Hajj by Lot

Apparently, in Turkey there’s some sort of lottery to make the annual pilgrimage to Mecca–

Religious Affairs Directorate selects out hajj applicants

The Religious Affairs Directorate has made the final selection of people going on the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. People were chosen through a random drawing, and the names of winners were posted online.

The hajj is one of Islam’s five obligations that every Muslim must fulfill, if possible, during his or her lifetime. According to Muslims, their journey to Mecca absolves them of their sins. The name drawing ceremony began with the reading of the Surah Yass’in from the Quran. Prior to the drawing, Religious Affairs Directorate President Mehmet Görmez said, “Whether your name is drawn or not, may God never reduce this excitement within your hearts.” Görmez also commented on questions people have raised regarding the random selection system. Some have questioned the current system and have asked for people that apply first to be granted the right to go to hajj. Thus, Gömez stated, “If we use this kind of a system [of selecting early applicants], then people who apply in this year will be able to go [to hajj] in 15 years.”

I must admit I’m rather ignorant on this subject. Is there some kind of permit needed to go to Mecca? Is that what’s being offered here? Or is this more like an “all expenses paid” trip, such that one could skip this lottery and go on one’s own dime if one wanted?

I seem to recall a posting on this blog about Muslim cabbies objecting to a random drawing of taxi licenses, on religious grounds. Wonder what they’d make of this.