Helping the elderly complete haj through all means possible

Sofea Chok Suat Ling

MAKKAH: Elderly and disabled pilgrims here in the Holy Land get one-on-one attention and assistance during the crucial Masyair phase of the haj through Tabung Haji's (TH) Elderly Pilgrims Programme. Tabung Haji (TH) counselling manager Rashidah Ahmad said 50 pilgrims have been selected for the programme, which is in its 14th year. "This is part of TH's efforts to ensure pilgrims get to participate in the pinnacle of haj, specifically wukuf in Arafah, through all means possible. "The pilgrims who qualify for this programme do not have a relative to help them, or cannot care for themselves. "We get a list of pilgrims from the maktab. The medical team will have a list of recommendations, and elderly pilgrims can request to be in the programme, too. "We have interviews with the candidates before deciding who qualifies," Rashidah told Malaysian media at TH headquarters Abraj Al-Janadriyah.

Participants of TH's Elderly Pilgrims Programme. Photo by Sofea Chok Suat Ling

Masyair refers to the massive movement of pilgrims from Makkah to Arafah for wukuf, and then onwards to Muzdalifah, and Mina. The Elderly Pilgrims Programme focuses on wukuf as failure to be present in Arafah on the 9th of Zulhijjah will invalidate a pilgrim's haj. Rashidah said the performance of the other rituals - the stoning ritual in Mina, and tawaf and saie within the Grand Mosque complex - for participants under the programme would be delegated to others. She said candidates for the programme were shortlisted via interviews conducted by medical, religious and counselling representatives. They are assessed based on their cognitive and physical capacity, and ability to manage themselves. Rashidah said the pilgrims were collected at their maktabs and transferred to Abraj Al-Janadriyah a day before the start of Masyair where they would stay until departing for Arafah.

Participants of TH's Elderly Pilgrims Programme. Photo by Sofea Chok Suat Ling

"At Arafah, we have separate tents for these pilgrims and specialised activities, including prayers, Quran recitation, zikir and light exercises." She added that 54 TH personnel would be involved in the care of programme participants. "The oldest partcipant this year is 80. We also have two who are blind and two physically handicapped." Upon the completion of their haj, the pilgrims would be sent back to their respective maktab. "At the Counselling Unit, we hope that by providing special care to elderly pilgrims, they will stay healthy and complete their haj," she said. Azizun Mat Ali, 38, who is visually impaired, said he felt relieved to be selected for the programme. His elderly mother, Meriam Che Osman, also qualified. Both mother and son are from Arau, Perlis. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd