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Abraham: The Muslim Prophet

By Sarah Joseph

Abraham is a central figure to three faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – but the scriptural differences can cause deep divisions. So here we examine how Abraham’s story can heal our fractured world.

He defied his father and his community; he had to flee for his life; he abandoned his family in the wilderness; he was prepared to kill his son. With such a background, Abraham would not appear to be a good role model. Yet, he is revered by billions of people over thousands of years, and his life is a testament to pure monotheism, great sacrifices and devotion to

kabah_Makkah

“Muslim” is not a noun introduced from the time of Muhammad; rather it is a way of being and thinking that has existed since the beginning of creation.

God. The Qur’an speaks of Abraham with great admiration:

And who could be of better faith than the one who surrenders utterly to God, and is a doer of good and follows the faith of Abraham, the upright one? ( An-Nisaa’ 4:125)

Abraham was born in a society steeped in the worship of idols. Early on in his life, he tried to persuade his father to reject this practice and submit himself to the One True God. But his father’s business centered on crafting idols of worship, and so he rebuked Abraham, “I shall most certainly cause you to be stoned to death!” (Maryam 19:46)

Abraham’s reply is a perfect lesson in gentleness and politeness:

Peace be upon you! I shall ask my Lord to forgive you: for, behold, He has always been kind to me. (Maryam 19:47)

Idol-worship was seen by Abraham as something self-degrading and enslaving. He saw no greatness and experienced no awe in the worship of statues that his father and other human beings crafted with their own hands. So he tried to free his community from this harmful practice.

In the Qur’anic narrative, he sets a testing scenario for the people by destroying all their idols except the largest one. When the people remonstrated with him, Abraham mockingly told them to ask the big idol for answers. The people were confounded, but only momentarily, and soon they demanded his death: “Kill him… burn him”. (Al-`Ankabut 29:24). But God saved him by cooling the flames.

By this point, the young Abraham had defied his father, enraged his community, and derided their beliefs. He had challenged the centers of power and upset the status quo with his persistent reasoning and logic. He even won the public debate with Nimrod, the king. By doing so, he became a dangerous dissident.

Though he had won the intellectual arguments against his father, his community, and his king, he had been unable to win their hearts, and they threatened him with death. So Abraham was forced to flee with his wife Sarah and nephew Lot.

But his trials and tribulations were not over. Having committed his life to God, he was tested still further. He was commanded to leave his wife Hagar and son Ishmael in the wilderness, and later to sacrifice Ishmael.

On the sacrifice, it is written in Genesis that, “Sometime later, God tested Abraham… ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac… Sacrifice him as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’” (Genesis 22:1-2)

In the Qur’an, however, it intimates that Ishmael is the one whom God had commanded for sacrifice.

The Qur’an tells us, after the story of sacrifice was finished, that as Abraham showed his faith in God and his willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isma`il, then God gave him the news that Isaac was to be born. So this whole event took place before the birth of Isaac.

And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet,- one of the righteous. (As-Saffat 37:112)

The fundamental lesson for us here is our willingness to give up that which is dearest and closest to us; whether we have the resolve and willpower necessary to achieve the higher spiritual goals.

The Qur’an praises Isaac, and his son Jacob, calling them “righteous men” (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:72), and explains how God “made them leaders who would guide in accordance with Our behest: for We inspired them to do good works, and to be constant in prayer, and to dispense charity: and Us alone did they worship.” (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:73) And Jacob’s son, Joseph, is also a prophet blessed by God.

The Qur’an reveres all the prophets, named and unnamed, and as such, it is an amazingly inclusive religious text. It even insists on equality, stating that “no distinction is to be made between them.” (Al-Baqarah 2:285)

However, some factual differences with other religious texts are paramount to Muslim theology, as the following example of ‘informed consent’ shows. The Bible informs us that Isaac had no idea what his father was intending, “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7).

In the Qur’anic version, Abraham asked his son’s opinion, and Ishmael was fully aware and readily submitted to his father’s obligation:

And when the child had become old enough to share in his father’s endeavors, the latter said: ‘O my dear son! I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you: consider, then, what would be your view!’ He answered: ‘O my father! Do as you are commanded: you will find me, if God so wills, among those who are patient in adversity!’ (As-Saffat 37:102)

Without Ishmael’s consent, to the Muslim mind Abraham’s submission to God is tantamount to human sacrifice; with Ishmael’s consent it is a joint act of submission to God. Of course, God requires no such sacrifice, consensual or otherwise. Abraham could keep his beloved son and more, for God promises Abraham a nation (an ummah).

