Muslim Dopers: Some Questions About The Hajj

I’m not sure about that.

As long as appearances were kept, the Saudis could have pleaded good faith (‘they had converted to Islam for all we know’).

That seems to me a bit more acceptable than allowing non-Muslims in Mecca, which is a huge no-no. But I admit I’m not familiar with the details of this event, and the point seems to be moot anyway.

My now-deceased grandpa actually visited Mecca, as a non-Muslim, at some point around the early '80s.

He was working in Saudi Arabia at the time. According to him- back then at least- there was a common opinion that the ban on non-Muslims entering the whole city of Mecca was a bit over the top, and it should only be taken really seriously during the Hajj and for the specific sacred sites visited during the pilgrimage. They didn’t see why anyone should be restricted from visiting the markets, restaurants and shopping centres, which were popular with locals in the off season. A shopping centre’s a shopping centre; it’s not all that sacred.

He was actually taken to visit the city by some work friends, who cheerfully told him that if a packed landrover full of Saudi men drove up to the checkpoint and stuck a handful of ID’s out of the window, no-one would bother to check, and if he was dressed right it was unlikely anyone would notice him. Inside the city there were enough people from different backgrounds that no-one would question him, and he spoke a decent level of Arabic anyway. He was also very familiar with Islam by that point- in fact he used to keep Ramadan when I was a kid- so if he did get stopped he could maybe have passed as a convert, though he didn’t ever convert.

His friends did leave him in a hotel while they visited some religious sites, so he wasn’t left free to wander around, but they happily took him shopping and out to restaurants. I’ve seen pictures of him there with his group of friends, and he used to have a photo of the Kaaba on the wall, which he assured me he bought at a market there.

He always did get a kick out of breaking rules…

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of differing opinions:

So if I’m reading that right (Makkah is Mecca) then the actual religious prohibition is against entering the holy sites, and the prohibition over all of Mecca is simply a convenient precaution by the Saudi government to ensure that non-Muslims don’t get near and enter sites they should not?

Given the level of traffic into Mecca - presumably all year around, as well as Hajj - it would seem filtering and verifying the crowds outside the city more easily ensures compliance with the strict religious prohibitions.

What it indicates is that the major Sunni imams never agreed on an answer; some ruled that non-Muslims are too impure to enter those cities, while eg Hanifa seems to be saying they may enter even the holy sites in Mecca so long as they are not doing so for the purpose

of hajj or umrah.

As for the Saudis, they have been officially allied with the Wahhabi movement for hundreds of years, though lately that seems to be cracking.

Crowds/random tourists who would fuck about in the mosque are a super serious consideration in any case, of course. Even today pilgrims manage to die and there have occasionally been major incidents.