What are the exemptions to performing the Hajj?
November 12, 2013 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I know that Islam requires followers to perform the Hajj at least once in their lives if able... but what determines that ability? I presume it's a matter of health and financial concerns, but even so, I imagine many Muslims make great sacrifices and take significant risks for this. Are there generally-accepted measures of when it's understandable for someone not to make the Hajj, or is it all a matter of personal faith & judgment? I also know there was a time when one could send someone to more or less take their place... is that still an accepted practice?

Full disclosure: I'm writing a science fiction novel with people living out among the stars. Matters of faith aren't a huge factor in the story--Islam isn't really a focus--but this does play a small role. I'd like to get this right and, most importantly, I'd like to make sure it's done respectfully.

(A note: Please don't refer me to sci-fi novels that have already handled this. I'm sure it has been done, and probably done well, but I hate fretting about how my books compare to others in the genre. I'm better off finding out after the fact!)
posted by scaryblackdeath to Religion & Philosophy (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This link explains that there is actually some disagreement on the matter. It's rather long but pretty interesting!

Also check this out:

Hajj is obligatory on a person once in his lifetime, provided that he fulfils the following conditions:

I. Being Baligh (adult).

II. Being sane and free.

III. Because of proceeding to Mecca for Hajj, should not be obliged to commit a Haram act, avoidance of which is more important than Hajj, nor should he be compelled to forsake an obligatory work which is more important than Hajj.

He should be capable of performing Hajj, and this depends upon a number of factors:

(a) He should possess provisions as described in relevant books and means for transportation, if need be, or he should have enough money to buy them, or get tickets.

(b) He should be healthy and strong enough to go to Mecca and perform Hajj.

(c) There should be no obstacle on the way. If the way is closed, or if a person fears that he will lose his life, or honor, while on his way to Mecca, or he will be robbed of his property, it is not obligatory on him to perform Hajj. But if he can reach Mecca by another route, he should go to perform Hajj, even if the other route is a longer one. But that route should not be unusually longer.

(d) He should have enough time to perform all the acts of worship in Hajj.

(e) He should possess sufficient money to meet the expenses of his dependents whose maintenance is obligatory on him, like, his wife and children, as well as the expenses of those who have to be paid.

(f) On return from Hajj, he should have some means of livelihood, like, income from the property, farming, business, employment etc. so that he may not lead a life of hardship.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:55 AM on November 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

This address your questions and some others you might want to consider: Various Questions & Answers regarding Hajj

Of course this goes without saying, but all this is situated in the now and any book taking place on other worlds is going to have to envision how the religion will have changed not only because of technology/physical environs changes but the subsequent social evolutions as well. So knowing current laws is a fantastic starting place, but make changes and make sure those changes make sense.
posted by edgeways at 12:00 PM on November 12, 2013

I recall a similar issue from a few years back: How do you face Mecca from space?

The takeaway quote from that article is from an assistant professor of religion: "God does not take a person to task for that which is beyond his/her ability to work with."
posted by Etrigan at 12:06 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

I also know there was a time when one could send someone to more or less take their place... is that still an accepted practice?

Yes this is done. The theological angle here is that if the hajj is obligatory for you, based on the conditions showbiz_liz listed, then you have to do it and you can't deputize somebody. But if you have a legitimate exception, and you still want the merit of having done it, someone can do it on your behalf. This doesn't lift your personal obligation because you weren't personally obligated to begin with, and if you were later to become, for example, well enough to travel, you'd still need to make your required hajj.

Families will also perform the hajj on behalf of deceased relatives. In the case of the deceased, it may be that the deceased was arguably or clearly obligated to perform the hajj but did not do so. In that case, the hajj can be performed on behalf of the deceased to fulfill the obligation.
posted by BinGregory at 8:32 PM on November 12, 2013

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