Is there any sign of practicing Islam as an egalitarian religion?

Pamelia Ysi event
Pamelia Khaled

Pamelia Khaled: A number of stampedes happened on the Jamarat Bridge over the period. However, due to the recent stampede death toll is rising every day, at least 769 people are killed and 934 injured near Mina, Saudi Arabia.

Though it is told by the Saudi authority that Saudi authorities take extensive precautions to ensure the security of the Hajj and the safety of pilgrims. However, Stampede tragedies are not infrequent among the human history.

History of stampede in Mina during stoning the symbolic devil ritual is not new: In 1990, 1426 people, 1994, 270 people, 2004, 244 people, 2006, 364 people, 2015, 769 people but number of death may exceed within the next week. In 1990, 1400 pilgrims died in a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel that was the most catastrophic accident in Mina. Thursday, 24th, 2015 tragedy in Mina appears to be the second-deadliest during the Hajj.

Other countries have suffered high death tolls for crowd control failures as well. History of stampede in religious festivals and other occasions indicate that in 1994, one of the deadliest stampede killed 800 people during Kumbh Mela pilgrimage in India.

In 1896 near Moscow 1300 people died of stampede as people were in a rush (for a rumour of shortage of gifts) to collect mementos from Royal family when the Russian Empire celebrated the crowning of Tsar Nicholas II.

In 1993 at Victoria Hall, Sunderland, England, 1,100 children rushed out collecting treats to create a bottleneck at the exit doors, it resulted death of 183 children.

Because of rumours of suicide bombing, another stampede occurred in 2005, 1,000 Shiite believers were killed in Baghdad at the Al-Aaimmah Bridge over the River Tigris.

All these stampede incidents indicate that human control failure could cause a disaster, which might be avoided with the assistance of robust administrative team.Saudi Arabia progressed technologically for its wealth but not improved politically and philosophically that reflects in the nature of comments of Grand Mufti Al- al Sheikh below.

A clear and simple guidelines for a pious Muslim life is equal in nature. There is no scope to practice of hierarchy in this religion, as it claims equality. It is true life is sometime beautiful, sometime disordered, chaotic, sometimes sore, and often unsatisfactory. One real secret for equality is to practice being content with who you are and what you already have. A Saudi Prince’s unequal view took away the happiness of all hajis and their families who died during the stampede near Mina on 24th,September, 2015.

For one Saudi Prince’s comfort they killed thousands of innocent haji’s,I wonder how many of us going to lose our loved ones within the next few days. People are still waiting for their family to get a call and hear from them that they are healthy and alive.

For this stampede instance whole Muslim world should jointly stand against Saudi Arabia’s whim, as this is simply crime against hajis. There should be an international investigation to find out the actual fact. Why the hajis died? It is not a mishap, not an accident it is a barbaric crime of negligence by The Saudi’s.

“Happiness consist with contentment” this phrase has become in vein for the hierarchical nature of one Haji, the Prince Haji, as he was not content with his social status. He had to use his power to throw so called symbolic stones to devil using his Royal power in exchange of hundreds of haji’s life. Everyone’s heart is aching with this stampede story,this is simply unbearable. This story arise a question: Why the Saudi administration made distinction among the Hajis and a Prince Haji? Why they closed 2 roads for one man? And that is precisely the point.

Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric, the grand mufti mentioned that Thursday’s stampede that killed more than 769 people at the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca was beyond human control. “As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable.”

Grand Mufti’s above comments on believing fate/takdir is unacceptable as Islam believe in action/tadbir as well. Tadbir means precaution is necessary to avoid any kind of hazards and problems that occur socially, physically, economically on this earth, mundane world. There was no sign to grief over the dead bodies, no tears from Saudi King or Prince Haji, no words to solace the rest of the hajis even for their wrongdoings, besides a simple order of investigation from King Salman.

We have to be aware of any kind of dictatorial order of monarchy and its power users; the malicious power should not be welcomed to destroy a wonderful deep and caring bond in the Islamic community. And equally, uncaring activities may break the peace and sign of Islamic thoughts of equality instantly.

I urge to Grand Mufti, if he has something to say to his fellow Muslims, then he must choose his words carefully for entire Muslim world, not for his own people.

In a statement, the Saudi health minister, Khalid al-Falih, said the stampede may have been “caused by the movement of some pilgrims who didn’t follow the guidelines and instructions issued by the responsible authorities.” His statement is simply a denial of Saudi lack of logistic support and administrative faults.

Saudi officials declared that 769 died and 934 injured during stampede at Jamarat Bridge,Mina. Under the temperatures of 46C, two massive lines of pilgrims converged on each other at right angles at an intersection close to the five-storey Jamarat Bridge in Mina, a large valley about 5 km from Mecca.According to some accounts, Thursday’s stampede began when a huge crowd of pilgrims was heading in the direction of a tent where the symbolic stoning of the devil takes place. Another group started heading the other way, according to a BBC reporter on the scene. The two throngs collided, sending people scrambling over one another. It gives a clear picture how all at a sudden Saudi administration pushed this 2.5 million people in a dangerous position knowingly. After this tragic accident a number of hajis are still missing.

How and why this clash had happened? The fact is, for a smooth preparation of stoning symbolic devil by the Prince Haji the Saudi administration closed 2 gates towards Mina. This was not announced or directed to all guides and hajis earlier. The stampede tragedies had occurred in 1990 and 2015 clear that those incidents happened due to the lack of administrative decision and logistical support. And closing order of 2 gates to clear the road for a Saudi Prince and his escorts sounds he is someone, whose life is more valuable than 2.5 million of hajis, unfortunately. This ridiculous decision is beyond of common sense, a good sense of a pious Muslim.

Saudi administration neither planned for a better accommodation and environment for hajis walking towards Mina, and clear direction for hajis using English educated guides for multilingual pilgrims nor used their foresight how to reduce the death toll this year when already 111 people were killed and 394 injured by crane crush on 11th September, 2015. Rather each year they allowed more pilgrims without arranging logistic support and a secured and safe direction/ guidelines how mass people can reach at Mina comfortably.

If all these hajis death is caused of hierarchy, providing facilities to one man, a Prince Haji only, then they must not be forgiven for a mass killing. Saudi government must compensate for all these valuable lives in a befitting manner and be careful for the next event, pilgrimage. During Haj there should not be priority system for a King, an Ameer or Sultan or common people if they believer of equality and Islam.

Mecca and Medina are ruled by Saudi Arabia, it is a fact that these two holy cities belong to the Muslim world. These two cities are collective holiness of Muslim world, but it is run by an individual possession Saudi Arabia under their whim so called unpopular Shariah law. Islam is precisely an egalitarian religion. However, Saudi Arabia historically antithetical to Islam’s rich traditions of pluralism and spirituality. They must have to take lessons from history how to respect rest of the people and Muslim’s on this earth not a person who belong to Royal family. In the years to come, it will be hard for Saudi Arabia to refute the desire of the world’s Muslims to see their holy cities are welcoming as home of worship.

Hope Saudi Arabia also learn how to impose egalitarian view of Islam respecting all hajis equally. Current approach towards human being is simply distancing them from the rest of the world, as their views is detested to the most of the countries even within the Muslim world.


The writer is a Doctoral candidate and researcher of the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada. Email:[email protected]

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