World Bulletin/News Desk
The first batch of South African Muslims who had performed the annual Hajj pilgrimage returned home Sunday to a warm welcome by families and friends at the airport.
"I am grateful my son has successfully returned after performing Hajj," Sultan Julie, a resident of Actonville, east of Johannesburg, told Anadolu Agency at the international arrival terminal of OR Tambo International Airport.
"I feel very excited and wish other Muslims can also get a chance to perform Hajj."
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
Shaheen Essop, the President of the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC), said over 200 pilgrims had returned home by midday Sunday.
"We sent over 2,000 pilgrims to Makkah and Alhamdulillah [thank God] today we received over 200 of them," he told AA.
Shaheen said his organisation was negotiating with Saudi authorities to increase the country's Hajj quota from 2,500 to 6,000.
Muslims make up about three percent of South Africa’s total population of 51.19 million.
The mood at the airport was both exciting and emotional at the same time.
Some family members broke down in tears as they hugged and welcomed their loved ones.
"I am happy to be home and I pray Allah to accept my Hajj," one emotional female pilgrim told AA.
Rashid Mohamed, another returning pilgrim, said performing Hajj was a life-changing experience for him.
"I saw high-ranking politicians, wealthy businessmen and successful professionals all dressed in the white cloth (ihram) worn by pilgrims," he told AA.
"While in Makkah I saw the unity and love among fellow Muslims," he recalled.
"There were no divisions among believers irrespective of their race, or social status. I will uphold this value forever," asserted Mohamed.Last Mod: 20 Ekim 2013, 16:50