Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hajj Stampede Tragedy - some suggestions


  M. Ghazali Khan  
May Allah bless those who got shahadat in Mina; may He bless their survivors with sabre-e-jameel and protect the minor children, orphaned as a result of it, from the difficulties orphanhood often brings.
There are conflicting reports on the cause of this tragedy, some criticising the Saudi administration others blaming the carelessness of Hajis from certain countries. Let’s hope and pray that Saudi authorities will look at all the possibilities contributing to this painful incident.

However, the fact is that no matter how good and how efficient are the arrangements the increasing number of pilgrims will keep on making existing arrangements insufficient. Steps MUST be taken to reduce this number. There is no sense of people performing multiple Hujj creating problems and safety hazards for others. Surely by performing Hajj only once the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has left a lesson for us to learn.

Having been to Hajj in 2013, the year when in view of the ongoing heavy construction in the Haram, the number of pilgrims was drastically reduced and restricted, I am a witness to its benefits. In comparison to the stories I keep on hearing from Hajis, and also what I have been watching on TV, our Hajj that year was far more easier and Alhamdulillah everyone could perform all the arakans without much struggle.

Ordinary folks like us who are thinking of performing second or third Hajj can at least do our bit by cancelling our plan and spend this money for some other good cause like financing the education of a deserving Muslim child/youth or helping a poor Muslim girl in getting married. We can at least use our influence on close friends and relatives who are planning to go on a second and third Hajj.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Haj 2015 - Heart-rending Tragedy - Stampede - at least 717 dead and at least 863 hurt

Haj stampede claims over 700 lives near holy city

  • Members of Saudi civil defense try to rescue pilgrims following a crush caused by large numbers of people pushing at Mina, outside the Muslim holy city of Makkah.
    Members of Saudi civil defense try to rescue pilgrims following a crush caused by large numbers of people pushing at Mina, outside the Muslim holy city of Makkah. 
  • Scores of Muslim pilgrims make their way to cast stones at a pillar symbolising the stoning of Satan, in a ritual called
    Scores of Muslim pilgrims make their way to cast stones at a pillar symbolising the stoning of Satan, in a ritual called "Jamarat," the last rite of the annual Haj, on the first day of Id al-Adha, in Mina near Makkah, Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

MEA says it is awaiting details; as the stampede occurred on the last day of the pilgrimage.

A huge stampede killed at least 717 people and injured hundreds more at the Haj in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in one of the worst-ever tragedies at the annual Muslim pilgrimage. 

The stampede, the second deadly accident to hit the pilgrims this month following a crane collapse in Mecca, broke out during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defence service said.
Bodies of pilgrims wearing traditional white clothing were left scattered by the crush, surrounded by discarded shoes, flattened water bottles and umbrellas that had been used for protection from the sun.
The civil defence service said that it was still counting the dead, who included pilgrims from different countries, and that at least 863 people had also been hurt. 

Nearly two million people from across the globe were attending the Haj, one of the largest annual gatherings in the world. Iran said at least 43 of its citizens were dead and accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors that caused the accident. 

‘Tripping all over each other’ 
The stampede began at around 9:00 am, shortly after the civil defence service said on Twitter that it was dealing with a “crowding” incident in Mina, about five kilometres from Mecca.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had converged on Mina on Thursday to throw pebbles at one of three walls representing Satan, for the last major ritual of the Haj which officially ends on Sunday.
A hospital official told AFP the incident happened outside the Jamarat Bridge structure, where the stoning takes place. A group of pilgrims leaving the area collided with another group that was either moving in the opposite direction or camped outside, the official said. 

A Sudanese pilgrim in Mina said this year’s Haj was the most poorly organised of four he had attended.
“People were already dehydrated and fainting” before the stampede, said the pilgrim who declined to be named. People “were tripping all over each other”, he said, adding that a Saudi companion had warned him that “something was going to happen”. Helicopters were flying overhead and ambulances were rushing the injured to hospital, AFP reporters at the scene said. 

At one hospital, a steady stream of ambulances discharged pilgrims on stretchers. The incident came as the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims marked Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar. 

It was the second major accident this year for Haj pilgrims, after a construction crane collapsed on September 11 at Mecca's Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site, killing 109 people including many foreigners.
The Haj is among the five pillars of Islam, and every capable Muslim must perform it at least once in a lifetime. For years the pilgrimage was marred by stampedes and fires, but it had been largely incident-free for nearly a decade following safety improvements. 

In the last major incident in January 2006, 364 pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual. In 1990, a huge stampede in a tunnel at Mina after a ventilation system failure killed 1,426 pilgrims, mainly from Asia. 

