Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sadness is a wall between two gardens- Khalil Gibran

Every day for three weeks we call the travel agent to find out if we are going to Hajj. Every day when we were lucky enough to reach someone they promised us that tomorrow we will find out. Two weeks of tomorrow promises later we get an email that a few people got visas and their names are attached- but there is no attachment. We write, we call, we wait. But the lines went silent. No e-mails, no calls, voice mail full.

Today I woke up and my first thought was "In a week I might be going to Hajj" I run down to check my email. nothing. I run to check my voice mail. nothing. I call all six numbers. nothing. In frustration I call. hang up. dial again. and repeat until I finally reach a person who tells me that they cannot help me and will call me later. I summoned all my patience and pleaded. This is my pillar in Islam that you are handling. No one is telling us anything. Send a mass email to all 200 waiting or call us individually. Tell us "we don't know", tell us "yes" tell us "no" but tell us something because the silence as we wait to find out is maddening.

She took pity upon me and transferred me to the lady herself. She began telling me she did not know and we must have faith and will find out soon. I ask her: Are our names on the list of recently accepted visas? She is quiet for a moment, and then says no. She begins to speak again about needing to get off the phone because she is very busy but I interrupt her, You've been doing this for fifteen years. You know how this works. Please tell us honestly, are we going to Hajj this year." Silence again. Then I hear a sigh "No. I do not think you are going to Hajj this year" She then promises she will discuss this in more detail in two days and hangs up the phone.

At least there is an answer right. I thought I'd feel better once I knew but I don't. The house seems darker, the silence seems quieter, and salty tears are beginning to form as the realization sinks in. You might tell me "Its God's will" yes it is, I don't deny it. "If it was meant to be it will" Amen to this. "This means you were not ready" Perhaps so. I am not angry with God. I am not doubting His plan. But I am sad and I feel disappointment and deep regret wondering why we didn't go with a different agency.

The bitterest disappointment has been dealing with those who toyed with our hearts. Who took on more than they should. Who did not let us know when they were well aware of the situation. Who reprimanded us when we asked about our status implying that if we had faith we would not ask such questions. Telling us they would call or email with an update and never doing so. I wont' get into the fraud aspect of the story, I pray they will do the right thing, but if not they will have to answer for what they did.

Someone is bound to tell me that I shouldn't have written this. I shouldn't complain about Hajj. Hajj involves patience. I dont deny the latter but I feel am rightfully disappointed. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a business man known even by those who did not accept him as a Prophet to be an honest man. You should not have to be extra careful when dealing with "your own" if "your own" are supposed to be trying to follow in the steps of the man we say is "our own" greatest role model. Those who do not deal fairly with their fellow man no matter what faith should be accountable. It is only through speaking about it and taking action that this sort of thing can be prevented from happening again.

38 comments:

mystic-soul said...

Can you report this agency somewhere to check if they are in inappropriate practice?. I am sure a lot of 'money making schemes' going around advertising 'Hajj packages'. Did you loose any money ?

Personally, I think (and I think this very honestly) that you have been rewarded with bigger responsibilty than Hajj with blessing of your new job/responsibility/fellowship.... to serve underserved kids. Can be bigger Hajj than this?.

Let see if I can find english translation of urdu short story 'Baasode ki Maryam' - a story of woman who could not perform Hajj all her life as her son was handicapped.

Anonymous said...

Aisha,
I am sorry for your disappointment. I can't say that I understand the importance of this in your life as a Muslim but clearly it means so much to you. It was wrong of these people to toy with you like they have. If it is not to be this year perhaps next year will fall into place. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

You are right to be upset. I would have given them a piece of my mind, but I'm sure you were too nice to do that. Seriously, they should be reported if this is their regular practice. Dont be too upset, there's always next year, and inshaAllah the one after that, and after that. Its Allah's House and He will pick you to be His guest soon enough, inshaAllah.

Ahh, I see you're done with Evidence. Lucky you! Mine's on Tuesday, along Refugee Law, and also Fed Courts on Saturday. Not to mention 2 papers. Agh, pray for me please :o/

Baraka said...

Salaam,

Someone is bound to tell me that I shouldn't have written this. I shouldn't complain about Hajj.

Dear, you're not complaining about Hajj. You are full of longing for nearness to God and are expressing disappointment at being jerked around by your fellow humans and sadness that perhaps this is not the year you will journey to Mecca.

I know both the longing and disappointment to be there, close to Him...insha-Allah you will be, soon.

Sending you great big warm hugs,
Baraka

Tee said...

Aisha, it's alright to be disappointed. God's will can be disappointing to us humans. We don't have His viewpoint on the mountaintop to see that it works out for the best. From where we are, down here, it doesn't make sense, it seems unfair.

Regardless of all this, I would research how to report this agency. You should not have been lead on and had your hopes raised so high.

Next year, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Mystic if they don't do what they need to do as far as refunds etc they will definety be reported.

Jane, next few years will be tough to go, this was pretty much the window for us for the near future. But it wasn't meant to b. what I can I do about it.

Maleeha, I wantd to yell but thankfully being nice helped me get to speak to someone because they normally never get in touch with us... Good luck with Evidence. Is yours mulitple choice? ExamPro is an excellent invaluable resource if your exam is multiple choice

Baraka. Thank you. You are right. Its not Hajj but the fact that I can't go and the fact that people are frustrating, not Hajj. I feel better :)

Tee, your analogy to the mountain top is interesting because of the timing (though why does your timing surprise me anymore?) Just before I Came back to the cmputer I was looking out a window moping and I saw a reallllly high tree in the front of our house and the tree is almost shaped like a christmas tree so it has a pointy pinnacle. And there was a bird just hanging out there. And I was looking at the bird as it looked around all the way at the top of this enormous tree and I thought how interesting his perspective must be from way up there. can only imagine God's perspective :). Intresting we had the same thought at the same time :).

Saadia said...

Its a real dissapointment. Hajj is something people long for and they should be treated fairly in that sacred process. I am not sure where the fate and patience steps in though, but I do sense that it has a place here. Maybe its because of this very mishandling of people that its good you don't go this year. Also, Arabia is embroiled in a lot of problems right now, a lot - in the royal governing circles and the fact that it could become part of the sectarian conflict in the ME if it faces off with Iran and shias. You don't know how someone may react during hajj towards the Saudis or the anger towards the US policies, what kind of things could happen during hajj. Its really not the most secure time and as someone once told me on her trip, one of the gaurds said "Saudi security is for the Saudis". They think they are copying the US by taking care of their national interest except that the US takes care of the tourists and visitors. The Visa problem is the tip of the iceberg of what you would go through in all parts surrounding the holy places.

Saadia said...

But I am assuming here the agency had something to do with the Saudis.

Rabia said...

sorry, Aisha

Anonymous said...

I hope you didn't pay this agency money. And I don't understand why they keep dodging your calls. What's with the "I'll call you in two days to talk about it," crap? You are their client, you deserve respect, and you deserve answers. Now. If anything, this is a precursor of how this agency is going to treat you in the desert.

My sister was taken to camp somewhere with the other members of the group (can't remember exactly where, but I really should talk to her and do an expose on her experience) and there was no running water. The porto-potties were soooo filthy, she held it in for three days until they got back to a place that had a commode, and even those had footprints on the seats because some people confused them with squat toilets, which led to extra messiness. In terms of going to the bathroom, it was a neat freak's nightmare. My sister said, people were no longer doing it in the porto-potty, they were pooping and peeing on the floor inside and around it, and even behind the buses, squatting and going wherever they could find a place. It was really gross. You had to be careful when walking, very careful, not to get human waste on your shoes. There was a pregnant woman (four months) in her group as well, who just broke down and cried on the ground because she couldn't handle the stress the agency was giving them. She hadn't planned to be pregnant while hajj, but it just sort of happened and she really wished she hadn't gone. Pregnant women need to use the bathroom very frequently and she had to go in places that were just filthy. Meanwhile, all those travel agency crooks were sitting in air-conditioned tents after swindling customers $6,000 a piece. The nerve.

Aisha said...

Saadia its a combination of Saudi inefficiency and the typical desi customer service attitude of each man for him/herself.

Rabia.. thanks

Chic, I heard about the bathroom situation but when you describe it like that it really makes it more real. Wow. Unfortunately we have given a pretty penny the return of which they say is up in the air. The whole process has been extremely disheartening.

Aisha said...

Chic, was that the agency you were dsaying you would nto touch with a ten foot pole?

ABCDlaw said...

Your disappointment is justified, and your responses to the agency's behavior were all totally appropiate. I was slightly disgusted by how the lady was trying to manipulate faith by telling you to "have faith" when she already knew that your situation was grim. Its really troubling when you get cheated by "fellow muslims", in a way it almost makes you lose faith in humanity.

Because of all these hardships, Inshallah when you do get to go I'm sure the experience will be that much more rewarding. And maybe you avoided a bigger letdown-what chic mommy described above sounds horrific.

Anonymous said...

Aisha, my parents went last year through Dar-us-Salaam and said the agency was perfect - very courteous and helpful - and their hajj was as comfortable as is possible. Maybe something to consider for next time, iA.

