MAKKAH — It took an Indonesian youth exactly a year to cover on foot the 9,000-km-long journey from Central Java province to the holy city of Makkah to perform the Haj pilgrimage this year. Firm determination and courage of conviction helped Mochammad Khamim Setiawan in his adventure full of hazards but rich in spirituality.
"Whenever he wants something, he'll try wholeheartedly to get it on his own. Nothing stops him. He's a man of a strong conviction," told Syaufani Solichin (74) about his son's spiritual adventure to Makkah.
For this spiritual adventure, "Aim", that's how his friends and family call him, brought with him a backpack, a copy of the Holy Qur'an, a couple of shirts, two pairs of pants and shoes, a dozen pairs of socks, several undergarments, a sleeping bag and tent, a portable torch a smart phone, an Indonesian mini flag, a GPS and cash of 3 million Indonesian rupiah (about SR850).
Wearing a T-shirt with "I am on my way to Makkah on foot and putting full trust in God," on its back, Setiawan started off his daring passage from his hometown of Pekalongan regency, in Central Java, at 10 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2016.
At first, his family doubted his ability to make it to his dream destination as he had to travel a long distance of more than 9,000 kilometers. He was even urged by his bothers to give up his plan, but they failed to persuade him to change his mind.
Aim's father was called on by Indonesian religious affairs office to sign some papers stating no objection on his son's desire to embark on his spiritual adventure.
Observing fast for most of his daytime during the journey, Setiawan preferred to travel at night with the assistance of lights and utilize the daytime to rest in mosques, public buildings, houses of local people, or even inside the forests of some countries he passed through.
He was able to travel 50 km when in good shape. However, when he felt pains in his knees, he just could walk 10 to 15 km a day.
Setiawan fell sick twice during his journey, that is when he was in Malaysia and India. He did not take in special supplements to maintain his stamina, but just consumed halal food and relied on honey mixed with water to develop his body's immunity against severe weather.
Nothing much of hardship he experienced, but recounted he had at least three encounters with venomous snakes in Malaysian forests. "But miraculously, before they could even bite me, they just fell down and died," Setiawan said.
"I never begged, but I always met kind people who gave me some food and other provisions. I was once welcomed at a Buddhist temple in Thailand. Villagers in Myanmar fed me. I studied and met Muslim scholars from various countries at Jamaah Tabligh mosque in India, and I became friends with an Irish Christian couple who were riding bikes in Yangon." he added.
As he walked alone at night, he encountered some unpleasant situations, like when was in India. He asked some locals about the route to Saudi Arabia, but hey misled him. "And that made me cover a long distance again."
Even so, many people sympathized with him when crossing Malaysia, India and Dubai. They gave him some halal and non-perishable food. He would stop by at the Indonesian diplomatic missions of every country he entered to process a visa of the country he would enter.
"I stopped there not because of asking for help, but just for making a social call," Aim said.
He was so determined to walk to Makkah to perform Haj, not because he was short of money. He has a good business back home.
"I believe performing Haj is not only a demonstration of solidarity among fellow Muslims," he said.
"My way to demonstrate my piety to Allah the Almighty is by learning about Islam from various Muslim scholars and meet people of different faiths to learn their culture and promote tolerance," he said.
"I am doing a greater form of jihad: Disciplining myself and winning spiritual fight against sins," he added.
On May 19, 2017 he arrived in Abu Dhabi, the UAE. Actually he was scheduled to enter Makkah on Aug. 30, one day before or on the day of Arafat. However he arrived earlier than scheduled.
He video-taped his journey of every country he entered and updated it on his personal account of social media, so his family and friends back home could be aware of his whereabouts.