LATELY, Muslim faithful have found deep interest in performing Umrah (lesser Hajj) on a regular basis. Even, some, who, hitherto, spent their vacations and holidays in Europe and America are now opting for Umrah as a more rewarding exercise. Responding to why the sudden surge in the popularity of Umrah among Muslims, Managing Director/CEO, Habdat Xpress, Alhaji Qasim Alabi said, “one of the reasons for this is awareness among the Muslims now of the importance of lesser hajj (umrah). People have also realized that they can actually plan their holidays in such a way that they will spend their money and still earn rewards from Allah. A lot of families now plan their holidays in this way. This is unlike in the past where everybody thinks of Europe or US for holiday.
“Dubai booming economy has also assisted in the sense that many Muslims who travel to Dubai for holiday or business will prefer to combine it with Umrah especially when the margin in terms of cost is minimal. Another reason for popularity of Umrah among Muslims nowadays is the belief that prayers made in the house of Allah in Kabah are always accepted by Allah.”
As a private travels and tours operator, Alhaji Alabi just returned from Saudi Arabi for lesser hajj with a group of Muslim travellers using Habdat Xpress platform. He shared his experience thus: “It has been a wonderful experience in the sense that I was highly fulfilled spiritually. Umrah at any time of the year apart from Ramadan allows you to plan your time within the shortest time and make the best use of it to serve Allah. It is also interesting to note that a lot of people now come for Umrah every month. This is because of the on going expansion of Haram in Makkah which will make it impossible for some people to go for Umrah in the month of Ramadan.”
The sociologist who doubles as renowned Muslim preacher elucidates on differences and similarities between Hajj and Umrah.
“Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and it is compulsory for every matured Muslim who has gotten the wherewithal. This is compulsory once in the life of a Muslim. He can however perform hajj again if he has the means but that will not be compulsory for him again. There are also specific times for hajj known as the months of hajj and performance of hajj apart for the specified period is null and void. Umrah on the other side is known as lesser hajj and this can be done at any time of the year. Hajj is once a year but Umrah is available throughout the year.
“Major similarities between hajj and umrah are ihram, circumbulation round the Kabah and Say (walking between Safa and Marwah). As for the differences, the intentions for hajj and umrah are different. Also for hajj, pilgrims are expected to do the followings which are not part of Umrah: Staying at Minnah for certain number of days. Standing at Arafat on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah. Passing a night at Muzdalifah. Throwing pebbles at Jamrat for certain days. Sacrificing an animal depending on the kind of hajj one is performing. We can see here that there are a lot of activities to be performed during hajj and this has to be done with good intention. No wonder the prophet (SAW) was reported to have said that “there is no reward for an acceptable hajj other than paradise.”
Alhaji Alabi empathize with Muslims who will be performing hajj this year due to the devaluation of Naira as exchange rate to one US Dollar is now above N200.
“This will surely affect a lot of things. The prices of hajj and umrah will surely go up because of the increase in the cost of tickets and also payments for accommodation in Saudi. This will no doubt have a spiral effect on the number of pilgrims who will go for hajj and umrah.”
Also he expressed displeasure on the failure of most Nigerian leaders who always undertake Umrah and Hajj without borrowing a leaf from good governance culture that permeates the holy land.
“This is because majority of our leaders who go for hajj and umrah do not go because of Allah. They probably have different intention. Visiting the house of Allah calls for sober reflection but we can see that the reverse is the case not only for our leaders but also for a lot of people who visit the holy land. As Muslims, we need to understand our religion and know that a Muslim lives for the sake of others. Our intention also needs to be purified.”
Habdat Xpress, he said, “is a one-stop shop for everybody’s travel needs. Apart from the fact that we offer travel services locally and internationally, we are also into Hajj and Umrah services. No doubt, our experiences count and we always go the extra mile.”