The tragedy of what took place at Mina, with thousands of dead pilgrims and more than 460 of them being from our nation (Iran), has shown the depths of the incompetence and lack of management of the Wahhabi led Saudi regime. It has furthermore shown us how necessary it is to change the management which is in charge of the Two Holy Shrines. Without any doubt, the tragedy of Mina must be looked at as the massacre of Muslims during the Ḥajj pilgrimage since what led to this issue was the lack of management and incompetence of the Saudi regime. The first incident that took the life of a number of pilgrims was the falling of the crane and it was soon after followed by the stampede at Mina which caused the death of thousands of Hajj pilgrims from various Muslim countries.
It must be acknowledged that the tragedy of Mina took place at a time when many Muslim authorities around the world, including Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, were already speaking out about the necessity of changing the leadership in charge of the Ḥajj pilgrimage, as well as the need to create a better set of plans for the fulfillment of certain pilgrimage rites, such as the ‘stoning of the Jamarāt’. Similarly, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has continuously emphasized the incompetence and unworthiness of the Saudi family in managing the Two Holy Shrines; some of the more important excerpts of the Ayatollah’s words are presented below.
The Unfairly Prejudiced Conduct of the Saudis in the Management of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage--- an Adverse Outcome of the Wahhabis’ Control over the Two Holy Shrines
The tragedy of Mina has clearly shown that the Saudi response to it (and their very attitude towards the Ḥajj pilgrimage overall) waspolitically-motivated and very prejudiced in nature. The attitude of the Saudi officials and their treatment of the injured Iranians in the city of Mecca after what happened in Mina have made manifest the hostile nature of the Suadi policies against the pilgrims of various countries, particularly those who are Iranian or Shia. These are pilgrims who have gathered for the Ḥajj rites in the House of Allah and this is no small matter.
In light of this issue, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has condemned the politically based Wahhabi and Saudi response and he has stated: ‘Neither the Wahhabis, nor any other group, has the right to impose their ideas or interpretation of faith on others. I will again emphasize that they only have a duty towards organizing the outer aspects of the Ḥajj pilgrimage, as well as providing proper security and creating conveniences for the usage of the pilgrims. They do not have the right to make this holy city a propaganda center for themselves. It is interesting to note that the Saudi King calls himself the ‘Servant of the Two Holy Shrines’ and not as the ‘Ruler of the Two Holy Shrines’. Therefore, why do the Wahhabi and Salafi scholars see themselves as the ‘Rulers of the Two Holy Shrines’ while they consider obedience to their leader as something which is religiously obligatory.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has similarly emphasized that it is necessary for the Saudi leaders to treat the Iranian pilgrims in a good and positive manner and he has stated: ‘The issues related to the Ḥajj pilgrimage should not have anything to do with our politics or the politics of Saudi Arabia. The Ḥajj pilgrimage runs on its own course and it is clear that any kind of positive action from the Ḥajj department of Saudi Arabia will have beneficial political consequences as well.’ On the other hand, the obvious misconduct of the Saudi regime in relation to the Iranian pilgrims has proven the incompetence and lack of managerial skills of the Saudi regime (which is in reality an abject servant of America). Let us now delve into some pieces of evidence in regards to the incompetence of the Saudi government in relation to their management of the Ḥajj pilgrimage according to Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī.
The Collapse of the Crane in the Holy Mosque--- A Clear Indication of the Incompetence of the Saudi Government in Managing the Ḥajj Pilgrimage
The repeated statements of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī in regards to the incompetence and unworthiness of the Saudi regime in managing the Two Holy Shrines is a valuable guideline in regards to this issue. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has definitively spoken in regards to the inability (which appears to increase every single day) of the Saudi government in managing the Ḥajj pilgrimage and after the collapse of the crane in the Holy Mosque (which led to the deaths of many pilgrims, including eleven Iranian pilgrims), the Ayatollah has openly stated that this event shows that the Saudi regime is not capable of managing the Two Holy Shrines. He has also criticized the lack of planning of the Saudis and has stated: ‘ Which rational mind would place a crane above the Kaaba during a time when millions of people have come to visit the Holy House whereby a storm can knock it down and kill or wound 290 people?’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has also criticized the Saudi government for their construction works in the Two Holy Shrines which are unsuitable during the time of the Ḥajj pilgrimage and he has mentioned that these types of construction works are further evidence of the incompetence of the Saudi leadership in managing the Ḥajj pilgrimage. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated that: ‘You have endangered the lives of many people by placing not just one crane, but multiple numbers of them in a place where millions of people are visiting, and you have done this without abiding by the necessary safety standards. You should have at least moved these cranes during this one month (for the Ḥajj) and you could have then moved them back into place after the Ḥajj was finished. What sort of management is this? What sort of rationale is this? The Holy Mosque is a place of safety and security and none of these pilgrims shouldhave been killed and injured because of a lack of planning and management!’
