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The Problems of a Contemporary Hajj Part 1

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By: Dr. Moosa Ali

The following is an anecdotal monograph, based upon Hajj 2009, recounting predominantly the problematic aspects of a contemporary pilgrimage to the two Holy Sanctuaries in Makkah and Madīnah.  This reflective account of Hajj 2009 was written to identify and promulgate some problems of a contemporary pilgrimage. Having spoken to a few pilgrims who experienced the Hajj of 2010, I have heard both positive and negative comments about their experiences there.

The most significant innovation this year has been the monorail in Makkah, and since the procedural running of Hajj is continuously evolving, any account of this sort runs the risk of becoming outdated. Nonetheless, I feel the account presented here and the criticisms I am making cannot be sidelined as merely anecdotal and incidental recollections. The most significant criticisms I make – namely those pertaining to numbers, the response of Saudi authorities to Western modernity, and the future vision for a Sacred Land  – are all too relevant to all Muslims in the world, both Arab and non-Arab.

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Finally, perhaps the reader will agree that occasionally knee-jerk reactions are characteristic amongst Muslims when any aspect of their Faith or Islamicate culture is criticised. And this is perhaps particularly justifiable given the contemporary onslaught of denigration towards Muslims and their Religion from even those who call themselves Muslims. What this risks, however, is overlooking legitimate criticism of certain occurrences within the world of Islam. If I may then, I ask you to read carefully the provisos and reasons I cite, and let me also reassure you that my intentions here are firmly in the spirit of loyalty to both Islam and its Muslim adherents. Whilst Islam, as I see it, is beyond reproach – Muslims most certainly are not. I do genuinely feel that the problems mentioned herein are indicative of a malaise in the global ummah (ranging from a subjugated mindset towards a hegemonic West to the straying from Prophetic norms in worship, and beyond) that can, and by all means must, be cured first and foremost by acknowledging it.

With this mind, I hope you find this piece informative.

Introduction

It was said to Ibrāhīm:

“And proclaim to mankind the Hajj. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant mountain highway (to perform Hajj)” [Q 22 Hajj: 27]

This verse above is brought to life by a plethora of accounts (1) spanning one and a half millennia. It seems particularly salient given that right up until the first third of the twentieth century, people of all colors, languages and lands were traveling (at least in the last leg of their journeys) on ‘camel’ and on ‘foot’ to the holy sanctuary.

Around 4,000 years ago Ibrāhīm ibn Aazar, thought to be from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur (in modern day southern Iraq), embarked on a magnificent journey and struggle as a Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam . Towards the end of his life, his journey took him to Bakkah (2), where the first mosque on earth was built and a series of pilgrimage (Hajj) rites were revealed by Allah. Today this ancient city is Makkah, lying in a harsh, rocky, and mountainous desert landscape where, in antiquity, no crops seem to have grown and a climate of ‘suffocating heat, deadly winds, and clouds of flies’(4) prevailed. For reasons known only to Allah, this land is the most beloved on earth to Him. It is far removed from the lush comforts and adornments of this world in greener, leafier and more fertile parts; it is a place that none would think to visit but those devoted to worshiping Allah, compelled by His instruction:

 

“Pilgrimage to the House (Ka’bah) is a duty mankind owes to Allah, those who are able to undertake it.” [Q3:97]

Hajj is a unique act of worship such that it is tied not only to a specific time, set, and sequence of rituals but also a specific physical geography – the sacred valley of Ibrāhīm. When the Prophet performed hajj there were approximately 40,000(5) – 90,000 (6) people present, a figure utterly dwarfed by the current numbers that annually inundate the ancient valley on top of its resident population of 1.2 million. To witness a contemporary Hajj is, in many respects, to witness a microcosm of the global Muslim Ummah.  For this reason, a contemporary pilgrim (hajji) will witness and experience not only the very heights of spirituality but also the depths of profanity. I say this because there is no better place to witness the oft-mentioned distinction between the lofty Islamic faith on the one hand, and its very human Muslim practitioners on the other, than the two holy sanctuaries of Makkah and Madīnah during the month of Dhu’l-Ḥijjah. This account is a critical reflection on the contemporary realities of pilgrimage, as gleaned from my experience in 2009, and supplemented by Hajj reports from well known historical accounts. The aim here is to highlight those social and organizational aspects of the ‘experience’ so they can be improved.  This is not a critique of the institution of hajj and its rites which, as far as I am concerned, are sacred and therefore beyond reproach.

