An open letter to frequent Haj and Umra performers

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An open letter to frequent Haj and Umra performers

My dear naive businessmen who perform 5-star Haj or Umra and take it for granted that the repeated Haj or Umra is the greatest of all the prayers. My respected scholars and heads of the community who come for haj and umrah time and again as if it is an obligatory (farz) prayer.

The shrewd rich of the community who perform umrah many times from the income earned by illegal means. My dear fathers and mothers who enjoy this greatest prayer by spending from the hard earned income of your children. The political leaders, who come for political haj and umrah time and

again to convince your voters that you are god-fearing. The expatriate friends living in Saudi Arabia, who not only break rules and regulations by going for haj time and again but also create inconvenience for other pilgrims.

Assalam-o-alaikum wa rahmatullah
First of all let us go through this episode which has been quoted by Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi. Bashir bin Abdul Haris has been a great religious figure in Islamic history. One day, one of his followers came to him and said, “Ya Shaikh, I am intending to perform haj once again. I ask for

your permission.” Shaikh asked, “what is your main intention? It’s for Allah’s consent, or you want to see Kaa’ba and Madina or you want to display your piety?” The follower thought for a moment then said, “It’s for Allah’s sake. That’s all.” The Shaikh said, “Should I tell you something on which if you act, you will not only get the rewards of the haj without going for haj and Allah will accept your Haj but also you will get the same pleasure and satisfaction that you get after performing the haj.” The follower said obediently, “Tell me Sir.”

The Shaikh said, “If you distribute the money that you intend to spend on haj among the poor and needy who are in debt either because of more children or being sick or are wanting because of some other reasons, or if you help someone with this money who is not worthy of paying Zakat but can become one by doing some business and also can become a source of earning for others, then this act of benevolence will not only make your non-obligatory haj acceptable but Allah will also take you in His fold. Now you tell me what do you want?”
The follower started thinking and then said hesitatingly, “Sir I am in the mood for Haj”. The Shaikh said, “The Satan rules over a person’s carnal desires through good deeds and makes him do those deeds first which he loves most.”
Think of it. On one hand, not only in India and Pakistan but all over the Muslim world, the graph of the Muslim’s moral, political, social and economic status is falling downwards and, on the other hand, the number of pilgrims coming to Makkah and Madinah every year is rising upwards. The number of people who participate in the Shab-e-qadr’s prayer in Makkah is reaching to hundreds of thousands. Even then, neither our prayers yield any result, nor there is any visible change in the character of a muslim. Why ? It’s because today our worships are of our choice, not of Allah’s. We do what satisfies our mood, our self made rituals, our logic and our rationale. We don’t do anything which our mood and rituals and our material knowledge and logical conclusions do not permit, even if it is ordered by Allah and His Messenger pbuh. Not only that we don’t do this, but to satisfy our conscience, we search for reasons and fatwas in our favour.
Ask any woman who does not observe purdah, she will say, “Purdah should be in the eyes and hearts.” Ask any Muslim about the preference given to da’waa and tableegh which is most obligatory on every Muslim, he will say, “First, one should purify himself then teach others.” Ask any person

who sells himself shamelessly for dowry, he will say, “We didn’t ask for anything, the bride’s family has given everything to us willingly.” Ask anyone indulging in business of usury and bribery. He will say, “What can I do, this is the system.” Ask any person who is a liar, jealous, fraudster, backbiter and possessor of ill will towards others, he will say, “I don’t have a bad intention and anyway Allah only knows what is in my heart.” Ask anyone who severs relationship with his relatives, he will say, “Had others behaved well with me, I would also have behaved similarly with them.”

