Flashes from the Muslim World
Status of VIP Quota for Pilgrimage to Change
Indian authorities responsible for organizing Islamic pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia might do away with the VIP quota for Hajj pilgrims. With over 200 million Indian professing Islam, the South Asian nation has the world’s largest Muslim minority population.
Every year, over 150,000 Indian Muslims embark on Hajj, a spiritual journey and one of the five pillars of Islam. 500 spots in India’s annual Hajj quota are reserved for VIPs. Discussions are still underway to abolish the VIP quota, but that decision has not been implemented. Hajj Committee is preparing a new policy for pilgrimage.
Ordeal at Sea
Rohingya survivors described their hunger, thirst and desperation on a weeks-long journey in a rickety boat across the Andaman Sea from Bangladesh to seek refuge in Malaysia. At least five boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya, who had already fled persecution in Myanmar, left the coast of Cox’s Bazar late last year.
One flimsy wooden vessel with at least 174 Rohingya, including 107 children, reached the coastal village of MuaraTiga in Pidie district. Most were dehydrated, exhausted, and in need of urgent medical care, local aid officials said. It is reported by one of the survivors that 26 of them died at sea.
Meets Universities Heads
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, has met with several Presidents of Indonesian public universities on the island of Bali. The meeting was held on the sidelines of the second Association of Southeast Asian Nations international conference.
The university Presidents praised the Kingdom’s efforts in serving the Indonesian people and providing scholarships in Saudi universities, from which thousands of Indonesian students have benefited.
Lifting of Age Restrictions
The lifting of age restrictions for Hajj is being celebrated across Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority nation, where many prospective pilgrims have to wait many years to embark on the religious journey. Saudi authorities have announced that those older than 65 will also be allowed.
The world’s largest Muslim-majority country receives quota of 221,000 pilgrims for 2023,and in some provinces, the wait to perform Hajj lasts 20 years.
Nepalese Doctor Wins Award
Dr. SandukRuit, a Nepali opthalamologist, received the USD1 Million Isa Award for Services to Humanity from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa during a ceremony at Isa Cultural Center at Al-Fateh Compound in Manama. He is the Award’s fifth laureate.
The USD1 Million award will go to Ruit’sFoundation, which manufactures more than 350,000 lenses annually in a local factory, distributes them at a cost of 3 USD each and has helped to save nearly 120,000 people from blindness.
Established in February 2009 by the King of Bahrain, the Isa Award is presented every two years to individuals or organizations chosen by an expert panel.
Ijlal: Initiative to Benefit Elderly Pilgrims
For the benefit of elderly pilgrims, a program called Ijlal has been implemented to provide guidance on rituals, facilitate services and direct them toward designated prayer halls. The program is an initiative of the Field Awareness Affairs Agency, represented by the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques.
Director of the Grand Mosque Authority, Sheikh Mohammed bin Ahmed Shehithi, explained that the Shariahurges Muslims to be kind and gentle, especially towards the elderly.
Grand Mosque Launches Lessons in Chinese
The Grand Mosque in Makkah has launched Islamic lessons in Chinese, the Saudi Press Agency reported recently. The translation department of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques have overseen the translations. Saleh Al-Rashedi, Director of the Department, said Islamic lessons are now available in fourteen languages.
The objective of the project is to assist non-Arabic speakers who attend these classes in the Grand Mosque, he said. Al-Rashedi said other languages available are English, Urdu, French, Hausa, Turkish, Malay, Indonesian, Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, Persian, Russian and Borneo.
He said over 7,000 people use the services every month, either through simultaneous translation of lessons, or via quotes published on social media by the general presidency.
IDB Promotes Investment in OIC Countries
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Islamic Center for the Development of Trade recently concluded a workshop on the digitization of services in investment promotion agencies in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s member-states. Participants were able to exchange views on the active leadership role of international development institutions.
Camels in Beauty Contests
Camels are a symbol of pride, joy and honor for Arabs.So it comes as little surprise that owners have beauty pageants that involve months of grooming to showcase their animals unique aesthetic traits.
The contest at King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, one of the largest in the Middle East, has attracted thousands of visitors early morning every week. The camel owners explained that it requires a great deal of planning to prepare the animals for such pageants, including proper transportation, fodder and health care.
MWL Offers Zamzam to Visitors
The International Fair and Museum of the Prophet’s Biography, which is supervised by theMuslim World League,the strategic partner for the 2023 Conference and Exhibition for Hajj and Umrah Services,signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Al-Zamazemah Co.
