Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hajj Question

I had an argument with my cousin who is now in Mecca, performing the Hajj (pilgrimage) there. This is to be his fifth year running, performing the Hajj, inshAllah. My argument with him was this: Hajj is a responsibility to be performed ONCE in a lifetime. And here he was, going for the fifth time in five years. I told him:

  1. You don't need to do it anymore. If you go, someone who wants to go for his first time cannot, as there is a quota on pilgrims from each country and you are taking up space.
  2. You add to the logistical problems at Mecca. You take up hotel space there that could go to someone else, and so on.
  3. You are spending time away from family (he will be away one month) and money (costs him around $6000+) that could be spent on your family.

    Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "There are four dinars: a dinar which you give to a poor person, a dinar you give to free a slave, a dinar you spend in the Way of Allah, and a dinar which you spend on your family. The best of them is the dinar which you spend on your family." (Bukhari: 751)

    I told him since he doesn't need to do Hajj any more he should spend that money elsewhere.

He refuted my arguments thus:

  1. The quota system is unofficial. Lot of spaces are left empty so he is not 'blocking' anyone. I could not verify this.
  2. He has done Hajj before so he knows all the 'tricks'. Where to stay, all tips (to avoid dehydration, where to make what dua (prayer), extensive knowledge of the rituals needed), where to stand when stoning-the-devil and so on. Thus he can advice other people (in fact he is part of a Hajj delegation from the mosque and has the role of advisor).
  3. He is loaded (really loaded) so money is not an issue.


Everyone took his side (except, tellingly, his wife) saying he is 'guest of Allah', answering a 'calling', 'who am I a sinner to question him a 4-time-Hajji' and so on. I don't know if I am right or not (would appreciate answers) but to me, there are other ways to spend that money (sponsoring orphans, donating to the mosque, etc.) than going once again to Hajj. On the other side, everyone who did Hajj said it is a memorable, once in a lifetime experience, and inshAllah, I hope to undertake it soon.

However, there seems to me an obsession in our South Asian culture to perform repeat Hajjs, as if that somehow gives you a Get-out-of-Jail-free card. Similarly we measure a man's value by how many times he prays, goes to the mosque, how much knowledge of religion a person has rather than by how a person is.


Pilgrims pray the Night Prayer at the Grand Mosque, Mecca.

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19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I found your link through Ipshi's journal.

I agree with you on this. If nothing else, your cousin is adding to the crowd. I know they are well-equipped to deal with problems but people still die. This morning, for example, a hostel collapsed and 15 people are presumed dead. Overcrowding at Hajj is a huge problem.

It would be a different case if he stayed in the region for a few months.

--Ripa

Anonymous said...

Mez, I agree with you to a point here. In my opinion, if allah has given him the physical stability to perform Hajj/Umrah for years and years to come and if he can financially support himself through this ordeal, then he should avail this opportunity. While this is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for MOST MIDDLE CLASS PEOPLE (given financial constraints and other family life issues in their country of residence), this doesnt mean that people who have money and can afford to be away from family/friends and have the physical strength to go through this shouldnt do it. But I do agree with you that the money can be well spent if he donated this to some muslim charitable organization or help the unfortunate in Iraq/Afghanistan/Palestine.

A suggestion this friend of yours can take is: Go once every 3 years. The other 2 years, which he would have gone, he can just donate that money as a LUCKY DRAW PRIZE for some lower class muslim family (who have the ultimate desire to go to the House of God and perform the necessary Hajj obligations, but dont have adequate finances..) Helping the needy and the poor perform Hajj will give your friend tremendous loads of *sawaab*.
Maybe he should look into this as GOOD DEEDS ARE NEVER FORGOTTEN IN THE EYES OF GOD.

- Behbood

Hafsa said...

Assalamu alaykum!

I agreed with everything you said, until I read ur cuzin's arguments. More specifically #2. Being a guide. I think it depends on his intentions too. Is he going there for his good or for the good of others.

My 2 cents :)

Wa salam!

mezba said...

@ripa - Welcome! I agree. Most problems in Hajj stem from overcrowding and not-so-knowledgable pilgrims.

@Behbood - I like your compromise. However we must also remember the Prophet of Islam did not do too many Hajjs in his lifetime.

@Hafsa - Welcome! Wasa. I put up his responses and situation so that a clearer picture could emerge. I don't know his intention but the last four years he went by himself.

The thing I don't get is if his wife wanted to go off by herself to Hajj he wouldn't like it and she would listen to him, so why is the vice-versa so unthinkable?

Tea Biscuit said...

aah! Just let him be. Specially if he is really loaded, what's the guarantee that the money would go somewhere better? just kidding. I wish I was in his shoes. *sniff sniff*

Tea Biscuit said...

by the way, did you hear about the bulding collapse right by the Grand Mosque? SubhanAllah!

Rezwan said...

I have given my 2 cents in my blog.

Shabina said...

This is a tough one. One dude I interviewed for my Hajj article had gone last year, and I asked him if he was going again, and he seemed totally surprised by the question. He was like, it's time to give someone else a chance.

Then there were other people I talked to who just couldn't get enough - not b/c they wanted to wipe the slate clean every year, per se, but because they yearned to be in God's house. And who doesn't? (But I guess that's what Umrah's for?)

It's true, most of the world's Muslims save up their entire lives to go to Hajj just once. Perhaps those of us in the West, who are far better off than most, AH, could help sponsor some of these folks so that they can fulfill a principle tenet of their deen.

That said...I definitely want to make Hajj more than once in my lifetime, iA...mostly because I feel I wouldn't have done it correctly the first time anyway...

mezba said...

@tea: yes I heard about the collapse. Tragic. In hindsight this should have been prevented. Why did it collapse, an investigation has to be carried out.

@rezwan: thanks.

@shabina: I too would like to go more than once (in fact I already went with my parents but I was 3 then so it doesn't count). But to go every year is a bit odd to me.

Zainub said...

I think point 1 that your cousin made is totally made up by him self, no disrespect to him obviously, he must be performing Hajj as I type, and I fully hope Allah SWT accepts his Hajj and all his prayers. But I'm pretty certain thousands of people don't get the chance to go to Mecca because there's only a certain number of people that can go. Quotas aren't imaginary.

Personally I tell my self this: the Prophet performed the Hajj just once in his lifetime, so I'd probably like to follow his footsteps Insha Allah and offer Hajj only once.

I think, for your cousin though it might be a case of him being totally in love with Mecca. There is this person I know who goes to Mecca every year Masha Allah to perform Umrah during Ramadan, she says she simply is addicted to the place, it's grandosity and the contentment it gives one being there.

I think eventually it all comes down to intention (how often do we say this?), if some one is doing multiple Hajjs just so that he or she thinks all his sins will get wiped of each time he goes (and so he free to do all the sins he wants in between successive Hajjs because they will be washed away anyway next year) then obviously, the reward from Allah for that will be different to the one who is going to Hajj multiple times just out of sheer, overwhelmig love for Allah and his Kabbah.

Aisha said...

YAYYY someone who sees this the same way I do!I agree 100% with you. My inlaws have gone twice and whenever we go they weant to go with us. I think, go for umrah.... but hajj only once for many reasons some of which you mention. THANKS for writing about this.

Rifat said...

The people who go for multiple hajj have their own feelings for the hajj. They can't deny it. Its something spritual and mental.

Sadiq M. Alam said...

I just commented to this issue in rezwan's blog. since u raised the issue, so i thought i should forward the comment here also.

here is my view..

Well thought topic this is.

The problem of Hajj is not of our time. Even earlier times, certain Sufi masters prohibited their disciples for making hajj. Why? perhaps those wise people felt the lack of value in it and how people were negelecting other important matters because of Hajj.

In one famous incident, a sufi master told his disciples who wanted to go to Mecca for Hajj.. "Come and circle me seven times. My heart is as sacred as Kaaba (or even more sacred). And your Hajj will be accpeted."

I know the statements may sound blasphemous to many, but the point is, external behaviour is consuming us too much. we need to look at the message more objectively. God doesn't want us to visit Kaaba and He doesn't live there anyway. He is everywhere and most importantly in He is in all pure hearts.

With putting so many neighbours in poor condition and even hungry, i don't see how a person's Hajj is accepted. Those money , if can change only a single poor beggar's life, that is far more important and beautiful to God than going to Mecca and earning a title.

Those who go to Hajj, i respect their aspirations.. but at the same time i would ask them how many lives could be changed with those money? Only if their heart could be turned to something greater.

