As the high-point of the 2016 hajj draws nearer, the government of Saudi Arabia has shortened the timing for the symbolic stoning ritual that led to the deaths of over 2,300 pilgrims during last year’s hajj.
The authorities of the holy land will now tightly control the ritual to avert disaster.
The representative of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj, Sheikh Mohammed, stated this at a workshop organised by the Est of Mutawifs for Pilgrims of Non-Arab African countries, which is meant to sensitise the officials and representatives of the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards on the measures adopted for the stoning of the devil ritual held in Muna, Makkah, yesterday.
He said the new measures will strictly adhere to the time schedule and use of guides for pilgrims, adding that two guides, each from Muassassa and the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards, would lead groups of 250 pilgrims to and from Jamarat for the stoning ritual.
As usual, the symbolic stoning of the devil will be performed immediately after pilgrims leave Arafat. The new procedure will enable the pilgrims to throw stones easily and prevent any stampede that may result from overcrowding in Jamrah.
Mohammed warned that any pilgrim or state contingent that violates the new measures put in place to ensure the safety of the pilgrims would be arrested and prosecuted accordingly, adding that no pilgrim would be allowed to go out for the stoning ritual without his group or stay beyond the time allocated for the group.
He said: “Sheikh Mohammed wants the State Pilgrims Welfare Board officials and leaders of the pilgrim groups to adhere to the time schedule in line with airport style of scheduling, in the sense that flights only arrive and depart based on the time scheduled to them.”
He further warned that the state pilgrims’ welfare board officials would be held responsible for any lapses that occur during the exercise.
Last year’s stampede, which killed over 2,300 pilgrims, was the worst disaster in hajj history and it occurred outside the five-storey Jamarat Bridge, a structure resembling a huge parking garage which hosts the stoning ritual and cost more than $1billion to build.
Nigerian Army Goes Spiritual, Sends 450 Officers To Hajj
Determined to win the war against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East and other security challenges facing the country, the leadership of the Nigerian Army has sent 450 officers on a spiritual mission to the 2016 hajj to pray for the success of the Army and the country.
Speaking to a group of Nigerian journalists in Makkah, yesterday, the leader of the delegation, Col. Shehu Garba Mustapha, urged all Nigerian pilgrims presently in the holy land of Saudi Arabia for the 2016 hajj, to pray for Nigeria and for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
“We don’t have any other country to call our own, other than Nigeria. The present government needs our prayers to succeed and we must pray for Mr President and his team. I use this opportunity to call on all Nigerian pilgrims to pray for our country, Mr President and the leaders and those who lost their lives, may Allah forgive them.
“Both the security and other challenges that we are facing in our nation, we should make requests to Allah to remove and uproot them from Nigeria. Anytime we go to pray, we should pray for Nigeria and Mr President,” he said.
Col Mustapha lauded the new measures adopted by the Saudi government for the 2016 hajj stoning ritual and gave the assurance that the Nigerian soldiers on pilgrimage will abide by the new rules.
He said a member of the Army Force Hajj Team will collaborate with the NAHCON to impart the dos and don’ts of the new rules to all Nigerian pilgrims and will assist the pilgrims during the exercise.
“Anything that we are asked to do, as a law-abiding and disciplined agency, we will comply. We will also collaborate with NAHCON officials to impart the same to other Nigerian pilgrims. We are not here for only Nigerian Army Force’s pilgrims. We also need to assist our Nigerian brothers and sisters who are here on hajj in performing their hajj exercise.
“The new arrangement is a welcome development because it doesn’t allow violence. It is in accordance with Islamic injunction that whenever there are difficulties, you are allowed to do things that you were not allowed to do under normal circumstances,” he said.