Thus, although everybody is performing Namaz and is involved in good deeds, we find that he is performing that prayer which he likes most. Someone likes to keep long beard, while someone likes to perform Namaz. Someone likes to perform non-obligatory haj and umrah while someone likes to establish organisations to serve mankind. But when that point comes which would be strictly applied on him, then he looks for the excuses which I have mentioned above. This nature is what is mirrored by Allah in this verse from Surah Hajrat:
These Bedouins say we have accepted faith (Iman), tell them you have not accepted faith, you have accepted Islam. Faith has still not entered into your hearts. It says that you are doing what others are doing. Others perform Namaz, you also do. Others follow the Islamic principles of Fasting, Zakah,

circumcision, marriage and burial etc., you too follow the same so that you could be regarded as a member of the Muslim society. But faith is different which has not entered into your hearts yet. It is on your lips only. So when the testing time comes, you present other prayers to satisfy your conscience. This is nothing but tricking Allah. A bread earner will be asked about his Halaal earning first, then the question of Namaz will arise. A bridegroom and his parents will face the question of dowry and un-islamic rituals first before they are held answerable for fasting and Zakah. A wealthy person will have to answer for voluntary Umrahs and Haj later, first he has to explain how much he spent in Allah’s way. People remember the Hadith that all the small sins between one haj and another and one umrah and other umrah are forgiven by Allah but forget the hadith that says that no one would be allowed to take a single step ahead on the day of judgement unless he answers these five questions even though he may carry a mountain of other prayers on his shoulders – 1) Time he spent, 2) How he used the energy of his youth, 3) His earning (where and how it came from), 4) How he spent his income, 5) Knowledge ( How much he tried to achieve and spread?).

Why does it happen that no one minds paying lakhs of rupees to the travel agents for Haj and Umrah time and time again, but he feels annoyed when a needy person spreads his hands or when someone appeals for the donation for welfare of the Ummah. It pinches him if he takes out a thousand or two thousand Rupees from his pocket. He does not give even ten rupees to anybody unless he is sure that the beneficiary will remain thankful to him forever. Even if he gives unwillingly, he would suspect malpractice in their works and would demand to show accounts, otherwise he would defame

This happens because we love Haj and Umrah. It is human nature that we not only enjoy a prayer that we love most, but also we love a prayer in which the money is spent on ourselves. We feel afraid that if we spend on others even in the name of Allah, our wealth will diminish. So when there comes a moment to help others, we raise the same question what the unbelievers and unfaithful raised, They ask you how much we spend? (We already pay 2.5% zakah and alms, now what else should we do).

The answer came: (Tell them give, whatever you have, in the name of Allah except for what you need to eat and wear today).
This is the principle of Zakah and benevolence. Remember what Caliph Omar PBUH said, “ Only the Hypocrites (munafiqs) talk of 2.5%” i.e the hypocrites keep strict accounts of 2.5% so that no one could raise doubt on their being called a Muslim but as far as a real Muslim is concerned he never counts 2.5% or 5 or 10%. The percentage is not a criterion for him. As soon as he comes across a deprived person or a needy who, out of self respect does not spread his hands in public, he gives to him considering his wealth as an Amanah that actually belongs to the deprived. Neither he waits for a needy to come to him and ask for help, nor he waits for a year to pass on the wealth to be eligible for zakah. He thinks it is his duty to look for needy among his nearest relatives and friends.
We usually laugh at the non-believers and idol worshippers who spend millions of Rupees on Ganpati puja and then throw their idols in dirty waters. Not only millions of Rupees, time and energies are wasted, but also many lose their lives during firework mishaps of Deewali etc. But, ironically, when we take stock of ourselves, we find that, like them we too spend millions on the prayers that we love and enjoy. Let us take an example of a single city like Hyderabad or Karachi. Every year at least 10,000 such people come for haj and Umrah from each city who have already performed their obligatory Haj and umrahs. A single journey for either Haj or Umrah needs at least one lakh of Rupees. Although the leaders, businessmen and VIPs take pride in travelling in business class and residing in expensive hotels, which costs at least 2 lakhs of Rupee, let us calculate on the lowest

basis which is as follows:

10,000 people x Rs.100,000 = Rs. 1,00,00,00,000 ( Rupees one billion)

The number of people coming from Mumbai, Lucknow, Delhi, Patna, Kerala, Bangalore, Madras etc. to perform non-obligatory Haj and Umrah goes to one lakh but just for the argument sake, let us assume only 25000 persons who come every year, then the amount comes to: Rs.1,00,000 x 25000 persons = Rs.2,50,00,00,000 = US$ 625million The situation is same in Pakistan too. Every third Pakistani who comes, has already got the privilege of performing Haj and Umrah twice or thrice before. So Pakistanis also spend around 4 to 5 billion Rupees every year on a prayer which is not obligatory. They don’t realise who is getting the benefit out of their expenditure. The beneficiaries are the travel agents, airlines, hotel owners and Muallims whose treasure chests are already full.

If we can spend these 5-6 billion of Rupees every year for the welfare of the Ummah, the Ummah will reach a position in very few years where a person will be eager to pay his zakah but won’t get a needy among the Ummah. Well, it is impossible that a single person or a group would ever collect these 5-6 billion Rupees, but what is possible is that every year a person can spend the same money that he intends to spend for performing his non-obligatory Haj or Umrah on the education of his close relatives. As Indian and Pakistani regions are extraordinarily more intelligent than even Americans and Europeans, if only 50% of the people are raised above the poverty line and imparted proper education, they can defeat the domination of America and Europe. The Hindus are advancing forward in the field of education, science, technology, computer, accounts and finance etc. not only in America and Europe but also in the Gulf countries and Africa. Have a look at any officer’s door, you will find a Hindu nameplate. And more unfortunately, you will find a few Muslims working there but as drivers or clerks. Those people whose forefathers were at the feet of your forefathers are now your masters. Don’t you feel hurt to see this? We criticize America and Sangh Parivar day and night but why don’t we learn some good things from them. See how their rich take responsibility for the education of poor students while we only spend in the name of Haj and Umrah. Most of our rich take it for granted that there are virtues in making mosques and shrines but they don’t find Sawaab in helping poor students. What a pity that hundreds of Indian and Pakistanis publicize proudly if their children get scholarships in US or European schools and Colleges. Do you ever realise that where these scholarships come from? These scholarships come from the Jews and Christian charity organisations who donate to help students irrespective of religion or caste, colour and nationality.
Has any God fearing
Muslim ever did such an act for the humanity?
Our Madrasas depend upon little contributions. The students are mostly Imams, Moazzins, tuition maulvies etc. They lag behind due to lack of contemporary education. Why can not our pilgrims sacrifice only one extra Haj or Umra and enrich Madrasas? If instead of letting Madrasas collect 50 or 100 Rupees from hundreds of people, one family can come forward and donate the whole amount of extra Umra or Haj? A Madrasa can become a college of contemporary as well as religious education. The Ulema will get self respect and the Madarsa’s image too will change from a pathetic home for the orphans to a proper disciplined institution. If we can fund these Madrasas, this will be a great service to the Ummah. Instead of humiliating scholars by giving zakah and alms to Madrasas, if people come together and sponsor the entire Madrasa, it will not only enhance the prestige of the Islamic students but also they will be saved from begging for trivial amounts as donation from door to door.
Today every religious or social organisation has one or two splendid plan on paper which can bring about a sea change in the society but lack of fund hinders their implementation. The wealthy people earn for themselves, spend at their will and if they save more, they fritter it away on un-obligatory Haj and Umrah to appease their desires. They take it for granted that those who dedicate their lives for religious and philanthropic organisations would resign from their jobs or business and leave their family and children at the mercy of Allah. The rich pilgrims prefer their children to be educated in America and London but take it for granted that virtuous organisation’s workers’ children should go to government schools or free Madrasas. Is this not selfishness?
You can squander lakhs of rupees to satisfy your desire for unobligatory prayers, but can not contribute in the success of the community by financing the schemes of Islamic and social organisations? Is it not possible that you invest the money which has been set aside for a haj or umrah on the projects of an organisation of your preference, so that they could bear fruits. Even if a hundred people are able to do so, many weak organisation can get back their lost confidence and power. Remember the words of Deputy Nazeer Ahmad: My dears. No matter how much you make a personal progress. No matter how much powerful and rich you become, if your collective power is weak, your personal status can not save you from mass humiliation (Ibnul Waqt).
Keep in mind the example of Muslims in Bombay. Individually they are far more religious than others. They not only perform haj and umrah every year, but also pay zakah and alms more than any other state. But their collective social and political strength can be estimated from the incident that when Narsimha Rao, the then Prime Minister of India visited Mumbai after Babri Masjid riots, he met only the Shiv Sena sufferers but neither met any Muslim leader nor visited any Muslim victim. When people asked him why he did not meet Muslims? He said, “Whom should I have met?” This was repeated in Gujarat. Sonia Gandhi did not care to meet any Muslim knowing fully well that they are the victims of the worst ever communal riots in India. The reason is clear. The Muslim is only interested in his personal upliftment and individual worships. He has no sense of community’s collective strength. Therefore, he neither becomes a part of any organisation nor he likes to invest in their schemes. The community which loses the sense of organisational power becomes susceptible to brutal riots like Gujarat, Hashimpura, Bhiwandi, Mau, Meerut and Jamshedpur. It also becomes vulnerable to loss of its cultural and literary identity. The identity has already been determined by Justice Sachar in his report which says that 90% of the Muslims have a standard of life which is lower than backward classes.
Pakistan is on the same boat with a literacy rate of 12% and people below the poverty line being 75%. The time has come when every businessman, educationist, leader and significant officer should strengthen a Madrasa or an organisation. As several caravans from Mina march alone but ultimately all assemble at Arafat, the same way, hundreds of organisations carrying different programmes and strategies should merge for the common goal of renaissance of the Ummah.
Is it not possible that you spend the expenses of an un-obligatory umrah or haj on those Urdu newspapers and magazines which are trying to keep this language alive? Or invest it on those Urdu schools which are not only trying to keep the Urdu language alive but also an entire culture, history and religion associated with it.
Do you know that many of your orphans are being brought up in orphanages of other religions and are being absorbed in their culture? Why can not a person singly take the responsibility of an orphanage? Have not you heard the hadith that a person who brings up an orphan will be so close to me on the day of judgement as the two joint fingers are? You were created for the welfare of the entire mankind, but alas! now your donations and energies are only for the Muslims. Therefore, the other communities do not consider you as the benefactor of the humanity. Can’t you open a leprosy centre or bequeath your money for a TB or AIDS centre which would benefit all communities? Don’t the Muslims get benefit from the organisations established by members of other communities? Due to the dowry problem, hundreds of girls are compelled to marry in other religions. Thousands of Muslims girls are compelled to go out for working in awkward positions and many are becoming part of the flesh trade business. There are thousands who can not sustain themselves.
Their husbands have either run away or are worthless. Their children are deprived of education and have taken to petty crimes. Have not you noticed while reading newspapers that Muslims don’t appear in the national or local news except in the columns of crime. Don’t you feel humiliated? Can’t you open such centres from the money that you spend on un-obligatory haj and umrah, which can take care of these helpless women and children? Who does not know that Dowry given willingly or unwillingly is illegitimate (Haram) in Islam. Even the dinner party given by the bride side on the eve of wedding is illegitimate in Islam. But people indulge in all these activities knowingly. The collective conscience has been slaughtered. The cost of one nafil Umrah or Haj can be routed to publish at least 5000 copies of a book which can reform the public opinion towards these illegal and illegitimate rituals. Eradication of Dowry system from the society is the most important obligation on every Muslim now.
Can’t you finance those qualified students with this money who have the talent of writing and speech? They can talk from public stages to change the preconceived notions against Islam? Can’t you revive those Urdu books by translating them into other languages? Unfortunately, it is only Urdu which has a great treasure of knowledge but Urdu readers are dying. Urdu treasure is decaying. These books are precious because they carry entire history of Islamic culture and literature. Just the cost of one nafil haj or umrah can finance at least two such books, whose readership will bring you rewards from Allah till it is read.
Today towns are expanding and the Muslims are also building palatial houses for themselves but sometimes you don’t find a mosque for quite a distance. There are certain villages which have no mosque at all. The irony is that the Muslims themselves are involved in real estate business but while they make hundreds of plots to sell, there is hardly any provision for a mosque in a colony. Even if it is there, it is merely sufficient for a hundred people. Can not two or more people build mosques in new areas with the collective money that they intend to spend on non-obligatory haj or umrah?
There are many innocent Muslim youth who have been put behind the bars by being falsely implicated as terrorists and extremists. They are the sole bread earners for their families but they have become bread and butter for police. To endeavour to get them free is what Quran says “Free the necks”.
Just the cost of one haj and umrah can release an entire family from trials and tribulations.
