Islamic scholars have renewed demand for end to the Federal Government’s sponsorship of pilgrims to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III had earlier advised the Federal Government to take its hands off the sponsorship of pilgrimages while submitting the report of the 2014 Hajj in May 2015.
And scholars including Ustaz Yunus Ibn Kethir of Onigbodo central Mosque told this newspaper that Allah does not make Hajj rites imperative on those who cannot afford it. Stating that Nigeria should take follow the footsteps of the India, which had just ended subsidy on Hajj, Ibn Kethir said: “The National Conference of 2014 also called for the withdrawal of government involvement in pilgrimages beyond the provision of consular services to ensure the comfort and safety of pilgrims while outside the country.” Religion, including the performance of holy pilgrimages, “is a personal affair. Pilgrimages are only for those who can afford them,” he said.
The Indian government had last week withdrawn subsidy given to Muslims for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Announcing the decision, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said it was in line with the government’s agenda to empower minorities without appeasing them. “This is part of our policy to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement,” Naqvi told reporters here. He said the government would utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for education of minorities,particularly girls.
Naqvi said the subsidy amount ranged from Rs 500-700 crore, which mainly went to the national carrier Air India that flew the pilgrims to Jeddah, along with Saudi Airlines, in a 50:50 ratio. With the government already moving ahead with privatisation of Air India, the subsidy would not make sense, he felt. Naqvi said the withdrawal of subsidy would not make much difference in the airfare from major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata, though it would make travel costlier from smaller cities.
“But to offset this cost hike, we have for the first time given the choice to pilgrims to select their point of embarkation. So, for example, a pilgrim from Srinagar may now embark from Delhi, or a pilgrim from Gaya may embark from Kolkata etc., to avoid extra expenses,” Naqvi said. However, the Minister said that the government would “fulfil all its responsibilities it has towards its citizens” and would make all the arrangements for the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia apart from ensuring their safety, security and comfort.
The government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in phased manner after the Supreme Court asked it in 2012 to withdraw it gradually by 2022. Last year, the government had formed a committee comprising eminent Muslims headed by retired IAS Afzal Amanullah to revise India’s Haj policy.
The committee had recommended abolition of Haj subsidy and allowing women above 45 years of age to proceed on Haj without “mehram” (male guardian), among other things. The government accepted most of the recommendations made by the committee. T his year, the highest number of Indian pilgrims are likely to go for the pilgrimage after Saudi Arabia increased India’s quota by 5,000. A total of 1.75 lakh Indian Muslims can go for Haj this year.
Nigerians’ 2018 Hajj participation faces threat
- Operators pick holes in Saudi’s new immigration policy
The Nigerians participation in this year’s Hajj operations is facing threat, Hajj and Umrah tour operators have said as they picked holes in the new immigration policy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which, among others, mandated biometric verification for all intending pilgrims. Declaring that the policy is exposing intending pilgrims to various challenges, the operators expressed concern over the newly introduced biometric data capturing by the Jeddah. Saudi Arabia had, in 2017, modified its immigration laws to make biometric verification compulsory for all intending visitors.
Only three capturing centres – Abuja, Kano and Lagos – were approved by the Saudi authority for the exercise in Nigeria. The Federal Government had, in an earlier reaction to the policy, assured Nigerian pilgrims of his commitment to address the problem along with its attendant consequences on Hajj and Umrah operations in the country.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hajiya Khadijat Bukar Abba Ibrahim who said this when she received the House of Representatives Committee on Nigeria-Saudi Arabia Parliamentary Friendship and Hajj Affairs in her office in Abuja, stated that her ministry was engaging the Saudi authority to ensure the suspension of the newly introduced bio-metrics for intending pilgrims of Hajj and Umrah from Nigeria.
The Association for Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON), however, desired a more speedy approach to addressing the threats posed to Hajj operations by the policy. The Vice President of the association, Tijjani Uba Waru, lamented that the unpreparedness of the company appointed to implement the policy in the country is affecting their businesses.
Waru who said he was a regular visitor to office of VFS Tasheel, the outsourced partner appointed by Saudi Arabia to facilitate visa applications for Nigerians, declared: “It is really bad. People coming here are spending hours, some even spend days before getting their biometrics captured.”
The delay, he added, is costing hajj and umrah operators ‘millions’ of Naira as intending pilgrims are already losing interest. “It is not easy especially for those coming from distant places just for finger prints. Some have to come by air, others by road. And we know the danger of kidnappings on the road.
“This period is the lowest season. If the situation continues like this, it will jeopardize preparations ahead of the 2018 hajj exercise,” he added. “If they are not able to capture few people here on time during this off season, what will happen at the peak period when 95,000 intending pilgrims from Nigeria will be preparing for the hajj exercise?”