I dwell also on the mismatch in sentiments and priorities between the authorities that run the pilgrimage and the pilgrims themselves, many cognisiant of the fact that it will be their one and only visit to this Sacred Land, and who therefore come to engage specifically in the rites of worship. In the minds of non-Khaliji (non-residents of the Arabian peninsula and the Gulf region at large) Muslims at least, the Arabian Peninsula is an enchanting place, home to the story of the Messenger of Allah . Here he was born, experienced revelation and persecution, migrated to Madīnah, and established the Islamic faith. These Muslims, therefore, place the Peninsula – because of the Prophet – on a pedestal and harbor certain expectations from the Sacred Mosques, the ancient relics, monuments, and sites of Islamic history therein. Unfortunately these expectations are not always met.

Moreover, while the importance of the internal, or esoteric, component of worship is commonly stressed – there is an external aesthetic component to worship which, though often overlooked, is clearly present in the Islamic texts. To demonstrate briefly, consider the ritual prayer in which clean white clothing, kohl, use of miswak, perfume, and beautiful recitation is recommended. It follows then that the external components of sight, sound, smell, and so on and so forth are also very much a part of the experience of worship.  The Hajj ritual as a whole is of course no less an act of worship than prayer or dhikr. In describing the experience of Hajj, therefore, I pay particular attention to these neglected elements.

I will proceed to describe briefly, since there are many accounts of this nature, the highs of a contemporary Hajj before steering the theme of the account towards what could be improved, and the importance of speaking about it. Finally, I will conclude with recommendations to improve the pilgrim’s experience.


The Highs

The first vision of the Ka’bah and the Sacred Mosque is an unforgettable moment. The Ka’bah is a magnificent structure; it stands serene and immovable as thousands circumambulate it on three levels and playful birds chirp as they maneuver with wondrous swiftness above, occasionally mirroring the clockwise motion of the pilgrims below them. Its sight is compelling, gripping the eyes of hundreds who stand on the roof of the mosque staring at its mysterious beauty for hours at a time, impervious to fatigue. As Haddad observed:

“Everybody performs the ṭawāf , moving in one circular motion around one pivotal point, synonymous with the regulation and orderliness of the universe. The celestial zones rotate, as does the electron in an atom. We are a part of this creation, we travel with it and it travels with us; our Lord and object of worship is One.”

This is the center of the world of worship, the most important physical space on earth for Muslims, the oldest place of prayer to the God of Mankind. Prophetic narrations affirm that directly above the Ka’bah is al-Bayt al-Ma’mur, its celestial equivalent – an unfathomably more ancient place of worship – where the Angels have circumambulated beneath the Majestic Throne from time immemorial, praising and glorifying His Majesty in such throngs that, it is narrated, the heavens creak with their sheer numbers. Standing now as a pristine cube, many have conjectured over the significance of the Ka’bah’s shape. But it was not always a cube, for once it stood in the shape of an arched doorway, and Allah alone knows the significance of these shapes and any symbology therein.

It is said that Angels laid the foundations for the Ka’bah which were eventually obscured under a mound of red rubble by the time Hagar of Egypt was left there by her husband, Ibrāhīm, with their son Ismail. As is well known, the Well of Zam Zam gushed forth, the tribe of Jurhum arrived, and a community began to thrive there. Some 3,000 years later ‘Abdul-Muṭṭālib would sleep by the Ka’bah with his grandson Muhammad. Here the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam had animal entrails thrown on his head, the companions were persecuted, Abu Bakr beaten almost to death. In the grounds of the sacred mosque would have been the homes of numerous Prophetic companions, as well as ardent adversaries of Islam and its Muslim adherents. This ancient land is rich with sacred history and it is knowledge of this history which brings to the fore of one’s mind the grave significance of the ground on which pilgrims sit reading Qurʾān and making ritual prayer. The Mosque in Makkah is breathtakingly beautiful and conducive to deep introspection and worship, but it is the knowledge of over 4,000 years of history which really renders a pilgrim to tears. It is that history which one must study in depth before embarking on the Hajj journey.

