By Ishaq Jae
Let me begin my article with a Hausa maxim (which is not part of the ten maxims) that says “rashin sani ya sa kaza kwana kan dami” loosely translated; A chicken, out of ignorance, spent an entire night on a stack of grains probably hungry. This describes the situation of Hajj in Nigeria today. Like many other sectors, its potentials are enormous and waiting to be harnessed for the betterment of all. I make attempt to discuss 10 maxims and sayings that could turn the fortunes of this important sector for the better with the hope it will find its way to where it will be useful
Actions are according to intentions.
One of the most popular sayings (if not the most) of the Prophet SAW narrated by Umar RA and transmitted by Bukhari and Muslim , in Arabic, is “innamal a’amaalu bin niyyaat” translated “ All actions are judged in line with the intentions behind them. What has this got to do with my article? All entrants into the Hajj sector in Nigeria especially those under Government which accounts for about 80% of Nigerian pilgrims annually, have various reasons for venturing into the sector. Some, like this writer found themselves in it by accident; Some were out of concern and the urge to make it better, some saw it as a means of making easy money and some still as rewards for their political activities
These intentions usually guide the performance of Hajj officials across all levels. Irrespective of these intentions it is important for all players to remember that they will definitely stand before Allah to account for their actions and inactions on the day of judgement. Unfortunately for some who committed serious misdeeds, retribution starts immediately. Some of us have seen such types of persons.
While the above might refer to individuals, Nigeria as a nation needs to have its own national intentions for Hajj which should be articulated through a Hajj policy. Dr. Usman Bugaje has mentioned this need and reiterated same at various fora over the last 4 decades.. He said “..Hajj has been one of the most powerful instruments of social, political and economic transformation of Muslim polities and communities through out history…. Hajj. Just like every sphere of government activity must have a clear policy, which guides it and is reviewed from time to time… the leadership of NAHCON needs to do is to first understand the scope and depth of their mandate and the opportunity this mandate presents for them not only to re-invent Hajj management and operations but indeed to re-invent the Muslim community in Nigeria.
Formulating and institutionalizing this national policy will set our sail as a nation among nations involved in Hajj. It is likely to address a burning issue that comes up whenever Hajj comes up as a subject of National discourse in Nigeria; What is in it for Nigeria as a nation? I believe if deliberate efforts are made to make a National policy which should, among other things, should;
• Promote national cohesion and unity by bringing together Muslims from all walks of life and various parts of Nigeria together for Hajj rites and also other benefits to all Nigerians irrespective of origin.
• Contribute to Nigeria’s economy by promoting national and international trade for Nigerian businesses and services to pilgrims and locals in Hajj Departure centres and developing the Hajj and other infrastructure in Nigeria while placing Nigeria in the international arena during Hajj
• Facilitate knowledge and technology transfer between Nigeria and developed countries by encouraging Nigerians on Hajj to explore new knowledge and technologies and best practices from other countries and bring this knowledge back to Nigeria
Square pegs in square holes
In appointment of officials that serve the 80 or 100% of Nigerian pilgrims, at National and sub national levels, it is important to find the right hands and also put the right people in the right places. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case in some places. I am aware of a State that had an unwritten policy of appointing the Chairman of ruling political party of that state to be Chairman of its Pilgrims Management Body – effectively jettisoning competence.
Though Nigeria, at the moment, has a dearth of qualified Hajj professionals at all levels – a situation the 4th Board of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria is addressing, there is the need to ensure whoever is put in charge of serving the guests of Allah SWT in each area, is the most competent person to handle such responsibility.
Sayyidul Qaumi Khaadimuhum
Related to the previous maxim, is the above Arabic maxim which translates the leader of a people is their servant. One of the appalling sights during Hajj is the conduct of some Hajj officials (who despite being paid by funds generated from pilgrims) lord over their pilgrims or at times act as if they are doing them a favour. Some others still accept offers to officiate during Hajj but see it as a free ticket to perform the Hajj only rendering very little or no service at all to pilgrims. This maxim states that whoever is at Hajj as an official irrespective of his/her status, is there to serve and act in the best interest of pilgrims. If one’s status or (physical/health) condition will not allow him serve pilgrims, he/she should not be there in the first place. The Amirul Hajj should be accessible to every one of his pilgrims and be ready and willing to listen and serve at all time, same applies to every Chairman, Executive Secretary or Director.
