Friday, November 23, 2012

PECULIARITIES OF HAJJ


                                                                         Pilgrims at Arafah


There is no gathering in the world like the Hajj. More than 3 million people have never converged in a single spot engaged in the same thing at the same time but on pilgrimage to the Ancient House in Makkah. For this unique feature, Hajj has peculiarities some of which I desire to address today.

Muslims spare no expense and bear any inconvenience on their way to the Holy Land for the performance of Hajj. With or without government’s involvement in Hajj activities in Nigeria, for instance, Muslims will continue to be on the pilgrimage. Hajj, to us, is a religious obligation, a pillar of our creed, and not an innovation in faith, without textual proof, and it is not done in order to cut a share in the national pie.

It is only in Hajj visa process that women need to be accompanied by a male guide, a mahram, if we accept for the purpose of this write-up the position of the Saudi Hajj authorities. This is one of the unique features of Hajj. No country in the world has anything similar to this. I have alluded to Nigeria’s position, on this page a fortnight ago, of making female pilgrims travel with safe company comprising trusted men and women, not necessarily attaching each woman to a relative or husband. In some of the responses I got on that piece and which appeared on this column last week, there were comments to the effect that the article was not balanced, that I should fear Allah because I was trying to protect my Hajj business interest in case the Saudis decide ‘to strictly follow the mahram rule.

Since today’s piece is on the peculiarities of Hajj, and the type of visa for this religious journey is part of what it intends to address, I will use this chance to clarify the matter. The people who made the above comments did not know that I, and any other Hajj tour operator, was not affected by what was happening at the time. The international pilgrims have not yet started travelling for Hajj 2012. We start airlift of our hajjis about 10 days to the actual pilgrimage. Our clients do not want to stay for more than two weeks in the holy land. The said commentators did not know also that there are different laws governing the visa process of Hajj tour operators on the one hand, and state pilgrim boards on the other. The state pilgrim boards and agencies have certain privileges and relaxed conditionalities over Hajj tour operators due to the enormous number of passports that they handle. The Hajj tour operator will hardly find himself or his pilgrims in the situation that the state pilgrim boards found themselves recently over the issue of mahram.


                                                                  Arafah


Every office of a registered Hajj and Umrah tour operator is a quasi-branch of the Saudi embassy or consulate when it comes to visa processing. We have access into the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website where we can process all kinds of visa: diplomatic, residence, work and visit. Other visas we can process are: medical/student, commercial or business as well as Umrah and Hajj visas. What the embassy or consulate does at the end of the day is to use the bar code we generate through the e-MOFA number (a special code that is automatically generated after submitting the details of each visa applicant online) we get from the website to print the visa on each passport. The bulk of the work is done by the tour operator, and not the embassy. The website is so sensitive that if due to a slight error the entire process of registering a passport or group of passports was aborted, you have to start all over again. The passport sized photograph of each applicant, for example, has to be captured and uploaded in accordance with specifications given on the page for appropriate height, width and pixels; otherwise the site will reject it. If the visa applicant is a female or a child below 18 years, there must be a mahram - FATHER, HUSBAND, SON OR BROTHER. The mahram must himself be above 18 years or the whole process will be automatically rejected.

Another strange one is that you can only use Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer 6 browser to do the process; any higher version or different web browser will result in errors. You may find that your pictures will not upload, for example, as a result of this difference.
 All international airlines are well acquainted with the visa requirements in Hajj and Umrah, and there is an imposition of a $10, 000 penalty per head on any airline that boards a pilgrim to Jeddah or Madinah with deficient entry documents. Emirates Airline which my company mostly uses for its operations is the strictest in adhering to the Saudi mahram rule. From Lagos, all pilgrims are scrutinised for any discrepancy in mahrams and related issues. No female pilgrim will check in without a mahram. Hajj pilgrims are given only one boarding pass; that of Lagos to Dubai. They can claim the other connecting boarding pass for the other leg of their journey, i.e. of Dubai to Jeddah or Madinah after crossing the more intense hurdle of mahram rechecking at the Dubai International airport by Arabic speaking Emirates staffers who seem to take delight in stalling your onward leg if you have mahram problem. "Sorry sir," they would say, "you can’t travel". And that is it! No amount of pleading or persuasion will make them change their minds. At times some so-called VIPs in Nigeria will force their way into the aircraft in Lagos, Abuja or Kano on the wheel of protocol concession. But in Dubai and other international airports we are all equal; you are only VIP in Nigeria. Emirates will not risk boarding anybody - no matter what that person thinks of themselves - without proper travelling documents to Saudi Arabia. So there is no way we, as private Hajj operators will have mahram issues like the one witnessed recently with pilgrims from state boards and agencies that operate direct flights to Jeddah and Madinah. On account of what I have stated here, in our ten years of operations in Hajj and Umrah activities, there was not a time that our pilgrims were deported for lack of mahram.

I am a sinner. I sin by day and night; unless Allah forgive and have mercy on me, I will be undone. But twisting religious position to achieve mundane ends is not part of my sins. Also, sugar-coating truth to please any mortal is not part of my iniquities; praise be to Allah.

