An estimated 1,200 converts to Islam from across the Kingdom performed Haj this year, according to reports.
Renee, a Filipino convert, returned to Riyadh on Wednesday from his first Haj pilgrimage, an experience that he said made him feel like he was reborn. Renee, now known as Rayan Balangue, is among nearly 700 converts from different nationalities residing in Riyadh.
They were sponsored by various Cooperative Offices for Call and Guidance, including one based in Batha that sponsored 400 new converts, according to a source from the COCG. Rayan told Arab News that he feels “completely overhauled spiritually. It was a life-time experience similar to what I have witnessed among several expatriates from different nationalities around the world wearing the same white cloth.” “I used to think that Muslims are mostly Arabs, but to see all races and colors in one place from all over the world in the same garb, rubbing shoulders with one another, was an amazing experience,” said Rayan.
“It really indicates that we are in a place where there is no differentiation between race, leaders and ordinary people,” he added. Rayan expressed his gratitude to those who made his journey possible without paying a single riyal.
“I would really like to meet whoever paid for my Haj expenses to pay my respects and thanks. A sum of SR8,000 is a big amount for me and I really could not have afforded that amount on my own,” he said.
Amrullah Diambangan, a graduate from the Islamic University in Madinah who teaches voluntarily at these Islamic centers, was among the preachers who accompanied the group. He expressed his deep gratitude for the highly organized and professional manner in which this year’s Haj was conducted. “I am honored and thankful to the COCG for giving me a chance to accompany my Muslim brothers,” he said.
“What made it all the more unique was to be somebody’s guest, enjoying their hospitality from beginning to end for free,” he said. He was also impressed by the bounty, beauty and generosity of the country.
“Imagine, for 400 Haj pilgrims like my group, the organizer paid SR32,00,000, while the 700 pilgrims from Riyadh alone would cost them SR56,00,000, which is a huge amount,” he added.
“Joining the COCG this year was really an awesome and unforgettable experience. For a new Muslim or revert, it was really a milestone and remarkable journey.”
During the annual Hajj pilgrimage on April 15, 1997, a massive fire ripped t…