Hajj (Pilgrimage): A worshipping act, and a socio-political movement

Masjid Arrahman / Concepts & Affairs  / Hajj (Pilgrimage): A worshipping act, and a socio-political movement

Hajj (Pilgrimage): A worshipping act, and a socio-political movement

The value of pilgrimage amongst the worshipping acts

Pilgrimage is one of the Islamic worshipping acts that Allah commanded people with, so as to reach the comprehensive view of the issue of man in life… Allah rendered it a duty on whosoever is able to perform it, and deemed the act of forsaking it a diversion from [the path of] the deep Islamic commitment, and the person who forsakes it an apostate from Islam… Pilgrimage existed as a duty on the servants of Allah from the time of Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.); however, Islam came and bound it to certain terms, rulings and goals, and provided it with outlines so that Islam would eventually achieve its major role in life; thus, rendering it more efficient and more thorough. Islam did not restrict pilgrimage only to one aspect of education, but rather it encompassed all the connotations of the other worshipping acts; thus, it legislated Ihram in all what should be committed to and forsaken. In this way, man would achieve the goals behind fasting, yet in a diverse active manner that does not only stir hunger and thirst in man’s body; but rather, it addresses other aspects that discipline within him the trait of force so as to turn it into a state of peace, the trait of pleasure so as to turn it into a state of balance and discipline, the trait of luxury so as to turn it into a state of forbearance and the trait of pride so as to turn it into a state of humbleness. Moreover, it would teach him how to use his thought, culture and knowledge in the path of the good instead of falsehood so that knowledge would be his only goal in his thoughts and words. Moreover, Allah ordained the duty of Tawaf (circumambulation) around the Ka‘aba and considered it a form of prayer through which man would experience the atmosphere of spirituality in the location where Allah wanted the Ka‘aba to be. Allah destined the Ka‘aba to be a symbol of unity among people, in its spiritual context that is related to Allah and not in its materialistic form of a rock. Moreover, Allah aimed to reveal that life ought to be turned into a form of circumambulation around Allah’s willpower based on the emotions of purity, clarity, good, blessings, mercy and love embodied in His Holy House, the Ka‘aba. Thus, life would be a journey in the road of goals that Allah loves and is pleased with, and on the basis of which He wants His servants to adhere to in their missionary role and responsibility…

Moreover, the duty of Sa‘y (seeking) between As-Safa and Al-Marwa enables man to be aware that whatever steps he makes should be for the sake of the good, so that his act of Sa‘y would be towards what is good and away from what is evil, for in this act he is actually seeking nothing except what Allah has commanded him to do so as to get closer to Him… This reveals that since Sa‘y is one of the means to attain the satisfaction and pleasure of Allah, by doing what He commands us to do and forsaking what He orders us to abstain from, then we ought to protract this Sa‘y to the other aspects in life, in all its social, political and economic aspects, following the same steps so as to attain His satisfaction in all our affairs… As for [the act of] standing (wuquf) that Allah has ordered to be at specific locations, which are Arafat, Al-Mash‘ar, and Mina, it is dedicated to contemplation, accountability, observation and setting out in life, so that man would restore his principles which might get lost amidst the struggles he faces for the sake of providing for a decent living, or achieving his needs and greedy desires, be they allowed or forbidden. Actually, man might lose a lot of his great values under the influence of personal inclinations, on the one hand, and counter challenges that drive him to make tense reactions, on the other; thus, letting go, amidst this situation, of all what he believes in or calls for. Therefore, this necessitates a state of further contemplation and self-accountability, which guides him back to his intellect, belief and to the straight path.

