Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat-Sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice will train around one hundred of its members and members of other government religious bodies on how to deal with the different doctrines and schools of jurisprudential thought of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
Preparations are underway for the program by the Higher Institution of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice and will be held during the [current] Islamic month of Shawwal in the cities of Mecca and Medina. The session will be repeated until the beginning of the pilgrimage season.
Dr. Ahmed al Farih, the head of Commission’s Higher Institution for academic development told Asharq Al-Awsat that the course aims to improve the way the religious police deal with pilgrims performing either the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages.
“The idea came about as a result of the different groups that come to the country who have different customs and traditions, and perhaps come from different schools of jurisprudential thought,” explained al Farih. He stressed that the situation of a visitor is different to that of a Saudi resident in the sense that a resident must respect the customs, traditions and doctrines of the country in which he resides.
Al Farih added, “Hajj and Umrah pilgrims must be dealt with in a different way,” pointing out that this course focuses on how to deal with a pilgrim who commits a violation. “At this point, one must stop and think and understand that the situation of the Hajj or Umrah pilgrim is different and that they are visitors and perhaps unaware of the nature of this country, its customs and traditions and banned practices.” He pointed out that the institute will use more than one course instructor from the month of Shawwal until the pilgrimage season.
On his part, Dr. Khaled al Shamrani, dean of the Higher Institution at the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Institute has offered other training courses in various regions in Saudi Arabia.
Dr al Shamrani explained that training courses for religious police cover nine subjects in three months. The Commission intends to offer the course in six new regions in the next semester. He added that the course that is currently being prepared aimed at pilgrims will only be offered in Mecca and Medina.
According to a copy of a report received by Asharq Al-Awsat, a large number of directors and leading figures of the Commission have joined the institute.
The ‘Religious Police Preparatory Course,’ which aims at developing the knowledge and capabilities of Commission personnel in accordance with today’s needs and the changing nature of society was conducted in four places: Riyadh, Mecca, the Eastern Province and Tabuk. In the second semester, the course was conducted in six regions: Riyadh, Mecca (Jeddah), Medina, Asir, Jazan and Hail. The course is expected to be held this year in other areas that include Al Qasim, Al Jawf, the Northern Borders Region, Al Baha and Najran.
Dr al Shamrani explained that around 107 trainees participated in the course in the first semester and 147 in the second. According to the Higher Institute, 125 trainees are expected to take the course in the next semester, bringing the total number of trainees to 379.
The Higher Institute of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice was established five years ago and is based at the Umm al Qura University in Mecca. Its targets include consolidating [Islamic] legitimate and scientific implementation of jurisprudence, and preparing distinguished scientific cadres that are highly qualified to undertake the Commission’s tasks. The Institute comprises of the religious police department that offers a diploma in the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, a training department that offers specialized, scientific training courses in field of the religious police, and training courses for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice.