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The Pain of Dashed Expectations of Would-Be Hujjaaj

Jul 17, 2021

How the Muslim community globally is dealing with its inability to perform the Hajj this year is discussed in the final segment of Radio Islam’s Build Up to the Hajj segment. Everyone has become accustomed to having their representatives at the Haramain, such as family members or friends, even if one is unable to be present themselves, and that’s not the case, at the moment.

Hafidh Ebrahim Moosa was able to gain insights from Kenya, and Nigeria, and some inspiring stories from India and Indonesia. He said, “In South Africa there wasn’t even the expectation to go for Hajj, but (this was) not exactly the case in countries like Kenya and Nigeria where people firmly believed that they would be going for the Hajj. So, people got vaccinated with the belief that the vaccination would be, perhaps, the key to unlocking the journey for Hajj.” He added, “People got the vaccination certificates ready, and now that that counted for nothing at the end, taking Kenya for example, people were extremely disappointed.” People are finding spiritual ways to cope with the fallout. Their Ulama are telling them that this is a Divine decree and that it is only by invitation from Allah that the selected go for Hajj. Muslims from these countries who have gone before, and that were hoping to perform Hajj again, are just realizing how fortunate they were. Hafidh Ibrhim said that one Hajji said, “I had gone previously for Umrah and Hajj, and I’d always taken this for granted. But now when I see that people are yearning to go for Hajj, I realize how fortunate I was.” Concerning Nigeria, some tour operators had already logged out their journey. They planned to depart in July to go to the Holy Land. They planned a three-day isolation in Medina, and they also plan to return to Nigeria on the 26th of July. Huge investments were made in the trip for this year. All that has fallen flat with the announcement from Saudi Arabia that only locally based pilgrims would be allowed. These Hajj operators are inundated with demands for their deposits made by those intending pilgrims. About 70 000 Nigerians had planned to go for Hajj this year. Hafidh Ibrahim Moosa said, “Because of the expectations that they had, about 220 billion naira is what’s hanging now in the process, which they had paid this year, to airlines, hoteliers, transporters and to Hajj operators, and the state boards. Many of the expectant Hujjaaj had deferred from last year.” He added, “And even if people are going to defer onwards, they do this with the understanding that you’re not going to defer forever, and the price is not going to stay the same, as we could see from the prices even internally in Saudi Arabia.” Travel agents had had to fire staff, or put some of them on a reduced salary. One Imam says this kind of deferring is frustrating the pilgrims spiritually, “people who have this money might just put that money somewhere else, which could spell the end of their Hajj journey.”

Saudi Arabia is facing a lot of criticism, in that the initial understanding was that if people took the vaccine, they would be able to go for Hajj. People clung on to that hope, and took the vaccine. That was not respected. The authorities in Nigeria say that when the Saudi authorities made this decision, they did not consult with any of the foreign countries at all and made a unilateral decision. Those are some of the dissenting views coming from in Nigeria. On the other hand, some in the religious fraternity, say that one of the fundamental conditions for the performance of Hajj is safety and security of the life and property of pilgrims. And in that regard, with the new variants emerging, they do understand Saudi Arabia’s decision.

Questions are now being posed about how Hajj will be managed, going forward, for instance, with countries around the world where there are huge populations, and people are literally registered for Hajj from the time they are born.

Umm Muhammed Umar

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