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Political Debates Around Hajj: Tajik Experts on Fatwas Prohibiting Visiting Mecca

Tajik experts and clergy comment on fatwas of the famous Muslim ulama, who declared it impermissible to go for Hajj.

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Аль-Гарьяни, муфтий Ливии. Фото: libyaakhbar.com
Al Ghariani. Photo: libyaakhbar.com

Ahead of the period of going for Hajj, some of the well-acclaimed Muslim scholars called for boycotting it. Al Ghariani, Lybia’s Mufti and one of the greatest contemporary Muslim scholars called for the Muslims of the world not to go for Hajj in 2019. In addition to this, Al Ghariani noted that those making Hajj this year commit sin, not a pious deed.

This fatwa of Lybia’s Mufti caused controversial reaction around the world. However, according to the experts and analysts, it has purely political roots. Going for Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam; it is a mandatory action for any Muslim who has capacity and opportunity to do it.

Most of those interviewed by CABAR.asia stated they could not share their opinion on this rather serious and delicate issue.

The interviewees noted that on one hand, such scholars as Sadiq Al Ghariani and Imam Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who issued a similar fatwa a year earlier, are among the greatest contemporary Muslim scholars, and they could not have engaged in issuing the fatwas without clear reasoning and Qur’anic arguments. On the other hand, according to the sources, pilgrimage to Kaaba is a mandatory action for any believer, who has an opportunity to do so.

In an interview to CABAR.asia, Tajik expert Parviz Mullojanov noted that the fatwas and calls of the Mufti of Libya, Sheikh Qaradawi and some scientists of Al-Azhar University in Egypt are in fact politically motivated.

According to Mullojanov, these scientists strongly disagree with the position Saudi Arabia took in relation to countries such as Bahrain and Yemen in recent years, as well as the close relations of Riyadh with Israel and the United States.

– The opposition between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has an impact on the entire Muslim world. Some scholars believe that Saudi Arabia is cooperating informally with Israel and no longer supports the Palestinians. Qaradawi and scholars of Al-Azhar called the Saudi ‘partners of Israel and Zionism’, said Mullojanov.

Because both the Kaaba and the grave of the Prophet Muhammad are located in the cities of Mecca and Medina, the kings of Saudi Arabia have a great religious and cultural authority. The location of the Holy Kaaba and the pilgrimage to it served to increase the authority and influence of the Saudis in the Islamic world. On the other hand, the Hajj also brings great revenues to the Saudis.

– Since, according to these scientists, the Saudis no longer protect the interests of the Islamic society, the going for Hajj is not permitted for Muslims, – said Mullojanov. – In their opinion, the Saudis use the revenues from the Hajj to wage war and ignite conflicts between Muslims.

To justify his fatwa, Al Ghariani, Libya’s Mufti, openly stated that “the real reason for the call not to perform Hajj in the current conditions is that Riyadh receives huge revenues by providing services to the millions of Muslim pilgrims”.

According to Al Ghariani, Riyadh uses this money to buy weapons and prolong violence against Yemen and indirectly against Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan and Algeria.

– The Saudi authorities also continue to support dictatorial regimes or local conservative forces. Our money allow the Saudis to commit crimes against our Muslim brothers, – said Al Ghariani.

Amrullo Nizom, a Tajik blogger who writes about religious topics, says that Al Ghariani justifies his call by saying that Saudi leaders are involved in corruption and murder in Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia and other countries, funded as well through the income from Hajj and Umrah made by Muslims.

– For this reason, the pilgrims should not support the Saudis in their crimes, – said Amrullo Nizom.

The Tajik blogger added that due to the fall of the construction crane in 2015 on the territory of the mosque in Mecca and the death of Iranian pilgrims, the tensions between Tehran and Riyadh increased, which even caused rough verbal debates between the representatives of the two countries.

For some time, the Iranian pilgrims also boycotted the Hajj on the basis of the fatwas of their religious authorities.

In addition, Saudi Arabia, led by the Mohammad bin Salman’s family, his children and grandchildren, is considered a purely theocratic monarchy and is constantly criticized for human rights violations. In this country, the death penalty is still carried out publicly, observed by a crowd of people.

