Thursday, 25 August 2016

Hajj Awareness Seminars 2016 Launch in London

Hajj Awareness Seminars 2016 Launch in London

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Hajj is an obligatory duty in a lifetime for every capable, both physically and financially to perform Hajj in a lifetime. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. As it is an obligatory duty, it is essential that every Muslim who is planning to go for Hajj is to make himself abreast about different aspects of Hajj. It is necessary to know about the social, economical, moral, educational and religious aspects of Hajj.

A pilgrim should be aware of the greatness of the rites of the pilgrimage in the sight of Allah Subhanahu wa Taala and should therefore make a solemn intention, in his heart or verbally, to the effect that he is carrying out Divine injunctions for the pleasure of Allah the Almighty only. The ultimate goal, the summon bonum of life is to respond to the Call of Allah the Almighty.

This year around 19,000 British Hajjis are going for Hajj to Makkah al-Mukarramah. I wish them success and Hajje Mabrouk and acceptance of their Hajj by Allah the Almighty.

Previously 25,000 British Muslims used to go for Hajj every year and many thousands do Umrah and there was a need for British Muslims facilities not only consular advice but more important health advice and other kind of advice. Thus British Hajj Delegation was started in 1999 and Lord Ahmed led the first British Hajj Delegation to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and from next year, 2001 to 2009, Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn led the British Hajj Delegation.

The British Hajj Delegation used to launch every year its delegation before the Hajj. .The British Hajj Delegation used to go to Saudi Arabia every year; hold medical clinics, free medical treatment and offer consular advice in Makkah. There was a partnership among the British Government, the Saudi Government and the British Muslim Community. United Kingdom was the first country which had organised the British Hajj Delegation, the first Hajj delegation not only in Europe but also in the Western world.

This British Hajj Delegation continued from 2000 to 2011 and Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn was the leader of the Delegation from 2001 to 2010. Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan and myself too gratefully acknowledge his selfless dedication and devotion for the service of the Hujjaj and for the pleasure of Allah Subhanahu wa Taala.

As usual like every year Hajj Awareness Seminars were launched by the two Hajj & Umrah related organisations in the United Kingdom. One was organised by the Association of British Hujjaj (ABH) at the House of Lords on 20th July, 2016 and another was organised by the Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) held at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, on 6th of August, 2016.

Hajj Seminar 2016 at The
Islamic Cultural Centre, London
The Hajj Seminar 2016 organised by the Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) in partnership with the London Central Mosque & Islamic Cultural Centre, was held at the Conference Hall of the Centre on Saturday, the 6th of August 2016.

Dr. Ahmad Dubayan Inaugurates
The Hajj Seminar 2016
While inaugurating the Hajj Seminar 2016, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London welcomes the police of the City of London and other dignitaries, guests and audiences. He expressed his happiness to see all these people to be at the Centre in this nice summer day. He also thankfully acknowledged the self-sacrificing dedication of Lord Adam Patel, the leader of the British Hajj Delegation at the service of Hujjaj and for the pleasure of Allah the Almighty for more than a decade.

Hajj Fifth Pillar of Islam
While speaking about Hajj, Dr. al-Dubayan said, “As we all know, Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. Hajj is one of the main worship in Islam but it is, of course, as we all know, it is a duty for every person only once in one’s life; when he is able physically of course financially and security-wise.  If someone is not able to do it, for example, he is sick or poor person then Hajj is not a duty.”

“We are too close to Hajj, InshaAllah, and let me start by congratulating those who are going to perform their Hajj this year. And welcome you to Islamic Cultural Centre; and wish you Insha Allah happy journey. Insha Allah you will go safely and InshaAllah you will come back home safely also,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Hajj is a Spiritual trip
Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre mentioned, “Hajj is a spiritual trip; it is not only normal travelling like you go on a holiday. Hajj is a spiritual trip going to the holy places, holy sites in Makkah and then after that to Madinah  as a Ziarah, which is not of course part of the Hajj but people sometimes when they are in Makkah they could go to Madinah because they are too close to it.”

Hajj an international conference of all Muslims
Dr. Al-Dubayan also mentioned, “Hajj is really like an international conference of all Muslims coming from all corners of the world, all different nations, different languages, different races, different colours coming to this holy site for one thing only: this is to perform the worship of Allah Subhanahu wa Taala following the steps of Prophet Abraham, following the steps of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them all).”

How did we know the Hajj?
Dr. Al-Dubayan then narrated how did we know about Hajj. He said, “We knew the Hajj from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when he started to perform his Hajj which he did only once in his life time, not of course 20 times like some people try to do today. Once only in his life and then he says see how I do after performing Hajj and take it from me. He himself (peace be upon him) followed the steps of Prophet Abraham. When Prophet Abraham completed the building of the Kaaba with his son Ismael as it is told in the Qur’an; the story described and then he performed Hajj in certain ways; when to start; certain places, certain timing, certain areas that he has to go in certain time. If we don’t do it that way, then Hajj is not correct or not complete, not perfect.”

Hajj in different literature
Speaking about the history of Hajj written in different literature, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “Throughout the history of Islam Hajj has played the main role in many people minds, in many nations. We can read the literature of the Hajj that has been written in all languages; in Arabic, in Urdu, in Turkish, in Persian, in African languages, in European languages also, in India everywhere. There is a very big heritage and literature written because of the Hajj. Many of it or most of it were written by Muslims who did perform the Hajj. They described what they have seen during their trip as a travellers going to Makkah; what they have seen on the way and back home. And they also described all those changes in the societies, in the cities, in the roads that they followed going to Makkah. These are part of the history and part of the literature itself.”

