Rights activist and author, Moazzam Begg, urges Muslims to oppose the Saudi regime even if it costs them their Hajj and Umrah.
Saudi Arabia has been arresting and torturing prisoners, including scholars like Sheikh Salman al-Oudah and others for decades. It invited U.S. troops onto the Arabian Peninsula and became a key staging point for the first Gulf war. It has tens of thousands of people languishing in prison simply for seeking reform. It has waged a brutal bombing campaign on one of the poorest nations on earth in Yemen, and regularly oppresses minorities in the East. Its treatment of foreign workers, especially from the Indian Subcontinent is appalling. Tribalism, nationalism and resultant racism is endemic within.
It is ruled by a monarchy that traces its history back to takin (pronouncing Muslims out of the fold of Islam) of the ruling Ottoman Caliphate, and siding with the British Empire in order to oust the Ottomans and establish a British installed puppet regime. Since that time, Saudi Arabia has been unashamedly serving the interests of Britain and America, while, ironically, calling any movement or organisation that seeks to change it “khwararij” and “takfiri”. Saudi’s rulers don’t do irony.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said about the khwararij (seceders from the Muslim community) “…they will kill the followers of Islam sparing the polytheists.” All you have to do is see if this simple formula applies to the House of Saud.
Oil and pilgrimage
The country has two very important things going for it: oil and pilgrimage. The oil will run out at some point but as long as it’s there, Saudi’s rulers will continue to wield influence.
As for Hajj and Umrah, that is in our hands. Performing Hajj is, of course, one of the pillars of Islam, but it is based upon ability.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best jihad is speaking a word of truth against an oppressive ruler” and “the best martyr is Hamza ibn Abdul Muttalib (uncle of the Prophet who was killed defending Islam at the Battle of Uhud) and, a man who stood up to a tyrant ruler and enjoined good and forbade evil [upon him] and was killed [by him].” Maybe this is why, ultimately, journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed, I don’t know. But I do know that speaking against this regime is far overdue – for all of us.
If the Saudi government doesn’t give you the visa to go as a result then you are absolved of the obligation and will – insha’Allah – be rewarded for your intention. The Hajj and Umrah tour operators won’t like what I’m going to say but it’s important regardless.
The Prophet (peace be upon) performed Hajj only once in his lifetime and that was where he gave his ‘Farewell Sermon’. He went out on military expeditions 28 times and spent the entirety of his Prophethood speaking out against evil and injustice.
The Prophet did Umrah four times but, one was connected to the same Hajj while the others were largely consequential to his travel.
Many of the Prophet’s foremost companions, who loved the Arabian peninsula and what it contained far more than any one of us could, left home to spread the justice of Islam – never to return. Bilal ibn Raba is buried in Damascus, Khalid ibn Waleed in Homs, Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah in Jordan, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari in Istanbul, Ali ibn Abi Talib in Iraq and Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas in China – may Allah be pleased with them all.
Many of us go regularly to Makkah and Madinah, and some even go several times year. I fully understand the feeling anyone who travels to the House of Allah and the birthplace of Islam gains, especially when going for the first time. There is nothing like it. I last went in 1997 to perform Hajj and have never been back since. I doubt I’ll be going again anytime soon but I can still remember the exhilaration I felt visiting the Holy Places.
A large number of “practicing” Muslims won’t say anything about Saudi Arabia where it matters. Not because they love the regime; most people know the rulers form a succession of treacherous sycophants who have sold their souls to America. No, Muslims refrain from calling-out Saudi Arabia because they fear they might get pilgrimage visas denied.
In my view, that is a very powerful weapon, in our collective hands. Imagine, if we abandoned that fear just for a few years and decided we’d instead donate our money to other causes. That’s exactly what the great Mujahid scholar Abdullah bin Mubarak did one year when he set off for Hajj. Finding impoverished people on the way he decided to donate all he had to them and abandon his Hajj journey en route to Makkah.
The Saudi regime would feel the pinch if millions of Muslims decided for a few consecutive years to follow suit.
The regime is set to make 150 billion USD (£114bn) by 2022 from Hajj alone. The revenue they get from oil and pilgrimage benefits the princes’ ultra-luxurious lifestyles, the U.S. military and arms dealers, as well as a host of other unsavoury players.
Perhaps what I’m suggesting is too hard for most of us. We have become a deeply ritualistic people and there is no greater ritual for us than Hajj. But, we have become an apathetic people who seem content with doing very little to bring about justice and are prepared to sacrifice even less. What I’m suggesting here, however, requires very little sacrifice. It’s more doing nothing and still managing to effect some causes for change.
May Allah grant us the wisdom and strength to do what is best, ameen.