Saudi Arabia's Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al Asheikh
Saudi Arabia's Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al Asheikh was seen on video embracing and kissing the forehead of a woman. Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: Sometimes words fail to express human compassion towards a mother who has lost her child. Saudi Arabia's Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdul Latif Al Asheikh, was seen on video embracing and kissing the forehead of a woman, who was grieving the loss of her son. He was killed in the New Zealand Christchurch mosque shooting.

The footage, which is currently circulating on social media, shows the Saudi minister trying to calm the woman pilgrim crying in Makkah.

Attacks on two mosques in New Zealand which left at least 51 people dead on March 15 have sparked horror, revulsion and dismay around the world. The attack is described as the worst mass shooting in modern New Zealand history and as one of the country’s darkest days.

Saudi King Mohammed Bin Salman announced in March, a day after the shooting occurred, that he would be hosting the survivors and families of the Christchurch victims to visit Makkah for Haj.

Sheikh Abdul Latif said on Sunday that bringing the Christchurch pilgrims over to Makkah, was part of the Kingdoms efforts to “confront and defeat terrorism.”

Generally the laws of Islam prevent females and males from embracing, if they are not direct family members, especially when they are performing Haj. Many took to Twitter to criticize Sheikh Abdul Latif for coming into contact with the woman.

Twitter user @AlodidanSalwa tweeted that the Minister owes the public an apology for his behaviour.

“The minister owes an apology to the public for his behavior, even if it was spontaneous and in the moment. What is considered haram is forbidden. He embraced a non-muharam woman. We are waiting for his apology.”

"Is this the Minister of Islamic Affairs of the Unification State?! How has he legalised something for himself that is prohibited in Islam. To hug a woman, when she is someone who should not be hugged by him?" tweeted @1s2s3n4h

While another user, @Jawahir61 tweeted “You can express your feelings without the use of arms to hug.”

"It is not permissible to even look at a women, let alone touch her. God counted on you, God showed us the correct way," tweeted @ar_coffee1.

Others praised and supported Sheikh Abdul Latif for being kind and warm to a crying grieving woman. 

“It may be seen as a human touch but it also symbolizes a new era back to Islamic moderation in Saudi Arabia,” tweeted @FadilaAlJaffal sharing the video.

Another user, @imankais1 tweeted “They criticize a sheikh of religion for an act that reflects the mercy of religion.”

"This is the Islamic religion. I never saw a picture as deep as this one before," tweeted user @A5Nothing

"His actions were inspired by tenderness and compassion," tweeted @majed3571.

Gulf News reached out to the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments in the UAE over the phone, who confirmed that grieving Muslims should generally not embrace different genders if they are not directly related.