Tanweer Khan, the founder of the new social media platform Labayk, reflects on his three Hajj pilgrimages and how they have changed his life.
I’ve been fortunate enough to perform Hajj three times. The first time was in 2001, then in 2006 and most recently in 2018. Each visit has affected me in different ways and has shaped the Muslim, and the person I am today.
Hajj is a rite of passage, and is the fifth and final pillar of Islam. It is a long, but rewarding journey to the Kaaba in Makkah, which for Muslims is regarded as Allah’s House built by Prophet Ibrahim (as).
Many people, including myself, undertake this journey simply for the experience. I am very blessed and grateful that I have experienced this beautiful journey multiple times in my life.
For me, Hajj is an exciting and overwhelming experience, filled with lots of apprehension and a great sense of personal fulfilment. Being surrounded by millions of Muslims, all sharing the same mission but all looking for their own sense of self fills you with a huge sense of appreciation, solidarity and wholesomeness.
In a time when so many have negative views of Islam, Hajj is an amazing opportunity to see the positives. Hajj is a parade of devotion, commitment, love and equality. It is a sight to behold. Every time I make Hajj, I am reminded of the diversity and faith in Islam, and that’s a sensational feeling.
I must admit, making Hajj is certainly steeped in privilege, but what makes the journey so special is that everyone is the same. The rich and the poor are viewed as equal. All men have to wear just two sheets of white cloth known as Ihram – which is done to ensure that in Allah’s House nobody is seen as being superior. Everyone is completely neutral. Such a sight truly humbles you, as you don’t know whether the person praying next to you is a prince or a peasant.
There have been several moments on my journey which have left me breathless, in awe, inspired and frankly humbled. Praying in the Grand Mosque in Makkah is the most incredible thing I have ever done; and was certainly a life-changing experience. Just the sight of the Holy Kaaba makes you tremble – this is the physical embodiment of the place you face during your daily prayers. Seeing it in all its glory is difficult to describe, and certainly very emotional.
Given the amount of travelling, walking, praying and the sheer number of people present meant that it is not something one can truly understand rationally whilst one is in the midst of undertaking the journey.
It is only after it is all over that one can sit down and comprehend how fortunate you are to have been blessed, yet again, to be invited by Allah to his House and given the opportunity to seek forgiveness for your sins.
My last Hajj was something my wife and I had planned since 2006, but for some reason or another it had taken 12 years for the two of us to go together. I am a firm believer that only if Allah calls you, will you be able to undertake such a spiritual journey.
Back in the UK, I have been focusing more and more on charitable projects; and partly because of the humbling experience of Hajj, I am launching a social media platform called “Labayk”. Labayk is Arabic for “at your service” and is a supplication read out aloud by pilgrims during their Hajj rituals.
The purpose of Labayk is to build a social enterprise, where at least 50% of profits are given to charities chosen by platform users. This is in line with Islamic values of respect, kindness and charity, as I felt that it is only fair that if society is creating content on social media then it should be society that benefits from it too, instead of shareholders.
Labayk will be launching during Eid Al Adha 2019 and will be available on desktop and as dedicated apps on Apple and Android devices.