While Makkah is cardinally about the Ka’bah, its pre-Islamic story, and early Islamic history; the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam Madīnah is where the religion took its final shape, where the Islamic state was formed, where Islamic law took a more dominant role, and where numerous battles were planned and fought. Madīnah is replete with history of the nascent Islamic polity; it is an altogether different experience from Makkah – tranquil, and cooler in climate. Surely the Prophet’s mosque is the most beautiful and most aesthetically complete in the world: hundreds of magnificent Cordoban arches of subtly different designs and colors provide decorum to the hugely extended mosque; lush carpets rich with color, beautiful scents, and spectacular marble flooring make up the recesses of the mosque, while open courtyards scatter the intramural, providing natural ventilation. This mosque is huge, over a thousand grand marble pillars support it, all arches extend in geometrically, perfect straight lines around a quarter of a mile long. Grand chandeliers provide constant lighting, while intricate calligraphy provides ample distraction to those wishing to decode it. The elaborate details one notices are countless and I can describe the mosque only as architecturally magnificent. Aside from the physical splendor, there is nothing more special in Madīnah than sending & salah upon the Messenger of Allah in the knowledge that he rests in his grave just feet away. That perpetually busy one-way passage, leading past his grave and Riyadh-ul-Jannah, is where his chambers were during his life; in that vicinity the Companions prayed in the mosque; revelation descended; battles were planned; and on a more somber note, in that vicinity was where ‘Umar and ‘Uthmān were both assassinated, the former by a Persian non-Muslim, and the latter by proto-khariji insurgents. Awareness of all that and the impeccable condition of the mosque itself makes it unforgettable.

In both Makkah and Madīnah, the beauty of the adhān and Qurʾānic recitation – in the presence of the Ka’bah or the Prophet’s mimbar,Raudat-ul-Jannah and his grave – utterly dominate and diminish the paler experiences one is used to in their homelands.

Tremendous money and thought has gone into the design and construction of these two sacred mosques, and since the sight, sound, smell and touch are looked after, the spiritual and aesthetic experiences are profound. There is no feeling comparable to worship in these two sanctuaries, intensified all the more in the knowledge that one’s worship is amplified in reward by a ratio of 1:100,000 and by 1:1,000 in Makkah and Madīnah respectively.

This is the spiritual high of Hajj; many will feel it and write about it. Few, however, will make mention or write about the negative aspects of the Hajj experience, perhaps in the belief that this is poor etiquette, or reflects some degree of ingratitude to Allah, or will detract from their reward. The negative aspects, however, tend to center around human activities and procedures, and so what follows below is strictly in the spirit of improving the spirituality of Hajj and the pilgrim’s overall experience

Where in the past it may have been fabrications of Europeans that derided the Hajj – such as that by the Dominican friar Fabri who wrote in 1484 that Muslims in Makkah worship Venus, pelt stones ‘backwards between their legs at the devil’, come to see Muhammad’s coffin hung in the air without rope or chain, and that the black stone is a statue of Saturn – I fear that today if the problems mentioned below are simply ignored or ‘swept under the carpet’ there is little hope for improvement. The risk of offering yet more ammunition to Islam’s enemies and malefactors(10) is simply not acceptable.


The Lows

The profound experiences of worship described above are certainly not exaggerated. The supplications there are so much more thought out and sincere, the ritual prayers are done with so much more concentration, and the recitation of Qurʾān and dhikr are one’s main preoccupation.

It is, however, with tremendous sadness that one encounters some shameful acts around the Ka’bah, and the reality of what lies outside the perimeters of the two holy mosques. It is only by speaking against it, this proverbial elephant in the room, that the less appealing aspect of this reality may be substituted for that which is better.

Masjid Haram

The serenity of ṭawāf from a distance is deceiving and none should be duped since the reality inside ṭawāf is considerably more violent. Large trains of people linking themselves together slice through crowds elbowing unsuspecting pilgrims in the ribs. Tempers flare, the young threaten to punch the old, and the old strike the young. Thieves (11) operate with knives slicing into bags; on one occasion while attempting to cut a bracelet off a lady’s wrist, a thief sliced her radial artery – she bled out on the mosque’s floor. Other women have had various body parts groped in crowds so thick that catching a breath devoid of someone else’s perspiration or exhalation is just not possible. Those unfortunate enough to fall are every so often crushed by stampedes, especially near the black stone which is the most violent area in the mosque. Although to kiss it is merely desirable, the look in some eyes is unmistakably one of madness, as if one’s soul will suffer eternal damnation without touching or kissing it. Women who do dare to venture near it risk having their scarves and over- clothes torn from their bodies and hair ripped by random hands appearing from between sweaty necks, yanking at anything within their grasp to hurl it out of the way. The heat and pressure is intense enough to cause some to pass out. I saw many men, fearing their ribs about to be crushed imminently, desperately pulling out and gasping for breath. All the while, astonishingly, Saudi police stand above the stone laughing and scoffing at the scenes of madness beneath them apparently enjoying the spectacle.

Quite frankly, there are too many people making ṭawāf. As a result, it is less an act of worship than it is an act of survival; an act just to be completed incident free. In 1964, Jalal Ahmad amusingly observed:

“Every time the good people return from circumambulation and sa’y (sic), it is as if they have just returned from the battle of Khaybar – some part of them is injured”(12)

Muslims are capable of bloodier feats still: in the time of the salaf in 683CE when the Prophetic Companion, ‘Abdullāh b. al-Zubayr’s plans to challenge the corrupt regime of Yazid b. Mu‘āwiyah became known, an army from Damascus arrived. It lay siege to the Holy Mosque killing inhabitants and burning the Ka’bah (13), crumbling its walls, leaving it not fit for purpose, and smashing the black stone in to three pieces (14).

The number of people making ṭawāf nowadays is so vast, their patience so thin, and their manners so terrible that ṭawāf , especially in the inner circles, is a violent affair of pushes, prods, shoves, falls, and occasionally, trampling. Ironically it is the elderly that need to do the shorter circumambulations but it is they who are more susceptible to suffering in the inner circles. The closer one heads towards the Ka’bah the less safe it is especially for women and the elderly.

Swelling, uncontrollable Numbers

The number of pilgrims was a key preoccupation in my thoughts during Hajj since it was the most striking problem of the entire hajj experience, and the root cause of many of the problems mentioned in this account.

Makkah and its valley is a three dimensional space capable of holding only a finite number of pilgrims comfortably. Of course, one can make concessions and bear the burden of some hardships to enable more Muslims to perform pilgrimages, but there must exist a limit where no more pilgrims are allowed in for reasons of safety, basic standards of hygiene, health, and comfort, not to mention the strain on the Sacred Land (rubbish/waste, sewage, fuel emissions, air quality and other sorts of pollution etc). A survey of the numbers is shocking.

The Messenger of Allah performed Hajj with around 40,000 Muslims according to two major ḥadīth scholars, Ibn Kathīr and Ibn al-Salah (15). Muhammad Asad, who performed and documented one of his five pilgrimages in 1927, described innumerable pilgrims rammed together in ships and a sea of white in Makkah; but he was seeing no more than around 150,000 pilgrims. The famous British convert and confidant to Ibn Sa’ud, Harry St. John Philby, who incidentally was also responsible for mapping most of the Arabian Peninsula, kept detailed records for ten years and described that in 1931 only 40,000 people performed Hajj, a drop (due to war) from the high of 130,000(16). Data shows that throughout the 1970’s the number of pilgrims fluctuated between 700,000 – 900,000, reaching the landmark of 1 million in 1983 (17). From 1996 – 2006 there are officially published Ministry of Hajj figures available(18):

In 2007 the official figures were quoted as follows:

“the Saudi Central Department of Statistics had announced Wednesday that the total number of pilgrims from this year’s Hajj reached 2,454,325, (1,707,814 from outside of Saudi Arabia and 746,511 from within the kingdom)”19

But as with every year’s official figures, there were additional pilgrims attending illegally: ‘over- stayers’ along with clandestine pilgrims who did not register. In 2009 these figures are said to be nearer 2.5-3.0 million pilgrims.

This rise in numbers is clearly exponential and writers such as Wolfe and others have put it down to the age of the jet engine. A family can be away from home for a matter of weeks and then return.  There are less concerns with having to worry about the family’s subsistence and safety in one’s absence and the ill too are able to endure a flight as opposed to weeks/months worth of journeying in times gone by.

 

1 See Bibliography

2 Q 3 : 96 Sūrah Āle-‘Imrān

3 According to Mubarakpuri, it was first built by the Angels, and its foundations or building structure subsequently renovated by Adam, then by the Quraysh just before Muhammad became the Messenger of Allah, & finally by Ibn Az-Zubayr [see Mubarakpuri, History of Makkah, p.30].

4 Maqdisi’s description (ca.966CE) as cited by Wolfe p. XV; Michael Wolfe is a Muslim convert who collected a literary anthology on the Hajj inspired by his own pilgrimage.

5 Two major hadīth scholars, Ibn Kathīr & Ibn al-Salah, concur that 40,000 people were present at the Farewell Hajj with the Prophet; see Ibn Kathir, ‘The Life of the Prophet Muhammad’; Garnet 2000, volume 4, pages 193 & 20. & Ibn al-Salah al-Shahrazuri, ‘An Introduction to the Science of Hadith’, Garnet (2006), Category 39, page. 214

6 Wolfe p.xvii

7 Wolfe p.xviii; bear in mind this figure is from around 1997

8 By this I mean those not resident in the Arabian peninsula or those Muslims who are not Gulf Arabs

9 Article: Hajj the fifth pillar of Islam, Haitham Haddad, 6/12/08, www.islam21c.com.

10 Some apostates have recently written savagely of Muslims in Hajj and recounted their negative experiences many of which can hardly be denied. Apostasy notwithstanding, it is necessary regardless to improve on areas where improvement is possible

11 Theft has been a problem for many years. Hamza Bogary wrote of the 1947 hajj that the tents were susceptible to thieves and when the hajj rites emptied the main town in Makkah ‘khullaif’ thieves would take advantage of the situation [Wolfe p.449]

12 Wolfe p.475

13 Peters p.60-61

14 Peters p.63

15 See footnote 5

16 Wolfe p.386; numbers dropped as a result of war.

17 Wolfe p.435-436 18 http://www.hajinformation.com/main/l.htm

19 Crossroads Arabia; http://xrdarabia.org/2007/12/23/how-many-attended-the-hajj/, accessed 1/2/10

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. abu ismaeel

    October 10, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    As Salaamu Alykum,

    Very interesting and informative article. This piece is relative, as well;

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/mecca-for-the-rich-islams-holiest-site-turning-into-vegas-2360114.html

  2. Ahsan (Cartoon Muslim)

    October 11, 2011 at 12:13 AM

    wow, the “Lows” section sounds scary. I guess the only two solutions would be to limit the number of people attending Hajj to a smaller number or do construction to increase the capacity. Seems like they’re going for the latter, right?

    I was also wondering how the construction on the skyscraper in front of the Haram affects the overall experience of the Hajj, if at all?

    • mw_m

      October 11, 2011 at 6:28 AM

      A brother was telling me that the Saudi’s brought in a German firm to study all the logistics and suggest a proposal to streamline everything to make it easier for that many people to do hajj. Their final idea? Split hajj into two different parts of the year :D

  3. Umm Tariq

    October 11, 2011 at 1:00 AM

    Dr Moosa, may Allah reward you for addressing this subject. The lows you mention (and I am sure there are more to come) are consistent with the accounts of my husband and close friends who have performed the Hajj and even Umrah.

    Some people will be appalled when I confess that I don’t find myself yearning to perform the Hajj, and I know I’m not the only person who feels like this. I have a deep rooted aversion to going somewhere where I know there is a high risk of being trampled on, molested, picking up a serious infection, being robbed, or of being scared to eat and drink for fear of not being able to get to a clean toilet, or any toilet, in time. I find myself thinking it may be a Mercy that I am not in a position to perform the Hajj at this point in time. However I worry a lot that my attitude is due to weak faith.

    I pray that your report will be taken seriously and acted upon by people with the authority to make an improvement.

    • bint muhsin

      October 11, 2011 at 6:22 AM

      sister dont let the stories and articles let you feel this way. I was also very apprehensive about doing Hajj, but having been last year I can swear that I never witnessed nor heard of molesting or robbing. But if one doesnt wear a wide concealing hijab and wears jewellery and flashy handbags then they may face this. Nor did I ever have too much diffculty finding a toilet in that was in an acceptable condition. One should assess the situation (the rush/numbers) and sometimes compromise(with not always being able to perform tawaf right next to the kaba on ground floor)..and try to go whilst you are young and fit

      • Umm Tariq

        October 11, 2011 at 7:10 AM

        Jazaki Allahu khair sister for your reassuring words. Insha’Allah, I’ll try to perform the Hajj as soon as circumstances allow. In the meantime, I hope the Saudi authorities continue their efforts to make improvements vis a vis health and safety.

    • Apricot

      October 13, 2011 at 10:12 AM

      As-salamu Alaykum, Umm Tariq,
      Although I have never been to Makkah myself, I felt compelled to respond to your posting. This past summer, we sent my 16-year-old son to Umrah with his school. It was such a wonderful experience for him, masha’Allah…he was practically glowing when he returned and keeps saying he cannot wait to go back. He did mention the crowds. More than once, he attempted to get close to the Kabah or the Black Stone but said it was utterly impossible due to the throngs of people. He also said it would be very easy to get lost if you are not careful. But this in no way detracted from the joy he felt during this trip. I prepared him beforehand by telling him to keep watch over his valuables and not to lose patience with people if they were pushy. I was very proud of him when he came back as he himself told me how patient you need to be to do Hajj or Umrah. As he told me, you see all of humanity in Makkah–the highly educated alongside the ignorant or illiterate. Poor and rich. All cultures. Everything you can imagine. This is part of what makes the experience so beautiful and memorable. I have female relatives who all feel the same way. They say it is a place you cannot get enough of. Once you go there, you just want to keep going back. As I said, I have not had the experience myself and never dreamed that my son would go there before me and my husband. But I am praying that we will get there soon, and I pray that you and others will not be put off by the “negatives” discussed in articles like these. It is good to discuss negatives and propose solutions, but it is unfortunate if, in the process, people become completely turned off by the idea of doing Hajj.

  4. Jessi

    October 11, 2011 at 1:38 AM

    Assalamu alaikum

    Thank you for this thoughtful and scholarly article. I enjoyed reading it, however felt it ended abruptly. Will there be a part II?

    I have been thinking about the issue of Hajj lately, mainly wondering how it will continue to be something that every Muslim on the planet can feasibly afford, with all the hotels becoming five star. The multi-level shopping malls are too much, too. Hajj and Umrah are about leaving behind your normal way of life and getting closer to Allah SWT. All you really need is a clean room that is not too cramped, and affordable healthy food nearby. Holiday Inn would be fine, not necessarily InterContinental or Hilton with huge buffets. It’s great to have that option if you can afford it, but there needs to be some moderately-priced ways of having a decent hajj too.

    But that’s a slightly different topic.

    I agree with what you have here. Limiting the number who can go will ease things a bit.

    Jazak Allahu khairan
    wassalam

    • Jessi

      October 11, 2011 at 1:41 AM

      I’m sorry, as I shared this on fb I noticed the title does say Part 1.

      Looking forward to Part 2 inshaAllah.

  5. morad

    October 11, 2011 at 2:09 AM

    salam,

    i’m planning on going inshalla this year in about 2 weeks for yr 2011

    i am excited to see Kaaba

    I am interested to see if the Arab Uprising carries over- inshalla it will and i will be part of the engine to overthrow that corrupt government

    i am looking forward to kiss the black stone- i’m ready to either die on the way or kill my way through

  6. Umm Ousama

    October 11, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    I am disappointed by this article so far.

    Hajj is the worship of a lifetime. Hajj is not easy and will never be. Before, Hajj was difficult because the journey was difficult, the journey was long, the dangers many and even when one arrived at Hajj, there were many hazards.

    Nowadays, those hazards have gone but have been replaced by other hazards. This is the nature of Hajj. To answer for the number of Hajjis, can I remind the author that the Saudi authorities are already limiting the number of Hajjis and that many people have their Hajj visa refused. We are 1.5 billion muslims worldwide. Let’s say that the average person lives 65 years, that means he has 50 years to go to Hajj. 50 x 3 million makes only 150 million which means that, in the best of cases, only 10% of Muslims will go to Hajj. That is if people only go once to Hajj. So, it is a huge ni’ama from Allah to be chosen to go to Hajj.

    Secondly, the author is probably not aware of what the Saudi authorities are doing. Look at this article:
    http://en.news.maktoob.com/20090001125884/Campaign_enlightens_pilgrims_on_Haj_rules/Article.htm
    They are also, every year, trying to improve in a way or another. So, although we can condemn the authorities for many wordly things, I think that, considering the yearly event, they are doing a very good job.

    Thirdly, going for Hajj is not a holiday. You will meet people there who can’t read nor have ever seen an escalator in their life. You will see people who have never left their house with all the modern amenities and have never seen a whole in the ground as toilet. When you go for Hajj, you have to have an open mind and be ready for anything. You have to remind yourself why you went there and not become angry. You have to be ready to help and save people. You have to be ready to give up your comfort.

