Performing Haj over and over again


“Are you going for Haj this year?,” a Pakistani shopkeeper asked me. I told him I may go but I haven’t yet decided.

He was surprised. “Why not, brother? Are you OK?,” he asked me, looking at me closely to check for signs of illness or troubles.

I laughed and assured him that I am fine and explained that I performed my last Haj five years ago. I could get a permit this year but I can see that millions come from countries thousands of miles away for their first, once-in-a-lifetime Haj, and they deserve the space much more than I do. I have already performed Haj many times and I can do it again InshaAllah when all the ongoing mega projects are completed in two years, so why the rush? Why should I take up space and add to the crowd when I can give my place to a fellow Muslim?

My friend seemed unconvinced, so I went on: “You may say what difference the absence of one individual would make? That is exactly the problem. If everyone thought the same, no one would do the right thing. One should do what he believes right and set an example for others to follow. Allah would reward us individually — each for his or her deeds, on our own.”

The man just sat there smiling at me until I finished my enthusiastic speech. He then responded: “I have a different reason for not going to Haj this time. It is because of my heart condition. It seems my cholesterol and blood sugar levels have finally got the best of me. If I was able to walk long distances, carry heavy luggage, tolerate heat, crowds and other Haj conditions as I used to earlier, I would certainly go this year, too.”

The man was also very much overweight and was sweating profusely despite being in an air-conditioned place. I wondered why he would want to perform another Haj in such a hot weather with his obvious health problems. His answer amazed me: “Brother, I have lived in this country for 22 years and performed Haj 20 times. If it wasn’t for my age and health problems, I would never miss it as long as I live!”

“But you need a Haj permit, don’t you?,” I asked. He laughed and said: “I have never asked for one and have never had one! I don’t even go with Haj providers. They cost too much and serve too little. We, a group of friends, do it the way Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions did. We walk all the way carrying our own luggage. We live and sleep in the open — on pavements, streets, under bridges and trees. We do it the right way — the hardest way!”

I was amazed. It took me some time to absorb his logic before I responded, “I hate to correct you, brother, but your information is not accurate. The Prophet (PBUH) and his companions did not perform Haj every year, did not walk carrying their belongings on their backs, but rather rode on camels and horses. They lived in tents, not in the open, and certainly not on pavements, blocking pedestrians. And they always sought the easiest, not the hardest ways.

Most importantly, they only performed Haj when they were ready and up to it financially, physically and mentally. When the Prophet (PBUH) ordered them one year to return, they obeyed him. He gave them permission to go the next year and they did as instructed by their leader. Now the Custodian of Makkah and Madinah is telling us not to go without permission and provider, we should obey his order.”

The man listened with respect, thought for a few minutes, then said: “Brother, it is not so easy to ignore the call and to hear Hajis chanting “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” while I sit in my pajamas watching them in front of my television, here in Jeddah, only 60 miles from where they stand on the Mountain of Mercy.

My family and friends are thousands of miles away and they cry because they are not able to perform Haj. They can’t believe that I would not go even if I could. Brother, I will be here for two more years and that may or may not be extended since there is no permanent residency in this country. So, next year, I may be back home and hence I will lose my chance to perform my last Haj.”

He took a long breath, gave me another sweet smile, then announced: “I understand all that you have said, my dear Saudi brother. My mind does, really! But, pardon me, sir, my heart does not!”

– Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi can be reached at and followed on Twitter: @kbatarfi