Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hajj as a platform to encourage travel...

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, 'Selawat' (blessings) and 'salam' (peace be upon) Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.


"And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. I do not want from them any provision, nor do I want them to feed Me." (Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51: 56-57)

LAST Saturday (September 5th) my family and I went to the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Fair in Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) in Kuala Lumpur. It was a big and busy event - thousands of people throng the moving staircases and pavilions; and outside PWTC, drivers scrambled to find parking lots; roads leading to the exhibition venue were chocked with vehicles.

Patrons had to buy a RM4 ticket each; they were then given a large green bag with the big MATTA logo and wording MATTA FAIR on one side and on the other side it was written 'Wonderful Indonesia' - oh what a sight seeing thousands of people carrying the green bags loaded with MATTA pamphlets and documents inside them, up and down the exhibition pavilions. 

Sabah Chief Minister, Dato' Musa Aman who was honored to officiate the MATTA Fair, said it  has grown over the years and is now the largest consumer fair in the country. The MATTA Fair brand has been established as the platform for Malaysian and foreign travelers alike to purchase value-for-money holiday packages.

He also said: "I am proud to see that MATTA Fair is moving forward and for the first time is dedicating Hall 1M as the pavilion selling 'umrah' (minor hajj) packages. This is a new focus where there will be a variety of 'umrah' packages to cater to pilgrims' schedules and budget."

MATTA President, Hamzah Rahmat in welcoming patrons said: "The Goods and Services Tax (GST) has been implemented since April 2015. By now, we have gotten used to it. It is crystal clear now and it is no longer a mystery of sort."

Well, I came to the MATTA Fair to fulfill my wife wish to book 'two seats' to unable 'the two of us' to fly and travel to a 'romantic country'  (lets the name of the country a secret for the moment) at the end of the year, but once there, one thing that bog my mind was that the event attracted not many Muslims.

Based on the poor attendance of Muslims at the MATTA Fair, perhaps we should try to seek for some answers. Perhaps travel has not become the culture of Muslims or was it the economically factor that prevent them from traveling? 

Alhamdulillah (all praise only to Allah), Muslims have 'hajj and umrah travel' - this help to boost up travel among Muslims; this time around the MATTA Fair dedicated a 'special pavilion' for hajj and umrah travel agencies that was Hall 1M. But sadly it was located at the furthest end and it shared the floor with an arena where artists and models performed.

During my visit on that Saturday afternoon, the arena was crowded and on stage was live performance...yes even Hamzah Rahmat (MATTA President) in his remarks noted: "Running Man's Gary will be running around at Korea's stand at Hall 1 on Saturday..."  Well, the hundreds of people who filled the arena, blocked Muslims visitors from going to the 'umrah and hajj section'...perhaps this explain why there were only a few visitors there at that time.

If not for 'hajj and umrah' perhaps not many Muslims seek to travel. Since we are about to celebrate Eid Adha, the writer would like to have a brief look how hajj and umrah encourage the spirit of travel among Muslims. 

This year the holy month of Dhulhijja begins on September 15th. This is special month for Muslims around the world as some of them get merciful opportunity to implement the fifth pillar of Islam which is - hajj. The peak of hajj (wukuf, gathering at Arafah or Arafat on the 9th Dhulhijja) for this year would be on September 23th (Wednesday) and the next day Muslims all over the world would celebrate Eid Adha.

The hajj, or pilgrimage to Makkah, is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey. Islam mandates that all Muslims who are financially and physically capable to perform the pilgrimage once in their lifetime.

It was narrated that Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, s.a.w.) said: “Islam is built on five (pillars): testimony that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing prayer, giving zakaah, hajj and fasting Ramadan.” - Narrated by Imam al-Bukhaari and Muslim

To perform hajj, one must have the financial and physical ability - thus he or she must strive hard to fulfill both requirements to make the journey. To perform hajj, one must travel; it showed that Islam encourages it followers to 'see' the world and not to be like 'katak di bawah tempurung' (a frog under a coconut shell, meaning that it only knows its own world).

Establishing prayer (solat) that is the five times daily prayers is most important required by a Muslim yet Islam provides ease and flexibility for Muslims to travel in comfort for example the prayers of Dhuhr and Asr can be shortened and combined within their stipulated time frame, and so can the prayers of Maghrib and Isha. This proved that Islam encourages its followers to travel.

A renowned Muslim writer, Maria Zain, said travelling is an important sunnah in Islam as the Prophet s.a.w. encouraged his followers to seek knowledge 'from the cradle to the grave' while Muslims scholars recommended them to do so even one has to travel to faraway lands such as to China, indicating that knowledge is borderless and travelling is a good way to expand the horizons of knowledge and experience.

Travelling like this can also be for leisure, as long as the underlying intention is a good one, like to recuperate before going back to work, to appreciate a new culture or country, or to spend time with family.

Imam Al-Bukhari relays in a hadith that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. once said: “Be in the world as a traveler or stranger”, reminding Muslims that although the world is a temporary abode, the appreciation of beauty still falls as an obligation upon every Muslim: to seek the world in contentment and to appreciate the bounty of God in all things big and small.

In Islamic history, Arab traders were ardent travelers, crossing into multi-nations for business purposes. This was soon followed by Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. and the first Muslims who migrated to different countries on different occasions and later worked hard in spreading 'da'wah' to different communities.

Even members of the companions were widely known to cross borders for the sake of Islam. They came as far as Abyssinia, Persia, amongst others, in order to seek knowledge from Prophet Muhammad and later crossed oceans to spread their love for Islam.

Travelling the world in the Islamic style is a good way to revive the important Sunnah of learning of other cultures, spreading a good image of Islam or simply enjoying the world from the lens of a Muslim, being reminded that diversity is indeed the will of God. 

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