Last Updated on 24th July 2020
Anees Nadeem, Missionary-in-Charge Japan
The current state of the world, with its widespread pandemic, has caused the pilgrimage to be cancelled 40 times. (Middle East Eye)
Allah the Almighty declares Mecca as a “sacred town” and it is the same place for which Prophet Abrahamas beseeched Allah:
رَبِّ اجۡعَلۡ ہٰذَا الۡبَلَدَ اٰمِنًا
“My Lord make this city [a city] of peace.” (Surah Ibrahim, Ch.14: V.36)
In Mecca are situated the Holy Ka‘bah and the Sacred Mosque, which embodies God’s promise:
وَ مَنۡ دَخَلَہٗ کَانَ اٰمِنًا
“And whoso enters it, enters peace.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.98)
God further says:
وَّ اٰمَنَہُمۡ مِّنۡ خَوۡفٍ
“… and has given them security against fear.” (Surah Quraish, Ch.106: V.5)
Similarly, God says of the Sacred Mosque:
اَوَ لَمۡ یَرَوۡا اَنَّا جَعَلۡنَا حَرَمًا اٰمِنًا
“Have they not seen that We have made the sanctuary secure [for them]…” (Surah al-Ankabut, Ch.29: V.68)
This is an assurance that this holy city guarantees peace to its visitors. It is this blessed land whose pilgrimage is made incumbent on all Muslims as the fifth pillar of Islam. Allah has made the obligation of Hajj conditional to affordability and the situation of peace and security.
Unlike the five daily prayers and fasting, it is not compulsory to perform the Hajj pilgrimage every year. Instead, performing Hajj once in a lifetime is deemed sufficient, provided that a person finds it to their ease and affordability.
Along with the command of maintaining the sanctity and purity of this blessed house, the Holy Quran also mentions the impediments to the execution of Hajj rituals.
At one occasion, the Quran states:
“And complete the Hajj and the Umrah for the sake of Allah; but if you are kept back, then [make] whatever offering is easily available.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.197)
Similarly, the Quran declares:
وَ لِلّٰہِ عَلَی النَّاسِ حِجُّ الۡبَیۡتِ مَنِ اسۡتَطَاعَ اِلَیۡہِ سَبِیۡلًا
“And pilgrimage to the House is a duty which men – those who can find a way thither – owe to Allah.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.98)
Referring to the stipulations on the duty and affordability of the Hajj Pilgrimage, Allama Kasani states:
لِأَنَّ اللّٰهَ تَعَالَى شَرَطَ الِاسْتِطَاعَةَ لِوُجُوبِ الْحَجِّ، وَالْمُرَادُ مِنْهَا اسْتِطَاعَةُ التَّكْلِيفِ، وَهِيَ سَلَامَةُ الْأَسْبَابِ، وَالْآلَاتِ، وَمِنْ جُمْلَةِ الْأَسْبَابِ سَلَامَةُ الْبَدَنِ عَنْ الْآفَاتِ الْمَانِعَةِ عَنْ الْقِيَامِ بِمَا لَا بُدَّ مِنْهُ فِي سَفَرِ الْحَجِّ؛ لِأَنَّ الْحَجَّ عِبَادَةٌ بَدَنِيَّةٌ، فَلَا بُدَّ مِنْ سَلَامَةِ الْبَدَنِ، وَلَا سَلَامَةَ مَعَ الْمَانِعِ، وَعَنْ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللّٰهُ عَنْهُ فِي قَوْلِهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّمَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلا (آل عمران ) أَنَّ السَّبِيلَ أَنْ يَصِحَّ بَدَنُ الْعَبْدِ
“Allah has placed the precondition of affordability on the performance of Hajj, which encompasses all those provisions that a person might need at that time, whether they pertain to money or transportation.
It is also important that one can protect oneself against calamities which may befall during Hajj. Since Hajj is a form of bodily worship, it is imperative that the body be kept safe from harm. There is no real virtue in carrying out Hajj rituals despite the obstacles.
Moreover, in the Quranic verse مَنِ اسۡتَطَاعَ اِلَیۡہِ سَبِیۡلًا Hazrat Ibn Abbasra has also taken the word السَّبِیل in the sense of physical fitness.” (Alauddin Abu Bakr bin Massoud bin Ahmed al-Kasani, Badai al-Sanai fi Tarteeb al–Sharai, Book of Hajj, Vol. 2, p. 21)
Prophecy about cessation of Hajj in the end times
Hazrat Abu Said Al Khudrira narrated that the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:
“The people will continue performing the Hajj and Umrah even after the appearance of Gog and Magog.” But he further added, “The Hour of Judgment will not be established till the Hajj is abandoned.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book of Hajj, Vol. 2, Book 26)
Hence, like other signs of the advent of the Promised Messiah, the foreboding of abandoning Hajj is now also realised. It came to pass as Hajj got cancelled due to epidemics, world wars, internal conflicts in Saudi Arabia and the debarment of various nations from attempting Hajj.