Evidence exam is all fact patterns. :o(

Aisha said...

abcdlaw yes its very very frustrating when you get countered like that :(

Maleeha, have you read chic's comments? I am pretty sure she said the experience her sister had was with the group your parent went with. Ive also had people go with our travel agency who raved about it. It seems I've heard horror/grat stories stemming from the same agency. Its odd isnt it?

Saadia said...

I also think dissapointment with being treated wrong while you are attempting to go to hajj is different from woes about: a)studying, b)Mean Girls, c)chocolate, and d)loud birdies. So I dont think anyone thinks you shouldn't be upset about it.

Baji said...

Hon, you have every reason to be angry with this profit-monger for breaking your heart!

Anonymous said...

"we will tell you tomorrow, insh'allah"

this is the beauty AND the frustration one experiences with all things saudi. in this situation, sadly, you got a heavy dose of the frustration. i do hope things work out for you to go in the near future.

best wishes.

Anonymous said...

"we will tell you tomorrow, insh'allah"

this is the beauty AND the frustration one experiences with all things saudi. in this situation, sadly, you got a heavy dose of the frustration. i do hope things work out for you to go in the near future.

best wishes.

Anonymous said...

"we will tell you tomorrow, insh'allah"

this is the beauty AND the frustration one experiences with all things saudi. in this situation, sadly, you got a heavy dose of the frustration. i do hope things work out for you to go in the near future.

best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, I am so sorry to hear about your experience. It just wasn't meant to be, and definitely fight to get your money back and report this agency or sue them. It just makes me so angry when people try to make money of Hajjis before they are there. In pre-Islamic Arabia the Meccans used to do the same thing and now nothing has changed. Inshallah Allah will give you the reward of a Hajj based on your longing alone, and next year may He permit you to be His guest.

As an aside, is there no reputable mosque or anything that does Hajj groups in your area? Here all the bigger mosques have been sending Hajjis for over a decade and so far all I know who went through them are quite happy, and everyone this year, my neighbour included, got their visa.

Anonymous said...

I like 'umra better anyway :)

And I still feel like dancing to the 80's. I dunno Aisha. Sometimes, I just imagine Cyndi Lauper running around here. And it makes me want to sing ~Time after time, if you fall I will catch you iiiiiiiiiii will be waitingggggg time after time~

Okay, I'm going to stop lipsynching now. My coworkers are looking at me funny.

Maybe that's just cause I'm funny lookin though.

*changes channel* Oooh! Madonna

opennnnnnn your heart to meeeeeeee babbbaaaaaaaay.

I'm going to sit down now.

Nevermind. I'm sitting down.

Now Aisha. Make yourself a chocolate icecream, 1 banana, and soy milk smoothie. The banana is for consistency. Sit back, throw in a few strawberries. And go ahead. It's like jannah on earth. And believe me, the mango icecream in Mecca has nothing on a good ol' chocolate milkshake.

-HijabMan

Palwasha said...

My in-laws used the same agency as you and they are in the same boat. It is a terrible situation because they do not know if their health will allow them to go next year. I was telling Raonak last night about how my heart is breaking for all of you. I wish you the best of luck. :)

Aisha said...

Saadia, true :)

Baji, yeah. I got another email today from them saying there is still hope. But this is a mass email compared to her personally telling me "no". I dont know what to believe. *sigh*

LoA, its very very frustrating. The visa frustrations are compounded when they dont start accepting visas until after Ramadan. With all the millions seeking to go... I can't help but think they should start the visa acceptabnce process sooner so people like us can know sooner.

Mezba, I dont know if the local mosque was going. Kashif's hometown mosque has a service but people complained a great deal bout that one so we didnt. We chose this based on recommendations. We know people who have been on it and thought it was fine. ts funny b/c after our problems began we began hearing stories of bad things. Its intresting how people didn't share this earlier. Others we asked for the travel agencies they earlier had raved about and when I emailed or called to ask them who they went with they didnt respond. that is baffling. But anyways, its not an anonymous hajj agency, it is one we know of...

Hijab Man. Thanks now those songs will be stuck in my head all day!!! I still can't quite figure out the 80's connection, but you made me smile, so kudos for that :)

Palwasha, wow. I'm so sorry to hear that they are in the same boat as well. Ferheen and Meraj are all set. We just got an email today saying that there may be hope but I dont believe it. Its FRIDAY. And the embassy said on their website today was the last day. She is claiming sometime next week maybe. But next Thursday we're supposedly leaving. Also in the last line she said "inshallah we will find extra rooms" Ummmm Insh'allah? And what if you don't??? UGH. They make me so angry.

Anonymous said...

sorry about the 15 posts of the same thing....(i was never very good at counting)...i had a little bit of trouble commenting on blogger last night.

sadly hajj is big business and you are paying the price. (meanwhile, in the world of pots and kettles, back to my xmas shopping *sigh*)

Tee said...

ROFL... Sorry, HijabMan is amusing and distracting me.... hee hee...

That is totally awesome about the bird on top of the tree.... I should stop being surprised when we have these connections, too, but I am every time!

Saadia said...

Someone at my job was also attempting to go to turkey and was having problems with visa because they wouldnt process them until after ramadan. So she was also frustrated b/c she wasnt sure if she could go, but finally she went and got her visa 1 or 2 days beforehand. But it was embarassing the way she said it was ramadan so no one in turkey does any work.

Baraka said...

Tagged, you're it!

:)

Warmly,
Baraka

roora said...

aisha, i dont know if this is possible or not. But one of my aquaintances lives in the states and going to haj this year from the states but i think she will drop in the middle in cairo ..do you like me to check ?

If it wasnt meant to be.. I cant tell you not to be sad. I know how you must feel. But again everything is preplanned and one day (the best appropriate time ) will be granted for you where you can practice haj ISA. I kept for few years looking forward to do umrah ... my dad wasnt planning much and until elhadALlah we managed i believe that in that time i was very eager to do it right..i learned alot about the place and what to do... Just keep in praying.

Aisha said...

LoA no problemo, I have been having commenting on blogger as well :)

Tee :)

Saadia our backwardness as an ummah is a bit shameful.

Baraka, I have an exam on Monday insh'allah that will be the way I take my mind of things Monday evening :)Thanks for the tag!

Roora, thank you so much dear! No its okay. Our Hajj agency is driving me into depression. They are still saying we might go at this point but won't know until they day we are leaving. I don't know what to think or feel. I have a hard time studying. Its depressing....

Anonymous said...

Maleeha & Aisha, the agency my sister used and the one I wouldn't touch with a 10ft pole is Dar el Salam. They have a website,

darelsalam.com

and I found it interesting in their testimonials they only have posted the nice things their customers have had to say. My BIL and his father wrote very detailed letters to them about how terrible their trip was and contacted the BBB as well about them. The trip was hardly "comfortable" and luxurious as they advertise, and in fact, when my BIL was complaining to the goons sitting in the air-conditioned tents, their response was, "You have to remember, our Prophet suffered alot. This suffering is nothing compared to his suffering." to which my BIL replied, "Yes, but I didn't pay $6,000 to suffer like the Prophet did." Other sneaky things the agency did was promise a five star hotel to their clients, and instead set them up in a three star hotel with cockroaches crawling in the bathroom. My sister is scared of anything that crawls on more than two legs and nearly fainted seeing that and the agency said, "sorry, but the five stars were all booked" but they did not offer a refund to the customers for staying in the three star hotel (five star rates were already eaten up by the agency). I think Dar us Salaam, maleeha's parents' agency was different, and if not, maleeha, your parents were very lucky to be treated well by this agency. Last year there were alot of unhappy customers.

koonj said...

Aisha, you're going through a rough time, no doubt about it. I'm really really sorry. I'm also sorry I can't ask you to pray for me there :(

Aisha said...

Shabana thank you. *hug* Its so weird, I'm sitting in a coffee shop fighting back tears of frustration over this process and the radio starts playing and Josh Groban is singing:

"Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world
When you’re hearts heavy I will lift it for you
Don’t give up Everybody wants to be understood"

UGH I hate myself for being a silly 17 year old again but that really came at the right time and really gave me comfort.

There are no conicidences.

Thank you God for the sign.

slskenyon said...

You're right to be disappointed, and I think your points about business and morality are excellent. Just because business is involved, morality doesn't suddenly cease to exist. You should have been informed rather than put off, certainly, and I hope that these kinds of complications do not interfere in the future.

Aisha said...

Thanks slskenyon. Morality is important in keeping a busness. PArticularly one that pretends its doing so in the first place.

Aisha said...

Incase you are wondering where my other two posts after this one went, I took them down because they are a bit too personal, and I guess the next day I felt a bit vulnerable that I had broadcast.Because this is public domain and because someone could say something hurtful or mean, and because I am feeling a bit vulnerable at the momemnt, I did not want to keep such a post that oculd easily be attacked up b/c since I feel the way I do, a relatively mild mannered attack might sting like a thousand bees. I am not brave enough to take the risk at the moment. But thank you Koonj, Mystic, Baraka, Saadia,and Maleeha for being so kind.

shaz said...

what baraka said. I didn't read this as a complaint, I read it in admiration of someone who was longing to please Allah.

Aisha said...

Thanks Shaz... :)

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