The ability to perform Hajj, which is one of its essential conditions, includes the following:
1. A person must be healthy and physically fit. If one is disabled by old age or a disease that is incurable or is unable to perform Hajj for some other similar reason, he may, if he is financially capable, assign someone else to perform Hajj on his behalf and at his expense. This will be discussed later under “Hajj On Behalf of Another Person.”
2. The journey to Hajj must be safe so that the pilgrim’s life and possessions are safe and secure from any danger. If one is afraid for one’s life from highwaymen or an epidemic or if one is afraid to be robbed of one’ s possessions, then such a one is deemed as one of those who cannot afford the journey for Hajj.
There is, however, a difference of opinion among scholars regarding the entry fees and other charges levied on pilgrims. Can a person be excused and reckoned as unable financially to perform Hajj because of these charges? AshShafi’i and others are of the view that the presence of these levies does qualify a person to be classified as unable to perform Hajj, even though the levy involved may be paltry. The Maliki scholars disagree for they do not regard this as a sufficient reason for a person to be deemed as unable to perform Hajj, unless the amount involved is too exorbitant or is demanded repeatedly.
3. One must possess the necessary provision and also the requisite means of journey. Necessary provision here means that the intending pilgrim must have sufficient supplies for himself as well as for his family that he leaves behind. These supplies include sufficient and adequate clothing, housing, means of travelling, and tools for the pursuit of his trade or profession besides the financial means for the journey. (The person intending to perform Hajj should not sell his clothes, his personal belongings, or his house – even if they were abundant to get money for Hajj) Means of travelling imply that which enables him to go to Hajj and come back, whether it is by land, by sea, or by air. This concerns those who live far from Makkah and cannot walk there.
As for those who live in the vicinity of Makkah, this condition does not apply, for they are so close that they can go for Hajj on foot.
Some ahadith explain the Qur’anic words “those who can afford the journey,” (Qur’an 3.97) as meaning provision of food and means of journey. Anas reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) when once asked about the meaning of “those who can afford” said: “It means possessing means of sustenance and transportation.” (Ad-Daraqutni considers this hadith sound) Al-Hafiz remarks: “Most probably its chain of transmitters is not traceable to the Prophet (peace be upon him). Tirmizhi as well has reported it on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar but its chain of transmitters is weak. Abdul Haqq remarked: “All its chains of transmitters are weak.” Ibn Al-Munzhir says: “It is not traceable to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the correct position is that it is a sound but incompletely transmitted hadith whose chain of authorities does not go back to the Prophet (peace be upon him).”
Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) once said: “He who possesses sufficient provisions and means of journey for the performance of Hajj and yet does not do so, let him die the death of a Jew or a Christian.” For Allah says in the Qur’an: “Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah – those who can afford the journey.” (Transmitted by Tirmizhi, but among the narrators of this hadith are included “Halal” ibn Abdullah, who is unknown, and “Al-Harith” whom Ash-Sha’abi and others have described as a liar)
All these ahadith are weak in authority, yet most scholars regard provisions and means of journey as a necessary condition for Hajj. If a person has neither the necessary provisions nor means of travel, he is not obligated to perform Hajj.
Ibn Taimiyyah says: “These ahadith are musnad (A report which is traceable in uninterrupted ascending order of the narrators to its first authority) and have a sound chain of authorities, some are mursal (A hadith transmitted by a successor (atabi’), young or old, without mentioning the Companion who might have heard it from the Prophet directly. Ash-Shafi’i considers such a hadith weak, while Abu Hanifah and Malik consider it sound) and others are mauquf. (A hadith reported from a Companion through words or acts uninterruptedly or otherwise) They all prove that the ability to arrange one’s provisions and possession of means of journey is a necessary prerequisite for Hajj, and this despite the fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) knew that many of the people (in his time) were able to go for Hajj on foot.
Similarly the words of Allah: “Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah – those who can afford the journey” underline the fact that ability and power are the necessary prerequisite for all forms of worship. It signifies the unspecified power or a little bit more than what may be necessary. In the case of sawm (fasting) and salah (obligatory prayers) the financial ability is superfluous and is not specified in the Qur’an, unlike Hajj for which it is an important requirement. Similarly, Hajj is a form of worship which involves travelling for which one must be in possession of sufficient means to support oneself (and one’ s family), as well as be able to shoulder the cost of the journey as in jihad.
In this regard we may refer to the Qur’anic verse (9.91-92) “Nor is there any blame on those who find no resources to spend, nor is there (blame) on those who come to you to be provided with mounts, and when you said, ‘I can find no mounts for you,.”‘
In Al-Muhazhib we read: “If someone has the money to buy provisions and the passage to Hajj but he needs it to pay his debts, Hajj is not binding on him, whether the settlement of the debt is required immediately or is due after a time. The debts that are due for immediate settlement must be paid at once, whereas the Hajj may be performed later on in life. But if he spends all that he has on Hajj he may not be in a position to pay off his debt.”
Similarly, if one is in need of a dwelling or a servant to help him, he may be classified as unable to perform Hajj. Likewise, if one needs to take a wife because he fears he may not be able to avoid evil, he must get married, for it is his immediate need. Furthermore, if one needs goods for his business to obtain requisite resources therefrom, such a one, according to Abul ‘Abbas, Ibn Sarih, may be classified as unable to perform Hajj in view of his specific need. Al-Mughni says: “If the debt is owed to a wealthy person who does not demand immediate settlement of the loan, defers settlement to a later stage, and is ready to permit the debtor to proceed for Hajj, then such a debtor is (technically) able to perform Hajj. But in case the lender cannot afford to defer settlement of the loan, the debtor would be reckoned as unable to perform Hajj.”
According to the Shafi’i school: “If someone offers another a free passage for Hajj, one is not obliged to accept the offer, for it is a favour and involves distress of being obliged to another person. If, however, such an offer is made by one’ s son to perform Hajj, then one is obligated to do so, for one can perform it without being beholden to anyone else.”
The Hanbali school is of the view that an offer of financial help by someone else does not obligate a person to perform Hajj, nor does this classify him as (financially) capable of performing it, whether the offer comes from a stranger or a relative and whether the offer provides means of travel and provision, or linanacial help as such.
5. There must also be no obstruction which may prevent people from undertaking the journey for Hajj, like fear of torture or imprisonment by a tyrannical ruler.