Thursday's tragedy occurred outside the five-storey Jamarat Bridge, which was erected in the last decade at a cost of more than $1 billion and intended to improve safety during the pilgrimage.
Almost one kilometre (less than a mile) long, it resembles a parking garage and allows 300,000 pilgrims an hour to carry out the ritual. 

Official figures released Thursday said 1,952,817 pilgrims had performed this year's Haj, including almost 1.4 million foreigners. 

Foreign embassies were working to identify and assist their citizens caught up in the stampede.
In Tehran, Saudi Arabia's Shiite rival Iran said authorities at the Haj had closed off two paths near where the accident later took place. 

“This caused this tragic incident," the head of Iran's Haj organisation, Said Ohadi, told Iranian state television. 

President and PM condole deaths 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences after the disaster: 

(Courtesy: The Hindu dated 25th September 2015)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bakrid or Eidul Azha - Festival of love, devotion...

 Eid ul Azha or Bakrid is celebrated by Muslims the world over in memory of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) who lived about 4500 years ago. He was an embodiment of selfless sacrifice and deep devotion to God. Once dreamt as if commanded by God, he was ready even to sacrifice his only son Hazrat Ismail (Ishmael) who was also all the more willing to give up his life as per divine order. But it was stopped as it was not what God wanted as he was only tested for his faithfulness and 
forbearance. The holy Quran says that it is not the “flesh and blood” that reaches God but the devotion one has for Him. 

The most important aspect associated with this festival is the Haj pilgrimage to Makkah which is obligatory for people who can afford it. The Islamic equality and brotherhood of mankind is manifest in the mammoth gathering of more than two million Haj pilgrims, drawn from different parts of the world, irrespective of their colour, creed or country, joining together at a place, men in a white unstitched “uniform” of two pieces of cloth called “Ihram” and women with a head-cover and usual dress, doing “tawaf” (circumambulation) and praying to Almighty God with absolute devotion and wishing for world peace and prosperity. This spectacular annual assembly of Haj pilgrims, full of piety and Divine wisdom, is of great significance. 

The holy Quran says: “O People! Behold, we have created you all out of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes only for the sake of identification and knowing one another. Verily the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is pious and God fearing (The holy Quran, Al-Hujurat 49:13). It also says that “God does not love the proud” and Prophet Mohammed (Sal-am)’s warning is that “he who has a grain of pride in his/her heart will not enter heaven.” 

If the purpose of religion being love is properly understood and followed, we can get a just world order wherein one can live, develop and prosper happily in an atmosphere free from fear, oppression and exploitation and also make the other world hereafter, called “Aakhirah”, a paradise. A Haji – one who returns after Haj pilgrimage – is expected to be as innocent as a child without enemies from within such as envy, greed, ill-will etc. and lead a life getting the pleasure of God and thereby peace of mind and tranquility.                                            

V. M. Khaleelur Rahman

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

King Salman orders generous payouts for those killed and injured in Saudi crane crash tragedy

King: SR1m for family of each crane victim

JEDDAH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has ordered massive payouts for the families of those killed and injured in last week’s crane crash tragedy, which claimed the lives of 111 people and injured over 238.

In a royal decree on Tuesday, the king announced that there would be SR1 million paid to each victim’s family, SR1 million to those whose injuries resulted in permanent disability, and SR500,000 for each of the injured, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The king stated that these payments would not exclude the families of the deceased, and the injured, from launching lawsuits through the courts for compensation.

He also announced that the Kingdom would host two family members of those who died, for next year’s Haj. Those who were injured and cannot complete their rituals this year would be able to return next year as the king’s guests. The family members of the injured in hospitals for treatment would be granted visit visas to remain in the Kingdom.

The king also reviewed the report of the committee investigating the incident, which concluded that the crane was blown over by strong winds on Friday while the machine was in an incorrect position.
The king ordered that the report be sent to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution for further investigations into the procedures adopted by the Saudi Binladin Group.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Consul General Aftab A. Khokher has welcomed the king’s gesture. “This once again proves King Salman’s kindness and care for the Ummah,” he said. “Although nothing can compensate for the loss of life, this will bring huge comfort to the families of those who lost their loved ones.”

Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, the Makkah-based director general of Haj in Pakistan, said: “My salute to the benevolent king for making this large-hearted announcement. He is a true leader of the Muslim world.” Akif said Friday’s deceased were martyrs, and the compensation would provide good support for their families.