Much is made of God’s promise. Abraham was indeed concerned for his children and his descendants. Firstly, and primordially, our responsibility to the world begins with our responsibility to our children. But perhaps also because he had a sense of history, and knew that what he wanted to achieve could not be done within one generation. God however tells him, “My Covenant does not include the wrongdoers.” (Al-Baqarah 2:124)

Role Model, Living Lessons

Thus, affirming through Abraham’s story that it is deeds, not birthright that ultimately matter. Much also is made of the fact that according to the Bible God promises to Abraham a land. Thousands of years later, people are still fighting and killing one another because of those disputed claims. This should be an uncomfortable reality for anyone who claims to believe in Abraham’s message of honest and upright conduct.

But Abraham does not have to be a divisive figure. Regardless of who claims him, or makes claims on his lineage, he is a role model for all. As God says in the Qur’an, “I am going to make you a leader for all of mankind to follow” (Al-Baqarah 2:124), it is the message of Abraham that is consistent in all the scriptures, and over which we can unite.

Abraham taught belief in the One God, and urged the leading of an upright life. Abraham’s story, primordial and archetypal, much of which is re-enacted annually through the Hajj, shows us the common, ancient origin of our human roots. Those roots have grown to become different trees, but each is a manifestation of the same reality, namely worship of the One Creator Who created us all; who created us into diverse nations and identities so that we can constructively engage with one another, and compete in the doing of good.

Abraham expressed an archetypal spirituality which is in harmony with our natural inclination towards good. The Qur’an describes how Abraham was “neither a Jew nor a Christian, but a hanif (an upright man who had surrendered (to Allah), a Muslim. And he was not of the polytheists.” (Aal `Imran 3:67)

Not being a Jew or a Christian is undisputed from a historical perspective as he pre-dates both, but how could he be a “Muslim” (Aal `Imran 3:67) as he predates that too, does he not? This is where we have to understand that Muslim is not a noun introduced from the time of Muhammad; rather it is a way of being and thinking that has existed since the beginning of creation. It describes the one who surrenders himself to God, and thus all the prophets were in that sense Muslims, for they all surrendered to God.

As for Abraham being a hanif (an upright, righteous person) the word has at its root in the way of Abraham, to incline towards good, to turn away from wrong. Thus, a person without any taught religion would come to the way of the hanif if they were to ponder the revelation of the created world.

Through Abraham’s progeny, we are united by familial ties: Jews and Muslims are often described as cousins. The story of Abraham reminds us of the deep connection of our kinship. We have a shared human experience, and remembering Abraham’s story gives us the opportunity to remember our original spiritual and moral substance.

Remembering his covenant with God gives us the opportunity to remember our own original covenant. When we were souls with God, He asked us, “Am I not your Lord?” (Al-`Araf 7: 172) And our souls affirmed, “Yes, we do so testify.” (Al-`Araf 7:172).

We all have the same essential experience of being human. We will have different physical experiences; of wealth or poverty, of health or illness, of gender and race, but the essence of being human is the same.

We can argue about whom the covenant between God and Abraham is with, or we can fulfill our own covenant with God. We can disagree about whom God asked Abraham to sacrifice, or we can dedicate our own sacrifices to Him.

We can dispute with each other about the nature of the tests Abraham faced, or we can face our own tests with fortitude, forbearance and patience. We can fight about our differences, or we can remember that we are united in the singular conviction that Abraham held; there is only One God worthy of worship, and we surrender ourselves to Him.

Abraham’s life was the exact opposite of idol worship. If he is to be relevant today, we have to ask what are the idols which we have crafted with our own hands, and which we take to be our gods.

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Source: Emel Magazine.

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Hajj: From Abraham to Muhammad, and In-between

Kabah_Makkah

Just as Ibrahim strove to end the worship of false gods and bring people under submission to the One God, so did the Prophet Muhammad revive the same pure deen.