    Hajj is not easy and will never be easy. The reward is immense though as the reward for Hajj mabroor is Jannah. Going there is easy now so the difficulties will be somewhere else. There were plenty of food when I went, yet people were fighting to eat even though there was more than enough for everybody and even more. An old lady came with her son but had to be in another room in Makkah. Nobody wanted to stay with her. My bed was half broken, so what? And so many other things.

    If you go to Makkah, you need to bag plenty of patience. That is all you need after the knowledge of Hajj rituals and Ihraam. Remind yourself of “no rafatha, no jidaal, no fisaal” in the Hajj. Why would Allah make this a condition for Hajj mabroor?

    May Allah give us all the patience to endure the difficulties of Hajj, whether those are material, life-threatening or dealing with people from every corner of the world. BTW, is there a better place to die than in Hajj? That is if you can’t go jihaad?

  7. bint muhsin

    October 11, 2011 at 5:50 AM

    Assalaamu’alaykum,
    Having been for Hajj last year, although I agree with the ‘lows’ you mention…I feel it is a little overblown. Alhamdulillah whilst performing tawaf neither I nor my immediate family members were ever intentionally pushed or shoved or elbowed. Yes you occasionally get the odd push or someone ‘bumps’ into you..but this is unavoidable. Also with the 1st floor and roof being accessible for tawaf- it is less crowded and the tawaf doesnt take that much longer to perform (for a fit and healthy person). Again with sa’ee, there is the 1st floor and the roof- the ground floor is always the most busy.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our experience, and if anything it was the constant whinging and moaning of some of our hajj group peers that was the most annoying. You wont always have an air conditioned luxury coach, but remember- at the time of RasoolAllah salAllahu’alayhi wa sallam they travelled on camels and by foot in the harsh desert terrains, under the scorching sun on their travels between makkah-mina-arafat-muzdalifah-madinah and so on.

    Another problem I found was the wheelchairs that weave in, out and around people- occasionally hitting someone in the back of their foot. Their is a dedicated ‘aisle’ on the 1st floor for tawaf but people tend to take the wheelchairs into the main tawaf area. The guards and policemen should demand wheelchair users to stay within their designated aisle, to prevent the accidental knock of the wheelchair.

    If Hajj teaches you one thing- it is patience. Patience with people around you- to be good with others however they are with you. Patience with conditions- when food hasnt arrived at your camp in mina, when the heat becomes unbearable. Patience when the rain pours down on you so hard…you are wet through to your skin and there is no shelter or stopping place.

    This is not to say that we shouldnt discuss problems and try to improve things. I think every individual when he/she leaves for hajj should leave somewhat as a mujahid does…not knowing if he/she will return home…and knowing that times ahead will be very tough. With this mindset, one can be prepared for any difficulty and trial that comes their way with beautiful patience.

    Wishing all the Hajees and Hajjas an accepted Hajj!

    • mw_m

      October 11, 2011 at 6:30 AM

      word

  8. Saeed

    October 11, 2011 at 6:00 AM

    Saudis form 2 % of the worlds Muslims, yet they contribute 25% of the Hujjaj. Quotas in many countries keep decreasing and prices keep increasing. In terms of organizing crowds and facilities, the Saudis do a wonderful job. However i agree that Makka doesnt need more and more 5 star hotels. Apparently Makka is a goldmine for real estate investors and other businessmen and they invested money to gain high returns knowing Makkah will always have visitors. hence more luxury hotels and skyrocketing prices.

    • Mansoor Ansari

      October 11, 2011 at 10:52 AM

      The number of Saudis include the expats from Saudi too.

      • Saeed

        October 12, 2011 at 5:49 AM

        Even then…
        Saudi Arabia’s population is no more than 25 million including expats,
        .

        • Mansoor Ansari

          October 12, 2011 at 9:50 AM

          Yes , u rite…. but the Saudi residents do no effect the workload at Embassies, Visa offices, Immigration & Airports. The process is much different & easier since one is a resident & it’s just easier for Saudi authorities to deal with it.

  9. Hassan

    October 11, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    People write motivational articles to encourage muslims to go for hajj, and here we have an article scaring the people.

    I did hajj in 2009, and it was beautiful. I am on the contrary amazed, and its sure is sign from Allah about sacredness of hajj and haram, that despite millions of people being there, it goes more or less smoothly. You cannot have anything similar with this magnitude.

