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Last Updated: 2009/09/14
Summary of question
Does spending the expenses of Hajj and Umrah on charity, have the reward of Hajj and Umrah?
Which of these scenarios is considered better: 1. We ourselves go to Hajj or, 2. With the money that we were going to spend on Hajj, we instead give this to others who want to go to Hajj as a charity and through this way gain the reward of the Hajj?
Concise answer

Hajj to the ‘House of God’ is obligatory to people who have the means once in their lifetimes. Not doing this obligatory action (wajib) has no excuse, just like other obligatory actions. Now in relation to the whole of recommended actions (mustahabaat), such as a mustahab Hajj or Umrah, there is a point to be considered in that whenever a recommended action is done the more pure the intention the more the reward that is given. Among other considerations that have to be taken into account is the fact that Hajj, because it is a pilgrimage to the ‘House of God’, should under no circumstance become lessened in the number of pilgrims or value in the eyes of people, even for the reason of giving charity or helping others. Another important point the Hajj and the Umrah entail is that they have special spiritual benefits for human beings, and these benefits are impossible or very difficult to be gained from other routes.

Therefore, a general answer can't be given to this question, and it all depends on the person’s mind and power to distinguish between which mustahabb action is the best for him and bears more sincerity and is far from any riya (done for the sake and pleasure of others/showing off). If this matter is observed when choosing between different mustahabb acts, you can be sure that the act chosen will have the most rewards from Allah (swt), let the action be going to Hajj or Umrah, sending others to Hajj, or giving charity.

Detailed Answer

Hajj means pilgrimage to “the House of God” and performing the actions (Rituals) which are called the ‘Manasike Hajj’. Each and every Muslim is responsible for doing the Hajj once in his/her lifetime, if they meet the conditions listed below:

1.     Being Baligh (reaching puberty)

2.     Being Sane

3.     By going for the hajj no other obligatory (wajib) action, which is higher in priority, is left uncompleted. Also no forbidden (haram) action whose avoidance is of more importance in the eyes of Islam than Hajj isn't entailed.

4.     Having the ability or Istita’ah to go on the Hajj, which is dependent on several conditions: A. Having the necessary provisions for the journey, or having necessary transportation to get there, or the necessary money to obtain these things. B. No obstacles being in the way to Mecca and the lack of fear of danger for one’s life, wealth, or honor. So if the way is blocked or there is fear of danger then the Hajj is not obligatory (wajib) on that individual. But if there is another way to travel then even if it’s further in distance it will still be wajib to go via that safer route. C. Having the physical ability for completing the rites of Hajj D. Having sufficient time for reaching Makkah and also completing the rites E. Having enough to cover the expenses of those whom it’s religiously or socially wajib on the person to cover (while gone). F. Having enough money or livelihood left over to live on after returning from Hajj.

Whoever meets the above conditions, the Tamatu Hajj is obligatory (wajib) upon them and they have to personally attend; by paying others to go or paying for charitable works they can’t remove this obligation from themselves.

In relation to the journeys of Hajj and Umra which are not obligatory and are considered recommended and other such actions which are not obligatory, we have to keep in mind that Islam has made clear the complete principles and criteria for these matters. Every human being who is a Muslim has to always use his insight and intelligence to see which good deeds he can accomplish and then choose the best of these recommended actions. While we’re on this subject, we should pay attention to the following points:

1.     Every person goes about doing his obligatory (wajib) and recommended (mustahab) actions for various reasons. Sometimes people attend Hajj and Umra so that in the midst of their society they can be recognized as religious and devout. Others attend so that they can have something to speak about with people or sometimes they even go as a social competition. Others may use Hajj and Umra as a sort of vacation, recreational activity, or even for business reasons. Certainly a Hajj like this is not at all acceptable, and our imams have pointed out and emphasized that the only Hajj which is acceptable in the eyes of God is that which is done with the intention of gaining nearness to Allah.[1]

Giving charity can likewise have various personal motivations and causes. Some of these can be things like becoming recognized as a generous person, indebting a person to you for use in future opportunities, gaining the respect of others and so on… Such charity will not have any reward in the next world.[2] Of course charity or Hajj, if it is given in the way of God, will have an immense reward for its doers.

2.     Visiting the House of God, like many other religious rituals, has in itself a very special position and we shouldn’t try to compare it with other actions in normal circumstances. In this same way we can’t really compare respect with parents with the Namaze Shab (Night prayer). Each and every action has its own special independent value and worth.