 

Brothers in Islam! Hajj, or the Pilgrimage, was instituted by the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to serve as the focal meeting place for all believers in the One God. Thus he made Makkah the center of the world-wide Islamic movement and installed his elder son, the Prophet Isma`il, there to continue his mission.

Idol Worship among Ibrahim’s Descendants

Only God knows exactly how long Isma`il’s children stayed on the right path. But within a few centuries of the death of Ibrahim and Isma`il people had abandoned their teachings and had gradually gone astray like all other people around them. Hundreds of idols were installed in the sacred Ka`bah, which had been built as a center for the worship of the One God.

Ironically enough, idols were made of Ibrahim and Isma`il too, whose whole lives had been spent eradicating idol-worship. The descendants of Ibrahim, who had repudiated all idols, began to worship idols like Lat, Manat, Hubal, Nasr, Yaghuth, `Uzza, Asaf, Na`i/ah and many more. They also worshipped the sun, moon, Venus, and Saturn. They also worshipped jinns, ghosts, angels and the spirits of their dead ancestors.

Superstition rose to such a level that if they did not have the family idol with them while away from home, they worshipped any stone they came across on their way. Or, if no stone was available, even a round ball made of clay with a sprinkle of goat’s milk over it served as their god.

Reverting to the same kind of priesthood which Ibrahim had fought so fiercely against in Iraq, they turned the Ka`bah into a sort of temple and installed themselves as priests there. Adopting all the tricks of priests, they began accepting gifts and offerings from pilgrims flocking from the four corners of Arabia.

In this way all the work done by Ibrahim and Isma`il was destroyed and the purpose for which they had introduced the system of Hajjwas superseded by different types of objectives.

How Corrupted Hajj Became

A Yearly Carnival

The degree to which Hajj was corrupted in that period of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) can be gauged from the fact that it degenerated into an annual carnival. For many tribes from near and far, Hajj became an important social event. Poets and clowns used it to brag and boast about the bravery, renown, dignity, strength and generosity of their tribes. They even resorted to hurling insults at one another.

The chiefs of the tribes vied with each other in flaunting their generosity. They slaughtered camel after camel with the sole purpose of extolling their name, generosity and hospitality. Singing, revelry, drinking, and adultery were part and parcel of the festivities. The thought of God scarcely occurred to anybody.

Perverse Rites

Tawaf (Circumambulation of the Ka`bah) did continue, it is true; but in what form? Men and women walked together around God’s House stark naked, saying, “We go before God just as our mothers gave birth to us”.

Worship also continued to be performed in the mosque of Ibrahim, but again, in what form? By clapping hands, by whistling and by blowing horns. The name of God was proclaimed, but with what words? They said: “Here am I, my Lord, I am present. No one is Your partner except the one who is Yours. You are its master, of whatever it possesses”.

They did make sacrifices in the name of God. But the blood of the sacrificial animals was spilt on the walls of the Ka`bah and their flesh thrown at its door in the belief that Allah needs that flesh and blood.

Sacrilege of Sacred Months

Ibrahim had declared four months of Hajj as sacred and had directed that no warfare should be waged in these months.

These people partially observed this sanctity; but if they wanted to fight during the sacred months, they simply declared Ibrahim’s ruling null and void for a particular period and added extra ‘holy months’ the following year.

Self-imposed Restrictions

Even those who were sincere towards religion were led into strange, excessive ways by their ignorance. Some people used to set out for Hajj without any provisions for the journey and lived by begging food. They considered this an act of piety, claiming that they had full trust in God and, while proceeding towards the House of God, had no need of worldly goods.

Doing business or working during the Hajj journey were generally considered unlawful. Many people gave up food and water during Hajj, and regarded this abstention as worship.

Others stopped speaking while on Hajj, which they called al-hajj al-mumit (the dumb Pilgrimage).

There were countless other customs of this type which I do not want to waste your time describing.

Restoration of Hajj

Fulfillment of Ibrahim’s Prayer

This situation lasted for about two thousand years. No prophet was born in Arabia during this long period nor did any prophet’s genuine teachings reach the people of Arabia.

Finally, however, the time arrived for granting Ibrahim’s prayer which he had made while raising the walls of the Ka`bah:

Our Lord! Do You send to them a Messenger, from among them, who shall convey unto them Your revelations, and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify and develop them. (Al-Baqarah 2:129)

The perfect man who descended from Ibrahim was Muhammad ibn `Abdullah (blessings and peace be on him).

