The Muslim Rights Concern has added its voice to that of the National Hajj Commission concerning the situation of the 2021 Hajj.
MURIC’s interface was contained in a statement made available on Monday by its Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola.
It said: “It will be recalled that the government of Saudi Arabia last week restricted all foreign countries from bringing their pilgrims to perform hajj this year 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NAHCON immediately issued a statement on the restriction to keep Nigerians who had intended to partake in the holy exercise informed.
“Although NAHCON’s statement was self-explanatory, some Nigerians still find joy in twisting it to satisfy their own perception. We therefore find it mandatory to make some clarifications in view of wrong perceptions and the possibility of some mischief makers misleading Nigerian Muslims in particular and the general public as well.
“Of particular interest is the deluge of questions being asked on the development. But of serious concern to us are some strange and misleading questions asked by journalists of some media houses who want MURIC to react.
“One journalist said, ‘Recently Saudi Government barred Nigerian Muslims from performing hajj due to Covid-19…’ as if Nigerian Muslims were the only intending pilgrims who were not allowed to travel to the holy land.
It is necessary to disabuse the public’s mind about this kind of misconception. Saudi Arabia’s restriction of 2021 pilgrimage affected intending pilgrims from all parts of the world. They only allowed their own citizens and foreigners living inside their country to perform this year’s hajj. It is not a Nigerian affair. It is universal. Even Americans, Britons, French, Germans, etc who planned to perform hajj cannot go.
“A journalist even sent an outrageous question. He asked, ‘Can’t the worshippers look inward for an alternative within the country?’ In other words, he was suggesting that intending pilgrims and perhaps all other Muslims in Nigeria should find an alternative to those rites of hajj which are performed in the holy land. By inference, his question implied that Nigerian Muslims should stop going to Saudi Arabia for hajj once they are able to find an alternative.
“Devoid of any mischief that may have been intended, this kind of question arose from a total lack of understanding of the religion of Islam by many non-Muslims. Islam is a divine religion and there are scriptural rules and guidelines for Islamic religious rites. Hajj is no exception in this regard. It is the last of the five pillars of Islam and details of where and how it should be performed are contained in the Glorious Qur’an (22:26 – 33; 5:3; etc).
“This is why no country in the world or any Muslim individual or group can, or should, invent an alternative for hajj. There is just one Ka‘bah in the world and it is mentioned in the Qur’an (3:96). The Muslims did not just wake up one day and started dreaming about a holy house of Allah. No country has Safa, Marwah, Muna or the plain of Arafat. The Qur’an mentioned Safa and Marwah in 2:158. Even the lesser hajj, Umrah is mentioned alongside hajj per se in Qur’an 2:196.
“Neither do Muslims conjure religious rites to imitate any other religious group. There is a clear, unambiguous and indubitable instruction in the Qur’an commanding capable Muslims to perform hajj. Almighty Allah said, ‘Pilgrimage to the House is a duty for those who have the capacity.’ (3:97)
“Those who are contemplating the possibility of finding an alternative for the Ka‘bah, Safa, Marwah, Arafat, etc, should just bury the thought. All the gold in the world cannot build those holy places. They are not tourist attractions. They are divinely anointed places which no human intelligence can comprehend nor any material wealth construct.
“MURIC joins the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) to appeal to Muslims who had planned to perform hajj this year to remain strong in faith as their dreams will be realised as soon as COVID-19 recedes and the Saudi authorities review their policy on admission of foreigners for the annual hajj exercise.
“We also commend NAHCON for being proactive. It is on record that the Commission has already told prospective pilgrims who wish to collect the money paid for this year’s hajj to come forward. To that extent, therefore, NAHCON is being transparent and accountable without being forced to do so.
“Finally, we reiterate our position that this is a postponement necessitated by COVID-19 pandemic. It is not a punitive measure against the Nigerian government or a disciplinary action against Nigerian Muslims. Hajj 2021 has been postponed the same way that several events of massive gathering of people have been postponed in many parts of the world on account of the Corona Virus pandemic. We urge all those affected by the postponement to strictly follow guidelines issued by NAHCON authorities from time to time.”