Who should sponsor poor pilgrims?


October 19, 2014
Who should sponsor  poor pilgrims?
Who should sponsor poor pilgrims?
Mahmoud Ahmad


Mahmoud Ahmad



The Haj season is drawing to a close with most pilgrims having left or in the process of leaving the Kingdom. This year’s Haj was a great success with more than 2 million people — both domestic pilgrims and those from all over the world — having completed their once-in-a-lifetime ritual comfortably, with all sections of the Haj machinery working like a well-oiled machine.

However, amid the glowing stories of a successful Haj for nearly every pilgrim, many sad stories have emerged of pilgrims in a financial bind or left in an acute pecuniary situation following the sale of personal assets so that they could fulfill their once-in-a-lifetime dream.

Many pilgrims had to sell their homes or other property - sometimes almost everything they own - just to come for Haj. On the other hand, we hear reports of pilgrims who have paid more than SR100,000 to perform a VIP Haj. Also, even with the once-in-five-years limit on performing Haj, many residents are ready to perform Haj again after the five-year wait.

This is simply unfair. It should strike all rich people from all over the world as unfair, especially as our religion specifies that this duty, if you are capable, should be performed once in a lifetime. If you combined this fact with the other virtue propounded by our religion, i.e., generosity, then it would be possible for many poor Muslims to perform Haj without ending up in a dire financial predicament. But this requires rich people from all over the world, especially in Muslim countries, to decide to help and to give generously. All it needs is for those who have, and have performed Haj once, to cater to the have-nots. Those who are wealthy should sponsor poor pilgrims to perform Haj.

I read a newspaper report of a very old Yemeni pilgrim, who dreamed of performing Haj for 50 years, and whose dream was fulfilled this year. His poor financial condition prevented him from performing Haj every year. It was with deep pain that he revealed that the income from his work barely covered his and his family’s monthly needs. It was only when his two sons managed to find work that his wishes were fulfilled. After saving money for more than three years, they managed to collect enough money for their father to come to Haj. It took three years to fulfill a dream of half a century.

Another story was that of an Algerian pilgrim who had promised his paralyzed wife that he would take her for Haj. It took him 20 years to fulfill the promise he had made to his wife. But to do so he had to endure personal hardship in order save from his meager earnings in his country. However, he managed to eke out a living and save in order to redeem his pledge and realize his wife’s dream.

I also read about an old Indian pilgrim who sold his farm to cover the expense of coming for Haj with his wife. This farm was the only source of livelihood for him and his wife. To fulfill the dream of coming to Haj, he had no other option but to sell his farm to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam. Without any worry and with a heart full of faith, he said that God would compensate him when he returned to India.

Another story was that of a Pakistani pilgrim who sold his house and the few goats that he owned to come to Haj on his wife’s behalf. His wife had died without performing Haj. She had repeatedly dreamt of coming for Haj and constantly reminded her husband of her dream prior to her death. The poor husband fulfilled his wife’s wish this year despite the fact that he had not saved enough. As a result, he had no choice but to sell his house and goats to come to Saudi Arabia.

There are many other sad stories like these of people selling all that they have in order to fulfill their dream of performing Haj. At the same time we see people paying more than SR100,000 to perform Haj in luxury. This money could easily sponsor at least 20 poor pilgrims to come for Haj.

I wish that more businessmen, seeking reward from God, would focus their attention on sponsoring these poor pilgrims. Poor pilgrims are the strongest in faith. We should encourage businessmen, and all those in the Muslim world who are financially able, to adopt pilgrims who cannot afford to perform Haj.

Such philanthropic measures need to be developed, especially with the cost of living rising globally increasing the price of everything, including the cost of Haj. We are at a stage when it is becoming more difficult for people in even the middle income group to be able to afford performing Haj. Imagine the plight of those who do not have the money but dream of performing Haj once in their lifetime. With every year, they see yet another Haj season pass by knowing that they cannot afford it.

This is a chance to do good deeds and I call on those who are financially able to participate in such projects. I also hope to see the end of the VIP Haj and the money spent on VIP campaigns directed to the poor. At the end of the day, we are all equal when performing Haj.

— The writer can be contacted at mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa.

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