Just as Ibrahim was born into a family of priests, so was Muhammad into a family which had been for centuries priests of the Ka`bah. Just as Ibrahim struck a blow with his own hands against the priesthood of his family, so did Muhammad finally eradicating it for good.

Again, just as Ibrahim strove to end the worship of false gods and bring people under submission to the One God, so did the Prophet Muhammad revive the same pure deen (religion) which had been introduced by Ibrahim.

After 21 years, when he had completed this work, once again, at God’s command, he declared the Ka`bah the center of all those in the world who surrendered to God alone and issued the same summons to the people to come to it for Hajj as had Ibrahim.

A duty owed to God by all men is the Pilgrimage to the House, if one is able to make his way there. And as for the disbeliever, God is All-sufficient, needing nothing from all the worlds.(Aal `Imran 3:97)

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The article is an excerpt from Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi’s book “Let Us Be Muslims”. 

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My Lifetime Journey

Ka`bah-Makkah

Not even the hardest of hearts could be left unmoved by the grace, simplicity, and majesty of the Ka`bah, which has been on this spot since the beginning of time itself.

 

When Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), the intimate friend of Allah, was commanded all those years ago to proclaim the pilgrimage to Makkah, he did so in faith. Standing in what was little more than a barren, inhospitable desert, he called out for men and women to come on pilgrimage to the holy Ka`bah at Allah’s command.

He was astonished at the response. From the north, south, east, and west, he heard voices calling out, “I respond to Your call, O Allah! I respond to Your call,” and people began to come from all the corners of the earth in praise of Almighty Allah.

Thousands of years later, people are still coming from every corner of the globe to worship at Allah’s command. I have just returned from performing `Umrah, the lesser pilgrimage for the first time, and I share these thoughts with my Muslim brothers and sisters to encourage their faith and that Allah’s name be glorified even more.

But what can I say? How can I describe an experience so profound and so beautiful? Shall I say that it was the most blessed experience of my life? Shall I say that Almighty Allah touched my heart and gave me a feeling of peace I had not known before?

Shall I describe the tears that flowed freely from my eyes, affirming my Muslim faith, as I walked around the holy Ka`bah with thousands of others, begging Allah’s blessings for myself and for those I love? Perhaps the best way is just to start at the beginning, and to allow Almighty Allah to use my poor words as He wants.

Preparing for any journey is, in many ways, almost as important as the journey itself. As I prepared for my journey to Makkah, my heart already began to stir at the enormity of what I was about to do.

I had read all the books and consulted all the manuals so that my `Umrah, in sha’ Allah, would be accepted. I learned the prayers in Arabic that I would need to say at different parts of the pilgrimage.

Good Muslim brothers had told me not to worry too much about all this, because it would be my heart that would speak when I reached the holy Ka`bah. I know that Almighty Allah has placed within the heart of every Muslim a deep longing to visit Makkah, to return home to where we belong, to that first house built on Earth in worship of Allah.

Some say that it was Prophet Adam (peace and blessings be upon him) who first built the Ka`bah. Others suggest it was first built by angels beneath the throne of Allah in heaven. Others still attribute the first building of the Ka`bah to Prophet Idris (peace be upon him). Whatever its origins, we know that over time this first building fell into disrepair and ruin and that by the time of Prophet Ibrahim, there was nothing left of it except a small mound of earth. Allah commanded Prophet Ibrahim and his first-born son Ismail (peace be upon them both) to rebuild the Ka`bah.

I had written all these things before and had a good knowledge of the history of the Sacred House, but now it was real to me. This time I was leaving my home in Cairo, wearing the simple white garments of Ihram.

Upon leaving, I was showered with good wishes and prayers by family and friends who so happy for me as I prepared for the journey of a lifetime. Even during the drive to the airport and the arrival at the airport itself, many Muslims showed on their faces the delight they felt at seeing a brother setting off to perform `Umrah.

What a blessed religion is ours, that brothers and sisters we don’t even know should care for us so much! Throughout the journey, I was repeating in Arabic those sweet words which Prophet Ibrahim, first heard all those years ago as follows:

“I respond to Your call, O Allah!