Customer is King
For profit making ventures the customer is king and is always right. This maxim makes online Uber or Bolt drivers treat their riders with decorum and respect to earn a high rating at the end of each ride; Hoteliers and restaurant staff treat their customers with courtesy to retain them or earn high ratings. For Hajj, the pilgrim is the customer and more than just a customer whose satisfaction may bring financial benefits, but one whose satisfaction will affect the aakhirah of their servants. The satisfaction of a pilgrim pleases the owner of Jannah and Jahannam. The pilgrim should therefore be addressed with courtesy, corrected with respect, served with humility and treated with empathy during crises. The fact that a pilgrim paid for his/her services and paid for an official to serve him accords him/her all rights and privileges of a customer in modern day parlance.
Where you work is where you chop
This Nigerian maxim connotes the getting of benefits legitimately or otherwise from one’s place of work. For this purpose, however, I make case for utilizing Hajj to get economic benefits for the individual pilgrim and the organizers of Hajj. Verse of the Quran (2:198) permits pilgrims to seek bounties of their Lord during Hajj. For Hajj officials however, the Hajj is an opportunity to establish connections with people from all parts of the world which may give birth to numerous socio-economic benefits. An excellent illustration of this is the Malaysian Tabung Haji which was established primarily to drive economic benefits through Hajj. Tabung Haji today is worth billions of dollars in deposits and owns numerous companies, farms and real estate properties around the world as investments from pilgrims deposits which is used to subsidize Hajj for their pilgrims. Indonesia has a similar system and nothing stops Nigeria from following this trend.
A hadith of the noble Prophet SAW, in the hadith narrated by Shaddad bn Aws RA states “Verily Allah has decreed excellence in everything” (compiled by Muslim), and another narrated by Aisha RA in which He, SAW has said; “ Verily Allah (SWT) loves that when one of you does something, he does it excellently” (Sahih, compiled by At Tabarani). These maxims will serve the world well when all those serving pilgrims adopt them and spare no effort in giving their all in services to the guests of Ar Rahman. A popular saying goes “Heaven is where the police are British, the cooks are Italian, the lovers are French, the farmers Dutch, the engineers are German, the teachers Japanese and it is all organized by the Swiss.”
Hajj is a group and not an individual activity
The involvement of over 3 million people annually in the same rites in spaces meant for less than a million people pushes to the limit, every logistical plan known by man. To ensure all Hajj rites are conducted with ease and safety and to avoid situations that have on many occasions led to the deaths of many pilgrims, the organizers of this annual event have used the maxim “Hajj is a not an individual but group activity” and hence have organized all Hajj arrangements around groups to easy coordination. This has therefore made it mandatory for all pilgrims to operate and abide by the approved schedules for their groups.
What goes around comes aroun
A Hajj official once told a story about how he let a not so good accommodation pass due to non availability of better alternatives only for his own mother to be accommodated in the same accommodation. Similarly, another recounted how he went out of his way to trace the location of tents in Minna only for him to have is own mother assisted to trace her own tent as a result of his efforts. If only Hajj officials would understand this maxim, it will prompt them to leave no stone unturned in making water-tight arrangements for their pilgrims as their actions could and will have boomerang effect on them or their close ones.
Time and tide wait for no one
A few years ago, the Kodak company dominated the world photography arena with shops, supply outlets and studios in almost every city. As digitization crept into the photography world, Kodak did not adapt and to today it is almost unknown. Today the world Hajj scene is also undergoing similar transformation. Technology and global best practices in logistics, hospitality, travel and similar areas that serve pilgrims are changing significantly. Those who will survive are those who study the trends and make informed efforts to adapt.
An bar jaki ana bugun taiki
A great many Hajj organizers spend enormous amounts of time, financial and human resources to ensure their pilgrims get the best services during Hajj. However, many of these seem to neglect the most important component and real essence of Hajj and fail to or infuse very little spiritual content or guidance for pilgrims especially during the entire journey, especially the 5 or 6 days of Hajj. Organizers and pilgrims alike must revert back to the real essence of Hajj as a pillar of Islam and a sure expressway to Jannah as the Prophet SAW assured us; “A Hajj mabrur has no reward except Jannah”.
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, has been advised to discountenance…