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    Scholars consider post-hajj expenses extravagance

    KABUL (PAN): Some religious scholars consider huge expenses on welcoming hajj pilgrims upon their return from Saudi Arabia as extravagance, saying the tradition has forced many not to perform hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam.

    The tradition of welcoming hajj pilgrims is different in several parts of the country. Some pilgrims give gifts to relatives on their return and arrange special Quran recitation programmes and others slaughter sheep or cows.

    "I had to stay at home for a week serving guests upon my arrival from Saudi Arabia, because if they had found me missing, they would get unhappy," Mohammad Asif Shinwari, the spokesman for the Nangarhar education department, said.

    Shinwari, who performed the pilgrimage, said Hajj was a sacred obligation and people should not expect gifts from pilgrims. "I spent 150,000 afghanis ($3,107) as travel costs to Saudi Arabia and also bought gifts worth 30,000af," he added.

    A religious scholar, Shafi Rahman, told Pajhwok Afghan News performing hajj was the same as offering prayers, giving Zakat and fasting in the holy month of Ramadan. "Hajj accepts no other traditions," he said.

    In eastern provinces, people welcoming their relative pilgrims decorate their cars, record films and bring sheep to them and also fire in the air. "All such things are un-Islamic", Rahman said.

    He said accompanying pilgrims by a large number of people in vehicular convoys created traffic problems. He said there was no need to write slogans on walls to welcome pilgrims. "Such unnecessary expenses have discouraged people from performing hajj," he said.

    Mualim Saaduddin, a Kabul resident, who performed the hajj this year, said most of the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia were worried about expenses they would incur on returning home. He said his expenses on gifts were more than those he needed for hajj.

    "My and my wife's expenses on hajj were about 300,000afs, but my sons spent 800,000afs purchasing gifts, dried and fresh fruits and animals for charity," he said.

    Shams Rahman, reciting verses from a Hadith, said whenever people make huge expenses on return from hajj is prodigal and not allowed in the Holy Quran "The best gift a pilgrim brings home is the ZamZam water," he said.

    He said pilgrims should spend extra money on welfare and charity activities, including construction of a mosque and pure water supply system.

    In northern Jawzjan, 500 religious scholars and spiritual leaders during a gathering had decided to stop huge expenses by people on welcoming pilgrims, the Hajj and Islamic Affairs Department spokesman, Wali Mohammad Shibani, said.

    The decision was welcomed by Jawzjan residents, who said they would help scholars implement their decision. "This is for the first time that scholars have taken a nice decision," a resident of Shiberghan, the provincial capital, Mohammad Ishaq said.

    Governor Mohammad Alam Sayee, welcoming the decision, said he would support scholars in implementation of the decision across the province.

    Like other areas, there is a tradition people carry out unjust expenses to welcome Hajjs in Zaranj city, where hundreds of people welcome a Haji with decorated cars and various kinds of gifts.

    Locals say pilgrims are invited with dozens of his family members to be guests at their homes by relatives and friends.

    A similar tradition is common in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, where a pilgrim is highly regarded in society.

    Relatives and friends flock to airport to receive hajis with flower garlands.

    In villages, people invite pilgrims for dinner and lunch to their houses, while in urban areas such programmes are arranged at hotels, which have a high cost.

    "We took our uncle home from airport in a decorated car upon his return from hajj. His house was decorated like a bride at that night," said Toryalay, a resident of Mazar-i-Sharif.

    Post hajj arrangements cost more than the expenses during the performance of hajj, Asadullah, a Qalat city resident, whose father performed Hajj this year, said. 

    According Kamil, a resident of southeastern Khost province, it has become a tradition in the province that people spend more money after seeing others doing the same. "If one person spends 10000 afghanis on welcoming a relative pilgrim, others would try to spend 20000," he said.

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