Hajj, Jan - Mar 2004

Despite Difficulties, 5,000 Russian Muslims Perform Hajj

By Damir Ahmad
IslamOnline Correspondent


MOSCOW, January 26 (IslamOnline.net) Up to five thousand Russian Muslims undertake the holy journey to Makkah to perform hajj this year despite high costs.

Many Russian Muslims complained about the highly-priced visa issuance, hajj costs and the hardships faced by pilgrims traveling by buses.

Traveling by road costs about 36,000 Russian rubles ($1300), while by plane around 51,000 ($1800).

According to the Saudi consul in Moscow, Abdal Razek Al-Kashmi, 3500 pilgrims were traveling by road this year.

In sub-zero temperatures, the last 180-strong batch of pilgrims left the capital of Ingushetia Nazran Saturday, January 24, for the holy places in Saudi Arabia.

Ingushetia’s President Murat Zyazikov, the mufti and a number of officials were keen to bid the pilgrims farewell.

The first group of pilgrims flew out of Russian on December 25. The Russian pilgrims will start coming home on February 3 until March 7.

Dagestan makes up the majority of Russian pilgrims this year with 1582 people and followed by Tatarstan with 559.

Russia’s foreign ministry had advised hajj road operators to steer clear of the Iraqi territories in making the journey, saying it put the pilgrims’ lives at risk given the state of chaos and instability in the occupied country.

Saudi Arabia announced Saturday, January 24, that Eid Al-Adha (Eid of the Sacrifice) falls on Sunday, February 1, and the pilgrims would climb Mount Arafat on Saturday, January 31.

The climax of hajj will see worshippers climb Mount Arafat, the site of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) last sermon 14 centuries ago.

More than two million people perform hajj this year. Some 1.1 million Muslims from around the world have already arrived in Saudi Arabia for the holy ritual.

According to the pilgrimage quota set up by Saudi Arabia and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), one percent of the Muslim population of each country can perform hajj every year.

Saudi Health Minister Dr. Hamad Al-Manie said last week that each pilgrim underwent a medical check at the Kingdom’s 24 entry points and received compulsory vaccinations against deadly infectious diseases like meningitis.

Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can also financially afford the trip must perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, once in their lifetime.