The director of one of Britain’s leading Islamic centres has described last week’s disaster at the Grand Mosque in Mecca as a “blessing in disguise”.
A freak weather storm led to the collapse of a giant crane at the Mosque – one of the holiest sites in Islam – killing 107 people and injuring hundreds more.
The accident took place on Friday, ahead of the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage when hundreds of thousands of people have flocked to Mecca.
Dr Hojjat Ramzy, an imam and director of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre, said he was “very saddened” to hear about the deaths.
“But in the same breath, I would like to congratulate those people who lost their lives for going straight to heaven without any question,” he said.
“This is great honour from God that every one wishes for but not many will be granted.”
Dr Ramzy said that, according to the Koran, “there is no reward for the accepted hajj except paradise”.
He added: “Many Muslim pilgrims wish to pass away during the journey of hajj and to have honour of being buried in the holy city of Mecca.”
One pilgrim from Egypt, named Mohammed Ibrahim, appeared to confirm Dr Ramzy’s sentiments, telling the AFP news agency: “I wish I had died in the accident, as it happened at a holy hour and in a holy place.”
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered an inquiry into the disaster.
He also visited some of the more than 200 people injured in the accident over the weekend.