Celebrating Haj according to health regulations-By Dr M Haris Z Deen
Haj demonstrates equality amongst people
For a second year in succession, the Muslims’ Haj rituals will be conducted in a disciplined and orderly manner due to social distancing measures imposed by COVID-19 restrictions.
This, indeed is a novelty, since under normal circumstances crowd control of nearly three million devotees, of all genders and ages assembled in one place and discipline in the performance of the Haj rituals had been impossible if not difficult. We have seen every year before this the number of people crushed to death particularly during the performance of the stone throwing ritual, termed ‘Rami’ in Arabic. It is indeed nice to see the rituals of Tawaf (circumbulating the Kaaba), performing the running in the valley between the Safa and Marwa hillocks and gathering in Mount Arafa in an orderly manner maintaining social distancing. All Praise to Allah.
Be that as it may, at a time when the issue of ‘skin colour’ supremacy has been observed during recent sports events, it is relevant to remember what the Holy Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him) insisted during his last Haj in his last sermon on Mount Arafat that, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety (taqwa) and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”
The equality not only of colour or creed but between people of all stature, whether a king or a subject, rich or poor is demonstrated in the attire worn by all pilgrims of two white pieces of unsewn cloth one wrapped round between the navel and the heel and one upon the shoulders. This is the only attire of a pilgrim whether one is a king or a subject or a rich person or poor. They all have to perform the same rituals to get the benefit of the Haj.
God says in the Qur’an “And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way. But whosoever disbelieves – then indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds” (3:97). There is no way that a person who is able to undertake the pilgrimage can pay another person to do it on his behalf however powerful or wealthy he may be. It is an individual duty, thus confirming the equality established in the Haj rituals.
Serious discipline is urged during the performance not only of the Haj but in all matters concerned with Islamic practices. During congregational prayers, it is required to stand shoulder to shoulder and feet with feet from commencement to finish. How then is it possible to maintain social distance in observing the prayer. The principle is derived from the fact that observing the five times daily prayer is obligatory under any circumstance. Whether one stands side by side with another or at a distance does not matter, what is important is that the prayer is performed. Also, whether performed in a congregation or alone, the prayer is a ‘singular’ performance, so is Haj and other rituals. They may be adjusted to conform to existing situations. If that is not the case, how can one’s prayer while seated on a plane be acceptable? Therefore, social distancing during congregational prayers or performing the Haj is not a novelty, it’s need dictated by existing situations.
Haj is one of the pillars upon which Islam is built and is one of the basic foundations upon which Muslims are required to observe the performance of their duties towards Allah. All Muslims who have the means of wealth and good health are required to undertake the journey to Mecca to perform the Haj at least once in their life time. But of course, people with the means to do so undertake the journey many times. In recent times, before COVID struck, it had been estimated that nearly three million Muslims of all ages undertake the pilgrimage. However, since last year restrictions imposed on gatherings meant only a few hundred people were allowed to gather. The limited number of pilgrims are required to follow strict distancing rules and wear the face mask, all supervised by the security forces and other authorities. Thus, instilling strict discipline which as a rule was advised by the Holy Prophet of Islam as follows:
“When you hear that a plague is in a land, do not enter it and if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place,” and in another narration he advised “Do not place a sick patient with a healthy person,”
Thus, the prophet (Peace be on him) taught distancing and other personal hygiene practices and if observed it will prevent, without doubt, the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
EID UL ADHA MUBARAK TO ALL