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Saudi Arabian Hajj Policy towards Western African States



Saudi Arabia’s policy for West African countries is not liberal. Saudi Arabia is neither lenient towards these countries nor does it have anything to do with the troubles of the Hajis in the poverty prevailing in these countries. Two examples are found. Firstly, the way the government of Saudi Arabia has started taking Qurbani money along with Haj from this year, this policy also applies to West African countries. Second, in the name of medical problems, the challenges of these countries are never reduced. The West African countries are mainly Nigeria, Mali and Senegal. Here Muslim population is in majority and any policy of Saudi Arabia has a strong impact on these countries.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria deploys the highest number of pilgrims. In 2017, the country managed to contribute 79,000 pilgrims. African countries dominated top 10 pilgrim producing nations that year.

In what could be described as a blot for African direction this year, pilgrims from the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, were banned over public health reasons. The country was then currently suffering an Ebola crisis which jeopardized the plans of some 410 prospective pilgrims.


Over the last years, in average, 2,1 million people per year performed the hajj. These millions stand in contrast to the numbers visiting Mecca half a century ago. On average, until 1946 a rough 60,000 pilgrims visited Mecca annually, with at least half of these coming from the Arabian Peninsula. Today Saudi nationals make up about a quarter of all pilgrims. The explanations for the staggering thirtyfold increase in total pilgrims, and the even more spectacular growth of the number of foreign pilgrims in slightly more than half a century are quite simple. First of all, the increasing world population in general led to larger numbers of pilgrims. Second, the journey became safer and better organized during the 20th century. In those parts of the Muslim world where it was not already (the Ottoman Empire), the organization of the hajj became a state affair, organized first by the colonial authorities, and by the postcolonial states afterwards. Third, despite growing disparities in the distribution of global economic wealth an increasing number of Muslims could afford to pay for the journey. And finally the availability of cheap mechanical mass transport increased over this time period.

The hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, is among the largest annual gatherings in the Muslim world. Its importance in the lives of individual Muslims, as well as for the Muslim world, cannot be overestimated. The hajj is first and foremost the performance of the prescribed religious rituals in Mecca, but it can be seen as the pilgrimage itself, the journey to and from the holy places.

Professor Ibrahima Faye Board memberof Al Harmain Watch From Senegal said that the 19th and 20th centuries saw radical changes in the performance of the hajj from West Africa, due to changing political, economic, social, and technical circumstances on a world scale. In the 19th century and before, the vast majority of pilgrims were men from the upper strata of society. Merchants combined the hajj with trade, scholars with study, and rulers with politics. Most combined all three social positions and all three goals with their pilgrimage. Political circumstances worldwide were decisive for the decisions these 19th-century pilgrims made with regards to their itineraries, business ventures, and stays abroad. The globalization of European wars, the transformations and modernization of Muslim powers (both in the Sahel and elsewhere), and especially the start of the European conquest of (North) Africa played a crucial role in their itineraries. But the internationalization of state relations also had an impact. The 1894 international agreements on the transport of pilgrims, including quarantine measures decisively transformed pilgrims’ fare and welfare. The changes in (maritime) technique showed their future role, as pilgrims chose to travel with European maritime (steamship) companies from the Mediterranean onwards.

The 20th century saw even more dramatic changes in the performance of the pilgrimage. After the jihad campaigns of the 19th century had already transformed the religious landscape of the Sahel, the region’s inclusion in the world economy and in European empires led to mass conversion to Islam. Combined with new labor relations, new forms of wealth, new state structures, as well as new means of transport, this led to dramatic shifts in pilgrim social demography and to a spectacular growth in their numbers. A new middle class of colonial civil servants and military joined the old and partly transformed elite of merchants, scholars, and leaders. More importantly a new class of agricultural laborers joined these upper strata of society. While new labor-intensive cash crops such as peanuts and especially cotton were introduced,

