Global Perspective

Lesser Hajj: An Encounter with Prince Khaled of Mecca

Prince Khaled Al Faisal of Mecca

Hajj is Islamic pilgrimages to holy sites of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia which is only compulsory for those that could afford it, while Umra is the lesser Hajj which is optional and supererogatory. Most Muslims undertake the lesser Hajj during Ramadan, month of fast.

Pilgrims perform the religious obligation for personal spiritual upliftment and obedience to God. Nevertheless some people embark on the pilgrimage for other reasons, such as high profile networking, politicking, commercial purposes and consolidation of matrimonial vows. There are instances where daring beggars sponsor their trips to the holy land in order to beg for alms.

Considering the stressful and demanding nature of assignments as the spokesperson of the Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), I chose to go for the Umrah to seek solace in the presence of God and put behind me the pressure of attending to recurring natural and human-induced disasters such as floods, rainstorm, building collapse, bomb explosions and road accidents which also occur in other countries.

Initially the Director General of NEMA, Muhammad Sani-Sidi refused to grant my leave for the spiritual retreat, insisting that there were urgent emergencies that required physical interventions, relief distributions and advocacies on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). On Friday August 19, 2011, after attending to such crucial assignments in some states, I flew to Jeddah International Airport in Saudi Arabia.

An average of 15 million people visit Saudia Arabia annually and mostly for religious purposes although non-Muslims remain formally prohibited from entering the cities of Mecca and Medina. During my visit, about 5 million Muslims performed the Umrah who came from various backgrounds, colours and ethnicities, mainly from Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa.

Saudis have transformed their towns surrounded by mountains in the desert into modern mega cities. Developers continuously embark on gargantuan projects, multi-storey hotels, restaurants, mega shopping plazas and luxury apartments. There are no signs of penury but rich cultural heritage and splendid infrastructures: beautiful landscapes, memorable monuments, good road networks, functional factories and highly receptive people. The cities brightly illuminated due to constant electricity supply; yet potable water gushes out of the taps in torrent from a desert country; almost all places have cooling systems due to hot weather temperature.

Accommodations are available for the pilgrims ranging from leading luxury Hotels to cheaper apartments as well as free spaces for those who would rather stay in the mosques for continuous prayers. The security personnel and volunteers courteously control traffic of massive crowds and are so helpful in guiding pilgrims. Due to the strict sharia law that provide harshest punishments for offenders, cases of stealing, robbery, kidnapping, hostage-taking and immoral behaviours are strange words here as shops are left open during praying period.

Having put Nigeria behind me, I was in the grand mosque of Mecca on August 26, 2011 being the last Friday of the Ramadan. The inner and outer parts of the mosque had over a million pilgrims in attendance being a unique spiritual day. As the Imam uttered the ‘Salam alaikum’ to end the noon prayers, I received an emergency call about an explosion in United Nations (UN) House in Abuja, Nigeria. Text and email messages inundated my mobile set from representatives of foreign media in Nigeria, especially CNN, Reuters, AP, Blomberg, BBC among others who always like to authenticate information from reliable sources. As PR practice I was in touch with NEMA officials in Abuja for updates as I also issued Press releases through my mobile phone.

In the evening I received a text message from NEMA boss who had arrived Mecca in the company of the Nigeria’s delegation led by the Vice President Namadi Sambo. Sani-Sidi asked me to meet him the Makkah King’s Palace where the Nigeria’s delegation was hosted by the government of Saudi.

By the time we met at the magnificent palace, editors from Ibadan-based Nigerian Tribune newspapers had called to enquire about NEMA’s rescue efforts over devastating flooding ravaging the city of Ibadan in Oyo State due to heavy rainfall. After discussing the twin-tragedies that occurred in Nigeria within a day, the NEMA boss decided to return to Nigeria with any available flight immediately, so as to coordinate the rescue efforts and relief interventions. Not ready to sacrifice my spiritual retreat, I requested to remain behind and conduct any further assignment online.

YAShuaib standing between the Holy Mosque and King Palace in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

At about 12midnight, Muslims had once again jam-packed the holy Kaaba where it would be difficult for ordinary mortal to pass through the mammoth crowd of pilgrims into the mosque. There is a Mosque overlooking the Masjid al-Haram (The Sacred Mosque) and the Kaaba at the topmost floor of the Makkah King’s Palace where the royals, presidents and other top delegations across the globe hosted in the palace observe their prayers. Being a visitor at the right time I went to the floor and sat at a strategic position waiting for the commencement of a prayer that usually took about 3 hours of intermittent standing, bowing, prostration and sitting in supplication.

