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July 23rd, 2012
08:18 AM ET

My Faith: How Hajj gave us a child

Editor's Note: Shafath Syed is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and marketing consultant. He runs muslimgoodnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @shafath.

By Shafath Syed, Special to CNN

(CNN) - As our family has been getting ready for Ramadan and I look at my daughter I'm reminded of our Hajj trip and how it completed our family. I didn't fully realize the impact that Hajj would have on our family's life. It not only gave us a spiritual awakening but also brought a child, our child, into our lives. For Muslims, the chance to perform Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the greatest expressions of our faith.

There are three facets of my life that make me who I am. I'm an American by nationality, a Muslim by faith and an Indian by culture. Faith has always been an important part of my life. It comes from my parents, who exposed me to faith not just with education, but also in practice. For as long as I can remember, they were involved in the Muslim community and even helped to establish our local mosque.

Typically, Muslims perform Hajj during their senior years but my wife and I wanted to do it in our 30s, because we did not know what the future would hold. Additionally we had another reason, one that was very personal. We had been married for more than 10 years but didn't have any children. We thought it would help if we performed Hajj and prayed for God to bless us with a child.

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We knew that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we wanted to do it right. We wanted to share the experience with our friends, so we assembled a group of close friends. Our local imam, i.e. religious leader, would lead our group, so it was going to be a great adventure. Little did I know what would unfold.

We tried to conceive for many years without success, so we talked about adoption but I just wasn't ready for it.

Call it a mental or emotional block but I just wasn't there. I didn't want to adopt until I knew that I would love an adopted child exactly the same way I would my own biological child.

Hajj resolved these concerns, for the better.

At Hajj it dawned on me why we are required to perform it. It's not as much about the ritual but about teaching patience, tolerance and focus.

Explain it to me: Ramadan

It's the greatest example of diversity and unity at the same time. There were millions from all over the world converging on one city.

They looked different, spoke differently and had different cultures, but they were all there for the same reason and did the same things at exactly the same time. You had to keep your cool at all times and maintain focus to complete your Hajj.

We prayed for health, happiness and to be blessed with a child.

After returning from Hajj in early 2007 we were on a spiritual high and saw things from a more optimistic perspective.

We knew some day, somehow we would get a child.

That day happened in late 2008 when we learned that a baby girl in Pakistan was recently abandoned and available for adoption.

When you're dealing with an abandoned baby you don't have time to debate the issue. You have to act immediately, because the child's well-being is at stake and you may miss this chance.

Living in California and having never set foot in Pakistan made the challenge even greater. I said to myself that I'm ready to adopt and hop on a plane to bring this child home. A couple of days later we landed in Pakistan and had a beautiful baby girl in our arms.

Like many developing countries, Pakistan has a large problem of population growth and limited resources. Unfortunately due to a lack of education and resources, many babies are abandoned upon birth.

We would often hear on the news how conflicted and dangerous Pakistan is, so we were nervous about the process and didn't know how it would end, but our Hajj experience brought us through.

At Hajj we learned patience to deal with the days and weeks of waiting. We learned tolerance to deal with the living conditions. We learned to stay focused so we could complete the rigorous adoption process.

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Most of all the spiritual awakening from Hajj and connection with God gave us the strength to make it happen.

Given all we went through it was clear to my wife and me that we would name our daughter Imaan, which means "faith."

Imaan is nearly 4 years old now and we love her with all our hearts. My only regret is that we didn't adopt sooner.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Shafath Syed.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Muslim

soundoff (560 Responses)
  1. salmirah

    Very inspiring Shafath! Allah can do anything. Our belief has to be that strong in HIM.
    http://www.ahmed-travel.com/hajj-packages.html

    February 27, 2014 at 8:07 am |
  2. Bob

    Thank you, Shafath! Your story is inspiring!

    August 4, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  3. John

    Thank you for sharing your faith with us. This is a very inspiring story. I'm sure it's bringing a lot more understanding.

    August 4, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  4. BJ

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story Shafath. I also went many years without being able to conceive and finally after 8 years of trying, looked into adoption. A few weeks later I discovered I was pregnant and after a very difficult pregnancy I was blessed with a son! For me this was also a life-changing event and a reawakening to my spiritual self. People have missed the point of the story and the personal sharing of a faith journey... Many blessings to you and your family!

    August 3, 2012 at 2:23 am |
  5. Madeline

    I am an agnostic humanist Unitarian Universalist and I found this story very moving. I honor all those who are working to bring more love to the world. They are found among atheists and people of all religions. I wish Shafath and his new family all the best, and hope that those overcome with anger and hate can see the peace and love in this story.

    I am sorry that Shafath had so many hateful responses – I hope you will see the support that people are offering as well. The negativity would make me want to never read comments.

    August 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  6. Rev. Sharon

    Thank-you for sharing your story. God answers our prayers in ways that we often don't expect--but are blessed abundantly because we are able to trust Gods plan. Your story of grace touched my heart.

    August 2, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  7. Fhatima

    Thank you for your courage in sharing your beautiful story!!

    August 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  8. Abdul Vohra

    All praises and thanks to GOD. Inspiring and touching. Thanks for sharing your life.

    August 2, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  9. Jona

    Your story is so wonderfully uplifting. Thank you for sharing your experience–now enjoy the years ahead of you of parenting!

    August 2, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  10. Rev. Nancy

    Thank you so much for this wonderful story and for your leadership in our community, Shafath. Patience, tolerance, and focus–and a baby! What gifts from a beautiful spiritual practice. Truly, all of life is sacred–thanks for making that so clear.

    August 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  11. Mercy Martinez

    Thank you Safath, for a beautiful story.

    August 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  12. Humaira

    Such aml moving and beautiful story. Allah blesses us all in one way or another.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  13. Ahmad

    Very moving. I pray to God almighty to bless with more children of you own.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  14. Matt

    Thank you for sharing this very moving story, Shafath.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:40 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.