Tapping Hajj's Economic Windfall
Agenda of Minority Rights
Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
Hajj Management of Malaysia
Dr. Mohammad Abdul Mannan
Islamic Development Bank,
P.O. Box: 9201,
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Pages 104, Price not mentioned
Hajj offers numerous economic opportunities such as setting up trade exhibition in Saudi Arabia, monetary unification of Islamic world through an Islamic Dinar etc.
This research paper by Dr. Mohammad Abdul Mannan brings to light the phenomenal success Tabung Haji has achieved during quarter century of its operations. But more significant is the focus on how a combination of social vision and political will can turn a spiritual institution like Hajj into a great economic boon.
Tabung Haji was set up in 1969 in Malaysia by a government Act to organise Hajj pilgrimage for the Malays. The Malays had traditionally been devout Muslims and used to collect money in pillows, mattresses, earthen jars and cupboards. After Malaysia became free, its visionary prime minister Tungku Abdur Rahman took notice of a study by Prof. Ungku Abdul Aziz on how people saved money and ensured that it remained interest free to perform Hajj. An Act of Parliament brought Tabung Haji into existence. Operations began in 1963 with 1,281 depositors and 46,000 Malaysian dollars. It had then three branches.
Though basically a saving institutions, Tabung Haji began investing funds in businesses permitted under Islamic Shariah. Investment advisory council comprised financial and business experts. The operations were organized on a highly professional pattern. Deposit and withdrawal procedures were simple and Malaysian pilgrims were provided the facility to withdraw the money even in the holy land during the Hajj.
Today, Tabung Haji has 83 branches in Malaysia and had invested funds to the tune of Malaysian Ringitts (expressed as MR) 2.55 billion in 1994. It had been paying bonus on deposits at a rate of 9.5 per cent which was however lower than bonus offered by other financial institutions in the country. It paid out MR 214 million in 1994 after paying zakat over each individual’s deposits. The amount of zakat disbursed itself came to MR 6.5 million in 1994. Tabung’s funds are invested in plantation, industry, commercial sector, real estate through equity participation. Figures and the monetary windfall apart, Tabung Haji became the main organising body for Malaysian Hajis looking after their registration, medical examination, travel formalities, transport, accommodation, search operations for lost pilgrims, mobile clinics at holy sites etc.
Author urges the need to replicate the Tabung formula in other Muslim countries and societies and feels that the success owes itself to political will and social vision of Malaysian rulers, monopoly enjoyed by the Tabung, convenient deposit facilities, total non-interference by the government, professional management, and keeping the overhead expenditure under strict check.
Author Mannan visualizes further expansion of Hajj for tapping of its economic opportunities. He recommends setting up House of Islamic Ummah under the umbrella of Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) at Saudi Arabia, an exhibition of products of Islamic countries. He also suggests development of Islamic Dinar, a monetary unit for monetary unification of the Islamic world, establishment of Hajj Management Bank under the OIC and expansion of pilgrimage to tourism of holy places. Indeed the opportunities are wide and vast, given the political will of the rulers of Islamic world. But going by the increasingly smooth facilities for Hajj, the organisation of the sacrificial meat project by the IDB, the objectives cannot be beyond the realm of realisation.
In an Islamic world starved of financial and economic successes, the Tabung Haji comes as a whiff of fresh air. Mannan’s study which is still in the form of a research paper deserves to be enlarged so as to include other such financial institutions which owe their origin to Islam. Despite numerous editing errors and lackadaisical presentation, the effort must be lauded.
The Rights of Minorities
6 Special Institutional Area,
This is a draft Minority Declaration prepared by the Freidrich-Naumann-Stiftung Foundation of Germany. The Foundation is seeking a debate on the draft in order that it could be adopted before this year end.
Globalisation with all its attendant shortcomings has one advantage. It is kindling a desire for preservation of ethno-cultural identity by all communities. There is a general feeling that minorities’ right to be different must be respected. Discrimination against them should come down and they should have the opportunities for development, participation in national governance.
Minorities have several variants. National minorities are those who share the territorial space with the majority but are of different ethnic origin. Religious and linguistic minorities are those who differ from the majority in their traditional way of life. National minorities who have been living with majority for centuries but became a minority because of the redrawing of national boundaries. Then there could be a minority who were the most indigenous people in an area but were enslaved, defeated or subjugated by the foreigners e.g., aborigines in Australia or Red Indians in the US.
The refugees are also considered minorities for certain purposes in this paper. It lays down a wide range of rights with respect to non-discrimination, cultural self-determination, in decision making, protection against gerrymandering of the areas of minority domination and also takes note of need to protect the “minorities within minority areas” (say Kashmiri Pandits in the state of Jammu and Kashmir). The list is exhaustive. Perhaps, in the Indian or German context, it could be said that the minorities should also have the right not to be suspected for their patriotism, to be exempted from worship of the nation (distinct from love for the nation), and protection against the distortion of history, propaganda against their faith and culture etc.
But for these amendments that could be suggested in the light of experience of Muslims in India, draft is a comprehensive paper and should be sufficient guide for minority rights universally. MAS