The hajj season is drawing to a close, with many pilgrims from all over the world taking advantage of the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia and see its holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
However, one Scottish family with three boys, two of them severely disabled, has set their sights higher and said it would be their lifelong dream to tour the whole country and meet the imam of the Grand Mosque.
Mariam and Hafiz Mahmood, a British-Pakistani couple who live in Edinburgh, have visited the Kingdom in the past but because most of their time and money are spent working and looking after their three children, Abdulqavi (aged 13), Abdulbari (12) and Mohammad Bilal (4), it takes a long time to save up enough cash to go away.
Hafiz is a full-time imam at a local mosque while Mariam cares for the children full time. Abdulqavi and the Mohammad Bilal both suffer from neuromuscular conditions, for which there is no cure, and they have to rely on braces and other walking aids to overcome their severe mobility challenges. Mariam said: “They are remarkable boys who deal with their problems in a positive manner.
“Understandably, at times, they can be very frustrated with the difficulties they face and sometimes can suffer due to the pain. “We try and be as supportive as possible, however, management of disabilities and hospital appointments can be difficult at times.”
Abdulqavi, in particular, has looked up to Grand Mosque Imam Abdulrahman Al-Sudais since he was 6 and strives to recite the Holy Qur’an like him.
“On our first trip on Umrah he loved the tone and emotion in [Sheikh Sudais’] voice when he read the Qur’an,” said Mariam. “Since then he has been copying Sheikh Sudais.
“He knows that he loves children and following him is an area where his disability is not a barrier. “He feels that Sheikh Sudais is very inclusive and he would be welcomed and valued and his disability would not be important.”
Abdulqavi is desperate to visit the Kingdom and meet his role model. Mariam said: “He has been reading information and books and dreams about visiting the Holy Kaaba in Makkah, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, Sheikh Sudais, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and the princes.
“He would love to see these places and people in real life.” She said the Saudi people have been hospitable to her and her family when they have visited in the past.
“The culture and lifestyle are so welcoming and peaceful and it feels that we all benefit from it and have a real break. “It allows us time to relax as a family and spend quality time together without the daily stress we encounter at home.”
They would like to go back as tourists and see more of the country, but currently Saudi Arabia commonly issues visitor visas to dependents of employees working in the Kingdom. “Going there would allow us time as a family to bond and relax.
“We would enjoy our time by sightseeing, go to places where we never been before, praying in different mosques and trying new activities and food.
“Abdulqavi is growing older and beginning to understand his disability and the limitations it places on him. “He is a talented young boy who is thriving while learning Arabic. “An opportunity like this, to see the country in its entirety, would help him pick up the language quickly and feel special.”