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In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

I saw a similar article come through on my smartphone, and my disbelief prompted me to look up the story:

Iran and Saudi Arabia have failed to resolve a row over the Hajj pilgrimage and Iranian citizens will not travel to Mecca this year, Tehran says.

Iranian Culture Minister Ali Jannati blamed “obstacles raised by the Saudis”. Saudi Arabia blamed “unacceptable” Iranian conditions.

Of course, I do not know the details of the negotiations. And it is no secret that Iran and Saudi Arabia are at odds over larger geopolitical issues in the Middle East. Nevertheless, politics should never get in the way of Hajj.

The Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime journey that every able-bodied Muslim should make to the holy city of Mecca. For every Muslim, it is the trip of a lifetime. Many people save up for their entire lives to make the journey. For me, it was the most powerful spiritual experience I have ever had, and the memories are as fresh as they were back in 2003, when I made the Hajj.

Thus, I understand the likely devastation that the Iranians who were slated this year to make the Hajj feel at this moment. I would feel the exact same way if I was not allowed to visit the holiest place on earth because of, in all reality, a political dispute.

While the comparisons are not equal, it does remind me of when the pagans of Mecca prevented the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from making a minor pilgrimage to Mecca during his life. In fact, the treaty that resulted from this dispute, and its breach by the pagan Meccans, eventually led to the conquest of Mecca by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Again, let me be clear: I am not saying the Saudis are like the Pagan Meccans. What I am saying, however, is that Iran and Saudi Arabia should think about the pilgrims, not politics. They need to sit down again and resolve their differences. We are talking about preventing believers from visiting the House of God. No dispute, no disagreement, no misunderstanding is worth it. Politics should never get in the way of Hajj. I pray the Iranians and Saudis come to their senses.

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