God said in the Holy Qur’an, “And proclaim to the people the Hajj (pilgrimage); they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass”.
The Hajj pilgrimage has started and there is no more beautiful sight than the sight of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims coming from all entry points, dressed in white and with one mission, to perform their once in a lifetime duty in peace and security. We as, the government of Saudi Arabia and its people, take full pride in welcoming the guests of Allah and embrace them with open arms.
Saudi Arabia has mobilized all its resources, like it does every year, to ensure that pilgrims will perform their pilgrimage in peace and comfort. All sectors — government departments, passport, security, Hajj, health and many other ancillary divisions — are on full alert.
And they are ready to work in concerted unison to implement the Hajj plan that usually is in the making as soon as the last Hajj ends. The seamless cooperation is evident in the growing numbers of Muslims lauding the plan and thanking the Kingdom for the great effort in making their once in a lifetime journey comfortable.
There are businessmen in Saudi Arabia who donate money secretly and without revealing their identity to cover the costs of many poor pilgrimsMahmoud Ahmad
Hand of hospitality
The government, at the same time, while extending the hand of hospitality, too displays its iron fist. The government has also made it clear to all that an iron fist is strong and ready to crush anything that targets the safety of pilgrims and to ensure a smooth and comfortable Hajj for the guests of Allah.
The sight of pilgrims eagerly arriving to the two holy cities is really touching and endearing. It really warms the cockles of the heart to see many pictures of pilgrims in tears of joy and happiness on their faces on landing in the holy land. Some of them have been waiting for many years in queue in their countries to be able to perform Hajj. Some have labored and saved all their money over the years and some have sold all their valuables to be able to cover the expenses to perform Hajj.
It is said in the Holy Qur’an, “And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Kabaa) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence)”. Although it is not obligatory for Muslims, who are not able financially, to perform Hajj but in order to do so, many people will go to extreme measures to ensure that they are able to do it, even if they were financially unable.
Hajj for the poor
This brings me back to my main point I hope to highlight — poor people performing Hajj. I wish that businessmen in all Muslim countries come up with a way to fulfill the wishes of making the impossible dream of poor pilgrims performing Hajj come true by covering the costs of pilgrims. To be fair and from what I know, there are businessmen in Saudi Arabia who donate money secretly and without revealing their identity to cover the costs of many poor pilgrims.
I am sure that some similar good Samaritans exist in other Muslim countries, but this form of giving should be intensified to cover as many number as possible of the financially underprivileged.
The biggest reward they get is in this lifetime itself when they see the bloom of pure happiness on the faces of those who get to do the once in lifetime journey to the two Holy Mosques and the Holy Sites.
In a previous article, I had written, “I call on the authorities to come up with a way to make Hajj affordable for middle- and low-income people. It is a fact that Hajj campaigns are overpriced for many, especially people with large number of family members. Given how life is expensive in some countries in Europe and even in America, or how low salaries are in some Muslim and poor countries, many of them find it almost impossible to fulfill the lifetime duty of Hajj because of financial reasons”.
A humane nation
“What if the authorities and some philanthropists came together to sponsor those who are facing difficulties in saving up for Hajj? This could go a long way in embellishing the Kingdom’s image as a humane nation. Hajj package providers should know that it is an honor to serve pilgrims and they should have a package that charges for the basic cost and not such that it earns an enormous profit for them.”
It is also good to see that the level of awareness of the domestic pilgrims is increasing and that the number of pilgrims without permits is on the decline. In the past, pilgrims without permits squatted around the Holy Sites and in main roads creating all sorts of problems. The level of organization by the security authorities and other government departments working in Hajj is improving and tackling these issues.
With the sustained and planned expansion program at the Two Holy Mosques, the Kingdom is already alleviating the pressures of the numbers. This year it has increased the number of pilgrims for all countries and with future expansion Saudi Arabia will be ready to welcome more pilgrims. With all the systems and people in place, I am confident of a successful Haj this year and pray to God for a safe and peaceful Hajj for all pilgrims.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on August 29, 2017.
Mahmoud Ahmad is Managing Editor of Saudi Gazette for Local and Gulf Affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and his Twitter handle is @anajeddawi_eng.