Pilgrimage: At other's expense

Q427 :Some government and private institutions and companies sponsor what they call " poor men's pilgrimage." Some of these companies and institutions may pressure their employees to go on such free pilgrimage. Some of these employees may have some other urgent needs, such as serious sickness in the family, the payment of an outstanding debt, the marriage of a daughter, etc. Would it not have been better for the company to help the employee with these needs, instead of sending them on pilgrimage? It is sometimes felt that there is an element of prestige which the company or the institution gains as a result of this exercise. How about helping them offer the Umrah instead of pilgrimage? Does a person who offers pilgrimage in such circumstances fulfil his obligatory pilgrimage, or he will have to offer it again when he is able to undertake the journey on his own resources? If a person who can afford to perform pilgrimage without any financial help from others accepts such an invitation, does it count as the discharge of his obligatory pilgrimage?

A427 : As you are all well aware, pilgrimage is a duty incumbent on all Muslims and it must be offered at least once in a lifetime. Therefore, many scholars are of the opinion that once a person is able to make the journey and make the pilgrimage, he must do so without delay. He does not know whether he will live till the following season or not. If he waits he is simply delaying a duty that has become obligatory to him. Furthermore, he may not be able to afford the journey the following year or in a few years time. He would have missed the chance of discharging a very important duty. As long as one receives his money from a legitimate source, then he can offer the pilgrimage, using that money. It is well known that receiving a gift is a legitimate way of taking money from another person. The Prophet, who was not allowed to take charity from anyone, used to accept gifts. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with accepting a gift which covers the expenses of one's pilgrimage. It is true that some companies and institutions, as well as governments, invite people to offer the pilgrimage at their own expense. Some companies invite their own employees. They feel that it is a gesture of kindness or appreciation to the employees to be invited to go on pilgrimage. Some of those employees are reluctant to accept such invitation because of reservations of the type mentioned. Therefore, a company may feel that it needs to encourage its employees to accept the invitation. Obviously, no one forces or pressures another into making the journey. Whether it is better to give the employees money to meet some other needs is a totally irrelevant question. There are numerous methods of earning reward from Allah. We may choose whichever one suits us. Allah says in the Qur'an that no restriction is imposed on people who wish to do an act of kindness. You will find some people providing drinking water to a village or to their neighbours as an oct of charity. Others prefer to offer food, while a different group may give cash. We cannot say to the one who provides drinking water that he should have given the cost in cash to poor people. Moreover, one act of kindness should not be considered in opposition to another. Perhaps those employees who have another urgent need may be able to get help from their companies or institutions if they put their cases to them. Do you find it proper to say to a company that it should not invite some people to pilgrimage in order to help them with the marriage of their daughters? The two things cannot be matched together. Nor is it kind nor polite to suggest that these companies sponsor the pilgrimage of their employees as a matter of prestige. How can one testify to that? We are here running into the dangerous grounds of trying to judge the intentions of other people, when we have nothing to go by except our own knowledge which, by necessity, must be defective. It is Allah alone who knows the intentions of the people and rewards them for their actions according to His knowledge. If a company sponsors the pilgrimage of its employees, then we should praise that company as one which looks after its employees and its interests. We give them credit for their action as it appears to us, without trying to attribute it to any ulterior or selfish motives. You suggest that Umrah may be offered instead of pilgrimage in such cases. 'May I ask : in what cases? How do you feel if you invite a person to dinner and he says to you : I will only have a cup of tea or an orange juice. As you realize, the difference between Umrah and pilgrimage is great indeed. Although both are duties of Islam, the effort and expense needed for the one are no match at all to those of the other. Or do you mean that the company should offer Umrah to those of its employees who have other needs and offer them cash to meet such needs? That bring us back to the earlier point of imposing restrictions on kindness. That is not acceptable. When a person offers the pilgrimage and he or she is an adult, sane Muslim, he or she has discharged the duty of pilgrimage, and any subsequent pilgrimage counts as a voluntary one. Whether he meets the expenses himself or someone else foots the bill is irrelevant. Even if he is very rich and he receives an invitation to offer pilgrimage, which he duly accepts, then his duty of pilgrimage has been discharged. He does not need to do it again. People in our part of the world describe pilgrimage as an invitation by Allah. That is an appropriate description, since we travel for pilgrimage to visit the Sacred House of Allah. We do not go there unless we are admitted by Him. Sometimes, He invites us and requires us to pay our own expenses. At other times, He facilitates for us the invitation allowing others to pay our expenses. We should not refuse. Indeed, when we accept His kindness we are doing what is appropriate. The pilgrimage is valid in every sense of the word. Therefore, no repeat is required, unless we wish to voluntarily offer a second or a third pilgrimage.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )