NEW DELHI - Elderly Indian Muslim Aijaz Ahmad can't believe that his lifelong dream of visiting Makkah and Madinah is finally going to be fulfilled.
No words can describe my joy, the 76-year-old Aijaz told OnIslam.net.
Perhaps nothing is more important to me than the Haj pilgrimage.
Ahmad was one of Indian pilgrims who left for hajj from Bhopal city earlier this month to perform the life-time spiritual journey of hajj to Makkah.
He was overjoyed by getting the opportunity to perform hajj this year, after years of work to save money needed for the journey.
Same like Ahmad, hajj dreams were postponed for poor millions of Indian Muslims for which they keep preparing for it for the whole of their life but are able to reach it only towards its end.
It is not easy for an ordinary Indian Muslim to perform hajj, Muslim scholar Maulvi Shees said.
Most of them do think about it but can't afford it.
Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
In India, about 170,000 Muslims were supposed to leave to Makkah on the spiritual journey of hajj, including 125,000 people through Indian Hajj Committee and 45,000 through private tour operators.
However, later the quota was reduced by 20 percent following a request by Saudi Government, minimizing the number of pilgrims by 10,000.
Preparing Indian Muslims for hajj, training camps were organized in different cities of India.
Islamic institutions also organize such camps to offer would-be pilgrims the information related to the holy journey.
It is our endeavor to fully prepare the people through these orientation training camps so that they face no difficulty in Makkah and Madinah, Madhya Pradesh Haj Committee president Sanobar Patel told Onislam.net.
Such camps are organized at different places for the benefit of aspiring pilgrims.
Though dreaming of hajj for years, many Indian Muslims were forced to postpone their plans as the cost has gone up considerably due to the plummeting rupee.
It was not possible for me to pay the increased cost as the falling rupee has raised the pilgrimage cost, Hyderabad's Kalim Khan told OnIslam.net.
Therefore I was forced to withdraw my name. I'm greatly upset but I had no other option.
The US dollar is hovering at around Rs 63, an appreciation of about Rs 10 since the time the applications were invited for the hajj pilgrimage.
Falling rupee has hit hajj plans of Indian Muslims all over the country.
According to official figures, about 350 people from Andhra Pradesh state of India alone have withdrawn their names.
Pilgrims in other Indian states are also feeling the pinch of plunging rupee after higher travel costs shattered their dreams of going on once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage.
Similar to Kalim Khan, hajj plans of Raipur's Aslam Nawaz have also been jeopardized due to the unprecedented fall in rupee against the dollar and he was forced to defer the journey.
If it were in my power I would never have done this. But it was beyond my capacity to shell out extra money for the travel package, Aslam told Onislam.net.
I dreamt the whole life of going to Makkah to perform Haj but when I was on the verge of doing this the rising cost of dollar shattered my dream.
Hajj is officially expected to fall between October 13 and 18, with the climax falling on October 14 when the faithful descend the Mount `Arafat.
`Eid Al Adha will start on Tuesday, October 15, according to Saudi Islamic Justice authorities.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net