If you don’t think that what mentioned above is at the top priority of Ummah, then at least you can do what you yourself think proper for the welfare of the Ummah. This way someone will be involved in the field of religion and some others in the fields of literature or education. If the lakhs of rupees saved from these nafil haj and umrahs of Indians and Pakistanis are invested on different community projects, insha Allah the ummah will witness a sea change in its moral, economical, political and religious map in the next ten to fifteen years.
Now let us talk about the internal hajis who congregate during haj from different parts of Saudi Arabia by paying thousands of riyals to their muallims. There is no problem if they visit for umrah during other months of the year. But they have the same responsibilities which the non-obligatory hajis from India and Pakistan have i.e., not to be a hindrance for the first time pilgrims.
The Saudi government has an excellent record of administering the Haj events, still several lives are lost every year because of overcrowding. It is not a simple task to handle millions of hajis unless people cooperate. Even planning of residence, municipal services and traffic can go out of control. Every year the Saudi government frames laws to enable the first time pilgrims to get the first opportunity but the non-obligatory pilgrims somehow become the source of congestion and hardship so much so that the first time pilgrims can not enjoy their prayers properly. I am surprised by the Iqama holder pilgrims who although are fully aware of the Saudi laws, still have made the violation of law their way of life. Will not such hajis and their muallims be held responsible by Allah on the day of judgement for infringing upon the law. I have come across many self-made muftis and scholars who think violating a law for haj and umrah is permissible in Islam but they should know that the Saudi scholars are more Islam loving than them. They don’t allow the government to frame any such law which is against the tenets of Islam. People should respect the laws which have been approved by the scholars.
Remember if the Messenger of Allah pbuh liked excessive haj and umrah, his and his companion’s life history would be full of such events, which is not. Often people oppose us by placing the example of the third Caliph Osman bin Affan who used to perform haj every year. But people neglect the fact that he used to get one slave free on every Friday before going to Friday prayers. His alms and charity for the poor is just incomparable like Abdul Rahman bin Auf ’s. Why not people take the example of the great companion of the Prophet who had married more than one woman which was the call of the hour at that time? Presently, the situation is worse than that time. The women’s rights are violated. The number of widows, divorcees and unmarried due to lack of dowry is in lakhs. This imposes a worst danger on the society. Why not the rich come forward and set the example of Osman and subsequently let the money be distributed among more than one families?
Muhammad pbuh mentioned several acts whose rewards are equal to a non-obligatory haj or umrah. Helping the poor, helpless and knowledge seekers is on the top of the list. Nafil Haj or Umra has never been on the top of the list of the Prophet. On one occasion a companion asked him insistently if haj has been made obligatory every year. He became angry and said “No”.
My dear friends, Haj and Umrah is not a journey from your city airport to Jeddah airport. This is a journey on the footsteps of Hzt. Ibrahim, which neither commences with the see-off parties organised by relatives and friends, nor does it end with the garlanding and congratulations. Haj and Umrah is that journey of Hzt. Ibrahim which starts from Qum (Iraq) and ends at Makkah. The first step of Haj or Umra starts from home. This is against the illegal earning of parents. Like Ibrahim pbuh you will be kicked out of home. The second step is to demolish the idols. Not only the idols of stone but the idols of fear, law, worries of family’s future, life and prestige of parents and own life’s safety. Thus the real haj starts after breaking the idol of associating others with Allah and proclaiming His oneness. With this, the worldly law decrees a death penalty on you. Parents severe relationship with you, Friends and relatives become adversaries. It is easy to demolish a statue inside a temple near your house or destroy the virtual deities that we worship in our homes in the name of ibadaat, but it is very difficult to destroy the idols which have become a part and parcel of our mindset. These idols give us a superior position in the society and bring wedding proposals for our sons and daughters from dignified families of the community. Without breaking these idols it is impossible to be a follower of Hazrat Ibrahim.
