An Islamic scholar and Naaibul Amir (Vice President) Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, Lagos State branch, Mukhtar Oyetunji, has given insights into how the government and relevant stakeholders can stem Hajj fatalities.
No fewer than 14 pilgrims died during this year’s Hajj. Giving the breakdown on Sunday in Makkah during the post-Arafat review session, the head of the Nigerian medical team for the pilgrimage, Dr Usman Galadima, said seven pilgrims died during the pre-Arafat period.
He listed the casualties to include: Plateau (1), Kaduna (2), Osun (2), Borno (1), Yobe (1), FCT (1), Benue (1) and Lagos (1), while private tour operators recorded three deaths.
Galadima said during the Muna-Arafat period, four pilgrims died at Arafat and two at Mina.
Also, The PUNCH reports on Wednesday that a 58-year-old female Kano Pilgrim, Hadiza Ismai’il, passed away while performing Hajj in Mecca.
The PUNCH reports that the Chairman of the National Hajj Commission, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, has said the commission will ensure the enforcement of stringent medical screening for intending pilgrims.
This is as he said anyone found unfit for the pilgrimage would be denied the opportunity to participate in the religious rites henceforth.
Speaking with our correspondents on Wednesday, Oyetunji said the injunctions on those to perform Hajj are clear.
According to him, Hajj is a pillar of Islam and is compulsory for every Muslim to ‘intend’ and perform immediately they can at least once in a lifetime.
“But it comes with the condition of having the capacity and capability to perform and scholars have spoken extensively about it,” he told our correspondent during an interview on Wednesday.
Asked if he will support any move by the government to prevent the medically unfit or those ill from embarking on pilgrimages, he said the government does not need to prevent anyone from performing their religious rights.
“Personally, I think the Government does not necessarily need to stop anyone interested in performing Hajj from doing so but rather they should be an all-around sensitisation by scholars, families, children, and all stakeholders involved in ensuring the individuals make the best possible decision on whether they are capable of performing or otherwise,” he said.
He, however, urged the government and other stakeholders involved to devise means in preventing fatalities during Hajj.
“Generally, I think it is only responsible for the government to find a way of forestalling/reducing chances of Pilgrims’ death through any possible means and I doubt there’s anyone who wouldn’t find it reasonable.
“However, the fact that Hajj is an obligation and a life-long desire of every Muslim irrespective of age means they equally deserve their chance to perform it. Coupled with the fact that many consider dying in Hajj as one of the ‘most desirable/blessed ways to die’ and would take such chance in a heartbeat.”