By Annisa Essack
Saudi Arabia has implemented several positive changes within the kingdom to ensure that the number of pilgrims for the Hajj and Umrah increase over the next few years. In fact, the target number is set at 10 million pilgrims by the year 2030.
The timings of the annual religious pilgrimage shift each year as it is based on the lunar calendar. Furthermore, the event involves around 20-30 hours outdoors over a period of 5 to 10 days.
With climate change, parts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, including the holy sites in Makkah and Medina could become uninhabitable before the end of the century.
Researchers at MIT in California say rising global temperatures could push up heat and humidity in the region, especially in the summer months which would leave pilgrims facing “extreme danger” to their health.
As climate change brings with it extreme heat and rain variations, Elfatih Eltahir, the civil and environmental engineer who led the research, highlights the risks that are lurking. According to the study, published in the journal Geophysical Review Letters, the risks could be greater when the hajj takes place again from 2047 to 2052 and from 2079 to 2086. As the researchers point out, global warming is inevitable but the situation will be more severe if nothing is done.
With the threat of catastrophic global warming is becoming more evident each year, a call is being made for the Muslim communities, globally, to take action before it is too late. Not taking heed to the clarion call may in future mean that our future generations will no longer be able to perform the sacred obligation of Hajj or Umrah.
Allah calls on us in the Noble Quran to recognise our own contribution to the crisis:
Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men’s hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return. (Quran 30:41)
Allah further alerts us to our responsibility on Earth as He says in the Quran:
“Then We appointed you viceroys in the earth after them, that We might see how ye behave”(Quran 10:14). The behaviour of those who cause corruption on earth is well noted: “And when he turneth away (from thee) his effort in the land is to make mischief therein and to destroy the crops and the cattle; and Allah loveth not mischief” (Quran 2:205).
And He further warns us to adhere to that responsibility:
"Who made all things good which He created” (32:7). And we are commanded to keep it that way: “Do no mischief on the Earth after it hath been set in order” (7:56).
So, is it not time for us to begin the process of change in ourselves to undo the harm we have perpetrated on the Earth?