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Pilgrimage (Hajj) is the fifth pillar of Islam Pillars and it’s a duty of every Muslim who are able financially and physically, as Prophet Muhammad said: “Islam is built on five, testimony that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing prayer, paying the zakat, fasting Ramadan, and Pilgrimage to the House for who can”. This duty of Islam unlike other duties, it is required to done just once in specific place and time, that begins in Dhul Hijjah and ends in few days. Pilgrimage is religious ritual that existed before Islam, as Muslims believe that Allah imposed it on previous nations. Imposition of Hajj in Islam was in the ninth year of migration and today millions of people go to Mecca to perform Hajj.
The numbers of pilgrims are increasing dramatically each year and that require more organizing from institutions that supervising this event, Tabung Haji (TH) is one of these institutions that organizing Pilgrimage from Malaysia.
Tabung Haji (Pilgrims Fund Board) is the premiere Islamic financial institution in Malaysia. Established in 1963 on Islamic financial based to organize and manage Hajj activities for Muslims in Malaysia. In addition to that it’s play a big social role by investing Muslims money according to Islam principles. It’s the largest Islamic fund manager in Malaysia with more than $12 billion funds; one of TH goals is to strengthen Malaysia economy by investing its funds and resources in the country. Depositors’ money is invested in selected and diversified portfolios to minimize the risk and in the same time based on strictly Islamic laws to ensures that profits is free from usury “riba” and to avoid trading in prohibited products.
In the early days, saving money for performing pilgrimage in Malaysia was unorganized and unsystematic process, most people kept their money under the pillow to make sure it’s free of usury practices. Another method to provide Hajj expenses is by selling or mortgaging their properties like lands, houses or breeding animals. Such imprudent method will cause economic suffering to the pilgrims after they return from pilgrimage which in its turn will lead to instability and decline in nation’s economy.
TH aim to provide premium Hajj services to Malaysian pilgrims, its consistent and distinct achievement has gained world recognition as well as has served a role model of innovative hajj management and Islamic financial services by most Islamic countries in the world.
TH continues to strengthens its presence in both domestically and internationally market by investing in several vital sectors that compatible with Islamic principles and rules such as Islamic finance, halal food, plantation, travel services, oil and gas, construction and information technology. With a net profit of more than $600 million TH is able to distribute satisfactory dividends annually to its stakeholders.
With the attractive services and the innovative investment planning that designed to encourage savings and investing, TH gained a competitive advantage over its competitors. Today, TH has more than 8 million depositors and a network of 119 branches with more than 6,000 touch-points nationwide. TH also makes its presence globally by operating an office in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The vision of TH is “The pillar of the ummah's economic success; Excellence in hajj management” and in their mission they pledge to strengthen the nation economy, manage depositors' funds in profitable and strategic activities locally and internationally to enrich it, provide excellent hajj services and assist pilgrims to complete their hajj in professional way, and all that by hala and competitive methods.
TH opened the door for poor people to perform pilgrimage while it was exclusive on rich people in the past, and was just a dream for others who couldn’t bear pilgrimage expenses. Now everyone can afford the expenses to do this holly pillar of Islam, TH operating based on economies of scale principle and by collect the capital for this project from the stakeholders to invest the money in diversified activates and generate profits to provide the necessary money for pilgrimage.
The distinction of TH is by providing excellence Hajj services from beginning to ending. In this section we will take a look on the services that TH is providing:
Without covering the expenses of the trip there will be no hajj, and as we said before in early days people were saving their money by themself under their pillows to make sure it’s free of usury, but the problem with this method that it’s take long time and some times that person aging without complete the amount so he sell his house or land to perform pilgrimage before dying, and that’s all lead to frozen and instability in the economy of the country.
So the first service that TH provides to its clients is to invest their money in Islamic projects and activities that suitable with Islam principles. This step has a huge effect on both people and society; it reduces the time that people have to wait to perform pilgrimage and also reduces the amount that needed for pilgrimage. In the same time investing all these frozen money in vital projects are refreshing the economy and decreases the unemployment rate by creating job opportunities, decrease recession and inflation rate.
For excellent hajj organizing and to avoid mistakes and aaccidents during hajj every organizer should be aware that organizing hajj is beginning before going to Mecca, and that’s what TH is doing.
