The airwaves have been buzzing recently as Hajj Ride has taken off, leaving Muslims across the UK and even further afield curious. But what exactly is Hajj Ride?
A unique, six week, 3,500 kilometre journey by cycle to the blessed city of Madīnah. Eight brothers from the UK are currently embarking on this momentous journey, accompanied by two support staff, including myself.
The reasons behind Hajj Ride are three fold; one Muslim cyclist’s decade old dream of riding the modern camel (if I can call it that) for Hajj. Many of the riders once dreamed of fulfilling this ritual by means other than the modern aeroplane and through the bounty of Allāh their ambitions have become a reality this year.
Another reason for choosing to cycle to Hajj is to encourage British Muslims to use their health in a productive and beneficial manner. In recent times, Muslim sports personalities have become headline news, providing an ideal platform for the Hajj Riders to inspire future generations by showing that ordinary Muslims with full time jobs and family commitments can use their health to achieve something incredible.
Finally, the ride provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the desperate need of medical help for our Syrian brothers and sisters. While we have the opportunity to travel freely around our country and continent, the continuing civil war has left millions of Syrians displaced and in dire need of assistance. By raising funds for the Syrian people we can continue to highlight their plight and aim to relieve some of their suffering.
I decided to join the team as a support driver after my experience completing Al-Ikhwaan Cycle Club’s London to Paris charity ride in 2016. A selection of dedicated cyclists sacrificed their time and expertise to ensure that a group of relative novices, including myself, completed a very tough and challenging three day ride, by providing us with bundles of encouragement and tips on riding skills and nutrition. They also seemed to have a huge amount of fun while doing it, so when I caught wind that a Hajj Ride was taking place, I threw my name into the mix.
Preparing for the six weeks of riding requires an immense amount of planning, from deciding routes and stopover points to organising food and recovery schedules. Personally, I have been tasked with the responsibility of ensuring our group’s finances are maintained, and that the daily costs of food, fuel and other such necessities remain within allocated budgets. This financial responsibility is vitally important when bearing in mind the ultimate purpose of the journey; to perform Hajj.
Hajj is a time when all stand before Allāh equal, judged only according to their own deeds, and not by lineage, caste or colour. This unity in Islām has been manifested by the generosity and brotherhood we are experiencing in this journey.
The reception we have received over the first week of the journey has been amazing. As support staff we interact with plenty of people who initiate conversations with us after seeing the Hajj Ride branding on the support van. My GCSE in French has been sufficient for me to explain our ride to the French non-Muslims who have been both intrigued and impressed. The Muslims we have met have been abundant in their duas and support for us.
I sit here writing this article in Rheinfelden Mosque near the German border, the third mosque to offer us impromptu accommodation on this incredible journey. The generosity of the community has been heart-warming, with brothers constantly providing us with water and charitable donations. One refugee even invited riders into his house to shower before Jumuah Salah after a short but intense ride in Friday morning’s heat.
While driving around France in a van may not seem so appealing, travelling through the valleys and mountains has been spiritually inspiring.
Our journey brings to mind the story of Ibn Battuta, the great 14th century Moroccan scholar and explorer. He set out from his city in 1325 at the age of 21 to perform the holy pilgrimage in Makkah, and embarked on a series of incredible journeys extending over an incredible 30 years and 40 countries. Travelling as far as China in the East and Mali in the south, his remarkable experience was recorded in his Rihla (Journey) at the request of the Sultan Abu Sinan.
I hope and pray that this article inspires you to begin your own adventure, and at the very least appreciate the health we have and marvel at the wonder of Allāh’s creation.
Finally, we request your duās that the Hajj Riders reach Madīnah safely and are able to fulfil their fundraising targets.