Kerala

Walking all the way to Makkah for Haj

Shihab Chottur passing through Chaliyam on his journey by foot to Makkah.

Shihab Chottur passing through Chaliyam on his journey by foot to Makkah. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A young man from Athavanad, near Kottakkal, in Malappuram district has set out on a daring journey at a time when a Haj pilgrimage on foot is almost unthinkable.

Shihab Chottur has begun his pilgrimage to Makkah. On foot, he will cover more than 8,600 km. He will reach Makkah for Haj in 2023 after traversing India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia on foot.

Mr. Shihab set out on his journey after an assiduous planning that lasted more than a year. Yet he says no amount of planning will help him while crossing vast stretches of land on foot. “It’s not planning, but it is the aim that matters,” he said.

“I have not found anyone to take advice from. We have only heard of people going to Makkah on foot, but no one survives to tell their tale,” he said.

Ministry baffled

Even the officials at the Ministry of External Affairs were perplexed at first when they got Mr. Shihab’s application for permission to walk to Makkah. At first they did not know how to handle it because they never had a previous experience. “But when convinced, they were all encouraging… like my family and friends,” he said.

Mr. Shihab is accorded a hero’s welcome at many places in Malabar. Hundreds of people gathered to greet him when he reached Chaliyam on Friday. Many vloggers are promoting his journey as Mr. Shihab remains arguably the first man to conduct a Haj pilgrimage on foot from India in the 21 st century.

“Mr. Shihab’s is an extraordinary journey. It is our duty to support him with all possible means,” said Syed Arif Thangal, a young community leader at Chaliyam. “The prayers of thousands of people will be there for him until he returns after performing Haj,” said Mr. Arif.

At least 25 km a day

Mr. Shihab is carrying a light baggage as he walks at least 25 km a day. He says that his real challenge will begin once he leaves Kerala for unfamiliar lands. He will prefer to spend his nights in mosques. “I’m not carrying any tent as I want to walk light. But I will have to procure a tent later,” he said.

When he reaches Makkah by February next year, it will be a dream come true for Mr. Shihab, who had worked in the kingdom for six years. “I started dreaming about a Haj pilgrimage on foot even when I was working in Saudi Arabia. Insha Allah, I will reach Makkah in eight months, covering 8,640 km,” he said.


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Printable version | Jun 4, 2022 8:45:15 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/walking-all-the-way-to-makkah-for-haj/article65494699.ece