The pilgrimage was never merely about rites and rituals, for it has always involved science and progress, culture and intellection, and economics and humanities. Here we delve into Hajj as a civilizational ecosystem that speaks volumes on efforts, opportunities and prospects; past, present and future. Unveiling stories and tales of morals, values and meaning worthy of being heard by the world over in an attempt to raise awareness of this glorious timeless journey, the amazing people running it and those fortunate enough to embark on it .
Whenever a reference to Meccans is made, I’m reminded that we are talking about a largely diverse family (encompassing a multitude of colors, races and subcultures) accustomed to diversity and multilingualism.
I grew up a child in one of those multilingual families and was particularly close to my father (who also happened to be a Mutawif and my best friend as well), I really loved and enjoyed accompanying him during Hajj seasons. I was a child who liked pilgrims and thought of them as family friends and whenever I saw my father guide, help or explain matters to them, I jumped at every opportunity to imitate him. One time I was playing at my father's office, when suddenly one of the pilgrims came and asked me a question in Malayalam, and because I was used to hearing the language from my folks, I understood that he was looking for a barber, to which I replied to in Arabic while pointing to where he needed to go. I was overcome with joy and a sense of accomplishment since I saw myself as helpful and resourceful as my role model of a father, not to mention my mother, aunts and their daughters who always volunteer to explain the rituals of Hajj to the pilgrims and assist them in any way they can.
Volunteering While on a Scholarship
I had developed my linguistic abilities over the ensuing years acquiring a firm grasp of the English language along the way. I even had the opportunity to guide pilgrims during their visit to Umm Al-Qura Women's Association in Makkah, which renewed and reinforced my passion for serving the guests of Allah, and in the years that followed I embarked on a scholarship to the United States. Despite my expectations, the cultural and intellectual diversity did not match nor compare to what I was used in Makkah and during Hajj. So, whenever the Hajj season arrived, I was there, along with other Saudi fans and enthusiasts convey the experience of Hajj and its stories to the outside world.
Through these countless efforts and initiatives, I became intensely aware of the value of linguistics and education and eventually designed a variety of voluntary programs for education and awareness that weren’t now limited to America but extended to several other countries as well.
Even Children Lend a Hand
I truly believe that when we love something are heavily committed to it, God Almighty facilitates it and blesses us. This is exactly what happened when I ended up marrying a fellow from the “Zamzami” family who’ve been responsible for water provision since the time of the prophet peace be upon him. This matrimonial tie opened a new door for me to further serve the pilgrims, as I participated in one of the programs responsible for distributing Zamzam water to the pilgrims assisted by local children. Seeing that wonderful look in the eyes of pilgrims and hearing them chat amongst themselves in wonder: “even their children serve pilgrims” made it all worthwhile.
Volunteering to Translate for the World
One of the most fulfilling things in life is a purposeful vision of how things can be coupled with good work towards doing more and doing it better. My early childhood and youth years spent In language acquisition coupled with years of volunteering at university with a group of young people who love their country and are gung-ho on properly representing it with love and sincerity, came full circle at this year's Hajj 1440 yielding one of my most wonderful experiences in volunteering to serve the pilgrimage and pilgrims. One of the leaders from my scholarship days returned and worked at the Ministry of Information. When the Minister of Information, in cooperation with the Government Communication Center, undertook initiatives to serve the pilgrimage season, they found it important that media materials be produced in a wide range of languages to address the world and convey the great efforts of the Kingdom in the service of pilgrims. I was then contacted to supervise a full team of translation volunteers. Thanks be to God and the support of the team; we were able to translate 42 videos into more than a dozen international languages. Out of which, one of them entered the new media competition launched by the emirate of Makkah Province, namely the video of the Nayla Hassan (Director of New Zealand police, which came in the hospitality of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to perform the pilgrimage), we translated then edited her speech after the terrorist attack in New Zealand and mixed it with what she recently said with regard to the beauty of her Hajj experience and Saudi Arabia’s exceptional hospitality.
From Child Interpreter to a PHD Candidate Still Translating
I’m a firm believer that we are polished and shaped by childhood experiences. When I look at my life from humble beginnings all the way to becoming a doctoral candidate and working at the Center of International Referencing in America and reflect on the long journey I have made in the experience of volunteering in general and volunteering to serve the guests of Rahman in particular, I am utterly grateful and well aware of how my father's parenting has had an impact on my life and the ideas that made me the person I am today. This realization has made me feel very responsible for the upbringing of my own children and future generations to serve the country, and to exert all possible means to serve the guests of Rahman.
- Alyaa Milybari