Hajj is a celebration of our humanity
Abdul Nakua, a community organizer and activist/
Muslims around the globe are now observing the days of Hajj, or Pilgrimage, which is one of the five pillars of Islam and a once-in-a lifetime obligation for every able Muslim. Hajj is possibly the largest ever annual event with 3 to 4 million in attendance.
The rituals of Hajj converge to provide a powerful impetus for self-reflection. Hajj begins with the pilgrims donning the ihram. For men, this consists of two seamless white sheets, while women wear a simple white dress and head cover. Once the pilgrim adopts the ihram he or she is required to suppress anger and to refrain from quarreling and disputing with others. In many ways, ihram symbolizes the renunciation of evil and signals complete devotion to worship. Outwardly, ihram symbolizes the equality of all human beings before their Creator. The pilgrims, rich and poor, young and old, gather in the same Holy places, pray to the same God and perform the same rituals. Hajj comes to a literal peak on the ninth day of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar when all pilgrims congregate at Mount Arafat, also known as the “Mount of Mercy,” where Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon when he led Hajj. Muslims have come to regard the sermon as a sort of final will. For those who have not experienced the Hajj, it is sometimes difficult to convey the depth of feeling that standing on Arafat generates. Try to imagine millions of people, all wearing white with their heads bowed in prayer, all calling on God. Better, imagine all the people of Toronto bowing in prayer all at the same time and place. It is this experience that transformed Malcolm X’s attitude toward racism. He wrote from Mecca to his loyal assistants in New York expressing his experience “of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colours and races.” In this sense, Hajj is a sort of world congress, representing over 100 different countries and the widest possible variety of ethnicities, languages and cultures. Transcending the differences imposed on them by history and geography, they come together bonded only by their humanity and faith. For the many millions unable to perform Hajj, they join it by celebrating Eid Al-Adha and reaffirm their connection to their faith by performing Eid ceremonies. In Canada, Muslim communities gather to pray in a sign of unity and common purpose. The Muslim Association of Canada organizes the largest Eid celebrations across Canada’s major cities. Many smaller gatherings will scatter across local mosques. This year Eid Al-Adha lands on Sunday, Aug. 11 (Monday, 12th August in Bangladesh). As we witness a wave of identity politics imposing a strain on political discourse across much of the Western world and beyond, Hajj can serve as a reminder that we are one humanity. It can renew hope for celebration of these differences and allow us to imagine a more harmonious coexistence between humans in spite of them. Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Performance Measurement (ADAA) has announced the launch of measurement operations for this year’s Hajj season. The center will target 50 services provided by 16 government agencies to pilgrims from Saudi Arabia and around the Islamic world in Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah and Taif. “The center follows specific measurement criteria based on clear methodology designed according to the best international practices,” said Ibrahim Niaz, director general of ADAA. The measuring tools provide in-depth data that reflect the pilgrims’ level of satisfaction on services provided to them throughout their journey. The measurement criteria are: Processes, sites, electronic systems, employees, time frame and outputs. The scale of operations is significant, with 31 sites, covered by 80 field researchers of 22 different nationalities. They will measure the satisfaction of Hajj guests on obtaining a Hajj visa, traveling to Makkah and Madinah, mobility and support services, performing the rituals, visiting the Prophet’s Mosque and departure. For the first time, ADAA is implementing three new satisfaction measurement tools: The Mystery Shopper, the Watani Platform and field surveys. ADAA will send mystery shoppers to perform the Hajj rituals while verifying agency compliance with the services of pilgrims in 31 different locations. They will also assess staff performance.
The operational plan of the General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque is being implemented by 7,720 teams to serve pilgrims during this year’s Hajj season. The agency’s teams are providing their services in all aspects of the plan. These include service, engineering, technical, technological, cultural, information, social aspects and oversight functions. The staff are carrying out awareness initiatives to guide the worshippers in religious and organizational aspects in order to help them perform their rituals with comfort.
The service aspect is one of the most important field tasks in the operational plan of the agency. Staff working on these tasks are responsible for cleaning the Prophet’s Mosque, supplying all sites with carpets and Zamzam water, cleaning machinery and equipment, transferring older persons and people with special needs, providing guidance services, preparing portable containers for distributing Zamzam bottles, and ensuring the cleanliness of prayer areas and other facilities. Moreover, the staff responsible for service tasks open and guard the mosque’s doors, organize the movement of crowds as part of the initiative for clearing paths, maintain the security and safety of the mosque and its facilities, oversee parking areas, and allocate medical emergency sites and provide them with the necessary equipment. For the 15th year in a row, the Youth of Makkah at Your Service program has maintained its role in serving pilgrims with the participation of 500 young men, who are undertaking activities during the season in partnership with several government bodies.