LILONGWE - Amid growing economic woes and ever-increasing financial problems, the number of Malawi Muslims travelling for hajj has been declining in recent years, putting their dream to perform lifetime journey to Makkah on hold.
I have been trying over the past years to raise money towards the fulfillment of this obligation, but it has been a painful experience, Ahmed Bakali, in his late 70's, told OnIslam.net
My economic status and that of my country has denied me an opportunity of becoming a Muslim who lives by the dictates of my religion, Bakali added.
Malawi has over the past few years been sailing in troubled waters economically.
The World Bank ranks Malawi one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world. Its majority poor struggle to survive on less than 1US$ a day.
The hard hitting economic conditions have forced thousands of Muslims to defer their dream of performing hajj.
The current economic climate much as it has affected all Malawians regardless of their religious inclinations has dealt a severe blow to us Muslims in our preparations for Hajj, since everything largely depends on money. Without money, it is very difficult for people to fulfill this obligation, Sheikh Mohammed Idrissa, National Chairperson of Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), told OnIslam.net.
As Muslims, we are obliged to go for hajj, which is a fifth pillar of Islam, but the hard hitting economic situation in the country has robbed us of an opportunity to fulfill that obligation in our large numbers as dictated by our religion.
Over the past few years, the numbers of Muslims going on a pilgrimage to Makkah have been going down.
This year, only 96 Muslims from Malawi have made it. And this is the lowest number to have been registered in recent years in the country, Idrissa added.
Islam is the second largest religion in the southern African country after Christianity.
Official statistics suggest Muslims constitute 12 percent of the country's 14 million people, but the umbrella Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) puts the rate at 36.
Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
The present economic conditions have affected business establishments and
Therefore, it's becoming extremely difficult for Muslims desiring to go on a pilgrimage to make it, Idrissa said.
It is very unfortunate, that the state of our economy has not only affected delivery of social services and the wellbeing of average Malawians, but its also affected our obligation to fulfill some important religious requirements. We pray that in the next few years, the situation would improve, he added.
This is a worrisome development to the growth of Islam in Malawi. Because the teachings of very religion have to be understood and adhered to by its followers, but if only few of them are able to fulfill its obligations, then there is a need for concern.
Currently, the country is going through tough economic reforms code named Economic Recovery Plan (ERP), which has made life for most of the country's poor an agonizing experience according to economic experts.
Idrissa, however, noted that some Muslims blessed with the means were not eager to participate in hajj due to their lack of understanding of the significance of this fifth pillar of Islam.
What we have discovered over the years is that even those blessed with resources don't appreciate the significance of this important pillar of Islam. They don't see the necessity of making sacrifices towards this other important pillar of our religion.
He said it was for this reason that MAM alongside other Islamic organizations in the country has intensified efforts to educate Muslims at various levels of the society on the need to go for hajj.
We are sensitizing our brothers and sisters through the mosques and other social gatherings. Our message is that Muslims should take hajj seriously, just like the way they do with other pillars like Salaat and Ramadan.
He hoped that through these initiatives in the next few years, many Muslims with the financial ability will make it for hajj.
We would like to see all Muslims who have the means to go for hajj at least once in their life time. It's quite worrisome to see Muslims who have been blessed with riches ignoring this obligation.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net