What I did in that piece was to state the different positions taken by ulamaa on the permissibility or otherwise of women performing Hajj without mahram. The divergence of opinion has been there even before the impasse at Jeddah and Madinah airports with our female pilgrims. It was not an attempt to protect any business interest. Those women are our mothers, sisters and wives. Above all, they are Muslims whose only crime was that they said they want to be the guests of Allah. I do not know whether the commentator knows that of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence that are widely known, two (Shaafi'ee and Maaliki) are of the opinion that women can travel in safe company for hajj; even though the Shafi'ees specify that it can only be for the first hajj. Did these legendary scholars also have some paltry worldly gains to consider when they opined thus?

The mahram issue was centred on the state pilgrim boards and the Saudi authorities who knew very well the position of Nigerian Hajj authorities on female pilgrims and have never questioned the mode of operations for state pilgrim boards and agencies (incidentally, most Nigerian scholars lean to the Maaliki school). There was more to the issue than met the eye.

President Jonathan’s envoy, Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, must be commended for the successful resolution of the crisis.


Alhamdu lillah, Hajj 2012 is over but serious stakeholders have started revising their notes, paying attention to causes of hitches and how to avoid recurrence of same in the operations of Hajj 2013. Their study will also focus on areas of strength and how to enhance service delivery so that pilgrims will have real value for money.

Ticketing for Hajj, for instance, is not like ticketing at any other time or season. Most of the flights to Jeddah and Madeenah airports will be closed (they are the only airports a pilgrim can enter the Holy Land from). You will not be able to confirm many seats especially in the economy class. The airlines hold such seats and give them out to groups. So, if you want to put your pilgrims in the economy class you have to get confirmed group seats with fixed departure and arrival dates directly from the airlines. On Emirates Airline such group economy seats are only available, for pilgrims from Nigeria and many African countries, on Jeddah flights.

All flights landing in Madinah are given to those countries ‘who can pay better rates’, whatever that means. This is what we were told when we asked why our pilgrims were not given the Madinah flights. And who says Nigerians cannot pay? Our pilgrims paid N375, 000 for group economy seats to Jeddah. This is what other airlines charge for full economy or even business class seats.

Our pilgrims could only be confirmed on either first or business class seats on direct flights to Madinah. The problem here is with members of the same family or group travelling for Hajj. Yes, all will be on the same flight to Dubai, for example, but that family or group will be split on the Dubai – Jeddah or Dubai – Madinah sector of the journey. The dilemma is with families and groups consisting of female pilgrims – they must all travel in either business or economy class - as they will not be allowed into Saudia without their mahrams.  Only in Hajj will you find this kind of situation.

The pricing of tickets, though not peculiar to Hajj seats, is another area hardly understood by pilgrims. Unless you are issuing group tickets where the price is fixed, you seem to get all sorts of rates for the same type of tickets, travelling on the same dates, to the same destination and on the same class. During this year’s Hajj we issued business class tickets on our dates of travel at about N855, 000, while others were as low as N600, 000. A couple came for first class tickets; the wife’s ticket we got at N1, 200, 000; that of the husband, confirmed hours later, was N1, 500, 000. How on earth will a pilgrim take this calmly if not for the fact that the price of each ticket is generated electronically and is written on it directly from the airline? Incidentally, some pilgrims seem to think that the high prices are influenced by the agents; this cannot be farther from the truth. The truth is that as one agent is reserving a class of seat, another is reserving the same class. The electronic system queues up the requests based on time and searches for available seats that match the criteria of the seat requests. It gives you whatever it finds within the class you requested regardless of who you are. When the agent sees the fare, he makes an adjustment by asking for the best available in that class. As a result, you will see varying fares due to subclasses under each class of ticket. There are at least 3 first class types on Emirates’ Lagos-Dubai route, for example. The prices are not the same!

                                        Emirates Airline's First Class Cabin


Non availability of refund for services paid is another unique feature of Hajj. Whatever you paid for anywhere in the world and could not use due to any unforeseen circumstance, you are refunded at least in part if not completely. You may at worse be charged for cancellation fees in some cases or no-show fees. But in Hajj, you lose almost everything. For the tickets, if you happen to buy a full economy, business or first class ticket, you can place it for refund – even then what you get at the end of the day is far less than what you paid, as the airline will deduct other charges from the total sum. As far as group tickets are concerned, you get nothing from the airline. Some may argue that this is harsh but the airlines have their own valid points too.

                                                  The Business Class

In 2008 for example, there was a flight to Jeddah out of Lagos that was short of about 79 pilgrims. That year, visa issuance was a problem and many people were yet to receive visas before their flight dates. They missed the flight and the affected agencies applied for and got refunds for that high number of passengers. Dubai was not happy and ever since, they have been devising ways to cut their losses. Remember Hajj group economy seats are blocked all the way to Jeddah; no one can book them except agents. It was a substantial loss to them and so, here we are!

