By Akif Kichloo
On one side, there 2 million displaced Syrian refugees in great distress and on the other, more than 2 million Muslims, totally disconnected from the tragedy, spending their life savings to indulge in a 1400-year-old ritual
Fa Ayna Tadhaboon – It is very difficult to understand the depth of emotion behind these words in the Quran when god asks us with so much of love and compassion, “Where are you going?”
The concern with which we are asked about the path we have taken, if heard and understood correctly, could so easily bring us back to the right path. Unfortunately the people of this world, especially the Muslims have gone deaf. Today with the same worry and tremendous anguish in my heart, I am compelled to ask everyone “Where are you going?” “Why have you turned a blind eye towards the sufferings of your fellow human beings?”
On one side, there 2 million displaced Syrian refugees including children, in great distress all across the Gulf and the European nations, crying for help, and on the other side, there are more than 2 million Muslims, totally disconnected from the tragedy, spending all their life savings to indulge in a 1400-year-old ritual called Hajj, which adds billions of dollars yearly to the already over flowing treasures of the Saudi king.
The same money, if donated by the people for the cause of Syrian refugees, could solve all their problems. And the Saudi government – which has housed more than 25 million pilgrims in the past 10 years – could lend a helping hand in giving temporary asylum to a major proportion of the most needy refugees by diverting the same manpower and wealth used to host the pilgrims. There are 100,000 air conditioned tents standing in the city of Mina in Saudi Arabia, with a holding capacity of about 2 million people – which, coincidentally, equals the exact number of refugees displaced from Syria. These tents are used for just 5 days in a year to house the Hajj pilgrims and they stand empty for the rest of the year, totally unused.
The Muslim world specifically and humanity in general is losing its moral compass. By believing in a god when we are divorced from the struggles of our own brothers and sisters, we have done nothing but shift the burden of responsibility from ourselves on to a higher power. When will we start to realise that no higher power will come to lift the fallen, and take it upon ourselves to do more than just pray for the ones in desperate need? Isn’t it high time already, especially for the people in Muslim world who take pride in quoting the Quran on universal brotherhood and oneness among Muslims, which I must say, ironically, is only displayed during the five days of Hajj?
Being brought up in a conservative Muslim household, there is only one verse from the Bible in my memory, and it has always been “Love Thy Neighbour”. I can quote hundreds of similar verses from the Quran urging us to help the needy, whereas only a few (around nine) come to mind when I think about the importance of the pilgrimage called Hajj.
Isn’t it our duty to prioritise our spending and give Syrian refugees a higher place in our grocery list of virtues which we think we can buy by spending a couple of weeks at a place called sacred in scriptures as old as the last virtuous man that lived? And to the Muslims, who aim to get a higher place in the eyes of god, I would suggest donating – for this Hajj they are on will get them virtues worth one Hajj, but they could get virtues good for a thousand Hajjs if they donate the same money they had kept aside for this pilgrimage. And if they think this I am wrong in saying this, I would suggest they go and read their Quran right.
Yes, I am a devout Muslim, but I will never go for Hajj. I think there are a thousand more causes in the world for which that money and time can be used, and I, being a man of the 21st century, would not be able to justify giving my hard-earned money to a country which did nothing for the Syrian refugees in dire need.
“Fa Firroo Illallah – Not there, come over here, come towards the path that is right, that is free of sin” —Holy Quran
It is about time we got our priorities right.
Akif Kichloo is a doctor and poet