Of course it’s possible that at some junctures in peoples’ lives they will be able to do only one of two/several good deeds and they wish to see which one of these is the better of them. In situations such as this we have to first state that the intellect and knowledge of every person, if it used properly, is the best help in solving such problems. According to religious scholars, any action that is in conformity with the intellect and knowledge, will be accepted and neither Hajj, nor charity, nor any other good works will have any use or acceptance unless they conform to the intellect.[3] 

After establishing this, it can be said that Hajj is one of the religious commandments in Islam which has two important personal and social specialties: A. Its personal characteristic is that it causes the growth of a spirituality in people that is very difficult to nurture and raise through other recommended (mustahab) actions.[4] Of course it has to be said that every person will only be able to gain and benefit as much as his own personal capability and capacity allow him to.[5] B. The social characteristic of Hajj is that it is a center of unity for all of the Muslims worldwide; it should never be weakened or closed down.

If a Muslim has completed his obligatory (wajib) Hajj and is deciding between doing another Hajj or doing another recommended action, he can ponder on these various facets of the issue:

Firstly: If a person doubts whether by going to a recommended (mustahab) Hajj and Umrah, if there is a person who he is financially responsible for or a person who is sick and near death then it’s obvious that he can’t leave a Wajib action for these Mustahab ones. In cases like this we even know that prayer (which is obligatory and one of the foundations of our religion) can lose its obligatory status or must be completed in a different format, if other obligations take precedence over it.

Secondly: If a person is in doubt whether to go to Hajj himself or to send another person who is eager to go, then because in this situation there is no change on the social aspect of hajj (in both cases there would be someone present there and this would have no effect on the institution of the Hajj) then there is no problem in sending another person. As far as the individual effects that one might miss out on if he sends someone else instead, it can be said that his rewards might be no less than the person he has sent to Hajj. There are traditions (hadiths) that say that difference is placed between going to hajj by oneself or sending someone else to go.[6]

Thirdly: If there is doubt whether doing the Mustahab Hajj or Umrah is better or if it’s best to give the money towards other charitable works? This is a matter which causes the greatest amount of doubts and questions in people who have faith and it requires some further explanations and details:

In this matter what can be concluded from the words of the Infallibles (as) which state that if not going to the mustahab Hajj or Umra causes the Hajj to be lessened or weakened in any way and the Kaaba becoming empty as a result and the social dimension of Hajj is damaged, then there is no other good action which can replace this in scope and under no circumstances must this be allowed to happen.[7]

In other normal situations in which people are still attending the Hajj, our imams have recommended that by being frugal in the expenses of the Mustahab Hajj (which today might not be possible considering that sometimes the money needed to perform mustahabb Hajj may exceed the actual cost of a wajib Hajj) and only spending on things which are necessary we can attend both the rites of the Hajj and give the savings as charity in the way of God. This way we can both benefit from the spirituality of the Hajj and also help others in society.[8]

In this way, people who are well-off financially, by being frugal in their excess expenditures in their daily lives and even in matters of Hajj, can receive the blessings of both Hajj and the giving of charity.

All of that being said, every person is more aware of his/her own situation than others[9]; by using their intellect and their knowledge, they have to see which Mustahab action is further away from showing off and the desires of the self and will strengthen their spiritual state. The point of these actions is to make a person nearer to God and they have to use their intellect to choose the best path and way. Surely actions which are further away from showing and more pure in intention have more reward. The Infallibles (as) gave varying recommendations to people about Hajj; for example they would recommend that people go to the Hajj once[10] and on the second time to give charity[11] but this was based on people’s individual situations and conditions and since conditions differed the advice given also differed.

In conclusion, we have to be wary of the whisperings and temptations of Shaytan, because he misleads people from the path of God’s satisfaction gradually and step by step, leading them to his own path and desires. In tricking people Shaytan never tries to compare the Hajj with having excess luxuries in the home. For example he would never try to put the suggestion into a person’s mind of whether it’s better to go to Hajj or to change the rug in the house. Instead he will put the idea into the believer’s mind whether Hajj is better or giving of charity. The believer will certainly be convinced that charity is more important. Then at the next stage he will suggest that giving charity is not in the person’s best interest either by bringing to mind the phrase, “If the house is in need of something, then giving that item as charity is a sin”, convincing him that the money should be used for personal reasons instead of charity. Then he will move to the next stage and create stinginess in the person even for the essentials and normal expenses that are needed inside of his home. So what ends up happening is the person who had the original intention of paying for a Hajj trip will become misdirected and end up using the money in a useless way. For this same reason when a person with faith decides to spend money on a Mustahab Hajj he should quickly solidify his decision and apply it, or else it’s possible that he may lose out on the opportunity completely.

[1] Sheikh Saduq, Man La Yahdhuruhul-Faqih, vol. 2, pg. 219, hadith 2221.

[2] Muhammad ibn Yaqub Kuleini, Al-Kafi, vol. 7, pg. 30, hadith 1.

