Islamic Perspectives

Haj _ Pilgrimage thoughts

By Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood

Having climbed Mount Arafat on the main day of Haj I was overwhelmed with an intense feeling of communion with God. I asked, "O Lord, among these tens of thousands of devotees hailing from my land present in the holy precincts of Mina today, who is the luckiest one having received your full acceptance of his or her Haj pilgrimage?" My conscience reverberated, "Ali Hajveri". I travelled back home and within a few days visited Hajver. I was told that in the entire town there is only one person named Ali, an unknown cobbler. I approached Ali and greeted him for performing the noblest Haj. Sobbing, he revealed that he was prepared to perform Haj that year but couldn't ultimately undertake the journey. He had, instead, given his life, savings reserved for Haj to a family that was starving for three days. I told him of my vision that because of his great sacrifice, God had accepted his Haj in absentia (Courtesy - my friend, Farhat Rahman).

Measure of true faith
Quraan says that Haj is an obligation for those who have enough savings to do so even after taking care of normal family life and fulfilling basic obligations. Also, personal health should not be a constraint to undertake the vagaries of pilgrimage. Even after these two conditions exist Haj is an obligation only once in a lifetime. The funds intended for investment to perform Haj more than once should better be diverted to help the poor and needy. That's the true faith.

For Haj 2009, a quarter million Indian applicants did not succeed in the draw of lots conducted by the Central Haj Committee. Jointly they now possess two and-a-half billion rupees that would remain unutilised for one year or more. Not making such fund available, year after year, to the poor and needy contravenes God's scheme of equitable circulation of wealth in the world.

Sachar Committee has documented how Muslims are mostly lagging behind other socio-religious communities. By way of remedy, besides the Government, the people will also have to discharge their obligation toward the poor, the needy, the illiterate and the ailing. Through Zakat, one fortieth of one's net value of assets and savings has to be spent annually to help the needy. But in the heavenly computer, for enhancing one's ranking among the righteous, the fulfillment of Zakat needs to be frequently augmented by Sadaqa - the optional charity out of the remaining 97.5 percent of one's wealth.

The Prophet's test
Scriptural researches tell us that for every Prophet's community God did fix an object of test. For Mohammedan ummah it is material possession. A wealthy person is only a temporary custodian of funds, usually for less than a century. He or she has to come up to God's expectations for its proper utilization. The proof of a genuine spirit of benevolence and altruism is giving away something that one personally values and cherishes. In addition to material support, one can give from one's energy, time, knowledge, skill, moral support, personal position or even a life time. The scripture warns those who perform religious rites but deny assistance to their lesser blessed fellows jeopardizing the fundamental socio-economic balance and integration.

Let not those who covetously withhold the gifts which God has given them out of His Grace, think that it is good for them. It would, in fact, be very bad for them. On the Day of Judgment the things which they covetously withheld would be tied to their necks like a twisted collar. To God belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth. He is well acquainted with all that we do, says Quraan.

Haj is a training for God consciousness which should reflect throughout the pilgrim's life afterwards. The annual universal spiritual gathering, around the community's focal point, reflects the equality of human beings and universal fraternity regardless of the geographic, ethnic, political, educational or socio-economic differences. Its a refresher course in living together and mutual accommodation to be extrapolated and to be applied later in the society at large..

The author is President, Zakat Foundation of India and can be reached at info@zakatindia.org

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2009 on page no. 29

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