How Urdu became a major Hajj language in 2019

How Urdu became a major Hajj language in 2019
In this file photo, Muslim pilgrims speak to an Urdu translator in Makkah during Hajj on Aug. 17, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 12 August 2019

How Urdu became a major Hajj language in 2019

How Urdu became a major Hajj language in 2019
  • The annual Muslim ritual is the most culturally diverse religious event in the world
  • Urdu is one of the top languages used to facilitate pilgrims in Saudi Arabia

LAHORE: The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah constitutes the world’s largest multicultural religious event, posing a significant challenge to the authorities in Saudi Arabia who are always trying to find innovative ways to make the spiritual journey of pilgrims as pleasant as possible.
The Kingdom deployed hundreds of youthful individuals who spoke different languages to assist people from various parts of the world at its airports in Makkah and Madinah this year. It also used mobile applications that could be operated by those performing Hajj in their own language.
Given the composition of pilgrims arriving from different countries, Urdu acquired tremendous significance at the annual Islamic event.
Pakistani nationals usually constitute the third largest group – after Saudis and Indonesians – participating in the event. This year alone 200,000 of them went to the Kingdom to attend the ritual.
Urdu is also accessible to many pilgrims from India who do not understand English or other Hajj languages used to manage the incoming traffic of devout Muslims.
In view of this fact, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry launched a Twitter service to answer pilgrims’ basic questions in Urdu, along with 12 other languages. The service began with hundreds of tweets accompanied by the Arabic hashtag #Your_Hajj_in_your_Own_Language.
The Kingdom also launched the Arafat Sermon app, which offered live translation of the Hajj sermon in different languages, including Urdu.
The Hajj authorities also introduced two interactive apps that could be easily operated by speakers of Urdu language to help pilgrims, with a range of services on smart devices including help in finding emergency service centers, holy sites, currency exchanges, restaurants and accommodation.
For its part, Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry also tasked nearly 4,800 Pakistanis, including 88 women, to provide guidance, awareness and emergency services in Urdu to Hajj pilgrims from the country.
There were also other apps – such as the Mina Locator – designed in Urdu to help pilgrims find their tents and places of accommodation in Makkah and the holy sites of Mina and Arafat.