Before leaving homeland TH make sure that every pilgrim has all the necessary documents he needs (valid passport, visa, etc.), make sure that all pilgrims are healthily fits and that they are all took hajj vaccinations, and provide guidance Services for Pilgrims to increase knowledge and understanding of hajj, increase awareness of the real situation in pilgrimage to avoid common mistakes and create a religious conscious community. These guidance services divided to four courses:
This course is held at mosques around the country by collaboration with mosque committee in Malaysia. The course module covers the basic knowledge related to Hajj rituals, healthcare and Hajj management in Malaysia and in holy land.
The second course is focus on the practical aspects of the pilgrimage rituals and done in two days in the month of Rejab and Syaaban.
Only the pilgrims can attend this course unlike the first course that can be attended by any one.
This course is similar to the previous course with stresses on practical exercise of pilgrimage rituals in a focused group, for the people whom didn’t understand or attend the previous course.
The final course to be attend is the prime hajj course and it’s held in the month of Syawal by gathers all pilgrims and provide them with simulated Hajj activities such as casting of pebbles and overnight in mina (Mabit).
In addition to that they provide hajj guidance through publication, there are book of hajj, book of hajj rituals, pilgrim's travel guide and book of hajj questions and answers.
That’s what concern pilgrims and preparing them mentally and physically for hajj, but TH preparation don’t stop here; they also developed programs for trainers and hajj facilitator by doing workshops for evaluating hajj rituals, intensive lectures to tafaqquh (understanding) in hajj, intensive courses facilitators, and training of trainers (TOT) courses.
The purpose of these programs is to improve skills and increase awareness and knowledge of the trainers and facilitators to let them guide the pilgrims effectively and efficiently before and during the pilgrimage. Permission Letter will be given by TH to all who successfully complete these programs.
The organizing during hajj starts in Malaysian airport by providing confirmed flight tickets to pilgrims and waiting them there to guide them and make sure that everyone on his flight. In Jeddah and Madinah officers from TH will be waiting for the arrival of the pilgrims to guide them. All the movement in between prime locations and accommodation in the holy land are previously prepared but collaboration with Saudi government and privet sectors, to ensure that pilgrims have comfortable transportation, clean and safety rooms, halal and delicious meals, medical treatment, counseling and specialist services, and if there is any death among the pilgrims TH will manage funeral arrangement.
When the pilgrims finish their hajj TH will make sure everyone go back to Malaysia safety, by providing transportation to the airport, confirmation tickets and managing the pilgrims packages. One of the great services that TH providing is Hujjaj assembly program that beginning from 2012 by gather all the pilgrims after they performed pilgrimage to maintain and enhance the relationship built between pilgrims, keep the spirit of brotherhood in Islam and as a platform to exchange knowledge and experience after they returned to their regular life.
According to Pew Research Center the population of Muslims in Europe in 1990 was 29.6 million and increased to 44.1 million in 2010. These numbers expected to exceed 58 million by 2030. Muslims today account for about 6% of Europe’s total population, up from 4.1% in 1990. By 2030, Muslims are expected to make up 8% of Europe’s population. Muslims population in Europe is expected to grow faster than non-Muslim population, because Muslim populations have higher fertility rates than non-Muslim, migration, age structure and sex ratios.
Nevertheless, there is no collaboration between Muslims organizations and Europe governments to coordinates Muslims activities that unfortunately cause losses for both sides and considered a lost opportunity. There are many political and religious reasons for non-cooperation between these two parties but it’s not related to our subject.
Therefore, we can expect many problems to face Muslims pilgrim that will started even before he travels and continues until he return to his country. Flight reservations is one of the biggest problems that face pilgrim not just in Europe but in the world, thousands of people stack in airports for hours and sometimes for days every hajj season. Lack of guides before and during pilgrimage, and the inexperience of most guiders lead to chaos during performing pilgrimage.
Low accommodation level is another problem facing European Muslims, especially in Mina and Arafah that enforce lot of them to spend the night outdoors. Transportations in holy land can be critical dilemma because of the numbers of pilgrims whom moving in the same time and to the same location, which need previous planning that obviously lacking to it European organizers. The health care is below expectation for most Europeans and there is shortage in stuffs, medicines and equipment’s.
