropical soothing, balming climate can easily get a blackout and maybe even pass out if caught under the direct scorching sun's heatwaves!


Heatstroke is a possibility. I nearly passed out after performing my first ever Friday prayers last week when I was there a day after arriving. I had no choice but to retreat to the shade and recover from that first bout of being exposed to the Saudi sauna treatment so to speak!


I have no choice but to acclimatize myself to the Middle Eastern scorching temperature and try my best to survive during my Hajj pilgrimage here in the Holy Lands. Its really quite a scorching welcome. :)


No wonder that some of the ordinary Arabs whom I came across the other day, who actually live in the harsh desert climate have sun-baked tough macho guy look! They are featured in one of my many videos which I need to process and upload to my You Tube account later. Real tough guys. 


As weather beaten as the many resilient camels I saw plodding about in the hot scorching deserts of the Jeddah to Makkah highway. 


Most of us Malaysians would swoon and pass out under the direct midday sun if left to dry under the burning heat. For sure.


I am truly grateful to be here under the care and protection of our Malaysian Pilgrims Fund @ Lembaga Tabung Haji Malaysia. The administrators and staff of Tabung Haji Malaysia are really exemplary Muslims.


They cover all our needs and have well qualified and right minded people taking care of both the pilgrims and TH personnel here. That to me is quite a blessing. Alhamdulillah. 


To this date, I have yet to meet anyone amongst the Tabung Haji staff either back in KL or here in Saudi Arabia, who are in any way discourteous or have been rude to any of the Hajj pilgrims and fellow TH staff. Wallahi!


Syukur Alhamdulillah! Its like each and every key personnel including the very top TH officials are specially handpicked and selected from amongst the very best to be employed and in service of the jamaah haji's and their TH team members. 


Quite encouraging to know that TH really live up to their slogan for this year's Hajj season : 'Bersama Santuni Dhuyufurrahman' with the meaning of 'Together Taking Care of The Hajj Pilgrims Needs in all areas for the sake of Ar Rahman ~ Allah, the Most Compassionate'.


That involves the taking care of the physical, emotional, spiritual and religious know how needs of each and every Hajj pilgrim so that they get to perform their Umrah and Hajj as correctly as possible!


I checked about the meaning of the term above first with Dato Nooh Gadut, the former Mufti of Johor Darul Takzim, who is the TH Adviser for Religious Affairs and currently stationed here as the Specialist Consultant at TH Makkah HQ at Abraj Al Janadiriyya, Makkah al Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia.


So, TH is not taking just any run of the mill Islamic scholar as their adviser. No less than a former Mufti and who is also the Religious Adviser to the Johor Malay Sultanate.


So, rest assured that our religious obligations are fully met and rightly guided with Islamic scholars such as Yang Berbahagia Dato Haji Nooh Gadut and Yang Berbahagia Dato Seri Haji Hassan bin Haji Ahmad, the Penang Govt State Mufti.


As to the rest of the needs of the Malaysian Hajj Pilgrims, Tabung Haji through its subsidiary company, TH Travel & Services have a whole range of packages to suit every wallet! :)


From the simplest package of the common folk to the flushed with Saudi Riyals wealthy Muslims. From a dorm of 5 to 6 beds per room hotel accommodation to a private suite in a 5 to 6 star luxurious hotel just about 20 to 30 metres away from the Masjidil Haram's main gates.


Talk about separation of the masses or classes. It exists as far as hotel accommodation and designer meals are concerned. 


Yet when it comes to performing the ibadah of umrah and hajj itself, there is just no preferential treatment in the Masjidil Haram except if one is a head of state or VVIP who will be ushered in by the authorities free from the jostling and scrambling that the average Hajj pilgrim is exposed to in that heaving mass of circumambulating pilgrims coming from all parts of the world.


Shown below are a few photos I took of various kinds of ethnicities jostling to get a cup of Zam Zam water from the many faucets provided by the Keeper of the Haramain. The most refreshing water in the world. 
All kinds of Muslims congregating in the cause of Allahu Ta'ala, to purify themselves and to cleanse their souls from sins which they may have committed. 
The preferential treatment of dignitaries will take place everytime a ruling head of state visits or comes to perform his or her umrah or hajj. I am pretty sure that the enforcement agencies will cordon off the path or area around the Kaabah to let the entourage of the visiting dignitary or dignitaries adequate room to make their way to the Hajarul Aswad and kiss it as much as they wish or prefer? 

No need to worry about being crushed in the mad stampede that takes place at that corner of the Holy Kaabah every passing second of the day or night as I have witnessed with my own eyes!


All these is only here upon this Earth. Once we are dead, there is no such separation of the classes. Every soul will be put through the same interrogation regardless of their earthly positions and status upon their death.