Some 11 Pakistanis died in the crash and 14 were injured. At the current exchange rate, the compensation for each Pakistani martyr will come to 27 million Pakistani rupees.
Indian Consul General B.S. Mubarak described the king’s compensation as unparalleled. “It is a great gesture on the part of the king and will help alleviate the suffering of the families and relatives of those who died,” he said.

He said other than the monetary compensation, King Salman’s announcement of inviting two relatives of each of the martyrs for Haj next year was “a very thoughtful gesture.”

In India, SR1 million equals 17 million rupees. There were 11 Indians who lost their lives in the crash and 19 were among the injured. Two are still missing, according to Mubarak.
A well-known American radio broadcaster of Pakistani origin, Qamar Abbas Jafri, who performed Haj in 2013, described the king’s announcement as unprecedented. “In my 50-year journalistic career, I have not heard of any Muslim leader announcing such a healthy compensation,” he told Arab News from Washington.

“When I saw the photos of the king in the Washington papers visiting the injured and personally meeting them in Makkah hospitals, I was very impressed. In the countries where we come from, such as India and Pakistan, leaders do not even care to visit the site of accidents. They only issue sterile statements.”

Jafri said the compensation reinforces the image of King Salman as “the king of kings.”
Rashid Mogradia, chief executive officer of the London-based Council of British Hajis, said: “It shows the generous nature of the Saudis and that of King Salman in assisting all those who were affected by the tragic accident.” The speed and transparency with which the inquiry was conducted and the guilty were named demonstrates King Salman’s utmost concern and care for the guests of Allah, he said.

Two Britons were among the 111 dead.

(Courtesy: Arab News) 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

King Salman visits injured and says Haj pilgrimage will not be affected 

            King pays visit to injured in tragic crane crash

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman visited the injured at Al-Noor Specialist Hospita in Makkah. (SPA)

 MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia has assured the Muslim world that the Haj pilgrimage will not be affected as a result of the crane crash in the Grand Mosque on Friday which claimed 107 lives.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman visited the Grand Mosque on Saturday and inspected the damage caused by the crane crash. He later visited the injured at Al-Noor Specialist Hospital.

Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal gave the authorities concerned two days to repair the areas damaged by the crane fall.

Prince Khaled assured the pilgrims that their injuries will not prevent them from completing the Haj rituals and that the government will help their movement in the holy sites in well-equipped cars.
The deadline for the repair works falls on Monday, the first day of the month of Dhul Hijjah and the last for reception of Hajis from outside the Kingdom, whose number is touching one million, based on the latest data released by Saudi Press Agency.

Despite the crane crash prior to the Maghreb prayer time, the incident did not stop visitors of the Grand Mosque to perform the Maghreb prayer and the Isha prayer afterward.
This clearly indicates that the crane incident will not deter the Hajis from performing their rituals.
He said the government will ensure transfer of Hajis affected by the incident to the holy sites through highly-equipped ambulances.

Prince Khaled conveyed the condolences of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif to the relatives of those who died in the accident.
Standing at the scene of the crash, he said that relevant authorities, notably the Civil Defense, immediately dealt with the incident. Two committees have been set up to investigate the incident, he said.

The prince later visited the injured in Makkah hospitals and prayed for their speedy recovery.
Health officials in Makkah said 95 of those injured in the accident have already been discharged from hospitals, adding that 110 people were still receiving treatment.

The Health Affairs has recruited 36 medical teams and supported emergency departments with medical and technical cadres by recalling a number of support medical teams from Jeddah and Taif to provide emergency care at Ajiad Hospital.

(Courtesy: Arab News) 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Haj Pilgrimage - Important Telephone Numbers for India Haj pilgrims

Haj - Important Telephone Numbers (Makkah/Madinah)

Branch Telephone Numbers

Branch No.
Telephone Number
Ummul Qura
Jarwal (T)
Jarwal (HS)
Shebe Amir
Ajyad (Q)
Ajyad (BB)
Misfalah (KD)
Azizia (MB)
Azizia (MB)
Azizia (MB)
Azizia (BH)
Azizia (MB)

For any complaints relating to the tour operator, a direct complaint can be lodged with Saudi authorities, whose details are;
Makkah Al-Mukarramah
Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah
Mr. Sayed Bin Jameel Eid
Manager, Service Follow-up
Branch Ministry of Haj
PO Box No. 268, Makkah
Tel: 012-5308200 Ext. 1218
Fax: 5307787

Branch of the Ministry of Hajj (Rusaifah)
Tel: 012-5308200)

Branch of the Ministry of Hajj (Misfalah)
Tel: 012-5303833)

Branch of the Ministry of Hajj (Ajyad)
Tel: 012-57491063)
Mr. Badi Khaleel
Umrah In-charge
Office of Haj Ministry
Aziziyah, Madinah
Tel: 014-8226108.