On your accommodation, transport within Saudia, Arafah/Minaa tents and feeding, you will get absolutely nothing once you cancel your trip when it is only few days to departure. Hajj services are arranged and paid for according to the number of pilgrims in a group. What the hotels and other service providers do, after collecting full payment from us, is make the Hajj tour operator sign a binding contract for the rooms required, to check in and check out at an agreed date according to the group’s movement. With the ratification of such contract, no alterations are permitted in terms of number of rooms decided upon or check in/check out dates. If any or all of the pilgrims could not make it to Hajj, that is the problem of the Hajj tour operator. As far as the hotel is concerned the rooms are occupied and paid for. This is Hajj!


                                            Dinning Time - First Class Style

The situation in the tents is not any better. Now in the A Tents (in the Additional Services Tents of the Mu’assasah) you have to pay for a number of tents according to the number of your pilgrims. Each tent cost SR60, 000 (N2, 400, 000) and accommodates only 8 pilgrims. That is about NGN300, 000 per head. The en suite ones go for even higher; one tent accommodates just five pilgrims and has the added comfort of an en suite convenience. One of such costs SR70, 000 (NGN2, 800, 000). All the prices I have quoted do not include the agent’s profit. And here also as in the case of the hotels, complete payment is required and contract signing. Nobody cares whether one or all of your pilgrims could not come to Hajj; any refund process is out of the question!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

ADAMU ADAMU’S CRITICISMS OF THE SAUDIS


                                                                         The Ka'bah



What I desire to write today in response to part 2 of Adamu Adamu’s Hajj and the Saudis (back page column, Daily Trust of Friday, 12 October 2012) has forestalled the publishing of the second part of my PECULIARITIES OF HAJJ in this column. I will revert to that next week insha Allah.


I am not a shi’ah adherent but I’ve always enjoyed the fluid prose and compelling exposition of plausible arguments in Adamu Adamu’s articles. Unfortunately, his plausibleness failed him in the write up under discussion. I concur with the writer in what he stated, among other things, in the first part of the article, which appeared in the same paper on 5 October, 2012, where he decried the detention, under appalling condition, and subsequent deportation of Nigerian female pilgrims by Saudi authorities for not travelling with mahrams. But the writer went out of his way, in the second part, to criticize the Saudis’ management of the Haramayn and demolition of Islamic relics and historical monuments ‘to stop us from committing shirk!’ Well, shirk to Adamu Adamu may be a trifle; in the sight of Allah, it is a great sin, not forgiven one who dies committing it! There is nothing worse than derailing from the way of the prophet (SAW).


I, however, like the type of Shi’ism that Adamu Adamu exhibits in his writings, except if he does that in the form of taqiyyah, dissimulation which I fail to divine. For instance, in his attempt to prove how erroneous the Saudis have acted in demolishing Islamic relics, he said: ‘The caliph Umar bin Khattab understood this so well that during his Caliphate he disallowed whoever was in the precinct of the Haram from locking his house during the Hajj. He said the land belonged to the guests of God and they had more right to the houses than those living in them. So who gave the Saudis the right to tamper with and desecrate of the Haramayn along with all the memorabilia of the Holy Prophet [SAW] and his companions?’ Brilliant! This is at variance with the attitude of Shi’ites, who love to calumniate noble companions like Abubakr, Umar, or even the illustrious wife of the Messenger of Allah, Aisha, may Allah be pleased with them. I will return to this later.


Adamu Adamu confused the warrant of travelling in the earth and seeing the nature of the consequence of those who came before us, like ‘the Pharaoh’, with the ‘artefacts related to the Holy Prophet [SAW] and Islam…’ Let us even assume that the  embalmed and preserved body, laying in the Cairo Museum is indeed that of the son of Ramses ll, mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an, it is regrettable that the writer chose this discordant analogy between the preservation of the remnants of obstinate potentates and ‘the artefacts related to the Holy Prophet [SAW] and Islam…’ The verses that adjure believers to travel and see the end of those who were before us have to do with perverted transgressors. Adamu Adamu would have done better with benign inference.
I am not a Saudi apologist. I have had occasions to take strong exception to some of the positions taken by the Saudis and their scholars. I believe that our scholars in Nigeria should be accorded the deference and courtesy that they deserve by the Saudis. I do not accept all fatwas issued by Saudi scholars, thus I wrote Women Can Perform Hajj without Mahram; I allow my wife to drive within and outside Abuja; positions that are not in agreement with Saudi fatwas.


One can disagree with the Saudis on the way they conduct themselves in their relation with the West or how they refuse to use the oil weapon in weakening the Zionist State, etc. but whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day must concede that the Saudis have not failed in their task of administration of the Two Holy Mosques. Those who travel to Makkah and Madinah often can give testimony to the care, maintenance and constant improvement that the Haramayn enjoy under the vigilance of the House of Saud. Of course we know where the complaints are from and where they aim to lead the ignorant. The belief is if you make enough noise after a while you will get listeners. Iran has never made it hidden that it wants to be in control of the Haramayn. The last time they had access to graves of the revered companions was a shame not only to them but to humanity.

                                    The Holy Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah


The Holy Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah will attest to the expansion it has witnessed superintended by the Saudi leadership. You can safely say that the Haram is enhanced by the minute. Wherever you may be the call to prayer reaches you. The carpeting is exact and gorgeous; the gold-plated decorations and state-of-the-art chandeliers are cleaned around the clock. If the mosque is filled with worshippers don’t worry, 182 jumbo umbrellas are installed in the courtyard to guarantee shelter from rain and sun’s heat. Each of these umbrellas covers about 600 square metres and can accommodate 900 worshippers. Recently, King Abdullah launched a huge expansion project for this mosque expected to be the largest of its kind, which, at completion, will accommodate additional 1.6 million worshippers. If the Saudi government is guilty of anything in this matter, it is going into excess in embellishing the mosques.

                                                     The Prophet's Mosque


In Makkah the House of Saud could not be found wanting in its responsibility towards the Mashaa’ir, monuments of Hajj. Tents in Minaa are now fireproof; the mega structure of the Jamaraat Bridge complex, spacious exit route and highly experienced manpower in crowd management have saved lives during the stoning ritual in Hajj; a feat they carry out without firearms. The Mashaa’ir Railway linking Minaa, Arafaat and Muzdalifah is almost complete.


Before he launched that of Madinah, King Abdullah has laid the foundation stone for another unprecedented expansion of the Holy Mosque in Makkah which will increase its capacity to more than 2.5 million devotees. This initiative is certain to create more rooms for worshippers around the Mas’aa (the running course between Safaa and Marwah). It will also remove the hardship pilgrims face during tawaaf, and enable them perform their rites in a more relaxed and spiritual environment.


                                                             Work in Progress


The purpose of expansion projects around the Haramayn is not the preservation or demolition of any artefacts; expansions are necessitated by the need to make Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages more comfortable and safer in the face of phenomenal rise in the number of pilgrims annually. So, let this noble course of expansion of the Haramayn persist; let the skyscrapers be built in order to accommodate more pilgrims, and let the blamers continue to criticize the House of Saud for making Las Vegas out of Makkah, provided that will provide a serene, relaxed atmosphere and facilitate the observance of this once-in-a-life-time ritual for the guests of Allah. I am sure that is a lesser crime than standing up and remaining like a statue upon seeing the image of Khomeini or Khamanei or whoever it is they treat like a demigod these days.


The image that the visitor to the Ka’bah will have in his mind as he approaches the Holy Mosque is that of an answer to his prayer for entering the precincts of the Ancient House: O Allah increase this House in nobility, honour, dignity and awe!


                                                         The Ka'bah


Certainly, the House of Saud has shown utmost reverence to the sacredness and glory of the Haramayn, sparing neither effort nor expense in making the place, by Allah’s grace, what it is today. The title of The Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques, let traducers perish in their rage, fits perfectly King Abdullah Ibn Abdullaziz Aal Saud; he and those among this household who came before him and those that will come after him if they do what he did.


If this care and service is what Adamu Adamu referred to as Wahabism; if printing of billions of copies of the Glorious Qur’an for free distribution around the world is Wahabism; and if Wahabism means exerting all within one’s power for the service of the guests of Allah, then I am one of them. Open the windows let the world hear: I am Wahabi. And so what! I’d rather be a Wahabi than desecrate the message of Islam with Shi’ism.


Adamu Adamu contended that the Saudis love to ‘preserve aspects of the past that they deem important and worthy of preserving: it is just the remembrance and legacy of the Holy Prophet [SAW] that they wish to destroy.’ That is why, he said, they are opposed ‘to celebrating Maulud al-Nabi’, but ‘they always eagerly celebrate their so-called National Day. Ask them: which of the Salaf celebrated national days?’ Shall we then reverse the question and ask the writer: which of the Salaf (righteous predecessors) celebrated Maulud (the Prophet’s birthday)? The writer should have continued with this line of argument with authentic traditions, if there are any, on the instruction of the Prophet (SAW) concerning Maulud celebrations, or the examples of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs on Maulud, and the generation that came after them, on how they celebrated Maulud.  If he cannot, and of a surety he cannot provide such instruction from the Prophet (SAW), and such example from the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and the generation that came after them, let him then call to mind the words of Imam Malik Ibn Anas, the Imam of Madinah (may Allah be merciful to him), "The last generations of this Ummah (nation) will not succeed except when they resort to what made the former followers succeed." He meant that what brought success to the first generation was adherence to the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), following their rules and avoiding what contradicts them. The last generations of this Ummah will not succeed unless they resort to what made the former generations succeed.

Preservation of ‘Arabia’s pre-Islamic past’ by ‘erecting museums’ likeDarat al-Malik Abd al-Aziz in Riyadh’ has no religious consequence attached to it. Visitors to such museums are not doing that seeking Allah’s countenance or with hope of getting reward for any ritual. There is no difference between the visitors in Riyadh museum and those of Cairo museum for example. They are all tourists seeking pleasure in sightseeing of past relics. But ‘legacy of the Holy Prophet [SAW]’ that Adamu Adamu refered to:  ‘the blessed house where the Holy Prophet [SAW] was born’, the ‘graveyard of Amina, the Blessed, mother of the Messenger [SAW]’, the ‘House of Khadijah, the Glorious,’ and so on and so forth; visitors to such places are not the same as visitors to Cairo or Riyadh museums.