Alluding to the eschatological prophecies by the Holy Prophetsa, the Promised Messiahas says: “And it is also a tradition that Hajj will be ceased.” (Ayyam-us-Sulh, Ruhani Khazain, Vol.14, p. 313)
“And it was in the hadith that plague shall befall and Hajj will be stopped at the time of the Messiah. So, all of these signs have appeared.” (Zamima Tohfa Golarwiyyah, Ruhani Khazain, Vol.17, p. 49)
Opponents have often raised objections to Hazrat Mirza Sahibas not performing Hajj. To this allegation, the Promised Messiahas replied:
“These people only mean mischief when they raise such an objection. The Holy Prophetsa lived in Medina for 10 years. A journey of just two days separated Mecca from Medina and even though he could have arranged for transportation, he did not perform Hajj for the entirety of those 10 years. Having enough money is not the only condition for Hajj, but it is also important that there be no fear of unrest and the means to arrive there and perform Hajj in peace are available.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 5, p. 248)
Hence, if seen through a historical perspective, it becomes clear that the prophecy of cancellation of Hajj has been fulfilled in numerous ways. However, in this present pandemic situation, when social interaction and public gathering can result in the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the debate about performance or cancellation of Hajj has once again arisen.
In such circumstances, where the pilgrims are under constant threat of disease while carrying out the Hajj rituals or where such a gathering may lead to a viral outbreak, the question arises whether the conditions necessary for the execution of Hajj are satisfied or not?
Middle East Eye, a popular Gulf journal, in its 1 April 2020 edition, elucidated the fact that in case Hajj gets cancelled this year, it would not be the first time. In fact, there have been 40 dramatic occasions when the annual event of pilgrimage was suspended.
Middle East Eye has categorised these few events as examples of Hajj cancellation:
1. Due to an attack on Mecca on the day of Arafat in 865 CE, Hajj was stopped
2. In the year 930, the leader of the Qarmatian sect initiated an assault on Mecca, killing over 30,000 pilgrims as well as looting the Holy Ka‘bah and taking the Holy Black Stone to Bahrain. This led to Hajj being suspended for 10 years until the stone was returned to Mecca
3. In 983 political disputes between the rulers of two caliphates – the Abbasids of Iraq and Syria and the Fatimids of Egypt – got in the way of Muslims travelling to Mecca for pilgrimage. It would be eight years until Hajj was held again, in 991
4. A plague from India hit Mecca in 1831 and killed three-quarters of the pilgrims there, who had endured weeks of travel through dangerous and barren lands to perform Hajj
5. In 1837, another plague hit the holy city, putting things on hold until 1840
6. In 1846, a bout of cholera hit Mecca, killing more than 15,000 people and plagued its inhabitants until 1850. Outbreaks returned in 1865 and 1883
7. In 1858, another global cholera pandemic arrived in the city, prompting Egyptian pilgrims to run away en masse to Egypt’s Red Sea shores, where they were held in quarantine.
Similarly, a cholera outbreak in 1892, the spread of typhoid fever in the pilgrims during 1895 and the death of several pilgrims by dysentery led to the discontinuation of Hajj proceedings in the year 1987.
Almost a century ago, there were talks of cancelling Hajj, when political strife between the Sharif of Mecca and the House of Saud led to civil war in the country.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra remarked on that occasion:
“In accordance with the Sharia, it is better to postpone Hajj this year. It must be remembered that Hajj is not compulsory under any and all circumstances; instead, it is only obligatory at a time and on a person when certain conditions are in place and among these requirements is the presence of peace. God Almighty says in the Holy Quran that Hajj is a duty for whoever can afford to arrive there, meaning that one has to have the money to bear their travel and household expenses; there is peace on the way; one is in good health and can bear the troubles that may befall them during the journey etc. And since the way to Holy Mecca is unsafe this year, in my view, Hajj is not compulsory on the people of India and on the people of those countries who must travel to Mecca via seafaring. It is better to postpone it.” (Hajj-e-Baitullah aur fitna-e–Hijaz, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 9, pp. 59-60)
اَللّٰھُمَّ زِدْ ھٰذَا الْبَیْتَ تَشْرِیْفاً وَّ تَعْظِیْماً وَ تَکْرِیْماً وَبِرًّا مَھَابَۃً۔ وَ زِدْ مِنْ شَرَفِہِ وَ کَرَمِہِ مِمَّنْ حَجَّہُ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَہُ تَشْرِیْفَاً وَّ تَعْظِیْمَاً وَّ تَکْرِیْماً وَبِرًّا
“O my Lord! Increase this House in greatness, glory, honour and piety. And whoso performs Hajj or Umrah, increase him also in eminence, respect, devotion and piety.” (Sirat al-Halbiya)