Professionalism of Haj Companies
By Zulfiqar Ashraf Chaudhry
Are Hajis Allah’s goats?
There is a spiritual and a material aspect to Hajj. Our esteemed Imams cover the spiritual aspect of Hajj very well. Here, I will highlight its material aspect. I believe that the material aspect of Haj is intimately related to its spiritual aspect. After all, how can one concentrate on prayers in Arafat, when he has abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting from the infection he acquired from someone who could not wash his hands (after having a bowel movement) because his Hajj company did not provide soap and adequate bathrooms?
I will dare to say that most Hajj companies are not in this business out of the goodness of their hearts. They are in it to make a quick profit. Even if they stand to make $500 per haji, the quantity and velocity of their profits exceed any business! Which business can make $ 60 to $80,000 in 30 days? And which business can use religion and its custodians, i.e., Mullahs, to prevent criticism of their unprofessional practices? I cannot think of any business. In fact, I want to be in this business!
When one sees that profits (the material kind, with spiritual kind as a bonus) are at the heart of these Hajj businesses, it becomes incumbent on us to demand professionalism from them. If they promise something, then they must deliver it. They must not be able to hide behind our beautiful Deen, or our esteemed scholars (who in most cases are hired by them)! If they underperform, then they must hear the music from their customers, like any other business. But wait, their customers are Haji. These hajis are special customers. They are Allah's goats: sacrifice them, cut their throats, and they won't say a thing. If they do, then where is that Imam we hired?
What? You cannot afford this $10,000 package, we have a cheaper package for you. What? You cannot even afford that package either. Well, in that case, Hajj is not obligatory on you. Again, what an ingenious business strategy!
If you sense frustration in me, you are right. I am just sickened by all the hypocrisy and the connivance of our religious leaders in the whole process. Imams are not supposed to be on sale. They are not supposed to be the spokespersons of the rich, powerful, and the elite. They are supposed to be the protectors of people, customers, and citizen's rights. But how can they be all these things, when their own livelihood depends on these powerful elements? Now I understand, why Imam Abu Hanifa insisted on being economically independent and ran his own business, in-spite of his back-breaking religious duties.
Let's demand professionalism and high level of service from these Hajj companies. We are not goats. We are Allah's best creation. Let's act like one!