Джамала Хашукджи. Фото: ozodi.org
Jamal Khashoggi. Photo: ozodi.org

Recently, the UN observers concluded that the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who had criticized the king’s family, at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, was carried out on the direct orders of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Involved in the war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia was accused of killing civilians during bombardments over the past five years.

At the same time, 2 million 300 thousand Muslims come to this country to make Hajj and pilgrimage to the grave of prophet Muhammad every year. The approximate income is in a range from 15 to 17 billion dollars. For example, 6,000 pilgrims will leave Tajikistan for Saudi Arabia this year; each of them paid 35 thousand 128 somoni or about 4 thousand dollars. Notably, in comparison with last year, the cost of Hajj increased by 2000 somoni.

Amrullo Nizom said the fatwas of these acknowledged scholars of Islam apply to Tajikistan. When relations between Tajikistan and Iran deteriorated, the Saudis tried to further worsen them, as Riyadh considers Tehran its enemy in the Islamic world.

– According to the Saudi Ambassador to Tajikistan, this country is trying to divide us and Iran, and for some time it even financed such activities.

Now, the relations between Tajikistan and Iran are improving. Meanwhile, the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are at one of the worst levels in the history of both countries.

Бомбардировки Йемена. Фото: Рейтер
The bombing of Yemen. Photo: Reuters

For this reason, no one can guarantee that the Saudis restrain from committing a provocation aimed at limiting Iran’s influence in the region, in particular in Tajikistan, – Amrullo Nizom believes.

According to him, all Riyadh’s politics is made at the expenses including the money received from the Tajik pilgrims.

Irshod Sulaimoni: These Calls Would Not Harm Riyadh

But according to other Tajik experts and analysts, Saudi Arabia, as one of the largest oil exporters and an important regional player, cannot but pursue its interests. These experts believe that the decrease in the number of pilgrims cannot lead to serious economic losses for the Saudi Treasury.

Irshod Sulaimoni, Tajik analyst, believes that despite the fact that the policy of the Saudis does not meet modern global trends, the country will continue to pursue its own interests. According to him, there are great doubts that such fatwas and appeals will be able to influence the policy of this country, in particular, in the sphere of its relations with the Islamic world.

– If the purpose of these calls is to influence the decisions adopted in this country, I do not think that they can be effective, as the Saudi king enjoys the support of Western forces such as the United States, Canada and European powers. On the other hand, if their goal is to apply economic pressure, the potential of Saudi Arabia is now high and the calls will not have a strong impact, – thinks Irshod Sulaimoni.

Irshod Sulaimoni also noted that Hajj is an obligation of a Muslim towards God and a mean of spiritual improvement and depriving believers of this practice is not a far-sighted decision.

Religious Leaders: There Is No Need to Politicize the Hajj Issue!

Concurrently, some Tajik religious scholars say that the religious views of the population, including the need for Hajj, should not be turned into political instruments. Since the Hajj is being politicized,   the involvement in the great regional geopolitical games is a great threat.

One of the religious leaders anonymously confirmed CABAR.asia that the position of the Saudis against countries such as Yemen and Bahrain has caused Muslims’ discontent.

In particular, according to him, the sanctions of the Saudis against Qatar and the open confrontation with Iran hapenning under the patronage of the United States caused disagreement in the Islamic world.

Таджикские паломники. Фото: Sputnik
Tajik pilgrims. Photo: Sputnik

However, the source noted that all these conflicts and processes cannot and should not be an obstacle to the Hajj, which is a duty imputed to the believer. Hajj is one of the Pillars of Islam and the duty for every Muslim who has the opportunity and ability to do it; no one can question it.

– It is God’s law. None of His slaves has a right to question it. Hajj is one of the Five Pillars, foundations of Islam. If the Saudi kings use this money to kill Muslims, then tomorrow they will bear the answer before God, – the religious leader believes.

The first group of pilgrims from Tajikistan will depart on July 25. By order of the Tajikistan’s president, 20 people from among the public figures of the country have the opportunity to make Hajj free of charge. Over the past 10 years, all the work related to the organization of Hajj pilgrimage has been carried out solely by the Committee of Religion, Regulation of Traditions, Celebrations and Ceremonies under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan.

This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia».

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