Commentary: One Muslim woman's pilgrimage to Mecca

The Kansas City StarDecember 6, 2010 

The questions no longer need answers.

Mahnaz Shabbir has experienced the pilgrimage to Mecca. So the queries she never made to her husband before he died have faded.

Muslims are expected to complete Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, once in their lifetime if they are able.

Shabbir’s husband, Syed Farrukh Shabbir, returned from his journey in January 2006. The trip was physically and emotionally exhausting. Husband and wife spoke about some of his experiences. But she assumed there would be time for conversation later, after he had rested. Twenty-four hours later, the longtime area physician was dead.

Shabbir became a single mother to four sons.

Since that mournful day, she has long wondered what her husband felt at various parts of the journey. Such as the portion where Muslims ask God for forgiveness at the spot where Adam and Eve asked for forgiveness after being banished. Angels are said to have arrived at that moment.

The question she never asked: “How did you know you were forgiven?”

The answer is an indescribable sense of calm, like nothing Shabbir had ever experienced.

On Sunday, she celebrated her return with family and friends in her Stilwell home. The most tangible difference for guests was her physical transformation.

Kansas Citians who know the former hospital administrator will see that at least for now, she is covering her head.

Wearing the hajib was not entirely a conscious decision. Rather, when Shabbir could take it off after the journey, she simply didn’t.

She’s taking the commitment one day at a time, still absorbing the effects of her pilgrimage.

So far, public reactions have been uplifting, although she braced for negative. One woman told her she had beautiful eyes. Others engage her, curious to learn more. Many assume she is foreign-born. She’s from Philadelphia.

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