The Haj pilgrims going through Haj Committee are offered subsidy/concession in airfare. It is paid by the Government of India to the Air India. Haj is obligatory upon those who are capable to bear all the expenses of Haj journey, including the maintenance of his family during his absence. According to Islamic law, no help, not even a single coin is allowed to be taken to discharge an obligation. It is most unfortunate that all the Haj pilgrims going through Haj Committee are taking this indirect help, in most cases unknowingly. Is it allowed, legal and legitimate for Muslims to subsidise the Haj this way. Morever, most of the Government money comes from interest, taxes from liquor, illegal drugs etc. Kindly provide a fatwa.
(Md. Altaf Hussain, Niliapool, Dibrugarh, Assam)
We do not issue fatwas but do express opinion in keeping with context and circumstances. As far as our study goes, it is illegitimate for Muslims to seek subsidy on Haj journey from the Government of India. More so in a secular country like India where the Government is supposed to respect all religions and favour none, such subsidy is totally undesirable and should be withdrawn. It has already attracted criticism from the VHP and other Hindutva bodies. Despite their anti-Muslim rhetoric, let us be fair in accepting this criticism. Let us put the whole question of Haj Airfare Subsidy in the socio-political and purely economic context.
Last year nearly 90,000 Indian pilgrims went for Haj and the government of India paid out nearly Rs. 120 crore (Rs. 1200 million) to the Air India towards subsidizing the airfare. It is reported that the Haj airfare costs Rs. 29,000 but each individual pilgrim pays only Rs. 12000 towards the air journey to the Haj Committee which takes him to Jeddah from anywhere in India, say from Mumbai or Kolkata or Srinagar. Remainder of the money i.e., Rs. 17,000 is borne by the Government of India. The fact is that even a Delhi-Bangalore-Delhi air journey would cost an individual something like Rs. 14,000. Going by the current fares, a Muslim pilgrim is paying for an international trip even lesser than what he would pay for a domestic two-way journey.
There is one more aspect to it. While a person travelling on Delhi-Bangalore-Delhi uses two flights, the journey of pilgrims to Jeddah actually involves four flights. It is because all the chartered flights that take the pilgrims from say Kolkata to Jeddah have to return empty. Similarly, after 40 days the planes have to fly empty to Jeddah to bring back the pilgrim to Kolkata. Looking from this angle, the Rs. 12,000 airfare is highly subsidized and should in no case be done by the government. Even if the Air India allows 33 per cent discount (because the tickets are booked in bulk), the airfare of Rs. 12,000 will be unfairly low and unviable for the these kind of air operations.
But at the same time let us be reminded that Indian Muslims did not demand the airfare subsidy. This was begun after the ship voyages to Jeddah were phased out. But now since the subsidy is in force since 90s, several Muslim organizations demand that it should continue. It is unfair and any such demand should be held illegitimate. Considering the plain terms in which the Holy Qur’an lays down the obligation of Haj, the government subsidy is untenable and should be discontinued. Moreover, the cheaper Haj journey is encouraging people to repeat Haj performances. Haj is obligatory just once in a lifetime. It does not add to one’s piety to do it repeatedly. Nor should repeat performances become a status symbol.
However this should not bar the Muslims from exploring the ways to make the Haj operations cheaper. One way this can be done is by amending the Central Haj Act and forming a Haj Corporation. This could mobilize deposits from aspirants of Haj pilgrimage, do some business, make profits, which could then go into making their Haj cheaper. It could as well go into buying planes which could be leased out to other airlines for eight months and do the Umrah and Haj trips during Ramazan and between Zul Qaidah and Muharram. Any operation that involves an international pilgrimage by 100,000 people annually, could make a sound business proposition. The Muslims of India should demand suitable amendment in the Central Haj Act and put some business minded members on the Central Haj Committee. The current Haj management leaves much to be desired. There is a serious apprehension that a lot of bungling and corruption is involved in booking of accommodation in the holy sites.
We can take a leaf from Tabung Haji Corporation in Malaysia which has involved some business principles in making the pilgrimage cheaper for its pilgrims.
Finally, let us mobilize Muslim opinion to demand withdrawal of airfare subsidies for Haj in best traditions of secularism. Such a partisan largesse to Muslim is all likely to kick up demands from other communities. This will not be in the interest of this nation.
Prince of Arcot Mohammed Abdul Ali has appealed to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to consult ulemas, religious scholars and intellectuals in Muslim community before offering Haj subsidy to pilgrims.
In a letter to Dr. Singh, he said subsidy for Haj pilgrims was un-Islamic and against the principles of Shariat. "Haj pilgrimage is one of the obligatory duties to a Muslim, who can only afford it, but not acceptable on somebody's obligation." No country in the world, including Muslim countries, offered the subsidy. Clerics of Saudi Arabia, Muslim high dignitaries and intellectuals had objected to the subsidy.
If the Government really wanted to help Muslims, the subsidy amount could be used for the community's constructive and meaningful welfare measure.
"There is a need to create opinion among Muslims that going on Haj pilgrimage with Government subsidy is against the tenets of Islam,"
The Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali, in a press release said the "Union Government's subsidy for Haj pilgrims is not correct and appropriate, according to the tenets of Islam." He wondered why a Haj pilgrim should avail of it.
According to Nawab Abdul Ali, the Haj pilgrimage is one of the obligatory duties of a Muslim who can afford it.
"Let not the community sacrifice values, principles and rules of Islam for petty financial benefits," observed the Prince. "If the Government really wants to help the Muslims let the equal subsidy amount he used for the community's constructive and meaningful welfare measures."
Reacting to newspaper reports that the Union Government has decided to allow the Haj pilgrims to carry $ 10,000, as basic travel quota, in addition to 2,000 Saudi Riyals, Nawab Abdul Ali said the move means an annual outflow of foreign exchange to the tune of 1,000 million dollars for one lakh pilgrims visiting the Holy Mosques at Makkah and Madinah.
"This is not at all required if a Muslim is really interested to perform the obligatory duty, Haj," he commented. "If the pilgrims are so rich, why take the Government's Haj subsidy? The Haj is not a luxury trip or picnic."
|For Hajj are the months well known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj. And whatever good ye do, (be sure) Allah knoweth it. And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best of provisions is right conduct. So fear Me, o ye that are wise. [Holy Quran 2.197]|
Even as the subsidy is phased out, the government must, of course, continue to oversee arrangements for the pilgrimage to Mecca, just as it does for the Kumbh Mela and the Amarnath and Kailash Mansarovar yatras.
- The Hindu
India is a secular state and the government cannot give a subsidy for pilgrimages to only one community and religion. This money can instead be used for minority welfare, by providing them with proper education and health care. -Shashank Rao Palety, Vijayawada
Withdraw Haj subsidy; Include deserving Muslims in Scheduled Castes category. We, the Muslims of India, are surely living a better life in our country as compared with our co-religionists in many other countries. Yet, in some areas of life, We suffer Constitutional Violations. Justice Sachar Committee reported that, compared to the followers of other faiths, we Indian Muslims are lagging much behind in the Educational, Economic, and Social fields. So, why don't we get the issue resolved once and for all through our Parliament, Assemblies, and the Governmental machinery: Make the definition of the Scheduled Castes religion-neutral and withdraw the Haj Subsidy. That way, the pilgrimage of more than a hundred thousand of Muslims can invoke greater divine pleasure. At the same time, the six decade old State Discrimination against millions of Muslims can come to an end. - Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, President - Zakat Foundation of India.
Multiple Hajj and Umrahs are not a priority in Islam.
These rich people are very fond of spending their money on the Hajj. They perform the Hajj again and again sometimes even at the cost of their neighbours suffering in hunger. Abdullah ibn Mas’ud was absolutely right when he said; During the last days of the world there will be a surfeit of people performing the Hajj unnecessarily. The journey will appear easy to them and there will be no shortage of funds. But they will return from the Hajj poorer without any real benefit. They will be travelling over deserts and open ground while their neighbour will be suffering deprivation. Neither will they empathise with him nor will they display civility. A sum of one thousand million US dollars is required for social service and relief work in poor Muslims countries of Asia and Africa, but even a hundred million has been difficult to find despite sincere efforts. Yet billions of dollars are spent on Nafil Hajjs and Umrahs. Therefore, if we are to elevate the status of our community high enough to lead the world then knowing our priorities in Islam is the only way forward. May Allah help us to think and act along these lines. Aameen! - Maulana Hafizur Rahman Azami Omeri.
Indian Muslims spend huge amounts annually on Marriages and Umra. First of all, I am not against Umra. I only pointed out that Umra not being an obligatory ritual in Islam one need not perform it every year. Instead that money may be used for the socio-economic development of our community at a time when it desperately needs it. As per The National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) report 84% of the Muslim population of India lives on a daily income of less than Rs. 20. In other words, about 126 million of our brothers and sisters don’t even earn twenty rupees a day! Therefore, is it not the duty of wealthy Muslims to remedy this situation?
It must be remembered that in Islam Huqooqul ibaad (humanitarianism) has been given precedence over Huqooqullah. Unfortunately, most Muslims overlook this aspect of Islam. Ask any Muslim his reasons for performing Umra and the reply will invariably be; ‘for sawaab.’ But how many of us know that more ‘sawaab’ can be gathered right here in India by helping a needy person at half the price of an Umra? Let it be known that Allah does not expect a Muslim to perform a "Nafil ibaadah" at the expense of the 126 million people wallowing in the muck of extreme poverty.
I request the Muslims to concentrate on Huqooqul ibaad for the moment as the condition of our community is very bad. Allah is not in need of our multiple Umras or multiple Hajjs. But our Ummah is in desperate need of humanitarian help. Any contribution towards this would be worth several hundred times the sawaab of an Umra or a second Hajj. In this context, I would like to invite the attention of my wealthy brethren to the following hadith in Bukhari in which the Prophet said; "One who strives for the widows and the poor is like the one who strives in the way of Allah. I shall regard him as one who stands up for prayer without rest and as one who fasts without break." May Allah guide us all. - A. Faizur Rahman, Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought among the Muslims.