Blessings.
Sadiq
http://mysticsaint.blogspot.com

mezba said...

@zainub: I think you hit the spot, I think my cousin really loves going to Hajj as he likes the whole atmosphere that comes with it. However we all like different things that we wish we can do all over. But we also have responsibilities to our families and neighbours.

@Aisha: my feelings exactly - go for Umrah as that is throughout the year, but repeatedly going for Hajj every year is a burden on the system.

@Rifat: I agree with your point. Therefore I think there should be a system to limit international Hajjis from coming back a certain number of years after their Hajj (let's say 3 years).

@Sadiq: I have to disagree with you. Hajj is a right of Allah. It HAS to be done once in our lifetime if we are capable.

I think as long as you take care of your immediate family, pay your poor relatives, neighbours and friends out of your Zakat money, and give charity when needed, if after all that you can save enough to go for Hajj you should. There will always be poor people in your area. My debate is not with Hajj itself (Astakfiruallah!) but going repeatedly year after year.

The Sufi tale you told reminds me of a problem I saw with some so-called-progressives in our community. They will say:

Why do we need to pray? Prayers' purpose is to make oneself closer to God and content. And I feel very close to Allah and content so I will just be good person and so on.

No - that's not how it works. Prayer 5 times a day is mandated by Allah. If you are a Muslim and want to obey Allah's commands, pray 5 times a day. Similarly Hajj, Zakat and fasting are all Allah's commands. Like them or leave them, you cannot justify ignoring them. Similarly your Sufi who said "Come and circle me seven times. My heart is as sacred as Kaaba (or even more sacred). And your Hajj will be accpeted" is plain wrong. For all the good that comes out of Sufi Islam, their ignoring of basic tenets of the faith is unjustifiable.

Sadiq M. Alam said...

Dear Mezba,
thanks for your clear cut answers.

those who hold that kind of views on prayer are certainly don't understand the inner essence of prayer. if they could, nobody would need to remind them, they would fall prostrating more than five times.

I had a post on why muslims pray five times, and i used other perspective than orthodox islamic view on the issue. u may find it stimulating.

here is the link,
http://mysticsaint.blogspot.com/2005/12/why-muslims-pray-everyday.html

thanks again.
sadiq

sonia said...

interesting questions. to a certain extent it seems like most people go on pilgrimage for some funny reasons. I must say i can't quite understand the significance of a country, or a specific place in the worship of God. I can understand the symbolic factor - but beyond that - what remains?

In any case - any thoughts appreciated. Usually people just say 'cause you have to' and that's that.

I think the overcrowding you point to is significant - it really makes for an extremely unpleasant experience. some would say that's the point - but it would be interesting to think about how that may affect spirituality. I don't know - i have so many questions about this.

mezba said...

Sonia: One can worship Allah from anywhere. 'The whole world has been made into a mosque for the believer,' goes a saying of the Prophet.

Pilgrimage, however, by definition is to a certain place. Mecca and Medina has been made holy by Allah due to various reasons, primary is that Abraham (Ibrahim) built the Kaaba for Allah and Allah decreed the rest of us to go there for pilgrimage (Hajj) if we can. It's an order and the last pillar of Islam. Again, I stress, if we can.

There's lots of factors one must take care off before setting for Hajj, primary being free of debt and having someone take care of the family financially and otherwise in your absense. If there is a daughter of marriagable age, according to some scholars, you have to arrange for her marriage as well.

Overcrowding is a factor and the authorities do take steps to prevent it from becoming a problem - such as enlargening the mosque and having crowd control. It is a deeply spiritual experience, those who have been there tell of how brotherly (or sisterly) everyone is, looking out for one another and so on.

Anonymous said...

i agree, he is taking up precious space for those who have not completed it. Besides the first time you go is suppose to be special for one and the best experiance. why go 5 times when once is enough. He should be spending more time with his family and not taking up even more space.

Anonymous said...

I think that how much you pray and how much you APPLy the knowledge you have and how much you go to the mosque, does make up a part of a person's character, so it IS included in how a person IS.

By the way, while I don't agree with every opinion in every post of yours, I do see a sincere Muslim who writes very well.

May Allah reward you always with good in this life and good in the next, and guidance, and good wealth and mercy. Ameen