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Hard work and loyalty bears fruit for Haj

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    Posted: 31 December 2006 at 5:21am
A Brahmin Who Sent a Muslim for Haj
Siraj Wahab, Arab News

ARAFAT, 30 December 2006 — The truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
You hear this cliché and it remains a cliché till you run into a
story that indeed gives you a pleasant jolt.

Mahboob Hasan's true story may seem to be an exception for those
unfamiliar with the inter-faith traditions of India. To others who
are acutely aware of the horrific communal riots of Gujarat in
western India, in which Muslims were burned alive by Hindus, it will
certainly come as a surprise.

Hasan from Aurangabad in India's Maharashtra state is one of the
millions of pilgrims standing shoulder-to- shoulder as Muslims here on
the plains of Arafat where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
delivered his last sermon. The standing of the pilgrims in Arafat is
the climax of Haj.

Hasan was able to stand here yesterday thanks to the sponsorship of a
caring family back home — a family of Brahmins.

Hasan's relationship with the Jagtap family began in the 1960s when
he held a lowly position at Maharashtra government's Department of
Cooperatives. His boss was Harishchandra Jagtap. Eventually the
Jagtaps had a son by the name of Surendra and they offered Hasan a
job as a nanny. It was Hasan who would take Surendra to the only
English school in the city. In his late 30s, Surendra now works as an
engineer in Dubai.

The Jagtaps never forgot Hasan's loyalty after he retired. Mrs.
Jagtap decided to send Hasan to Haj at her expense. She explained her
decision to her son and reminded him of what Hasan did for him when
he was a school-going boy. Surendra said he would bear all the
expenses of Hasan's pilgrimage, but Mrs. Jagtap insisted she will pay
and in the end she had her way.

"Hearing such a story is heartening," said one journalist covering
the Haj. "There are some in our society who disapprove of Muslims
associating with non-Muslims in any way. In reality, we live in a
global community and if the intention of one human being to another
is good, then we should thank God for such a blessing."

It is normal for many Indians to spend their life's savings to
perform Haj, but Hasan, who was never highly paid and had barely the
savings to support himself after retirement, decided at some point he
simply would have to forgo his pilgrimage.

However, thanks to Mrs. Jagtap's gesture, Hasan was able to perform
Haj without spending money that he would need for his waning days.

"How can I forget their token of affection," he was quoted as saying
to his friends yesterday. "They are very nice people. Mr. Jagtap was
a very nice man. He died years ago. He shared my happiness and my
pain in those difficult days. They treated me as one of their own.
They are my extended family and I am part of their extended family."

Ten days before Hasan departed for Haj, Mrs. Jagtap died. One of the
Hindu woman's last gestures was giving Hasan 300,000 rupees (about
SR26,000) to pay for the trip of his lifetime.

Hasan says the Jagtap family is in his prayers here in Arafat.
Al-Hamdulillah (From a Married Muslimah) La Howla Wa La Quwata Illa BiLLah - There is no Effort or Power except with Allah's Will.
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