In a move that has disappointed pilgrims wanting to experience iconic sites in Islam’s history, Saudi Arabia has barred access to the Cave of Hira, the place where the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) received the first revelation of the Qur’an.
Secretary of the South African Muslim Travel Association and a local Hajj and Umrah operator, Fazila Malek explained that the letter from the Office of the Prince of Makkah in Saudi Arabia, which was received in Arabic, stipulates that only visits to Jabal Nur will be affected.
She said Saudi authorities made the decision after two people fell from mountain last week, as well as concerns that pilgrims are indulging in acts of bid’ah and shirk.
The mountain stands at a height of 642 meters.
“They are afraid of people who are indulging in shirk and bid’ah and there is a danger of injury or death to visitors by way of falling down the mountain.”
The ruling is only restricted to climbing the mountain and does not clamp down on pilgrims who drive past as part of a normal ziyarah of key sites.
Saudi authorities have not stipulated whether access to the mountain will be restored.
“While they have a restriction, [Saudi Authorities] won’t lift it now. As time passes, I think they will and then they will realise that a lot of people want to go to the Cave of Hira,” Malek stated.Meanwhile, president of the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC), Mohammad Vaid, said it has not received official comment from Saudi authorities, but it has made contact with correspondence in the Kingdom and the information has been established to be true.
Vaid further noted that there is little expectation that the cost of packages will be affected by the ruling.
“We have been informed that all other ziyarahs are still open, so I guess this will be one stop enroute to the ziyarahs. So we don’t really speculate that there should be a major difference in costing.”
Vaid urged Muslims in South Africa to respect the ruling.
“We need to understand that there is a broader ummah and we form part of that ummah. In order to acknowledge that stance of brotherhood, these are structures that have put in place for the benefit of one and all, which we need to learn to embrace and respect,” Vaid continued.