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Stop Visiting Saudi Arabia for Umrah and Haj: Quranic Ideal of Justice Commands Muslims to Take a Stand Even At Great Discomfort to Self-Interest

By Parvez Ahmed

October 15, 2018

For Muslims, Makkah, where the Ka’ba is located, is the epicenter of their faith and Madinah, home of the Prophet’s mosque, their sanctuary for spiritual bliss. These two cities happen to be in Saudi Arabia, which is once again in the news for the most chilling of reasons, presenting Muslims with a difficult decision to make.

Last week, we learned that the country likely killed one of its own citizens, in cold blood, inside its own consulate, in a foreign land. While we do not have incontrovertible proof, we know enough to be worried and concerned. How the great powers on the global stage respond is beyond our control. But what we choose to do as ordinary Muslims is not.

It is time to boycott Saudi Arabia. Stop visiting the country for umrah (optional pilgrimage) and hajj (obligatory pilgrimage). Such a call is indeed draconian and may even sound like contravening fundamental religious obligations. But the Quranic ideal of justice commands Muslims to take a stand, even at great discomfort to self-interest.

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (Quran 4:135).

How can we continue to provide tacit support to the House of Saud as the custodians of the two holy mosques when they cannot be trusted as custodians of human life itself?

I am not advocating indiscriminate Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which can hurt reformist voices inside Saudi Arabia, by making an already brutal regime even more hardline. But a significant reduction in pilgrims will send a powerful message to the House of Saud, who derive prestige from their self-anointed status as the guardians of Islam.

Saudi Arabia officially estimates that it earns nearly $8.5 billion annually from hajj alone, according to figures from 2014. About 70 percent of that expenditure comes from overseas visitors. Nearly nine times as many people perform umrah (19 million) than hajj (2.4 million). By 2022 experts estimate Saudi Arabia’s revenues from hajj and umrah will exceed $150 billion. The gruesome killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi ought to be the impetus that puts an economic dent on the Kingdom’s facade.

Saudi Arabia bears culpability in destabilizing a region, imprisoning dissidents, mercilessly extinguishing the lives of innocents and continuing to export an intolerant and perverted version of Islam. But its Yemen entanglement is significantly more insidious. While the crisis is well documented, it is not well publicized and certainly not adequately addressed. The European Union has described Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. In total, nearly 50,000 people have been killed, according to unofficial estimates from ACLED, a group that studies global conflicts. The United Nation estimates that 22.2 million people in Yemen need assistance, 8.4 million people suffer from severe food insecurity, and a further 10 million could fall under the same category by the end of the year, if action is not urgently taken. Millions are on the brink of starvation.

Make no mistake that this is a man-made crisis created by the very people claiming to be custodians of holiness and funded in part by the U.S.

The likely murder of Khashoggi is justifiably drawing a lot of attention. But, for the past two years the plight of Yemenis has, for the most part, escaped our collective consciousness. This gives credence to Stalin’s quote, “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.” But in this instance, we have a chance to take the tragedy of one death to cast a light on the tragedies faced by millions.

While official American actions, in the form of cancellation of arms sale and imposition of the Magnitsky Act sanctions against the Saudi elite, may have to wait a change of regime in Washington (Trump seems to be looking the other way), Muslims need not wait to fulfill their personal fidelity to justice by taking a stand – silent no more.

Moral clarity requires that those championing BDS against Israel also advocate for a boycott of Saudi Arabia too. Under any objective standard, the behavior of the Saudi regime is comparable to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the other Holy Land.

When they were young, my children used to watch a video about a person who gave up the money he saved for Hajj to feed his hungry neighbor. The story illustrated that the purpose of the pilgrimage is not a mere physical journey to the heart of Islam, but more importantly a striving that is aimed at provoking a spiritual awakening. The goal is to link thoughts and actions to the will of the Divine by engendering compassion for humanity.

What good is our pilgrimage if the host regime uses our money and the legitimacy that our visit provides to not only engage in perpetrating the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time but also to commit cold blooded murder of journalists, for the ostensible purpose of squelching any dissent?

Parvez Ahmed is Professor of Finance at the University of North Florida. You can read more about the author here.



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  1. does the kingdom of saudi arabia make money through hajj? or does hajj impose a loss on the saudias?
    By hats off! 20/10/2018 08:38:53
  2. Please find below a selection of some old comments I searched for, more out of nostalgia than anything else. It doesn't really make any difference if Saudi Arabia makes money out of Hajj or not in present times. It certainly must have been the mainstay of their economy at one time. The fear of its loss was probably one reason why the powers-that-be opposed Islam tooth and nail. They couldn't imagine One God could be as lucrative as 365.

    "As regarding the income of Saudi Arabia on account of Haj, I am not sure whether the government of Saudi Arabia makes a profit. It certainly incurs huge expenditure but what is its income? I am sure the government would be incurring only losses although for its citizens, there is business to be done and profits to be made. If the same Haj was to be performed in any other country, it would certainly be costlier for the Hajis.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 7/14/2012 2:54:49 AM

    ... another was the discussion about if saudi arabia makes money out of the hajj. while mr. naseer ahmed kept arguing that saudi arabia actually loses money by hajj. it was touch and go util one mr. sadaf typed out a piece of his mind for mr. naseer amed. that really made things hit the fan.
    By hats off! - 9/10/2017 7:10:57 AM
    a couple of gold and silver coins is no proof of innocence. arabic barbarians use their hospitality just to put you in place. mr naseer ahmed must be the three in a million along with his hindu colleagues who got the soft end of the stick.
    zillions have come violently in contact with the harder end.
    By hats off! - 11/22/2012 12:11:24 AM

    Like any colonizer, they have a way of fleecing your money. While you might vehemently argue that the ks of a makes a net loss on account of the hajj, every opinion in the world asserts the opposite. this year the total revenue earned by the ks of a was around 15 billion dollars. so like all colonies, the non hejazi Muslim colonies of Arabia are paying the empire. what is more - in the design it says they will pay forever
    I have other theses. but I will wait for your response before i put them before you. By hats off! - 11/23/2012 12:31:56 PM

    I thinks, I replied to your 3 problem and 3 solutions, Dear Mr. Naseer Ahmed Sir. You have cut pasted the your points again and I too then perhaps have to cut paste my reply.
    Why don't you understand that it is not the people who treated you well we are against. It is their ideology which we are against. Some of them promote their ideology by force and some through the bribery of being well and showering you in gold and silver.
    By sadaf - 11/21/2012 11:02:09 PM


    By Sultan Shahin 19/10/2018 14:16:43
  3. What I say is very precise. Go dig it out and reproduce.
    By Naseer Ahmed 18/10/2018 23:27:05
  4. if my memory serves me right, mr. naseer ahmed argued that (long time ago) hajj does not benefit KSA, but actually places a financial burden on it

    so he should comment on the matter of the national income KSA earns due to hajj.

    the more patient readers might chose to use the search box.
    By hats off! 18/10/2018 09:09:50
  5. People don't perform Umrah or Hajj because they like the custodians. The Prophet attempted Hajj/Umrah while the Mushrikin of Mecca were the custodians but was prevented and allowed to perform the following year as per the treaty of Hudaybiah.

    Parvez Ahmed may be among those who have no inclination  or intention of performing Hajj or Umrah. Only such a person can dispense such advice or support it!
    By Naseer Ahmed 18/10/2018 03:14:09