Performance of Hajj is one of the most cherished ambitions of every Muslim, at least once in a lifetime. Even sinners long to visit the House of Allah in Makkah and offer their salutations to the noble Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in Madinah. This is done in hopes of forgiveness before they leave this dunya.
The Qur’an offers exemption for those who are unable to do so. This can include lack of financial resources or poor health. The manner in which Bani Saud have managed, or mismanaged, Hajj and how its resources are squandered in ways contrary to the teachings of Islam have led to calls to boycott the annual pilgrimage. The boycott calls have come not from wild-eyed revolutionaries but from respected scholars in the Muslim world.
The most prominent Muslim scholar to speak on the issue of Hajj is Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Born in Egypt, Shaykh al-Qaradawi currently resides in Doha, Qatar. He has millions of followers in the Arabic speaking world through his program on al-Jazeera Arabic and internet postings.
Exactly a year ago (August 2018), Shaykh al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa that said in part, “Seeing Muslims feeding the hungry, treating the sick, and sheltering the homeless are better viewed by Allah (swt) than spending money on the Hajj and Umrah [the lesser pilgrimage] every year.”
There was a clear hint about the exorbitant prices the Saudis charge for Hajj. Some commentators call it gouging; others have said that Hajj has been turned into an extravaganza devoid of purpose and meaning. Many Muslims are also upset with the arbitrary manner in which the Saudi regime denies visas to pilgrims from countries with which it has political and/or ideological differences.
Calls for boycott have grown louder and spread for a variety of reasons. The de facto ruler Muhammad bin Salman’s erratic behavior and the manner in which he has murdered tens of thousands of innocent civilians including children in Yemen has caused much anguish. His brutal persecution of leading ‘ulama’ in the Kingdom as well as ongoing hostilities against Islamic Iran at the behest of his imperialist and Zionist masters are other reasons for displeasure.
In April, Libya’s Grand Mufti al-Sadiq al-Ghariyani declared that repeating Hajj or ‘Um-rah is “an act of sin rather than a good deed.” This could be interpreted as discouraging Muslims from going for Hajj repeatedly thus depriving others of the opportunity to perform Hajj.
But there is no ambiguity in last June’s statement of a senior official with Tunisia’s Union of Imams. He called for Hajj boycott, saying Saudi income from Hajj “is used to kill and displace people,” as in Yemen, instead of helping the world’s impoverished Muslims. Clearly, the suffering of poor Yemenis at the hands of Saudi invaders has aroused great concern among many sincere Muslims.
The Saudi regime rakes in billions of dollars annually in pilgrimage fees (Hajj and ‘Umrah). This income amounts to about one-fifth of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product. These are no mean sums.
This also explains why the Saudi regime has created different classes of Hajj. It touts seven-star Hajj where pilgrims are accommodated in luxury hotels with lavish meals and other amenities while the majority of pilgrims languish in Saudi Arabia’s oppressive heat.
Far from Hajj being a leveler of distinctions (every male pilgrim is required to don two pieces of unstitched cloth), the Saudis have deliberately set out to create different classes all in their ceaseless effort to make more money.
Sami Angawi, founder of the Hajj Research Center commenting on the regime’s inexorable construction drive destroying Islam’s heritage sites, said, “They are turning the holy sanctuary into a machine, a city that has no identity, no heritage, no culture, and no natural environment” (foreignpolicy.com). Muslims need to reflect on and revive the true spirit of Hajj.