Dubai: This Eid Al Fitr was extra special for Dubai-based Indian amputee footballer Panakkadan Muhammed Shafeeq who feels blessed after having made a strenuous hike up Jebel Noor in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, when he went there to perform Umrah at the end of Ramadan.
The 640-metre-tall mountain is where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is believed to have received the first revelation of the Quran.
For Shafeeq, 34, climbing the mountain while he was fasting in the holy month was an accomplishment “both spiritually and physically”, he told Gulf News over the phone from Saudi Arabia.
“I feel very blessed about it. This experience also made me realise how much struggle the Prophet [PBUH] might have faced while climbing this mountain back in those days.”
Shafeeq, whose leg was amputated from above the knee following an accident in 2004, is no stranger to climbing mountains despite his physical limitations.
As reported by Gulf News last year, the expat hailing from the south Indian state of Kerala had walked all the way up the UAE’s highest mountain Jebel Jais using crutches.
The rare feat last November was held in view of the UAE’s 51st National Day on December 2, 2022 and Dubai Fitness Challenge, the month-long annual fitness initiative launched by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai. The 25km hike up the Mountain Road was also to mark the International Day of Persons with Disability (IDPD) 2022 that falls on December 3.
In 2021, he had also climbed the steep Wayanad Ghat, a mountain pass in Kerala’s Wayanad district to show his solidarity with the farmers’ protest in India.
But this time, Shafeeq had a more spiritual reason to go hiking using his crutches. He was also accompanied by three friends, who work in Saudi Arabia, during the early morning climb.
“We started the climb around 6am from the base after the dawn prayer. It took me around one hour and 45 minutes to reach the peak. Usually, normal people take around one and a half hours,” said Shafeeq.
He said he did not feel the need to drink water unlike how it was at Jebel Jais. “Then I had taken short breaks after every one or two kilometres. But this time I did not take too many breaks.”
Pillar of support
However, at some points, his friends literally became a pillar of support. “My friends Mehaboob, Riswan and Ibnu Mubarak, climbed along with me. They supported me at some points where the path was difficult to climb. At some places, there were no steps. I had a doubt if I would be able to finish it or I might have to break the fast and drink water. But I managed to finish it without much hassle,” he said.
Even after reaching the peak, Shafeeq said he decided to climb down without spending too much time on the top. “I didn’t take any rest while climbing down. Got back in 45 minutes.”
“I came here on a multiple entry visa. I took a flight from Abu Dhabi along with my friend Amjad. This Ramadan and Eid have been extremely blissful as I managed to visit various holy sites in Saudi and performed my second Umrah as well. Some had advised me to use a wheelchair while doing Umrah. But I was determined to use only my crutches,” he added.