Reviewed by Sajjad Shaukat
Renowned poet Alexander writes, “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d…Expression is the Dress of Thought.” In this respect, in his book, “Journey Towards Allah”, which is in fact a travelogue, Dr. Asif Mahmood Jah, while performing his own Hajj rituals, expresses his personal experiences and those of other pilgrims, including visited sacred places so brightly that the readers feel as if they are themselves accompanying the author and are performing the pilgrimage.
His strong belief in God could be judged from his first sight at Kaaba, the actual abode of Allah, situated in Makkah. In this context, Dr. Asif Jah, writes, “A wave of spiritualism penetrated in my body and a coma-like situation gripped me…with tears in my eyes, I felt that I was being absorbed in the House of Allah and was standing before the court of my Creator.”
The author explains, “Allah, the Almighty is the Creator of the Universe and even a little particle is engaged in his praise all the time. A true Muslim feels real pleasure in his life when he presents himself before Allah in Masjidul Haram or before the last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his mausoleum in his city (Madinatul Nabi).” In this regard, every moment of this spiritual experience was unique and enthusiastic, while Dr. Asif Jah was full of commitment and devotion towards Kaaba and the holy Prophet.
In the book, Dr Asif Jah elaborates, “A most notable and important matter of my journey is that I have jotted down my feelings and sentiments in black and white, while sitting before Kaaba and the holy place (Riaz-ul-Jannat) of the holy Prophet’s mausoleum.” He mentions in detail about the seven rounds of Kaaba.
Dr. Asif Jah illustrates his journey towards the Ghar-i-Hira (Cave of Light) where our holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to contemplate and adore Allah Almighty, and where God revealed the first lines of the holy Quran to him through the Arch-angel Jibrael. On attainment of 40 years of age, the holy Prophet was revealed the lesson of the Saura-i-Alaq. The author has indicated these lines in his travelogue, while sitting inside the Cave.
The author points out that the way to the Cave of Light is most difficult and zigzag and needs a strong determination to attain the objective. According to him, “After all, we reached the Cave of Hira.” In the way, there are more than 1300 steps to reach the Cave. Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis and people from Africa have established their shops from where the people purchase juices and hot cups of tea to satisfy their thirst and hunger. He writes, “It is a unique occasion when someone spends some moments outside the Cave of Hira and is excited to go inside the Cave. On my turn, I entered into the Cave and felt immense pressure, filled with mysticism, while continuing writing down the lines for the book. There I recited Darood and Salam. I received spiritual ecstasy and forgot what I had intended to pray, as I was overawed by the name of Allah Almighty. What a time? It could be when Allah bestowed upon this Cave his blessings and revealed the holy Quran on the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).”
After returning from the Cave of Hira, he thanked God Almighty who granted him courage and effort to complete his sacred journey downward. Then Dr. Asif Jah narrates his journey towards the Cave of Saur. The Arab driver took them towards the mountain Saur and started dilly-dallying in order to extract as much money as he could muster from Pakistani foreigners.
While imagining the Makkah of 1424 years back when no proper road was manufactured and high mountains had besieged the path on all sides, the author remembered the days with sorrow when the enemies had forced the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his dear companion Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddique to take shelter in the Cave of Saur for three days. Then, in accordance with the order of Allah Almighty, they went on Hajrat to Yasrab, with the Prophet’s message to all the non-Muslims. The author visualized the difficulties, borne by these great personalities in the Cave, while anti-Islam elements had been searching them everywhere.
Dr. Asif Jah noted that during the Hajj occasion, at least three million pilgrims visit the holy places in Makkah and Madina. It is commendable that men from Police and Armed Forces control the Hajj system efficaciously. Showing realistic approach, he observed that in order to reach Hajre-e-Aswad and acquire a place in Riadh-al Jannat, people struggle strenuously and achieve their target after strong push and pull. In this race, Pathans and Africans are not behind others, while some Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis also follow the suit. However Indonesians, Malaysians and Nepalese, including Turkish people are harmless, who do not push others to go ahead in completing the rituals of Hajj. They are never impatient and restless in performing the Hajj ceremonies. They perform Hajj and other tenets of Islam in an amicable manner.
Being author of several books (travelogues), Dr. Asif Jah has enumerated the difficulties encountered by the pilgrims during their stay in Makkah and Madinatul Nabi. While, expressing his personal experiences and those of other pilgrims, he mentions, particularly about cold and flu, bronchial diseases and the stomach diseases. In this connection, being a medical practitioner, he provided free medical treatment to the affected pilgrims, and distributed medicines amongst them.
Besides, the author has also pointed out the conduct of tour operators and travel agents whose attitude before looking is entirely different from that of the later stage of the pilgrimage. They are the exploiters who want to earn money only and do not perform their duties properly during the Hajj days. In this context, he regrets that on this holy occasion, these people are involved in malpractice.
While praying, Dr Asif Jah also imagined that Allah is seeing his humble self and all other pilgrims from the Heaven. He prayed for all the Muslims who at the moment, are passing through various crises and difficulties.
Nevertheless, Dr. Asif Mahmmod Jah’s travelogue, published in form of book is a unique compendium which is full of his personal spiritual experiences and is worth-reading by the intending pilgrims of the future, as it shows his power of observation, farsightedness and in-depth study of feelings related to the Hajj pilgrims.
Dr. Asif Mahmmod Jah is an officer in the Customs Department and is well-known for his honesty and efficiency. Being himself a doctor and social worker, he has been running a free dispensary for those patients who cannot afford costly treatment. Over the years, he has established a large net-work of free dispensaries for the poor. Notably, in wake of his multiple official and non-official engagements, the author has been helping the suffering humanity at large by considering himself as servant of the poor and the needy.
Title: Journey Towards Allah
Author: Dr. Asif Mahmood Jah
Publisher: Ilm-o-Irfan Publishers, Al-Hamd Market, Urdu Bazar, Lahore
Price: Rs. 1200/-(US $ 15)