Q) As someone undertaking the blessed pilgrimage of Hajj this year, In Sha Allah, what are your expectations? Ans 1: Alhamdullilah, on the first of July we are departing for Hajj. It is after a break of two years that Hajj has resumed for other countries. So In Sha Allah, we expect that Allah should make it convenient and blessed and possible for more Haajis to perform it. This year only 10 lakhs will be performing Hajj. We will pray for everyone else.
Q) Have you heard about the new developments regarding the changes in the mahram rules, the new age limits due to health reasons and the transition to a lottery system for some countries? If yes, what are your opinions? Ans 2: Yes, I am aware of the change in the mahram rules that ladies can travel in a group without a mahram. I have a mixed opinion about this. One is, if the lady is learned or bold and smart and can take care of herself and travelling with known people, it is okay. But if she is weak, not very well-educated and not exposed to the world, then to travel on her own is not encouraged. The age limitation is a product of the COVID restrictions. The Saudi government has introduced that because senior citizens are more at risk. Let us pray that next year everyone can travel without any restrictions and the COVID issue will be solved. Due to the post COVID situation and the restrictions they were forced to introduce the lottery/qurrah system.
Q) Tell us about your plans for Hajj – how long have you been thinking of going, whether this is your first Hajj, and how the current trip materialized. Ans 3: May Allah accept my Hajj. When I was a six-month-old baby, my father as a Parliament member was selected in the government delegation along with Shaikh Abdullah in 1971. He was selected for the Hajj delegation and could take his spouse along. My mother had me, a six-month-old baby. So they took me along. So Alhamdullilah, although the 1971 Hajj won’t be in my account but my parents, but that was my first. I got married to a person in the travel industry. After I got married, my father advised him, why don’t you have an exclusive Hajj company. My husband accepted and said I will start it provided that your daughter heads it. So it started the year we got married, 1993. I am the sole proprietrix of the company and it has been functioning since then. I have been accompanying my husband for most of the years since then. If Allah permits, this will be my 21st year of Hajj. It is Khidmat (service) for us, I am involved in assisting and guiding the ladies of our group.
Q) What do you think is the greatest lesson or message of Hajj? Ans 4. The greatest lessons of Hajj are 1) It shows the Muslims that they are not alone, they have their brothers and sisters all across the globe. Muslims from 200 countries come there. Allah is showing us we are a global community, not a region or an area or a race or culture or creed. Everyone says “Labbaik Allahuma Labbaik”. All the men wear unstitched two-piece white cloth. 2) Allah is giving us the lesson that we are equal in front of Him – irrespective of status, or qualification or difference in front of Him. One major aspect is the days we spend at Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah with the bare minimum facilities and away from our families or homes. This is Allah’s preparation for any calamities or disaster. It is like a glimpse of the Day of Judgement when everyone will be gathered with nothing but their deeds. It is a preparation for the day we will be nothing but dust. It teaches us humility and simplicity. We are the Ummah of Ibrahim AS and Muhammad SAW.
Q) Finally, what can be done by the government or the community leadership to make the pilgrimage possible for more people – particularly the poor, and women who might not have family members to take them along on the pilgrimage? Ans 5. I think Hajj is such a divine and profound life-changing experience that all the governments especially the Saudi government should try to make it more economical. It has become very exorbitant, particularly the flight tickets, the accommodation, the muallim fees, all of this comes with extra tax and charges. My request to the Saudi government is to reduce these. Second request to our respective governments, is to give more subsidized rates, especially since we are all tax-payers. While other pilgrimage subsidies are still there, the Hajj subsidy has been totally cut. We don’t even know what that amount is being used for now. Hajj is not incumbent on the poor, only on those who can afford it. SubhanAllah, He is most forgiving and understanding. We should NOT take any debts or loans for Hajj. When you go you should make arrangements for your family. Rasoolullah SAW has emphasized that you should not leave your family on the roads just for pilgrimage. Allah will give the thawab (reward) of Hajj even for intention. The philanthropists should also help. For the women who have no family members, they can now utilize the new mahram rule, but in my opinion, they should be accompanied by familiar people and not strangers and if they are in good health and well-aware of their surroundings.