In Mecca, women set off on hajj as ‘guardian’ rule cast aside – Times of India

MECCA: Bushra Shah, a 35-yr-outdated Pakistani, says she is realising a childhood dream by making the nice pilgrimage to Mecca, and below new guidelines she’s doing it with out a male “guardian”.
The hajj ministry has formally allowed women of all ages to make the pilgrimage with out a male family member, recognized as a “mehrem”, on the situation that they go in a bunch.
The resolution is an element 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 financial system.
Since his rise to energy, women have been allowed to drive and to journey overseas with out a male guardian — even in opposition to a backdrop of a relentless crackdown in opposition to critics of his rule, together with women’s rights activists.
“It’s like a dream come true. My childhood dream was to make the hajj,” Shah informed AFP, earlier than setting off from her residence in Jeddah, the most important port metropolis in western Saudi Arabia.
The hajj, one of the 5 pillars of Islam, is a should for ready-bodied Muslims with the means to take action not less than as soon as of their lifetime.
For the younger mom, making the pilgrimage together with her husband and baby would have been a distraction that might have prevented her from “concentrating completely on the rites”.
Shah is one of 60,000 pilgrims chosen to participate on this yr’s hajj, which has been dramatically scaled down for the second yr working as a result of of the coronavirus pandemic.
Only residents and residents of Saudi Arabia, chosen in a lottery, are participating. Officials have mentioned that 40 p.c of this yr’s pilgrims are women.
– ‘Gift from heaven’ – “Many women will also come with me. I am very proud that we are now independent and do not need a guardian,” Shah mentioned.
Her husband, Ali Murtada, mentioned he “strongly encouraged” his spouse to make the journey alone, after the federal government’s resolution to ban kids from collaborating within the hajj this yr.
He will keep in Jeddah to take care of their baby.
“We decided that one of us should go. Maybe she will be pregnant next year or maybe the children will still not be allowed to participate,” the 38-yr-outdated mentioned.
It was unclear when the hajj ministry lifted the restriction, and a few women have reported that journey companies are nonetheless reluctant to simply accept women travelling with out a male companion for the hajj.
Some even posted ads ruling out teams of unaccompanied women, in an indication of how the dizzying social adjustments 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 women world wide from making the hajj.
That was the case for Marwa Shaker, an Egyptian lady residing within the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
“Hajj without a guardian is a miracle,” the 42-yr-outdated, who works for a civil society organisation, informed 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. But she was unable to as a result of her husband had already been and was not permitted to go once more so quickly.
“I feel enormously joyful. God has called me despite all the obstacles,” she mentioned.
For Sadaf Ghafoor, a British-Pakistani physician, travelling with out a male guardian was the “only option”.
“We couldn’t leave the children alone,” the 40-yr-outdated mentioned of her three kids.
Her husband determined to remain behind, and Ghafoor headed to Mecca with a neighbour.
“It was not easy to take the decision to go alone… but we took this opportunity as a blessing,” she mentioned.

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