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Is Life Insurance A Matter Of Faith?

Jan 9, 2008
Life insurance takes into account, and pays out for, accidental death including that of the types that occur when a crowd surges and panics, resulting in death from crushing, choking and trampling.

This is occasionally seen at places like football stadiums when a forward surge has resulted in the people at the front who were hemmed in by fencing being crushed to death. This tragic occurrence has been addressed in the UK to stop this from happening and there have been no new cases in the press since.

However, the same type of incidents are still happening and many occur on religious pilgrimages in foreign countries when hundreds of thousands of people mass together for annual prayers.

Only recently hundreds of people, including women and children, were reportedly killed when a 1500 foot long bridge collapsed over a canyon. The bridge was carrying around 400 pilgrims on their way to a religious ceremony in Nepal when it gave way, tipping all the travellers into the gorge, with the river below sweeping them away to their deaths.

Record numbers of lives have been lost in the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The peak of this annual tragedy was in 1990 when 1400 people died in the mass panic and crushing. Although in smaller numbers, deaths have occurred every year in the same manner.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia bought in Western engineers to help with the problem and since new measures have been implemented, they are very happy to report that in the pilgrimage immediately following, there was no loss of life.

Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lives to show their obedience to Muhammed. Hence, every year, during the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar, a five day hajj pilgrimage to the Grand Mosque for prayers brings 3 million visitors from hundreds of countries into a very small area.

During the next five days, they will travel to the Grand Mosque for prayers, they will visit a monument in the hope of touching the place where Muhammed is said to have preached and they will visit Muzdalifah, a valley outside Mina, several kilometres from Mecca for the ritual stoning of three pillars. The stoning is to represent the stoning of the temptations of the devil and has a set pattern to it.

Studies have shown that, given the average size of a human being, 6 people is the maximum density possible in one square meter. Due to the crowds at Mecca at this time of year, 10 people are trying to cram into the same space putting pressure equal to one ton on each and every person.

Studies reveal that in the last day of the pilgrimage after midday prayers, Muslims make their way to the three pillars for the last of the stoning rituals. After this event they begin to make their way home. They are all tired, emotions are running high from their once in a lifetime trip and the sun is at its fiercest.

This is the optimum time for a disaster to occur and exactly why engineers have been brought in to fix the problem. Their difficulties were compounded by the fact that the pilgrims collectively spoke dozens of different languages and many of them were illiterate making any written instructions virtually impossible.

A new bridge to ease the stoning ritual and a one way traffic flow system was put in place with instructional video footage shown to the pilgrims at their camp. This was all it took to alleviate the problem and no casualties were reported after these measures were in place.

Shariah Law of the Muslims does not permit life insurance by Western standards and neither do they take out Western style mortgages. They also do not see dying during a pilgrimage as much of a problem as it fast tracks you into heaven.

However, they do have their own banking system, developed in an entirely different way to what you and I know and they also have Takaful insurance, which is similar to life insurance in that it will pay for any outstanding finances owed on the event of death.

So, hopefully the rest of the world will take notice of the changes that Saudi Arabia have made to the way pilgrimages are managed to allow for religious rituals to take place without the tragic loss of lives.
About the Author
Insurance expert Catherine Harvey looks at the Muslim pilgrimages and their view on life insurance to cover these events. To find out more please visit http://www.theidol.com/
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