Organizing Haj is a massive undertaking


Every year we witness new organizational experiments for the reception of Haj pilgrims. The Kingdom has benefited from these experiments over the years.

In my discussion with an Arab deputy elected for a French political party in the French National Assembly, he said that the organization of Haj is much easier than the organization of the World Cup Championship. He cited the example of Russia which hosted the latest World Cup in 2018. He also said that many other countries have succeeded in the organization of this event without any serious problems.

This deputy and some others simply do not have any idea about the challenge represented by the Umrah and Haj seasons for Muslims and for Saudi Arabia. They have no idea how a certain city in the Kingdom is a compass attracting Muslims from all over the world.

The French deputy did not understand the system that manages some three million pilgrims every year. This is not the same system which is used for the organization of the World Cup which is held once every four years in a different countries.

The soccer federations, unions, authorities and the commercial establishments which participate in the organization of the World Cup are, in the first place, commercial entities which attract money from various sources.

This is contrary to the organization of Haj which, even if it depended on the revenue from participating missions, does not have commercial sponsors. It does not depend on money coming from sponsoring companies because Haj, in its very essence, is an act of worship. Everyone believes that the most profitable partnership is the dedicated service of the guests of Allah.

We cannot compare the organization of Haj to that of the World Cup. What the Kingdom achieves every successful Haj season is the strategy of a state that deals with the lives and affairs of pilgrims in the holy sites.

It is an organization of Haj that progresses with time.The Kingdom has entered into the era of smart cities and state-of-the-art technology for its organization of the Haj season.

Very few people can imagine the difficulty and the challenge of the organization of Haj when masses flock to the same site at the same time. The government and private establishments work on the organization of the pilgrimage in collaboration with Islamic countries and employ massive human and material resources.

Some three million pilgrims are present in Makkah and Madinah. This figure in fact represents a race against time. It is a challenge for the management of the masses who proceed simultaneously to the same spot.

The Kingdom is intent on enabling pilgrims to complete their rituals no matter what happens. This has made every Haj more successful than those that took place before.

The organization of Haj is prepared and supervised by a number of government and private establishments. They include, among others, the ministries of interior, Haj, presidency of state security, aviation, Civil Defense, Haj security forces, media, foreign affairs and health.

Saudi Arabia is not aiming for numbers but rather is pursuing the challenge of a zero risk while hosting this large number of pilgrims.

The safety of pilgrims is a red line for the Kingdom that is not negotiable. This is the will of a leadership that believes that Almighty Allah has blessed their country with the Two Holy Mosques making it a sacred place for Muslims.

The organization of Haj is a responsibility that begins with top leaders and goes down to the level of those responsible for keeping the streets clean. Civil Defense forces are posted in Mina, Muzdalifah, Arafat, the Grand Mosque and the Jamrat area.

These forces have conducted as many as 2,642 inspection tours of the accommodation for pilgrims and other facilities to make sure that they are safe.

The Kingdom has never complained about the financial costs of Haj. It has singlehandedly paid all expenses. Some countries have not even paid for their Haj missions.

At Haj, you will see a long line of trucks distributing food and water free of charge among pilgrims in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah. After completing the Haj rites, pilgrims will leave behind tons of garbage that will be picked up by cleaners. Pilgrims will not have to pay any charges or taxes for this service.

The question here is: How can anyone say that the organization of the World Cup is more difficult than the organization of the Haj and Umrah seasons?

Asma Bo Zayan is an Arab writer