I respond to Your call and I am obedient to Your orders.

You have no partner.

I respond to Your call.

All the praises and the blessings are for You.

All the sovereignty is for You.

And You have no partners with You.”

As the plane took off, I said these words. As we flew across the Red Sea and landed in Jeddah, I continued to say them. As I said them, my heart filled with excitement as I traveled by car through the Makkan hills and approached the city. More tears came as I arrived in Makkah and saw the sanctuary for the first time from a distance.

But nothing can describe the feeling of entering the sacred mosque and seeing the holy Ka`bah. I was choking with tears, the mosque left me breathless and filled me with an immense joy. Not even the hardest of hearts could be left unmoved by the grace, simplicity, and majesty of the Ka`bah, which has been on this spot since the beginning of time itself.

I kept telling myself that in this very place our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) walked and prayed, as well as countless millions of other good Muslims through the centuries.

And so I performed the rituals of `Umrah, my heart beating with joy and tears running down my cheeks. For something so profound, the rituals were really very simple. They basically involved walking around the Ka`bah seven times and then running or walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, in imitation of that desperate search for water made by Hagar, which culminated in the spring of Zamzam gushing from the ground. Our beloved Prophet taught us to say just one prayer as we encircle the Ka`bah as follows:

“May Our Lord grant us blessings in this life,

Blessings in the life to come,

And save us from the torment of the hell-fire.”

All of this seemed like a dream. While my lips were saying what I had learned to say, my mind was racing with thoughts and my heart was pouring out everything within it. I had come to the very center of the world in response to the call of Allah. What love He shows to us, and yet how ungrateful we are. What blessings He showers upon us each day, and yet how slow we are to respond to the call of the adhan and to utter His praises.

We can gladly spend hours sitting in front of a television set or talking idly on a mobile phone, and yet we hardly find the time to spend a few minutes in prayer, even though our life in the hereafter depends on it.

The experience of `Umrah or Hajj is like a piercing sword. It cuts through all the rubbish we surround ourselves with and it shows us our lives in their real perspective – we come from Allah and it is to Allah that we will return. The experience of `Umrah is also like being soaked in love. Our heartfelt response is one of thanks.

In Madinah

As if all this were not enough, most pilgrims usually finish their pilgrimage to Makkah by spending a few days in Madinah, the city of our beloved Prophet and the first Muslim state ever. In Madinah, the mosque was at the center of the city and Allah was at the center of every Muslim’s life.

I finished my own pilgrimage in the same way, walking the very paths trod by Allah’s Messenger and falling in prostration on the ground in the same places where he prayed. I met Muslims from almost every nation on earth and was welcomed to the city by Muslims for whom Islam is everything.

If Makkah, then, is the place of powerful emotions that shake a person to the core, Madinah is truly the city of peace. The Prophet’s Mosque is a place of calm and quiet. With its salmon-colored walls, grey and cream Moorish arches, and its floors and pillars of white, polished marble, the mosque is breathtakingly beautiful.

Although it is immense and holds thousands at a time for prayer, the Prophet’s Mosque is a place of peace. The gentle personality and the presence of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is everywhere. Madinah is such a privileged place to end one’s journey of a lifetime.

Now that I am home, the real challenge of living out my `Umrah begins. It is not difficult to pray for long periods of time and to focus all your thoughts on Islam when you are looking at the Ka`bah or are near the final resting place of Allah’s final messenger to mankind. The routine of daily life, though, with all its distractions, is less easy.

I cherish the memories of those days in Saudi Arabia in my heart, and I say al-hamdu lillah (praise be to God). I pray that Almighty Allah will give me the strength to be a good Muslim. I pray that I will always be prompt and faithful to prayer. I pray that I will now learn and recite more of the Qur’an every day.

And, after the experience of a lifetime, I pray that I will always give good examples to my Muslim brothers and sisters, and that I can show to non-Muslims how sweet and beautiful the message of Islam is. Ameen.

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Source: idristawfiq.

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Hajj: Its Meaning and Position from the Qur’an

ka`bah_Makkah

The House, itself, is not to be taken as an object of worship: it is simply a place for worshipping the One.

Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): “Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways; that they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed ones in want. Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House”. (Al-Hajj 22:26-29)

Perform the pilgrimage and the visit (to Makkah) for Allah. And if you are prevented, then send such gifts as can be obtained with ease, and shave not your heads until the gifts have reached their destination. And whoever among you is sick or has an ailment of the head must pay a ransom of fasting or almsgiving or offering. And if you are in safety, then whosoever contents himself with the visit for the pilgrimage (shall give) such gifts as can be had with ease. And whosoever cannot find (such gifts), then a fast of three days while on the pilgrimage, and of seven when you have returned; that is, ten in all. That is for him whoso folk are not present at the inviolable place of worship. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is severe in punishment.

The pilgrimage is (in) the well-known months, and whoever is minded to perform the pilgrimage therein (let him remember that) there is (to be) no lewdness nor abuse nor angry conversation on the pilgrimage. And whatsoever good you do Allah knows it. So make provision for yourselves (Hereafter); for the best provision is to ward off evil. Therefore keep your duty unto Me, O men of understanding.

It is no sin for you that you seek the bounty of your Lord (by trading). But, when you press on in the multitude from `Arafat, remember Allah by the sacred monument. Remember Him as He hath guided you, although before you were of those astray.

Then hasten onward from the place whence the multitude hastens onward, and ask forgiveness of Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

And when you have completed your devotions, then remember Allah as you remember your fathers or with a more lively remembrance. But of mankind is he who says: “Our Lord! Give unto us in the world,” and he has no portion in the Hereafter.

Remember Allah through the appointed days. Then whoso hastens (his departure) by two days, it is no sin for him, and whoso delays, it is no sin for him; that is for him who wards off (evil). Be careful of your duty to Allah, and know that unto Him ye will be gathered. (Al-Baqarah 2:203)

Pilgrimage, an important religious duty in Islam, is described at length in the Qur’an, as is evident from the two passages quoted above. Some of the points addressed include: the House of Allah (the Ka`bah) and its credentials, how the Prophet Abraham (peace and blessings be upon him) proclaimed Pilgrimage and the response to it down the ages, the benefits of pilgrimage, and how it represents the essence of all other acts of devotional worship in Islam, especially the spirit of piety and surrender to Allah pervading every aspect of pilgrimage.

The Qur’anic passage opens with placing pilgrimage in its historical context. At Allah’s directive and at the site identified by Him, the Prophet Abraham constructed the Ka`bah, the House of Allah, and hence its special, hallowed status.

Nonetheless, this account is immediately followed by a condemnation of polytheism in any form. It appears that the above note is intended to clarify beyond any shadow of doubt that the Ka`bah owes its exalted position only in view of its close association with Allah.

The structure of the Ka‘bah itself has no sanctity of its own. It is Allah the One True God, not the Ka`bah, which is to be worshipped. As for keeping it clean and pure, the directive has both a literal and a figurative sense, clear of all material and spiritual filth – for all true worshippers of the One Universal God.

Furthermore, the House, itself, is not to be taken as an object of worship: it is simply a place for worshipping the One.

After the Prophet Abraham had constructed the Ka`bah and ensured that only the One True God would be worshipped there, Allah directed him to issue a general proclamation, asking people to visit the Ka`bah.

In his “The Glorious Qur’anDaryabadi, a famous Indian Muslim writer and exegete of the Qur’an, pertinently draws attention to the fact that this proclamation was made thousands of years ago, before the era of the press, the post, the telegraph, the wireless, the radio, television and other such paraphernalia of modern publicity and propaganda that mankind has been responding to during all these centuries, by performing the pilgrimage in their tens and hundreds of thousands every year!

Amid the various acts of worship prescribed in Islam, Hajj stands out above others in many respects. That the performance of Hajj provides an opportunity to pilgrims “to witness the benefits to them” is a special feature of Hajj. The above point is made in Allah’s directive, asking mankind to perform Hajj:

And proclaim unto mankind the pilgrimage. They will come unto you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine, that they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He has bestowed upon them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor unfortunate. (Al-Hajj 22:27, 28)

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The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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Hajj: For Every Act There Is a Benefit

 

Tawaf_Makkah

The sense of liberation and purgation is enhanced by the immediate environment and constant mention of Allah which form part of Hajj.

