Difficulty in Performing Hajj Calls for Juristic Facilitation

This year’s season of Hajj has arrived, renewing many issues that are raised and discussed only during Hajj. Perhaps the most important of these issues are those related to some fatwas and questions addressing matters newly introduced into Hajj and juristic rules pertaining to important rituals, such as the rulings on throwing the pebbles before Az-Zawal (noon), some contemporary prohibitions relating to ihram, advancement and deferment of some rituals, and similar questions that are raised as a result of the changing circumstances and complexity of contemporary life.

As we notice the considerable progress in the services offered to pilgrims and the ease with which the rituals of Hajj are carried out, regardless of the distance a pilgrim travels to reach Makkah, we also notice the progressive increase in the number of pilgrims. This often results in violent overcrowding and manifest disturbance during the performance of some rituals.

This has led to changes in the ijtihad (juristic effort to infer expert juristic rulings) exercised by many scholars and muftis with regard to a number of issues. It has also led to disagreement with famous rulings adopted by well-established madhhabs (schools of jurisprudence). These changes aim to make things easier for people and to remove the distress and harm befalling them, as well as to apply the jurisprudence of facilitation (adaptability intended to bring about ease), as regards the rulings of Hajj and its contemporary circumstances.

There would be harm and difficulty and perhaps loss of many lives during Hajj if the jurists adhered to the opinions of past leading jurists or issued fatwas without taking into consideration the change in conditions and circumstances and also the change in societies. For example, throwing pebbles during the Days of Tashriq (11th, 12th, and 13th of Dhul-Hijjah) begins from Az-Zawal and continues until sunset. The majority of jurists deem throwing pebbles after sunset invalid. However, many researchers and Iftaa’ bodies deem it permissible for pilgrims to throw pebbles at night, for the purpose of facilitating this ritual for pilgrims. This is because overcrowding makes it very difficult for all pilgrims to throw the pebbles during the day.

Perhaps the need for reconsidering the rulings on throwing pebbles before Az-Zawal is also accentuated, especially for those pilgrims who wish to leave on the second day of Tashriq, due to the great distress and restriction that existed in recent years.

Besides the norm of acting upon the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), who said “Learn your rituals from me,” it is quite clear that the basic norm in Hajj is that rituals are based on removing restrictions and on making things easy for pilgrims. The Prophet also said, “Do (it), and there shall be no harm (on you).”

The principle of making things easy for people was also adopted by some of the Tabi`in (first generation after the Prophet), and it should be emphasized that it was also the approach of the Hanafi scholars and some contemporary jurists.

Does Fiqh of Facilitation Imply Laxity?

Fiqh of facilitation does not imply apostasy, laxity, or negligence with regard to the rulings of Shariah. Rather, it is a guided discipline, a well-studied area of jurisprudence, an attitude in issuing fatwas, and an exemplary way of life. Facilitation and removal of restrictions for the benefit of Muslims are allowed, provided that they do not contradict clear-cut injunctions or substantial consensus among Muslim jurists and that they come in line with the collective principles of Shariah and its general objectives. The changes in place, time, conditions, and circumstances are worthy of being taken into account when fatwas are issued.

Indeed, the times of ordeals and catastrophes are not like the times of stability and welfare, and the conditions of the frightened people are not like the conditions of those enjoying security. Again, the one who acts according to special exigencies or needs is not like the one who lives in comfort and prosperity.

Such was the guidance of the Prophet. He would frequently advise his Companions saying, “Make things easy [for people], and do not make it difficult [for them]; give [them] glad tidings, and do not repulse (them).” (Al-Bukhari)

Almighty Allah describes the Prophet saying, (And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds) (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:107). In this context, `Umar ibn Is-haq said, “[The number of] the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) whom I witnessed is greater than the number of those whom I never met, and I found that no one was more lenient in their way of life or more tolerant than them.”

Besides, Sufyan ibn Uyaynah reported that Mamar said, “Verily, it is a sign of the sound knowledge of a trustworthy scholar that you hear him report a rukhsah (permission); this is because strict rulings are mastered by everyone.”

It is no wonder then that the main rule in this context states that hardships call for facilitation. Is it not then high time for us to realize that the hardships experienced by pilgrims require facilitation in our contemporary jurisprudence?

By Dr. Misfir bin `Ali Al-Qahtani

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