MINA: Hajj is obligatory for all Muslims who are physically and financially capable to perform it. Some worshippers with certain illnesses, injuries and disabilities are exempt, but insist on performing it anyway. One invention, that of the German watchmaker, Stephan Farffler, has made it easy for them to do so.
The Saudi government and private philanthropists have made thousands of wheelchairs available to Hajj pilgrims.
Through its social department, the Health Affairs Directorate in Makkah has provided some 819 wheelchairs of different types this year alone, worth SR229,320 (over $61,000). These included self-powered chairs for those who needed them, as well as assistants.
Security forces assigned special paths at camps to the Jamarat for wheelchair users to ensure their safety while performing their Hajj rites. Boy scout volunteers have also exerted great effort in helping these pilgrims and those found exhausted after long treks.
Social contribution supervisor, Mahasen Shuaib, told Arab News: “The program includes many gifts and services to the pilgrims, including clothes and hundreds of thousands of drinking water bottles. These were all made available for all pilgrims in need.”
Saleh Abdussalam, a Hajj service company provider, said that private companies were also providing pilgrims in need with wheelchairs for free.
“They use them to go to Jamarat. We also help in grouping them during non-peak hours or when they like to go out. We have some 150 wheelchairs distributed in our camps.”
In Islam, a disabled pilgrim can ask another pilgrim to do the stoning on their behalf. However, some pilgrims are keen to do it by themselves, despite all the difficulties they can go through.
Last year, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques announced the launch of an application to help elderly and sick pilgrims, who were estimated at about 250,000, electronically book wheelchairs.