In recent months, many prominent religious leaders have been urging Muslims to boycott the Hajj. The gravity of this request cannot be overemphasized: the pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five religious pillars of Islam, and one that Muslims hold very dear. It is a dream for most Muslims to be able to perform the pilgrimage, which is taxing at every level: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and of course, financially. However, the spiritual rewards and the renewal of faith that many experience during this sacred journey far outweighs all its demands. Linguistically, hajj means to seek or intend. Muslims intend to get closer to God (Allah in Arabic) by performing the Hajj pilgrimage. 

There is a huge controversy about participating in the hajj these days, as it is possible that doing so could indirectly result in the harm and even death of innocent Muslims.

But there is a huge controversy about participating in the hajj these days, as it is possible that doing so could indirectly result in the harm and even death of innocent Muslims. Saudi Arabia financially benefits enormously from the millions of pilgrims who visit that country’s sacred sites each year. The Hajj revenues increase the amount of funds the Saudi government has at its disposal to directly perpetrate or indirectly fund and support massacres and wars in Muslim lands, such as the bombing of Yemen, the indirect attacks in Syria, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and Sudan. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s questionable relationship with Israel, and its support of outrageous sanctions against Iran that are overwhelmingly hurting the Iranian people only add fuel to the argument.

Besides these horrendous crimes, the Saudi crown regularly executes civilians and commits other human rights violations that cannot be ignored. Some are widely publicized by the media, like the assassination in Istanbul of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident; but many other such cases happen in secret. Participating in this sacred pilgrimage inevitably means investing in the human rights abuses and atrocities Saudi Arabia is committing against Muslims and others. Hence, the benefits of hajj become nullified. 

Libya’s Grand Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani, for instance, called for all Muslims to boycott the pilgrimage and went as far as stating that anyone who embarked on a second hajj was committing a sin, rather than a good deed. 

Libya’s Grand Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani called for all Muslims to boycott the pilgrimage, stating that anyone who embarked on a second hajj was committing a sin, rather than a good deed. 

This statement is undoubtedly provocative, but many scholars and conscientious sheikhs are in agreement with Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani and urge Muslims to understand that given the times we live in, going to Saudi Arabia to perform this ritual is not advisable. There are many other actions that are said to carry the same benefits as the hajj that Muslims can partake in without supporting the transgressions of the Saudi government. Among these are the following:

  1. Remembering God from Fajr (the first of the five required daily prayers) until Ishraq (an optional prayer performed after fajr and shortly after sun rise). The Prophet said: “Whoever prays fajr in congregation and then sits in the place where he prayed remembering Allah until the sun rises and then prays two raka’ts (prayer sets) has the reward of a complete Hajj and `Umrah (an optional visit to the Ka’bah).” He repeated: “complete” three times.
  2. Attending a gathering of knowledge. The Prophet said: “The one who goes out to the mosque wanting only to learn good or teach it has the reward of a complete Hajj.”
  3. Going to the mosque for the congregational prayer. The Prophet said: “Whoever performs ablution in his house and then goes out to perform the obligatory prayer in the mosque has a reward similar to the reward of a Hajj pilgrim. Whoever goes out to perform the mid-morning prayer (Duha) has a reward similar to the reward of the one performing `Umrah.”
  4. Performing the Friday Prayer. Said bin al-Musayyib advises performing the Friday Prayer is more beloved to God than a supererogatory Hajj.
  5. Performing the Eid Prayer. One of the Companions said: “Going out to pray Eid al-Fitr is equal to performing `Umrah and going out to pray Eid al-Adha is equal to performing Hajj.”
  6. Fulfilling the needs of your brother or sister. Hasan al-Basri said: “Going to fulfil the need of your brother is better for you than performing Hajj after Hajj.”
  7. Being good to your parents. Prophet Muhammad commanded one of the Companions to be good to his mother. If you do so, he said: “You are a Hajj pilgrim, a person performing `Umrah and someone striving for the sake of Allah (mujahid).”
  8. Performing obligatory actions. The Muslim can only draw near to God by performing supererogatory actions after first having performed that which is morally obligatory. This includes purifying one’s heart from forbidden attributes and guarding one’s tongue and limbs from committing forbidden actions. All of this is much harder on the lower self than many supererogatory acts of worship.

Saudi Arabia’s actions are abhorrent to Islamic values. Islam urges us to do good, and perform good actions at all times.

Given the times of confusion we live in, where Islam is distorted, demonized, and attacked from every angle, it is necessary to state the obvious: Saudi Arabia does not represent Islam and cannot claim to represent it. Its actions are abhorrent to Islamic values. Islam urges us to do good, and perform good actions at all times. In fact, after prayer, one of the most often repeated words in the Quran is salihat, that is, performing good deeds. 

In the above-mentioned list of actions that carry the same reward as hajj, a recurring theme is clear: doing good is more important than performing rituals, especially if said rituals have the potential of doing harm. Helping other people, being good to our parents, being charitable, praying in community, all these actions and moral values are beneficial not only to the individual performing them, but to society at large. Promoting and protecting the social good, the well-being of the community, are primordial values in Islam. Hence, these deeds are said to be better than hajj because they benefit many. Saudi Arabia’s atrocious actions against other Muslims are the exact opposite of salihat

Certainly, nothing can replace the actual experience of the pilgrimage, but because of the present situation and the crimes the Saudi rulers are committing, it is best to distance oneself from their version of “Islam.” Couching oppression and violence in religious terminology does not turn wrongdoings into Islamic acts. 

In fact, the damage Saudi Arabia is causing goes beyond the lives they are destroying. They are vilifying Islam, distorting and misrepresenting it to the world in the most egregious of ways, causing the world to think these brutalities are “Islamic.” That is unforgivable.