Emerging Issues in the Fiqh of Hajj: Is Voluntary Hajj more virtuous than charity?- By Kamal Ololade Ahmed

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All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the world. May the peace, blessing and mercy of Allah be upon the noble soul of the Prophet, his household, companion and the generality of Muslims.
As to what follows, the uniqueness of Hajj among the pillars of Islam makes some issues around its jurisprudence to keep evolving. It is an act of worship that does not only involve physical activities but also require financial expenses. Allah the Most High says:
“Make provision (for the journey), and the best of provisions is piety” (Q 2:197).

Also, Hajj is the only pillar of Islam that is compulsory once in a life time. After the first compulsory hajj, any other one observed is voluntary. With this basis in view, it is a commonplace to hear people ask the question, “is it not better that Muslims who frequently go on pilgrimage give the money as charity?” Some others simply assert and conclude that giving charity is better than going on voluntary hajj. This matter becomes more of an emotive issue with the rising humanitarian crisis in many of the Muslim countries, Syria, Yemen and rising level of poverty, food insecurity in our local communities. The question however requires proper contextualization from the Shari’ah perspective so that we don’t unnecessarily guilt trip people for the way they have chosen to seek the pleasure of their lord.

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According to Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Al-Madhajiy in his series of lecture on the contemporary matters on Hajj, the basis that is established by the generality of scholars is that voluntary hajj is more virtuous than giving out the money for charity. The justification for this is clear. Charity is a monetary worship while hajj is both monetary and physical. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) has indeed said:
“Follow up between Hajj and Umrah, for verily, they dispel poverty and sins just as the furnace remove dirt from metal, gold and silver; and there is no reward for a righteous Hajj other than paradise. (Tirmidhi and Nasai)

Shaykhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah however said:
“Hajj done in the way it is legislated is more virtuous than charity that is not compulsory. But, if the person who intends to go on Hajj has relatives who are in dire need, then to give charity to them is more virtuous so also if there are some in dire need of his intervention. In the case where both are voluntary (Hajj and charity) then hajj is better because it is a monetary and physical worship.”

Ibn Taymiyyah added that. “But, this is with the condition that the pilgrim observes all obligations of Hajj in his trip and shun forbidden things, pray five daily prayers and be truthful in speech, pay back trust to those it is due and never transgress against anyone.” (Al-Ikhtiyaraat pg 172).

From this we can infer some points of benefit
1. Hajj that is properly done is more virtuous than giving charity that is not compulsory.

2. The Hajj that is better is the one that is properly done not the one done for mundane reasons or going to commit sins.

3. Giving charity to a relative in need or as an intervention in a dire situation is better than going on voluntary pilgrimage.

However, as Shaykh Madhajiy rightly observed, this is when a person is faced with two options: either charity or voluntary hajj. As for the one whom Allah has granted expanse in wealth, the best is for him is to combine between the two virtuous deeds. He goes for pilgrimage and gives charity and that is light upon light.

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