It is not very difficult to leave behind one’s own home, parents, locality or country. Many leave their parents anyhow due to their negligent wives. They also leave their country for employment. But they can not leave their children. They indulge in all kinds of illegal and legal activities for the sake of their children. But that Haj and Umrah which was performed by Ibrahim could not be concluded without sacrificing one’s offspring. It is symbolically proved when a man sacrifices an animal. While putting a dagger on the neck of the animal, he has a firm commitment in his heart that if Allah orders for sacrificing his offspring, he will not turn back. Millions of goats, cows and camels are being sacrificed and their meat is distributed. People pay attention on minute details like what kind of animal to be sacrificed, of what age, what side to face during the slaughtering, what to recite etc., but, unfortunately the real purpose of sacrifice and its effect on our lives and on our families are not at all thought of. Hadith says, a person returning from haj and umrah becomes as innocent as an infant. Everybody loves a baby. Everyone hugs the baby. No one alienates him because of religion, colour or caste just because no one expects lies, backbiting, fraud, jealousy and conspiracy from him. If you want yourself to be loved in the same way and if you want that when the sacrificial meat reaches others they should become aware that you have pledged that you would not hesitate to sacrifice even your children if Allah so orders, if you have a firm intention of destroying all kinds of deities, then you can go for haj and umrah any time you wish. You will set an example to be followed by others. But if you visit Makkah to credit some good deeds in your current account and debit some bad ones, and let your womenfolk control your society in respect of ceremonies, wedding rituals, bringing up of children, income and expenditures while you remain their slaves and if your pilgrimage does not change your home, your society and your economic system then the entire exercise of haj and umrah is futile.
Just imagine, what the millions of non-muslims would be perceiving after seeing millions of Muslims during haj and Ramadan in Makkah on TV cahnnels?. Only that as Hindus spend on Ganpati festival, Muslims spend on mausoleums and makkah and madina. You have the philosophy of ‘thwab’, i.e. reward by Allah, they also have the philosophy of ‘punn’. You also talk of miracles, so do they. They also feel the same pleasure after taking bath in Kashi and Amarnath, which you get after performing ablution with zamzam.
The question is: Where is the difference between the prayers of a Momin and a non-believer. The prayer that does not bring about any change in the way of life and which does not revolutionize moral values, is only a waste of money, time and energy. There is no prayer in Islam which does not bring about a revolution in the life style of a person. And haj and umrah are the greatest of the prayers. Haj or Umra not only changes an individual’s character but whole society’s character. If even 50% of the effects of Haj or Umra become visible to the mankind, the blind would be able to see and the deaf would start hearing.
My dear friends, please keep in mind what a hadith says; There is be a person who when sets forth dressed in ahram, the angels congratulate him that his haj has been accepted even though he has not even started the journey. On the other hand, there is another person who completes his haj, spends money, exhausts himself but the angels throw his haj on his face because his wealth, his earning, his food, his clothes, all are haram. When those people depart for haj and umrah repeatedly, who amass wealth from dowry, usury and bribe and build houses and buy vehicles on interest without pressing need, lie to earn, and invent rituals and celebrations which are against the will of Allah and his Prophet, they violate the sanctity of Allah’s house and make prayers of Islam a laughing stock for others.
My dear friends, do come for haj, do come to visit Makkah and Madina, come time and again but not to please yourself but to fulfil that great purpose for which Allah has created these prayers. Do come for Haj or Umra again and again if you are determined to pledge to change your life according to what the Prophet has declared. The Prophet declares that a Muslim can not be a liar. He declares that a Muslim likes the same for others what he likes for himself. He declares that a true businessman will be raised with the group of prophets on the day of judgement. He declares that a prayer by anyone will not reach the heavens even if he has even a bite of illegitimate income in his earnings. He declares that if any one devotes himself in the service of others then the angels devote themselves for him. If you really love the Messenger of Allahpbuh, then make his declarations a part

and parcel of your life, so that you can feel the revolution. Then you won’t need to give speeches or write books to propagate Islam. Your character itself will become a great Dawa to the world. The world would love you like a baby. When you will go back to your city or village after performing your haj and umrah, your existence will blossom desire for haj and umrah in the hearts of millions of Hindus, Christians and pagans. Insha Allah. But if you wish to come without this purpose, then beware that this is nothing but a holy picnic. Then it is much better that you invest this money for the benefit of the poor of the community who will pray for your salvation. May Allah give us the wisdom to follow and act on the above mentioned points. Ameen.

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