The winds of change in the hitherto closed Islamic country are visible in the ongoing Hajj pilgrimage as the Saudi women are seen at the forefront of crowd management for the first time in the biggest and the holiest pilgrimages for Muslims. Some one million Muslims are undertaking the pilgrimage.
According to a report in Arab News, an English language newspaper, the women crowd managers are taking care of the women’s section of the pilgrims under the directions of the General President for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudaia.
Arab News quoted Nouf Qahl, Undersecretary, Assistance Agency for Women’s Grouping and Crowds, saying that the Kingdom has become a world leader in crowd management due to its handling of the annual pilgrimage, where millions of Muslims flock to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj and Umrah. “Crowd management is one of the most difficult management sciences that requires the (cooperation) of dozens of other administrative agencies of various services. The difficulty of crowd management lies in how to deal with crowds from different cultures, languages, and behaviors,” she said.
Qahl said that her agency was founded at the beginning of this year and has around 130 female employees.
She said that its top objective, as part of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, was to “facilitate pilgrims to perform all their rituals with ease and peace, and enrich their experience in the land of the Two Holy Mosques.”
Qahl said: “Our mission at the agency is to assist and smoothly lead women’s crowd to designated areas for women to pray and perform their rituals in a safe environment such as to ensure grouping (and leading) women coming for Umrah and Hajj to the Mataf to perform the circumambulation, to vacate the women’s prayer area after the prayers, and preparing to receive other groups of women around the clock. Working to serve pilgrims is a great honour that we take pride in.”
The agency is prepared to receive female pilgrims daily until 9 p.m. at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. Most women will come after the Asr prayer, to break their fast, and pray Maghrib and Isha.
This year, about one million Muslims are undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage, making it the biggest ever pilgrimage since the pandemic.
Also, it’s for the first time, that Muslim women are being allowed to perform hajj without a male guardian ‘Mehram.’
In the meanwhile, after staying at the holy place of Mina for a day, the Hajj pilgrims are now leaving for Arafat Square to perform Waqf Arafat. On Friday they would perform short acts of Zuhr and Asr prayers in Arafat Square. continue saying prayers, repentance, and asking for forgiveness.
The same day, Pilgrims will return to Muzdalifah after Maghrib prayers on the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah in Arafat Square, where they will offer Maghrib and Isha prayers together, and spend the night in Muzdalifah under the open sky.
After this, the pilgrims will perform the act of throwing stones at the devils the next day, after which they will open the Ihram.