The mobility of labor and religion was greatly facilitated by the increasing availability of mechanical means of transport. Their presence, especially that of the fixed railroads, radically altered the roads pilgrims took, away from the Sahara, toward the Sahel itself. This in turn reshaped the urban economic and social topography of the Sahara and Sahel further, as cities rose and fell in importance along the different roads taken. The rapidity and scale of mass transport led to a spectacular fall in the price of the pilgrimage, especially when we do not only take the travel fare into consideration, but also the price of absence at home. This latter decrease both in time and in money, as well as the labor migration which many combined with the pilgrimage, placed the hajj in reach of West African Women, whose participation rose from close to zero to over half of the total amount of pilgrims at present. The changes in means of transport also reflect changing changing attitudes towards the hajj and what it represents. To the pious, the hajj is intended as a journey combining the physical and the spiritual. Hardship and privation for the love of God on the pilgrimage are essential to strengthen the faith in God and to mortify the flesh. The mobile lifestyle is part of a vision on the transient state of the human being between this world and the next. This vision is in sharp contrast to the luxurious and speedy travel of those who come by boat or airplane. the hajj is intended as a journey combining the physical and the spiritual. Hardship and privation for the love of God on the pilgrimage are essential to strengthen the faith in God and to mortify the flesh. The mobile lifestyle is part of a vision on the transient state of the human being between this world and the next. This vision is in sharp contrast to the luxurious and speedy travel of those who come by boat or airplane. the hajj is intended as a journey combining the physical and the spiritual. Hardship and privation for the love of God on the pilgrimage are essential to strengthen the faith in God and to mortify the flesh. The mobile lifestyle is part of a vision on the transient state of the human being between this world and the next. This vision is in sharp contrast to the luxurious and speedy travel of those who come by boat or airplane.

Studying its interference in the organization of the hajj provides insight into the transformation of the colonial and post-colonial state, as it shifted its focus from domination and control to welfare and patronage. In many ways, the organization of the hajj review the organization of political patronage in the African colony and post-colony, and the aspirations to rationalize and modernize the religious domain in Africa and the Middle East. In the 19th century knowledge of international politics, the situation on the road and the required ritual prayers were necessary to perform the hajj. In the 20th century knowledge of ritual remained necessary, but it was complemented with knowledge of and compliance with state bureaucracy, rather than security and politics.

As a last point, consider this simple observation. In the 1830s Ahmad ibn Thuwair al-Janna traveled only once to Mecca, a single journey taking him four years of his life and he did not linger. Between 1938 and 1950, a bit more than a decade, Alkaidi Touré performed the hajj four times, traveling from and to his hometown of Niamey every journey. By the mid-20th century, the hajj was no longer the journey of a lifetime as it had been a short century earlier.


Nigeria is scrambling to pacify its Muslim population following reports that Saudi Arabia may ban its pilgrims from this year Hajj due to the re-emergence of a deadly virus, Lassa fever.

The West African country Hajj commission held emergency meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday with federal officials and representatives from all 36 states. The annual pilgrimage to Makkah last year attracted two million Muslims from across the world. With 95,000 allocated places for the August pilgrimage, Nigerians would be one of its largest contingents.

After rumors sparked panic on social media, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) spokesman Mousa Ubandawaki confirmed to Premium Times that Saudi authorities had threatened the ban.

Many countries with high prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection also have substantial Muslim populations. HIV-infected patients who travel to Hajj in Saudi-Arabia may encounter challenges regarding their anti-retroviral therapy (ART).

In a cohort study in Nigeria, clinically stable patients on ART who were traveling for the 2008 to 2009 Hajj (Hajj-pilgrims [HP]) were selected and compared with consecutively selected Muslim patients who were clinically stable and traveled to and from distances within the country to access ART (non-pilgrims [NP]). Participants were clinically evaluated and interviewed regarding their adherence to ART pre-travel and post-travel, international border passage with medications and reasons for missing ART doses. Post-travel change in CD4 counts and RNA-PCR viral load were measured.

Since the establishment of the Government hajj authority in 1975, Nigeria’spilgrimage has experienced dramatic changes. The cost of hajj  transportation has risencontinuously and, at times, geometrically. In the meantime, the Pilgrims Basic TravelAllowance (PTA) has been cut and foreign exchange rates have risen to unprecedented levels.Since 1978, hajj seats have been allocated through a restrictive quota system designed to limitthe number of Nigerian pilgrims. Nonetheless, the Government has failed to formulate apolicy that would control the large and ever growing traffic of ‘international pilgrims’ i.e. the unofficial pilgrims , despite the menace and embarrassment they pose. Thus, Nigeria stilllacks a clear and comprehensive policy for hajj and umrah that could support permanent andsustainable improvements in pilgrimage organization and operation. It is all easy to blame theGovernment on the corruption and ineptitude within the rank and file of its officials but to befair to it, blame should be apportioned appropriately among all the parties concerned i.e. thePilgrims Welfare Boards, the Airlines and the pilgrims too. Additionally, the Saudi ArabianGovernment too contributes to the problem through the vagary of its ever-changing policiesrules and regulations on the hajj. Since the inception of the national pilgrimage system, the hajj authorities at Federaland State levels have come under heavy criticism – some that is justified and some thatreflects the ignorance of the critics. Many of the difficulties that have crippled theeffectiveness of successive pilgrimage organizations stem from their lack of autonomy andtheir total dependence on the Government. The absence of administrative autonomy is theroot cause of the ephemeral life of the numerous Boards and Commissions and this lack of continuity, in turn, is responsible for the lack of skills, initiative, foresight and good planningamong their personnel.11

The Nigerian pilgrims too contribute to some setbacks in the annual hajj exercise through inadequate enlightenment, disorder and general disregard for rules and regulations that make for civilized and disciplined behaviours. For instance, the Nigerian pilgrim is notorious for excess luggage, evasion of cargo charges and boarding pass racketeering incollaboration with airline staff. There is however, no doubt that, by and large, hajj authorities at the national and state levels render important services to the pilgrims. They have gone along way in standardizing and improving hajj operations in the country even in the absence of a clear, comprehensive and sustainable hajj  policy.The absence of a sound and realistic hajj  policy appears to be the most seriousshortcoming of the pilgrimage organization in Nigeria. This has deprived Nigerian Muslims of the comfort and convenience provided by sound hajj schemes such as the Malaysian Tabung Hajj. It is high time that Nigeria developed a policy to provide a convenient methodof payment of the hajj fare along the lines of the Hajj Saving Scheme (HSS) mentioned in theNPC Decree of 1989. The Government should also arrange alternative means of travel by seaand by land, especially in view of the recent and seemingly permanent paradox of economic hardship accompanied by astronomical increases in airfares and cargo charges. Policy-makers should take into full consideration that hajj is obligatory for Muslims at least once in alifetime. Above all, it should be well noted by all concerned that the Nigerian constitution does not declare Nigeria a secular state i.e. it only states that the government of theFederation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as a state religion. Thus, Nigeria’sconstitutional framework does not completely separate religion and politics and it does notprevent an active Governmental role in pilgrimage management. The Government mustcontinue to be involved in the hajj affairs for the same reasons that brought it in, in the first instance. Its involvement should however be divested from politics. Sensitive matters such as appointment of airlines, fixing of fares, appointment of officials, deployment or recruitment of full and part-time staff must be de-politicized.


On 24 September 2015, an event described as a crush and stampede caused deaths estimated 2236 dead. These figures remained official at the time of the following year’s Hajj and were never updated.[4] The largest number of victims was from Iran, followed by Mali and Nigeria. A Malian woman has set up a Facebook page to help find some 200 people from Mali who are still missing after 2015 Hajj pilgrimage crush. The Saudis never taken care of Mali and Nigerian Hajis thereafter. The stampede took place during the last major rite of the pilgrimage in Mina – when stones are thrown at pillars called Jamarat, where Satan is believed to have tempted the Prophet Abraham. It is the deadliest incident to occur during the pilgrimage in 25 years.

Hajj of Mali king Mansa Musa is a history. He performed Hajj in 1324. He took around a year to perform Hajj and back. During the time he spent hundreds of kilogram gold to the needy people in the route. This made gold rates down for many years. Mansa Musa generously spent huge gold at Makkah and Madinah.

