FE Today Logo

Hajj blends spirituality with economics

ASJADUL KIBRIA | May 30, 2024 00:00:00

Muslim pilgrims around the world gathered at Arafat to perform Hajj in 2023 —Agency Photo

Hajj is one of core obligatory religious duties for any Muslim who has physical, mental and financial abilities. And in that case, an eligible Muslim has to perform it at least once in his/her lifetime. Hajj begins on the 8th day of Dhul Hijjah (the twelfth and final month of the Islamic calendar) and ends by the 13th day. This year's formal rituals of Hajj will take place from June 14 to June 19, subject to the appearance of the moon.

The word Hajj in Arabic means 'to repair to' or 'to go to' -- to repair to Makkah and Arafat and to perform the prescribed rituals. Those who perform the Hajj are known as hujjaz or hajjis. They are pilgrims in the path of Allah.

The history of Hajj starts with Prophet Adam (peace be on him). Later, by the order of Allah, Prophet Ibrahim (pboh) and Prophet Isma'il (pboh), rebuild the present Ka'ba, the house of Allah in this world. Since then, it has been rebuilt several times. Prophet Ibrahim introduced various rituals of Hajj and those were finally refined and resettled by Prophet Muhammd (pboh).

For Muslims, Hajj is not merely an important spiritual and physical travel. Rather, it is the largest, most impressive and most important spiritual pilgrimage. It is a physically demanding journey that offers a chance to wipe clean past sins and start afresh before the Almighty Allah. During the Hajj, the annual grand congregation of the Muslims takes place at the holy mosque of Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and the nearby mount Arafat.

Umrah, the smaller version of Hajj, is not a must-do but Muslims are highly encouraged to perform it too. It can be performed any time of the year except during the Hajj days. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) government usually restricts Umrah for non-Hajj pilgrims during the Hajj season.

During the Hajj seasons, all the traders and businessmen in Saudi Arabia, Makkah and Madina to be specific, try to do a brisk business. Hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, minimarts, shops, transport- service providers all eagerly wait for the Hajj season. A vibrant economic activity during the Hajj season will bring a great relief for the investors and traders.

Over the decades, the size of the Hajj-centric economy has expanded gradually. It is estimated that around 7.0 per cent of KSA's GDP originates from Hajj-and Umrah-related activities. The country becomes a major site for religious tourism across the world, with millions visiting the country to perform Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages in the holy city of Makkah and Madina. According to Future Market Insights (FMI), the Hajj and Umrah tourism market is likely to cross US$ 350 billion in 2032. Not only KSA, other countries sending pilgrims are also getting the benefit due to the related economic activities, especially travel, aviation and hospitality industry. Bangladesh is one of them.

Some Islamic scholars have termed the Hajj 'annual march past' of Muslims around the Kabah, an 'annual world moot at Arafah and Muzdalifah' and 'annual camping and social dinners at the plateau of Mina' to demonstrate and keep alive the spirit of solidarity and unity of Ummah. Devotion, tolerance, hardship and sacrifice blended with joy of spiritual achievement and trade in services make the Hajj a unique event in the world.

[email protected]

Share if you like