You may be aware of the problems many of us are facing in trying to obtain our Hajj visas. I would like to now what is the ruling of purchasing visas from the black market. There are people out there who applied and have many visas which they are selling in the black market for up to £5oo. Is this permissible Islamically and would it be acceptable to go for Hajj by paying for such visas?
Three things are undoubtedly unlawful (haram) by explicit texts of the Qur’an and Sunna:
3) Breaking the law of the land one is in, or breaking the laws of the country one is entering (in general cases).
Keeping the above in mind, let us look at the various scenarios:
Although trading in visas, in of itself, is not permitted according to Shariah, it is permitted to charge others for the time, effort, and money exerted in obtaining the visas. Tour operators and agents normally charge their customers for the whole Hajj package, which includes accommodation, food, travel and also obtaining visas. The charge for the visa is not (or should not be) for the visa itself, but rather for the time and effort exerted in obtaining the visa. As such, in principle, there is nothing wrong in charging and/or paying for the acquisition of visas unless one is charged an extortionate amount which goes beyond the time and effort spent in the acquisition.
However, the problem with this is when visas are purchased from another source or, as you put it, from the black market, and not from one’s own tour operator. The Saudi Government grants a set number of visas to authorised tour operators and travel agents. Upon registering itself with the ministry of Hajj, the tour operator receives its quota of visas, and thus the tour operator is required to register the various aspects involved in Hajj with the ministry of Hajj including the hotels which will be occupied by its customers.
Now, if a visa is purchased (independently and not with the package) from a second source, it will mean one is registering one’s self with one tour operator but offering his Hajj rituals with another. One will be registered to be staying at a particular hotel but in reality one will be staying elsewhere. Likewise, one will be registered to be offering the Hajj rituals in Mina, Arafa and Muzdalifa with one group but in reality one will be performing these rituals with another group. As such, purchasing a visa from another source will entail lying, deception and breaking the law of the land.
As such, this will be unlawful and sinful for both the tour operators/agents and those travelling for Hajj alike. It is sinful for agents to purchase visas in an illegal manner from the black market and thereby deceive the ministry of Hajj. Likewise, it is impermissible for a person hoping to travel for Hajj to purchase his visa by paying another person who apparently is cashing in on Hajj having a confirmed visa. The visas should be acquired in a conventional manner without the involvement of any lying and deception.
Yes, if the travelling person was to pay the tour operator a sum for the whole Hajj package and the tour operator then committed unlawful and illegal acts in acquiring the visa, then the traveller would be absolved of any wrongdoing and the responsibility will lie solely on the shoulder of the tour operator.
One must always remember that the sacred obligation of Hajj should never be fulfilled by committing acts that displease Allah Most High. If one is able to secure the journey of Hajj without committing sins, then fine, otherwise one should abstain from travelling for Hajj.
The renowned Hanafi jurist, Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“At times Hajj is described to be unlawful such as performing Hajj with unlawful (haram) wealth, and at times with dislike such as performing Hajj without the permission of those whose permission is required…” (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 2/456)
One of my teachers, Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buti of Damascus (Syria) states in one of his Friday sermons published in a book titled Mukhtarat min khutab al-Jumu’ah:
“…Possessing a means to travel for Hajj includes not having to commit a sinful act, meaning one’s travelling for Hajj to the house of Allah must not be by way of committing a sinful act which Allah Most High has prohibited. If one has knowledge that travelling for Hajj will result in one committing a sin, the obligation of Hajj will be waived away from one. Rather, the obligation will transform into a haram act, for the juristic principle (qa’ida fiqhiyya) states: “The means to a unlawful act also becomes unlawful…”
The Shaykh then cites examples of unlawful acts that may be committed when trying to travel for Hajj. He gives a mention to sins such as presenting fake documents, deceiving the authorities, paying extortionate amounts for obtaining a visa and paying and receiving bribes (rishwa). (See: Mukhtarat min khutab al-Jumu’ah, P: 96-97)
As such, it is not permitted to travel for Hajj by violating the laws of Allah. Lying and deception are from the enormities (kaba’ir), hence there is no logic in committing major sins in order to go and perform such a sacred and ritual obligation.
Another scenario that has recently come to my attention is that apparently some tour operators have suddenly realized the huge demand of people wanting to travel for Hajj. Thus, after initially agreeing upon a price for their Hajj package, they are now demanding an additional payment from the customers for the visas. Some tour operators already have the visas with them but they merely want to cash in because of the huge demand. Others, genuinely having faced a great deal of hardship in acquiring the visas, want their effort to be compensated. Some purchase the visas from another source hence they themselves end up paying an extortionate amount.
Firstly, this act of cashing in on the huge demand of people wanting to go for Hajj is repulsive to say the least. The tour operators need to realize that they are not merely doing a business, but rather a great service for the Muslims by providing them means in order to fulfil a lifetime obligation.
Secondly, when a contract is agreed upon and a price is fixed, it is not permitted for either party to demand an extra amount or go against the agreed price in the contract. As such, it will not be permitted for a tour operator to demand an extra amount from its customer after having agreed upon a price, irrespective of the nature of their circumstance. The tour operators are running a business, and just as with any business there are risks also, thus it will not be permitted for them to demand an extra amount. This is a clear ruling mentioned in the books of Islamic jurisprudence.
Likewise, if both parties actually concluded the transaction by mutually agreeing upon the price and the package offered, and the customer paid some money in deposit as advance payment, it will not be permitted for the tour operator to keep the money deposited by the customer should there be a problem. This whole issue of “deposits” has been discussed by classical jurists in their respective works and many have the opinion that a seller can never withhold the deposit even if a buyer was to pull out of the transaction without any excuse. This can naturally be extremely difficult at times for the seller; hence the scholars have mentioned a solution to the problem. This whole issue of deposits (arbun) was explained in detail in an earlier answer available on this website.
The jurists (fuqaha) were discussing the seller withholding the deposit in a case where a buyer failed to conclude the transaction and pulled out without any reason and even then they did not permit withholding the deposit. In the scenario being discussed, the customer does not pull out of the agreement on his own behalf, but rather the transaction has to be annulled due to the fact that the tour operator was not able to obtain a visa. In this case, without doubt, the deposit must be returned by the tour operator to the customer.
In conclusion, the ritual of Hajj is an extremely sacred ritual. Those wishing to perform this ritual and those facilitating others to perform it both need to remember that they will be accountable for their actions. They must abstain from committing any unlawful and sinful acts that the Shariah prohibits. As such, there must be no involvement of lying, cheating and deception, bribery, breaking the law of the land, transgressing on other people’s rights and non-fulfilment of contracts. May Allah guide us all, Ameen.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK