The Tale Of Friendship In The Recent All-Women Hajj Pilgrimage

A tale of women’s solidarity is the most inspiring story that will fit so well in the theme of Friendship Day.

A news article published in a newspaper spoke of experiences of women who had gone on the Hajj pilgrimage without mahram, a male companion from the bloodline. 

In Quran, Hajj is given great importance and requires all Muslims once in a lifetime to undertake this spiritual journey to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is believed that the pilgrimage offers a chance to wipe clean past sins and start anew before God. 

However, many women were deprived of this spiritual journey because of Saudi Government restrictions that allowed only those women who were either accompanied by a mahram or as part of a large group of other women. 

In 2022, the Saudi Government lifted this restriction. From the quota given to the people of India for the annual pilgrimage, about 4135 accounted for the women without Mahram. According to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, India sent the ‘largest-ever contingent of women without Mahram.

The chance of a lifetime

This step towards ‘equal access to religion’ was a giant leap in faith for many women. Some of them were saving for this journey for decades. Like Ramzano Begum, aged 57, lost her husband eight years ago. She had been trying to go on Hajj but the restrictions did not allow her. Another Hajji Haneefa Akhtar was a divorcee from Kashmir. To take Hajj either she would have to wait till her son grew up or one of the brothers offered to take her. 

There were many apprehensions nevertheless

If one thinks that a change in law erases all issues then ask these brave women. 

There were many apprehensions and fear of the unknown. How to read the signs, how to board the flight, and how to survive on their own for more than a month in a foreign land. 

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A woman shared – “My husband told me that I may not return alive from the Hajj.” 

In this sense, this journey was no longer a spiritual journey but also a journey to conquer societal and mental blocks. 

Women Supporting Women

A significant step towards this solidarity of women was the all-woman flight by Air India from Kozhikode to Jeddah. The flight had an all-woman cabin crew and pilots. Even the ground staff and the baggage handlers were all women. 

The women shared how they came together to help each other, even for a seemingly simple task of using a water purifier. The educated ones helped those who could not read and write. They made human-chain to help others to perform rituals. 

I am sure after this journey; the women came back fulfilled not only spiritually but much more. This story sends a message to all of us – to support others in whatever way you can. Be it smiling at the woman feeling out of place in the crowd or cheering up your competitor who got the prize instead of you. 

You are truly empowered when your empowerment empowers others”

Image source: YouTube

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About the Author

Vartika Sharma Lekhak

Vartika Sharma Lekhak is a published author based in India who enjoys writing on social issues, travel tales and short stories. She is an alumnus of JNU and currently studying law at Symbiosis Law School, read more...

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