Wazaratul Haj (Haj Office)
In Front of Haram
Between Gate No. 21 & 22
(Opposite Hammam No. 10)

In case of any problem, you may approach Consulate General of India/Indian Haj Pilgrims’ Office, Makkah/Madinah at the following addresses;
Name of the Office
Tel/Fax No.
Consulate General of India,  Jeddah
Building of Mr. Mansoor Abdul Rahman al Hueesh, Villa No., 34, (Behind National commercial bank) Near Al Huda Mosque, Tahlia Street, Jeddah

Indian Haj Pilgrims’ Office Makkah
Opp: Qisla Parking, Jarwal, Makkah
Indian, Haj Pilgrims’ Office, Madinah
Behind Enjaz Bank, Siteen St, Madinah

Monday, September 7, 2015

How to conduct a simple and dignified marriage?

How to conduct a simple and dignified marriage? 

By V M Khaleelur Rahman

I have all praise and respect for Ms A Ameerunnisa of Melvisharam for her excellent article in Urdu (titled "Hamaari shadiyon ka Mas’ala") published in the Omeiat Journal) about the importance of conducting simple and austere marriages as per Islamic norms.

She has rightly pointed out that although Islam has made Nikah (marriage) easy, we have made it very difficult by our uncivilized and greedy way of conducting it in total violation of the principles enshrined in the holy Quran and the Ahadees (Sayings of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)). The editorial comments about the evils of posh and extravagant marriages are most apt.

I am sorry to say that we Muslims do not conduct marriages in a simple and dignified way. To us Islam means some routine rituals and nothing else. We discuss even small things with all seriousness in and outside the mosques but serious and important issues such as Importance of Islamic marriage without evil dowry are ignored. The Jamaath leaders and Imams do not seem to be interested in reforming the community by bringing in strict rules and regulations for conducting simple marriages and becoming role models for all. If they come together and act honestly, the entire community will have no option but to follow them and thus the evils connected with the marriage will be eradicated. Let them ponder over it and act for the sake of the community which is passing through a difficult period having no leaders worth the name.

There is another way of approaching it also. The have-nots should know their position well and not try to imitate the rich in conducting posh marriages. In the present highly materialistic world one should be very careful particularly the poor because they have no leaders, no ulema, no umara, to guide them. They should become bold enough to face the challenges before them by adopting Islamic codes. Conducting a marriage in a simple way is praiseworthy and dignified. The marriage of the Prophet (PBUH) is a model to us and definitely not the marriage of any prince.

The ulema and umara hobnob with each other closely for their own purposes. There are a very few ulema who have the interest of the community at heart. Why should the have-nots worry about them and dig their own grave by doing things which they are not capable of? The general tendency of the people is to waste money in marriages even by selling properties if they own or getting loans from individuals and banks and landing themselves in trouble. Generally speaking a Muslim family is definitely in no way equal and better to a non-Muslim family in financial standing. Only males are the earning members in most of Muslim families consisting of at least 4 or 5 persons whereas in most of the non-Muslim families both males and females are earning members. One can imagine their predicament in discharging their domestic responsibilities in this situation.

Ms. Ameerunnisa rightly says that dowry is demanded according to the status of the prospective bridegroom. Getting dowry is an insult to the bridegroom and our youngsters should make it a point to consider so and abhor it.

We read a report in newspapers about a Muslim returning the dowry given to him some time ago. There is a glimpse of hope now. There are some youngsters inspired by some Movements who do not want to demand or accept any dowry. There are also some instances of some youngsters solemnising their marriages by giving maher and not taking any dowry.

It is usually seen that the maher given by the husband is a pittance in comparison with the dowry and other things received by him. How can it be called maher in the real sense? It violates the Islamic principle.

I request you and our ulema to comment on this important issue in a convincing manner. There is also an urgent need for the Muslim community to empower their women by giving them higher education and making them stand on their own legs for the sake of its progress and prosperity. The Waqf Board can play an important role in reforming the Muslim community in consultation with the mosque Jamaaths. It should announce every year for some important reform.

Every mosque can constitute a committee to make arrangements for enlightening the people by pamphlets and speeches during Juma prayers to consider dowry as an evil and accepting it as a sin. The mosques can also seek the services of different welfare associations for this purpose. The reforms such as the above should come from within the community to safeguard our identity and Muslim personal law.