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Hajj: Need To Improve Operational Procedure

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In the name of Allah who states, “…. and pilgrimage to the House is incumbent upon men for the sake of Allah, (upon) everyone who is able to undertake the journey to it; and whoever disbelieves, then surely Allah is self – sufficient, above any needs of the worlds” Q3:97

May the everlasting peace and blessings of Allah be upon our master Muhammad and his purified progeny.

This piece is on the spiritual journey to Mecca in response to the call of Prophet Ibrahim, the father of monotheism. Hajj or pilgrimage as a pillar in Islam is a compulsory duty once in life for the physically and financially able Muslim. The site of Makah was given prophet Ibrahim and son Isma’il, peace be upon them, as a place of worship. These prophets built the holy Kaaba and on completion asked for Allah’s blessings and forgiveness for themselves and progeny. “Behold! We pointed the site, to Abraham, of the sacred house, saying: Associate not anything (in worship) with me; And sanctify My house for those who compass it round, Or stand up Or bow, Or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And proclaim the pilgrimage, among men; They will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every camel, Lean (on account of journeys) Through deep and distant Mountain highways. Q26 – 29

Few years back, the Education Committee of the Islamic Movement convened its third seminar for then intending pilgrims on Saturday, 1st Zulqaadah, 1437 H. The annual seminar enlightened on Hajj, lesser Hajj and visits to sacred sites in Iraq and Iran. The programme was held at the Fudiyyah Nursery and Primary School, Zaria.  Prof Isah Mshelgaru was among the educationists and scholars featured in the seminar that handled the practical aspect of the ritual. He advised the intending pilgrims to engage on daily exercise for at least 30 minutes to prepare themselves towards the tedious rite. He said many find themselves in a very difficult situation especially those stationed far away from Haram that might trek five kilometers or so on daily basis. Due to stress many find it difficult and on diagnosis are proved hypertensive, diabetic, asthmatic and so on. He emphasised the need for those on medication to take utmost care and patience saying some pilgrims tend to be negligent on their medication prescription on various illness. To be on the safer side therefore, they should carry their prescription cards along with the prescribed drugs so that they can help themselves better.

Sheikh AbdulHamid Bello dwelt on the jurisprudential aspect of the ritual highlighting Hajj as a pillar; faces of Ihram and do’s and dont’s of the ritual. He also spoke on the significant historical sites in Mecca and Medina along with their respective forms of worship for the intending pilgrims to visit quoting many traditions of the prophet on the philosophy of the ritual. The sites highlighted covered the demolished and standing in the two holy cities and the nature of the visits. The Sheikh highlighted the significance and relevance of reciting the Arafat supplication on the Arafat day.

Due to unavoidable absence of the expected medical doctors, Malam Nuruddeen spoke on personal and environmental health. He advised the intending pilgrims to be very careful on what to eat, and to engage on daily exercise to prepare themselves before the ritual.

Shaikh Shahid Qassim Umar, the guest speaker, spoke on Hajj as a pillar and its relevance to the socio – economic life of the Muslims. The shaikh quoted many traditions on the ritual’s significance, relevance and reward in the life of Muslims.

After lunch and prayer, the floor was opened for participants’ questions and comments. The presenters responded accordingly. Malam AbdulRahman Yola, highlighted some jurisprudential differences between Ja’fariyyah and Sunni schools with regard to stations and Ihraam. He drew the attention of the pilgrims to undergo a thorough medical check up so as to take necessary measures for a hitch – free pilgrimage. In the last two years the participants would visit the martyrs of IMN at Dembo and the leader Shaikh Ibraheem El – Zakzaky (H), who used to emphasise sincerity of purpose, use of legal means and general discipline.

Based on close examination and discussion with some officials of a State Pilgrim Welfare Board, I made a number of observations. In the Hajj operations in Nigeria, problems relating to irregularities, negligence, and ignorance are very obvious. The problems relate to the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), which controls the rite. The states pilgrim welfare boards and the local government authorities, hence, the need for review to improve the situation. The NAHCON stipulates Hajj fare, allots numbers to states and screens the airliners among other activities. The SPWB’s handles the rite at the state levels while the LGA’s role is at local level. Some of the grievances hitherto expressed against the commission include occasional contract of substandard airliners, non proportionate re-allocation of unsold seats and hitherto communication gap between the commission and the states pilgrim’s welfare boards resulting in occasional disarray and misplacement of priorities.  However, the commission could be exonerated from some blames on allocation due to general slash by the Saudi authority for haram’s capacity expansion.  The issue of substandard airliners could be averted by contracting the services of highly refuted companies from Saudi Arabia, Iran or any other competent country. The NAHCON should urge the government to give more support to the rite as done in Indonesia and Iran.

The performance of SPWB’s on the other hand differs from one state to another. They are tasked with the responsibilities covering seminar, screening, evaluation and public relations. The popular bita was meant to educate and enlighten the intending pilgrims on both social and spiritual aspects of the rite here and at the holy land.  In Kano for example, it is organised on two capacities: Firstly, on weekly basis, 40 days to Ramadhan. And daily after Eid el-Fitr, to operationally flag off each. The local governments serve as recruitment ground where alleged gratification lingers. Generally, the bita, public relations and the radio programmes on Hajj are very meaningful in the improvement of general conduct of the rite. In addition to the points raised above, I will like to emphasise the following pieces of advice for all the intending pilgrims:

 

  1. Sincerity of purpose: For the intending pilgrim to attain Hajjum Mabrour – the accepted or successful hajj that makes him or her sinless like the day he or she was born, then he or she must be sincere embarking on the worship solely for the sake of Allah.
  2. Legal means: Whoever wishes to have an accepted hajj, he or she must make sure that his or her earning is legal. Not something earned through corruption, oppression or any other prohibited means as Allah does not accept except that is sacred.
  3. Discipline: The issue of discipline is very paramount not exclusively for Hajj but in our entire socio – economic endeavour. However, its significance cannot be overemphasised in this ritual. So, the way many pilgrims conduct themselves at various locations in the holy land is very unfortunate. Some engage in different forms of indecency and immoral behaviours that make their Hajj vulnerable. At this juncture, it is imperative to commend the efforts of some pilgrims from Kano who were honoured with awards for excelling in Qur’anic recitation competitions at the holy Kaaba, just as the State Pilgrims Welfare Board was honoured last two years on environmental cleanliness!
  4. Seminar: By this, I refer to the popular BITA. The SPWB’s should endeavour to improve it. They should not forget that knowledge is what qualifies all forms of worship which are governed by rules and regulations.

Pilgrimage as advocated by prophet Ibrahim has clear meaning and purpose. “And an announcement from Allah and His messenger, to the people (assembled) on the day of the great pilgrimage that Allah and His messenger dissolve (treaty) obligations with the pagans. If, then ye repent, it was best for you; but if ye turn away, know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah, and proclaim a grievous chastisement to those who reject faith. Q9:3.”

In a similar protest, late Imam Khomeini said, “O you Muslims who are busy praying by the house of Allah! Pray for the success of those who are standing up to America and other superpowers”. Therefore, we should never forget to pray for bedevilled Muslim countries such as Palestine, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and our country, Nigeria. Beside the spiritual aspect, most important lessons of Hajj are brotherhood and unity. Allah states, “And hold fast, all togetherness, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves” Q3:103. He also states_ “The unbelievers are protectors, one of another; Unless ye do this, (protect each other), There would be Tumult and oppression on earth, and great mischief. Q8:73. Unlike the way millions of Muslims, just meet and disperse without reviewing the problems engulfing their states, pilgrimage is full of socio-political strategies that could be used to solve the predicament of the Ummah.

  1. Institutionalizing Hajj rite

The need to institutionalise hajj rite beyond the periodic workshop as a growing concern is very necessary so that intending pilgrims can register and learn the ritual in the year to embark on the journey or earlier. Kano State government has expressed its determination to establish Hajj institute, which will help a lot towards successful Hajj. While appealing to the right authorities to review the situation for the improvement of the rite in general, I wish all intending pilgrims a Hajjum Mabrour!

While commending the Lajnah for organising the educative programme, I call on the authorities to urgently heed to persistent calls of millions of Nigerians and other well-meaning people across the world for the unconditional release of the Sheikh el-Zakzaky (H) whose health drastically deteriorates.

Wassalamu alaikum.

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