Its disappointing to know that there are some who abuse their trip to Makkah al Mukarramah by praying for bad things to happen to their fellow Muslims. Some of these holier than thou types make doa before the Baitullah so that their political enemies have their stomachs burst open or other unnatural disasters and calamities to befall them. I pity such folks. Wasted bro!


Coming all the way from the Malaysian Peninsular to do what? Majnun ya sayyidi's! Lunacy! 


One must always appreciate the golden opportunity given by Ar Rahman for us to be able to be here. Upon sacred and holy grounds. Where Rasul Sallalahu Alaihi Wassallam once lived and together with his companions helped establish the Masjidilharam and reaffirm the Syahadah and clarion call of the Talbiyah to reverberate and resonate from these rocky valleys to all corners of the globe!


Labbaik kallah humma labbaik! 


Labbaik kallah syarikalaqa labbaik!


Innal hamda!


Wal niaqmata!


Lakawal mulk!


La syarikalaq!


Being here in the company of the most pleasant, well behaved, professional sincere hearted Muslims working in Tabung Haji makes my first ever Umrah and Hajj pilgrimage quite a reassuring experience.


From the start of my callup to be with this year's jamaah in performing the Hajj, it has been an eye opening spiritual journey that has surely been very satisfying to me so far.


Alhamdulillah.


Brothers and Sisters, Ikhwanul Muslimeen,


We who have been blessed to be able to be here in the most holiest city of Islam, ought to know better than to dwell upon the negative and learn not to ill speak of our fellow Muslims and those who are our hosts. The Saudi Arabians.


Think it's easy to manage 3 million over pilgrims converging upon a city nestled amongst the rocky outcrops of valleys in a desert environment?


We would already have our hands full attending to our relatives or friends if they were to drop in unannounced at our homes? Imagine having to deal with people from all kinds of ethnic origins and social customs, with different forms of interpretations and practices of what they think is Islam?


Same goes for Tabung Haji.


A national pilgrims authority with just about 800 staff here in Arabia having to deal with 28,000 over pilgrims from all over Malaysia with our varying local dialects and customs and who also have to put up with ever changing Saudi Arabian guidelines and decisions. 


Like the recent limit on Tabung Haji members withdrawals of Saudi Riyals to just SR500 per day. It had nothing to do with TH but a number of blogs wrote about the matter in a negative light when they should know better than to nitpick on TH which as far as I have come to know them in person and been able to deal with them daily are the best in the world as far as managing our Malaysian pilgrims as well as they have done to date.


Our fellow bloggers fail to take into consideration that TH and every other pilgrim authority here are but guests in Saudi Arabia. We are in no position to dictate to our hosts as to how to run their country's affairs which includes the unenviable tasks of keeping the world's two most holiest sites @ Masjidilharam and Masjid An Nabawi.


You think it's easy to monitor the millions of pilgrims coming from all over the world almost daily during the Hajj?


We get worked up when relatives or friends suddenly drop unannounced? Ah! The floor hasn't been mopped yet! This and that plus a thousand and one other things that have to be tidied up, arranged, etcetera.


Hence, it is unbecoming for anyone to be critical of our Saudi hosts when we aren't that picture perfect ourselves! If we are too concerned with the lack of this and that, please stay home.


Don't travel overseas and expect everything to be smooth sailing or exactly as we desire or envision it to be? This is not Aladdin's palace where our every desire will be fulfilled at the clap of the hands. This is real life. Not a fairy tale.


Tabung Haji has been taking care of each and every Malaysian pilgrims needs to the letter. Even the staff are well taken care of and provided with almost everything that they need.


So, to put it in a nutshell, TH is an oasis of hospitality in a city populated by almost every kind of Muslim there is in the whole wide world. 


(L to R) Tuan Haji Mohd Nor (Deputy Manager) and Tuan Haji Hafizudin (Manager) of Maktab 93 TH, located at the Hotel Lulu-At Tauhid, Al Misfalah, Makkah Al Mukarramah. These two gentlemen attended to my needs very well when I first arrived in Makkah and took care of my lodging and dietary needs. May Allah reward them well. Ameen.
Thank Allah for TH!


Truly a first class Malaysian authority that we can all be proud of. Syukur Alhamdulillah!


May Allah bless each and every staff and official of Tabung Haji Malaysia for the exemplary work they have done and are still doing! Insya Allah!


There are many other outstanding TH key personnel and administrators whom I will be writing about in the coming articles.


We need to appreciate the hardworking, diligent and efficient Malaysian Tabung Haji officials and staff who are working very hard here in Makkah al Mukarramah, Jeddah and Madinah Al Munawwarah to make sure that our Hajj rituals is perfect and performed to the exact dictates and requirements of Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala and in accordance with the Sunnah of His Glorious Messenger, Muhammad al Mustafa, Rasulullah Sayyidul Mursalin.


Mahaguru58 will be sharing more after this. Insya Allah.


Wabillahi Taufik Wal Hidayah.


Wassalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.
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