iconimg Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Gulam Jeelani, Hindustan Times
Lucknow, September 13, 2013
Communal clashes weighed heavily on the mind of Haj pilgrims who said they would pray for peace in the riothit regions of state. In the Haj house here in Sarojini Nagar, amidst emotions of elation visible on the faces of pilgrims waiting for their turn to board flights to Saudi Arabia, there was also an undercurrent of anxiety over the tension prevailing in western UP due to communal violence.

Barabanki-based businessman Mohammad Irshad, 60, who will be travelling by air for the first time, told HT: “I will definitely pray for peace in riot-hit areas of the state.”

Like Irshad, everyone present at the Haj House was worried about the deteriorating law and order situation.

But at the same time they were hopeful that their prayers would ensure return of peace in their state. “We are embarking on our most sacred journey. It is our duty to pray to Almighty for peace in our land,” said Wali Mohammad, 40, a pilgrim from Lucknow.

At one corner of the sprawling lawns, a group of people, accompanying the pilgrims of the Jeddah bound flight scheduled at 4:40 pm on Thursday, was engrossed in discussions revolving around Muzaffarnagar violence.

Despite different takes on who was responsible for the riots, the group seemed unanimous on one thing, “We need to be careful till the Lok Sabha election is over. We have to live with other communities and such a tense atmosphere does not bode well. Living in peace and harmony is the only way.”

As the discussion continued, a few people were busy giving pilgrims last-minute reminders regarding the rituals of Haj and methods of wearing the Ihram (the mandatory white robe for the pilgrimage) amidst chants of Labaik Allahuma Labaik (Here I am oh Allah Here I am) reverberating from the building.

”We need to be wary of politicians who are known for pitting one community against another. Like every religion, Islam teaches us tolerance, peace, brotherhood and guides us to help dejected people irrespective of religion,” said Shakir Alvi, 30, an attendant of a Lucknow-based pilgrim present in the group.

The oldest and most sacred ritual of Islam, Haj is a required observance among every able-bodied Muslim who can financially afford the trip.

Nearly 12,497 pilgrims will embark on the annual pilgrimage to Islamic sacred cities in 38 special flights from the Amausi airport this year.