Ebrahim Moosa - Radio Islam International | 03 Muharram 1440/13 September 2018
What are the chances that the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics embraces Islam, goes for Hajj – and the entire story goes undetected by the world’s mass media?
Possibilities, you’d say, are next to none. The elation of Muslims and the shock of Christians would make trending news everywhere, and the media and commentators will be having a field day.
Yet, the great unlikelihood of this occurring has not prevented, in recent weeks, a video going viral on social media that purports to authoritatively show the former Catholic Pope pelting the Jamarat at this year’s Hajj.
The brief clip shows a white-haired, ihram-clad man surrounded by Saudi officers and officials as he carries out the rite of ramy.
“The former Pope of the Roman Catholic Church has embraced Islam,” one of the accompanying messages read. “Invited by the Saudi government to perform Hajj at Mecca, he was seen performing the ceremony of ‘Stoning the Devil’ at Jamarat. The Saudi police are seen helping him.”
“It is alleged that he resigned immediately after discovering that Islam is the true religion of God,” another viral message adds.
There is arguably a wee degree of potential semblance in the appearance of the said figure and the former pontiff Benedict XVI who resigned from the papacy in 2013.
Yet, as I suspected, all likenesses stop there.
Several fact checkers have now confirmed my hunch that the ‘mysterious’ pelter is none other than the Saudi governor of Makkatul Mukarammah, Prince Khalid Al Faisal.
France24 tracked the credit on the image, which reads: "Instgram al _ saud _" to an Instagram page which describes itself a fan page of the Saudi royal family.
That was an instant giveaway.
Even more telling was the accompanying Arabic caption which clearly identified the pelter as Prince Khalid and went on to identify some of the personalities that accompanied him.
A scroll through the account also features several other photos and videos from the Hajj period that leave no doubt that the man in ihram is none other than the governor of Makkah.
Benedict XVI served as Pope and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2005 until his resignation in 2013. In abdicating the papacy, he cited a "lack of strength of mind and body" due to his advanced age. In choosing to relinquish the position, Benedict became the first pontiff in 600 years to abdicate the papacy by his own initiative.
Far from being in Mina on the days of Hajj, Benedict was probably cloistered in his retirement monastery called Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican City.
The pelting story for starters smelt quite farfetched. But, we should consider that the potential for anyone, including a pope, being granted Hidayah regardless is still well within the realm of possibility.
“And whomsoever Allah wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islam” (Qur’aan 6:125)