The meaning of Haj is “to intend a journey.” Haj is a journey of a lifetime. And if such a sublime journey is undertaken on a false premise, then its very purpose is defeated.
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The core of Haj – like that of the other four pillars of Islam – is based on intention. And that’s why ihram is a sacred state, which every pilgrim must enter into to undertake Haj or Umrah.Intention is the summum bonum of a Muslim’s belief. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Actions are but by intentions.”
However, during my stay here in the Kingdom, I have come across many people who boast of the number of times that they have performed Haj as if these numbers are medals of honor for them. Each “medal of honor” has a story behind it.
It is considered “heroic” to deceive the authorities, hitchhike an illegal ride, squat on the streets in the holy sites to finally achieve yet another “feat” of performing Haj on the sly without a legal permit.
Such “heroic acts” are bragged about in social gatherings to the appreciation of many and the amusement of some. The experienced ones pass on their expertise on how to circumvent the law to perform Haj to those willing to try their hands, or rather feet, at it. The lucky ones come back with their own stories of “heroism”. And so the cycle continues.
Every year the authorities launch a campaign warning people inside the Kingdom against performing Haj without a permit. This year, as well, the authorities have been sending text messages in many languages telling residents that those found performing Haj without a permit will face immediate deportation and a 10-year ban on entering the Kingdom. The authorities have made it clear that those who are apprehended have no one to blame but themselves.
Brochures in six languages are being distributed which tell us that a “Correct Haj begins with the permit.”
A permit to perform Haj is not just a piece of paper, it also has an important social, legal and religious significance.
Allah says in Surah An-Nisa (4:59): “O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and also (obey) your own leaders.”
Those who intend to perform Haj without a permit disobey Allah, His Messenger and the leaders, who are in charge of organizing the pilgrimage. Haj is one of the world’s largest congregations of people at one place and at one time.
It is not easy to manage such a huge crowd. But the Saudi government, which rightly considers it an honor to serve pilgrims, leaves no stone unturned to make sure that the Guests of Allah perform their religious rituals with ease and comfort. And to do so the government takes into consideration the increasing number of pilgrims, the logistics, the infrastructure, security and many other related issues.
Those who pack their rucksacks and reach the holy sites by hoodwinking the authorities not only create problems for themselves but also for thousands of pilgrims who have undertaken this journey with a pure intention and have paid to do so.
People who are squatting or sleeping on the streets and pavements and filling every empty space are a hindrance for pilgrims as well as for the authorities. They also pose a serious security and health hazard. Haj is not a challenge of one-upmanship with the authorities, but an act of obedience to Allah.
Article source: Saudi Gazette