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Hajj, a journey signifying the Universalism of Islam

Oct 14, 2013

The theme for Radio Islam’s Hajj broadcast is titled: Hajj, a voyage of Love and Submission. Voyage encapsulates the external and internal journeys made by hundreds of thousands of devotees, of Hedley Churchward, Malcolm X and Muhammad Asad too, which we feature prominently on our broadcast. The topic of Hajj naturally raises the issue of universalism. Nationalism, being a bond between people intending to achieve domination based upon family, clan, country or tribal ties is a concept alien to Islam. Islam binds people together on the Aqeedah and Emaan – the belief in Allah (swt) and His final Messenger, Muhammad (S).

 

Hajar – The Gentile, Matriarch of Universalism

 

Professor Abdal Hakim Murad explains: One reason for this (lack of nationalistic pride) may be that the Qur'an, unlike the Bible, is not about the continuity of a people but rather principles. It is not about the drama of a people, not a Judaism of the Arabs. The Islamic story begins with Abraham and Hagar rather than one of the Prophet Muhammad (S) descendants, and this is echoed ever so loudly in many central rites of Hajj, among them – travel to a barren desert to manifest tawheed, tawaaf, the sa’ee, standing at Arafah, stoning the Jamaraat (stone pillars representing the Shaytaan) at Mina – the constant purgation: uncomfortable and physically exhausting.

 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the Arabs are of Semitic lineage but also from the gentile Hagar (Haajera, umm Ismaeel) something that calls on Islam to be a message for the world, not one particular tribe.

 

This is noted in the language of the Qur'an itself: when Arab is mentioned it usually denotes the language, rather than the people. Classically, an Arab is one who can speak the language well, rather than one who has a certain set of genes. If anything the Qur'an disparages 'its’ people', the contemporary Arabs as they were they propagators of the jahiliyya that Islam came to destroy. Thus, Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad notes that Abraham is the forefather of a universalism that co-exists with particularism.

 

Most Islamic cities of the past unlike their European counterparts were incredibly heterogeneous, yet the set of core Deen practices remained stable and familiar. The sacred law itself is race-blind, and so whilst we have a legitimate claim to belong to the culture of our ancestors, we also know that this matters not to the Heavenly Judge, Allah in terms of proximity to Him in this life and the next

 

Ibraheem – Patriarch of Universalism

 

Allah commanded Ibraheem (peace be upon him), after he had finished building the House, to proclaim to mankind the Hajj.

 

“And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage)” [al-Hajj 22:27].

 

Ibn Katheer, commenting on this verse:

It is narrated that he (Ibraheem) said:

“O Lord, how can I convey to the people when my voice will not reach them?”

He said: “Call, and it is upon Us to convey it.”

So he stood at his Maqaam, or it was said on the stone, or on al-Safa, or on Abu Qubays (a mountain near the Ka’bah), and he said: “O mankind! Your Lord has built a House, so come on pilgrimage to it.”

 

It was said that the mountains lowered themselves so that his voice could reach all corners of the earth, and those who were still in (their mothers’) wombs and (fathers’) loins heard, and everything that heard him of rocks, cities and trees responded, and those who Allah decreed would perform Hajj until the Day of Resurrection responded: Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk.

 

Remembering a universal sacred covenant

 

The great annual gathering of pilgrims from all over the world recalls an even greater gathering before time when every human soul, Muslim or not bore witness to Allah's Divine Sovereignty: "Bala shahidna!"

 

“When your Lord took out the offspring from the loins of the Children of Adam and made them bear witness about themselves, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ (alastu bi Rabbikum?), and they replied, ‘Yes, we bear witness’(balâ shahidna). So you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘We were not aware of this’.” (Qur’ân 7:172)

 

Imam al-Haddad mentions in his work The Lives of Man (Sabil al-Iddikar wa al-`Itibar) that this event occurred at Nu`man, a valley near Arafat. Some scholars said that it was after Adam’s descent to earth, others said that it happened just before or after, and others said it happened in Heaven.

 

The outward ritual of journeying to the Noble Sanctuary thus corresponds, with Allah's help, to an inward journey toward remembrance of our true nature and station. The pilgrim's call of "Labbayk Allahumma labbayk!" ("At Your service oh Allah!") echoes the soul's primordial attestation. It is the worldly counterpart to the acknowledgment that He is our Lord, and we are His humble servants. [Hajj: the Inward Spiral]

 

Transcending Economic circumstances

 

It is no secret that the annual Hajj has become lucrative business in recent years, proving a great financial asset to the economy of the oil-rich kingdom. Last year, the event generated some $10bn, according to the Chamber of Commerce in Makkah.

 

If we bear in mind the universal sacred covenant mentioned above, it becomes easier to reconcile this spiritual journey with our wallets. Hajj is compulsory only once in a lifetime for one who can afford it.  It seems therefore apt to remember the words of ibn Rajab in his Lata’if al-Ma’arif: “Whoever can not stand on the plains of Arafah this year, let him stand up and fulfill the rights of Allaah.  If you can't go to the House (of Allah) due to distance, then go to the Lord of the House because He is always near. Whoever cannot afford a slaughter then let him slaughter his own lusts and desires.”

 

Wa billah at’taufeeq

 

Umm Abdillah

Radio Islam Programming

2013.10.14

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