Hajj under Quarantine

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Dhu al-Qa'dah 20, 1442 2021-07-01

Opinion

by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 5, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1442)

Hajj is the cherished dream of every Muslim. Not everyone, however, is able to perform the pilgrimage primarily because of the exorbitant costs that the Saudi occupiers of the Arabian Peninsula have imposed on pilgrims. Limitation of numbers is another inhibiting factor. The Saudis have imposed an arbitrary quota of 1% of each country’s population.

They claim that there is limited space. It has more to do with poor planning and mismanagement. The Saudis have crowded the Haramain—the two holy mosques in Makkah and al-Madinah—with five-star hotels. Designed by western architects that have little knowledge of or regard for Muslim spirituality and sacredness, the hotels are money-making rackets. ‘Owned’ by Saudi ‘royals’, they gouge pilgrims by offering tourist style attractions rather than a journey in submission and spiritual elevation.

Since the eruption of the pandemic last year, and still raging in most parts of the world, the number of pilgrims allowed to perform Hajj has been drastically reduced. The Saudi regime announced last month that it would limit the number of pilgrims this year to 60,000. Only citizens and residents in the medieval kingdom would be allowed.

“Those wishing to perform the Hajj must be free of chronic diseases and be vaccinated”, according to a statement by the Saudi ministry of Hajj. Only pilgrims between the ages of 18 and 65 would be allowed.

This is the second year that Muslims from outside the kingdom have been prevented from performing Hajj, one of the most demanding ibadats in Islam. “In light of what the whole world is witnessing with the coronavirus pandemic… and the emergence of new variants, the relevant authorities have continued to monitor the global health situation,” the Saudi statement added.

We recognize that due to the pandemic, millions of pilgrims cannot assemble for Hajj. It is, however, the arbitrary decision to allow only Saudi citizens and residents to perform Hajj that is troubling. Given the Saudis’ legendry incompetence, how can they ensure the safety of even these 60,000 pilgrims and how did they arrive at this figure to begin with? There are no restrictions for non-Muslim tourists coming to the kingdom.

The medieval kingdom has so far recorded more than 463,000 coronavirus infections, including 7,536 deaths. The health ministry also claims to have administered more than 15 million coronavirus vaccine doses to a population of about 34 million. Saudi claims cannot be taken seriously.

Residents of the kingdom and those that have been allowed to perform Umrah since it was opened up last October, after a total shut down, say that few people observe social distancing or wear a mask. It is such disregard for health protocols that is of greater concern.

Last year, only 1,000 pilgrims were allowed to perform Hajj, again restricted to Saudi citizens and residents in the kingdom. Hajj is once in a lifetime experience for the overwhelming majority of the 1.5 billion Muslims. They save for it all their life yet there is no guarantee that they would get an opportunity to perform Hajj.

The Saudi regime’s arbitrary imposition of 1% quota for each country’s population allowing a maximum of 2.5 million pilgrims annually is a huge hurdle. At this rate, a Muslim would have to live, theoretically, for 1,000 years to get an opportunity to perform Hajj!

Some affluent Muslims, both from the kingdom and abroad, perform Hajj multiple times. Why are such people allowed to do so? Is money the only determining factor for the performance of Hajj? If so, what ayah of the noble Qur’an or a hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) allows this?

For decades, committed Muslims have decried the arbitrary nature of Saudi decision-making about Hajj. While it is an ibadah reflecting the universality of Islam, the Saudis have turned it into a national event as if Hajj is a Saudi activity. This was also the attitude adopted by the Makkan mushriks at the time of the noble Messenger (pbuh) for which they were roundly condemned in the majestic Qur’an (9:17-19).

Makkah and Madinah, together referred to as the Haramain (the two noble sanctuaries) are not the private property of the Najdi Bedouins. They are introducing vulgar practices—hip hop show in Makkah, ‘Halal night club’ and now, just before Hajj, there will be a concert in Jeddah—in violation of all Islamic tenets. Under what authority do the uncouth Bedouins indulge in such practices in the most sacred places of Islam?

The Haramain are the common heritage of the Ummah and, therefore, the responsibility of the entire 1.5 billion Muslims. At present, they are parceled into 57 nation states, many under the control of unrepresentative rulers. This goes against the Qur’anic concept of the one global Ummah (21:92).

To realize the true potential of Hajj as the annual assembly of the Ummah, the Bani Saud must be divested of its control. Both their criminal nature and subservience to the enemies of Islam—the imperialists and Zionists—make them unfit to be in control of such sacred places of Islam. Makkah and Madinah under the Saudis is akin to Masjid al Aqsa under the Zionists. Not one of these sacred cities is safe under the present occupiers.

What is urgently needed is the establishment of a body comprising muttaqi ulama from all schools of thought in Islam and competent technical administrators from the Muslim world to manage the affairs of Hajj. They can determine the logistics as well as other matters relating to Hajj.

They must end the obscene gouging of pilgrims by the greedy Saudi ‘royals’ that have turned Hajj into a money-making racket. The original purpose of Hajj as outlined in noble Qur’an should be revived: journey to Allah through a process of spiritual cleansing.

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