“He says that you are traveling, he is traveling, and you’re going on the same way.”
This is what the translator said to Muhamad Asad about the Badouin, who was sitting in front of him in a train that carried them through the Sinai Desert. This Badouin man bought a cake, and he noticed Asad, right before he was about to sit down. He divided the cake into two pieces, and handed a half to Asad with a gentle smile, then he said: “Tafadal”. Asad later learned that it means “grant me the favor”. Asad nodded with gratitude. The Badouin said something, a person sitting nearby translated in broken English, and the quote above came from him.
Muhamad Asad is a Jewish-born journalist from Austria. He was named Leopold Weiss before he changed his name to Asad, which means ‘Lion’, the root of his name ‘Leo’.
On his way, Asad stopped in Damascus and wrote about a scene that he repeatedly saw, “I have seen it so many times, a customer standing at a shop with the absence of its seller, the customer would wonder if they should wait for the seller or move to the next store. Then, the seller from the next store would always come forward and ask the customer on what they need, sell it to them -from the absent seller store not his- and leaves the amount payed on the absent seller’s chair.”
On his way to Makkah, Asad mentioned the song the caravan men in the Arabian Peninsula sing to their camels during a trip that paced their speed, and kept them awake. He described the songs: “the songs of the desert men, who accustomed to a space with no boarders nor echoes, have one tone and does not change, relaxed and throaty to some extent.” He explains the history of these songs, “his father must have been singing it before him, all his tribe’s men, and other tribes for thousands of years. Thousands of years were necessary, to form those rhetoric tunes and melodies to their current form. They always tend to express individuals’ feelings.”
After a long trip, Asad arrived to Ha’il city (north east of Makkah). He spoke about “the old Arabic tradition that always cares about personal taste and beauty that requires the traveler not to enter a city unless he is in his best wear, energetic and clean, as if he only was riding for a short time.” Asad and his Companion washed their faces and hands with the only water that remained with them, they trimmed their beards, put on their whitest dresses and placed their best jewelries on their camels.”
Those wren’t his only observations on the depth of Arabic Traditions. Once, during his travel, Asad heard an illiterate Badouin reciting a poem by AlMutanaby, “a great Arab that lived in the 10th century,” he commented on that by saying: “a large crowd of uneducated Arabs, and sometimes illiterate, warily participate, on a daily basis, with their cultural heritage,” he explained one of the reasons, “he was able to remember AlMutanaby’s poem that represent a state that he witnessed.”
He writes in his book, “the Road to Makkah” that he hear many people talk and whisper in a number of languages. He heard them expressing their happiness calling “labik allahuma labik” (we come to you Allah, which is the sentence first mentioned by Ibrahim calling people for Hajj before Islam, 4,000 years ago. Muslims recite those words, on their way to Hajj and while in Makkah, to answer Ibrahim’s call). An Egyptian female farmer sings about prophet Mohamed, while another shouts “a shout of pleasure” called “Zaqrota,” (ululation) – Zaqrota is a howl produced by a rapid back and forth movement of the tongue. You can hear below – the sound Arab women make on occasions such as weddings, a birth of a new baby, religious ceremonies and, of course, Hajj.”
He finally arrived to his final destination, Makkah. He noticed “the spiritual existence of Ibrahim in the Arab Land, and in all the Muslim worlds” not because many Muslims name their children after Ibrahim, but because of the several mentions of his name in Quran, and because Muslims say his name five times a day during their prayer. He believes that “the annual Hajj in Makkah is important in Islam. Since ancient times, Hajj had great ties with Ibrahim’s story.”
It is noticeable that the majority of his observations were about the unity he sensed between people, how they treated each other as a whole. At one point, after a stranger was generous with him, he observed: “I suddenly comprehended. Where I had соme from реорlе, were accustomed to building walls between You and I. This, however, was a community without walls.”
During his Hajj in the Grand Mosque of Makkah, he followed the flow of people during Tawaf around Kabaa. He moved forward and joined them “and I became part of the round stream around Kabaa.”
Source: the Road to Makkah, Muhamed Asad.