The same Mali has been threatened by the Saudi Arabian terrorists in recent time. When fighters linked to al-Qaida swept into Timbuktu on 1 April 2012, over the following months they set fire to thousands of ancient manuscripts, destroyed the mausoleums of local holy men and forced musicians into exile. This was the sheer interference of Saudi Arabia in to Mali. The major influential Islamic Wahhabi preachers studied in Saudi Arabia mad this happen. There is little doubt that links exist between Islamist militants in the states of the Sahel of Mali and Saudi Arabia. While Saudi funding and export of religious dogma play a role in the Sahel, nationals from the latter region are increasingly visible within Saudi Arabia’s own militant communities.

Mali is a major recipient of free meat carcass at Makkah during Haj. A shipment of average 5,000 frozen carcasses of livestock from Hajj season to Bamako city, the Capital of Republic of Mali sent as help every year. It is expected to be distributed among the needy under the supervision of an Islamic development bank delegation.

These consignments are part of the Saudi Project for Utilization of Hajj Meat (Adahi) managed by the Bank. It includes distribution of nearly 1 million carcasses from the Hajj season inside Saudi Arabia and 24 other countries in Asia and Africa.


Senegalese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amadou Ba, expressed his country’s strong support for the stances of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia( KSA), its keenness and great interest in the health and safety of Umrah performers and visitors from the novel coronavirus and all the measures taken to ensure that this is achieved, and its relentless pursuit to preserve the lives of Umrah performers.

This came during a meeting attended by Saudi Ambassador to Senegal, Fahd bin Ali Al-Dosari; Senegalese Minister of Interior, Aly Ngouille Ndiaye; Senegalese Minister of Health, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr; Head of the Senegalese Hajj Mission, Abdulaziz Kay, and a number of Senegalese officials in last March 2020.

Like Mali and Nigeria, a shipment of 10000 frozen carcasses of Hajj-Meat utilized during Hajj Season 2012 sent to Dakar seaport for distribution among the poor in Senegal. The operation comes in line with the implementation of the Saudi Project for Utilization of Hajj Meat (ADAHI), managed by the Islamic Development Bank, IDB. According to the distribution plan for Hajj, around 793,000 carcasses are for distribution in Makkah and other different parts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through 270 charity societies and more than 200,000 frozen carcasses in 24 Countries in Asia and Africa.

Sufism in West African States

Sufism had a decisive influence on the development and spread of Islam in West Africa. Although it has been the subject of a considerable number of academic works, Sufism in West Africa remains understudied and often misunderstood. French and British colonial views of Islam had a lasting impact on the perception of Sufism in Africa, resulting in its depreciation as a kind of ‘‘popular’’ Islam of the ignorant masses. A closer look at eminent West African Sufi leaders and their movements, including the Qadiriyya, the Tijaniyya, and the Muridiyya, reveals that Sufism articulated itself in a variety of ways over the past three centuries, and that it continues to be a formidable spiritual, intellectual, and social force in many countries in the Western parts of the African continent.

Muslims established communities in several of the early states of West Africa and were welcomed by rulers who appreciated their cosmopolitanism, their trading connections and their literacy. In the 11th century, ancient Ghana contained a Muslim center with several mosques. Many rulers of the ancient kingdoms of Mali and Songhay, which flourished between the 14th and 16th centuries, were themselves Muslims, made pilgrimages to Mecca, and worked to promote the religious and cultural influence of Islam in their empires. But they did not insist that their subjects convert, and they were tolerant of local religious practices —a pattern that was more or less replicated in many of the West African kingdoms in the precolonial era.

The creation of the Sokoto Caliphate inspired similar politico-religious movements elsewhere in West Africa, most notably in what became the Tukolor and Mandinka empires of what is now Mali, Senegal, and Guinea. The Tukolor Empire was created by a Muslim preacher from Futa Toro named al-Hajj Umar. Umar set off in 1826 on a lengthy pilgrimage to Mecca, during which he was strongly influenced by Muslim reformist movements in Arabia and Egypt as well as by the spirit of jihad in the Sokoto Caliphate.




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