Children below 10 may face Haj ban

Updated 19 October 2014
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Children below 10 may face Haj ban

Children below the age of 10 may be barred from performing Haj from next year.
According to a report in a local newspaper, the subject came up for discussion during a recent meeting between the heads of pilgrim establishments and the Haj Ministry.
No decision has yet been taken on the proposal, said Al-Watan newspaper, quoting sources. It is only a point of discussion at the moment, it said.
The proposal stemmed from the fact that rising temperatures and a very high density of people at the holy sites during the annual pilgrimage put children at risk. In addition, there is a great possibility of children’s catching infections.
Arab News saw hundreds of children during Haj this year. They were even brought by their parents to the Jamrat Bridge to perform the stoning of the devil ritual. This mandatory ritual generally takes place in the afternoon and is considered difficult and challenging even for the most able-bodied pilgrims.
The Haj Ministry’s field teams discovered hundreds of children, almost two-thirds of them under the age of six, at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and other holy sites during this year’s Haj.
The ministry estimated their number at between 5,000 and 7,000. Many of these children had fallen ill from the strain on their fragile bodies.
The total number of Indian pilgrims below the age of 10 was 144, according to data available on the Indian Haj Mission’s website. In addition, there were 52 infants.
In the past, infants from India needed no Haj visa and they were not counted in the quota. From this year onward, however, they are being treated as pilgrims.
Diplomats from South Asian and Southeast Asian countries feel the proposal has merit.
“We have a high demand and limited quota, and we would like that quota to be used by pilgrims who are fully aware of the religious obligations,” said one diplomat.
“Certainly, Haj is not some kind of picnic; it is a grueling task and children should not be put in harm’s way,” he said.
The men and women, who brought their children to Haj, told Arab News that they had no one to take care of them at home.
Some of the expat pilgrims from Riyadh, Dammam and other Saudi cities said most of their neighbors and acquaintances go home during Haj holidays and there is no one for them to leave their children with.
“Who would want to bring little ones to Haj?” said Sadiya Anam, a teacher at a school in Riyadh who performed Haj this year with her husband and two small children.
“We had no option but to bring them and so we went the legal way and paid for their permits.”
The other point of view, especially from Western pilgrims, is that unless they bring their children, the children will not be able to feel the grandeur and passion for Islam.
“I brought children from London this year to let them see and feel for themselves the real beauty of Islam,” said Rafi Patel, a British citizen. “We may keep telling our children about how everyone is equal in Islam but it is only at Haj you see that in practice and you cannot imagine the impact this has on young and impressionable minds.”
Tareq Angawi, head of the establishment for pilgrims from Turkey, Europe, America and Australia, was among those who backed the proposal.
“The majority of families who came from abroad to perform Haj this year with their children were mostly British, but their numbers were limited and they had only brought their children because they had no one to take care of them back home,” Angawi was quoted as saying in Al-Watan newspaper.
“Our group was very organized and we left children in big tents under the supervision of qualified assistants.”
If approved, the proposal will be submitted to the Council of Senior Scholars for consideration.


Ramadan offers ‘golden opportunity’ to get in shape, say Saudi fitness experts

The holy month of Ramadan is the perfect time to get into shape. Photos show clockwise from top: Sohaib Mubarak, Rayan Bashawri, Mashael Fagerah and Reham Kamal. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 15 min 55 sec ago
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Ramadan offers ‘golden opportunity’ to get in shape, say Saudi fitness experts

  • Many Muslims take advantage of the holy month of fasting to keep fit
  • For fat burning, it is better to work out an hour before breaking fast, since the insulin level is low, but for building lean, toned muscles, it is better to work out two hours after breaking fast because the insulin level is high

JEDDAH: Saudi fitness experts have urged Muslims to use Ramadan as a “golden opportunity” to start a new healthy lifestyle.
The holy month of fasting is the perfect time to get into shape, say some of the Kingdom’s top trainers.
With regular exercise, Ramadan can offer a new start for many worshippers both spiritually and physically. RK Fit gym owner, Reham Kamal, told Arab News that working out while fasting was healthy because the body used stored fat as energy, resulting in more fat burning.
The 32-year-old Saudi coach recommended low- to medium-impact workouts while fasting to avoid dehydration and advised trying calisthenics, a form of exercise consisting of a variety of movements which work large muscle groups, such as running, standing, grasping and pushing.
Kamal said: “Ramadan is a great opportunity to lose weight. We shouldn’t eat too much when breaking our fast. Sadly, in our culture, people take this month as an opportunity to fill the table.
“They aren’t seeing the golden opportunity to get into shape, because fasting has numerous health benefits, not only weight loss. It promotes blood-sugar control by reducing insulin resistance, increases growth hormone secretion, which is vital for growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength, and aids weight loss by limiting calorie intake and boosting metabolism.
“For fat burning, it is better to work out an hour before breaking your fast, since the insulin level is low, but for building lean, toned muscles, it is better to work out two hours after breaking fast because the insulin level is high,” she added.
Mashael Fagerah, 35, owner of House of Agility, a studio offering high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and circuit training, said: “You can do everything you normally do during fasting especially if you are used to working out. But if you are a beginner, I would recommend starting carefully with low-impact training.”
She told Arab News that many Muslims took advantage of Ramadan to keep fit.
“Whether before iftar, before sahoor or between them, if you have the time for a workout just do it,” added Fagerah. “At the end of the day, it is better than doing nothing.”
Saudi personal trainer and co-founder of Swish bootcamp, Sohaib Mubarak, 29, said it was important to choose the right kind of fitness regime. “When you haven’t had anything to drink or eat your body is low in fuel and dehydrated. Therefore, performing high-intensity training would harm your body and your health.
“Also, studies show that the difference in results is insignificant between exercising in a fasted or a fed state,” he added. 
Mubarak recommended low-intensity cardio for a short period of time. “That is 60 percent to 70 percent of maximum heart rate. By doing that you won’t sweat much and get dehydrated.”
He said people often wrongly related not eating to weight loss, when infact they should focus more on maintaining a healthy lifestyle rather than watching the weighing scales.
“In my opinion Ramadan is like any other month, because losing weight and having a good shape is about changing your eating habits and lifestyle for life not only for one month. One month is not enough to create a tremendous transformation. It’s all about consistency,” Mubarak told Arab News.
Saudi fitness trainer and owner of B. Bros gym, Rayan Bashawri, 27, stressed the importance of listening to the body’s needs and capabilities.
“So many studies have been done about fasted training or training on an empty stomach, and it shows different thoughts depending on what kind of athlete you are or what kind of sport you are doing.
“But my opinion is to listen to your body and do what feels right for you. It’s not healthier to do fasted training but it’s not bad for you either. You can reach your goal either way,” he told Arab News.
The number of people taking out gym subscriptions often shoots up during Ramadan.
Bashawri said: “Right after Ramadan is the time when people travel, and it’s a beach season as well, so obviously everyone wants to look good. The ages of those hitting the gym at this time of the year are from 18-30.”
Fasting was a great opportunity to lose weight, but Bashawri noted that staying up late and sleeping during the day was not ideal. He also warned people not to over-exert themselves if exercising during fasting as it could cause injury and dehydration.