The MoU aims to enhance cooperation in serving pilgrims, in an integrated context, in line with the Saudi Vision 2030. One of the most prominent clauses stipulated cooperation in distributing bottles of Zamzam water to pilgrims visiting the Museum of the Prophet’s Biography and Islamic Civilization, in addition to other areas of cooperation.
Recitation Contest Receives Entries from 100 Countries
The online platform for the second international Qur’an recitation and Adhan (Call to Prayer) competition has received entries from more than 100 countries. Potential contestants uploaded audio clips for the competition – which is the largest of its kind in the world – in a bid to get through the online stages and earn a place on the OtrElkalam TV show.
A jury of the experts in the recitation of the Qur’an and Maqamat (musical structures) will determine those participants qualifying for the latter stages.
New Labels Guarantee Goods from Kingdom
Saudi Arabia’s two holy cities are launching a new labelling scheme to guarantee the quality of locally produced goods for sale to pilgrims. We are keen to consolidate the value of local products, and through ‘Made in Makkah’ and ‘Made in Madinah,’ we aim to raise their value and quality, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef said.
The Minister said there were about 2,000 factories in Makkah and more than 500 in Madinah. The scheme was launched at the Hajj Expo 2023, a four-day event in Jeddah that aims to develop the pilgrim experience.
Meeting with Mufti of Bosnia
Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Da’wah, and Guidance, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh, received the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Head of the Islamic Sheikhdom, HuseinKavazovic. During the meeting, issues relating to the situation of Muslims in Bonia and Herzegovina were addressed, and bilateral cooperation in Islamic fields between the Ministry and the Sheikhdom were discussed.
The Grand Mufti commended the Kingdom’s efforts to serve pilgrims and visitors, and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Da’wah and Guidance’s work to serve Islamic efforts and disseminate the principles of Islam.
Meanwhile, Al-Sheikh also received Sheikh ZaidBakkarZakaria, the Mufti of Akkar in Lebanon, and his delegation who had just concluded their visit to Saudi Arabia.
Donates 12,000 Sacrificial Animals to Gaza
A Saudi aid convoy carrying tons of meat arrived in Gaza via the Rafah commercial crossing with Egypt. The Kingdom has donated 12,000 sacrificial animals under the terms of an agreement signed with the Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt Diab Al-Louh during a recent ceremony held at the Saudi Embassy in Cairo. As part of the deal, Egypt will also receive the same quantity of meat from Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh’s Asfar Exhibition
Ancient manuscripts held by the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh are a priceless treasure trove of religious, historical, scientific and philosophical knowledge that has allowed scholars to unlock the region’s remarkable past.
The exhibition, named after the plural for Sifr in Arabic,a Qur’anic word that means ‘large book,’ or tome, sheds light on some of the world’s rarest texts and manuscripts dating back hundreds of years.
King Faisal Awards
Two scientists who helped to develop vaccines against the coronavirus were named as winners of the King Faisal Prize for 2023. Now in the 45th year, the prestigious award also recognized nano-technology scientists and eminent figures in Arabic language and literature, Islamic studies and service to Islam.
The King Faisal Prize was established in 1977. Since then, 275 receipts from 43 countries have been honored, of whom 21 have gone on to win a Nobel Prize. The 2023 awards will be presented at a ceremony this year.
Meeting with Secretary-General of OIC
The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), HisseinBrahim Taha, received Nasser Al-Zaabi, Chairman of the Permanent Council of the Islamic Solidarity Fund (ISF) in Jeddah. The meeting held on the sidelines of the 66th session of the ISF’s permanent council, was attended by Saleh and Ibrahim Al-Khuzaim, the ISF’s Executive Director.
The meeting addressed the importance the OIC gives ISF as one of the most prominent Islamic charitable institutions and the need to support the Fund, allowing it to fulfill its responsibilities in implementing developmental projects for the needy across the Islamic world.
Anger at Extremist’s Visit to Al-Aqsa
Saudi Arabia led widespread Arab and Muslim condemnation after a provocative visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem by Israel’s extremist new Security Minister. The Saudi Foreign Ministry denounced the ‘provocative action’ by the Israeli minister.
Significantly, the visit was also condemned by the UAE, one of the signatories to the 2020 Abraham Accords normalizing ties with Israel. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the visit was a provocationagainst the feelings of all Muslims and a flagrant violation of relevant international resolutions.
