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Friday, 25 September 2015


Tragedy After Tragedy
There’s Always A Human Fault!
Hajj Demands Discipline/Order
And We Lack Both

(M. Javed Naseem)

وَجَاهِدُوا فِى ٱللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ هُوَ ٱجْتَبَاكُمْ
وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكمْ فِى ٱلدِّينِ
“And strive in His cause as you ought to
strive, (with sincerity and under discipline).
He has chosen you, and has imposed no
difficulties on you in religion …”
(al-Quran 22:78)

I normally post a new article every Friday. Yesterday, (Thursday) when I was reviewing my new ‘post’, I was again shocked at the TV news that more than 700 pilgrims died and about a thousand injured as a result of a stampede at Mina (Makkah) during Hajj rituals. My first reaction came out of anger and I said to myself: When are we going to learn discipline? Why do we behave like cattle/sheep when it comes to mass-eating (at weddings, fests, etc.) or mass-performing of religious (or other) rites?

So, I am withholding my post until next Friday, Insha-Allah. What drove me mad, was a live broadcast of an act of “ass-kissing” from Mina. Saudi King was sitting along with his cronies and a uniformed officer (Chief of Security Operations) was offering his ‘Qaseedah’ (praise in poetry form). This was happening in the backdrop of hundreds dead and a thousand injured at Mina? I felt like shooting both of them.
So much for the criticism and anger.

Now, on the lighter side, a joke: The pilgrims at Mina (near Makkah) were pelting stones at a wall symbolized as ‘Devil’. As per one report, the stampede occurred at a crossroad where two big groups of pilgrims, coming from opposite directions, met and started pushing each other. When you pelt stones (pebbles) at the Devil (Shaitan), he does not like it. It seemed as if Shaitan was present there and he reacted angrily by killing people. A sad joke!

What is sadder than this? Our own behavior, attitude and lack of discipline! Salaat (prayer) in congregation and all mass-performance of religious rituals are meant to train us for law and order, discipline, organization and peaceful performance. Mina has a history and this is not the first time that this has happened – and it won’t be the last time either. It’s not easy to handle more than two million people at one place! It happens in the West (in football stadiums) off and on even with less than 70,000 spectators. Here’s a brief account of Mina’s history of accidents:

Below is a timeline compiled by Agence France Presse (AFP) of significant incidents during the annual event, which draws around two million Muslim faithful from around the world.

• 2015
September 24:
A stampede during the “stoning of the Devil” ritual in Mina leaves at least 717 pilgrims dead and over 860 injured.
September 11: 109 people are killed and hundreds injured, including many foreigners, when a crane collapses on Makkah’s Grand Mosque after strong winds and heavy rain.

• 2006
January 6:
76 people die when a hotel collapses in the city center.
January 12: 364 pilgrims are killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina. The ritual involves Hajj participants throwing pebbles at three headstones, symbolizing their rejection of Satan.

• 2005
January 22:
Three pilgrims are crushed to death in a stampede at the stoning ceremony in Mina.

• 2004
February 1:
251 people are killed in a stampede at Mina, also at the stoning of the Devil.

• 2003
February 11:
14 faithful, including six women, die on the first day of the stoning ritual.

• 2001
March 5:
35 pilgrims, including 23 women, die at the ritual in Mina.

• 1998
April 9:
More than 118 people are killed and 180 injured in a stampede at Mina.

• 1997
April 15:
A fire caused by a gas stove rips through a camp housing pilgrims at Mina, killing 343 and injuring around 1,500.

• 1995
May 7:
Three people die and 99 are injured when a fire breaks out at the Mina camp.

• 1994
May 24:
270 people are killed in a stampede during the stoning, an incident authorities attribute to “record numbers” of pilgrims at the site.

• 1990
July 2:
A huge stampede in a tunnel at Mina after a failure in its ventilation system kills 1,426 pilgrims, mainly from Asia.

• 1989
July 10:
A twin attack on the outside of the Grand Mosque kills one and wounds 16. Sixteen Kuwaiti Shiites are found guilty of the crime and executed weeks later.

• 1987
July 31:
Saudi security forces suppress an unauthorized protest held by Iranian pilgrims. More than 400 people, including 275 Iranians are killed, according to an official toll.

• 1979
November 20:
Hundreds of gunmen opposed to the Saudi government barricade themselves inside the Grand Mosque, taking dozens of pilgrims hostage. The official toll of the assault and subsequent fighting is 153 people dead and 560 wounded.

• 1975
A huge fire started by a gas cannister exploding in a pilgrim camp close to Makkah kills 200 people.
(Courtesy: Arab News, Jeddah)

We behave like animals when it comes down to kissing of ‘black-stone’ (Hajr-e-Aswad). People fight, pull and push others to do it first. I have seen it with my own eyes and could not believe it when some people’s ‘Ahraam’ were torn apart and they still did not succeed in kissing the stone. Most pilgrims can’t achieve that, especially the women and the weaker men, and it’s because of disorder, inconsiderate behavior and lack of discipline.

Despite all that, the fact is that no Arab (or Muslim) country can make any better Hajj arrangements than Saudi Arabia, and it should be appreciated. They spend endless money and consult American and European experts at every point. They have enlarged (expanded) the ‘stoning’ areas, making it safer than before by constructing one-way streets to and from stoning points. It’s the people who violate the rules and ignore all warnings and behave like animals. One example: You can see the garbage (trash) all along the route, in Mina, Arafat and Makkah although everybody is carrying plastic bags and the organizers have posted trash cans at thousands of places. We can’t keep a place clean even during a religious ritual? And we claim that cleanliness is equal to half of our Faith (Imaan). Why blame others?

Accidents do happen and we should learn from them. We need to be more organized and a little more disciplined – most of the pilgrims are; only a small minority creates disruption and chaos for others resulting in deaths and damage. And it can be avoided.

We should demonstrate patience (Sabr)! Our impatient behavior is the cause of such accidents. We want to achieve something before others and we rush. We want to finish our task before others and in this effort we create disruption and chaos which results in stampedes killing people. We need to be more patient, cool and organized and that’s the message from the Quran as well. Be patient in every situation and don’t rush!

يَآأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ ٱسْتَعِينُواْ بِٱلصَّبْرِ وَٱلصَّلاَةِ
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَ ٱلصَّابِرِينَ
“O you who believe! Seek (Allah’s) help
with patient perseverance and prayer; for
Allah is with those who patiently persevere.”
(al-Quran 2:153)


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