Every Ramadan a group of African teenage boys serve iftaar to over a million pilgrims at Masjidul Haram. They do this voluntarily to earn reward from Allah. Since the schools remain closed during Ramadan in the Kingdom, these teenage boys usually spend majority of their Ramadan days and nights at the Haram. After asr prayer, they start their work by spreading out plastic sufras (clothes over which food is spread out). Then they bring in dates and evenly distribute them. About half an hour before maghrib, they distribute zamzam water and Arabic coffee and tea among the pilgrims.
These volunteers are very diligent in their work and take great pride in serving the guests of Haram. No matter where you sit in the Haram, these volunteers ensure that you receive dates and water.
Once the iftaar is over, they quickly roll in the sufras and collect litters. Before maghrib prayer, these volunteers remain busy serving the pilgrims. Only after maghrib prayer, they enojy their own iftaar.
During my recent umrah, I met one such volunteer. I was able to have a brief conversation with him because he could speak English. Below is the conversation, which gives a brief glimpse about the life of these volunteers.
What is your name?
My name is Alauddin Abbas.
You had told me yesterday that it was your grandmother who came to Saudi Arabia first. How did she come here? Did she come here for hajj?
Yes, she came from Nigeria for hajj. Then she stayed here. MashAllah, my grandmother is still alive, and she is probably 130 now.
MashaAllah! Were your parents born here is Makkah?
Yes. And my father married my mother in Makkah.
So it means you are the third generation here is Saudi.
Do you have Saudi passport now?
No, but some people in our family have Saudi passport. There was a time when they (Saudi government) used to give passports, but my father did not like the idea then and did not take it.
It means you are now living in Saudi without any passport or documents.
How many brothers and sisters do you have?
We are seven brothers and sisters together: four brothers and three sisters.
MashaAllah! Where does your family live in Makkah?
About a kilometer away from the haram.
Did you and your siblings all go to the local schools here?
Yes. Some of my siblings also studied up to college. All praise is for Allah.
What are you doing now?
At the moment I am staying in the haram (and serving the pilgrims). After Ramadan InShaAllah, I am going to get vocational trainings on electrical work.
Is there a vocational school in Makkah?
Yes, I will have the training in Makkah. At same time, I am already doing an electrical field job now.
Is the earning good?
Are you hopeful that sometime in future you will attain Saudi citizenship?
May be, I don’t know. InShaAllah when Allah grants, we will get it.
Yes, we are a nation who never lose hope from the mercy of Allah. You must be very lucky because you are living in Makkah, the blessed of all places.
Alhamdulillah. We can come to haram anytime.
All the children and young men who are volunteering and serving the pilgrims, do they get paid for this?
Some families do pay some of them. However, it is primarily a volunteer work.
All right brother. It was a pleasure speaking with you. Assalamualikum.