Ciputat, UIN News Online – The pilgrimage journey carried out by the Muslim community in this country since centuries ago was filled with various challenges, starting from the Cholera pandemic which claimed tens of thousands of lives to the colonial government intervening in regulating this activity. This reality needs to be considered by Muslim scholars.

That was the conclusion from the Ushuluddin Faculty (FU) webinar with the topic of “Haji dan Pandemi: Perspektif Sejarah dan Antropologi” delivered by the Ushuluddin Faculty lecturer Dadi Darmadi, Tuesday (08/11/2020).

Dadi said that the pilgrimage in the 18th to early 20th centuries required an extraordinary effort. Apart from high fares and long-distance and journeys, the pilgrims are faced with threats of crime and disease outbreaks.

“They need to travel from their hometown to a special port where cross-country ships were anchored. Among them are Banten, Cirebon and Surabaya,” he said.

The threat of criminality, he continued, also overshadowed the pilgrims, causing them to run out of supplies and be stranded in distant lands. However, a very serious threat is disease and various health risks.

Various records of European explorers describe the poor health condition of the pilgrims during the pilgrimage. Lady Isabel Burton (1831-1896 AD, a European writer and explorer as well as the wife of British diplomat Sir Richard Francis Burton) reported the poor health conditions of the pilgrims along their journey.

“People of all different races were packaged like sardines; we spent the whole day treating dysentery and fever, seasickness, sore feet, worms and various other diseases. Those who died did not die from disease. They died from pest and misery,” said Isabel, as quoted by Dadi.

One of the pandemics that pose a major threat to pilgrims is cholera. Intestinal infection due to bacterial attack due to unhealthy environment, said Dadi, has become one of the diseases that killed thousands of pilgrims.

The cholera pandemic, said Dadi, had occurred repeatedly, claiming thousands of lives. Sanitation throughout the journey and the Indian region as a transit area for pilgrims makes them an easy target for this infection. Cholera spread throughout the Middle East and was carried to Russia, Europe, Africa and North America. Quoting the historians and the authority’s archives at that time, the cholera pandemic claimed the life of 30.000 from around 90.000 pilgrims.

The large number of pilgrims who became victims as well as intermediaries for the spread of disease to other communities, he said, encouraged Western imperialists including the Dutch East Indies Colonial Government to intervene in the hajj management.

“This cholera outbreak occurred no less than 27 times and claimed many victims. This is what makes European imperialist intervene the hajj management,” he said.

This intervention, he said, encouraged the Dutch East Indies colonial government to issue a strict policy on the hajj but later adopted and developed it until today. Among them are restrictions on the number of pilgrims according to the capacity of transportation facilities, Hajj trips guarantee, vaccinations, to quarantine in certain areas such as Onrust Island after they return to Indonesia.

Such involvement, he continued, gave exception to the general opinion that colonial policy was neutral on religion. “In the case of the hajj pilgrimage, looking at their records, the colonial government at that time was in fact always paying attention and supervising the hajj,” he explained.

It is recorded that the Dutch East Indies Colonial Government built the first pilgrimage consulate in Jeddah. In addition, this government also established a bank for the benefit of the homeland’s pilgrims, namely the Saudi Hollandi Bank. The bank, which was established in 1926 as a branch of the Netherlands Trading Society, was established to serve pilgrims in the country. Now, the bank has transformed itself into Alawwal Bank with total assets estimated at US $ 28 billion.

Referring to the anthropological perspective of various pilgrimage journeys archives, Dadi saw the importance of the pilgrimage journey to be given special management, especially during the pandemic era. The high interest of the Muslim community and the limited quota of Hajj, even the policy of closing Haramayn land in the pandemic era needs to be balanced with the wise attitude and deep thought of Islamic scholars in producing theological solutions for its implementation. (usa/zm)

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