By Samir Abu Rumman, PhD,
It is clear for those who follow the affairs of Hajj (pilgrimage) over decades, the distinctive and qualitative addition in the field of statistics and transparency in information and data. Numbers are present in a way that may be unprecedented in all stages of the Hajj season, imposed by circumstances and developments witnessed by Saudi Arabia, led by Doyof (Guests of) Al Rahman Program within the Vision 2030, which included goals such as “serving more guests of Allah in the best possible way,” “facilitating the hosting of more pilgrims and Umrah performers,” “providing high-quality services,” “enriching the religious and cultural experience of pilgrims and Umrah performers,” and ultimately hosting 30 million pilgrims and Umrah performers by 2030.
Achieving such great goals is not an easy task, which is why various entities from different governments, private, and third sectors have been dedicated to studying and understanding the reality and future of the Guests of the Rahman service through thinking and strategic planning tools. Some of them have had the privilege of contributing and emphasizing the role of information and the importance of numbers in achieving these noble goals.
Hajj has a unique time and place for collecting data and providing information that is rarely found elsewhere. While international survey agencies travel to various countries and peoples (sometimes more than 150 countries), to gather pilgrims’ opinions, Muslims from nearly 100 nationalities travel to the Sacred House of Allah and the Prophet’s Mosque on a journey that encompasses diverse activities that impacts pilgrims in various ways. Additionally, there is the opportunity of waiting times during the Hajj journey, providing ample time to survey the opinions of the Guests of the Rahman, ensuring a high response rate from them and those who are connected to them, as well as the presence of volunteer researchers to collect data and provide information and utilize modern means for that purpose.
Based on this uniqueness, there has been an increased interest in providing statistics, information, and data related to various aspects, including service, knowledge, culture, civilization, and others. Several entities have presented hundreds of research papers, working papers, studies, such as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Hajj and Umrah Research, and what was later presented by the Mathabh office of field studies and annual statistical reports, in addition to what some Tawafah (Hajj service) companies and other related sectors provide. Moreover, dozens of researchers and academics contribute to this field. It is worth mentioning the significant efforts made by the General Authority for Statistics in providing professional and daily updated data, which gained wide popularity among the general public, the media, and official circles through what was called the Statistical Calendar and Hajj Statistics, followed by a special report. They also used various methods to collect data, educate pilgrims and various sectors about the importance of cooperation and response to statistical requirements. Hajj statistics benefit decision-makers and support relevant entities in planning and defining the services provided by public and private sectors to serve the Guests of the Rahman.
The statistical leap provided by the statistics in Hajj represents a qualitative addition that researchers, beneficiaries, and stakeholders in the journey of the Guests of the Rahman look forward to. It serves as a strong and necessary starting point for upcoming years of development and advances in the information environment to achieve the great goal of allowing the largest possible number of Muslims from all over the world to perform this great duty, and to extend the reward to everyone who contributes to achieving this goal, even if by simply answering a statistical question, providing information, or utilizing it.
Samir Abu-Rumman, PhD, is a visiting research scholar at Princeton University, USA, with extensive years of experience in research, education, and development in different countries. He is the supervisor of “World of Opinions” in Kuwait, Jordan, and the U.S., has led and supervised different regional and global research projects for organizations such as the World Values Survey and Arab Barometer for Princeton University.