By Yusuf Abdullahi
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 His everlasting peace and blessings be upon our master Muhammad and his gifted progeny.
The piece for this week 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 a life time for every physically and financially able Muslim. Unlike the Solomon’s temple, the site of Makah was granted to prophet Ibrahim and son Isma’il peace be upon them as a place of worship to Allah alone. The two prophets built the holy Kaaba asking Allah’s blessings and forgiveness for the lapses children might fall into.
“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
For the second time, the Education Committee of the Islamic movement popularly referred to Lajnar Tarbiyyah da Ilmantarwa Multi – services, has convened its second workshop for the intending pilgrims on Saturday, 1st Zulqaadah, 1436 H.
Among other participants in the workshop were those intending to go for lesser Hajj and the sacred sites in Iraq and Iran. The programme took place at Mami Multi – purpose Hall along New Jos road, Zaria.
The resource persons that imparted in the workshop include Malam Lawal Muhammad Gumel, a senior nursing officer from the Aminu Kano teaching hospital. The officer extensively drew the attention of the participants on personal and environmental hygiene. This is no doubt a very important aspect as our pilgrims are very much lagging behind in on comparative analysis. He drew the attention of the pilgrims to undergo a thorough medical checkup so as to take necessary measures for a hitch – free pilgrimage.
And for those on precedent medication, he advised for 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 and the prescribed drugs so that they can help themselves better.
He also advised them to engage on daily exercise for at least 30 minutes so as 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 very difficult and on diagnosis some are proved hypertensive, diabetic, asthmatic and so on.
On his part, Sheikh Abdullahi Ahmad Zango highlighted on significant historical sites in Mecca and Medina along with their respective forms of worship. The areas highlighted covered the demolished and standing in the two holy cities among others.
Sheikh Shu’aib Muhammad on the other hand spoke on the significance, relevance and reward for recitation of Arafat supplication at the mausoleum of Imam Husain, the chief martyr at Karbala in Iraq on the Arafat day. He quoted several traditions of the noble prophet emphasizing the need for whoever can afford to do that after visiting the last messenger. The visit of the chief martyr is highly recommended whenever one gets the opportunity.
Sheikh AbdulHamid Bello has also contributed with highlights on some important aspects where he advised the participants to refer to a book philosophy of Hajj by Dr. Ali Shari’ati for more elaboration.
The jurisprudential aspect was generally handled by Sheikh Muhammad Turi, who started with the highlight on hajj as an obligatory pillar that all capable Muslims are obliged to perform. The sheikh graphically read relevant chapters on the rite covering faces, stations, Ihraam and so on including differentials with regard to gender. Looking at the significance of this aspect particularly, the participants were allowed to put their questions and the sheikh responded.
Looking at the multi – faceted nature of the rite in undoubtedly the greatest human gathering on earth, the need for closer familiarization was very obvious. In view of this, Dr. Isah Mshelgaru, from Ahmadu Bello University contributed with a very impressive power point presentation on Hajj and Umrah in practice.
After lunch and prayer, the participants moved to Jannat Dar al – Rahma at Denbo village in a visit to the great martyrs of the Islamic movement.
Later in the evening, the participants moved to Gyallesu quarters, the residence of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky for his scholarly and fatherly admonition. As usual, the Sheikh accorded honor to the intending pilgrims to the House of Allah and wished them well and accepted pilgrimage. While addressing the participants, the sheikh emphasized sincerity of purpose, use of legal means and discipline among others.
Generally speaking, the participants were highly impressed and motivated with the conduct of the workshop and therefore thanked the Education committee for this endeavor.
Based on discussion with some officials of a state pilgrim welfare board and close examination, I have made a number of observations. And it is very clear that on looking at Hajj operations in Nigeria, problems relating to corruption, negligence, and ignorance are very obvious. These problems could be attributed to NAHCON, the national Hajj commission which controls the rite, The States pilgrims welfare boards and the local government committees. Hence, the need for government to review the statusquo with a view to improving the situation.
NAHCON stipulates the Hajj fare, allots numbers to respective states, screen the Airliners among other activities. Some of the grievances hitherto expressed against the commission include;
Firstly, the nature of travelling allowances given to the pilgrims based on the categories at Mecca. Secondly, the Airliners contracted to airlift the intending pilgrims that were occasionally substandard. Thirdly, direct seizure and non proportionate re – allocation of the unsold seats of some southern states which are mostly realised from their quota. Fourthly, no significant provision for enlightenment or publicity as it relates to publication for the use of intending pilgrims, fifthly, disregard to tens of thousands applicants losing seats annually whose destiny might be changed on proper consultation with Saudi kingdom and sixthly, the sharp communication gap between the commission and the states pilgrims welfare boards resulting into occasional disarray and misplacement of priorities.
However, the commission could be exonerated from some blames. For example, the problem of capacity, the Saudi’s slashed the total number of pilgrims across the world in 2013 for what it described as capacity expansion project. But looking our numeric strength, even the initial quota was grossly inadequate. The total number of this year’s is 76,000= including the allotted 10,000= for international!
The issue of substandard airliners is said to be handled by the Saudi authorities as well. But why can’t NAHCON try some highly reputed airliners that can give more comfortable and affordable services from Iran or Saudi Arabia? When an Iranian company was engaged some years ago, the service provided was very satisfactory. The NAHCON should urge the government to give more support to the rite as some government do especially in Indonesia and Iran. And with the suspension of the unnecessary government delegation, the more attention could be given to the pilgrims so that they can be at advantage. At the same time the medical team and logistics could be reinforced.
The performance of states pilgrims welfare boards on the other hand differs from one another. They are generally tasked with the responsibilities covering the workshop, screening, evaluation and public relations at their levels. The workshop popularly referred to as Bita is 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, fourty days to Ramadhan. And daily after Eid el – Fitr, to operational flag off each year.
In addition to the points raised above, the following pieces of advice must be taken into consideration by all 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 have sincerity of purpose. This means to embark on the worship solely for the sake of Allah not any other reason at all as the above verse indicated!
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 culture and discipline are very paramount not exclusively for Hajj but in our entire socio – economic endeavors. The way many pilgrims conduct themselves at various location in the holy land is very unfortunate. Some engage in different forms of indecency and immoral behaviors that make their Hajj vulnerable.
It is imperative to commend the efforts of some pilgrims from Kano who were honored with awards for excelling in Qur’anic recitation competitions at the holy Kaaba, just as the State pilgrims Welfare Board was honored last two years on environmental cleanliness!
4. WORKSHOP: With workshop here, we refer to the popular BITA. The intending pilgrims must be serious about it because knowledge is what qualifies all forms of worship. And all worships are governed by rules and regulations. It is very unfortunate that many do not know the philosophy behind the worship!
Pilgrimage as advocated by prophet Ibrahim has clear meaning and purpose as in this verse. “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 were 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 the 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 the unfortunate situation of our brothers and sisters in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and our country among others.
Beside the spiritual aspect, most important lessons of Hajj are brotherhood and unity. Allah states “And hold fast, all together, 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.
So, unlike the way millions of Muslims just meet and disperse without any review despite problems engulfing their states, pilgrimage is full of socio – political strategies that could be used to solve the predicament of the Ummah.
5. INSTITUTIONALIZING HAJJ RITE
There need to institutionalize hajj rite beyond the periodic workshop as going concern is very necessary so that intending pilgrims can register and learn the rite in details irrespective of the year to embark on the journey.
While appealing to the right authorities to review the situation for the improvement of the rite, I wish all intending pilgrims a HAJJUM MABROUR!