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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 12:02 GMT
Mecca dream for aged pilgrim
By Bernard Gabony
BBC News Online South Asia editor

The man who is probably the world's oldest pilgrim has just been fulfilling a dream made possible by the generosity of readers of BBC News Online.

Habib with grandson Chuttan Khan
Habib with grandson Chuttan Khan
Habib Miyan's precise age is not clear. His pension papers establish it at 125, although he says he is 132.

When News Online first wrote about him, from his home city of Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan, last June, we reported how his relatives said he could not afford to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

That triggered several e-mails from readers wanting to help Habib, now blind and frail, make the trip this year.

Among the anonymous donors was a taxi-driver from Rotherham in northern England who put up money he was saving for his own Hajj pilgrimage.

The main donation came from a businessman in London who forwarded 270,000 rupees ($5,700) to Habib's bank account.

'A living miracle'

Habib set off to Mecca last month, accompanied by two grandsons, Mehmood and Chuttan Khan.

Habib's story has bought joy and inspiration to his community and the rest of the world
Habib's London donor
Shortly before the Hajj started, BBC cameraman Faruk Aksoy managed to locate Habib among the millions of gathered pilgrims.

He was resting in a hotel near the Grand Mosque which houses the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure that the Muslim pilgrim must walk round seven times.

Our cameraman said it was a meeting he would never forget.

"To me it was like seeing a living miracle.

"When I looked at Habib carefully, I went through his eyes and mind back into history, to the days of the British empire in India."

Habib Miyan
Resting before performing the Hajj

Habib himself remembers living through the reigns of four kings of the Jaipur royal family, as well as witnessing the departure of the British and the independence of India.

He said he was very happy to be at Mecca, and would pray for those who had paid for him to perform the Hajj.

Habib's joy is matched by that of his donors.

"That's fantastic," the Rotherham donor told BBC News Online on hearing about Habib's dream come true.

The London businessman said it was an honour to have been able to help him.

"The real gift is that Habib's story has brought joy and inspiration to his community and the rest of the world," he says.

"I hope that in these difficult and testing times that there will be more situations where communities and families are bought closer together with simple and true gestures of goodwill for its fellow man, whatever race or religion."

A selection of your comments on this story:

It is all so inspiring and encouraging. The dream of a frail old member of our society, the sacrifice of a common man, the positive influence it has spread all around us, the humanistic view of the people of all the religions and the reporting of BBC. It is really incomprehensible how God chooses his people to do good, and inspire us all.
Muhammad Hasham, Detroit Michigan

Performing hajj at 132 years of age after having a life long dream of being at Mecca is actually a dream come true. It fills the readers' hearts with joy. I cannot even imagine how happy Habib Miyan would've been... And honestly enough this is a great act by all the people who participated... I witnessed this and I feel cherished too. Thanks, BBC, for making this happen :)
Umayr, Islamabad, Pakistan

It just goes to show that we are but one people, no matter which faith we belong to
Anu, US
This is truly a very inspiring and heart touching tale, as commented by the rest of the readers. Besides the fulfilment of the Habib Miyan's life long dream, thanks to his well wishers around the world, what has brought me more pleasure is the fact that there are readers who do not share the same religion but have come up to express their support for this effort. It just goes to show that we are but one people, no matter which faith we belong to or which geographic location we come from. Peace always!
Anu, US

I, personally, haven't come across many positive people in my life. After reading this journey of a man who longs to go to Mecca and how strangers opened up their hearts to donate to make his dream a reality, shows that there still are nice people left in this world!
Sana Idrees, Toronto, Canada

This is inspiring! My special salutations to the taxi driver who donated his own Hajj money for the cause. As a Hindu, I consider it my own obligation to help those in the Muslim community who are in final phases of their life and could not go on Hajj due to financial situation. I will do whatever I can to help them fulfil this commitment they have in their religion.
Harshad Ramesh, Nagpur, India

A fascinating, if not an incredible, story. This whole episode reflects that there are still caring people out there. Caring enough to change someone's dream into reality.
Saiful Murad, Brunei Darussalam

