Recently I was having a discussion with one of very dear friends, about visiting Saudi Arabia for Umra. Two months right after the month of Zil Haj, the Saudi government does not issue any Umra visas, and this understandably reduced the number of people performing Umra. So much so, that instead of thousands of pilgrim at the Holy Kaaba, only a handful of residents and visitors are performing Umra during that time. One local had told me that hardly 40 to 50 people are in the Kaaba at any given time in those two months, and this is the perfect time to just ‘relax’ and really try to connect with the place. You know, just you and the Lord, that kind’a stuff. So I have been trying to get a visit visa for Saudi Arabia so I can visit the place during those two months.

“You can get a business visa to Saudi and get to be there during those two months,” he said.

“But that would be untrue as I will not be going for business there,” I said, “but as I ought to get a Visit Visa so I can perform Umra. Getting a business visa to perform Umra, I think, would be cheating, which is something I rather not do.”

“But who are the Saudis to not allow me to visit the Holy Place? If they can make unnecessary laws, then I can conn them to do what my Lord wants.”

“But that is cheating!” I said, “God is clear that we ought to follow the law of the land if it doesn’t interfere with our moral duties!”

“Listen,” said he, somewhat impatiently, “you are already conning them by applying for a visit visa to perform Umra, all I am saying is that you can apply for a business visa instead, which is somewhat easier to get, and then perform your Umra in those two months.”

“No, getting a Business visa means that I am going there for the purpose of business, and I know that I am not going there for business purposes. But going there on a Visit visa means just that, I am visiting the place! If I had some business there, I could go there on a Business Visa and then perform Umra, as the Saudi government does not stop me from doing that. Likewise, if I am there to visit the place on a Visit Visa, the Saudi government does not stop me from performing Umra.”

“But you are still conning them,” said my friend.

“How is that?” now I probably was frowning, “I am not lying about my purpose, and I am availing an opportunity,” I stressed the word opportunity, “that has presented itself!”

The conversation ended soon after. We finished our cup of tea, predicted winners for the World Cup and talked about other ‘important’ stuff.

I’d say we both had the ‘end in mind’ i.e. to perform our duties towards God. Maybe my friend has not placed much importance on the direct order by our Lord on ‘following the law of the land’. Maybe I have misunderstood something.

At the end of the day, it is not what you do, but why you did it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the scariest thought.

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