Al Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. Under a long-standingstatus quo, non-Muslims may visit, but are not permitted to pray there.
Al-Azhar’s Greeting to Copts Provokes Anger
Al Azhar Al Sharif, Sunni Islam’s oldest and foremost seat of learning, confirmed that controversy and disagreement over congratulating the Christian brothers on the occasion of Christmas has been renewed with the approaching end of each year.
The Al Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism said that this debate was settled by Al-Azhar Al Shariffa long time ago. This congratulations carried an explicit call to raise the voice of brotherhood and peace in order for security and stability to prevail everywhere, Al-Azhar Observatory said.
The Observatory said that congratulation is one of the aspects of ‘righteousness’ that Islam urges us to do toward people, in general.
6,600 from Gaza, West Bank to Perform Hajj
Palestinian Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs,Hatem Al-Bakri, has signed the Hajj protocol for the 2023 season with the Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah,Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, in Makkah.
Al-Bakri told Arab News, “The Hajj season has returned to normal, as was the case before the spread of COVID-19, and all restrictions on pilgrims that were imposed during the epidemic period have been lifted. The number of Palestinian pilgrims from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who will perform Hajj this year is 6,600.”
Bilateral Meeting in Ankara
Saudi Shoura Council Speaker, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Asheikh, held a bilateral meeting with the speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mustafa Sentop, in Ankara.
During the meeting, several issues of common interest were discussed, with the aim of promoting common ambitions, namely in terms of parliamentary cooperation between the Council and the Assembly.
Sentop said that his country, Turkey, supports Riyadh’s hosting of World Expo 2030, “as we are aware of the efforts exerted by the Kingdom to save the environment.”
Journey to Kingdom for Umrah
A young Nigerian cyclist has reached Saudi Arabia after two years to perform Umrah in Makkah and visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. AliyuAbdullahiBala, who recently arrived in Jeddah,was warmly welcomed by officials from the Consulate General in Jeddah on behalf of Nigerian Ambassador,YahayaLawal.
Bala, who is the first person to undertake such a journey from Nigeria in modern times, has been in high spirits since he arrived in the Kingdom. The cycling enthusiast survived numerous obstacles and dangers on his arduous journey that began in Nigeria on the western coast of Africa and passed through Niger, Chad and Sudan before arriving at his destination. He encountered threats from insurgents, bandits who took his mobile phone and wild animals.
COVID-19 Procedures Cancelled
Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah,Tawfiqal-Rabiah, announced that all COVID-19 procedures and vaccination requirements for pilgrims coming from Turkey have been cancelled, within the framework of new measures to facilitate the arrival of Umrah performers.
This came during a joint press conference between Al-Tabiah and Turkey’s Head of Religious Affairs, Ali Erbas, in the presence of other key officials from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, the Saudi Embassy in Ankara. Saudi Arabia provides to serve Islam and Muslims, and facilitate their arrival to perform their rituals easily and smoothly.
Exhibition of Ancient Islamic Coins
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Public Library launched a four-day exhibition of Islamic coins and manuscripts, on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in the Moroccan capital of Rabat.
The exhibition contains around 50 rare coins from across the Islamic world, including gold, silver and bronze coins that date back to the Umayyad, Abbasid eras. Two of the most notable exhibits are a gold dinar produced during the reign of Caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwan in the late 7th century CE and a Makkah dinar – one of the earliest examples of an Arab produced currency.
Islamic and International Interaction
The Muslim World League has highlighted the great Islamic and international interaction with the Charter of Makkah at a recent conference. Theevent – conducted under the umbrella of the MWL – was held with the support and attendance of Gambian President,Adama Barrow.
It brought together, for the first time, senior scholars, Muftis, and ministers of religious affairs in a number of African countries. The international presence of the MWL is highly appreciated since the charter has been included within the religious curricula of a number of countries across the continent, said Secretary-General, Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa.
A man convicted of a car bomb hoax targeting Muslims in the United Kingdom has been barred from early release by Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab. Kyle Howe, 27, was jailed for 28 months for threatening a Muslim Community Center in the city of Leicester, in an incident prosecutors said sought to ‘emulate’ far-right Norwegian terrorist, Anders Breivik.
Raab sent the case for review under a new law introduced in July, on the grounds that Howe continues to pose a significant danger to the public.
[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]