Hajj, a cornerstone of Islamic faith, entails a pilgrimage to the Ka’bah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, an obligation that all physically and financially capable Muslims must fulfill at least once in their lifetime. Unfortunately, the practice of Hajj in the Philippines has faced persistent challenges over the years, including administrative and financing issues. As a result, lawmakers have started advocating for legislation to ensure the smooth execution of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Philippines. Several common suggestions have emerged from legislative proposals, such as enabling private entities to engage in Hajj operations and restricting the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to the registration and accreditation of sheikhs exclusively.
Recognizing the need to address these issues, the UP Diliman Institute of Islamic Studies (UP IIS), in collaboration with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Muslim Affairs (OPAMA), initiated a dialogue through a forum titled “Administering and Financing the Hajj 2023: Issues, Problems, and Solutions.” This forum, which took place on October 13, 2023, at SR 108, University Hotel, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, aimed to delve into the challenges faced in administering and financing the Hajj pilgrimage.
In the words of Prof. Julkipli M. Wadi, the Dean of the Institute, “The Institute of Islamic Studies is mandated to conduct research and studies on Islamic institutions, culture, and traditions of our Muslim brethren. Hence, we organized this public forum to help scrutinize the issues, identify the problems, and potentially propose solutions related to Hajj as an Islamic institution.”
Highlighting the significance of the Institute within the University of the Philippines Diliman, Chancellor Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II expressed his commitment to supporting initiatives related to the Muslim community: “I’ve had the opportunity to visit Cotabato, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi during my legal work, and those interactions have always been enlightening for me. Now, as the administrator of UP Diliman, I have the capacity to do more. I implore you to let us know what you need, and let us assist you through Dean Wadi and the Institute of Islamic Studies.”
Secretary Almarim Centi Tillah, the Presidential Adviser on Muslim Affairs, set the tone for the forum: “This forum aims to fortify the Hajj pilgrimage. It is not about passing judgment, be it positive or negative. The consensus, after extensive discussions, is to facilitate improvement. Let us do our job well, not just NCMF but all of us. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that each succeeding Hajj pilgrimage surpasses the previous ones.”
The forum was attended by diverse group of stakeholders, including academicians, financial institutions like the Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank, government agencies such as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the House of Representatives, and various sectors directly affected by Hajj operation—among them the NCMF, Philippine Airlines, travel agencies, and the sheikhs leading pilgrim delegations.
The presentations by various speakers significantly contributed to a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding Hajj, and the interactive discussions between UP IIS and the attending groups further enriched the discourse. The proceedings of the forum will be meticulously documented, with the intention of creating a comprehensive record that reflects both the challenges and potential solutions related to the practice of Hajj in the Philippines. This invaluable resource will be made accessible to all participants and stakeholders for future reference and action.