Faizel Patel, Radio Islam - 28-02-2019
A post about the affordability of Hajj I have shared on social media has gone viral. People want to know why is Hajj so expensive with many commenting and providing their own opinions on the burning issue.
While embarking on the journey of hajj is a dream for Muslims, it seems the cost of this epic journey has soared to levels beyond the affordability of many people.
Almighty Allah instructed Ibrahim (AS) thousands of years ago to call out to the Ummah and invite them to his house to perform Hajj.
Hajj as the fifth and last pillar of Islam as portrayed by Nabi (SAW) should be simple and a connection with Allah, so when we return home to our families, we are rejuvenated and cleansed of all our sins like a newborn baby.
Many South Africans save for years to go for hajj, but the with the limited quota of 3,500 and a first time waiting list of 23,000, it could take between 4 to 5 years to go for hajj and in that time, the cost of embarking on this journey would’ve increase even further.
If Hajj is about simplicity, than why is it so expensive?
There are a number of travel operators that offer hajj packages starting from approximately R 60,000 for six weeks including airfare. This is a dramatic increase from a few years ago when it only cost about R 45,000 per person for six weeks.
In comparison, if you live in America it’ll cost a person a R 110,000 for three weeks for hajj inclusive of airfare.
As per calculations from an influential source, if you strip out the mandatory hajj charges of R15,000 as levied by Saudi Arabia, a R 60,000 hajj package less the airfare of approximately R 14,000 costs you R 31,000.
Excluding the five days of Hajj which is sponsored by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and assuming you are staying 37 days out of the 42 days in a hotel, the total land cost works out to approximately a R 838 per day which is affordable.
Sure, the exchange rate has played a major role and South Africa’s economic climate has deteriorated dramatically resulting in the inflation of embarking on Hajj.
However, at the same time Hajj also has a cost attached to it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Protocol missions meet with Saudi Arabia’s Hajj ministry and sets out prices for specific items like Tanazul and camp prices, which are largely reasonable and affordable to many.
While Saudi Arabia does a magnificent job of looking after more than 2 million pilgrims, let’s face it, it is not easy and I can testify to that, as I’ve been a reporter on Hajj in 2015. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to host the Hajj.
The Kingdom pulls out all the stops to treat Allah’s guests with the highest dignity and offers the best all-round service which is unparalleled by any global event anywhere in the world and they should be commended for that.
The issue therefore has nothing to do with the Saudi government, as prices for packages are largely determined and set out by SA Hajj operators for accredited hujjaj.
So are South African Hajj operators using the affordability of Hajj and inflating the costs of the once in a lifetime journey ripping the ummah off, knowing that this is time to skin the hajji alive?
Possibly, but Hajj operators also need to make a profit from their packages they offer to hujjaj, after all they are business owners. Nobody goes into business with the intention of not making a profit on the goods and services they offer.
Also, take into cognizance that over time, prices do increase. Whether it’s hotel, food, and transport. So for example if you went of Hajj ten years ago, it would’ve been significantly cheaper than if you go in 2019.
If operators are however grotesquely inflating their packages to bleed the Hajji dry, then there in is where the problem possibly lies.
Browsing through a Hajj operators packages, I came a across a hajj offer that was R 185,000 per person and If your wife accompanies you, it’ll cost you R370k!!! That’s shocking. So what it the reasoning behind the exorbitant package, how does one justify the cost of this package?
From my understanding, the package caters for a specific segment of hujjaj and also includes a full stay in Makkah, while other hujjaj move to Azizia ahead of the 5 days of hajj.
A full stay in Makkah becomes significantly more expensive as hajj draws close.
From the other packages I browsed, like the passengers on the doomed Titanic, it’s clear that a status of class has been attached to the simple pilgrimage, with packages available for lower, middle and upper class. But why? Possibly targeting people who have different means of affordability?
While I do understand that people may have different preferences and can even afford it, I believe the sacred journey of Hajj should be kept as simple as possible with one package that suits everyone and every Hajjee can afford.
If operators work with each other, hajj packages even for the poorest of the poor could be still affordable while at the same time ensuring that agents still make a profit and also conduct ethical business practices.
Honestly, has the essence of hajj been lost and are we placing the emphasis on how luxurious a hajj can be? This is the fallibility of some Muslims who unfortunately want a five star hajj when it should rather be a sacrifice and as simple as possible.
Simplicity was the hallmark of the life of Nabi (SAW) including his hajj.
I urge all the stakeholders in the hajj process, let us keep Hajj simple and affordable so that everyone have the means and the right to embark on this journey of spiritual ecstasy and be the guest of Allah Insha’Allah.