Hajj Amid the Pandemic

Developing Just Leadership

Editor

Dhu al-Qa'dah 10, 1441 2020-07-01

Editorials

by Editor (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 5, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1441)

When the coronavirus pandemic erupted, the Saudi regime announced it was suspending umrah (the lesser pilgrimage) to Makkah and Madinah. It also said Muslims should not make any arrangements for Hajj until further notice. Even if the Saudis had not made this announcement, Muslims would have found it virtually impossible to travel to Jeddah—the main entry point for pilgrims—because all flights were cancelled.

Tens of thousands of poor workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines etc. are still stranded in Saudi Arabia without a job and cannot return home because there are no flights. They are living in desperate conditions amid lack of resources. Heart-breaking videos of Pakistani workers stranded in Saudi Arabia have appeared on the Internet pleading for help.

On June 23, the Saudi regime announced it would allow about 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom to perform Hajj this year but no pilgrims from outside. Many would have found it impossible anyway due to air and other travel restrictions.

Given the pandemic related health risks, if this year’s Hajj had been suspended altogether, that would still be understandable. Islam places great emphasis on the protection of human life. Even the 1,000 pilgrims allowed from inside the kingdom are not without risk. After all, the pandemic has taken a heavy toll of life worldwide. Saudi Arabia’s infections have reportedly exceeded 167,000 with almost 1400 deaths. While this is not a huge number in global terms, if the usual 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world had come for Hajj, this would have led to a catastrophe.

In addition to the unusual health risks associated with large gatherings, Hajj has been emptied out of its Islamic content under the Bani Saud. It has been reduced to a few empty rituals that the Saudis insist Muslims must perform and then leave immediately. The most they can do is buy some trinkets imported from China that most Muslims in their innocence believe have some sacred value, and perhaps a can of Zam Zam water.

In an age when virtually everything has gone virtual, Hajj unfortunately cannot be performed ‘virtually’. One has to be present in Makkah (at or near Mount Arafat, to be precise) to fulfill the requirements of Hajj. Muslims, however, can and must pay attention to some aspects of Hajj that have been erased from their collective memory. Crescent International has regularly drawn attention to these and are being highlighted again.

First, Hajj is the common heritage of the Ummah and not the exclusive preserve of one country, clan or family. Its affairs must be administered according to the collective will of the Ummah, not the capricious policies of uncouth Bedouins whose only mission in life is subservience to the kuffar, bordering almost on shirk.

In needs recalling that until 1957, the Nizam of Hyderabad (under Indian occupation now), Mir Osman Ali Khan used to send £25 million every year to cover the expenses of Hajj. This reflected the fact that Hajj was the common heritage and responsibility of all Muslims. While oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938, the Americans paid pittance to the Saudis as they plundered their oil wealth, hence the need for Hajj subsidies. Today, billions of dollars in Hajj and umrah revenues are pocketed by the greedy Saudi ‘royals’. They have also turned the sacred cities of Makkah and Madinah into cheap replicas of Las Vegas, the gambling capital of America, again without any regard to the sanctity of these places.

Equally important is the issue of how Hajj is to be performed. Ever since the Bani Saud occupied Makkah and al-Madinah in 1925, helped by the British, they have worked assiduously to empty the Hajj of its Qur’anic content. Regrettably, most Muslims, especially the ulama have also been complicit in the Saudis’ violation of divine commands relating to Hajj.

In the noble Qur’an, Allah (swt) commands us to proclaim our complete dissociation from the mushrikeen at the time of Hajj (the Qur’anic expression is bara’a min al-mushrikeen). The first set of ayats of Surah at-Tawbah (9: ayats 1-29) relate to this. One ayah in particular leaves no doubt about what Muslims are required to do at the time of Hajj.

And a proclamation from Allah and His Apostle [is herewith made] unto all humankind on this day of Hajj: ‘Allah disavows all who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, and [so does] His Apostle. Hence, if you repent, it shall be for your own good; and if you turn away, then know that you can never elude Allah [’s corrective justice]” (9:03).

Understanding the time and circumstances of the revelation of these ayats is crucial. It was the ninth year of the Hijrah. Led by Abu Bakr Siddiq (ra), Muslims had set out from Madinah to perform Hajj. While the Muslim pilgrims were on their way to Makkah, these ayats of Surah at-Tawbah were revealed to the noble Messenger (pbuh) in Madinah. He immediately dispatched his cousin and son-in-law Imam Ali (ra) to go to Makkah and proclaim these ayats at the time of Hajj!

We must reflect on why the noble Messenger (pbuh) did not wait for the Muslims to return from Hajj to inform them of the latest set of revelations. It was a divine command and had to be fulfilled right away. Is this divine command no longer applicable (nastaghfirullah)? By prohibiting the bara’a min al-mushrikeen (disavowal from the mushrikeen) march during the time of Hajj, the Saudi occupiers are preventing Muslims from fulfilling a divine command.

It is not difficult to surmise why the Bani Saud would want to violate the divine command. They want to appease their mushrik masters rather than Allah. This alone disqualifies them from being in control of the affairs of Hajj, not to mention their incompetence and gross mismanagement of Hajj.

Muslims have an obligation to highlight these and demand that the affairs of Hajj be administered by a competent body of Muslim technical experts under the guidance of muttaqi ulama representing the genuine aspirations of the Ummah. Reclaiming the administration of Hajj from the clutches of the corrupt Saudis should be the top priority of Muslims worldwide as must the right to organize bara’a min al-mushrikeen marches in fulfilment of Allah’s command.

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