Worshippers’ safety is Saudi Arabia’s top priority, says Hajj minister

Time: 20 October 2020  

Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten. (AFP)
  • Benten said the gradual resumption of Umrah was taken after studying the global situation

JEDDAH: Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten said on Monday health, safety, and security of worshippers are at the top of the government’s priorities.
Speaking at an online seminar titled “Umrah amid simple procedures and strict precaution,” he said the Saudi authorities are making concerted efforts to serve worshippers without compromising on their safety. Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques and Deputy Hajj Minister Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat also attended the seminar.
“All government entities have been collectively working to ensure that Umrah pilgrims have registered with the Tawakkalna app. They follow up to make sure that visitors have not recently mixed with anyone who has coronavirus or developed any COVID-19 symptoms,” Benten said.
Benten said the gradual resumption of Umrah was taken after studying the global situation. He said the reintroduction of limits on Umrah pilgrims cannot be ruled out. He said it all depended on the number of infections around the world.
“We are in close contact with the Health Ministry, and if we detect any danger, we will immediately change our plans. However, we may increase the numbers of visitors if we witness a drop in COVID-19 cases,” he added.
The minister concluded that opening Umrah for international visitors would be an extraordinary decision. “No country has so far announced to receive such a huge number of visitors during the pandemic. Once approved, Saudi Arabia will be the only country to take such an initiative.”
Al-Sudais highlighted the measures taken to help pilgrims perform rituals in a safe environment without any hassles.

This article was first published in Arab News

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First pilgrims arrive at Grand Mosque after six-month curb


The first group of pilgrims are checked for signs of coronavirus as they arrive in Jeddah on Saturday, before proceeding to Makkah. (Supplied)

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A history of the management of the Kaaba

Time: 30 July, 2020

Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal handing over the Kiswa. (Supplied)
  • The Bani Al-Shaiba family have held the keys to the Kaaba for 16 centuries — an honor through the ages

MAKKAH: More than 150 technicians and manufacturers replaced the Kaaba’s Kiswa (black cloth) with a new one on Wednesday.
Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, on behalf of King Salman, handed over the Kaaba Kiswa last week to the senior caretaker of the Kaaba, Saleh bin Zain Al-Abidin Al-Shaibi.
The cloth is manufactured at the King Abdul Aziz Complex for the Kaaba’s Kiswa in Makkah’s Umm Al-Joud neighborhood. It is made of a special natural silk that is dyed in black. The garment is 14 m tall. On its upper third is a belt which consists of 16 square pieces surrounded by a square of Islamic motifs. The belt is 95 cm wide and 47 m long.

The Kiswa consists of four pieces, each covering one of the faces of the honorable Kaaba and the fifth the curtain placed on its door. The making of the curtain is a multi-stage process, as the fabric is combined from the four sides of the Kiswa. The belt and curtain pieces are later added in preparation for its installation over the Kaaba.
More than 110 Kaaba caretakers have been honored through history with the caretaking of the Grand Mosque. The centuries-old tradition has been passed down for generations.
The caretakers have protected their historical God-given legacy and are supported by the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The Kaaba’s caretakers, Bani Shaiba, have had the honor of holding the keys to the Kaaba for 16 centuries.
Before Islam, the descendants of Qusai bin Kilab bin Murrah took care of the Kaaba, whose descendants Bani Shaiba are the current caretakers. They are the ones to whom the Prophet returned the key to the Kaaba after the conquest of Makkah.

Saleh Al-Shaibi, holder of the Kaaba key and its caretaker. (Supplied)

Kaaba caretaking is an old profession, which consists of opening, closing, cleaning, washing, cladding and repairing this cloth if it is damaged.
The washing of the Kaaba is done with Zamzam and rose water. Its four walls are wiped and washed with perfumed water and a prayer is performed.
“Our grandfather, Qusai bin Kilab, who was also the Prophet’s grandfather, was responsible for the caretaking of the Kaaba, who passed it on to his oldest son Abd Al-Dar, who in his turn passed it on to his children,” Anas Al-Shaibi, one of the Grand Mosque’s caretakers, told Arab News.
He added that since the beginning of time, the caretaking of the Kaaba is a God-given blessing until the final day. The keys of the Kaaba are preserved at the senior caretaker’s home.
“The commandments of the fathers to their children were the fear of God, in addition to preserving the great principles of Islam; honesty, humility and keeping the key in a dedicated bag made of green silk and gold, while moving it to open the Kaaba,” Al-Shaibi added.

As for the what traits make a good caretaker, Nizar Al-Shaibi said the job requires a head of a family who is responsible for the home’s caretaking. He must be honest and possess good morals.
Al-Shaibi said the Kaaba key’s character has not changed through time.
He said the reason behind a change in the key’s appearance is a failure to open the Kaaba, where it is then repaired or replaced.
The key has a unique appearance and does not resemble a normal key. Al-Shaibi said it must be different and contain a special character unique to the Kaaba. It is also designed in a unique artistic way so no one but the caretakers know how to use it.
Regarding the clothing of the Kaaba, Al-Shaibi said that the Yemeni King Tubba was the first to clothe it. People from all over the world visited him to obtain his consent and gifts. The Quraish tribe never visited King Tubba. When he asked about them, he was told about the Kaaba, so he secretly rode with his army and tore it down.
Al-Shaibi also said that during the king’s preparation of the army, he suffered from severe illness. They tried to treat it to no avail and he was told it was a disease from the heavens. A wise man told him he had bad intentions and to refrain from acting upon them. When he decided to back down from his plans, he miraculously recovered from the disease.
King Tubba sent countless gifts to the people of Makkah and was the first to cover the Kaaba in different colors, until founder of Saudi Arabia King Abdul Aziz established a Kiswa factory, where the cloth is delivered to the senior caretaker each year.

As for the family traditions and whether disputes arise regarding caretaking practices, Al-Shaibi said that the head of the family is the one who takes charge of the duty, adding that his family is cohesive and that any difference is resolved internally.
According to the Prophet, “Only an oppressor will take caretaking away from the Al-Shaibi family.”
God chose this family to be the caretakers of the Grand Mosque 16 centuries ago and the duty is a divine role for which this blessed family has been chosen.
The number of Kaaba caretakers who assumed the honor of caring for the Kaaba is 110.
Before caretaking of the Kaaba was passed down through the Bani Shaiba family for generations to the present day, the tasks of caretakers consisted of opening and closing the door of the Kaaba, supervising its clothing, maintaining what needed to be repaired, built or assembled, using incense, in addition to washing, cleaning and guarding the shrine of Ibrahim.
Now the caretaker’s tasks are restricted to opening and closing the Kaaba. Al-Shaibi is also contacted if the Kaaba must be opened for visits by the Kingdom’s guests.

This article was first published in Arab News

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