Manama: A Kuwaiti religious leader has warned against VIP pilgrimage offers, saying they were against the spirit of Islam.

“This new invention of VIP Haj [pilgrimage] packages by some Haj operators is unacceptable,” Mohammad Al Tabtabai, the former dean of the Islamic Studies College, said. “This type of Haj is counter to the spirit of Islam and I urge all Muslims to boycott it. They should join operators who offer the performance of the Haj rituals without excess or overindulgence,” he said in remarks published by local daily Al Kuwaitiya on Monday.

Haj operators have recently attempted to lure wealthy people planning to perform Haj by offering them special treatment that spares them all trouble and gives them a sense of comfort at all times.

Under the package, pilgrims are flown in first class and given accommodation at world-renowned hotels while their transport throughout the pilgrimage is provided in a private car.

However, for many people, such privileges do not help Muslims cement their relations with fellow Muslims and defeat the spirit of togetherness promoted by the Haj pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam.

“Unfortunately, these operators are driven by a wish to make huge profits and not by the genuine Islamic value of being close to other Muslims to help them perform Haj based on its spirit of togetherness,” Al Tabtabai said. “We have noted that several operators are competing with one another to offer better accommodation, more comfortable cars and greater quantity of varied food. That is not the spirit of Haj that Muslims must honour,” he said.

The six-day Haj season is in mid-October, but several operators have publicised their offers and packages to enlist those planning to go on pilgrimage.

Islam requires all physically fit and financially able Muslims to perform Haj at least once in their lives.

A Haj quota was introduced in 1987 following an agreement by all member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to limit the number of pilgrims allowed by each country to 0.1 per cent of its population.

Several countries have requested an increase in their quotas, but Riyadh turned down the requests, saying that construction work in Makkah had put heavy pressure on the possibility of accommodating more pilgrims.