Muslim scholars, CAN seek Inter-Religious Council’s return
Religious leaders including the Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr. Abdul- Lateef Abdul-Akeem and Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Apostle Alexander Bamgbola, among others, have urged concerned stakeholders to resuscitate the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), especially at the national level.
This position taken towards addressing the rising spate of insecurity across the country was made known in Lagos at the fourth edition of the International Conference on Love and Tolerance organised by an international Foundation- UFUK Dialogue Foundation. Themed; “Countering Violent Extremism,” the conference provided platform for both Muslims and Christians to deliberate on ways to addressing the rampaging violence across the country, suggesting that religious leaders must imbibe the culture of tolerance, understanding, good neighbourliness and selflessness in their followers.
Speaking on the sideline of the programme, Apostle Bamgbola expressed disappointment at the way and manner the inter-religious organisation, which he noted had provided relevant platforms for mutual engagement among religious leaders to address delicate issues, was allowed to die at the national level.
Bamgbola, who noted that the dialogue forum has been reduced to function only in Lagos State, said Lagos has, however, remained peaceful simply because the government of the state has encouraged religious leaders across the two major religions to resolve major issues before they are allowed to snowball to big problems.
He said; “The Nigerian Interreligious Affairs Council, which is constitutional and was set up to bring about peace in our land, and which served a very good purpose for many years has been abandoned at the national level. When it was functional, the Sultan of Sokoto as the Head of the Islamic Council of Nigeria and the President of CAN and other top members of the two major religions would sit down and talk about issues of concern before they are out in the public. “Today, that very useful institution no longer functions any more, especially at the national level.
As far as we know, it is only in Lagos State that it is functioning, and we thank God and the successive administrations in the state beginning with that of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. In fact, Governor Ambode has really expanded the body and it is dutifully working to solve issues in Lagos State; these are issues that could snowball into big problems.”
He said that is why people hardly hear of religious crisis in Lagos, and urged other states and the Federal Government to learn from Lagos State. “Lagos is a state of tolerance, and I will like to see this culture exported to other parts of the country. Those who pass through Lagos should learn this and take it to their states.” Also speaking, the Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr. Abdul-Lateef Abdul-Akeem, said the key to peace is tolerance, adding that no religion of God preaches violence. According to the Commissioner, those causing chaos over religion, whether Muslims or Christians, lack basic knowledge about the religion they belong, saying many Boko Haram members are non-Muslims.
Lagos hemp smoking pupils, signs of parental, religious failure – Cleric
The hemp smoking pupils arrested in Lagos are signs of failure by both parents and religious leaders. Chief Imam and Missionary of Young Muslim Brothers and Sisters (YOUMBAS), Ogun state and Republic of Benin, Sheikh Najeemdeem Adesina Yusuf Aduralongba who said this in an interview with New Telegraph, maintained that the news was enough to show that parents and leadership of religious groups are losing out to peer pressure in battle for children upbringing and formation. The Lagos State Government had last Friday arrested three pupils of Atunrashe High School, Mushin, for smoking and being in possession of Indian hemp and substance known as codeine.
The pupils were nabbed by officials of Lagos State Neighbourhood and Safety Corps (LNSC). Reacting to this arrest, Aduralongba said: “The sad news shows the extent of decay in our society especially as it concerns child upbringing.” According to him, “the responsibility for good upbringing is primarily laid on the laps of parents by Allah, Subhannahu Wataalla, and later the religion leaders who are expected to provide guidance.
“But what do we have today? The parents are found wanting while the leaders of various religion groups now jettison their responsibility for the pursuit of worldly things.” LNSC officials, it would be recalled, found the three under- aged boys, whose names were withheld, while smoking Indian hemp and using codeine in the Surulere area of Lagos from where they were then traced to their school.
“Parents hold enormous leverage in terms of what they teach their children and accordingly how their children grow up as adults. Islam, therefore, hold parents responsible for steering their children’s upbringing according to the guidelines of the Quran and the Prophet’s (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) traditions.
The Prophet (s) said: “Allah (SWT) will ask every caretaker about the people under his care, and the man will be asked about the people of his household” “Allah (SWT) states in the Quran about the need to raise families in the light of their end destination, which may be translated in the following words in Surat Tahrim Quran chapter 66 verse 6: “O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.”
Aduralogba continued: “Children have the right, therefore, to be raised as responsible Muslim adults and parents must ensure that right appropriately. Parents must be conscious and take an active role in guiding their children and families on the path of truth. The Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “Every one of your (people) is responsible, and everyone is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility.
A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them” He said; “Give the child a good name, spend appropriately on your children; treat your children fairly -this right was referred to by the Prophet (s) in the saheeh hadeeth: “Fear Allah and treat your children fairly; treat your children with love and mercy; and to note that your children deserve the right to proper education and upbringing.” Another key responsibility of the parents in terms of raising and training their children is inculcating the concept of “La Ilaha Illa-Allah” and Huquq Allah (Rights of Allah).
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