By Anna Schaeffer
By Anna Schaeffer
Rabat – The Union of Tunisian Imams have implored their Grand Mufti to issue a fatwa, or religious edict, to discourage Muslims from participating in the Hajj this year in response to violence perpetrated by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
The ever-rising cost of the pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site contributes to the massive riches of the Saudi government, whose usage of that money to fund wars, even massacres, in other Muslim nations goes directly against what numerous outspoken Muslim leaders consider ethical.
General-Secretary of the Union of Tunisian Imams Fadhel Ashour said it would be better “to spend this money to improve the conditions of the Tunisian people.” Instead, he said, “It is used to kill and displace people, as is the case currently in Yemen.”
The three-year Saudi military campaign “to restore legitimacy in Yemen” has killed more than 14,000 men, women, and children. Millions on the verge of starvation and thousands dead from record-high cholera outbreaks pushed the UN to call the “Yemeni genocide” the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Rather than use Hajj profits to benefit poorer surrounding nations, Saudi Arabia continues to fund the war in Yemen as well as the deadly crisis in Syria.
How much profit does Hajj yield?
The Qur’an states that practicing Muslims who are able should observe Hajj pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam, at least once during their life; because of the steep costs resulting from both travel and imposed taxes, the trip requires extensive saving for a great number of the millions of believers who travel to the holy site.
Al Arabiya reported in 2014 that the average cost for a worshiper from an outside country is approximately USD 5,000. The cost for Tunisians, whose imams have called for abstaining from the 2018 Hajj, is over USD 4,500.
According to figures by Al Jazeera, it costs the average person from Malaysia half a year’s salary to complete the Hajj. For someone from Bangladesh, the Hajj costs more than three years’ earnings.
Regardless of what nation a pilgrim hails from, their minimum Hajj cost begins at USD 2,000; often, the pricetag soars higher than USD 14,000 for one person. Recently increased taxes add to the head-reeling sum of money—estimated to exceed USD 150 billion per year by 2022—swallowed directly from Hajj profits by Saudi Arabia.
Should believers boycott the pilgrimage?
Because a considerable share of the fortune contributes to Saudi conflict or weapon acquisition, Muslims worldwide question whether boycotting the Hajj is the best course of action.
A developing perception in Muslim nations considers Saudi Arabia’s actions as exploitative, utilizing the holy site to punish its opponents or advance its political ends.
One Twitter user encouraged other Muslim countries to follow in the footsteps of the Tunisian imams. He cited “increase of Hajj costs, paying Hajj revenues to the US, using revenues to kill Muslims as in Yemen, [and] Al Saud [House of Saud] role in helping the Israeli occupation” as reasons to take “a strict position and boycott Hajj for this year.”
Journalist Kamel Abderrahmani said the pilgrimage has evolved into “one of Saudi Arabia’s commercial pillars.”
“In other words, the Saudi God is a business and worship at the same time,” he wrote.
Abderrahmani urged all Muslim nations to boycott the Hajj and use the money instead to “build hospitals, schools and universities to protect our children from ignorance and an archaic conception of life and religion.”
In contrast to the cries for an anti-Hajj edict in Tunisia, the Tunisian political party Ennahda Movement warned of the potential for a strained Tunisia-Saudi Arabia relationship.
“These are isolated and ideological calls that only serve personal purposes,” said an Ennahda statement.
Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs Ahmed Adhoum announced 236,000 Hajj applications for 2018 alone. The number of pilgrims whose applications will be accepted by lottery has risen from 10,374 in 2017 to a current count of 10,892. If the Grand Mufti of the Republic in Tunisia issues a fatwa against the pilgrimage, profits made by Saudi Arabia could decrease by more than USD 50 million.