ABUJA - Hundreds of Muslim pilgrims in Nigeria have been barred from going to hajj under a policy to screen out those who are not able to recite Al-Fatiha, the first surah (chapter) in the Noble Qur'an.
You don't have business in hajj if you cannot recite Suratul-fatiha that is a basic requisite for prayers, Alhaji Idris Baba Ango, executive secretary of Kogi State Pilgrims Welfare Board, told OnIslam.net.
Once you failed the Fatiha test, we rule you out of the exercise as directed by the central hajj commission.
Even if you are a new convert, it is expected that you should learn the basic aspects of your new religion especially Salat before embarking on Hajj.
Hundreds of intending pilgrims have been disqualified from going to hajj over their inability to recite Suratul-Fatiha.
The No Fatiha, No Hajj policy, by the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), has been crafted to bar people who travel to Saudi Arabia during the hajj season, but engage in questionable activities other than the religious rites.
NAHCON officials also accused government functionaries of sponsoring political thugs and people, who do not have basic knowledge of Islam, especially how to perform ablution and observe Salat.
It has been discovered that hundreds of people go to hajj with ulterior motives while a number of others especially those sponsored by government officials are often times seasonal Muslims who neither observe salat nor partake in day-to-day religious obligations, said Baba Ango.
Under the policy, at least 19 pilgrims from the north-central state of Kogi have been barred from going to hajj this year for failing the Fatiha test.
Scores of pilgrims from the southwestern states of Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Lagos and Ondo have also been disqualified.
An official of Hajj commission, Abdulganiyu Olowoyo, said the policy would help prune down incidents of people going on hajj for reasons other than the holy pilgrimage.
In Islam, knowledge is a must, not an option. You cannot go to hajj if you cannot even recite something as basic as Fatiha, Olowoyo told OnIslam.net.
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 policy has won plaudits from scholars and NGOs in Nigeria.
For the first time I can confidently say the Hajj Commission is sticking to the No Fatiha, No Hajj rule, Dr Abdurahman Ahmad, a leading Muslim preacher and Imam of popula Ansar-Ud-Deen group, told OnIslam.net.
I'm sure it would send a strong signal across the country that it is no business as usual. It would curb the excesses of the politicians also.
The message is simple: go learn about Islam if you want to be called a Muslim and be allowed to perform the holy pilgrimage.
Prof. Ishaq Akintola, the director of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), also hailed the policy.
Nobody can be called a Muslim if he cannot recite Suratul-fatiah and nobody should be allowed to go on the pilgrimage if he is not a Muslim.
Many believe the policy would help curb the activities of barons who sponsor people to Saudi Arabia during hajj to transact illegal businesses, giving the country a bad name.The No Fatiha, No Hajj policy is the best step ever taken in the country to address Nigeria's poor image during the holy pilgrimage because it would screen out those going there for ulterior motives and leave out only those genuinely going there to worship Allah SW, said Hajiah Shakirah Adedotun, a Muslim businesswoman.