Is Interest Money Being Used to Serve Pilgrims by India’s Haj Body?

Haj is one of the fundamental pillars of Islam. — PTI

Waquar Hasan | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI — The Chairman of Maharashtra Haj Central Committee, Jamal Siddiqui, has made the controversial claim that India’s Hajj body uses interest-based money for serving those who go on Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah.

Haj is one of the fundamental pillars of Islam. It is mandatory for all those Muslims who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the visit to the Islamic holy city of Makkah. But interest is forbidden in Islam and using interest-based money for the Haj becomes a big issue in that case.

Talking to media persons in Mumbai, Siddiqui, who demanded a ban on the use of interest-based money for functioning of the Haj Committee, said that 3 thousand and 2 hundred crores of rupees of the Central Haj Committee was kept as a fixed deposit in various banks. The interest amount which comes from this fixed deposit is supposedly used for the functioning of the committee.

According to the UNI, he claimed that the annual budget of the committee is Rs. 7 crore and it gets an interest amount ranging from Rs. 7 to 27 crore from the banks, which is used for paying the salaries of the employees of the committee. The amount is also used to train the Haj-goers and spent on those people who visit the holy sites through the government channel.

He calls for urgent action to be undertaken in order to stop the spending of interest-based money on the Haj, as interest is not allowed in Islam.

Siddiqui’s claims drew mixed reactions from Muslim leaders, including Chairman of Delhi Minority Commission Dr Zafarul Islam Khan, who expressed his concerns over the issue. Talking to Caravan Daily, he said it is wrong and such a  thing cannot be supported.

“This is not a new issue. All the money meant for the Haj committee goes to the bank. They get some amount from the deposits and that amount suddenly disappears. It does not remain with the bank. There is a kind of corruption going on here and this has been going on for quite a long time,” says Khan on the condition of the Haj Central Committee.

He said that this is not the Institution of the Muslim community but is run by the minority ministry. Earlier, it was under the external affairs minister. Interest-based money is just one among many issues, as there is a lot of corruption prevalent in that area. As long as the people of the government will be there, it will continue to be like this.

“It is just one of the many wrong things happening there. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is corruption and various types of commission demanded over the things which are bought in Madinah”, says Khan, further adding that a commission should be formed to investigate these things.

However, Navaid Hamid, President of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawrat, does not see it as a big issue because, he says, the interest-based money is not used in the travel of Haj-goer but for the management of the Haj Committee.

“As far as I know, this money is used for paying the salary of the employees. In this way, every government employee is given their salary from interest-based money,” said Hamid.

He argued that most Muslim organizations do the same for their administrative expenses. They keep their money in savings accounts as they don’t have current accounts, and it is in the former that the interest money gets added.

He said that the faithful go on Haj with their own money. They spend their money on traveling, food, and lodging in Makkah and the government has no financial role in sending them on Haj. The government only gives grants to the Haj Committee for the administrative purposes which is not sufficient for running the body. Therefore, they deposit the grant in the bank, and the interest which comes from that deposit is used in the management of the Hajj Committee. But the grant which is given to the Hajj committee is itself interest-based money.

“It is a very complicated matter. Like in Malaysia, the government should allow the Muslims to manage their own Haj affairs, or establish an autonomous body for the Muslims to maintain Haj affairs – only then can we keep away from interest-based money. If you will take grants from the government, where will that money come from? It is not coming from you and me,” Hamid reiterated.

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