“While we are in the Grand Mosque, we come to communicate with our Lord, praise be to God!” Sondos Al-Madam rejoices. However, this 35-year-old French nurse does not hide her frustration when she began the great pilgrimage to Mecca (Saudi Arabia), the Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam.
The young woman was thrilled with the idea of experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime mandatory spiritual process for any Muslim believer who has material and material ability. The enthusiasm in 2022, according to the Saudi authorities, is shared by one million pilgrims, including 850,000 foreigners whose arrival was not authorized in 2020 and 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the mandatory passage through an online platform, Motawif.com.sa, for pilgrims from Europe, the Americas and Australia, caused a lot of tension and bewilderment, especially since this website was launched only months before the start of the Hajj. Checkout from countless pre-approved travel agencies, for the benefit of a Dubai-based company that sells turnkey stays.
The result according to several sources: The number of travelers from France this year, for some concerned, is well below the authorized quota of 9,200. And pilgrims who believed that the new system would make it possible to stop the continuous increase in Hajj prices were paid.
“It’s a disappointment: it’s the same price as the agencies, it’s even more expensive for much less”, Sundus al-Madam, who spends three weeks in the holy sites with her husband and mother-in-law for more than 8000 euros per person, while some “parcels” can reach 13,000 euros per pilgrim, regrets. The new pilgrimage run by the Mutawaf has been the subject of many criticisms on social media, indicating a clear lack of support, even “Chaos” in the field.
The cost of fuel, unfavorable exchange rates, and investments in infrastructure passed on to pilgrims: the reasons for the high prices in recent years are manifold. This increase is of particular concern to “land services”, particularly while staying in Mina, a city famous for its tents. “Bamboo kick here”, Says blogger Fatih Kimush (The Treasure), who specializes in Islamic economics.
very dear sheep
Whether they go to Mecca or not, Muslims will experience another event in the coming days: the Great Eid, starting on Saturday 9 July. The “Great Feast” (or “Feast of the Sacrifice”, Eid al-Adha) commemorates Abraham’s submission to God, willing to sacrifice his son Ishmael – not Isaac as in the Bible – so that he might be replaced by a lamb at his most extreme.
But this year, the price of the famous beast that every Muslim family was called upon to sacrifice seems to have reached new heights. Mutton or lamb, slaughtered according to a certain ritual and in certified slaughterhouses, sells for between €250 and €300 at the butcher – a little less if it is bought live. Prices can go up to 400 euros in some large cities, while remaining less than 200 euros in preferred lands for raising sheep (especially the south of France).
While the price of sheep is a usual concern — in some countries, worshipers owe one to buy one for Eid — the spike has made headlines this year, from halal butchers to mosques. In question, the inflationary context and the rise in prices of raw materials due to the war in Ukraine … even if the sheep consumed in France are almost of Ukrainian origin.
“With energy prices rising, it has become more expensive for us to transport and slaughter animals: so we had to raise our prices a little bit, He gets acquainted with the director of a slaughterhouse in the Poitiers region. Not to mention the increase in prices paid to breeders who have more costs than before. » The fact that Eid falls on a weekend could also contribute to this dynamic, as slaughterhouses charge more for their services.
Would fewer Muslims buy a whole sheep in France, where about 100,000 are usually sacrificed during the great feast? The price hike encourages new uses, such as selling at a discount on the Leboncoin site or even “proxy” sacrifice, which is very common now.
A group of NGOs offer users to perform the sacrifice on their behalf, sometimes sending them a video of the massacre in question. The animal is then presented to a family in need, from Niger to Bangladesh via Madagascar. This way the process is less expensive (between 100 and 170 euros) while respecting the spirit of the holiday. Traditionally, in fact, sheep to be sacrificed must be shared at least two-thirds.
Pilgrims without a guardian
In 2021, Saudi Arabia abolished the requirement for women to participate in the Hajj with a man – on the condition that they go there in a group. Previously, those under the age of 45 had to be accompanied by a male “guardian”, such as a brother, father or husband. Last year, Saudi women were the first to take advantage of this mandate, as foreign pilgrims were unable to reach Islam’s holy sites due to anti-Covid measures.
This opening is part of the developments promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who since 2017 has launched several measures aimed at modernizing the image of the kingdom, known for conveying a hard-line reading of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism. But these reforms were overshadowed by a relentless crackdown on critics of power, including many feminist activists.
The time of Islamic unity
The Great Pilgrimage to the Holy Places of Islam in Saudi Arabia It remains an important factor of unity and exchanges among Muslims around the world. For the mystics, the journey symbolically constitutes the journey towards divine unity.
The day of prayer and supplication on Mount Arafat is the time for the Hajj Fort. On this mountain, the Prophet of Islam Muhammad delivered his last sermon, fourteen centuries ago, according to Islamic tradition.
After sunset, pilgrims flock back to the Muzdalifah plain to prepare for the day after Eid al-Adha. Which is the sacrifice of an animal in memory of Abraham. The latter had nearly sacrificed his son Ishmael (Isaac in the Judeo-Christian tradition) before the angel Gabriel sacrificed a sheep in his stead.
Then the faithful devote themselves to throwing the Jamarat representing Satan in Mina, 8 kilometers from Muzdalifah. Seven stones should be thrown on the first day on the large stele and twenty-one on the next or next day on three other stele (large, medium, small).
The Hajj ends with the wrapping around the Kaaba, A cube building rises in the middle of the Holy Mosque. Her that Muslims all over the world turn to prayer.