Whilst in Madina we were fortunate enough to meet a special lady, the wonderful Auntie Noor as she is commonly known (according to Sidra) but otherwise known as UmmBilal Petersen of the Al-Miskeenah Blog. Auntie Noor was aware that I would be in Madina with my family and wanted to meet us. Sidra, who was in our group, mentioned that Auntie Noor had asked after us when she met her earlier and would visit our hotel later but had passed on some items as gifts for us. First there was a Hajj “scrap” book for my daughter, Auntie Noor had thoughtfully put together a scrapbook and made cut outs of various Hajj related items for my daughter to glue and colour in, the pack contained, a glue stick and colouring pencils as well! Then there was a pack for me that contained a very large satellite map of Madina all marked up with significant and sacred places and then a smaller satellite map with additional detail and then a map of the Baqi cemetery marked with all the relevant resting places of the Sahabah and other notables. If that wasn’t enough we were treated to some wonderful Hummingbird Cake made by Auntie Noor with the secret ingredient of plenty helpings of dhikr whilst making it, it had bananas, sultanas, pineapple, walnuts/pecans, really delish! It was the most wonderful thing I had tasted on my entire trip. JazakAllahu-khayran Auntie Noor and I made the duah you asked for at Arafah and everywhere I went and may Allah increase you in this world and the next.
There were two other examples of generosity out of many that stick in my mind and these were from total strangers. One thing you quickly realise outside of the west is how genuinely loving people are towards children. People will stroke and kiss your child and if you are not used to it it is quite disconcerting especially since in the west you hear about child molestation and paedophiles almost every other day. However, you soon get used to it. Everywhere we went my daughter was looked upon with that “aahhh, what a cute kid” type look. Some people would kiss her, pat her, stroke her and play with her, others would give her a one riyal note, and others would just extend a hand to touch her then wipe their hearts as if to receive tabarruk.
We were in a shopping centre under Masjid Bilal in Madina, my wife was browsing for clothes and a shopkeeper from another shop was playing peek-a-boo with my daughter and as we were leaving he pulls out a sun hat for her, in fact it was a very good floppy straw hat with flowers and a near perfect fit for her. In fact we had been discussing earlier in the day that we should buy a sun hat for her. We tried to offer the shopkeeper money for the hat and all he said was “hadiya” (Arabic for “gift”) and was happy that we accepted the gift, he had no expectation that we would buy anything from him or even visit his shop.
One of the most amazing acts of generosity we witnessed was from a street seller. We were at Uhud and in most places you see women in full black niqabs and abyas selling items from mats on the floor. More often than not these women are very poor but instead of choosing a life of begging they sell trinkets, hats, misbahas and other things that hujjaj would be interested in. As we were walking past one such lady my daughter noticed a basket of rings and other trinkets and started trying them on. Like most little girls she loves to dress up and try on jewellery, all the rings she tried on were far too big for her. The stall owner pulled out a small ring, a perfect fit for my daughter and handed it to her, we tried to say “la! la!” (“no! no!”) we didn’t need it but she immediately said “hadiya!”, we tried to offer her money and she just would not take it from us and just repeated “hadiya”. A moment later she pulled out a stack of small bangles and gave them to my daughter with the word “hadiya” again. I quickly told my wife that we should buy something from her and tried to find something we liked, eventually we settled on a pack of hats which were SR5 (five Saudi Riyals) and I gave her SR10 and said “hadiya” so that she would keep the change, but no, she would not, she had given a gift and did not want anything in compensation for it. SubhanAllah, the dignity and generosity of this woman, who (Allahu-alim), was probably quite poor and yet she had a big heart where she gave away more than she earned from us. May Allah increase her in this world and the next.