By: Rasheed A. Haashim, Ibadan
There is no doubt in the fact that Hajj is one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam. It is obligatory upon Muslims once in lifetime. Muslims all over the world supplicate fervently to Allah to facilitate its performance for them. Some rich people have made it an habit to embark on it every year because of enormous reward attached to it and its spiritual benefits. Umrah is included in Hajj rites while Umrah can be done separately aside time of Hajj.
On virtues of Hajj and Umrah, Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) narrated that
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “(The performance of) ‘Umrah is an expiation for the sins committed between it and the previous ‘Umrah; and the reward of righteous Hajj (mabrur) is nothing but paradise.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
In the other narration, Allah’s Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever performs Hajj and does not have sexual relations (with his wife), nor commits sin, nor disputes unjustly (during Hajj), then he returns from Hajj as pure and free from sins as on the day on which his mother gave birth to him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
With the Covid 19 pandemic ravaging the world, it has been decided by Saudi Arabia authorities that 1441 Hajj will be held whereby a very limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform it. International Hajj has been officially cancelled.
Thus, I will like to advise Nigerian pilgrims to flee unto Allah, seek His forgiveness over their iniquities, solely rely on Him and be fervent in worshipping Him alone. They should be optimistic and prepare for 1442 (2021) Hajj.
They should know that this is not the first time in the world’s history that Hajj will not hold due to reasons like wars, pandemic among others. 
They should know that there are other righteous deeds in Islam which have the same reward as Hajj and Umrah as established in some authentic narrations from the noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). They should embark on those righteous deeds to earn Allah’s enormous reward.
Few of those righteous deeds include but not limited to: 
👉Observance of ablution at home before proceeding to mosque for congregational prayers;
👉Observance of Subh in congregation with remembrance of Allah in the mosque till sunrise after which one offers two voluntary rak’ats;
👉Persistent recitation of recommended prophetic adhkaar after five daily prayers;
👉Performance of Isha’ and Subh prayers in congregation;
👉Going to the mosque to learn or impart knowledge on people;
👉Reading of *Subhanallah* 100 times in the morning and in the evening;
👉Kindness to one’s parents;
👉Abstinence from sinful practices;
👉Spending on students who learn Islamic knowledge to mention but few.
In conclusion, they should assist the indigent and less privileged ones most especially during this hard time. This saves them from the torment of the hereafter which is one of the motives behind the observance of Hajj. 
The noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever relieves a believer from one of the difficulties of this world, Allah will relieve him from one of the difficulties of the Day of Resurrection. Whoever makes things easy for one in distress, Allah will make things easy for him in this world and in the hereafter.” (Muslim)
Imam Hasan Al-Basri  (May Allah shower His Mercy on him) remarks: “Your proceeding to fulfil the need of a fellow Muslim is better for you than one Hajj after another!”
With the options above, it is anticipated that Nigerian pilgrims will yield to Allah’s calls and that of His noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
🙏 May Allah wipe off Covid 19 pandemic from the world and save us and our brethren from all evils. Amin🙏