Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Crushed to death at Mecca

5th March 2001

This day in history...35 pilgrims are crushed to death during the annual Hajj Pilgrimage in Mecca

Before looking at the various tragedies that have resulted from many pilgrimages to Mecca, it is important to ask; What is the Hajj Pilgrimage? Why do Muslim's do it? What is the religious history behind all of this? Now, I'm no expert on religion but I can give you a brief run down on what's what. 
Image retrieved from Google. Will remove at owner's request.
The mass crowd in Mecca.
A history lesson: Four thousand years ago, Mecca was a dry, uninhabitable place. It is believed that the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was instructed by Allah to bring his wife Hajira and child Is'mail to Arabia from Palestine to protect them from the jealously of Sarah, Ibrahim's first wife.  Ibrahim was told to leave his wife and child on their own with water and food supplies. These supplies, however, quickly ran out leaving Hajira and Is'mail weak and dehydrated. Hajira then ran around in desperate search for help or supplies until she finally prayed to Allah for deliverance. Is'mail then stomped his foot and a spring of water started to gush from the Earth. Hajira and Is'mail were saved and were able to trade water with passer-bys for food and supplies. On his return, Ibrahim found his wife and child running a profitable well. He was then told by Allah to build a shrine to dedicate to the god and so Ibrahim and Is'mail built the Kaaba - Cube - It was to be the gathering place of all Muslims who wanted to strengthen their faith with Allah. Mecca soon became a profitable city due to its lush water supply, which also caused many people to worship many different idols and gods at the Kaabba. In 628, the Prophet Mohammed was told by Allah to go to Mecca and restore the the Kaaba to worship Allah only. Mohammed, along with his 1400 followers, journeyed to Mecca, making it the first pilgrimage in Islam. 
Image retrieved from Google. Will remove at owner's request.
Hajira and Is'mail in the desert.
Now that you are fully enlightened on the story of Mecca, we can address the harsh realities of such a pilgrimage. There are many sections of the Hajj pilgrimage that people must complete in order to meet their religious devotion. The particular section that involved the deaths of 35 Muslims in 2001, is the symbolic stoning of the Jamraat pillars, which represent the devil. On the 5th March 2001, 23 women and 12 men of various nationalities either suffocated or were trampled to death on the Jamraat Bridge. The civil defence said "Becuase of heavy congestion and jostling between pilgrims, many pilgrims, especially the elderly, tripped and fell, leading to the deaths." This isn't the first time that so many Muslims have died during the pilgrimage. There have been various measures put in place to prevent such things happening, but with around 2 million people at Mecca each time, there are always risks. Some of these measures include; allowing the elderly a head start and only allowing groups of 200,000 an hour to pass through the area.  
Other incidents that have occurred:

  • 1,426 pilgrims died in a stampede in an overcrowded foot tunnel at Mecca, 1990
  • 270 people died in 1994
  • 119 people died in 1998
Image retrieved from Google. Will remove at owner's request.
Bodies at Mecca.
Despite its dangers, every Muslim must take part in the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. There are also conditions that pilgrims must obey during the Hajj:
  • Be in a state of Ihram - special state of ritual purity
  • Make a statement of intentions
  • Wear Irham - special white clothes
  • Must not engage in martial relations
  • Must not shave or cut their nails
  • Must not use cologne or scented oils
  • Must not kill or hunt anything
  • Must not fight or argue
  • Women must not cover their faces, even if they do in their own country
  • Men may not war clothes with stitching
Image retrieved from Google. Will remove at owner's request.
The Hajj Pilgrims

What are your thoughts on the Hajj pilgrimage? What further measure could be implemented to prevent mass tragedies like those that have occurred before?
Leave your comments below and don't forget to follow @Ydaysnews for more historical events each day!

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