It is that time of the year again when Muslims across the breath of Ghana would witness a specter and a drama at the Kotoka International Airport. Yes it is the period when Muslims in Ghana are made to go through a painful experience and the violation of their human right and dignity through the inaction of some unscrupulous and selfish individuals all in the name of undertaking the pilgrimage to Islam's holiest site, Mecca in Saudi Arabia, to perform the Hajj rituals as enshrined by their religion.
Quaranexplorer.com says the word Hajj, linguistically, means heading to a place for the sake of visiting; in Islamic terminology, it implies heading to Makkah to observe the rituals of pilgrimage. It is one of the 5 pillars of Islam and whoever goes there does that with the hope of being forgiven their sins by God the Almighty and rewarded with blessings both in the world here and on the Day of Judgment.
Concerning the Hajj, Prophet Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was quoted to have said 'He whosoever undertakes the Hajj sincerely in his heart his sins shall be forgiven and he becomes as clean as a child on the day of birth.
Again the Holy Koran says “And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way”, Quran 3:97.
All these give credence to the importance of the performance of the Hajj to a Muslim and that from the first quotation one can see that the question of sincerity in the performance of the Hajj is very important as anything that would unsettle an individual in the entire process as to make the person encounter any problem and become angry be it with organizers of the Hajj, his fellow pilgrims or mankind and harbor hatred for them questions his performance of the ritual.
It is because the Hajj has been enshrined for all Muslims to undertake and also its importance that Muslims try to serve towards the Hajj in order to embark on it.
So after a Muslim going through all this self denial for basic necessity of life to go to Mecca by paying huge sums of moneys to organizers of the Hajj just to enable him go to Mecca that one expects nothing else but a smooth and proper organization of the Hajj to ensure their dignity, welfare and above all safety to undertake such journey.
THE PROBLEM IN GHANA
But what do we see here in Ghana. Over the years these very important ingredients including the proper organization of the Hajj for its proper conduct have been denied them and they are rather made to go through an untold ordeal that is beyond any imagination and camped at an enclosure at the airport or El-wak in Accra all in the hope of going for the Hajj that they have rightly paid for.
Last year for example, the Ghanaian pilgrims were nearly left out of the entire performance of the Hajj ritual until the government of Ghana intervened by asking the Saudi Arabian Government who is the organizer of the Hajj in their country not to shut the door on the Ghanaian pilgrims.
The government subsequently paid for the journey before they could attend the Hajj as the Hajj board was hooked up in the blame game as they tried finding who was supposed to fly the pilgrims to Mecca.
As to be expected, the believe that the Ghanaian Muslim and by extension the entire Muslim Ummah can not organize itself is at play again. In and attempt to organize the Hajj this year the Dysfunctional Hajj Board who say they alone have the mandate to organize the Hajj have come out with their program for the Hajj only for the Chief Imam to constitute another body to foresee the Hajj organization this year.
This has already generated a lot of confusion and arguments as to who has the right to organize the Hajj amidst threats and insults thereby making the Muslim a laughing stock for everyone.
This certainly must not be allowed to continue as there is the danger that this would run out of hand and bring in its wake, complicated problems which are not going to help anyone but the individuals who have vested interests in this issue.
To help solve the situation and enable the Ghanaian Muslim to enjoy a hassle free pilgrimage like his counterpart elsewhere all over the world the government of Ghana must come in.
He must be represented on the board of the organization of the event. The government's member would be the liaison between it and the board and that the idea that the government has no hand in the Hajj and that it should be left in the hands of the Muslims alone is no longer tenable.
This is because in the previous period when the government was seen to be part of the organization this yearly ritual of suffering by would be pilgrims was absent or if there was at all this was very minimal and not at the scale seen today when the government of Ghana under President John Akyekum Kufuor who attempted to constitute a board only for some people to advise the government against it.
This is why Hon. Alhaji Ahmed Sorogo, the Member of Parliament for Abokobi-Madina, stated on the Ghana Today Program on Radio Ghana on the 27th of August 2008 that the Hajj organization should not be left in the hands of Muslims alone and that the government must be seen to be involved in it.
He went on to say that after all when the Saudi Ambassador is sent to Ghana he is sent to the nation and not to Muslims alone.
This is a very good point as the ambassador is sent in here to see the cordial relationship between this nation and his country and that anything that would mar this should be done away with.
Some few months ago, Alhaji Asuma Banda, a proven Ghanaian Muslim entrepreneur announced that he is making all the arrangement to secure the permit to allow his Antrak Company to fly Muslims direct from Ghana to Saudi Arabia. One Alhaji Ahmed Bandoh of Bahmed Travel and Tours in an interview with the Daily Graphic of 29th August under the heading Bahmed offers lifeline to Muslim Pilgrims was bitter that the Hajj organization was not properly being done and promised to help put it right.
People like this should be assisted to help handle the flight arrangements of the pilgrims as the main reason why there has been numerous problems with our pilgrimage comes mainly trough poor flight arrangements. Very often airline companies fail to fulfill their bargain after taking moneys from the organizers and allowing the pilgrims to face all these hardship.
The setting of the Hajj board must be legislated and be a permanent one with a secretariat and staff who are answerable to the board.
The idea is that by just appointing a group of people who are seen to work only during the Hajj period without proper planning in an era where globalization and technology dictate trends in the air line business and the organization of the Hajj would be no more.
There is the need for constant monitoring of event in the world and a permanent Hajj committee would do this and constantly be in touch with events and across the world so as to ensure a good organization of the Hajj in Ghana.
The failure of a Ghanaian Muslim is seen as a collective failure of the nation. Ghana has been noted to be good organizers. It has been blessed with events such as the hosting of the African Union (AU) Head of States meeting, the hosting of the United Nations Conference on Trade (UNCTAD) and the African Cup of Nations all in recent memory and failure to organize a proper Hajj would be seen as a blot on the nation, a nation where human right and dignity of individuals are violated with impunity by some few individuals who trough their inaction would make all the nation face an embarrassment.
Above all Muslims must remember that it is very important that an individual needs to attain peace within him-self as he performs the Hajj that it must be seen to it that the right processes are put in palace for him to help him undertake the Hajj in peace.
It is therefore in the interest of all in the Nation particularly the Muslim that the recriminations and divisiveness that characterize the Hajj are made to go away by taking all necessary steps to enhance the Hajj organization.