Moreover, Allah made the act of sacrificing Hady [which might be a goat, sheep, cow, camel or a buffalo] a live symbol of sacrifice and giving, referring to the story of Ibrahim and Ismail who submitted to Allah and triumphed over the feelings that a father holds for his son and over the personal love for life… Eventually, Allah offered a great sacrifice in place of Ismail, driving man to model after him, even if in the spiritual sense, turning it into a practical line of action that life should be based on in terms of sacrifice and giving. Moreover, throwing stones at the Shaitan (Satan) symbolizes the state Allah wishes man to live in his daily life, by rejecting the evil calls in his thought, emotions, sayings and deeds, as well as his belongings and private and public relations… Perhaps the ongoing act of stoning the Shaitan, which symbolizes the necessity of persisting on fighting evil, cannot be restricted to one case that man does once and later forsakes; but rather, it should be applied on a daily basis… Therefore, pilgrimage, in its symbols, signs and spiritual atmospheres, could participate in developing the human character in the meditative, practical and spiritual aspect, in the sense that if man embarks on performing this duty from an aware and responsible position, it would exceed being a mere act of worship, through which man escapes the reality so as to indulge into his personal feelings in an atmosphere of ambiguity, just as some are trying to picture worshipping…

Amidst these conscious and spiritual atmospheres that move in the line of responsibility, man would return from his pilgrimage journey a new person in his goals, principles and objectives through the lessons, messages, stands and contemplations he experienced and acquired in that place which embodies purity, good, love and kindness. Perhaps, this is what the traditions reported on this issue try to reveal to the pilgrim, which is that man emerges after performing Hajj as pure as a newborn having the opportunity to embark on life all over again… in terms of the deep context of the Hajj and not the outer shell in the way some perform Hajj without any spirituality or real sense, some of which are those who regard Hajj as a tradition, custom, tourism or trade; thus, becoming one of those referred to in a tradition by one of the members of the Household (a.s.), who looked at the crowds in the pilgrimage sites or in the House of Allah and said: “O how much the noise is, and how few the pilgrims are”! The number of pilgrims does not count if it was not directed to the deep spiritual signification of pilgrimage in life, knowing that a little number that attributes to humanity a big value is by far better than a big number that adds nothing up to life except an increase in the size and number, being nothing more than a liability instead of constituting an element of strength.

 

The spiritual dimensions

When the pilgrimage is performed as an act of worship in its practical and spiritual context, which makes man reach such a level of spiritual ascension, it would, then, participate in changing the reality by changing man himself, based on the Quranic revelation in Islam, which deems that man is the basis of any change, for Allah says: “Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition” (13:11). Therefore, worship would be integrated deep into the course of life, and it would no more be a superficial incidental state… In this way, those working for the sake of Islam, by their practical educational methods, can encourage people to carry out this [religious] duty, so as to reach this ability to make internal change and using it as an advanced spiritual means to make a change at the external level of life… The new spiritual potentials that one acquires during the Hajj are far greater than many rhetorical methods people have become used to practice in the process of education…

Actually, many people who did not live the spiritual feelings in their lives, although they practiced a certain extent of Islamic commitment to some of the rulings and principles of Islam, have changed a lot after performing this duty in an conscious manner, for it enabled them to change their way of thinking and feeling as regards life, and turned into an active and efficient elements in the movement of Islam in terms of the call and practical work.

Is that all that is intended by performing this duty? Why, then, is the insistence on performing it in the same location, and having a big crowd of people belonging to both genders, different colors, different races, and different languages, gathered together, is it because Islam embraces all these kinds of people? Why was not it regarded the same as fasting and praying which man performs collectively or individually? Is there a certain secret that surpasses the individual educational level and reaches a social and political one? This is what we are trying to realize as we discuss this issue.

 

Public benefits

The first text we come across on the issue of pilgrimage (Hajj) is the call of Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) to the people to perform Hajj, for Allah says: “And proclaim among men the Pilgrimage: they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path,that they may witness advantages for them and mention the name of Allah during stated days over what He has given them of the cattle quadrupeds, then eat of them and feed the distressed one, the needy” (22:27-28).

