This is with reference to Umer Khalidi's article Haj subsidy (Open Page, October 4). All the argument is based on the interpretation of the word manis ta taa'a found in the scripture. It literally means affordability; whether it is physical, monetary, by own self or through other source, is not defined. So all the observations are made based on the assumption that it refers to monetary affordability. Verse 97 of chapter 3 part 4 states that pilgrimage to Makkah is a duty to God for him who can afford the journey (manis ta taa 'a ). There is no definition of the word manis ta taa 'a.
The established norms for interpretation are that, in case the meaning of any word is not clear, it should be understood with reference to such a word occurring elsewhere in the text of the Koran, if it is not found in the Koran, then we should refer to the Hadis (sayings of the Prophet).
1. This word occurs in almost 15 places in the Koran, chapter 2 (verse 217, 273) chapter 4 (25, 98, 129) chapter 11(20) chapter 17(48) chapter 18 (41, 97, 101) chapter 21(43) chapter 36 (67, 75) and chapter 51(45).
Verse 25 of chapter 4 says that if anyone cannot afford to marry a freewoman, he can very well marry any maid under his possession. Here an alternative is given for non affordability. So this does not apply to the subject in discussion. All the other 14 instances clearly indicate the physical capability of the person.
Hazrat Akrama stands by this description (Tafseer Ibn Kaseer). Hence the entire argument of the opposition gets shattered in the light of the above clarification.
2. Let us examine it with reference to Hadis. Interpretation in Tafseer Ibn Kaseer, page 6 says that the Prophet explained this verse as the affordability for food and conveyance. The pilgrim may have the affordability by himself or he may have it through other source. The tafseer also quotes from Akrama, the Prophet's disciple, that it refers to physical health only. Hence the utilisation of Haj subsidy does in no way mar the sanctity of the pilgrimage.
3. The author says that God is pure and He likes pure things. Subsidy money is what we pay as tax which is paid back to us in deserving cases as per government policy. To say that this money is impure is nothing but unfair.
4. The pilgrim performs the Haj with his own money and not with the subsidy. The money is therefore unpolluted. The subsidy comes after the completion of the pilgrimage.
5. The enjoying of benefits derived in the performance of Haj without affecting the rituals, is considered to be the bounty of God and the same is permitted by the Koran vide chapter 2 verse 197 which runs as follows: "It is no sin that you seek the bounty of your Lord (by trading)".
The subsidy which is given to the pilgrims is a bounty of God for mankind in recognition of the inconveniences encountered by him vide the interpretation by the Presidency of Islamic Research, IFTA. Published by the custodian of the two Mosques. It will, thus, be seen that the utility of Haj subsidy is no where forbidden in the Koran.