Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh has said Thursday’s stampede that killed 717 people at the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca was beyond human control.
The country’s most senior cleric told the interior minister, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, that he was not to blame for the tragedy.
Iran and several other countries have criticized Saudi authorities for the way they handled safety issues.
It was the deadliest incident to occur during the pilgrimage in 25 years.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has ordered a safety review.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh was visited by the crown prince, who is also deputy prime minister and chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, on September 25, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
“You are not responsible for what happened,” the grand mufti said, the SPA reported.
“As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable.”
Iran has so far reported the greatest number of deaths among foreign nationals – 131.
Voices from other countries are also demanding answers from the Saudis, and the king’s promise of an investigation and review has done little to still the clamor for greater accountability.
The crush occurred on September 24 as two million pilgrims were taking part in the Hajj’s last major rite.
The pilgrims throw seven stones at pillars called Jamarat, which stand at the place where Satan is believed to have tempted the Prophet Abraham.
With temperatures around 46C, two massive lines of pilgrims converged on each other at right angles at an intersection close to the five-storey Jamarat Bridge in Mina, a large valley about 3 miles from Mecca.
It is also the second disaster to strike in two weeks, after a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 109 people.