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Rough Road To Successful 2015 Hajj

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Mecca.

Mecca.

AFTER several postponements of the journey to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj, by the Plateau State Muslims’ Pilgrims’ Welfare Board, relief came the way of pilgrims on September 3, when the chairman of the 2015 committee, Engineer Danlami Mohammed Abdullahi, announced to the already frustrated third batch that they would be heading for Kaduna Airport the following day.
   
The pilgrims, who had already informed friends of their planned trip to Saudi, were initially thrown into a dilemma as, according to the chairman, “their visas had teething problems.” So, for this group of people, it was a tough task having to announce the trip didn’t scale through. Notwithstanding, Abdullahi kept assuring that there was still hope, adding that they should not be downcast.
   
Plateau pilgrims were about 1,262, according to Abdullahi, and they were divided into three batches for their easy airlifting. Going to the Board every morning and closing by 8pm every day became a routine.
    
Eventually, the first batch left without any hitch, followed by the second batch that left without any hassle; problem started with the third batch. But some of the pilgrims, who constituted the third batch, were eventually cleared and they left, though leaving behind about 18 people, who were not cleared. One interesting thing was that the chairman and his officials were still staying with the frustrated pilgrims, trying to keep their fate alive. It came to a point where the chairman said that from the report he had got from his emissaries at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Kano, the remaining visas would be taken to Kaduna and be shared to the pilgrims.
    
In view of this, the chairman then ordered the remaining pilgrims (including yours sincerely) to come to the Board the next day (3/9/15) to proceed to Kaduna and all were happy that there was a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel. When we got to Kaduna, we were camped in one large dirty hall as people on excursion waiting for those coming from Kano.
   
At night, the chairman gathered all of us together and announced that the passports were now ready. We were reduced to the status of primary school pupils waiting for their names to be called by their headmaster. At the Hajj Camp in Kaduna, when the chairman was calling the names, whoever had his name called would shout “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) that he had been cleared at last to perform the pilgrimage.
   
Immediately after the names were called, waiting buses were on hand to convey the pilgrims to the Kaduna International Airport that night; time was not wasted at the airport. After the usual security screening of the pilgrims, they were moved to the waiting “Flynas” that carried other passengers totaling 500. While on board, the pilot announced that the flight would be four hours, 25 minutes, before arriving Saudi Arabia. Exactly same time, we touched down in Saudi.
   
We spent nine days in Madina, where we visited the Mosque of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and the grave of other martyrs who died in a battle of liberation before proceeding to Makkah enroute Meqaat, where the Hajj rites commenced on September 12. There at Meqaat, intention to perform the Umrah was taken where male pilgrims bathed and changed to Harami (the unsown white cloth covering the upper and lower part of the body without wearing any other cloth like underwear, pants inclusive). On their part, the women wore Hijab and cloth to cover them down.
   
After the Tawaf (seven circuits round the Holy Kaabah and Saafa – Marwa), then pilgrims returned to their various accommodations, where they shaved their heads (males), while the women cut part of their head hairs.
   
It was unfortunate that the incident during the trekking from Muzdalifah to Jamrat, for the symbolic stoning of the devil happened where many pilgrims lost their lives.
    
While in Mina to perform one of the religious rites, the chairman, Plateau Hajj Committee 2015, Abdullahi Mohammed and the Amiru Hajj for the year, As – Sheikh Sani Abubakar Jingri, came to the tents to sympathise with us over the demise of colleagues and two others, who were missing after the stampede.
   
At the end of the whole exercise, the chairman summarised his objective assessment of the pilgrimage. He stated that he was delighted the whole thing had almost come to the end, a journey he said, started from Jos to Kaduna to Madina and Makkah and finally they were preparing to go to Jeddah International Airport on the way back to Nigeria (Jos.)
  
“I want to say that this year’s pilgrimage is well organized, particularly from Plateau State. First of all, all the people that applied, whether government or self – sponsored, are privileged to come. We all came through Madina to Makkah. Nobody is going to Madinah again as we are preparing to go back.
   