A few minute before the rigorous spiritual exercise, a young boy of about 10 years came and with humility requested from a man beside me if he could spare a space for an old man. The feeble looking old man, whom I presumed to be his grandfather, limped to my side with the support of a walking stick.

The old man used his walking stick as support throughout the duration of the strenuous and energetic prayers through standing, bowing, prostration and sitting for more than two hours. Immediately after the prayers, I asked the old man who had early offered me drinking water why he must stand throughout the session rather than sitting when it is permitted in Islam for the weak to pray in whatever position that is convenient for them.

He politely replied that “when it comes to serving God, you do it with all strength and faith.”I responded: “I admire your strong heart and faith at your advanced age and your ability to go through the prayers as I could sense the pain you went through.”

Amazed at his flawless English, I asked where he learnt to speak fluently. He replied that he schooled in Britain more than 30 years ago. We chatted about adulteration of language, especially Arabic due to civilisation. We discussed the use of scientific technology to resolve moon-sighting for Ramadan period. He emphatically told me that the Ramadan fasting in Saudi Arabia would be 29 days rather than a full month of 30 days. When I raised the issue of significance of internet as the modern tool for communication and information gathering, he pointed out that he was reluctant to be an internet freak because it could be addictive and distractive from natural norms of interaction and communication. He further added that he got the information he wanted from reliable channels and sources. The disclosure made me to realise the reason most of the hotels in Mecca and Medina do not give priority to the use of the internet as telephone and Fax are mostly their tools for communication.

As we were chatting, I could see some guests at the side waiting to see him. He was comfortable and at ease during our discussions and even asked for my name and whether I could visit him in Jeddah after the Ramadan fasting. After taking my name, I simply ask him: “What is your name?” He replied thus: “Khalid!”

I said casually: “Thanks Mr. Khalid.”

He asked one of his aides, Ahmed Saleh to give me his numbers.

After he left with his guests I asked Ahmed Saleh, the aide: “Who is that old man?”

The aide replied: “You had just spoken to Prince Khaled Alfaisal the Emir and Governor of Mecca.”

I was very shocked; I rushed to my hotel room and googled his name. The picture of the same old man appeared with his quite impressive profile.

So an Arab Sheik and royal prince could be so simple, unassuming and compassionate! That encounter proves to me that among princes, Khaled is a noble and humble person who demonstrates the equality of men before God.

This article by Yushau A. Shuaib has appeared in some online media and also in the following print media: Economic Confidential september, People Daily September 13, New Nigerian September 14, Trust September 18, Nigerian Tribune September 18, Thisday September 18, Daily Independent September 28, Leadership September 30, The Guardian October 2, Vanguard October 5,  and the Punch November 18, 2011


About the author

Yushau Shuaib


  • This is one of the few time I could read an interesting and positive development on Arab leaders and their people. The humility of the sheik is commendable hoping that is what he does

  • Reading Arab sheik storties always go with entertainment, fashion, style, sports and reckless spending on worldies that this Arab Prince still has time for God is amazingly surprising

  • Interesting…I love it. The picture you paint of that country makes it a destination to be experienced…though a Christian, will I be welcome to accompany you on your next lesser Hajj? And for the old man, may Allah continue to strengthen him.

  • Such is life of the people of Saudi Arabia. That’s a country where a prince sees himself as nothing but an ordinary citizen. This has so far helped to achieve equality which simultaneously brings about love and equity among the people. I will continuously pray to God for such character! Insha Allah.

  • Great post on chastity and piety. examplery life of a true Muslim, whether a King or a servant must respect one another. Simple but yet interesting and engaging. Keep up a good work!

  • You are welcome my brother. May Allah reward you abundantly for the Umra and the information shared on arrival. GM

  • “I chose to go for the Umrah to seek solace in the presence of God” – by Yushau A. Shuaib

    Yushau Shaib:
    So, what you are saying is that there is no God in the place where you live and you have to travel all the way to distant Saudi Arabia “to seek solace in the presence of God”. And by the way, how much did you spend, I mean contribute to the Saudi economy while seeking solace in the presence of God there? Here you are, an African, if I am right, working hard to save up some money. And after all that sweat and labour, what did you do with the money? Give it to super rich Saudi Arabia without them even asking? Pity that you have been taken for a fool and you can’t even see it. What a shame.

    A. Adepoyigi

    • Saudi Arabia, as much as I know they improve the condition of their environment and society that make the country a beautiful, peaceful and prosperous nation loved by Muslims all over the word. In fact Saudi invest more in their country financially, socially and politically than any Naira and Kobo from a poor pilgrims of poor country like Nigeria

  • This is a very good account of Yushau’s lesser Hajj. I am normally not too excited by any of our two religions, due to the fact that we can see what supposed Christians and Moslems do in Nigeria. I started reading this with some caution but really like the way it ended.

    Humility! A missing ingredient in our national life where mere humans forget their situations once power and public funds wrap them away from reality. I once experienced something similar, although not with a prince and this very important person treated me with so much.

    Respect, I became worried. I have gone into the Quran and Bible and see both books’ take on humility. Now, we have had leaders that are both Moslems and Christians, at least by name. How many of them pass this test of humility? Man is nothing before God, except for the fact that He created us and loves us. That is why the same diseases and death that afflict the high and mighty, afflict the poor and lowly in life. Humility is the lesson here. Thanks for a brilliant account sir!

    Charles Oyedeji

  • What an interesting article! Lessons for Nigerian governors and local government chairmen and their wives. The arrogance of local politicians isbetter imagine

  • The brief encounter with Prince Khalid is a clear definition of humility personalified coming from a leader who holds a sensitive position in muslim world as the governor of spiritual capital city of Islam, Mecca

  • It is not surprising what he did. The prince is only leading by example based on the teaching of the Holy Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him. Our leaders everywhere have a lot to learn from the rexampolery qualities

  • ”So an Arab Sheik and royal prince could be so simple, unassuming and compassionate……Yushau Shaib

    Yushau Shaib, is wondering about the qualities of the ”royal-Prince”(These so called qualities pervades the Saudi society that the House of Saud owns everything Saudi.While they are Kings ,Prince and Queens,their citizens are you know what……that is not Islam.Shikena.


  • Yushau, I read your inspiring piece and will send a message to people that most leaders are humble, intelligent, sociable, hardworking and dedicated. We hope as Nigeria progresses these quality of people will take center stage. Removing leaders who are arrogant, intolerant, thief’s, self serving. Great post I must say. Simple but yet interesting. Wonderful work!

    Thank you

  • “The disclosure made me to realise the reason most of the hotels in Mecca and Medina do not give priority to the use of the internet as telephone and Fax are mostly their tools for communication.”

    Why am I suspicious about this? Could it because they do not want their people to have access to information given the nature of this extremely closed society?

  • “When I raised the issue of significance of internet as the modern tool for communication and information gathering, he pointed out that he was reluctant to be an internet freak because it could be addictive and distractive from natural norms of interaction and communication. He further added that he got the information he wanted from reliable channels and sources. The disclosure made me to realise the reason most of the hotels in Mecca and Medina do not give priority to the use of the internet as telephone and Fax are mostly their tools for communication.”

    The above concern is of great concern.

  • What a nice story. Those who are able to live humbly are blessed and blessed in the eyes of God almighty. – Muhammad Muhammad

  • The author has taken his time to write about and share his experience and what he has learnt from the experience which could make significant impact in his moral and spiritual life. Anyway, that’s one of the main essence of prilgimage to the holy land, to better realise the humble nature of human where virtually everybody is treated as equal before the Almighty and everybody sought His face for His favour.

  • A quite interesting piece to read. Pray Almighty Allah gives our so called leaders to act humbly and stops insulting the citizens using the state resources. Believe you are now back to business of assisting and taking care of the various disasters. Allah loves Nigeria, that we are not witnessing the kind of disasters happening in other countries. WELCOME
    Rufai Akanbi

  • Naira firms as CBN feeds dollar demand…

    The Nigeria naira firmed sharply against the greenback after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) pumped dollars into the market and cleared all forex demand at its bi-weekly auction, signalling its determination to support the local currency…With more funds many muslims could afford to go for Hajj and lesser hajj

  • Fantastic goods from you, man. I’ve take into accout your stuff previous to and you’re simply extremely great. I really like what you’ve bought right here portraying Muslims and leaders as humble and responsible people. If you take of Arab, they are disappointment the way they let down Saddam and Gaddafi. I cant wait to read more from you on similar topics. That is really a wonderful insight into the character of one of the Saudi Prince.

  • […] In Defence of Saudi Arabia Against Saddam of Iraq (December 1990) United State of America: A Muslim’s Perception (November 2001) US-Iraqi War- A Letter to My Muslim Brothers (April 2003) Saddam Trial: The Humiliation of Arab World (July 2004) Saddam Hanging and Arabs’ Culpability (January 2007) Arab World: Between Democracy and Monarchy (March 2011) An Encounter with Prince Khaled of Mecca (September 2011) […]

  • This is an interesting reading. I’m trying to to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas from your blof layout, and the arrangement of columns!!

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