Cycling or Walking for Hajj: What Is Permissible?

19 July, 2019
Q As-Salamu alaykum. We read in the news that two British Muslim riders arrived in Cairo in their journey from London to Makkah for hajj, during which they will cross more than 5000 kilometers. Now I have the following questions: 1- What is ruling of cycling or walking to Makkah with the belief that such an act is virtuous because it includes extra hardship? 2- What if that was not the intention and rather the act was meant to get famous on social media and get many followers and likes in Facebook? 3- Another scenario is that this activity is intended to raise funds for a good cause or to create awareness about certain issue? What is the ruling in such a case? 4- And if that is conducted for financial reasons (i.e. the pilgrim cannot afford air tickets), is that OK?

Answer

Wa `alaykum As-Salamu waRahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

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:

1- There is no room in Islam for choosing this method of cycling or walking to Hajj – courting hardship – as an act of virtue hoping for extra rewards.

2- If anyone cycles his way to Hajj with the intention of seeking name and fame gets no reward.

3- If someone cannot afford to pay air fare or use expensive methods of transportation, and therefore chooses to walk or use bicycles or camels, etc. that is perfectly allowed.


In responding to your question about cycling or walking for Hajj, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

Islam does not condone the idea of courting suffering and body torture as a religious ideal. Rather it is a life-affirming faith which teaches us to celebrate health and blessings of Allah. The Quran reinforces the idea that God wants for humans ease and comfort and remove hardship in life.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came to a milieu where some of the great religions embraced the idea of suffering and physical torture as paths to saintliness and piety.

Islam came into this milieu and insisted on restoring balance and harmony of body, mind, and soul, and fought extreme legalism as well as excessive spirituality at the expense of other faculties.

Therefore, Islam rejected the idea of courting suffering as virtue altogether and taught that Allah is All-Sufficient.

We have numerous examples of the Prophet (peace be upon him) condemning such tendencies. Let us cite three examples:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) once saw a man standing, and he inquired why he was doing so. They told him: “He is Abu Israel who has made a vow to Allah to stand and not to sit, or take shade or talk to anyone!” Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Tell him to talk to people,  sit down,  and take shades while completing his fast.” (Al-Bukhari and others)

In another occasion, the Prophet saw an elderly man struggling to walk with the help of his two sides, leaning on each one of them; the Prophet asked, “why is he doing this (and not using a mount for his journey)? They said, “He has made a vow to Allah to go on foot to the Kabah for pilgrimage!” Whence he said, “God has no need of him suffering in this way; let him use of a mount and travel.” (An-Nasa’i and others)

We have still another case. The Prophet was asked about a woman who made a vow to walk to Makkah barefooted to make the pilgrimage, the Prophet told them: Tell her to make use of a mount and wear shoes.”  (Ahmad and others)

Therefore, there is no room in Islam for choosing this method of cycling or waking for Hajj – courting hardship – as an act of virtue hoping for extra rewards.

With regard to the second question, one of the essential conditions for the validity of any act of worship in Islam is that it ought to be performed with pure intention of worshiping Allah.

Allah says:

{They have been commanded only to worship Allah making submission solely for Him.} (Al-Bayyinah 98:5)

In another verse, we read:

{Whoever looks forward towards meeting His Lord, let him do good deeds and let him not associate others in the worship of His Lord.} (Al-Kahf 18:110)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained this further in the following hadith: “Allah is Pure and He accepts only that which is pure.” (Muslim)

In other words, Allah accepts only actions performed with the sole intention of pleasing Him.

As Imam Al-Fudayl ibn Iyad said: “Any valid acts of worship must fulfill two essential requirements: Firstly, the intention must be pure and solely for the sake of earning the pleasure of Allah; secondly, it must be sanctioned by the Law-Giver.”

Therefore, if anyone bicycles his way to Hajj with the intention of seeking name and fame gets no reward. Hajj in order to be spiritually rewarding ought to be virtuous.

A hajj done for the sake of fame and popularity or getting the most Facebook hits, etc. does not meet the criteria of a virtuous Hajj.

Therefore, it behooves every Muslim to stay away from using acts of worship in this way.

With regard to the third question, to use Islamic acts of worship in this way is also questionable: It amounts to diluting the purity of intention and using acts of worship for other than what they have been instituted for.

As Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said, “We are not allowed to worship Allah except through or via the methods He has instituted or sanctioned.”

With regard to the fourth question, if someone cannot afford to pay air fare or use expensive methods of transportation, and therefore chooses to walk or use bicycles or camels, etc. that is perfectly allowed.

In fact, there are precedents for it in the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as well as the Salaf al-Salih and the righteous people throughout centuries.

Therefore, no one finds fault with it – provided it does not entail hardship or endanger his life or health.

Furthermore, it should not be done at the expense of neglecting greater priorities such as earning a lawful source of livelihood to support his family because of prolonged time involved in using such methods of transportation.

I pray to Allah to inspire us all to remember Him, to thank Him and worship Him in the best manner. Amen.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.