It is amazing how god works
Adnan Shabir, Spokane, WA
This was the most amazing story I have ever seen. It is amazing how god works. It is not just a coincidence that the BBC camera man will find Habib out of all those people. It just takes a little thing to make such great things come true and alive.
Adnan Shabir, Spokane, WA

While joining other commentators in paying compliments to BBC Online and the donors, who made it possible for Habib Miyan to perform Hajj, I must add that this story is also a source of inspiration for many of us, who are much younger than Habib Miyan and yet give up.
A.G.Saeed, Karachi - Pakistan

No matter what religion we belong it does gives one a great pleasure to see his fellow human being who is in the pursue of fulfilling his life time dream and another fellow human being coming forward who has not even said Hello to the first one and fulfils his dreams. This is nothing but to prove that we all are from the same earth and our origin is the same. So why then fall prey in the hands of the politicians and spoil our existence in indulging in killing each other when we can care so much for each other in the hope to see a day when we really understand the intention of the Creator when his Angels asked him what is so great about creating Adam from earth and He replied "you cannot fathom what I see" .
Aliakbar Khajehnoori, Iran.

Habib Miyan's Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia is in no doubt the best thing to happen to him in 132 years of his life, a dream come true. But more importantly we all should give credit to the known & unknown who donated towards the cause. As might have been wished by Habib I wish this dream comes true for all those people who wish the same. There is a drop in the eye for happiness. Let peace prevail & the almighty bestow his blessings on us.
Amit Shah, India

This story really inspired me and next year I will try to find people who need help to go to Mecca
Naeem Rashid, Oslo, Norway
I just read this wonderful story and am filled with happiness. I think this story really inspired me and next year I will try to find people who need help to go to Mecca. I know how important it is for Muslims to go to Mecca once in their lifetime. This story gives me hope that people still care about each other and don't always try to kill each other all the time. There is always war in the world in some country.
Naeem Rashid, Oslo, Norway

This is a fascinating story. These are the people who make a difference in world. This is one of the great things one can do. A great job by the reporter for tracking the old man down amid millions of people. These kind of things shows culture and religion doesn't matter if you are good human being.
Aijaz Hassan, Spokane, USA

It just shows how much effort people in this world are willing to make for a good cause if given the chance. This story should be a guide for those who wish to pursue the right path in life by helping others. Such efforts do make the hindrance of distance and time meaningless. May God help the old man to live the rest of his life peacefully and reward those who helped him make his dream come true.
Saad, Toronto, Canada

My very special thanks to the two generous donors who made it possible
Abu Muinuddin, Baltimore, MD, USA
Sometimes you don't find words to write, this is the moment! I have been following it all the way through. I would like to offer my very special thanks to BBC Online for bringing this up. And the two generous donors who made it possible.
Abu Muinuddin, Baltimore, MD, USA

The act of the Rotherham businessman is an example that there are good people in this world and sacrifice and love are still alive.
Ahmed, Providence, USA

That was great work on the part of the donors. This spirit should be shown in other walks of life too.
Ali Alam, Lahore, Pakistan

How wonderful. In Islam, we consider that someone who makes a good deed possible for someone else is rewarded equally (God willing), without the one who performs it losing out in the least. God bless those who donated, and I hope many more peoples' dreams will come true next year.
Suhaib Saeed, Glasgow, UK

I couldn't stop my tears reading Habib's story. May God reward all those who helped Habib making his dream come true.
Akhtar Banbhan, Holland

Frankly speaking, I can't find the words for this act of kindness and a lifelong dream come true for Mr Habib.
Dipal Thakker, India/UK

Wow, what a story! It just shows you people are able to do so much, if they just try. I hope he had a good time!
Jack West, UK

The love and generosity of these people have transcended barriers of distance, cultures and age, all made possible by the BBC.
Ghassan, Bonn, Germany

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31 Jan 04  |  Middle East
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08 Oct 03  |  South Asia
In pictures: Ancient Indian's Mecca dream
07 Oct 03  |  Photo Gallery
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06 Jun 03  |  England
Indian man's 65 years as OAP
22 May 03  |  South Asia


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