Iran boycots Haj this year and substitutes it with pilgrimage to holy shrine at Karbala
Islam has 2 sects the Shia and Sunni sects. The majority is the Sunni's who constitute 80% of the entire Muslim world. The Shia's are in a minority and thus at the receiving end of sectarian violence. Most of the known terror groups all owe allegiance to the Sunni faith. Thus ISIS Daesh, Hamas, Hizbul-e - Mujaheddin etc are all from the Sunni sect. The biggest protagonist of the Sunni faith is Saudi Arabia while Iran is the center of the Shia faith.
Both sects believe in the Muslim holy scriptures and the Holy shrine at Mecca. They also believe in the Haj, yet both sects have fundamental differences. The Shia-Sunni divide is complete all over the world and is manifest in the politics of the Middle East as well. Iran and Saudi Arabia are into a proxy war in Yemen and Iraq as well as Syria.
The Iranians are not happy that the holy shrine is looked after by Saudi Arabia where the king is designated as the "custodian pf the Holy shrines of Mecca and Medina". There is no doubt that the Iranian charge that crowds control and mismanagement is the root cause of massive stampedes that have taken place in recent years. These stampedes have led to thousands being killed. It is inconceivable that pilgrims coming for a religious function like the Haj would be killed in stampedes. Last year hundreds of Irani citizens were killed in a stampede. This has angered Iran and their reaction is dictated by an anti-Saudi approach.
The clerics in Iran have called for the King to be removed as the custodian of the holy shrines as the Iranians feel the shrines are mismanaged. This year Iran and Saudi representatives started negotiations to decide how the Haj is to be conducted. the talks broke down and Iran was informed that its citizens were not welcome for the Haj. The Iranian government also issued an advisory asking its citizens to avoid going to Saudi Arabia for the Haj and in lieu visit the Holy shrine at Karbala in Iraq.
The shrine at karbala is the holiest of all Shia shrine and is located at the exact place the Shia Pir was martyred in 680 at the Battle of karbala. The shrine is extremely important and as per the archangel Gabriel the shrine at Karbala is the holiest of holy places on earth. It also adds that a Muslim for any reason whatsover cannot visit the shrine at Mecca for the Haj, then the visit to the Shrine at Karbala is of equal spiritual value and is equivalent to the Haj. All the benefits that accrue from a visit to Mecca are bestowed on anyone who visits Karbala.
The Iranian government has issued an advisory to all its citizens not to go on Haj to Mecca, but visit the holy shrine at Karbala. This was after talks between the Saudi government and Iran broke down on the issue of security to the Iranian Muslims who visit Mecca. The result is that over one million Shia Muslims from Iran have proceeded to teh Shrine at Karbala in Iraq. The Iraqi government has confirmed the figure and there is a chance that another one million may also go. The Shrine at Karbala has thus had millions of believers this year after the Saudi-Iran spat.
The divide in the Muslim world is complete. It is a fact of life that Saudi Arabia which is allied to the USA and Iran which is antagonist to the USA have drawn the swords. The Irani however have a point as security at the Mecca shrine leaves a lot to be desired. The fact that thousands are killed in stampedes or otherwise when on a Haj pilgrimage is a matter of concern. It does show that crowd management is poor and maybe the Saudi take a easy going attitude. Maybe for that reason the Iranian clerics have called for the shines at Mecca and Medina be removed from the clutches of the King of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi dynasty represents an obscurantism of the worst kind and are in power because of the USA. One wonders that similarly the USA backed the Shah of Iran and once he was overthrown, the Americans could not get even a toe hold there. The ISIS and others are opposed to the royal dynasty who are in power by following archaic laws that leads to massive beheading. Iran is also a theocratic state but it is a democracy and women do have some rights there. the battle line are drawn and it will be interesting to see what happens further. In the meantime a proxy war is on and Iran has boycotted the Haj and replaced it with a pilgrimage to the holy shrine at Karbala.
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