Ramadan Umrah: Spirituality Or Wastage? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Ramadan Umrah: Spirituality Or Wastage?

Posted: Jul 3, 2015 at 1:54 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

From a professional perspective the time for lesser pilgrimage, Umrah starts as soon as the Saudi authorities commence the issuance of visas, and stretches to, very nearly, the beginning of the hajj proper by which time Umrah shall be closed for that year. During this period, within which Umrah is possible, pilgrims keep coming from all over the world; not so Nigeria. To be precise, Nigeria is relatively a new entrant into the Umrah spiritual journey as compared to other parts of the world; even so, the peak of our presence in Umrah is during the last 10 days of Ramadan. We have hitherto been more prominent on the major hajj with the second or so world’s largest contingent of pilgrims yearly.

Why do people go for Umrah annually? Many Umrah pilgrims repeat the journey every year as a spiritual battery charger for their imaan and perseverance in acts of devotion to Allah. The hearts of such people, as those of billions of Muslims around the world, perpetually yearn towards the Ka’bah, desiring the reward of hajj with the Messenger of Allah (SAW) as he said Umrah in Ramadan is like performing hajj with him; they make savings from legitimate earnings spanning the period between this to another Ramadan for the purposes of the annual trip. Of the savings are according to one’s means – the rich, and the straightened. There is no sin in paying for a five start hotel if one can afford it, since, as it is now, only the rich can pay for accommodation within a reasonable distance from the two holy mosques; but that should be done without extravagance. I will revert to this later. There are people for whom this seemingly spiritual journey is, to put it mildly, an exercise in futility due to the haraam means with which the Umrah was sponsored or the purpose for undertaking the journey in the first place.

The political Umrah sponsorship is in grades; thus those from the lower cadre would leave their place of accommodation, mostly, in the Sitteen/Mansur axis, a no star arrangement without feeding, come to the five star area around Haram paying homage to their godfathers and creating commotion in the restaurant during Iftaar. Restaurant officials of most hotels were overwhelmed by the influx of ‘foreigners’; meal tickets’ checks failed as large numbers of Nigerians flooded the gates. Many legitimate guests could not have their Iftaar. The food was not adequate for the crowd as the hotels did not make provision for the unannounced visitors. How can a Muslim who travelled for Umrah seeking reward from Allah allow himself to breakfast his fast with a meal that he did not pay for? Breaking Ramadan fast with haraam!

What about those travelling with their sweeties? He would go to tawaaf with his wife, return and go to his sweetie, just a floor above, in the same hotel, to prove to Allah that what he was doing, of sin and transgression, miles away in Nigeria he could do it right in front of the Ka’bah!

Our sisters and mothers have proven themselves to be more dedicated to ibaadah in the Holy Land than some of their male counterparts. You see them never weary in performing Tawaaf, Taraaweeh and Tahajjud. But there are others whom I still cannot understand why they spend money every year to go for Umrah, when they spend the whole day sleeping only to wake up just before the Magrib prayer. They will be at the restaurant at the time of Magrib; they will not pray with other Muslims under the pretext of observing Iftaar. The custom here is to make the call to prayer heralding the end of the day’s fast, allow people to break their fast for about five minutes before starting the Magrib prayers. This short five minutes interlude is not a licence for people to avoid the salah completely because they are breaking the fast. These mothers and sisters would leave the Haram area before the commencement of the Ishaa prayers for Jeddah. They will spend the whole night in Jeddah shopping, return to Makkah in time to make Suhur and go to bed without observing the Subhi prayers. Thus they have not observed any salah for the whole day, and the circle continues. I am not oblivious of the fact that some of them may be in their periods but that cannot last for 10 days. If a woman who stays in Shaari’ Sitteen would endeavour to offer her salah in Haram, it is indeed shameful for one privileged to stay close to Haram to spend nights on end in shopping in Jeddah and neglect her devotions the reason why she is on Umrah in the first place.

To some it is embarrassing not to go for Ramadan Umrah; what will people say if they could not go this year when they have been going for the past two, three or four decades? So, their aim is not to attain Allah’s pleasure but to save face by maintaining an all-is-well attitude. These types of people will do anything, borrow money, beg or sell their property to travel; see we are still rich; we can afford to go for Umrah. Actions are by intention and every man shall have but that which he intended. Thus, he whose migration was for Allah and His Messenger, his migration was for Allah and His Messenger; and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his migration was for that for which he migrated. (Hadeeth)

There is another angle of notice-me and show off among Nigerian Umrah pilgrims in Ramadan; you can call it display of affluence in the Holy Land. In Madinah for example, the bigman would stay only in a suite. Well, it is understandable, to pay for a suite, where one travels with a large family. That family may even save a lot in a suite as some of its member can request for extra bed, use the living room, dining area, etc. for additional rooming arrangement. But what economic sense does a suite serve to a small family who could comfortably do with two double rooms? A suite cost SR10, 000 (N450, 000) per night; the package for the stay in Madinah for most hotels is four nights, that, by 4, will be One Million Eight Hundred Thousand Naira (N1, 800, 000); when that family could have made do with two double rooms at SR2000 per room, per night, and covering both Iftaar and Suhur. No, the bigman wants to be noticed and prove to his peers that he has arrived!

This sheer waste is more pronounced in Makkah where the rates are exorbitant at peak periods like the last 10 days of Ramadan, usually sold as one package. A two bedroom suite goes for about SR280, 000 or (N12, 600, 000) for last 10 days Ramadan. Of all the suites in five star hotels around the Ka’bah more than half were taken by Nigerians! There is a penthouse special suite at the zenith of Hilton Makkah hotel exclusively reserved for, among other dignitaries from the Gulf region, Nigerian excellencies at about SR400, 000 or N18, 000, 000. Don’t ask me concerning a Nigerian businessman that took a whole floor with more than 50 rooms in the most prestigious hotel in Makkah, the Intercontinental Daral Tawhid, for his family and friends alone; each room was SR75, 000. Only a small fraction of this money would have improved the lot of many people in his village. Wastage!

Let me state that this is not mere speculation; when I write about hajj or Umrah I do so as an expert, a professional and an insider. I know exactly what I’m saying on these matters. The question remains, where is this money coming from? Most of these spendthrifts are politicians and top government officials. Is this their money or, will it be that, they betrayed our trust? The latter is clearly the case because the person you see today is Daral Tawhid for instance would be seen in a less expensive hotel, may be Hilton, etc. the very year he is removed from office. I’ve met former ministers and governors in a four star hotel on Ajyad Street during this year’s Ramadan. Why are they not in their usual place of aboard, five star, expensive hotels, very close to the Haram? The same people will come home to roost, and soon be spotted in pilgrim apartments around Mansur Street in two years or so.

Allah will not accept such Umrah as sponsored by stolen funds!

This article was first published in 2011.