Hajj is also subject of study
Of many Orientalists
“At the same time, Hajj was also a subject of many works of Orientalists in Europe, in the UK, in France, in Germany, in Austria and many other countries. They are not Muslims. But they actually took the Hajj pilgrim as a subject of many studies about the sites themselves, about the roads , about the influence of Hajj itself on the Muslim nations,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Malcolm X in Makkah
Those who have performed Hajj more than once or different pilgrim at different time have different feeling of Hajj. Speaking about this different feeling of Hajj, Dr. al-Dubayan said, “Hajj surprised many travellers when they came to Makkah. If you read 1000 books about Hajj, it will never never be like one time you do yourself. It is something different. The feeling is different, everything different. I remember the words of Malcolm X when he came from America, that was I think in 1962, I am not mistaken. When he came to Makkah he almost saw everybody is there. Black Americans in the beginning thought Islam is the religion only for the Africans. Of course there was a reason why they listened here and there their history.”

“Anyway, when Malcolm X came to Makkah and when he stood in Arafat, then in Mina, he wrote in his memoirs that I am here and the whole world is around me; everybody is here; I see on the right Arabs, I see on the left people coming from Europe; I see here Africans, there are people from Tatars; behind me I see also other people from India, from Malaysia, from everywhere; religion is really for everywhere. That’s why Allah Subhanahu wa Taala says in the Qur’an: ‘We have sent you to be a Mercy for all Mankind, and for all the worlds’”, mentioned Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Hajj brings changes in one’s heart
Speaking about the changes in one’s heart after performing Hajj, the ICC Chief said, “Hajj is very important because it does changes in people’s hearts.” Then Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned one scholar from India who said, “You have to check your heart after Hajj. If you find your heart is the same as it was before; then your Hajj is not perfect, then you have not done the Hajj the right way. If you see you are better after Hajj then the Hajj is really accepted; you have done the real Hajj because it has really affected and touch the bottom of your heart. This is the Hajj.”

Sheikh al-Sudais welcome everybody to
Masjid al-Haram in Makkah
Referring to Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, the Imam of the Masjid al-Haram of Makkah al-Mukarramah, Dr. Al-Dubayan said, “Luckily we had here ten days ago Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, the Imam of Haram in Makkah who welcome everybody to Makkah and in the holy sites; Madinah too of course. He is actually welcoming Hujjaj, in Arabic, Hujjaj the Guest of Allah Subhanahu wa Taala when they come to His House, the Kaaba and when they come to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.”

During Hajj, it is quite natural that you will face some difficulties, some uneasiness. But I like the way Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned this in his inaugural address. He said, “I want to tell those who want to go for Hajj. I hope they realise the spiritual meaning of it. They realise the meaning of going there. And whatever you do for Hajj; Hajj would be a little bit some difficulties; sometime the arrangements, sometime the long delay in the airports waiting, sometimes delay in checking sometimes facilities of transport; crowd, traffic and whatever; this happened everywhere.”

“But we have to mention also gratefully the arrangement at the airports and the projects that the government of Saudi Arabia have undertaken for the Holy sites; the projects for the Kaaba; they have completed big part of the expansion of the Haram, the Holy Mosque in Makkah; the capacity is about I think; three to five million and the work of the expansion of Haram, the Mosque in Makkah is continuing.  It will not be stopped,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Press release issued by CBHUK
On this occasion, Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) issued a press release which mentioned the following:

“Aspiring British Muslims embarking on the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage were given training on how to perform the rituals for the Journey of a lifetime hosted by the Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) in partnership with the London Central Mosque & Islamic Cultural Centre. The training was delivered by qualified scholars over a series of events hosted in towns and cities across the United Kingdom.  Hundreds attended eagerly to learn about Hajj with Doctors and travel industry experts delivering health & safety advice too.”

The press release also mentioned, “Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan, Director General of the London Central Mosque urged pilgrims to learn the rituals of Hajj so that they can gain maximum benefit from this act of worship as Hajj touches peoples hearts and changes them for the better. He thanked the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz for hosting the pilgrims and services provided to them and the commitment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the development of the two Holy cities of Makkah & Madinah and Masjid Al Haram to accommodate the faithful.  He lauded efforts by Lord Adam Patel in leading the British Hajj Delegations and welcomed a new era of support for British pilgrims in partnership with CBHUK.”

It also said, “Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) offered travel advice and how to stay safe during Hajj.   With millions performing various rituals of Hajj at the same time at the same place, he stressed the importance of following instructions from the Tour Operators and  Saudi Officials on the ground for a smooth journey.  The Council also offered health and safety advice preparing pilgrims for the Journey of a Lifetime.  Mogradia thanked the Saudi Embassy in London for their continued help and support to British pilgrims and the Islamic Cultural Centre for a fruitful partnership in educating pilgrims.”

The City of London Police offered Hajj Fraud prevention advice to pilgrims to book with reputable and licensed tour operators and asked the community to report unscrupulous tour operators & fraudsters to Action Fraud and Trading Standards so that the authorities could take action against them. 

Hajj Awareness Campaign launched at House of Lords
Earlier, on 20 July, 2016, Hajj Health & Safety Awareness Campaign was launched at the House of Lords by the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH) a National organisation working for the welfare and wellbeing of Hajj/Umrah pilgrims. The Association of British Hujjaj issued a press release on this occasion.

The press release said, “The purpose of this launch was to raise awareness of the health and safety issues amongst the 25,000 prospective British pilgrims who will start travelling next month to join over 2 million other pilgrims from around the world in Makkah. Members of the House of Lords, Members of Parliament, government officials and community dignitaries were present to support this prestigious event.”

“In his welcoming remarks, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham went on to highlight the importance of this event saying, “By launching this awareness campaign it will enhance Hajj related health & safety awareness amongst prospective British pilgrims. It is important that pilgrims must be aware of all aspects of Hajj to enable them to perform Hajj in the safest and best possible manner,” the press release mentioned.

“Steve McCabe, Member of Parliament praised the hard work and continuous efforts made by the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK to help and protect the British Hajj pilgrims from hardship, difficulties and he assured his full support to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of pilgrims,” it added.

Khalid Pervez, General Secretary of ABH UK expresses the need of health and safety precautionary measures to be taken to perform a safe Hajj in comfort.”

“Dr Syed Raza Hussain strongly urges the prospective pilgrims to safeguard against infectious diseases such as meningitis and Coronavirus,” the press release mentioned and added, “Trading Standards and London City Police officials also assured the British Muslim community of their help and support towards combating the malpractice, corruptions and exploitation by the unscrupulous and rogue tour and travel operators. They said that the law enforcement authorities will do their utmost to help and protect innocent and vulnerable Hajj/Umrah pilgrims and to ensure the rule of law amongst the Hajj service providers from the UK.”

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Revolutionary Changes in Holy Sites & Hajj Facilities

Based on Interviews
Revolutionary Changes in Holy Sites & Hajj Facilities
Since 1976 for Pilgrims’ Safety and Security

Dr. Mozammel Haque

I got the opportunity to perform Hajj last year in 2015 on behalf of my wife. I am grateful to Mr. Abdul Rahman Aneezi, the then head of the Islamic Affairs of the Saudi Embassy in the United Kingdom, London; to Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London and His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef, Secretary General of the Cairo-based International Islamic Council for Dawah and Relief (IICDR), and also the President of the Karachi-based World Muslim Congress. Each one of them wrote letter of recommendation for arranging for me to perform Hajj on behalf of my wife who passed away in 2014. I want to thank all of them.

At the 2015 Hajj I have got some new knowledge about Hajjis perception of the Holy sites and Hajj facilities. I noticed those who have performed Hajj previously twice or more times appreciate the Hajj facilities than those who came for the first time obviously ignorant of the earlier situation and the latest development. Lot of development and improvements has been made in the Holy sites and Hajj facilities for the last forty years for the safety, security and welfare of the pilgrims. But unfortunately those who are coming these days have no knowledge and experience of that improvement.

I had the opportunity to meet and discuss about this situation with some of the pilgrims who had performed Hajj previously. They are from Sudan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Nigeria. Following are the interviews conducted by me at the Muslim World League Building in Mina during Hajj.

Dr. Omar Ahmed Fadhlullah
Dr. Omar Ahmed Fadhlullah came from Abu Dhabi. He worked there as Advisor for the Electronic Government System and Project in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Fadhlullahuh was working in Saudi Arabia before 1980 and during that period he had performed so many Hajj. Then after that he performed Hajj in 1980 and after a decade in 1990, second time and then this is the third time in 2015.

Dr. Fadhlullahuh said, “I started coming for Hajj in 1976 for consequent four years up to 1980, then I went to the United States and stayed there till 1987 when I came back and started coming to Hajj in 1990. I never came back until this year in 2015.”

He said, “Hajj is different every time compared to previous years in 1976 where, for instance, in Mina there was no such organisations and locations for Hajj, whoever comes first, stood up and reserved the place for themselves. Most of the public facilities – men’s toilets, women’s toilets – these type of public facilities were not available in Arafat, Muzdalifah or Mina. Most of the locations in Mina were not there; there was dust everywhere. Pilgrimage was staffed with coughing. For many Hajjis no locations to stay there; they were staying under the flyover, under the bridges. People died when they came rushing to or stoning in the Jamarat and lot of things.”

Dr. Fadhlullahuh continued, “But immediately after that lot of things changed. Starting from 1976 until 1980, many changes have been taken place, but before that time, lots of cars inside Mina; inside Muzdalifah; every pilgrim with his car – one person on his own car – cars were crowded started from Arafat towards Mina and they don’t move hours and hours and hours. In this situation some old people who cannot moce except by car, it was very hard for them during this time.”

Talking about the difference, changes and improvement since 1990, Dr. Fadhlullahuh said, “When I came this year it was amazing because actually Hajj is so organised, lot of facilities is there, everywhere. Wherever you go there is public services, toilets for men and women and all the areas are paved, organised and clean and you got the stone throwing  or stoning in Jamarat on one way going and coming back on different way or paths. It is very organised. Actually I wonder how come this is so organised, because actually millions of people came in in this very small area and many millions and they are organised actually and this is amazing and the development.”

In 1980, King Fahd had taken the development of the Haramain and the extension of the Haram and Madina Munawwarrah.

About the development in Makkah, Dr. Fadhlullahuh said, “In 1990, movement between Makkah and Mina became so easy even the pilgrim, some of them, can walk because it was organised. Policemen and all these scouts were everywhere showing people where to go and how to go. Things became easy. Places in Mina were reserved and marked for certain pilgrims coming from different countries. You can easily find that; you can easily find hospitals everywhere; ambulances were everywhere wherever you go. Everything was so easy – so organised – even the weather has changed now. There is huge fans, air-conditioned in so many hot hilly areas. This is amazing actually.”

