Co[ The Friday lumn Tears for Haramayn [II]
But is the Ummah permanently saddled with this incompetence? It is difficult to forecast, because the main problem of the Muslim World with regard to the control and management of the Haramayn is the false prestige that Muslims keep giving the Saudis, always along with a dose of benefit of doubt. Thus, for instance, even though it is no secret and most Muslims know that the Saudis finance the training and arming of ISIS, they give them the benefit of the doubt even though there is no doubt in this at all.
Even though they know that the Saudis bankrolled the recent destruction of the recent Arab Spring-inspired revolution in Egypt, which, in spite of the naivety and tunnel vision of the even though there is no doubt about an act which was conducted in public.
And even though all Muslims know that the Saudis have concluded a defense and security pact with Israel, which is in occupation and control of Palestine, including holy Masjid al-Aqsa and the sacred Dome of the Rock; and which also curiously but not surprisingly, happened to have been the first port of call of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Salman ibn Saud whose entourage has been accused of triggering the latest and worst stampede in the world.
Perhaps, it is not difficult to see why this is so. According to Muslim belief, the Ka’aba is the House of God, but many of them out of ignorance or sycophancy, routinely make the mistake of extending these holy attributes also to those who for the time being exercise temporary control—or what they now call custodianship— over the House, and for this reason, or for the money they collect from them, they have difficulty criticizing conduct in them that they severely criticize in others.
For this reason, many Muslims, some as a result of their naivety and others because they have been trained and paid to promote this very view, are terrified of criticizing the Saudi regime because it will appear as if they are criticizing God or His Ka’aba or His Prophet [SAW] or the religion of Islam. But this regime has nothing to do with God or Islam, because, to begin with, custodianship over the Ka’aba by itself alone cannot confer Islamic credentials.
And this brings us to aspects of their theological mindset that is at the bottom of all this great misfortune. First, we must accept that an underdeveloped, misplaced, obsessive compulsive shirk-phobia will never serve as a replacement for the theology of and nor will a pamphlet, described even by its involved translator and one of its most energetic promoters as looking “like a student’s notebook’’, needing endless emendations by succeeding generations of followers to begin to look like a book, provide the basis for the founding of an Islamic school of thought.
The attempt has turned otherwise rational people into spiritual zombies and scriptural automatons, no longer capable of using either God-given powers of reasoning and simple logic. Their superficial liberalism and sanctimonious bookishness has effectively turned the spirit and letter of Islamic law into a creed that denies its own premise, a conclusion at variance with the entirety of its own arguments.
The entirety of the Hajj is the reenactment and celebration of a series of historical events connected with an individual Prophet— Abraham (AS) and his family. It represents the highest level of struggle for affirming divine unity, realizing the unity of the Ummah and understanding–and, hopefully, accepting— the responsibility of being human. Hajj is a pillar full of meaning but an arid theology in search of around every corner has turned it into a dry set of rituals. Perhaps the time has come to exorcise its spirit from this theological bind.
We find among the rite of Hajj prayer and supplication at the Maqam Ibrahim, the spot with the footprint of Abraham [AS], which the Qur’an commanded the Holy Prophet [SAW] and us to take as a place of prayer. Thus, by the step of a Prophet, ordinary ground has become hallowed and consecrated.
Accordingly, for us therefore, each square foot of the streets of Mecca and Medina and all the other places the Holy Prophet was recorded to have visited is, so to speak, a Maqam Muhammad, and is worthy of our veneration, but because its imprint has not been preserved by God and the scene has been much altered by human interference, we do not rush to take the streets of Mecca as laces for prayer. But it is clear that by having lived there, the Holy Prophet [SAW] had altered Mecca and Medina such that they could never be like other cities.
And, therefore, if the footprint of a Prophet could possess such grace-giving as made prayer acceptable, that of the greatest Prophet would obviously be even much more so. In Masji al-Nabawi, it is not the footprint, it is not even the foot itself but the entire blessed body of the Holy Prophet [SAW] that lies in permanent state. There is no place on earth more fitting for prayer and supplication than the presence of this Prophet, yet these miserable Saudi Wahabi scholars say doing this is hiding behind this ploy a subtle belittling and spite for the best of creations.
It is this atavistic hatred that is from time to time visited on the pilgrims, followed by a denial of responsibility as in the unfolding tragedy. Clearly, there is right now a desperate attempt to cover up the real cause and the size of the casualty of the stampede. Immediately after the stampede, Saudi officials tried to put the blame on pilgrims. Prince Khalid al-Faisal, chairman of the kingdom’s Central Hajj Committee, blamed “some pilgrims from African nationalities.” Perhaps this was done with the hope of getting the non-black African and Asian countries to support the kingdom’s position. When it became clear to them that more was needed than a cynical appeal to racism, the story changed slightly; but without changing the basic blame game, Khalid al-Falih, Saudi health minister, said the stampede was caused by “pilgrims who didn’t follow instructions.”
For many, the Saudi blame game, denial of responsibility and prevarications were as painful as the stampede itself. Many eye-witnesses blame the stampede on the Deputy Crown Prince who arrived with a 350-man strong escort; and, to enable him cast his stones at the Jamarat, the flow of pilgrims was barricaded. This forced a backward flow of pilgrims and unleashed a stampede unparalleled in scope and in casualties. Eyewitnesses now speak of more than 2000 people dead. Luckily, every step of the tragedy had been caught on tape by social media buffs; but the truth will finally be known only after the conclusion of an investigation which King Salman himself promised. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has ordered the establishment of an investigative commission to find out what happened.
But with the leadership of Saudi Arabia accused and spiritedly put on the defensive, and a son of the king implicated by preliminary probes, this is an investigation the kingdom is not qualified to conduct as an internal affair. Unless it is planning a whitewash of its incompetence and culpability, this investigative committee must be—and be seen to be—independent, impartial and multinational. And even more importantly, it must include nations that are affected by the tragedy; otherwise, its findings and recommendations will not be worth the paper on which they will be written. But whatever the outcome of this probe, this tragedy should mark the end of Saudi mismanagement of the organization of the Hajj.
And the first thing to do is to stop them from further demolishing the Holy Prophet’s legacy. No one opposes the expansion of Masjid al-Haram if it is done in order to create room for ever-increasing members of pilgrims—but even at this, it can be done without erasing priceless Islamic monuments and irreplaceable historical sites. But it is only done to create choice real estate for Western and Saudi Royal Family hoteliers to build hotels in the vicinity of the Ka’aba and erect ugly architectural monstrosities that dwarf and mock the House of God.
And in all the demolitions, they should have preserved what would remind Muslims of their Prophet and his times. But how does it sound to the Saudis now that the residence of Sayyidna Abubakar (RA) the first adult male Muslim,
one of two’ and the first Caliph of the Muslims, is now partly owned by Paris Hilton, hotel heiress and sex-tape porn star?
For longer-term solution, the Muslim World should begin considering taking over the organization of the Hajj and the management of the Haramayn from the Saudis. A steering committee made up of Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia—countries with the most well-organized Hajj schemes, with the highest number of pilgrims and with capacity to do what is needed—and the Muslim Diaspora in the West should be set up to study the situation and make recommendations on how Muslims in the World will take over the conduct of the Hajj.
With the skills, experience and expertise available with Muslim professionals worldwide, it is not impossible to organize and conduct Hajj without a single accident-related death. An ubiquitous, efficient, friendly, multinational vigilante group, learned in the of Hajj and covenant with the dynamics of crowd management, assisted by an ICT-based instant monitoring-feedback-control system response, will be able to solve all the problems causing and worsening incidents of stampede.
Naturally, the Saudis will kick as will the Western powers who exploit the situation and derive great benefit from the undeserved prestige the custodianship of Haramayn has conferred on them. But, under any circumstances, the Muslim World must insist on what is best for Islam and Muslims.