Hosting hajj is an honor that God Almighty has granted us since forever, an honor that men envy each other for. It is an effort which men fall short of carrying alone but move forward, arm in arm, and hand in hand. A legacy handed down from grandfathers to sons, an old era as old as Ibrahim’s arrival to Hijaz, the history of water and Ibrahim’s dawah. The dutiful steps are towards the Kaaba.
Serving the pilgrims who visit the Kaaba is the pride of our kings before it is the pride of the people. Only a few days are left before the month of Hajj begins, which is the Saudis’ date every year to serve Islam and Muslims from across the world.
“My country lives as the pride of Muslims” is what we sang every morning. It’s the anthem that we stood to chant before our green flags. As days passed by, we began to see pilgrims on television. The month of Hajj is the month when Saudis are prepared to receive the entire world in a specific small area.
Managing the pilgrims is an utmost concern, not just for the emirate of the holy capital as it also tests the preparedness of all important sectors in the kingdom. Pilgrims come from all over the world, by land, sea and air. You can imagine the pressure Saudi embassies across the world faceTurki Aldakhil
The honorable responsibility
Through Hajj, we learnt the greatness of the spreading of ideas. Any passport employee at any crossing border in Saudi Arabia can tell you about the features and traits of any people, considering our direct contact with all of the world’s nationalities.
Yes, I am saying it loud and clear: We have this honor that cannot be competed with, neither from a free party nor a semi-state. Serving the duty of Hajj has been linked to the names of our kings, and we are the ones most worthy of serving the guests of God.
Imagine the numbers, dear readers. The total number of pilgrims in the 1438 hijri year was 2,352,122, of which 1,752,014 were coming from outside the kingdom, while the number of pilgrims from inside Saudi Arabia was 600,108. The total number of male pilgrims was 1,334,080 while the total number of female pilgrims was 1,018,042.
Managing the pilgrims is an utmost concern, not just for the emirate of the holy capital as it also tests the preparedness of all important sectors in the kingdom. Pilgrims come from all over the world, by land, sea and air. You can imagine the pressure Saudi embassies across the world face before the pilgrims arrive and the extent of coordination with the foreign and Awqaf ministries from around the world, and the challenge which the security sectors face and which hospitals also face as they receive double their capacity. How can one understand and deal with all these languages, diverse cultural backgrounds and various ages around the clock?!
And after all of that, a mad man or a prejudiced man thinks, just thinks, about internationalizing Hajj. Hajj, you madman, is a habit and a burden that’s much heavier than hosting the World Cup once in a lifetime!
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What fascinates me out of all of this is the flexibility of the people of Mecca and their willingness to move from their houses during the Hajj season and go outside the city. Others focus on the seasonal trades, like witty traders would, to benefit from this chance which happens once a year. They cannot be blamed for this because God Almighty said in the context of Hajj: “That they may witness benefits for themselves.”
As someone who follows up on Hajj news, when I recall Khamenei’s rant as he demands to internationalize Hajj, I can only recall two responses:
The first one is the smart response of Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir when he said to Khamenei and others that “any talk about the internationalization of Hajj is tantamount to a declaration of war on the Saudi kingdom.”
The second one is the response of the intellectual Ahmad Kattan, Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to Egypt, when he said: “The kingdom will remain like this until God inherits this land and those on it to someone else. We could have hit back twice as hard and we could have responded to insults with insults. We could have replied to his vulgar style but the morals of our religion prevent us from doing so.”
He added: “The kingdom’s caravan will walk its path and will remain under the command of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. It’s the only one that specializes in organizing Hajj affairs and serving the guests of God so they can perform their rituals with ease and without foreign interventions.”
The Iranian Al-Shaheed (Martyr) Magazine, which is the mouthpiece of the references of Iran’s mullahs in Qom, published in its 46th edition on Shawwal 16, in the year 1400 hijri, a photo of the holy Kaaba with a photo of the Aqsa Mosque next to it and between them there was a hand holding a rifle while the caption read: “We will free both qiblas!”
Not only that, but on 17/4/1983, Rafsanjani, who was Iran’s president between 1989 and 1997, shamelessly and without any piety said while addressing a delegation of Shiraz teachers: “Iran is not the Arab nation and not the Islamic world. It is all because it’s the house of faith and everything else is the house of infidelity. Iran’s Muslims and their friends must rise with the tasks of liberating all Islamic countries.”
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The Hajj season will fall on its usual timing each year while we’re preparing for it since the previous season had ended. All security and civil apparatuses supervise these preparations. Our King Salman and his Crown Prince Mohammed are watchful as they attend to every detail that contributes to simplifying the fifth pillar of Islam for the nation of Prophet Mohammed. Each pilgrim is a guest of every citizen, and each citizen represents an example of the Arabs’ old traits.
They are the traits of men who are thrilled with guests, and compete to offer them food and drink. It’s those men who, since before Islam, believe that the house has a God that protects it and that God has selected them from among all others to honor the guests of the House of God.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.