Most of These problems begin when the travelling agency or the hajj organizer accept more pilgrims than what he can afford and exceed the numbers that he can manage in hoping that he can somehow find more seats and rooms for them. And here comes the need for bigger organizer that can manage all this chaos.
For European Muslims to overcome pilgrimage organizing problems they need to seek help from the most professional expert in this field, who can transfer his knowledge and experience to them and lead them to the right track in pilgrimage organizing. And who is better to play that role than TH who is consider optimal model in this field and often obtained the best pilgrimage organizer in the world.
In order to export this experience and competence form TH to Europe organizations they need to work together to achieve positive outcomes that will be beneficial for both parties. To go further in this research we need to explain some terms:
Exporting is the process of selling of goods and services produced in one country to other countries (Yadong, 1999). And there are two major types of exporting; direct and indirect exporting.
Piggybacking is one type of indirect exporting that used in marketing and it’s a form of marketing collaboration where organizations seek to achieve a goal by allying with a competent partner. A typical example is smaller firms (rider) that collaborate with domestic MNCs in exports (carrier). Piggybacking can be used to overcome barriers in entering new markets as small firms can compensate for lack of resources and competencies in these relationships (Terpstra and Yu 1990). This strategy allows small organizations to export with no or less investment, low risks and startup costs, and increase the profit (Root 1994).
So for the success of this relationship we need to find the motivations for both parties and set a mechanism. The optimal strategy for this situation is piggybacking because we have two organizations one of them lack of experience and need guidance, while the other has experience and competence, but it’s almost reached to maturity stage and can benefit of entering new markets and expand its activities.
The European organizations will be the riders while TH will be the carrier, TH can help them by many ways, and since TH is a governmental institution they can coordinate with Malaysian airline to have flight from Europe to Saudi during pilgrimage season or they can arrange flights from other airlines that they have good relation with. Since pilgrims arriving in different times its will make it easier to pick them up from the airport and transfer them to their accommodation with the same stuffs and transportations that they use for Malaysians pilgrims. Also TH can increase the numbers of room’s reserved in Mecca, Mina and Arafah to host European Muslims since they have good relationships with property owners and provide better meals and services. Before pilgrimage, guides and advices can be provided by sending trainers to Europe, sending books about pilgrimage and there are also e-books that can be translated to many languages, advisor and trainers that been trained by TH will accompany the European pilgrims all the time during pilgrimage to provide consulting and advising. The Health care like medicines and medical equipment can be shared between Malaysian Healthcare and European.
In return TH will increase its customer’s base and enter to a new market that contain millions of Muslims and as the statistics showed its continuous growing, TH can also expand its activities to Europe by offers Halal products and invest in Islamic market. In addition to all that TH will raise its reputation in the world.
- Differences in cultural and traditions between Europe and Malaysia.
- Eating habits and cuisine of Malaysian may not suit European.
- Communication will be difficult because European speak in more than one language.
- The expectation for European will be higher than Malaysian people in accommodation, service quality and healthcare because they have a higher standard of living.
For that TH have to improve and diversify its services to provide higher quality services that fits with European standards by studying their life style and needs.
Pilgrimage is one of the most important religious worship in Islam and majority of Muslims perform it at least once in life, and considered as a life trip. Since it limited in specific time and location, organizers facing difficult problems in organizing this big event and here it comes the role of experience and competence to facilitate it. When we are talking about experience in pilgrimage organizing we can’t help but talk about TH and how they could change the unorganized pilgrimage in Malaysia to become a model in this field. To export this experience and competence to other countries that suffers during pilgrimage season like Europe, TH need to intensive its efforts and expand its activities to other countries, by customize its services to make sure its suit its new customers.
Root, F. R. (1994). Entry strategies for international markets. Published by Jossey-Bass. A Wiley Imprint. San Francisco.
Terpstra, V. and Yu, C-M. J. (1990). Piggybacking: A quick road to internationalization. International Marketing Review, 7 (4), p. 52-62
Yadong, L. (1999), Entry and Cooperative Strategies in International Business Expansion Age, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 978-1-56720-161-1
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