Goodbye dear Abdul Majeed

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A few weeks ago, on March 20 to be exact, I canceled all my engagements and appointments to travel to Jeddah airport to bid adieu to Abdul Majeed, who was my domestic driver.

Abdul Majeed worked with me for more than 20 years, including 18 years under my sponsorship. As for the first two years, he was under the sponsorship of another citizen living in Makkah.

The subject of transferring his sponsorship from the Makkah man to my sponsorship is a story worth telling. Before hiring him, I had a housekeeper from Bangladesh. He decided to go back to Bangladesh for good and he brought Abdul Majeed to me to replace him. I asked him if he had a residency permit (iqama). I also told him that he should obtain permission from his sponsor in writing saying that he had no objection in allowing Abdul Majeed to work for me for a specific period of time. He informed me that the sponsor had agreed to do so if I made a request in writing.

Eventually, I sent the sponsor a letter asking him to allow Abdel Majeed to work for me on a probation basis prior to transferring his sponsorship. Several months after hiring him, I found him suitable for work. Therefore, I wrote to his sponsor, requesting his consent for transferring sponsorship. I told the sponsor that in the event of his consent, he should prepare a letter of release and have it attested by the concerned district official. He delayed sending the release document, but after continuous contacts, he sent his consent for the transfer of sponsorship.

I took the release document to the Passport Department and explained to the concerned officer my desire to transfer the services of Abdul Majeed to my sponsorship. When I showed him the release document, the officer asked me to bring the worker’s passport in addition to his iqama. Abdul Majeed said that his passport was with his sponsor and I told him to contact the sponsor and collect it.

Accordingly, he went to Makkah and met his sponsor but failed to secure his passport. Subsequently, I contacted the sponsor and told him that since he agreed to transfer sponsorship he had to return the worker’s passport, as it is a must for the transfer of sponsorship.

Unfortunately, I did not get a response and later he stopped answering my phone calls. Finally, after several attempts to contact him, I learned that he had surrendered the passport at the Passport Department after reporting that Abdul Majeed was a runaway worker (huroob). I asked the sponsor: “How could you report to the authorities this case as huroob after you prepared a written release letter and had it attested by the district official?”

I went to the Passport Department in an attempt to retrieve Abdul Majeed’s passport. But I was informed that the passports of runaway workers were usually sending to the diplomatic missions of the concerned countries through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Therefore, I approached the ministry’s office in a bid to find the passport. However, I was told that such passports were sent to the designated diplomatic missions without delay so as to complete the necessary deportation procedures. Finally, I approached the Indian consulate in search of Abdul Majeed’s passport, but I could not find it there.

At that time, I had a visa for a domestic driver that had been sent to the Saudi consulate in Mumbai. Therefore, I told Abdul Majeed to travel to India on final exit and come back on that visa. However, he preferred to return to his sponsor with the hope that he would help him in solving the problem. Accordingly, he returned to Makkah but never came back. This prompted me to believe that he might have solved his problem with a decision to stay with his sponsor.

However, after one month, one of his friends came to me and said: “Abdul Majeed ended up in the Deportation Center (Tarheel) and he is asking you to help him.” Immediately, I went to Tarheel and reached the hall where Abdul Majeed was staying. I managed to meet him at the overcrowded facility and asked him how he had ended up at Tarheel. He said that while traveling to Makkah, he was detained and taken to the center after officials detected that the validity of his iqama had expired.

I felt that he was subjected to injustice by his former sponsor and, therefore, decided to help him, seeking the pleasure and reward from God. I spent four days going back and forth to Tarheel, taking up his issue and meeting a number of officials. At last, fortunately I found an officer whom I knew very well. I explained to him the case of Abdul Majeed and he at once lent me a helping hand to solve the problem and subsequently, Abdul Majeed was deported to India within a week.

After spending several months with his family, he took the visa and came back to the Kingdom under my sponsorship as a domestic driver. I saw that he was not good at driving and, therefore, I sent him to the Dallah driving school where he learned how to drive. He failed the exam two times but passed on the third attempt.

Abdul Majeed worked for me for 18 years, and he was a decent driver who always maintained the quality of being patient. He took my children to school all through their preliminary school to university levels of education. He had electrical and plumbing skills and was always keen and ready to carry out simple repair work.

Two months ago, he informed us that he had decided to return to his country to live with his family for the rest of his life. My family and I tried to convince him to go on a long vacation and then come back. But he apologized, and hence we had to accept his decision and give him our best wishes.

I found it my duty to go with him to the airport and my son Muhammad accompanied us. Muhammad, who is studying in the final year of his university education, canceled his classes that day to be with me in bidding adieu to our dear Abdul Majeed.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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