The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the unique distinction and honour of hosting millions of Hujjaj (the pilgrims come for Hajj) each year. Ever since its establishment as independent Kingdom in 1932, Saudi Arabia is playing a splendid role in facilitating and managing the pilgrims from all over the world. Hajj (the Pilgrimage) is one of the five basic fundamentals of Islam, which is an obligation on all the Muslims who are wealthy, physically fit and can afford to offer it. It is a five-day religious pilgrimage to Mecca and nearby Holy sites in Hijaz (Saudi Arabia). Each year, millions of Muslims from all over world perform this religious obligation. Indeed, every Muslim is zealous of performing this obligation once in his/ her life. There are millions who would like to repeat this religious duty for more than once for the blessing of Allah Almighty.
It is very difficult to administer such a huge gathering of Muslims for those particular days of Hajj in a particular place and space (in and around Kaaba) in the best possible manner. This credit of hospitality goes to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which mange and administers this responsibility with lot of dedication, care and courtesy. Not only Hajj, but as a routine, there remain a constant visit of Muslims from all over the world throughout the year in connection with performance of Umrah. Umrah is a non-mandatory lesser pilgrimage made by Muslims to Holy Mecca, which may be performed at any time of the year. This process continues throughout the year, however, in Ramadan, there remains unprecedented gathering of Muslims for the performance of Umrah and other religious rituals.
The basic philosophy of Hajj is the ethical transformation. Upon wearing ‘Ihram’ a man moves away from all material ostentations, external distinctions, extravagant clothing and finally come closer to Allah Almighty, through spiritual connection with Him. Apart from this spiritual side, there is a Political Dimension of Hajj. Since Hajj is a congregation of the Muslims from all over the globe, therefore, it is an effective factor for the establishment and promotion of unity amongst the rank and file of the Muslims. Thus, it is an attainment of two intertwined aspects; attention towards Allah and simultaneously attention towards the ‘creation of Allah’. It is a rejection of nationalistic and racial fanaticism.
Besides, by spending days and weeks together, there take place cultural exchanges, sharing of ideas and exchange of thoughts among the Muslims from all around the world. There is yet another philosophy of the Hajj, the strengthening the bonds for economic cooperation and developing linkages for the trade and commerce among the believers of this Great religion, Islam. This aspect takes care of financial dimension of Muslim world and obligates them to have greater cooperation on financial issues amongst themselves, rather banking on others.
As per estimates, more than 2.5 million people from all over the world performed Hajj during the current year-2018. As an eye witness, I happened to see the arrangements made by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the Hajj (including pre and post Hajj arrangements). As I could see and understand, the planning for this great event was done in a meticulous way, leaving no stone unturned, taking care of even the slightest aspect in an outstanding manner.
Since the weather during the Hajj days was severely hot and I could see, the Saudi Military soldiers and other volunteers, spraying water over pilgrims at reasonable intervals to lessen the heat effect. It was not enough; they were offering water and other drinks to freshen up the pilgrims. At many places, pilgrims were supplied food items and other necessities of life by Saudi police and Army. Once I enquired about this all generosity, I was told that, King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman have specifically directed to take extra care for the pilgrims to make them more comfortable for performing the religious rituals with ease. Indeed, King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salamn; the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques later received special thanks from all the pilgrims of over 80 countries, whose 2.5 million pilgrims performed Hajj.
In last few years, there have been expansion of the Two Holy Mosques and the holy sites, as well as the readiness of all medical and security teams, constitute strong evidence of Saudi Arabia’s capacities and ability to organize and manage the crowds during Hajj. All these arrangements are being done to accommodate more Muslims from across the world, since there is a rise in population and more willingness from the desirous people.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is doing a great job in hosting and uniting the Muslims from all over the globe. This is a great gesture and Custodians of the Holy Mosques are highly appreciated for their incomparable role. Such an arrangement can only be made through unity of Command, dedication and keen interest. Saudi kingdom is most suited for such a fabulous job. It cannot be done by council of countries, as some forces are trying to conspire. King Salman and crown Prince are greatly valued and praised for making spectacular Hajj arrangements during 2018.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and International Relations at International Islamic University, Islamabad.