This tragedy was soon followed by the tragedy of Mina, which was something also caused by the lack of experience and negligence of the Saudi government. The Saudis lacked the necessary experience and so various main roads and side roads were closed down, leading to the deaths of many innocents. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has therefore condemned the lack of management of the Saudi government during the Ḥajj pilgrimage and he has emphasized the necessity of involving others (such as various Muslim scholars from all around the Islamic world) in the management of the Hajj pilgrimage. The Ayatollah has stated: ‘What sort of wisdom is this that you have? It is necessary that you consult with the notables and the scholars of Islam from various parts of the Islamic world. These large towers must be demolished so that the awe-inspiring aura of the Holy Mosque is not overshadowed by them.’
The Changing of the Management of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage and the Two Holy Shrines through Active Diplomacy
It should be noted that even though the direct role and responsibility of the Saudi government is apparent in the deaths of the Ḥajj pilgrims from various Islamic countries, still, it is evident that the words of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī must be placed in great im-portance by those who are in charge of managing the Ḥajj pilgrimage. This is particularly true after the revolutionary statement of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī in regards to the inability of the Saudi government in managing the Two Holy Shrines after the collapse of the crane in the Holy Shrine.
It would be a good idea if the respected leaders of the Ḥajj and Pilgrimage Organization (of Iran) would do more diplomatically (in cooperation with other nations) towards increasing pres-sure on the managerial organizations of the Saudi government in charge of the Ḥajj pilgrimage in order that they resolve the various issues which led to the two tragedies of this year. The reality is that nothing effective or suitable has been done thus far in rectifying the errors which led to these tragedies. If the government officials and those in charge of the Ḥajj affairs would utilize diplomacy in regards to the pilgrimage and make it conditional on the initiation of certain reforms, thereby abiding by the recommendations made by Grand Ayatollah Khamenei and other religious authorities (particularly Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī), then the Saudi government would feel sufficiently pressured to enact these reforms and this would lessen the chances of such occurrences in the future. Unfortunately, the recommendations of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī were not implemented by those in charge of these affairs. In addition, the emphasis placed by Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī on the inability of the Saudi government in managing the Ḥajj pilgrimage during the crane collapse in the Holy Mosque was not followed up by the authorities either.
Dishonorable Behavior at the Jeddah Airport- another Result of the Incompetence of the Saudi Government in Managing the Ḥajj Pilgrimage
The sorrowful tragedy which took place at the Jeddah Airport is one of the clear signs of the incompetence of the Saudi government in relation to the management of the Ḥajj pilgrimage. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has furthermore stated in this regard: ‘Our question to those in charge of the Ḥajj pilgrimage is whether the recommended (Mustaḥab) pilgrimage is one which we must attend at any cost? I don’t want to bring forward the issue of banning the Ḥajj (the recommended ones) but must we go at any price and at the cost of being disgraced?’
Indeed, the lack of safety and security at the Holy Shrines in Mecca and Medina in the past few months has clearly shown us the incompetency of the Wahhabi led government in managing the Two Holy Shrines. From this perspective, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has outlined certain harms and he has emphasized the necessity of establishing security and safety in these holy places. He has addressed the responsible parties in Saudi Arabia, stating: ‘I am telling those responsible in Saudi Arabia that you have built some massive construction works in Mecca and Medina but what is most important is the issue of safety and security. This is particularly true of the safety of the hajjis as regards sexual harassment. If safety does not exist at the Jeddah airport, then how can safety exist in the streets and alleyways of Mecca and Medi-na?’
