This forms part of a series written by Dr Salim Parker, the hajj doctor. More stories can be found on his blog site hajjdoctor.co.za
‘I really wish you were on Hajj with us,’ I said. There were certain constants in our lives on Arafat, Mina and Makkah that, if not present, led to a sense of incompleteness. Perhaps we were not aware of some uniqueness and only realise its value when it’s not there. ‘Insha-Allah, make Duaa that I will be there next year,’ he would respond. I as a rule believe that I am not irreplaceable; that if one day I cannot accompany pilgrims on the ultimate journey in the life of a Muslim there would be someone much more competent to be honoured with the privilege.
However, there are some whose influence and Allah bestowed gifts are so unique that there their absence will be permanently evident. He was one of those irreplaceable influences in all spheres amongst the Muslims of Cape Town and beyond. I reminisced about the effect he had during Hajj.
Most of the Hujjaaj went to sleep after the early morning Fajr prayers. It was the second day of Tashreeq, the second day of pelting when we were all going to cast pebbles at the effigy of Shaitan in order to reject his attempts to lure us away from the commandments of Allah. We were going to follow in the footsteps of our forefather Nabi Ibrahim. The Hujjaaj were tired, a number of them had just finished their compulsory tawaf and struggled their way from Makkah to our tents in Mina. Arafat was a few days gone already but it was blazing in our hearts, minds and souls. In one corner a voice could be heard reciting. It was soft, so as not to disturb those in desperate need of a few winks. It was melodious, so it soothed the mind. It was inspiring so that many sat up and listened. And it was inviting, so that by the time he reached the third well known surah, virtually everyone was reciting along. Sheigh Fuaad Isaacs was at home and his voice was at ease in the valley of Mina, just as it was on the plains of Arafat.
When he started reciting Surah Al’ Ala, the sound reflected the radiance in his voice. There was the evident love for the words of our Creator the Most High that stirred all of us to listen, to wish that it will not stop and want us to find out more. Unknowing to him someone switched on the sound system and this stirred many in the surrounding tents to realise that there was blessings and rewards in listening to the wonderful words of the Glorious Quran recited by an absolutely perfect practitioner of the gifted art. The flaps of the tent we occupied kept opening as more and more pilgrims from adjacent tents entered and soon everyone was sitting up and listening. The passages between the tents were lined with those who could not enter, and many braved the already blazing sun as they stood and listened intently. He did not merely recite, he had the uncanny ability to touch your inner deeper being.
A week earlier this unbelievably gifted person was still carrying bags for Hujjaaj from one building to another. He slaved away for hours with the manual duties, then in the hotel corridors explained some of the finer details about the rites of Hajj to an enquiring pilgrim and followed this by escorting an elderly gentleman to a shop for where a sought after present was to be sourced. Thereafter he sat down and recited from the Quran with a few youngsters, a promised that he kept. He sprained his back, but this did not deter him from continuing in his multiple and diverse roles. He was refused to take an injection for the pain, and whether he was just scared or intolerant of it led to much teasing from my part. Whom he was very evidently intolerant of were those who abused their parents, spouses, children and the downtrodden. He would merely verbalise his thoughts when witnessing oppression and his known martial arts training and immense physical presence equipped him to be such an imposing figure that issues could speedily be resolved.
The pilgrims in the group would clamour to perform Tawaaf or in a group led by him. He would teach easily and would always emphasise that Tawaaf and Hajj was an immensely personal experience. He used to remind us that our Beloved Prophet (SAW), though He clearly made many Duaas when performing Tawaaf, only one was documented in the Hadiths. He thus urged all to pray whatever is in their hearts and not solely rely on him to take the lead. During the Sa’ee he would lead the group, assist in pushing the elderly in their wheelchairs, and encourage the fostering of bonds between all.
Arafat was special as he made the closing Duaa, his voice the apex of an emotionally charged day. Yes
Arafat is between Allah and all of his subjects individually. However certain duaas, rendered by the most melodious of voices, soothing in its tone and yet startling in its clarity and power of reach, paves the way for ease of communication with our Creator. His Duaas touched the essence of our souls, reminding us of our beloved parents irrespective of whether they were at their physical or recalled abodes, and asking for our blessings to be extended to all those who merely dream of one day touching the soil of Arafat. Many of the group waited for at sunset him when he announced that he would walk to Musdalifah and from there the Mina and they duly set off with him leading with ‘Labaik!’ He was fit, knew the area like the palm of his hand and shepherded his group with he utmost ease.
The world is poorer without him. We heard him raise his voice when necessary when he admonished an abuser. However, the vast majority would remember him expanding the words of the Quran into the rhythmic and melodious wonder of Allah’s revelations. At his Janazah I overheard someone fondly recalling him reciting at the name giving ceremony of a baby. Another spoke of listening to him at a Nikah, still another mentioned that he recited at a Janazah. His presence was heard, seen and felt across the full spectrum of life.
Someone mentioned that if we go for Hajj again we should play a recording of his Quranic recitation. Many of us would not need to do that. If we are ever gifted another occasion to stand on the plains of Arafat, all we need to do is to would be to close our eyes and stretch our hands towards the heavens. The words of the Quran through his voice will forever be echoing for us there, reminding us that someone of his calibre comes once in a lifetime and we should cherish what he enriched our world with.