  10. Umm ibraheem

    October 11, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    The hajj itself consists of 5 days once you have done umrah or tawaf, depending on which type of hajj one is doing. The main part of hajj consists of spending your days in Mina, Arafat and mudhalifah, with a final tawaf in Makkah. I did Hajj last year and I can assure you that during those 5 days of Hajj one is cut off from luxuries and pleasures. There are no malls or comforts in Mina (where the bulk of your time is spent), just a mattress, basic amenities and food. There is no opting out of going back home during these few days either if you get cold feet. The extra time spent in Makkah and Madinah around luxuries is optional and not the actual Hajj.

    The most amazing experience of my hajj was that in my camp, which was a Rajhi Camp, the Rajhi family daughters were also there (the Rajhi family is the wealthiest family in Saudi after the Royals) and they were sharing the same facilities as us and mingling with us like they were one of us. We also had many maids in our camp, hence the richest and poorest of society were in one tent, all as helpless as each other, united in hoping for the mercy and forgiveness of their Lord.

    difficulty will be experienced in one form or the other by the Hajji, it is inevitable, everyone will be tested in a different way.

  11. Not saying

    October 11, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    I have a few solutions I think might help.

    1. Quietly destroy old Islamic places to prevent any spiritual attachment to the area. Barelvis will have less of a duty. For example, a house the Prophet salalahualayhiwasalam stayed in or one of the Sahabi, etc.

    2. Stop the flashy hotels and all the buildings which are used for any other purpose than absolutely necessary. I don’t see anything but bad in them and I think nothing but humiliation will come out from it.

    3. Do people really need to kiss the black stone? It’s just a stone. Also, does anyone really need to do a circle right outside the Kaba? What about a few meters away?

  12. Arif Kabir

    October 12, 2011 at 3:09 AM

    Thank you for this insightful and well-researched article. I personally do not think such a sensationalized (and quite frankly, half-true) title was appropriate, but that is another matter altogether, as it may have been picked by the blog administrators.

    There does not seem to be much that can be done with the increase in Hujjaj, aside from perhaps barring those that have already made Hajj once, or reducing the quota for each country. However, it is true that the Saudi authorities can do much more to keep the central area of the Haram safe.

    I look forward to your future installments. Alhamdulillāh, I was honored to go for Hajj in 2006, when the new Jamaraat system was still being built, and I definitely saw many of the problems you’ve noted. I think it would also be a worthwhile article to discuss the misconceptions when it comes to performing Hajj such as believing that all Saudi officials are harsh and rude (most of the ones I met were honestly very hospitable), that most of the journey requires a lot of walking, that conditions in Mina are completely deplorable. Though these situations may be true for many, I have neither seen nor heard of many Westerners face these issues.

  13. Pingback: The Problems of a Contemporary Hajj Part 2 | MuslimMatters.org

  14. J.

    February 5, 2012 at 11:54 PM

    I hate to be pedantic, but wasn’t Ibraheem (Alayhi Salaam) around more than 5000 years ago, since the religion of the Jews is 5000 years old, and Ibrahim (Alayhi Salaam) came much before that.  Secondly, don’t we say Alayhi Salaam after his name, not Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam.  I thought the latter was only reserved for Rasulullah (Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam).

    Personally for me the lows was not the construction or the numbers.  The construction of the Abraj al Bayt due to its proximity to the Masjid al Haram is disappointing, but I wouldn’t say it would affect my Hajj.  The numbers actually made me happy.  It’s nice that so many people are able to perform Hajj, especially when you see elderly people from countries like Turkey and Pakistan, and you can tell they saved up their money for this amazing trip.

    My lows was seeing American Hujjaj being more interested in food and talking then they were in ibadah.  I understand Allah is the one to judge, but it’s saddening to watch as they are letting so much reward slip through their hands…

  15. Mohamed Salim khan

    June 6, 2013 at 6:38 AM

    I ,my wife and my two young daughters ,alhamdulillah performed hajj in year 2004,2005.It was wonderful in awonderlland.If I had money and free time,I would have repeated the hajj every year.,.GO FOR IT SISTERS AND BROTHERS.ENJOY EACH MINUTE OF YOUR IBAADAH.ITS REALLY A BLESSED PLACE,MASHAALLAH.Supercool.

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