General News of Friday, 10 February 2017
A Ghanaian Islamic scholar and a lecturer at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria, Sheikh Mohammed Sani Ninche has called on government to stop sponsoring pilgrims to the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
According to him the practice of sponsoring people from state coffers for Hajj was un-Islamic and therefore cannot be accepted.
Rather, he proposed that all individuals who want to partake in Hajj should be made to pay for the trip from their own resources and not from state coffers which belong to all Ghanaians.
The rationale of his argument is that performing Hajj was an individual religious issue and does not bring any direct benefit to the state as compared to for instance sponsoring the education of an engineering or medical student who would, in turn, become an asset to the country in a form of a direct benefit.
“What benefit will Ghana and Ghanaians derive from sponsoring a Hajj pilgrim…, what benefit will Ghana derive from the Hajj of a party faithful,” he queried.
In an open letter titled “Protect Public Purse: Party Foot-Soldiers vis-a-vis HAJJ”, he said: “Even government appointees and other officials who are Muslims and are willing to go on Hajj must be made to pay for their trip.”
In Islam, one cannot go to Hajj using somebody’s money without the person’s consent even if one is the custodian of the money, he stated.
“In this case, Islam calls it Amaanah [trust] which Islam is very keen about, due to its significance in the life of the people. Lack of Amaanah leads to injustice, which in turn leads to instability,” he said.
He explained that Hajj as the fifth pillar among the pillars of Islam was compulsory for every Muslim who has the monetary and physical capability.
“By implication, a poor or weak person is not obliged to go. Hajj requires money for the expenses involved and it requires physical health for the activities involved.”
To him, the only category of people that should be sponsored to Hajj on government’s ticket should be medical, security officers or logistical task force members who would be deployed to help.
He called on the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to help streamline Hajj operations in the country, arguing that the status quo must change because according to him Ghanaians did not only vote for a change of government but also a change of attitude and ways of doing things.
“It is about time to put a stop to this non-justifiable attitude to save Ghana some money,” he said.
With about six months to the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Sheikh Ninche said the national interest must supersede that of political party interest insisting that “If nothing is done monies will go down the drain instead of development.”
Last year, the Pilgrims Affairs Office of Ghana (PAOG) the body in charge of Hajj organisation was accused by some would-be pilgrims of bias.
They said the PAOG sidelined them even though they paid their fare, and in their position, political party faithful who were sponsored by the government went to Mecca.