One of Nigeria’s leading private Hajj operators, Hajj Mabrur Nigeria Limited, has advised the Nigerian Muslim community to accept as ‘the Will of Allah’, the cancellation of this year’s Hajj for international pilgrims by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Muslim News on Monday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director of the agency, Alhaji Abdul Hameed Solate said the decision was in the best interest of prospective pilgrims’ safety, which is the priority and best interest of all.
The Saudi Arabia authority last week, announced the cancellation of international pilgrimage for the second consecutive year due to the rising cases of the new COVID-19 variants.
The Hajj Ministry therefore limits participation of the 2021 pilgrimage to 60,000 vaccinated locals and residents in the kingdom.
Alhaji Solate said, “There is nothing we can do, since the decision to bar or allow international pilgrims is not in our hands. It is the Saudi government and they have taken the decision, which they feel is best for everybody. That’s why we have to accept it.
“We are Muslims and we can plan, even apart from the Saudi authority and Allah can always change the plan. But one thing in Islam is that, safety is very paramount.
“Aside COVID-19, other things could have come up, even after a lot of preparations. It would not have been a deliberate thing from them and we all know what’s happening around the world.
“We are Nigerians and Allah has blessed us. We have very little incidents of COVID-19 issues around us. We may not really appreciate it. In other parts of the world, some countries are still under lockdown due to the pandemic. So, it is always like that. Whatever happens, let’s accept and give thanks to Allah. It is the best for us.
“We will gain nothing when people travel there and return to their countries with infections. Definitely, everyone should know that Allah is the one that plans. Whatever we do, we should know the final result is with Allah, but that does not say we should not plan. Whatever they have asked us to do, is part of the planning and eventually, the final decision came based on some other factors they would have considered. So we just have to accept it”, he emphasised.
Reacting to notions on why the kingdom paved way for international pilgrims to perform Umrah during Ramadan and cancelled Hajj thereafter, Alhaji Solate explained that it is a ‘50:50 thing’, owing to the different nature of both religious exercises.
In his words, “If you are comparing last year and this year, we would say perhaps, we expect it to hold, maybe based on what has happened at the last Umrah. But, if you look at what is happening around the world, especially with regards to the new COVID-19 variants, it might be risky to allow international pilgrims into Saudi Arabia for Hajj. So, it is always a 50:50 thing, especially because Hajj is quite different from Umrah.
“For Umrah, people can go in at different days, go to the mosque at different times but for Hajj, especially for the 5 days, everybody is at the same place, at the same time, doing the same thing. It has more implications than the other. While for Umrah, someone can travel on 28, another can travel on 27. There is no reason for you to be at the same place, doing same thing.
“For us, it’s a 50:50 thing. So, we have to continue planning. In case the coast is clear, we would not be caught unaware. That is why we continued our preparations at that time. When the coast is not clear, we give thanks to Allah and ask Him to accept it”.
When asked about the loss the agency and other Hajj operators might have incurred, he responded that the losses are huge and only individual companies can account for such.
“It is very obvious. Apart from Hajj and Umrah rites, traveling industry was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hajj and Umrah is part of it. For us, there are no other options in terms of traveling. It’s a huge loss because there’s no revenue coming in because nobody could travel.
“Only individual companies will be able to account for how much they would have lost, but actually, it is a huge loss because there are little or no revenue, probably Umrah gave us little, not even everyone could do that because the fare went up, arrangements for Umrah changed. So, we have just few people participating. Now that Hajj is off, it means there is no further income until maybe after Hajj, when Umrah comes, which is not good.
“It is a huge loss and each agency can only account for what they have projected and lost, especially having workers you need to pay salaries to. It is a huge one. All in all, we give thanks to Allah in all situations”, he concluded.
By Abdul Waheed Shotonwa
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