By Fatima Sanda Usara

Every interested Muslim is eager to know what tomorrow holds for foreign pilgrims to Hajj 2021. But asides those in the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and their cohorts, the one being asked does not know better than the questioner. The uncertainties beclouding everyday normalcy that we used to take for granted has dragged Hajj participation into a conjectural phenomenon. Here we are, about 40 days to Arafat, unable to measure our distance towards destination. Hajj administrators and their contingent pilgrims have been stock in a deflated state for the second year running. We take solace that as Muslims, we know nothing forborne goes unrewarded.

Undoubtedly, for faith in the Almighty to be complete, the Muslim is expected to accept fate, whether good or bad. The Muslim knows that the Creator tests His servants with trials and gives them free will to react according to strength of their faith in Him. The Corona pandemic is one such trial; would His servants react by trusting and accepting the Will of Allah or by finding faults and associating this trial to some terrestrial hands? The choice rests with the tested one.

Both the intending pilgrim and the Hajj administrator are being tried. For the Intending pilgrims that have deposited their funds yearning to discharge this responsibility for none other than seeking the pleasure of Allah, the good tiding is that they remain prospective guests of Allah for two years running; and He is well aware of those who make sacrifices for His sake alone. The turnover from this is huge. As this yearning turns into desperation yet they remain patient, focused, accepting His will in good faith, their reward can only be quantified by Him Who is all seeing and all knowing.

Again, imagine the reward of the pilgrim who, in addition to above, tops it up with respect and obedience to constituted authority whether the situation favours one or not. Indeed, this person submits to decision of the authorities not because he or she has no choice but does so in honour of divine proclamation that says, “Oh you who believe, obey Allah and obey the messenger and those charged with authority among you.” This command by Maker and Knower of mankind is the very foundation that shapes orderliness in a society. Orderliness begets peace hence development. Allah sets boundaries for His servants and whoever remains within those boundaries even under harsh conditions is indeed the triumphant one in this world and the hereafter.

How resilient we remain in the face of another botched Hajj is indeed a test of our resolve to give gratitude to Allah no matter the circumstance. May our intending pilgrims not miss the chance to be doubly rewarded.

On the other hand, if Saudi Arabia does not rescind on its earlier announcement to allow a limited number of foreign pilgrims to participate in 2021 Hajj under strict health and corona virus protocols, Nigeria might be one of those countries whose pilgrims might be lucky after all. Even then, they will definitely be in the minority. For those who may find themselves among persons fortunately decreed by the Almighty to make it to the Hajj, may we find a place in our hearts to sincerely wish them Hajj mabrur and pray for their safe return. For those in the majority that would not make it among the chosen ones, may we collectively pray that the Almighty comforts them and gives them the strength of faith to accept His decree.

Going further, Hajj managers are as well under trial, groping for the right way to go amid cluelessness. To many Hajj administrators, Hajj operation is no longer a job; it is a trust and a passion. A passion to discharge a covenant, a passion to succeed, a passion to find face of Allah on judgement day having served His pilgrims as best as they could. For them, it has been an exhausting two years of waiting, preplanning, re-planning and disbanding: draining their ideas, draining their energy, while their finances have come under the cosh too. For many Hajj administrators, the pandemic period is a frustration. True we have all found ourselves in torrid times; however, these are yet the main tests. For Hajj managers, their major trial is safeguarding the trust and welfare of prospective guests of the Almighty, no matter the frustration they feel. A huge burden indeed! Hopefully, one way of going about it is by remaining calm and calculative. With prayers for guidance as icing as well as fundamental.

NAHCON, in one of its best moves coming at the right time, introduced the Hajj Savings Scheme. Expectantly, by the time pilgrims’ funds are managed under this design, not only will they smile home with extra profit on investment, they also have the assurance of travelling for next Hajj, so far they fulfil the conditions set by Saudi Arabia at the time and are among the first comers.

Another difficult test for Hajj managers is selection of those who would make it for 2021 Hajj if it becomes a reality for foreign pilgrims. The NAHCON Chairman, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan had pledged in many forums that priority in selection will be given to those who rolled-over their 2020 Hajj deposits based on first-come-first-served order. This then is a genuine opportunity for those in the Hajj industry to remain fanatically focused in following this order. Intending pilgrims, Hajj authorities and government officials will do well if they rally round and back the NAHCON Chairman in fulfilling this pledge without pressure. They will also do well by respecting any other circumstantial decision that would be taken collectively in the interest of justice for all. Indeed, tough decisions have to be taken for the common good.

Without gainsaying, NAHCON has drawn significant measures that will protect welfare of pilgrims and their savings, what remains is support by all stakeholders for these plans to reach maturation successfully. This can be achieved. We have a challenge and these are not idyllic times to run on self-interests. Sacrifices, patience and trust in the system should be our new routine if tomorrow comes or never comes for foreign pilgrims to 2021 Hajj. No matter the side of the coin, 2021 Hajj will not be a reality for majority of intending pilgrims.

Usara writes from Public Affairs Unit (NAHCON)

Please note: views expressed here are strictly those of the writer and does not in any way represent those of the Commission.