Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hajj , what it meant for Pakistan?

I have a request before you begin, if you don’t have time to read this completely then don’t start it because you might draw wrong conclusion from it, thanks. Alhamdulillah I, along with approximately 150,000 Pakistanis performed Hajj this year. According to a rough estimate there were about 3,500,000 hajjis this year. This is probably an unprecedented number of human beings gathered at any place at any time in human history. It started me thinking as to what it is all about, particularly what is its outcome. This thought has become more acute ever since I have arrived back in Pakistan. The reason being, every one of my relatives/friends/acquaintances, except one (my teacher Mr Samad), asked me about my stay in Saudi Arabia. They were interested in knowing if I got proper accommodation or not, if I got sick or not etc. Other than Mr Samad, no one asked if it has produced any change in me. May be because of my black and white beard they wrongfully presumed me to be a pious person.

But this question of outcome is very bothersome for me, being a Pakistani I am more concerned with what it means for Pakistan. On average each Hajji spent about Rs 300,000/- which means that Rs 45,000,000,000/- was spent on Hajj this year. My question is this: as a nation, what did we get for 45 billion rupees? Some one can say that it is too early to look for results. Approximately same number of people performed hajj last year too, so we can discuss its outcome. Did it reduce corruption in our society? absolutely not, according to Transparency International corruption increased by six points. Did it reduce disparity between rich and poor? Look at the expensive cars on our roads, our posh housing societies and then at the desperation of people committing suicide due to poverty. Did it reduce violence in our society? you only need to take a look at the front pages of our newspapers.

Some people have argued with me that compared to our total population of approximately 180 million 150,000 is not even one percent, so expecting a change from such a miniscule segment is not logical. But this argument is fallacious, because this “miniscule segment” is the one which can afford this journey. They belong to the segment of our society with wealth and power (which like mass and energy in Einstein’s E=mc2 are inter-changeable). This segment consists of senior beaurocrats and army officers, politicians, businessmen, surgeons, professors etc. Peons and batmen cannot afford to go for hajj, neither can servants and factory workers, nor can nurses and primary school teachers. It is the powerful and wealthy who overwhelmingly perform this ritual.

The question that Mr Samad asked me is the question that we should all be asking ourselves daily. Did this Hajj produce any change in us? and I don’t mean change like growing a beard by men or wearing a scarf by women. Don’t get me wrong, growing a beard is Sunnah and as such is commendable, similarly if a woman starts wearing a hijab that is also very good.

But the real change is which makes a difference in our society. Did the beaurocrat change his attitude from a being a replacement of British ‘gora sahib’ to being a true helper of his fellow citizens? Did the doctor stop prescribing unnecessary medicines/tests and/or performing needless operations? Did the businessman stop hoarding and jacking up prices? Did the professor stop short changing his students? Did the politician change his attitude from a being a replacement of viceroy to being an imam of his people?

I am sorry, but I don’t see this happening. So what should we do? Stop doing Hajj? Definitely not, it is an obligation that those of us who can, should. I suggest a two steps :

1) It is stated that a hajji has a forty day “extension period” in which his supplications are accepted. We should use this period to sincerely pray to Allah that HE accepts our Hajj with all the mistakes we made in its performance.

2) Write down on a piece of paper, and I really mean write it, at least one significant action related to our profession, which will improve the lives of our fellow countrymen. Keep that paper in a place where we are reminded of it daily, and pray to Allah that HE helps us in our commitment.