[3] Ibid, vol. 1, pg. 24, hadith 19 “عَنْ أَبِی عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ قُلْتُ لَهُ جُعِلْتُ فِدَاکَ إِنَّ لِی جَاراً کَثِیرَ الصَّلَاةِ کَثِیرَ الصَّدَقَةِ کَثِیرَ الْحَجِّ لَا بَأْسَ بِهِ قَالَ فَقَالَ یَا إِسْحَاقُ کَیْفَ عَقْلُهُ قَالَ قُلْتُ لَهُ جُعِلْتُ فِدَاکَ لَیْسَ لَهُ عَقْلٌ قَالَ فَقَالَ لَا یَرْتَفِعُ بِذَلِکَ مِنْه

[4] Muhammad ibn Hasan Hurr Ameli, Wasa’ilul-Shia, vol. 11, pg. 113, hadith 14385: “... َ أَنَّى لَکَ أَنْ تَبْلُغَ مَا یَبْلُغُ الْحَاج‏..."

[5] Kafi, vol. 4, hadith 6: “قَالَ أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع الْحُجَّاجُ یَصْدُرُونَ عَلَى ثَلَاثَةِ أَصْنَافٍ صِنْفٌ یُعْتَقُ مِنَ النَّارِ وَ صِنْفٌ یَخْرُجُ مِنْ ذُنُوبِهِ کَهَیْئَةِ یَوْمَ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَ صِنْفٌ یُحْفَظُ فِی أَهْلِهِ وَ مَالِهِ فَذَاکَ أَدْنَى مَا یَرْجِعُ بِهِ الْحَاج

[6] Ibid, hadith 5: “قلْتُ لِأَبِی عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع إِنِّی قَدْ وَطَّنْتُ نَفْسِی عَلَى لُزُومِ الْحَجِّ کُلَّ عَامٍ بِنَفْسِی أَوْ بِرَجُلٍ مِنْ أَهْلِ بَیْتِی بِمَالِی فَقَالَ وَ قَدْ عَزَمْتَ عَلَى ذَلِکَ قَالَ قُلْتُ نَعَمْ قَالَ إِنْ فَعَلْتَ فَأَبْشِرْ بِکَثْرَةِ الْمَالِ

[7] Wasa’ilul-Shia, vol. 11, pg. 22, hadith 14145: “قُلْتُ لِأَبِی عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع إِنَّ نَاساً مِنْ هَؤُلَاءِ الْقُصَّاصِ یَقُولُونَ إِذَا حَجَّ الرَّجُلُ حَجَّةً ثُمَّ تَصَدَّقَ وَ وَصَلَ کَانَ خَیْراً لَهُ فَقَالَ کَذَبُوا لَوْ فَعَلَ هَذَا النَّاسُ لَعُطِّلَ هَذَا الْبَیْتُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ جَعَلَ هَذَا الْبَیْتَ قِیَاماً لِلنَّاس

[8] Ibid, vol. 11, pg. 115, hadith 14390: “عَنْ سَعِیدٍ السَّمَّانِ أَنَّهُ قَالَ لِأَبِی عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع فِی حَدِیثٍ أَیُّهُمَا أَفْضَلُ الْحَجُّ أَوِ الصَّدَقَةُ فَقَالَ مَا أَحْسَنَ الصَّدَقَةَ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ قَالَ قُلْتُ أَجَلْ فَأَیُّهُمَا أَفْضَلُ قَالَ مَا یَمْنَعُ أَحَدَکُمْ مِنْ أَنْ یَحُجَّ وَ یَتَصَدَّقَ قَالَ قُلْتُ مَا یَبْلُغُ مَالُهُ ذَلِکَ وَ لَا یَتَّسِعُ قَالَ إِذَا أَرَادَ أَنْ یُنْفِقَ عَشَرَةَ دَرَاهِمَ فِی شَیْ‏ءٍ مِنْ سَبَبِ الْحَجِّ أَنْفَقَ خَمْسَةً وَ تَصَدَّقَ بِخَمْسَةٍ أَوْ قَصَّرَ فِی شَیْ‏ءٍ مِنْ نَفَقَتِهِ فِی الْحَجِّ فَیَجْعَلُ مَا یَحْبِسُ فِی الصَّدَقَةِ فَإِنَّ لَهُ فِی ذَلِکَ أَجْراً

[9] Qiyamah:14 “بل الانسان علی نفسه بصیرة”.

[10] Wasa’ilul-Shia, vol. 11, pg. 115, hadith 14389: “دِرْهَمٌ تُنْفِقُهُ فِی الْحَجِّ أَفْضَلُ مِنْ عِشْرِینَ أَلْفَ دِرْهَمٍ تُنْفِقُهَا فِی حَق

[11] Ibid, vol. 13, pg. 305, hadith 305: “لَقَضَاءُ حَاجَةِ امْرِئٍ مُؤْمِنٍ أَفْضَلُ مِنْ حَجَّةٍ وَ حَجَّةٍ وَ حَجَّةٍ حَتَّى عَدَّ عَشْرَ حِجَج‏

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