Muslim Scouts from all over the UK took part in the first ever official trip to Mecca in January 2006.
The Hajj is a religious pilgrimage that a Muslim must make at least once in their lifetime. Dressed in white sheets, the Muslim retraces the route Mohammed took 14 centuries ago.
One of the Scout leaders Abdullah, is from Birmingham. Before the trip he said: "The Hajj is one of the biggest religious adventures in history and is an expression of devotion to God. I consider it the greatest spiritual adventure of my life. Each year three to four million people make the pilgrimage to Mecca; it will be an amazing experience to be part of this breath-taking expedition."
Mustafa Audhali, 22 (Scout Leader – 304th Birmingham Scout group) tells us about his experience:
|Before going into the Holy Mosque in Mecca|
"Scouting in the 21st century involves mountaineering, pioneering, camping and Hajj... "What? You mean Hajj as in Pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah)?" some have asked. Yes of course - is my response, with a smile. The words 'Alhamdu lillah' (meaning 'Praise to be God' in Arabic) quickly come to my mind.
Scouting boasts a programme that helps youngsters develop through offering them challenge, adventure and excitement. So what better way to camp out, go hiking, live and eat simply amongst three million people gathered from all parts of the world than at the annual Hajj pilgrimage? Adventure, excitement and challenge all in one.
From the moment we left our homes in the UK, it all started to feel special, and REAL. Up until that point it had never really sunk into our brains that we were about to embark on a journey of a lifetime. We were now all too excited to care about anything else: "We're going to do Hajj!", we kept reminding ourselves.
|Two of the Scouts at Heathrow|
For me, the only thing occupying my mind throughout the journey there, was the Holy Mosque in Mecca. Although I was only daydreaming, it was as though I was already there amongst the many millions of pilgrims submitting to Allah's ('God' in Arabic) will. The 'Talbiya' constantly ticking through my mind ('Here I am at your service my Lord, here I am!' – said in Arabic). It was beginning to get emotional, just thinking about the whole concept of Hajj and what we were about to be a part of.
Soon after, we were entering the holy mosque and setting eyes on the blessed cube (the 'Ka'bah') that all our lives we face when we offer prayer, was touching. We were in the house of The Almighty God and it was hard not to feel so emotional and humbled, excited but nervous at the same time.
"When I saw the Ka'bah I was overwhelmed with emotions and started crying." Ahmed Aljehani – Scout.
|The crowds at Mina|
After the first emotional hurdle, a great sense of achievement manifested itself in the group and soon after we celebrated by having breakfast. We visited the General Secretary of the Saudi Boy Scout Association in the afternoon who took us around the various camps to introduce us to our fellow Saudi scouts. Our one week visit was action packed, so we only had very limited time for sleep.
"We learnt first hand what an excellent role the Saudi Scouts play in Hajj by manning information points, guiding Pilgrims, taking lost ones back to their tents, performing first aid and looking after lost children. We had a true sense of the family of Scouting across cultures and languages. We exchanged gifts and presents with our fellow Scouts." Amir Cheema – Assistant Contingent leader.
The day of Arafa reminded us all of the Day of reckoning when everyone shall return to Allah and stand before him all crammed together in a very confined space under immensely challenging conditions.
We spent the day in submission to Allah, celebrating His magnificence and seeking His forgiveness. It just felt right to be here and none of us wished to be anywhere else in the world.
|Praying inside Nemira Mosque|
Over the next few days we went on to complete our Hajj duties 'Alhamdu lillah' ('Praise be to God') and then returned home quicker than we would have liked to. It almost felt like a dream and one that I pray we can experience again one day.
This opportunity to perform Hajj hosted by the Saudi Boy Scout Association came about after the Saudi and UK Scout Associations proved their friendship was genuine. In fact scouting is not about friendship. Like Islam it is based on brotherhood and you may be interested to know that although Scouting is the largest youth movement in the world with more than 30 million members, over a third of them are Muslim.
Here in the UK, Scouting has predominantly provided a programme with a Christian ethos. Although non-denominal, Scouting has appealed to a number of faith groups and to the Muslims particularly since it is based on important values such as love, respect and service to others, nature, god and not to forget respect to oneself.
|Inside the Holy Mosque|
The principles behind Scouting are the same, but the ethos a tad different according to the faith group. Since establishment under a decade ago, Muslim Scouting has come a long way. With eight fully functioning scout groups and more in the pipeline, the UK Scouts Association has willingly dedicated a wing to officially represent Muslim Scout groups through the commissioning of the Muslim Scout Fellowship.
Join us in strengthening our relationship with Scouts from around the world whenever they visit the UK HQ and not to forget the movement that helped us undertake this once in a lifetime journey."
For further information to join the Scouts Association please contact 0845 3001818 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.