The recent unfortunate stampede incident in Mina during the Hajj has left many people wondering that how, despite spending billions of dollars on preparations for millions of pilgrims and building infrastructure at holy sites like Mecca and Madina, integral part of rituals related to the annual pilgrimage, the Saudi government failed to avert the tragedy.
Here is a lesser known information on preparations made for this year’s Hajj: 5000 CCTV cameras; 100,000 security officers; 100’s of ambulance for emergencies; 100’s of firefighters along with fire brigades; helicopter services to airlift people in emergency.
Apart from these facilities for free food and water, free Islamic books (including the Quran), free hospitalisation and pharmacies, subsidised train and bus transportation were made available for the pilgrims.
But now the big question arises: What went wrong and where that caused this awful, heart rending incident? Reasons that actually triggered the stampede seem inter-related, though.
Survivors of the incident claim that roads were closed possibly for a royal convoy forcing two columns of thousands of people to clash on Street No. 204. The clash happened when a group of pilgrims were making their way towards the Jamarat bridge, a large structure used for the ‘stoning of the devil’ ritual while other pilgrims were leaving that place. That resulted in a clash between people going in opposite directions on the same Bridge.
Apart from that, the temperature on that day was soaring as high as 45 degrees Centigrade and above. A few pilgrims lost their patience and broke the safety wall and that further added to the already chaotic scenario.
Pilgrims started deviating in this direction on the bridge and it became a difficult task to decongest the bridge by security guards. They had no clue as how to how to control the sea of people. It all resulted in a major, unavoidable, uncontrollable stampede that killed more than 800 people and injured thousands.
Now, in the first place, what is unreasonable is the decision taken to close the roads and reach for the convoy for the son of Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud in Central Mina. That played a major role and led to the deadly clash on the third day of the annual Haj pilgrimage.
According to a report published on Iran’s Press TV website, the Prince who had sought to attend a huge gathering of pilgrims in Mina arrived at the site early, escorted by 200 Armymen and 150 police officers. His presence prompted a change in the direction of the movement of the pilgrims and closure of the road that forced the people to clash on Street No.204 who were already walking in opposite directions.
Although the Prince and his entourage swiftly abandoned the scene to hush up the entire story and impose a media blackout on his presence in the area. None would have really thought that closure of a road could lead to a tragic incident.
But, here is a point to ponder: Only if the Prince and the authorities concerned would have stuck to the Word of Allah
as revealed in the Quran on our Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
In his Farewell Sermon, the Prophet had said, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black any superiority over a white, except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.” (Excerpt from ‘Khutbatul Wada’, amongst collections of Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmithi, Ahmad).
What I personally feel is that one of the greatest lessons anyone can learn and experience most vividly on Haj is that all human beings are equal. Right to equality is stressed in Islam except in terms of taqwa (piety).
From virtually all parts of the earth, men and women gather together in unity and submission to God during Hajj. Men all wear the same simple, white cloth garments; men and women perform the same acts of worship; young and old, the rich and the poor mix. Everyone is equal before God, be it a Prince or a pauper, and their piety is ultimately only known to Him, and He is their final Judge.
Going through such an experience on a large scale with millions of people, InShaa’Allah, will open up the mind, heart, and soul to what it really means to be a human being, much less what it truly means to be a Muslim in peaceful surrender to God.
NOTE: Views expressed are the author’s own. Janta Ka Reporter does not endorse any of the views, facts, incidents mentioned in this piece.