A few years ago, I was finishing my second year as consultant at McKinsey & Company. At the time, I was living with 3 flatmates in downtown Brussels - all of which were childhood friends and regular mosque-goers. One night, my friend asked whether I would perform the Hajj that year or not, and I responded “no” without putting too much thought on it. He persisted, “Why not?” and I couldn’t answer.“ Why not?” A simple question, yet no simple answer. I spent that night awake, thinking about that one question and began reading hadiths about Hajj and Umrah:
“Follow up the Haj and Umrah (with each other, perform them in succession) for verily they remove poverty and sins in the same manner that fire cleans away the dirt in iron, gold and silver”.
“Continue to perform Haj and Umrah for Allah’s sake”. [Kanzul-Ummal]
“Whoever performs Haj for the sake of Pleasing Allah, and does not utter any disgusting remarks of sexual nature, nor commits any evil, will return as free from sins as the day in which his mother gave birth to him”. [Bukhari, Muslim]
The following day, I made the decision to schedule my vacation and go for a Hajj with my mother and sister. I was only 28 years old at the time, and despite my modest background, I was fortunate enough to pay the hajj for my mother, sister, and myself, thanks to God. At the time, planning and paying for the 3 of us to perform Hajj was 90% of my savings, and it was the best investment of my life for 3 reasons.
First, I experienced the best and most intense spiritual experience of my life. Back then, it was almost impossible to spend one day in meditation: work, smartphones, email, were all keeping me continuously attached to Dunia and my company. I believe, we all experience this at different levels in our modern society. During the Hajj, I had no cellular phone and no laptop.
I spent one full month worshipping God and searching my soul hoping to become a better person.
Second, I had the opportunity to experience a wonderful life-changing trip with my beloved mother and wonderful sister. Experiencing such a spiritual journey in family really is a must, as it creates meaningful bonds and wonderful memories.
Finally, this is when I first considered launching Booking-Hajj.com. For my family the trip was wonderful - we were in good health, we spoke Arabic and English, were frequent travellers, and comfortable in new environments. On the other end of the spectrum, I noticed tour organizers taking advantage of people from all backgrounds; Elderly individuals left in hotel rooms, families getting expelled from hotels because operator tours didn’t pay the rooms for the full period, a man getting kicked out from the bus in the middle of the desert because the organizer forgot his passport.
All those issues had the same root cause - greedy and incompetent organizers. Despite the high prices, these travellers were neither treated correctly nor respectfully.
None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself. [Al-Bukhari]
This experience made me think, why wouldn't I use my years of experience at NASA, McKinsey, Schlumberger, and open the best Hajj and Umrah travel agency?
A few years ago, I was finishing my law studies to finally enter the working life. I was proud of my academic achievements and certain to take as much pleasure in professional life as during my studies. After two weeks of work, I realized something was wrong and I told my beloved mother:
"I give myself 5 years to leave the world of wage labor".
Indeed, very quickly, I felt that working for an organization on which I had no influence did not suit me. Like most people, I ended up getting used to this way of life and time passed.
Over the years, I still felt this discomfort known to many Muslims. This lack of connection to religion, this schedule that makes it difficult to accomplish prayers in time, this environment that is not pushing you to comply with the precepts of Islam.
"And your Lord says, call on me, and I will answer you"
My invocations to Allah became more and more precise, I asked Him more and more to help me to create this opportunity that would allow me to combine professional life and spiritual life.
I was also beginning to visualize this goal : a project entirely based on the Islamic principles of honesty, respect, fairness. The hours of work adapted to the hours of prayer and not the opposite. A job, a mission that would serve Islam and Muslims.
Then, one day, I met Fahd, who had a project called "Booking Hajj" in mind. He told me about it, and immediately I realized that we had the same vision, the same need to improve the condition of the Muslims, to serve them in the path of Allah. The practice of Hajj is unfortunately very often marked in the news by many scandals whose first victims are the pilgrims. And if I could help my community by devoting my energy to making the fifth pillar of Islam more accessible?
"He who relieves a believer of a worry among the worries of the earth, Allah relieves him of a concern among the worries of the day of judgment"
Prophet Muhammad (sws)
Fahd and I immediately aligned ourselves on the same vision : to give the Ummah the best quality at a more accessible price, to bring modernity and efficiency to our community. We decided to build this organization together and give the best of our skills to Muslims around the world.
4 years after the promise made to my mother, I decided to co-found Booking Hajj.
With Booking Hajj, our goal was twofold:
- Make the pilgrimage more accessible to all Muslims
- To allow the pilgrim to live an experience of total immersion and without embarrassment.
Our humble goal is to improve this experience, more and more. Until the pilgrim lives this pillar of Islam, the closest to Allah (Glory to Him) and without worrying about organizational problems.
May Allah (swt) help us serve our community in the best of ways.
"The people most loved by Allah are the ones who are most helpful to others, and the actions most beloved by Allah are those who participate in giving joy to a Muslim, by relieving him of distress, paying off a debt in his place or relieving his hunger. In fact, if I walk with a brother for any business he has, it is more desirable for me than to make a spiritual retreat in this mosque (that of Medina).
Prophet Muhammad (sws)