The fifth pillar of Islam-Hajj-is the holy pilgrimage expected of every Muslim; however, because of Covid-19 which ravaged the globe, this spiritual exercise has been put to a halt. In this piece, AYONI M AGBABIAKA x-rays the situation and presents the hopes and expectations for 2020 intending pilgrims.
While many may have died arising from natural causes induced by the anxiety of failed expectation like inability to perform Hajj, both the living and the dead affected by the pandemic have no cause for worry as their optimum reward is guaranteed.The annual pilgrimage done during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar is an exercise done by Muslims in line with the footsteps of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and his followers on their first pilgrimage in Islam in the year 628.
According to the Centre for International Communication, Ministry of Media, Saudi Arabia, “The season of Hajj brings great deal of good as Muslims come together and learn from each other; it makes them feel the real importance of life here on earth and after-life by stripping away all markers of social status, wealth and pride. Hajj is also a chance to wipe clean the slate of one’s mistakes and shortcomings of the past.”
According to Prophet Muhammed, “One who comes to this House for Hajj and avoids all lewdness and sins, he returns as he was on the day his mother gave birth to him.”
Bearing these in mind, what then becomes of those who for the global pandemic could not perform the 2020 Hajj?
The Saudi Arabian authority, after due considerations of all indexes, concluded that no Hajj exercise would take place for international pilgrims including the Nigerian contingent of 95, 000.
This number is only a small part of the two million pilgrims who would have taken part in the annual ritual but for Covid-19, only 10, 000 local residents of the Kingdom were allowed to perform Hajj in 2020.
An intending pilgrim, Ismail Jamiu, described the cancelled Hajj as disappointing. “To be candid, I felt very disappointed because my mind was on this year’s Hajj. Payment had been made and preparations done. You know the preparation is not about carrying clothes or wristwatch. It has to do with the mind; that was why I was sad to hear the news. What I was looking at was to observe Hajj 2020 and make it so memorable.
“It affected my plans because I am somebody who believes in planning. I don’t just dabble into things; when I want to do it, I will sit down and plan it.
“The people I was to go with, the armed forces, informed us that we would be in Saudi Arabia till the end of August and return shortly. It was so unfortunate that all the plans I had for August went futile,” he said.
Uncertainty of keeping the money
Many intending pilgrims like Jamiu are reluctant to collect refund of their fare as announced by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, (NAHCON) which directed all state pilgrims welfare boards to commence the refund.
“I received a message from the carrier that we should come for a refund but I do not want to collect the money to avoid spending it and begin to struggle next year. So, I did not go to them. I only have all evidence of payment so that when it is time for us to go, I will present my evidence of payment and even if I’m to add some money, it’s not going to be difficult. That’s my plan. I’m hoping that the next Hajj will be possible,” he added.
According to reports, this is the first time in Saudi Arabia that foreign visitors would be barred from performing Hajj. Hajj has been cancelled because of war and past epidemics throughout history, but not since the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
According to Missioner Nasru-L-Lahi Fathi Society (NASFAT) Bwari Branch, Abuja, Mallam Abdulganiyu Yusuf said, Hajj is about spirituality and a call to mankind to worship Allah.
“As we all know that Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and the importance is to elevate us in spiritual mood; it is a command from Allah in Suratul Hajj verses 27 to 28 and the purpose is to worship Allah.”
Among the importance of Hajj is unity. Yusuf said, “Whether you are a president, black or white, you shall circumambulate the same Ka’abba in the same cloth. That is unity of purpose. You know when you go to some countries, they discriminate whether you are black or white but when you get to Hajj, you are the same.”
The missioner also said among the significance of Hajj is generosity. When you go to Hajj, people tend to give a lot so as to earn the reward. They seize the opportunity because they may not have the opportunity of doing it again,” he said.
Implication of cancellation
The missioner stated that despite the benefits of Hajj, there are implications on intending pilgrims. “There are so many implications; one of those is the spiritual implication. Another implication is the mental, physical and financial implications knowing that when they perform Hajj properly, their reward is in heaven but all of a sudden, something made it impossible to embark on the journey.
Admission to paradise
Speaking further he said, “In terms of spirituality, when you commit offence, whether intentionally or accidentally and you plan to go for Hajj to seek for Allah’s forgiveness and do it the way you ought to, surely the reward is there and that reward is not less than being admitted to paradise. But this hope for many was dashed.
“Another implication is that you will see wonder. You will see how millions of people have come together just because of one thing! You will be amazed that so enormous creatures of Allah exist that you have not met before but because of Hajj you are opportuned to meet them.
If you go to all these airports in every country that wants to perform Hajj, you will see some businesses generating money. And the government is generating money from that too, but because of these pandemic everything was shut down. Some may not be able feed the family, some may lose their jobs. So economically, it affects many and even Saudi Arabia whose major sources of revenue is from Hajj.However, the cleric stated that though many expectations weren’t met. All hopes and rewards are not lost.
“The prophet said, intention is in the heart. If you have an intention of doing good and you are not able to actualise it, Allah will reward you for doing good. So, those who had the intention of going there to worship Allah, the reward is there; the only thing is that their physical appearance was not there but their spiritual appearance was already there. Physically, they did not perform Hajj but spiritually, they have. Which means, those intending pilgrims already have the reward of that Hajj.”He however maintained that the reward will not be there for those who had another intention other than going to Hajj for the worship of Allah.
Alhaji and Alhaja/Hajiya appellations
He said, “Yes, you can call them Alhaji and Alhaja etc. That word is a ‘guest of Allah’. They were invited by Allah and were able to answer the call. They all answer the call of Allah spiritually but have not answered the call physically and the spiritual comes before physical.”
He therefore used the opportunity to pray that Allah eases the minds of intending pilgrims and that they should have rest of mind that it was the will of Allah.“Some of them may not have the opportunity to physically go again; some may have. No matter what, may Allah accept it from them and count it as an act of ibadah and the reward that Allah said He is going to give those people, may Allah give them the reward.”
Prior to 2020 intending pilgrims
Among the many hopes for intending pilgrims is that NAHCON chairman, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan had said that priority would be given to the intended pilgrims for the 2021 Hajj even as the refund of fare has begun across the country.
Source: Blue Prints