“As I said, for somebody to pay his money and not to have the opportunity to perform the pilgrimage, I think that is one thing that the present administration has actually tried to stop. I want to thank the Governor of Plateau State, Hon. Simon Bako Lalong and by extension, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for ensuring that the good thing is done all the time.
   
“Again, the accommodation we have, particularly for Plateau State, is befitting and by God’s Grace, is closer to Haram too (Prophet’s Mosque in Makkah) and the feeding has been improved too. We have constant feeding, constant water, constant electricity and so on every time. To me, the Hajj this year is one of the best.”
    
He confirmed that there was no recorded case of misbehaviour on the part of Plateau pilgrims, as all of them knew what brought them to Saudi Arabia.

“On the incident that happened in Haram, we have only one pilgrim that had splashes of blood. Also on the stampede that took place, some of the Plateau pilgrims were very close to the scene, some of them right inside, but God helped them to get out. So far, so good, only two Plateau pilgrims were missing. We cannot conclude that they are dead because no record of death so far. My doctors have gone round almost all the hospitals in Makkah. As I’m talking to you, they have gone out to still search for the whereabouts of these two pilgrims. Two or three Plateau pilgrims fainted twice after the stampede, but they got up and they are alive,” he said.
      
On his advice to the Saudi authority in view of the recent stampede, where the aged and weaklings were largely affected, he said pilgrimage is a right for all Muslims, as Allah has not directed otherwise.

“No age limit given by God. Whoever has the opportunity so long as the person is mature to perform the five pillars of Islam. He is free. No demarcation. One would have said that aged persons should not be allowed but one would not be fair to them. If you are an old person, you should be able to pay for your son or a strong young person to perform it on your behalf or to guide you.  
   
But an Islamic Scholar and a first time pilgrim, Alhaji Mustapha Garba, who spoke with The Guardian also in Makkah, said right from his primary school days, he had been taught about the essence and importance of Hajj as one of the pillars of Islam being the fifth pillar.
    
Garba also commended the Plateau State Governor for accommodating this year those who were unable to make it to the holy land last year despite having paid the Hajj fares. He thanked the National Hajj Commission for arranging meals for the pilgrims from Nigeria.
    
To avoid more casualties in future as a result of possible stampede that always results in death, Garba argued that an old man, who is above 70 years, should not be allowed to come to perform Hajj as Hajj is the hardest of all the five pillars of Islam. To him, the various stages need physical fitness and strength, which an old person cannot withstand.
     
He urged all Islamic nations to come together and fashion out a policy in that regard.
  
“The Islamic population is increasing everybody. Look at the going round of the Kaabah for seven times; look at how people were marching one another. Look Sa’ee, Saafa and Marwa… these are places where a pilgrim has to see and access the work of Hajj. So, I don’t think an old man, who is above 70, will be able to go through all this rigour. The Islamic scholars all over the world need to sit down and make a proclamation to the Muslim Ummah that once you are above 70 years, you should either do one of two things. You should either go with somebody, who will go and do it for you. The person you are sending to do it for you must have been an Alhaji; this is accepted in Islam. Even if you die, somebody can go and perform Hajj for you. It is 100 percent accepted in Islam. Islam does not want to put burden on someone.”
     
Garba concluded that if not for the stampede, this year’s Hajj would have been one of the successful ones, saying that the Saudi people are very hospitable and generous and accommodating, who distribute free meals, books on Islam and many other gifts to pilgrims.
     
Alhaji Abdullahi Muhammad Kiru, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Amasihohu and Alhaji Musa Iliyasu Bardawa are first timers and commented too on their experiences.
    
Bardawa thanked God for escaping the stampede that occurred 30 minutes after he left the scene. He however advised the Federal Government to allow the pilgrims to be responsible for their food, by giving them the money, and that the pilgrims should be evacuated back to the country immediately they finish their religious rites, as it is very unnecessary to keep pilgrims idle after the performance of the rites.
     
But Kiru said this year’s Hajj recorded huge success apart from the stampede, advising the Saudi government to check the influx of future pilgrims by looking critically into age limit and ability to perform physical rites, which border on strength.
     
According to Amasihohu, the Hajj is a huge success as all rites were accurately performed. He advised the Saudi to create separate routes for the old and the weaklings to avoid casualties.  
         


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