Such places will be visited as a form of ‘ibaadah that draws visitors to Allah; the ignorant among the people are sure to exceed Allah’s limits in such monuments leading to Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship). The same ‘caliph Umar bin Khattab’ that Adamu Adamu quoted in the second part of his series, was authentically reported to have condemned visiting the monuments of the Prophets, and sanctioned that the tree under which the Bay`ah of Al-Hudaybiyah took place be cut off, when reports reached him that people where visiting the spot. The reason was he knew people have a tendency to turn mere objects and persons into objects of veneration and worship. You only need to see the Shiites and the way they revere their so-called Ayatollahs.

Yes, that was an act aimed at protecting people’s Tauheed and precluding ways that could lead to Shirk. Umar (peace be upon him) did that, even before the Saudis. The question we need to ask is how would the preservation or otherwise of the places mentioned in Adamu Adamus’s piece affect the performance of Hajj? Are these historical monuments part of the mashaa’ir of Hajj?

                                                 The Qubaa Mosque


Imam Malik and other scholars of Al-Madinah hated going to the Masjids and Islamic monuments in Al-Madinah except Qubaa and Uhud. Sufyaan Ath Thawree entered Al-Aqsa Mosque and offered Salah there, but he did not inquire about those monuments or offer Salah there; and others who imitated him did the same. Ibn Waddah then said, 'How many matters are now considered acceptable by many people that were once considered Munkar. People try to get closer to Allah through means that drive them further from Allah.'"


Shaykh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be merciful to him) said in his book 'Majmu` Al-Fatawa', Vol. 26, P. 133, "As for climbing Mount Al-Rahmah (at `Arafah) it is neither an act of Sunnah (supererogatory act of worship following the example of the Prophet) nor Mustahab (desirable). It is not Mustahab to enter the dome above it, called the Dome of Adam, to offer Salah there, or circumambulate it, as this is one of the major sins.”


He also said on p. 144 of the same section, "As for visiting the Masjids that were built in Makkah other than Al-Masjid Al-Haram (the Sacred Mosque in Makkah), such as the one by the foot of Al-Safa, the one by the foot of Abu Qubays, and such Masjids that were built at the sites of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Sahabah, such as Masjid Al-Mawlid (the Prophet's birthday) and others, it is neither a Sunnah to visit these places, nor was it preferable by any of the Imams. It is only permissible to visit Al-Masjid Al-Haram in particular, and the sacred ritual places, such as `Arafah, Muzdalifah, Minaa, Al-Safa and Al-Marwah. However, visiting the mountains and areas around Makkah other than `Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina, such as Hira' Mountain, the mountain at Minaa where it is claimed that there was the sacrifice dome and such places; it is not a Sunnah related to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), but rather a Bid`ah. The same applies to the Masjids built at the sites said to be monuments. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not permit visiting any of these."


In vol. 27, p. 134, of the same book, he also said, "Some people might ask whether it is permissible to glorify a place where there is worn-out things and saffron as the Prophet (peace be upon him) was seen there. Glorification of such places and turning them into Masjids is an imitation of the People of the Book whom we are prohibited to imitate. It was authentically reported that `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) was traveling when he saw a group of people hurrying to a place. He asked, 'What is this?' The people replied, 'It is a place where the Prophet (peace be upon him) offered Salah.' He said, 'Do you want to turn the sites of your prophet into Masjids? If the time of Salah comes while a person is there, they can offer Salah there; otherwise they should leave.' `Umar said this in the presence of a number of Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them). It is known that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to offer Salah in many places while traveling, and the people would see him in their sleep in different places. However, the Salaf did not turn any of these into Masjids or tourist sites. If this door is opened, many of the Muslim lands will be turned into Masjids and tourist sites, as people still dream that the Prophet (PBUH) visits them at home. Establishing such tourist sites is a loathed Bid`ah. Allah has not ordered that the places of prophets be turned into a Musalla (a place for Prayer) except Maqaam Ibrahim (the Station of Ibrahim) in His statement,  “And take you (people) the Maqaam (place) of Ibraheem (Abraham) [or the stone on which Ibraheem (Abraham) عليه السلام stood while he was building the Ka‘bah] as a place of prayer” (for some of your prayers, e.g. Two Rak‘at after the Tawâf of the Ka‘bah at Makkah) He has neither ordered that a stone be touched and kissed except Al-Hajar Al-Aswad (the Black Stone in a corner of the Ka`bah), or Salah be directed to a building other than Al-Bayt-ul-Haram (the Sacred House, another name for the Ka`bah). According to the Ijma` (consensus) of the Muslims, it is impermissible to make analogies in this matter. It is tantamount to asking the people to perform Hajj to a place other than Al-Bayt-ul-`Ateeq or observe Sawm (fasting) in a month other than Ramadan, and so on."


He then said, "The rest of the issues have been definitely answered. If a person offers Salah or recites Du`a' (supplication) intentionally at the place of a prophet's footprints or site; the grave of a Sahaby (Companion of the Prophet), a sheikh, or one of Ahl-ul-Bayt (members of the Prophet's immediate Muslim family), a tower or a cave, this is a rejected Bid`ah in Islam, as neither the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) nor the early generation of Muslims or those who followed them in righteousness did so. Not one of the Muslim Imams preferred it; rather, it is a means leading to Shirk."


He then said on p. 500 in the same section, "After Islam, none of the Sahabah used to go to Hira' Cave on purpose. It is impermissible for us to seek the caves of mountains or sit in seclusion there...As for sitting in seclusion in caves and traveling for a mountain to seek blessings, such as At-Tur Mountain, Mount Hiraa, Mount Thawr and others, it is impermissible for us. The Prophet (peace be upon him) stated, ‘Do not set out on a journey but to three Masjids: Al-Masjid Al-Haram, this mosque of mine (the Prophet's Mosque), and Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem).’



In his third and final part of Hajj and the Saudis, Adamu Adamu made allusion to the Saudis desecrating the Haramayn by way of mismanagement of the Hajj itself, and by their dependence on ‘the oppressive and transgressing centres of unbelief and global kufr.’ He quoted verses 1-3 of At-Taubah to show that Allah is free from obligation of any treaty entered with those who practice Shirk. Yes, but the writer should know that dissolution of treaty with idolaters is not restricted to severing of fraternity with ‘global kufr’, or with idol votaries; it also covers those modern practitioners of shirk who place the created on the same level with the Creator. This is the subject addressed by Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab in his Kitaabut Tauheed, a highly authentic book on Monotheism, guiding millions of people throughout the world, removing them out of the darkness of shirk, heresy and the worship of human beings to the service of Allah alone without associating partners unto Him.


In this book, all the relevant Verses have been discussed reasonably, rationally and sincerely; and the essence of the Qur'an and Sunnah is placed in a very simple and appealing manner. This is the reason that the upright persons, beyond group ism and prejudices, have been adopting the correct Islamic path - the path of the Qur'an and Sunnah - under the influence of the basic facts and proofs produced herein. From the surname of the author of this masterpiece, people like Adamu Adamu christened those who recognise the teachings contained in Kitaabut Tauheed as Wahabis. Interestingly, there is no movement, organisation or even a mosque anywhere in the world, even here in Saudi Arabia from where I’m writing this piece, known as Wahabism, Wahabi association or masjid. But volumes are written on the subject because of Kitaabut Tauheed and its author Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab.




I invite readers of this piece to take a survey of their library of Islamic collections – these books you bought from Saudi Arabia during your Umrah,  Hajj or when you travelled for business or holiday around the world – tittles like Salvation Through Repentance, Ways Of Gaining Provision From Allah, The Goodly Word – Al Kalim al Tayyib, Selected Friday Sermons, Provisions for the Hereafter (Zaad Al-Ma’ad), and thousand other tittles authored by respected Muslim scholars like Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, Hamza Yusuf, Ibn Qayyim, etc. published by Darusalam Publications (with branches in Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, France, Kuwait, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, UAE, UK and USA), International Islamic Publishing House, USA and Saudia Arabia, are all influenced by the teachings of Ibn Abdul Wahhab and Ibn Taymiyyah. These titles and what they contain of making religion pure for Allah only, without shirk is what Adamu Adamu referred to asparrot-fashion repetition of its schismatic Taymiyyah trichotomy.’ But contrary to Adamu Adamu’s averments Tauheed of the Salaf is an epitome of scholarship in the field; it does not cause schism among the ranks of Muslims, and it does not ignite ‘Muslim-Christian animosity’. We are always looking for ways to foster Muslim-Christian mutual respect and harmony as dictated by the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW).


Adamu Adamu confined the meaning of verses 27 and 28 of Suratul Hajjthat they may witness things that are of the benefits to them – to a utopian pilgrims’ conference, a ‘representative Supreme Assembly of the world’s two billion Muslims’, as he called it, in Minaa with a weeklong agenda to discuss challenges facing the Muslim world today. Unless such a conference is convened in Minaa, according to the writer, ‘Muslims will not witness the things of benefit’ to them as contained in the above verses. To him that is the essence of ‘the long period of stay in Mina.’ That do we assume that ‘God will ask’ pilgrims ‘to travel thousands of miles on foot, by land, by sea, by air and every lean camel and spend three days in camp just so that they cry out the Talbiyyah and whisper a few formulas of du’a and then go back home?


Only that the writer did not tell us at what point will this grand meeting be possible. Is it on our way to Minaa, at the rush hour of the flood of pilgrims to their various tents? Is this conference going to hold as we are preparing to go to Arafah? Will this conference be convened during the peak of the Hajj itself, the standing at Arafah? What time can the pilgrims spare for any meeting during the transit at Muzdalifah? And the 10th day of Zulhijjah when the pilgrims are supposed to slaughter their animals, to shave their heads, to throw their pebbles at the Jamaraat and to go round the Ka’bah; at what time will this ‘representative Supreme Assembly of the world’s two billion Muslims’ hold its plenary?


Adamu Adamu is either oblivious of the challenges inherent in Hajj activities or has not performed the ritual for a very, very long time, hence this unfounded lamentation for Muslims not utilising their stay in Minaa for a conference on their problems. The convergence of more than 3 million pilgrims for Hajj, moving most of the time in one direction and trying to do the same thing at the time, with the attendant confusion in such multitudinous movements from a set of activities to another, the proposition of any conference outside the main duties of the pilgrimage is totally inconceivable!


From the time of the first proclamation to the pilgrimage, Muslims have always gone to Hajj with an agenda, and got things of benefit to them. They will continue to do so until Allah inherits the earth and what it contains. Their agenda and the benefit they get from their Hajj are not in the form of mudhaaharaat (demonstrations), hand-clapping and shouting slogans during Hajj as Shi’ah pilgrims from Iran and their confederates were doing in times gone by until the Saudi Hajj authorities put a stop to it. No, Muslims are aware that there should be no obscenity, wrangling or angry conversation in Hajj (Al-Baqarah, 2:197), so demonstrations are not part of their agenda or benefit of their Hajj.


The first on the agenda is to earn the pleasure of their Maker, so that their sins will be forgiven them. They approach the Haramayn for prayers to get thousands of recompense that they cannot get elsewhere.


They interact with other Muslims, asking about and discussing their problems with a view to learning from each other and proffering solutions to the challenges facing the Ummah; the agenda for such discussions covers worldly benefits, also, in the area of trade, business and other lawful earnings (Al-Baqarah, 2:198). This they do at every point they happen to come into contact with pilgrims from other countries in places of their accommodation, in the restaurant, in the Haram or even at the airport. The benefit of Hajj moves with them even when they trek all the way from Minaa to Arafah, Muzdalifah and during circumambulation of the Ka’bah, burning fat, protecting themselves from heart ailments, cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. They do not wait for Adamu Adamu’s colossal pilgrims’ conference before they get things of benefit to them during Hajj.

                                            The Slaughterhouse in Makkah


And this inculpatory remarks against the Saudis, who were, according to the writer, ‘in the habit of burying the meat of the sacrificial animals’, is a blatant untruth! One only needs to go to the mizarah, slaughterhouse in Makkah and see how the poor among the people of Makkah are waiting to receive the sacrificial animals, even though the authorities are putting some restrictions on this for the purposes of environmental protection and health reasons.


Petrol-affluence came to Saudi Arabia only but yesterday; the country had witnessed lean years in which a greater part of its sustenance depended on the provisions brought by the guests of Allah and the meat of the sacrifice they offered during Hajj. Saudi authorities have not forgotten this hard page of their nationhood, and as Muslims they know Islam’s instructions on wastage. Thus, they ensure proper utilization of the meat of Hajj animals through a series of operations that include packaging, chilling, freezing, storage and freighting in order to keep this sacrificial meat fit for human consumption until it reaches eligible beneficiaries within Saudi Arabia and more than 24 other poor nations. Saudis do not kill and bury Hajj sacrificial animals!




                                                                                   Makkah

On accommodation for pilgrims Adamu Adamu said: “And on other fronts, pilgrims are forced to have to pay accommodation fees in advance as part of groups registered with agents approved by the Saudi government. This is compulsory even for those who have alternatives; because that is the only way the hotels and apartment blocks of members of the royal family and their friends will get patronage. They have turned the Hajj into a business enterprise.


Unfamiliarity with Hajj operations presented as informed opinion, unfortunately, by a writer whose calling is devoid of correlation with pilgrims’ accommodation during Hajj or Umrah. Pilgrims are neither ‘forced to pay accommodation fees in advance’ nor are they required to do so directly with any hotel or apartment. The Saudi Hajj authorities deal with their counterparts from other countries in matters of accommodation and other logistics for pilgrims; individual arrangements are not encouraged in Hajj. In Nigeria for example the state pilgrim boards and agencies act on behalf of our pilgrims, just as private Hajj operators do so for those hajjis who desire higher standard of services. A pilgrim must belong to a group, state owned or private, for easy coordination and monitoring by Hajj Ministry officials, of standard of service rendered to pilgrims. Hajj visas are issued only to groups, barring gratis, Mujaamalah visa given as diplomatic concession to government officials, and oftentimes to those who can pay. Individual pilgrims ‘who have alternatives’ are part of the problems Hajj authorities are trying to solve by blockading their source of visa, as witnessed this year. Many of those who wanted to be on Hajj on their individual arrangement could not make it because very few Mujaamalah visas were issued by the Saudi embassy. Most of them do not ‘have alternatives’ other than squatting with, and overstretching the facilities provided for pilgrims on group arrangement.


