In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
Muslims are required to be balanced and to consider priorities even in the area of acts of worship. Therefore, a Muslim is required to think twice and spend his or her money in the way that brings greater benefits for him or her and for the whole Muslim community at large.
Answering your question, Dr. Wael Shehab, PhD in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University and currently the Imam of the Downtown Toronto Masjid in Canada, states:
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is an obligation on every Muslim who is financially and physically capable to afford it. A Muslim—who is capable to carry it out—is required to perform hajj once in his or her lifetime.
Allah the Almighty says:
“Pilgrimage thereto is a duty people owe to Allah, those who can afford the journey…” (Aal `Imran 3:97)
Offering hajj entails great reward and blessings. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The performance of Umrah is an expiation for the sins committed (between it and the previous one). And the reward of Hajj mabrur (the one accepted by Allah) is nothing except paradise.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Hajj, moreover, expiates all sins. Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever performs Hajj for Allah’s pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife, and does not do evil or sins then he will return (after Hajj free from all sins) as if he were born anew.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Given the above, it becomes clear that hajj is obligatory once in a lifetime on capable Muslims. A Muslim could perfectly gain its blessings by means of sticking to its ethics and values.
As for the significant points you raised in your question, let’s consider the following Shari`ah-based maxims:
1- Warding off harm takes precedence over achieving benefit;
2- Public Interest takes priority over personal benefit;
3- Carrying out duties carries more weight than performing optional acts of worship.
Contemplating the above legal maxims, we could assure that if repeating hajj by a large number of Muslims would cause a considerable harm to pilgrims due to the over-crowdedness, then a Muslim who avoids repeating hajj while having the intention not to cause harm to pilgrims and gives the hajj costs in charity will have greater reward.
Moreover, Islam pays due attention to the public welfare and interest of the community and to the personal interest as well.
In case of a conflict between public and personal interests, a priority should be given to the public and greater interest.
This ruling is supported by another legal maxim that reads, “a smaller benefit can be sacrificed for a larger benefit”.
Therefore, if the Muslim community is in bad need of Muslims’ financial help in order to survive, to defend Muslims against aggression and occupation, or to launch necessary public social and educational welfare projects such Islamic schools or centers, then a Muslim is best advised to give them the hajj costs and not repeat the hajj.
Nowadays, Muslims are suffering in different parts of the world: in Pakistan due to the destructive floods, in Palestine due to the Israeli aggressive occupation, etc. So, Muslims should help their fellow Muslims who are suffering even at the expense of not repeating hajj and Umrah.
In the Sunnah, we have evidence that supports the fact that helping Muslims preserve and protect their lives and religion, which is a form of jihad, takes precedence over hajj.
When the Prophet (peace of Allah be upon him) was asked which deed is best, he said, “Belief in Allah and His Messenger.” He was asked, “Then what?” He said, “Jihad for the sake of Allah.” He was asked, “Then what?” He said, “An accepted hajj.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Helping the needy and poor Muslims, particularly one’s relatives, could entail more rewards than repeating hajj or umrah. In this regard, Ibn Taymiyah said, “Hajj in the prescribed manner is better than charity that is not obligatory. But if a person has needy relatives, then giving charity to them is better. The same applies if there are people who need his help.”
It is not acceptable, moreover, for a Muslim to ignore obligations and duties for the sake of optional acts of worship. Helping Muslims to preserve their Islamic identity and belief and protect their lives is an obligation.
Supporting dawah and social welfare projects—such as Islamic centers and schools, particularly in the West—that educate Muslims, and even non-Muslims, about Islam and its teachings, and raise children on the values of Islam is a duty on Muslims.
Therefore, a Muslim who gives priority to these duties will gain more reward than repeating hajj, which is an optional act of worship.
In addition, Muslims need to maintain the spirit of ethaar among themselves. One should never hesitate to give priority to Muslims’ public interest and social welfare over his or her own personal benefit. Almighty Allah praised the early Muslims of Madinah who welcomed and helped the Prophet (peace of Allah be upon him) and his Companions who migrated from Makkah to Madinah. They are called the Ansar (the helpers) because of their wonderful help and marvelous altruism for the Muhajirun (the emigrants of Makkah).
Allah says regarding them:
“And those who before them, had homes (in Madinah) and had adopted the Faith, show their affection to such as came to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (latter), but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot). And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls, they are the ones that achieve prosperity.” (Al-Hashr 59: 9)
To conclude, Muslims are in need to consider the priorities of their time. Shari`ah-based maxims and objectives give precedence to public interest, obligations, and warding of bigger harms over personal or lesser benefits and performing optional acts of worship.
So, Muslims are required to consider these legal rulings in all aspects of their lives. Repeating hajj, therefore, should be assessed in the light of these maxims and priority should be given to what achieves greater benefits and wards off bigger harms.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.