In Mecca, girls set off on hajj as ‘guardian’ rule forged apart – Occasions of India


MECCA: Bushra Shah, a 35-year-old Pakistani, says she is realising a childhood dream by making the good pilgrimage to Mecca, and below new guidelines she’s doing it with no male “guardian”.
The hajj ministry has formally allowed girls of all ages to make the pilgrimage with no male family member, generally known as a “mehrem”, on the situation that they go in a gaggle.
The choice is a part of social reforms rolled out by de facto chief Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who’s attempting to shake off the dominion’s austere picture and open up its oil-reliant economic system.
Since his rise to energy, girls have been allowed to drive and to journey overseas with no male guardian — even in opposition to a backdrop of a relentless crackdown in opposition to critics of his rule, together with girls’s rights activists.
“It is like a dream come true. My childhood dream was to make the hajj,” Shah advised AFP, earlier than setting off from her residence in Jeddah, the foremost port metropolis in western Saudi Arabia.
The hajj, one of many 5 pillars of Islam, is a should for able-bodied Muslims with the means to take action at the least as soon as of their lifetime.
For the younger mom, making the pilgrimage along with her husband and baby would have been a distraction that may have prevented her from “concentrating fully on the rites”.
Shah is considered one of 60,000 pilgrims chosen to participate on this yr’s hajj, which has been dramatically scaled down for the second yr operating due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Solely residents and residents of Saudi Arabia, chosen in a lottery, are participating. Officers have mentioned that 40 p.c of this yr’s pilgrims are girls.
– ‘Reward from heaven’ – “Many ladies may even include me. I’m very proud that we are actually impartial and don’t want a guardian,” Shah mentioned.
Her husband, Ali Murtada, mentioned he “strongly inspired” his spouse to make the journey alone, after the federal government’s determination to ban youngsters from taking part within the hajj this yr.
He’ll keep in Jeddah to take care of their baby.
“We determined that considered one of us ought to go. Perhaps she shall be pregnant subsequent yr or possibly the kids will nonetheless not be allowed to take part,” the 38-year-old mentioned.
It was unclear when the hajj ministry lifted the restriction, and a few girls have reported that journey companies are nonetheless reluctant to just accept girls travelling with no male companion for the hajj.
Some even posted commercials ruling out teams of unaccompanied girls, in an indication of how the dizzying social modifications are assembly some resistance within the deeply conservative kingdom.
Authorities beforehand required the presence of a male guardian for any lady pilgrim below the age of 45, stopping many Muslim girls all over the world from making the hajj.
That was the case for Marwa Shaker, an Egyptian lady dwelling within the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
“Hajj with no guardian is a miracle,” the 42-year-old, who works for a civil society organisation, advised AFP.
Now travelling to Mecca with three of her pals, the mom of three had tried a number of occasions to make the pilgrimage earlier than the pandemic. However she was unable to as a result of her husband had already been and was not permitted to go once more so quickly.
“I really feel enormously joyful. God has referred to as me regardless of all of the obstacles,” she mentioned.
For Sadaf Ghafoor, a British-Pakistani physician, travelling with no male guardian was the “solely choice”.
“We could not go away the kids alone,” the 40-year-old mentioned of her three children.
Her husband determined to remain behind, and Ghafoor headed to Mecca with a neighbour.
“It was not straightforward to take the choice to go alone… however we took this chance as a blessing,” she mentioned.

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