The demands of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī in regards to the conditions of the Ḥajj pilgrimage show the necessity of protecting the honor of the Islamic system in all arenas of life, particularly that of the Ḥajj pilgrimage. In light of this issue, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has officially stated the necessity to ban the recommendable ʿUmrah pilgrimage . He has stated: ‘If the security of the international airport is not established, what will the people of the world say about us. We have told our own parties responsible for such issues that they shouldn’t pass by such things easily and they must sit down and think for how long must we attend these rec-ommendable pilgrimages? We must not accept any and all insults for the fulfillment of such recommendable actions.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has also stated that: ‘The Late Imam (Khomayni) brought about honor and dignity for the nation through the Islamic revolution… In any case, the incident which took place at the Jeddah Airport is not an incident which we can overlook easily. We are hopeful that all of our initiatives will be developed in a way to protect our honor and dignity. Whenever we see that such is not the case, we will leave them aside!’ Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has repeatedly emphasized that the Saudi government is not competent enough to manage the Two Holy Shrines and he has mentioned that it is necessary that we look at the Ḥajj pilgrimages overall in a new light. The incompetence of the Saudis was made even more manifest at the Ḥajj pilgrimage of this year with the collapse of the crane in the Holy Mosque and the stampede disaster at Mina, whereby thousands of pilgrims from various countries were killed, with many Iranians amongst them.
Proper Jurisprudential Management at the Ḥajj Pilgrimage
It is evident that refraining from creating a packed crowd and confused conditions is one of the guidelines which the scholars of Islam, particularly Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, have emphasized. These scholars have given jurisprudential rulings which are in line with the circumstances of our time and the circumstances of the specific place in question in the best manner possible. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated in regards to this issue that: ‘It goes without saying that the potential of jurisprudence to meet the new needs that arise in various times and places never runs counter to the essential and foundational rulings of the Quran or the prophetic Sunnah. The reality is that the secondary rulings of the religion change based on the time and place and this all goes under the overall guiding principles of the primary Islamic guidelines. The actual foundational essence of the religion remains the same whatever the change in the secondary rulings.’
The occurrence of numerous and continuous problems at the ‘Stoning of theJamarāt’ ritual has only shown us how incompetent the Saudi government really is in regards to the management of the Ḥajj pilgrimage. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has delved into this issue and he has said: ‘Unfortunately, the ritual of sacrificing an animal at the Ḥajj pilgrimage is being done in an unsuitable fashion during our time period. The scholars of Islam must intellectually exert themselves in regards to this issue, since the problems which take place at the ‘Stoning of the Jamarāt’ ritual or the overcrowding of the rituals sites during the general pilgrimage itself may compel the fully qualified scholar to come to new conclusions in regards to various jurisprudential rulings.’
The ‘Stoning of the Jamarāt’ is considered to be one of the important rituals of the Ḥajj pil-grimage. The contemporary scholars have recognized that the ‘Jamarāt’ are the three columns which people stone during certain days of the Ḥajj pilgrimage. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has addressed the related issues in regards to these rituals and he has stated: ‘One of the major problems of the pilgrims is related to the ritual of ‘Stoning the the Jamarāt’. This problem escalates on the day of the ʿĪd Al Aḍḥā, when everyone goes to stone at the ‘Jamarah ʿAqabah’. During many of the past years, a number of people have been killed and a number injured. In many other cases, people’s heads and eyes have been injured as well.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then explained that these problems can be resolved through intellectual and jurisprudential means: ‘The fact of the matter is that these columns are a sign for the place of the Jamarah and the Jamarāt is in reality the place where the stones fall and the place where the stones must be thrown. The Jamarah is nothing but the place where the stones gather and the people shouldn’t trouble themselves in striking the columns themselves. They should be certain that the columns are simply a sign for that specific place (and not the target).’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then further explained this ruling by stating: ‘The issue which has brought about this new ruling and allowed the jurisprudent to look at this issue in a new way relates to the large crowds which form around the Jamarāt and which cause a great number of injuries and deaths. These large crowds caused us to look at the Islamic texts in a new light and to research the actual meaning of the term Jamarah. We realized that the word Jamarah does not refer to the columns which exist but rather they refer to the place where the stones gather after being thrown.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has further stated: ‘In any case, the problems caused by the the overcrowding of the rituals sites have given rise to many questions. These questions have in turn led to more research by the jurisprudents and the end result has been a more precise series of answers and a new perspective from which the issue is understood. In addition, it must be explained that these rulings are not based on the difficulties involved in the Ḥajj pilgrimages of today but rather, they are based on an expanded understanding of the jurisprudence in regards to such issues.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then delved into the duty of the Muslim scholars in regards to intellectual cooperation towards the resolution of various unknowns and disputed issues in regards to the Ḥajj pilgrimage, particularly the ritual of ‘Stoning the Jamarāt’. He has stated: ‘It is necessary that all of the Islamic researchers look deeply into this issue. Whenever the scholars of the Shia and Sunni schools are able to further research this issue and come to an agreement, then one of the great problems of the Ḥajj pilgrimage, which is caused by the overcrowding of the ritual sites and which results in the deaths and injuries of many people, will God willing, be resolved. In addition, the rituals will also, God willing, be in concordance with the actions of the Prophet of Allah (ṣ) and the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa). And Allah is the most knowledgeable.’
