by Zafar Bangash (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 47, No. 6, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1439)
For the two billion Muslims, it is becoming increasingly difficult to perform Hajj, one of the fundamental pillars of Islam. This is due to both exorbitant prices the Najdi Bedouins charge pilgrims to perform Hajj when it should be completely free, and the arbitrary quota system they have imposed.
The occupiers of the Haramayn (the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah) have imposed an arbitrary quota of 1% on each country. Given that there are approximately two billion Muslims, this means a person must live to an age of 1,000 years to get a chance to perform Hajj!
Let us consider the Qur’anic basis of Hajj. Allah (swt) says in the noble Qur’an that “…pilgrimage to the Bayt [al-Haram] is a duty owed to Allah by all people” (3:97). There is also a condition stipulated in this ayah: a Muslim must have the “means” to perform Hajj (3:97). In another ayah, the Qur’an clarifies that mushriks are prohibited from coming close to the Haram — the sacred House — because they are najis (impure) and the avowed enemies of Allah (9:17).
The “means” relate to financial as well as physical. The performance of this ‘ibadah requires undertaking a long journey away from one’s home, and spending several weeks or even months in the process. If a Muslim does not have the financial wherewithal to perform Hajj, he or she is exempt from it. Obviously, there are expenses along the way. In today’s terms, it would be the cost of airfare (or cost of land transportation including accommodation and food during the journey for those traveling by road).
In the early days of Islam including during the period of al-khilafah al-rashidah, Makkah’s residents provided food, water, and accommodation to pilgrims. The latter were not required to pay for anything since they were the guests of Allah (swt). Unfortunately, Bani Saud have turned Hajj into a money-making racket, despite the billions they have appropriated in stolen oil revenue.
Price gouging is the norm. Further, the Najdi Bedouins have created different classes of Hajj: five or even seven-star Hajj. Those with money can have the most luxurious accommodation in hotels and even pray there. Sound from the Haram is piped into the hotel where they can join in the five daily prayers without mixing with the masses on the Haram floor. Saudi court preachers have issued fatwas declaring such hotels as part of the Haram!
This defeats the very purpose of Hajj where Muslims from all over the world congregate in one of the biggest gatherings of humanity to get to know each other. Hajj is also a great leveler obliterating distinctions of class, wealth, or position. Ihram, the two pieces of unstitched cloth that pilgrims don is designed to eliminate distinction between the rich and poor.
While the Saudis and their court preachers have not been able to issue a fatwa to discard ihram for Hajj, they have introduced other deviations such as high-priced hotels and lavish meals. People with money would hardly feel the difference between performing Hajj and going on a holiday in Las Vegas or the French Riviera (nastaghfir-allah). Is this what the purpose of Hajj is or is this how the noble Messenger (pbuh) performed Hajj?
The Saudis have introduced other innovations (bid‘ahs) as well. Hajj is now restricted to 10–15 days and then the pilgrims are told to leave. The Qur’an declares, “Hajj is in the well-known months” (2:197).
Bani Saud have not only restricted Hajj to a few days, contrary to the teachings of the noble Qur’an, they have also reduced it to a set of rituals prohibiting Muslims from realizing or fulfilling the higher purpose of Hajj. The gathering of Muslims from all over the world is meant to enable them to discuss the serious issues confronting the Ummah and find solutions to these problems. Instead, pilgrims are prohibited from getting to know their brethren from other parts of the world.
They are parceled out according to nationality. Interaction is restricted lest Muslims become aware of the plight of fellow Muslims and start to think of solutions for their problems.
Discussion of such burning issues as the occupation of Muslims lands by the imperialists and Zionists, for instance, is expressly forbidden. Bringing up the continued occupation of Palestine, Kashmir, and Afghanistan or the Saudi war on Yemen are forbidden topics. Perish the thought if anyone were to dare raise the issue of the Najdi Bedouins’ illegal occupation of the Haramayn or their opulent lifestyle. They would soon find themselves at the chopping bloc and without a head.
So how did Muslims arrive at this sorry state and what can be done to rectify this intolerable situation? To understand the problem we must go to its root.
Bani Saud were installed by British colonialists nearly 100 years ago; they had their own agenda. Today, the Americans and Zionists have supplanted the British. Their agenda remains the same: to divest Hajj of its Qur’anic content. Bani Saud are happy to oblige, for their own survival as well as to serve their foreign masters’ designs to be allowed to stay in power! In his crude way, Donald Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron, “They [Saudi rulers] wouldn’t be there except for the United States. They wouldn’t last a week. We are protecting them…” Can it get any more blatant than that?
What does the noble Qur’an say about Hajj? “Hence, [O Prophet,] proclaim to all the people the [duty of] pilgrimage: they will come to you on foot and on every [kind of] fast mount, coming from every faraway point [on earth], so that they might experience much that shall be of benefit to them, and that they might extol the name of Allah on the days appointed [for sacrifice]…” (22:27).
Allah (swt) has extended an open invitation to all mankind to come to the House of Allah for Hajj. There is no requirement of visa or other man-made impediments. How can there be when the issue is the performance of one’s obligations required by Islam?
Yet surrendering to this un-Islamic practice of obtaining a visa to perform Hajj, Muslims have accepted the supremacy of the nation-state structure and occupation of the Arabian Peninsula by Bani Saud, and set aside the commands of Allah, even if inadvertently. This is not only a mega-bid‘ah that amounts to shirk — associating partners with Allah in power and authority — it is also the gravest of sins a person can commit (31:13).
Little or no attention is paid to the fact that the holy land and in particular the Hijaz, is not the private property of a family or clan. The Haramayn are the common heritage of the entire Muslim Ummah, hence the responsibility to protect them (Makkah and Madinah) also falls on the Muslims. This includes administration of the two holy cities that cannot be left in the hands of an incompetent, extremely arrogant, and morally bankrupt family that has illegally occupied the holy land.
Saudi occupation of the Haramayn actually means its annexation by the imperialists and Zionists. After all, Bani Saud are their agents. They no longer even try to hide this fact. This explains why there is little peace or security in a place that Allah (swt) has designated as a sanctuary (2:125–126).
Muslims must seriously consider how they can rectify this situation by bringing the Hajj back to its original divine purpose that is open to all people as commanded by Allah (swt).
Muslims, especially those endowed with knowledge and understanding, must seriously reflect on how Islamic practices have been emptied out of their true meaning and turned into meaningless rituals. If the Muslim world is suffering so much today, it is primarily because Muslims have abandoned their responsibility toward Allah (swt) and His Messenger (pbuh) and have neglected the true spirit of Hajj. It is time the committed Muslims take this responsibility seriously and bring an end to Bani Saud’s illegal occupation of the Haramayn and the Arabian Peninsula. So long as this immoral, greedy, and cruel family is in control of the most sacred places of Islam, Muslims are unlikely to see an end to their misery and suffering.