All 117 Rwandans who went on the annual Islamic pilgrimage in Mina, Saudi Arabia are safe, the Mufti of Rwanda, Sheikh Ibrahim Kayitare, has said.
He was speaking in the wake Thursday’s stampede that killed at least 717 people and injured 800 others during the ritual known as ‘stoning the devil’ in the tent city of Mina near Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.
The incident is the deadliest in the annual ritual in the past 25 years.
“None of the Rwandan pilgrims died or sustained injuries. The representative of Rwandan pilgrims has confirmed their safety. We sent 56 people under Rwanda Muslims Association (AMUR) and 61 others went under Fast Hijja and Umrah Company (FAHICO). They are all safe,” Kayitare told Saturday Times yesterday.
He attributed the deaths to a breach of guidelines during the pilgrimage.
“We briefed Rwandans on their departure on rules governing the pilgrimage and they are abiding by them. People have been dying because they try to get out through the entrance-gate instead of the exit, creating a stampede,” he said.
More than two million Muslims from around the world attended this year’s pilgrimage.
Kayitare said Rwandan Muslims should not shy future Hajji pilgrimage due to the incidents as long as they comply with regulations governing the ritual.
Known as the fifth pillar of Islam, the Hajj is a journey that every able-bodied adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lifetime if they can afford it. For most, it is the climax of their faith, with many saving for decades to make the journey.
The pilgrimage, conducted over five days, includes detailed rituals such as wearing a special white garment that symbolises human equality and unity before God; a circular procession around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, surrounded by Mecca’s Grand Mosque; and the symbolic ‘stoning of the devil’.