Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood,
Never in the annals of history were all monetarily eligible and physically robust Muslims of the world able to perform Haj. In future too only a select few would perform Haj; that is as per the divine design. Yet, each one of us enjoys the privilege to constructively aspire to be part of such ‘select few’. Keeping pace with the world price index Haj expenses are going up year after year. In India, it takes an average Muslim around seven to eight years to save up for Haj. During this period, many persons often save money in unsystematic and traditional manner. They believe that money kept under the bed, pillow, in the pot or even in bank locker is not only safe but also such methods of saving are free of Riba.
In today’s widely prevalent understanding the concept nearest to Riba, though not squarely befitting it, is usury or even interest. Most of the Indian Muslims living in villages and urban lower middle class conglomerates do not like to keep these Haj savings in the conventional banking system to ensure that their pious savings are not utilized for interest-based commercial activity prohibited in Shari’ah. Yet, in modern times, at any place other than a bank the safety of savings is not fully secure; that’s a strange paradox.
DE-STAGNATING HAJ SAVING
Every year more than 100,000 Indians who apply to the central Haj committee for performing Haj are not able to do so because their names are not selected in the draw of lots. Additionally, at least double of that number of Muslims are always in the process of saving sufficient funds to apply for Haj. If we add up all such savings for Haj, we find that a huge amount of money – of the order of 4-5 billion of Rupees – remains stagnant and does not generate any economic activity. This goes starkly against the basic Islamic spirit that proactively encourages circulation of wealth and its fruitful utilization for the individual as well as community uplift. Also in India there is practice of selling off land and property to raise funds for Haj. This too does not contribute to economic growth of the individuals nor of the community.
Good news ! Haj Fund of India has come up with an appropriate solution to this problem in a manner that enhances the reward while we save for Haj. It operates as a service agency to facilitate safe keeping of our savings for a pious purpose. The service has passed legal vetting.
Any Indian Muslim (including NRIs) can open his or her Haj Account with HFI. Deposits can be made any time in this Haj Account in multiples of thousands like, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, etc … or more; there is no upper limit. We can deposit as many installments as we wish and we can do so whenever it is convenient to us.
MAKING DEPOSITS WITH HAJ FUND OF INDIA
In favour of “HAJ FUND OF INDIA ACCOUNT NO. 603020110000239, BANK OF INDIA”we have to either obtain a bank draft of our money or write an “Account Payee” cheque and deposit it in any branch of Bank of India anywhere in the country or abroad.We must write our full name, address and phone number behind the draft/cheque and have to make two photo copies of the draft/cheque. After doing so, we fill the Account Opening Form (HFI-A) and send it along with a photocopy of our draft or cheque through Speed Post or Registered Post to the following address: CEO, Haj Fund of India, CISRS House, 14 Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014.
As regards withdrawal from our account, before we are going to perform Haj,it is very simple.
We have to send to HFI by email, post or give by hand an application in Form HFI-B. HFI will issue a cheque or pay order in our name or in the name of Haj Committee or our travel agent; its our choice. It would be sent to us by speed post or registered post or we can collect it in person.
UTILIZING PART OF HAJ FUND FOR COMMUNITY BENEFIT
HFI has a Shari’ah Advisory Council (see complete list on website) that advises and supervises it on financial matters. It targets multi-faceted investment projects in conformity with Shari’ah guidelines. Accordingly some part of the Haj Fund of India is utilized to disburse short term microfinance loan to poor Muslims. For example, a Rickshaw puller buys a Rickshaw (instead of paying daily substantial amount as Rickshaw rent to its owner). Out of his savings he pays back the loan (without interest) to Haj Fund of India, over a period of six months. Thus, within six months the loan amount comes back after economically empowering the Rickshaw puller.
Also, on the deposits, HFI makes the Zakat payment, on behalf of the depositors to its parent organization, namely, Zakat Foundation of India.The account holders get the added satisfaction that HFI provides significant community services through Zakat collected from the depositors’ accounts. This amount is utilized for helping the needy as per the specified Quranic categories, through Zakat Foundation of India.That way, the sanctity of our Haj savings goes up and we will inshaAllah get greater reward of performing Haj. In any case, the much larger purpose of Haj – “the community is more important than the individual” – is adequately served reserving for us a higher pedestal in the Life Hereafter.
Throughout history, the ‘Haj Economy’ has been a source of prosperity. In today’s global economy, the skills associated with Haj — if strategically leveraged — could become a source of community uplift. HFI is one of the many examples how Islamic teachings can be implemented in today’s modern world and, once implemented, how useful and beneficial these can be to the individuals as well as for the Ummah.
INDIVIDUAL HAJ SAVING REMAINS INTACT
However, disadvantage – if any – resulting from any investment out of the Haj Fund has to be necessarily absorbed and internalized by the ZFI and no impact of any such possible disadvantage shall be passed on to any Haj account holder, unless he/she opts for the contrary. HFI also encourages the Indian Muslims to start saving at younger age to be able to go on the pilgrimage when they turn adult. Indian Muslim surely feelgood when they hold an account with HFI as an intending pilgrim (‘Azam-e-Haj).
Every account holder is entitled to access, at any point of any time, his or her Haj Account online or through an application made to ZFI for this purpose and after following the due process of security and privacy. Broad contours of the HFI are displayed on website.
Suggestions have been invited for the improvement of this service making it more user friendly and shariat compliant.
The author is Chairman, Haj Fund of India that’s a unit of Zakat Foundation of India. For details see http://www.ZakatIndia.org/HajFund.html