Heritage Stewardship – Religious Observance/Climate Change
Muslims must take action on climate crisis to preserve holy pilgrimage
Islamic Relief Worldwide
Published: 22 August, 2019
Following scientific research released today calculating that rising temperatures will make it too dangerous for Muslims to perform hajj, Islamic Relief is calling for urgent action on climate change before it is too late.
In a new article published by the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, scientists show that rising temperatures mean holy pilgrimage to Mecca is likely to become hazardous to human health. Islamic Relief has now come together with the scientists to draw attention to the severity of the crisis.
Every year, millions of Muslims travel to Mecca to perform hajj, one of the major pillars of Islam. Two million pilgrims pray outdoors and walk great distances to perform religious rites in already high temperatures.
Through the analysis of historical climate models and past data, scientists project that should the world’s emissions continue in a business-as-usual scenario, temperatures in Mecca will rise to a level that the human body cannot cope with from as early as next year. But crucially, mitigating climate change through reducing emissions could limit the severity of these temperatures.
Conditions will be particularly severe when hajj falls within the summer months. Because Islam follows a lunar calendar, the dates for hajj change each year, and for five to seven years at a time, the trip falls over summer, when temperatures soar.
Hajj temperatures could rise to dangerous levels from 2020
According to the research, as soon as next year, summer days in Saudi Arabia could surpass the “extreme danger heat-stress threshold.” When skin temperature reaches this level – and combined with a certain level of humidity in the air – sweat no longer evaporates efficiently, so the body can no longer cool itself and overheats.
Pilgrims who travel to hajj are already at risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke which can be fatal, with the elderly and vulnerable most at risk.
Through calculating how climate change is likely to impact conditions in Saudi Arabia in the future, the researchers estimate that heat and humidity levels during hajj will exceed the extreme danger threshold:
:: 6% of the time by 2020;
:: 20% of the time from 2045 and 2053;
:: 42% of the time between 2079 and 2086.
These years are when hajj falls within the summer months making conditions more severe…
It’s now or never to tackle climate crisis
Islamic Relief is urging the Muslim community to step up and take action on this climate emergency by raising the issue with governments and policy makers. In the UK for example, we are calling on Muslims to highlight this devastating finding to their Member of Parliament and call on them to urge immediate action by the government in enacting policies that can reduce climate change…