“Before that time, some pilgrims because of hot felled down with sunstroke, heat actually. Now it is different. No one is felling down with sunstroke. Many differences happened actually, getting things better everywhere every year,” said Dr. Fadhlullah.

Dr. Assadiq Bakheet Al-Fakeeh Abdullah
I interviewed the Ambassador of Sudan to Jordan, Dr. Assadiq Bakheet Al-Fakeeh Abdullah about his experience of Hajj. This is his second Hajj. He first performed Hajj in 2010 and now going to perform this year in 2015. He made a comparison of Hajj facilities this year with that of previous five years before, in Makkah, Mina, Muzdallifah and Arafat.

The Ambassador said, "He frequently came to holy places; but whenever you come you find more facilities being constructed and more expansions of Mosque areas itself and the facilities that will be made the stay of the pilgrims and the stay of those who came for Umrah more comfortable. You find more and more development being  done to the Holy places."

Dr. Assadiq also said, "Saudi authorities are doing a lot of development of the Holy places for the benefits of the Muslims, for the comfort of the pilgrims. And definitely this year is better than the last year and far better than the five years before. Muslims will be witnessing this. You see that the development of the projects taken by former King Abdullah has not been finished yet; see it would be better than this year. And also the new expansion has not finished yet, so we will be witnessing more and more safety and security of the pilgrims."

Ambassador Dr. Assadiq was born in Sudan. He is a diplomat and also a media person. This is his specialty. Sometimes he goes out of his diplomatic duty. He held many posts: media, politics, diplomatic service. Just before being made Ambassador to Jordan, he was Secretary General of the Amman-based Arab Thought Forum, a Pan-Arab Research Organization headed by His Royal Highness Prince Hassan bin Talal. This organization is 35 years old and its headquarter is in Amman, Jordan. This research organization has members all over the Arab world and beyond.

In the diplomatic service, immediately before joining the diplomatic service, Dr. Assadiq was political expert with the Qatari government as an advisor.

He was diplomat since 1992. In 1992 he was in Washington as Press Advisor to the President of Sudan.

Professor Dr. Mohamad Akram Laldin
I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Professor Dr. Mohamad Akram Laldin, Executive Director of International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance(ISRA), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who performed Hajj in 1986 and then in 1989 and then in 2008 and then this year in 2015. For convenience sake, I asked him to compare and contrast his experience of his first Hajj in 1986 with his experience of second Hajj in 2008 and then his present experience of Hajj in 2015.It’s a gap of nearly eight years each. Within these eight years, “What changes did you notice in the Holy sites,” I enquired.

Professor Mohamad Akram said, “During 1986/1989 Makkah and Madina were at that time very much basic. Basic in the sense not find high-riser building around them. Old houses were at the maximum ¾ storied. Even I think in term of services, I remember at that time when the Hujjaj came they were assigned to what they called it as Muwassassah; Saudi establishment. Those very early days the Sheikhs/Muallem was responsible for the Hujjaj.”

Professor Akram talked about the houses/accommodation. Now while describing the situation of Haramain, the Tawaf and Masaa and also in Mina and Muzdalifah in 2010, Professor Mohamad Akram in terms of Haram, the Tawaf – the old building/the original building which now more or less demolished.”

The King Fahd extension was started in 1985and completed in 1995.Professor Mohamad Akram said, “In 2000 when I came here at that time I still remember you can go and see Zam Zam well. There were steps going down near the Mataf – the steps going down, even then that was the only place where you can find the air-conditioned. So I remember people used to go down after Umrah, drunk water and somebody slept there. You can find especially after prayers only place to sleep there.” That was what he was saying about in 2000.

Professor Mohamad Akram said, “In 2005, King Fahd did the air-conditioned extension of the Haramain. Even the Masaa, at that time, there was, of course, floors, but not very wide. It was half wide that it is now. At that time, it was half of what it is now. One portion which was at that time was doubled now. Even the Safa-Marwah hills were still there. – you can climb the hills.”

How were Mina and Jamarat? In replying to my questions, Professor Mohamad Akram said, “The Jamarat was two floors – one was down and another was up. It was circling and except for Aqaba, I think half circle. Mina problem was not: one way going and another way coming. Everybody was coming from all directions; so there was sometimes stampede, especially during the peak hours.”

At that point I narrated my experience of stoning in Jamarat in 1985. I still remember in 1985 I had to jump from the upper floor to the ground floor and my throat was gone completely dry and tongue was stuck to the upper portion of my mouth and I was requesting one person who had a bottle of water and was making ablution with that. I begged him with sign language to give me that bottle of water. That was in 1985.

Professor Mohamad Akram said, “That was still there. In Mina at that time there was no fixed tent. At that time, I remember, each and every Hajj organizer built their own tent and I think it was just a basic tent for the Hujjaj. It was not built-up tent; it was just put-up the tent for the time being. So it was very basic at that time.” Those were what Professor Mohamad Akram noticed in 2000.

Speaking about the King Fahd extension of the Haramain, Professor Mohamad Akram said, “But in 2000, there was King Fahd extension. There was no Zam Zam. Zam Zam well; its construction was going on and it was temporarily closed; but there was Zam Zam water available through tap. I think, that time, Hilton Hotel and the Intercontinental Hotel (Dar al-Tawheed) were there. I think those were the two 5-Star Hotels at that time in 2000. And here in, I think, Misfalah was there at that time. Here, in Mina, in 2000, there was I think built-in tent. I remember, built-in tent in 2000. People used to stay there in the tent. And other facilities such as public services, bath rooms, toilets etc. were provided. I mean situations were much better; much improved. There were temporary toilets, very basic. So many toilets, even in Mina, facilities of toilets and other services were started in 2000.”

Professor Mohamad Akram also mentioned, “In 2008, it is a total change. You have seen how Haramain expanded; only the Masaa is expanded. The rest is still the same. In 2005, King Abdullah came and the first thing he did was the expanding and the extension of Masaa – Sai’ee and then the other projects were undertaken.”

“In 2008, Jamarat was already around but the storied and all the roads leading - not fully completed. Two roads leading to the two levels – now it is five levels. At that time not fully completed yet. That time Metro was not there,” mentioned Professor Mohamad Akram.
Professor Mohamad Akram again said, “In 2008, Government has taken over; services were much better. And now, even though under expansion, I feel Haram is much wider. You feel there is much space for you to go now.”

Education Secretary of Pakistan
Mr. Talwar
The Education Secretary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan came to perform Hajj on the invitation of the Rabita al-Alam al-Islami (Muslim World League). I have learnt that he had performed Hajj before, in the year 2000 and this is his second Hajj in the year 2015.

I had the opportunity to meet him and discuss with him his experience of Hajj in 2000 and I requested him to describe the facilities in the Holy sites, the Mataf area, the Safa-Marwah areas, Zam Zam areas and at that time the situation in Mina and Muzdalifah Arafat and Jamarat.

The Education Secretary of Pakistan said, “It was a matter of great pride and privilege to be in this; always a great moment of prestige for every Muslim of performing Hajj and Umrah. I came and performed my first Hajj in the year 2000 and now Alhamdo lillah due to the exigencies of Rabita Muslim World League I am performing the key Hajj.

While comparing his experience of Hajj in the year 2000 with that of the year 2015, Mr. Talwar said, “Differences between the two is that earlier year, there was good number of populations, good number of pilgrimage, not up to this level what we have been seeing now. Although, to begin with, while one was coming to Saudi Arabia coming to the airport, earlier the immigration process was quite delayed; but this year I had seen that this is fast, taking almost a minute on Hajjis on a pilgrimage. So this is things they have improved.

“The second improvement is coming to Kaaba Sharif, the section where work is going on but again I will give credit that despite this construction work, they are providing opportunity in such regulated way that every body perform; so this is one thing further better,” mentioned Mr. Talwar.

Pakistan Education secretary also mentioned about the development of the Safa-Marwah areas and Mataf. He said, “Safa-Marwah has improved a lot; it was not like this 15 years ago. It is a tremendous big change. Mataf area has been expanded. I hope and wish that once the mass construction is over it will be camping a quite large, a big number of pilgrim housing within the Mataf area.”

“Then the third one, particularly, this is a blessing the place we are now in the Muslim World League building in Mina; it’s a blessing. Because you are right in the Mina and you are quite close to the Jamarat. And you are just passing by to the Masjid al-Khaif,” mentioned Mr. Talwar.

Pakistan Education secretary also mentioned about the improvement of Jamarat. He said, “Another one that is earlier, there was only one single pillar symbolising the Satarn, Jamarat. While you are throwing stones on them certain throwing stones were going on the other side and other side’s stones were coming to your side. But this time; now they have expanded that area and that Satarn wall has been enlarged providing the opportunity for everyone and I envision and hope Insha Allah it will continue and there will be more facilities but there is this remarkable big change between the earlier and now.”

Commenting on the development of the Haramain and some remarks by some media people in the media comparing Makkah with Las Vegas, Pakistan’s education secretary said, “La Hawl Wala Quwutta Illah Billah, meaning There is no power no strength but from Allah” and observed, “There is no comparison; earlier Masjid al-Haram was covering a number of Muslim population; now the Muslim population has increased day by day , year after year and keeping in view the year 2020 I think they have to go for another expansion for 2050; and when you are doing an expansion; the developments are almost taking place but in a better way and for a better purpose. The purpose is to serve the welfare and the safety and security of the pilgrims. So there is no comparison. I will only say La Hawl Wala Quwutta Illah Billah, meaning There is no power no strength but from Allah.”

“The one thing they must add that while in the exterior portion of the Masjid al-Haram there may be more fans, there may be more air-conditioned. That will serve the purpose for everyone, otherwise they are doing an excellent work,” Pakistan’s education secretary concluded his observation.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan on the Role of Mosque

One-day Workshop on
The Role of The Mosque, London (Part-1)

Dr. Mozammel Haque

One-day Workshop on the Role of the Mosque was organised by the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, in cooperation with the Masajid International Organisation, Riyadh, on Saturday, 4th of June 2016, at the Conference Hall of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London. The participants were from Mosques, Islamic centres and Islamic organisations. They attended the workshop in one way or the other as in the capacity of Imams, Directors, or may be responsible for any aspect of education in Mosque, or in the Muslim community. “Our event today is really very important; it is about the role, the purpose and the message of the mosque and that most of you are either working in mosque, Islamic organisations in one way or other as imams or directors, or may be responsible for any aspect of education,” said Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, in his inaugural speech.

Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan:
Inaugural Speech
While speaking about the duties of the Mosque, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “We all know when Muslims come from anywhere, or go anywhere, the first thing they start to think is about the place of worship which is called, in Islam, in Arabic, Masjid or mosque; but of course, after living long times in the societies where the Muslim communities lived; now there are many Mosques grown up in the societies. These Mosques have various needs. These needs, of course, must be addressed by the Muslims and that’s why mosques are to expand their duties and expand their role in the societies.”

Duties of the Mosque
“You find some Mosques have only some course, for example, have courses on education; some mosques have even general services; some mosques have also social services, like marriage or whatever, arranging this, the marriage contract; some mosques give some more concentration on the youth, the young generation some of them; some mosques have classes on others,” mentioned Dr. al-Dubayan.

The ICC chief mentioned that there are some criticisms about the role of Mosques. He said, “Mosques have been also criticised by Muslims and by others also. Sometimes, the Mosques were criticised for lack of some duties; it is said, the message missing in this mosque about the new generation; about the societies itself. True mosques have been playing the role that is we need from them; or just they open their doors for everybody to pray.”

Mosque of the first generation of Islam
Speaking about the activities of Mosque in the early days of Islam, Dr. al-Dubayan said, “We all remember, of course, in the early days of Islam, the first generation, the Mosques were playing at that time as places for worship; as schools. All the great scholars of Islam were studied in these mosques in the history of Islam. And usually those who had problems used to go to Mosque. Think of the Prophetic Mosque (peace be upon him) in the Madinah Al-Munawwarah, Muslim community started to go there; they used to sit in the Mosque, to meet delegation; and also act sometimes as judges; the mosque was acted as a court at that time. Of course, in the new modern society, we have many organisations, many ministries who have taken lots of these duties in the modern times. But the mosques still have subjects to be discussed.”

Purpose & Partner of this Workshop
Speaking about the purpose of this workshop on the Role of the Mosque and the partners in this Workshop, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “What is the main purpose of this workshop today? Why we are called and invited here today? You are invited here today to discuss; we would like to hear from you your contribution. Dear brothers and sisters it is important that we actually try to form vision about how our mosques want to work to be. Your contributions today would be really very very important.”

“Our partner in this Workshop today is the Riyadh-based Masajid International organisations, affiliate of Muslim World League, Makkah al-Mukarramah. It’s a new organisation actually founded only a few years ago and their works focus only on masajid, on mosques. We here, at the Islamic Cultural Centre, of course, do a lot of things; it is also our duty to highlight this area which we wanted to be highlighted,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan about the Masajid International Organisation.

Aims of this Workshop
Speaking about the aims and objectives of the Masajid International Organisation, Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “The Masajid International Organisation aims to prepare documents on mosques. This document will define the role and will give advice to Muslims in the societies; will give advice to the Muslim rulers, leaders how the mosques are supposed to operate; what duties they should perform the new dimension; or new needs arisen out of new situation which now we need to take in this discussion. So that is the main purpose of this workshop.”

Workshop throughout the world
Speaking about this workshop, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned that Masajid International Organisation has been organising this type of Workshop throughout the world. He said, “Workshop has been held in South America, North America; and there will be another one in some counties in England, in India and of course here today. We are having today in London to collect these inputs from Muslims as many as we can. Then finally all these inputs will become one document.”

“It would be very important for everybody; it would be useful for every organisation, for every mosque; it would be useful for those who manage mosque; it would be useful also for those who are in the level of management in the mosque. We have some complications. We know; some people like to run mosque in an old-fashined way. It is very plain simple way which does not meet the needs of the societies. There are also those who want to take the whole mosque like to be school. There are also those who have different opinions about this. So we need today from everybody all your advices, all your inputs, all what you think mosque should do in the societies, in the UK today. This is very very important,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan.

What People think about Mosque
Speaking about people and mosque, Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned about different opinions of different people about the mosque. He said, “I am sure when we are talking about mosque we talk about people. There are people who think mosque should only be a place for worship; there are those who think mosque should really be open for an organisation or for everything; which is, of course, practically not possible.”

Recollecting his memory when he first came to run this Centre, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned; “I remember when I came to this place I almost found it has been doing many many things, different things, starting from circumcision for boys, funeral services etc; (some of them have been stopped long time ago); but when we see this we notice that there are these views that where they think Islamic centre should not do everything. Schools or kindergartens – are this the role of the mosques? Or the mosques should take another dimension.”

Information Age
Speaking about the modern time, modern age, the information age, when information is available everywhere, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “Of course, we know in modern times we have new things. Now we are attending in the real beginning of the information age. Now we have information from everywhere; where we have no borders of information around the world. We expect lots of changes in the societies, not only in the Muslim societies but everywhere in the world. Many countries in the world ready to plan for change; start to plan for change in social life based on the information now exploding around us. Internet is now playing a big important role in our life. It will also play a more and more role in the life of the new generation. You have seen your children, your daughters, yours sons now are spending, in a way or another, some time during the day hours; have also spent in this new technological devices, enter into communication with other people; with us living here or may be in another part of the world.”

Need to Revise for the future of Mosque
Under the circumstances, when so much changes have been taking place, especially in the information world, Muslim world has to think about the future of their organisation, future of their Mosques as well as future of the country. Speaking about the future of Mosques, Dr. Al-Dubayan said, “Now we need to revise our duties; to revise for the future of Islamic organisations, for the future of mosques in this country. I hope what we will get from you today will be, Insha Allah, written; will be formed in a way beneficial, not only for the Muslims in the UK, but also for all Muslims everywhere. InshaAllah when other Muslims in other countries have their inputs, that would be useful for us; find it suitable in this society. And, of course, there are differences in the cities, in the countries in the regulations and in the nature itself. May be, there is a need in London which is not necessary in New Delhi, India or may be, in the United States or in South America or in the Middle East. There are different trends and we think mosque should always try to meet the need of the society; not to try to play the role out of imagination; role which does not exist in reality itself.”

The ICC Chief expressed his thanks to all those brothers and sisters who came out of their homes on this Saturday weekend to attend and participate in this workshop for the benefit of the community. He prayed to Allah the Almighty to bless them all and said that somebody has to do this job so that everybody can enjoy better life and all these atrocities around the world may be stopped Insha Allah.

Themes of the Workshop
This particular workshop is going to be interactive to your opinions and your intentions in term of the role of the mosque. This is organised by the Islamic Cultural Centre, London in cooperation with the Masajid International Organisation Riyadh. There are five main themes; first of all, determining the issues and challenges regarding the mosque, focusing on universal guidelines in administering the Mosque.

Session two: preparing some of the guidelines, justice and practical rulings regarding the Mosque; and also discussing interactively the social and juridical role of the mosque.

The fourth point is about the opinions of the Muslims about the role of the masajids and the issues that are faced by the mosques and the final theme would be to reflecting on the new challenges that the imams may encounter in playing their role in the mosque with specific reference to the western context.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Dubayan in his introductory speech said we will divide you into five groups; each group will have only we have sisters they are sitting there in group to discuss about the first point; the first point would be juristic and practical rulings regarding the mosque.  [To be continued]

Monday, 8 August 2016

Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais Visits the United Kingdom

His Eminence Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais
Visits the United Kingdom

Dr. Mozammel Haque

His Eminence Dr. Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Office of the Presidency of the Grand Mosques of Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah came in the United Kingdom on 15 July 2016. The Sheikh al-Sudais, the Imam of the Grand Mosque of Makkah, who was in the United Kingdom for more than two weeks, was received by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammad bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland in the afternoon of 15 July 2016 at his office in the Embassy of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. London.

During the meeting, they exchanged cordial talks, wishing to Sheikh Al-Sudais success in his current visit. At the end of the meeting, souvenir was presented to the imam of the Grand Mosque of Makkah, Sheikh al-Sudais.

Inaugurate the Al-Salam Masjid and Madrasah
Sheikh Al-Sudais went to Preston, Blackburn and inaugurated Al-Salam Masjid and Madrasah on 18th of July, 2016. Next day, on 19th of July 2016, he visited Ibn Baz Mosque at Banbury town.

Inaugurate the Masjid Ali in Birmingham
The Imam of the Masjid al-Haram, Makkah al-Mukarramah, went to Birmingham and inaugurated Masjid Ali on 20th of July, 2016.
Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais
visited Islamic Cultural Centre, London
Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais visited the Islamic Cultural Centre, London & the Regents Park London Central Mosque on Thursday, the 21st of July, 2016. During his visit, His Eminence Sheikh Al-Sudais met with religious scholars and community leaders of the Muslim Community of Britain and the staff of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London. During this meeting, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan first of all introduced the religious scholars and community leaders of the Muslim community of the UK as well as the staff of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London and gave a presentation on the background and activities of the Centre and the services provided to the community.

Meeting with Lords and Baroness
After this meeting, His Eminence Sheikh Al-Sudais met separately with Lord Sheikh and Baroness Manzila Uddin, Peers of the House of Lords of the British Parliament and discussed different aspects.

Sheikh also met Mr. Yousef Ali Al-Khater, Ambassador of the State of Qatar in the United Kingdom, Dr. Abdulaziz Mohammed Al-Wasil, Deputy Chief of Mission, Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom, Mr. Khalid al-Jarman, Head of Communications and Research, Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, London and the chairman of the Islamic Cultural Centre Trust, besides a large number of community leaders, religious scholars, imams, diplomats and media personalities.

Reception at ICC Conference Hall
There was a reception at the Conference hall of the Islamic Cultural Centre after the meeting with the Lords and Baroness. The reception was attended by His Eminence Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, President of the Office of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, Ambassador Yousef Ali Al-Khater, Dr. Abdulaziz Mohammed Al-Wasil, Mr. Khalid al-Jarman, chairman of the Islamic Cultural Centre Trust, besides a large number of community leaders, religious scholars, imams, diplomats and media personalities.

While welcoming His Eminence Sheikh al-Sudais to the Islamic Cultural Centre and to the Muslim Communities who were representing many organisations, centres and mosques from different parts of the United Kingdom, Dr. al-Dubayan also introduced the members and chairman of the Board of Trust of the Islamic Cultural Centre & Regents’ Park London Central Mosque. Dr. Al-Dubayan also welcomed them to the Centre. While referring to the trustees, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “They are our trustees. They are welcome to the Islamic Cultural Centre,” and while referring to Sheikh al-Sudais, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “You are welcome to the Muslim communities who are represented today with us from many organisations, mosques and centres.”

The Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, Dr. Al-Dubayan, also mentioned, “I know everyone of us is very keen and would like to see His Eminence Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais. I think this is a good occasion, really a good time that we got together.” He expressed his thanks and gratefulness to all those who came from different parts of the country in order to listening to Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais.

Speech of Sheikh Abdul Rahman at the Reception
His Eminence Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, Imam of the Grand Mosque of Makkah addressed the gathering in Arabic and Imam Khalifa Ezzat of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, translated that into English. He said, Sheikh al-Sudais referred to the following points:

Sheikh al-Sudais expressed his pleasure to be with the Muslim community of the United Kingdom and conveyed the greetings and Salams from the people of Makkah and Madinah.

His Eminence Sheikh al-Sudais said that now-a-days we are in urgent need of unity and cooperation. We are in need to gather and meet under the banner of Islam, under the teachings of Islam at this hard time when Islam is subjected to attacks and defamation at various levels, Sheikh mentioned.

The Imam of the Masjid al-Haram, Makkah al-Mukarramah, Sheikh al-Sudais mentioned, unfortunately, at this time, we have two groups of people from the Muslim community; some groups have the concept of ifrad and tafrid. There are those who are extreme in faith and there are those who neglected the faith, said Sheikh al-Sudais and added, “It is important nowadays for Muslims to come together and to avoid division which is a big problem for the Muslim community today.”

Sheikh Al-Sudais urged Muslims to come together at this hard time to achieve the main objectives of the Shari’ah even if they follow different Madhabs and different schools of thought.

The Imam of the Grand Mosque of Makkah, Sheikh al-Sudais advised Muslims to come together to tackle and face those extremist group who kill innocent people. “It is the duty of the imams and scholars of this country to come together and to demonstrate the real image of Islam which is vilified by some groups,” said Sheikh al-Sudais.

The Imam of the Masjid al-Haram, Sheikh al-Sudais urged the Muslim community by saying, “The real image of Islam should be demonstrated by you, by the scholars and imams. To demonstrate the religion Islam is not the religion of ifrad and tafrid. But it is the religion of moderation.”

Sheikh Al-Sudais referred to another important point. He said, “Islam is the religion of co-existence and co-operation; the religion of co-existence with all people - Muslims, non-Muslims and even with those who have no faith.” Then he referred to the verse of the Holy Qur’an: ‘O mankind; we created you from a single Male and female, and make you into nations and tribes in order to know each other, not to despise each other.’” He said this is the general principle of Islam to live together and to invite and call other people who have different faiths.

Referring to the differences and divisions, Sheikh Al-Sudais urged Muslims to come together and avoid differences and divisions.

Referring to the scholars, community leaders and imams of mosques, organisations and centres, the Imam of the Grand Mosque of Makkah al-Mukarramah said, “Brothers and sisters  here in this country and the scholars, imams and community leaders of mosques, schools and many other organisations make great efforts to serve the Muslim community and to help them as much as they can and I saw this myself in many centres, many imams and many scholars do lots of great jobs serving the Muslim community as much as they can.”

Sheikh al-Sudais expressed his thanks to the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries that are doing great jobs and efforts to serve the community here in this country.

Then the Sheikh expressed his thanks to the Islamic Cultural Centre and the Dawah Office, London who make great efforts to serve the Muslim community under the supervision of Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, Director General of the Centre, and Mr. Abdul Aziz al-Harbi; they do great jobs in this country.

At the end, the Sheikh also thanked the gathering for their coming and listening to him and then the Sheikh concluded his speech with dua and supplication for the community, Muslims in general and convey the message of peace from the people of Makkah and Madinah.

After this, Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan presented gift from the Islamic Cultural Centre to the Sheikh Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais.

Imam of the Masjid al-Haram led Maghreb Prayer
at London Central Mosque and talk with people
After the Sheikh al-Sudais’s reception with the Muslim leaders, scholars and Imams, the Imam of the Masjid al-Haram, Makkah al-Mukarramah Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais led the Maghreb prayer at the London Central Mosque. After the Maghreb prayer, Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais addressed the gathering:

Sheikh al-Sudais said we are united by the Word of Allah and we recite the Ayah of Allah. We all came from Allah.

Sheikh Abdul Rahman mentioned the importance of a person in this life; be positive contribute to the society

The Imam of the Masjid al-Haram said, “Muslims in this country are representative or ambassador of Islam. Islam is a moderate religion; not extreme religion. The basic teaching of Islam is based on mercy; it is a religion which is based upon co-existence and cooperation.”

The Imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah al-Mukarramah, Sheikh al-Sudais, said, “Muslims living in this country, especially those people who are living in the West, they have a great obligation to be united under the Book of Allah, under the teachings of Islam; and on the Traditions and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and stick and attach to the methodology of Islam.”

Sheikh al-Sudais urged Muslims to seek the beneficial knowledge and call others to Islam with wisdom (Hikma).

At the end, Sheikh Abdul Rahman said, “United you should all be together and you should not be divided.” Then he said he is very happy when he sees this country and the Muslims came from different parts of the country and then he conveyed the greetings and Salams from the people of Makkah and from the people of Madinah.  He said, “They (the people of Makkah and the people of Madinah) sent their greetings and their supplications for all the Muslims living in the West.”

Imam of the Masjid al-Haram led
Jumah Prayer at ICC on 22 July, 2016
Imam of the Masjid al-Haram, Makkah al-Mukarramah, visited Islamic Cultural Centre & The Regents Park London Central Mosque on Friday, 22 July 2016 and delivered Khutba (Friday sermon) and led the Jumah prayer (Khutba which was translated into English by Imam Kazi Luthfur Rahman, Imam, London Central Mosque and prepared by Dr. Mozammel Haque) was published earlier.

The Sheikh Abdul Rahman also visited King Fahd Mosque in Scotland.
He left the United Kingdom in the first week of August, 2016.