Haj is a duty for only affluent and healthy Muslims who can afford to travel to Mecca, the holiest site for the community. It is the last of the five duties for a Muslim with a condition that the person’s health and wealth should permit it.  The Haj is not allowed on borrowed money.  Of around 17.2 crore Muslims in India,  between 1.5 Lakh to 2 Lakh travel to Saudi Arabia in order to fulfill this duty. The numbers vary each year depending on the quota allotted by Saudi Arabia. (Also Read: No Haj subsidy from now, funds to be used for minority empowerment, says govt)Also Read - Bangladeshi Cleric Issues Fatwa Against Facebook’s ‘Haha’ Emoji, Calls it ‘Totally Haram’ For Muslims

Several affluent Muslims who can afford to perform Haj by their own means do not go there. For instance, this writer’s  father and mother couldn’t perform Haj in spite of having the means to do so.  During his heydays, my father could have performed Haj with his earnings but he chose to buy some farmlands and during the old age again he could have performed his last duty by selling land. He did not do so even as the family members wanted him to fulfill his religious duty.  He never applied for the subsidised Haj. Also Read - Eid-ul-Fitr Moon Sighting 2021 Highlights in Kerala: Shawaal Crescent Moon Not Sighted, Southern State To Celebrate Eid on May 13

In the hindsight, I feel performing Haj was not his top priority. For my mother, she had no means and was dependent on male members of the family. This is the story of many Muslim households. Also Read - In a First, Saudi Arabia Releases Photo of Black Stone From Holy Mecca | See Pics

Removal of Haj subsidy may have a political undertone owing to the current dispensation’s position against the appeasement of minorities, especially the Muslims. But, in essence, it was dispensable as it will not impact the Haj pilgrimage from India. People, who consider it a must-to-do religious obligation, will be able to perform by their own means. For destitute and people who cannot afford to travel to Mecca, the pilgrimage is not mandatory. The intent to use the fund for educational empowerment and welfare of girls from minority communities, as announced by Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, is a welcome move.

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