Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Mina tragedy

Those returning from this year's haj pilgrimage will for a long time mourn the death of the 244 pilgrims trampled to death in Mina during the "Stoning of the Devil" ritual, when thousands of people of different nationalities formed an uncontrollable and angry mob.

I happened to be lucky enough to be chosen to perform the haj this year after waiting for about fifty years, mostly due to a lack of financial resources.

Muslims are called upon to make the haj pilgrimage once during their lifetime -- for those who can afford it. It is hoped, that after becoming a haji or hajjah, a person's faith in the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad is renewed and they will stand as an exemplary citizen.

Those who perished this year during the stampede in Mina gave their lives in performing their religious duties.

The greatest tragedy was that, from my observations, the victims were the poorest among the pilgrims and may have believed that by throwing stones to chase the "devil" away they would improve their worldly conditions and secure a place in heaven.