This call invites people to expect certain advantages for them without determining their nature and size, suggesting undertaking this path so as to come across all the benefits they can get through the pilgrimage in their individual and social lives, in addition to the worshipping spirit represented by mentioning Allah in certain days, thanking Him for His graces and glorifying His blessings and applying His instructions to direct these blessings for the benefit of the miserable deprived people.

 

The Quran might even leave certain issues in a state of ambiguity and vagueness so as to drive man to make his own research in any aspect so that man will try to cover all its dimensions, in order not to freeze before one hypothesis, or one facade or aspect. In this way, the legislation would turn into an ever-rejuvenating movement in the line of creativity, progress and development…

 

1- Hisham ibn Al-Hakam narrated that, once, he was talking to Imam Ja‘afarAs-Sadiq (a.s.) and asked him: “For what sake does Allah command His servants to perform Hajj and Tawaf around the Ka‘aba?”. He (a.s.) answered: “Allah has created His servants and commanded them to obey Him through the performance of religious duties. He has made Hajj a gathering in which people from the East and the West participate and become acquainted with one another. Every single one of them benefits from the experiences of others who come from different places. Memories of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and his life shall never be forgotten… if all peoples rely on what happened in their countries only, they would perish and their countries would be destroyed… etc”.

 

2- Al-FadlibnShathan narrated that Imam Ar-Rida (a.s.) said: “People are ordered to perform Hajj so that they remain the guests of Allah, the Most High, gain Divine rewards and win the remission of whatever wrong they have committed through repentance and preparing for the future. During Hajj, people spend of their wealth and selves, leave their families and children, refrain from pleasures, travel in an inhospitable weather, and are filled with determination to complete hajj, while being continuously humble, calm and submissive. During Hajj, benefits abound for all people everywhere; form the East and the West, on land and sea, for those who perform Hajj and for those who have not. All people profit from Hajj, whether merchant, seller, buyer, the poor and the destitute. Whenever the pilgrims get together, the inhabitants of that place prosper. They increase in knowledge, while spreading the statements of the Imams to every corner of the earth, as Allah, the Most High, says: “And it does not beseem the believers that they should go forth all together; why should not then a company from every party from among them go forth that they may apply themselves to obtain understanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they come back to them that they may be cautious?” (09:122) and: “That they may witness advantages for them” (22:28).

 

Pilgrimage: A gathering for all Muslims

We understand from these two Hadith that Islam wanted the Hajj to be an opportunity for the gathering of all Muslims, be they from the East or the West, so that they would get to know each other and interact, and acquire social and economic benefits, whether by those who perform hajj or those who do not, and exchange diverse experiences and expertise that each party enjoys through his public or private situations… The Hajj would also facilitate and enhance the movement of the call for Allah, turning the Hajj into an opportunity for getting in contact with many Islamic countries, represented by their people who come to Al-Beit Al-Haram to perform the religious duty of Hajj, by acquiring knowledge in the culture and legislations of Islam and cooperating in projects, works and plans which serve the supreme interest of Islam… Thus, the Islamic work would be founded on a wide central base, in the historical Islamic atmospheres that witnessed the emergence of the call and accompanied its promulgation and achieved its big goals in its bitter hard struggle; thus, abiding by this line would be based on the thought, atmosphere, mutual experience and existent suffering.

By visiting these places, people would experience the early Islamic experiences, through which they feel the spiritual and practical connection to this history, which reveals to them that the religion of Islam to which they belong goes way back in time and they ought to protract this history to their lives through their struggle and sufferings, just as the Muslims, of that time, protracted this extension to our current reality… In this way, the visits (Ziyarat) would not be a mere tradition that has lost its meaning, and an act of worship that freezes before the visited place (Mazar); thus, drifting away from the true sense of deep unification, which demands worship to Allah, and only Allah, and dealing with people or embarking on any endeavor, in accordance with the teachings Allah has revealed to His Messenger (PBUH). This would attribute to every act its spiritual sense, in terms of the humanistic Islamic sense that the movement of history provides, and which enriches the experience and deepens faith.

 

Abolishing differences

In the light of this, we understand that the gatherings which Islam aims to consecrate through this worshipping duty ought to seek realizing the bigger goal, which is to make a universal Islamic gathering that eliminates all the differences in classes, colors, races and regions… through the spiritual human interaction secured by these gatherings which take place in pure spiritual atmospheres, making everyone feel the true Islamic value as they unite in their stands, clothing, slogans and movements. Moreover, these gatherings would cancel all the counter incidental reactions and feelings that the disbelieving colonization might make use of to fragment their potentials and rip their unity apart… Therefore, if it [colonization] succeeded in some of its acts, by exploiting certain negative situations, it would find the Hajj standing in its face ready to act and mess up its evil plans and schemes of exploiting these points of weakness, through the pure emotions, conscious ideas and alert steps of belief…

 

Between the plan and the reality

This is what we understand by the duty of the Hajj in its social and political significations, in addition to its spiritual educational worshipping signification. This is evident in the practice of the Imams of the Household Members (a.s.) who deemed the Hajj a basis for engaging in dialogue with all the deviated groups, just as they sought to meet all the good believing groups that they wanted all the good elements to undertake the straight path, through a comprehensive practical instructive plan…

What about the reality that the pilgrim lives in this stage of the history of Islam? We notice the presence of a huge crowd of people of different colors and nationalities who head for Al-Beit Al-Haram from all over the world, and we hear many voices speaking different languages, invoking Allah and raising supplications to Him for forgiveness, and we see how the tears of believers pour out from distressed and confused eyes seeking forgiveness for their wrongdoings and release from their sins so as to be rewarded by Heaven and exempted from Hellfire… On the other hand, in the practical steps and actions of the pilgrims, we notice the insistence on giving priority to the rites of the Hajj, aiming to preserve the form and not the true meaning… Therefore, when you look into their communities, you would find ordinary relations which they were used to in their countries, in all the negativities these relations result in, in a way that messes up the atmospheres of the Hajj and inflicts chaos upon them… Actually, you would not find an interactive society that gathers its individuals around the same goal; but rather, you would find individuals forming a society of no sense or spirit…

This is the internal signification of Hajj, so to speak… But if you look once again into the internal reality of Muslims, what would you find? Verily, you would come across inter-Muslim sectarian differences that ossify and freeze in rigid formulas whose parties cannot move or direct or give themselves the chance to breathe fresh air that refreshes and revives them, and breathe into them flexibility and vitality which drive them to move and engage in a dialogue; rather, it is as if the Islamic thought of every group has taken a halt at a certain period of time through history, and ceased to extend into the other time periods… Perhaps, the real paradox lies in that many of those who emulate a certain Mujtahid do not claim that his opinions and Ijtihad are infallible, yet they refuse to discuss these opinions or Fatwas and even throw dust in the face of whosoever tries to do so… Moreover, this could develop and reach the level of the attempts by which one Islamic group resorts, against another group, to diverse methods of incitation and agitation that are far from the calm and solemn thought and open faith which Islam guided us to and called on us to resort to when we have disagreements and conflicts… Thus, the Islamic society would turn into a society in which tensions, grudges and spites grow instead of being a society that encircles and eliminates all these negative elements…

Politically speaking, we cannot find any serious positive handling of the issues of Muslims by means of discussion, research and treatment, be they issues related to the political situation in which Muslims suffer from the problems of freedom, dignity and poise as they lie under the grip of the racial, intellectual and colonial persecution, or economic usurpation of their agricultural and mineral wealth, since they are continuously oppressed and pressured by the colonizing states to jeopardize their plans of manufacturing and production and impede the policy of self-sufficiency that the Islamic world seeks. The aim of these states is to keep these peoples dependent on their products, which places them under the mercy of small wars that the arrogant big states ignite every now and them between each other, so as to distract them from the plans of development and growth, all with the help of the collaborators who are completely devoted to these states in return of preserving the positions they fill…  You would not hear the calls, no matter how high they were, that try to stir the Islamic emotions against this corrupted reality, and seek change, because the atmospheres surrounding the political reality there deter any movement directed to the said aim…

The current Islamic reality is ripped apart, confused and lost between the various non-Islamic trends, whether Marxist, nationalist, socialist, or regional, and the different Islamic trends that diverge in their expectations, plans and goals… Moreover, we face the political reality in which Muslims are ripped apart between a reality that is directly colonized and other countries subjected to the old and modern colonization, and a reality that is subjected to the colonial rule, which is disguised in a national or Islamic mask, represented by the state of oppression, persecution and tyranny it rules by, resulting in the dispersion and loss of the Islamic wealth and potentials, and the corruption of the thought, work and reality in all life’s aspects…  Actually, this corrupted reality extends to include the fragile economic situations which exert pressures on the Muslims in the process of production, consumption, division of wealth, the wasting of potentials and the projection of the overall economy to the colonial interests… As for the social and moral values, they are going down the slope dramatically in a way that contradicts with the Islamic social and moral values…

We find ourselves amidst this reality that challenges our Islamic existence in heart and makes us feel the absence of a united Islamic willpower to face it and eventually change it. Perhaps, we might even face a counter willpower seeking to consecrate this disunity and result in further deviation in the prevalent reality, through the agents of disbelief and colonization, amongst which are certain rulers and leaders of the Islamic countries…This takes place by exerting pressures on the leading Islamic movements, by executing and assassinating their leaders, fragmenting their bases and sentencing to life in prison where they are tortured brutally using means that no human being could imagine… and besieging and persecuting the wise Islamic thought by preventing the publishing of committed meaningful Islamic books and magazines, and paving the way for the diverted and licentious thought, aiming to lead the Muslim into a state of full dissolution… and preventing the holding of Islamic meetings and meaningful political and cultural gatherings… in every country ruled by such individuals… and trying to incite sectarian differences and turn them into a factor that detonates the Islamic reality and places it in spiteful confessional and political situations…  This reality imposes on us to turn the Hajj into a true Islamic occasion just as Allah wanted, so that it would be a gathering for all Muslims in which the thinkers would engage in a sound intellectual Islamic dialogue, so that they would reach common, or at least converging convictions and understandings, or understand each other’s viewpoints, and reach a common ground established by the Mujtahids and thinkers… and strive hard, armed with patience and good thought, to reach unity in the thought, method and course of action.

Therefore, the devoted individuals and groups should take action to drive the Islamic movements from all over the Islamic world to meet, so that they would exchange ideas and expertise and find out the expectations and goals each one of them has in mind and the bases each relies on, so as to find out what they disagree over and try to turn it into common convictions, and what they agree to make use of it in other aspects and turn it into practical steps to cooperate for the sake of the integration and completion of the Islamic work, on the one hand and uniting the efficient active  potentials to solve the problems of Islam and Muslims, on the other hand… and to discuss the means of liberating themselves from colonization and stepping out of the circle of social and political pressures…

We emphasize the importance of this kind of meetings, for relying on correspondence and intellectual readings cannot, most probably, reveal the true Islamic stand in a clear manner, in a way it would eliminate any doubts, which reduced the opportunities of meeting on common Islamic basis, from the minds of those leading the movements against each another.

Perhaps, these meetings out to be held in intimate Islamic atmospheres where the participants would discuss any issue of interest, by paying individual and group visits to the Hajj missions and places of gathering, to sense the feeling of unity by coming to know the mutual concerns, united issues and big goals on which they meet on the name of Allah; thus, rejecting all the plans and feelings, which the disbelievers are trying to exploit to isolate the Muslims from each other, by inciting national and regional feelings…

 

* This edited article published originally in Bayynat (translated by ManalSamhat). Link: http://english.bayynat.org/Occasions/Hajj_worshipping.htm

 

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