Hajj payments must be made early in order for state pilgrim boards/agencies and group organisers to sign contracts with other service providers in Saudi Arabia. It has nothing to do with Adamu Adamu’s assertion of the Saudi government forcing pilgrimsto pay accommodation fees in advance’. Nigerian Hajj authorities have always encouraged early payments by intending pilgrims to ensure efficient and speedy completion of logistics on the Saudi side, which is not restricted to accommodation. As soon as pilgrims return for this year’s Hajj every organised group, governmental or private, springs into action to perfect strategies for new payments and arrangements for next year’s operation. That is the modus operandi of Hajj processes; it is not ‘the only way the hotels and apartment blocks of members of the royal family and their friends will get patronage’…, as Adamu Adamu claimed.


Ownership of hotels and apartments is not the exclusive preserve of members of the royal family. Adamu Adamu said the Saudis ‘have turned the Hajj into a business enterprise’. Allah has not forbidden business in Hajj (Al-Baqarah, 2:198). The pilgrimage season has been, and will continue to be, the backbone of commercial activities in Makkah, from the time of ignorance through the advent of Islam, until the end of the world. The Hajj period is important to the inhabitants of Makkah who rely heavily on it in terms of increased financial activity in the areas of real estate, industry, trade, and the hospitality industry. Hajj makes many Makkan families generate their annual income. There are shop owners who open only during the Hajj, and close after it because they have made enough money to sustain them for the whole year. Hajj creates jobs for a lot of people: students, the unemployed and even those who are employed but take their leave during Hajj in order to earn extra income.


Islamic organisations invest in Hajj by building hotels in Makkah, especially now that America, under the pretext of the war on terror, has succeeded in stalling the movement of cash from donors to Muslim associations. Islamic organisations use returns from such Makkan investments to finance social programmes in favour of the poor, needy and distressed people around the world. Such funds also enable them to go into Waqf (endowment) projects in the area of relief and humanitarian services – to build and maintain mosques; for the education, sponsoring and rehabilitation of hundreds of thousands of orphans around the world. They also take care of students and Muslim preachers in thousands of Islamic centres around the world. These are not Adamu Adamu’s ‘preachers who get petrodollars in order to keep quiet and those who keep quiet in order to get petrodollars.’ No; they are people receiving whatever these Muslim bodies are able to send, despite America’s blockade to blight the light of Islam, to assist them in da’wah. They are the opposite of those other preachers and modern intellectuals who receive petrodollars from Iran in order to confound the truth!


The five star Makkah based Le Meridien Towers project provided club reservations and owner services in religious tourism. The property offered pilgrims and visitors to Makkah a chance to buy a deed of partial ownership in a range of apartments, varying from studios to one bedroom and two bedroom units. Many Nigerians have invested in this project. Or are these Nigerian investors members of the Saudi royal family?


There is also the Saudi government’s King Abdulaziz Endowment project waqf ownership of apartment which embodies the Zam Zam Tower Complex adjacent to the Ka’bah. It enables Muslims all over the world to own apartments on a long-term leasing programme. This page will not contain the names of Nigerians who have invested in this project, as well as those of investors from Malaysia, Brunei, etc. Adamu Adamu’s accusations then that these buildings are only ‘hotels and apartment blocks of members of the royal family’ are baseless! This religious endowment is regulated by Islamic Law and was established for the purpose of raising revenue to finance maintenance and the enhancement of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophets Mosque in Madinah.


I share Adamu Adamu’s sentiments ‘that returning Nigerian female pilgrims will not help Saudi management of the Hajj.’ But I am strongly averse to his call for ‘return of the Haramayn—what remains of them—to world Muslims…’ No, as that is another name for Iran which has for ever yearned for the control of the Haramayn. During Hajj 2008, large number of Iranian pilgrims overpowered the guards at, and entered, Al-Baqee’ graveyard, close to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah where they desecrated and even urinated on a grave identified as that of Aishah, (may Allah be pleased with her), the wife of the Messenger of Allah (SAW). It took the Saudi security forces some time before they were able to disperse this riotous crowd; one person died and scores injured. Is this the ‘world Muslims’ management that Adamu Adamu is advocating?


Adamu Adamu concluded his series by saying that it is only when the Haramayn return under the control of ‘world Muslims’….‘will pilgrims begin to witness that which is of benefit to them.’ This betrays ignorance of the import of verses 27 and 28 of Suratul Hajj as stated earlier. He then connected this to a ‘comprehensive facility management of the Haramayn, effective sign posting and efficient human traffic management and effective vehicle traffic control; and, above all, hospitality to the guests of Allah and an environment that is conducive for what they are there to do…’ This is exactly what the Saudis have been doing efficiently – every pilgrim to the Haramayn can vouch for this. It is meaningless to advocate the establishment of what is already in existence.


                                                               Makkah


The Saudis are humans, liable, like all of us, to committing mistakes. I hate their reliance on the West, and their role or lack of it on Palestine. But I will defend their effective management and maintenance of the Haramayn, as well as theirhospitality to the guests of Allah’. Adamu Adamu’s last paragraph should rather have ended with this prayer:


May Allah reward the Saudis for their ‘comprehensive facility management of the Haramayn, effective sign posting and efficient human traffic management and effective vehicle traffic control; and, above all, hospitality to the guests of Allah.’