Through such new understandings, the Muslim scholars can announce their correct jurisprudential rulings and they can help to improve the management and organization related to the Ḥajj pilgrimage. The incompetence of the Saudi government, which has led to many tragedies and deaths throughout the years, has similarly made this issue ever more urgent. In addition to the lack of proper leadership and management of the Saudi government, the Islamic community also suffers from their hostile politics, which have led to the rise of the Takfīrī threat.
A Final Word- The Tragedy of Mina and the Necessity of Forming a Representative Group for the Management of the Two Holy Shrines
In conclusion, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī discussed the issue of the proper management of the Ḥajj pilgrimage and the necessity of hosting the pilgrims in a worthy and befitting manner, and he has mentioned that this is one of the most important actionsto be taken. In addition, he has spoken about the incompetence and inability of the Saudi government which has led to many tragedies over the years, particularly during this year’s Ḥajj pilgrimage. He has mentioned that this incompetence necessitates a change in the future management of the Ḥajj pilgrimage of the Two Holy Shrines.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated in this regard that: ‘When we look at the letter sent by Imam ʿAlī (ʿa) to Qaththama ibn ʿAbbās (the governor of Mecca), we see that he said: ‘…establish the Ḥajj in the best manner possible for the people’. If the Ḥajj pilgrimage is organized in the proper way with suitable management, then both the pilgrims and all other Muslims will benefit from this spiritual event. This is because the pilgrimage in reality strengthens the foundations of Islam and thus it will entail benefits for all Muslims in turn.’
When people ask questions about the management of the Saudi government in regards to the Two Holy Shrines, the Saudis certainly don’t have any answers to give. From this perspective, it is necessary that the Muslim scholar think deeply on this issue and they must protest against this type of behavior from the Saudis, telling them that the path that they are taking is not the correct one. Without any doubt, the Saudi regime does not have the ability to manage the Two Holy Shrines but they seem to believe that it is their personal property and they act with it in whatever way they wish.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has also spoken about the necessity of forming a group of Muslim scholars and government leaders for the management of the Two Holy Shrines. He has stated: ‘The great tragedy which took place at Mina has created an obligation for the Muslim scholars,on the one hand,and the politicians, on the other, to sit down with one another and think of a solution for the proper management of the Two Holy Shrines.’
Those who are currently in charge of managing the Ḥajj pilgrimage have essentially proven that they are incapable of fulfilling their duties. The possibility of this tragedy repeating itself in the future has transformed this act of worship into a frightening thing and it has severely damaged the sanctity of the Ḥajj pilgrimage overall. Now that the general outlook amongst Muslims throughout the world is ready, it is necessary that we sit down and think of a solution to this issue. A group must be organized which is well experienced in management and leadership in order to manage the Two Holy Shrines. There is no issue if the Saudis are also part of this group. There is no doubt that if people fall short of their duties in this regard, then the tragedies of the past will become the tragedies of the future and this is a responsibility which lies upon everyone’s shoulders!