WIDER IMAGE – Resumption of Hajj pilgrimage brings joy and sorrow to Indonesians
For Indonesian teachers Sutrisno and Sri Wahyuningsih, embarking on the unique hajj pilgrimage stirs bittersweet emotions.
After waiting over a decade, Sri’s parents were supposed to make the trip to Makkah, Islam’s holiest site located in Saudi Arabia, in 2020, but it was canceled as the coronavirus pandemic has halted most international travel. Doing Hajj is one of the fundamental requirements of the religion and for Muslims making the journey it is one of the most important manifestations of their commitment to their faith.
Sri’s father will never make the trip after he died of a stroke in March and his mother, whose health is deteriorating, was denied permission to attend after Saudi authorities imposed a ban. Age limit of 65 under new rules to resume welcoming pilgrims this year. Sutrisno, 54, and Sri, 51, are happy to undertake the haj in place of Sri’s parents, but are saddened by the loss of Sri’s father and the possibility that his mother may never complete the pilgrimage.
“It’s a huge moral burden for me,” Sri said. “But my mother gave me her blessings and I have to think that this is a journey that I have to go through, everything is Allah’s decision, and I have to do the haj.”
Since last week, thousands of pilgrims have started arriving in Saudi Arabia ahead of the peak of the haj on the July 9 Eid al-Adha holiday, part of a possible million expected to attend. Under the quota system used by Saudi Arabia, the average wait to complete the haj for people in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, is 35 years.
This year, just over 100,000 Indonesians are making the trip, about half the usual number, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs. Preparations began in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in May, with pilgrims attending a preparatory briefing on the haj and manasik, or rites and ceremonies to be performed around Mecca, in what is one of the most major religious gatherings in the world.
Sutrisno, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, gave an emotional speech to students at his school in Jakarta as part of a pre-haj ritual celebration. He sold his car and saved 105 million rupees ($7,019) over nine years to fund the trip for his wife’s parents, but the two-year break cost them their chance to go together.
“We didn’t expect the pandemic to come so quickly and stay so long,” he said. Many Indonesian Muslims are disappointed with the age limit and lower quotas.
“Honestly, it breaks my heart as a hajj organizer,” said Cecep Khairul Anwar, an official with Indonesia’s religious affairs ministry. “But I hope that this regulation only applies to this year.”
Sri still holds out hope for the upcoming hajj for her mother, who is 71. “My first wish that I would make is to pray for a long life for my mother, that she can stay healthy and that she can go,” she said.
($1 = 14,960.0000 rupees)
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)