The benefits accruing to pilgrims are numerous and varied; religious, financial, social, political and intellectual. Down the millennia pilgrims have witnessed these benefits. This truth comes out at its sharpest in their numerous narratives and travelogues.

There is hardly a pilgrim who returns home without experiencing some of these benefits. It is commonplace that each act of worship has its own benefits. However, the benefits gained from Hajj are, relatively speaking, much more palpable and pronounced, observable to both pilgrims and non-pilgrims.

Winning Allah’s pleasure is, of course, its greatest benefit, which cannot be matched by any other gain imaginable. Accordingly, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) clarified that on accomplishing Hajj a pilgrim is akin to a new-born baby in being pure and sinless.

Amazingly enough, the moment one intends to perform Hajj, a sea change sets in one’s mindset, psychological make-up; in sum, on one’s entire outlook on life and benefits start pouring in immediately. For Hajj represents, so to speak, the pervading spirit of all the prescribed acts of worship in Islam.

The constant mention and remembrance of Allah and chanting certain formulae during Hajj are the unmistakable hallmarks of dhikr (remembrance of Allah) which permeate Hajj. This mention of Allah at appointed times during the course of Hajj also captures the spirit of salah, which is incorporated into Hajj.

A set of certain restrictions, forbidding pilgrims the use of otherwise perfectly lawful and wholesome things during the state of ihram (consecration), reminds one readily of the prohibitions placed on one during the month-long fasting during Ramadan.

Taken in this sense, Hajj incorporates features which are special to fasting. The journey undertaken to perform Hajj, often entailing inconvenience and suffering, re-enacts the essential component of the Hijrah (migrating in the cause of Allah). For in both of these acts of worship one willingly undergoes discomfort and emotional, material and monetary loss for the sake of Allah.

By the same token, some features specific to Jihad (striving in Allah’s cause) also characterize Hajj as the pilgrim makes sacrifices related to both his body and belongings. It goes without saying that to perform Hajj the pilgrim incurs expenses. This reinforces the spirit underlying zakah that man is only a trustee over the material resources endowed on him by Allah and that he should spend in consonance with Allah’s directives. Animal sacrifice, another prescribed act of worship in Islam, happens to be one of the major rites of Hajj itself.

Viewed thus, Hajj displays the quintessence of all the main acts of worship in Islam; prayer, fasting, zakah, hijrah, jihad and dhikr. One may therefore, maintain that this single act of worship, Hajj, renews in one the spirit pervading several acts of worship which is a benefit beyond all measure.

Furthermore, each rite of Hajj is characterized by many benefits which have both functional and catalytic value. The donning of ihram makes one realize paradoxically both the importance and worthlessness of clothes, of which one is habitual since birth. Clothes invest one with identity; individual, social and ethnic. Cloth is doubtless one of Allah’s major bounties bestowed on man.

At Allah’s command however, one stops using one’s traditional clothes during the state of ihram. This amounts, in a sense, to removing an artificial barrier to the unity of mankind. Pilgrims dressed in frugal ihram display the essential sameness of mankind, cutting across distinctions of social class, financial status and ethnic origin.

The strong individuality exhibited, rather reinforced by one’s preferential clothes, is instantly replaced by the awe-inspiring unity of mankind, with each one of the millions of pilgrims, assembled every year during the Hajj period, represented only as an obedient servant of Allah. Ihram thus instructs one in the ideal of mankind’s unity, which has assumed greater importance and relevance in today’s conflict-riven and disunited world.

More importantly, the donning of ihram places certain restrictions on one, ranging from refraining from sexual relations with one’s wife to hunting or wearing perfume, etc. This further infuses and strengthens a spirit of self-restraint. A pilgrim in ihram is not allowed to kill even an insect. He is not to indulge in fighting, obscenity or evil. Avoiding aggression and controlling animal instincts are thus the benefits arising out of donning ihram.

Talbiyah (chanting during Hajj) is of immense benefit for the pilgrim. At one level, it facilitates the bonding between man and Allah, between the creature and the Creator. At another, it helps one discover one’s true self – of wholesale surrender to the Supreme Lord.

One’s sense of proximity with Allah is further heightened by the sacred locale of Hajj sites. The House of Allah and other structures and places with thousands of years of rich history and their association with such august figures as Allah’s Messengers, from the Prophets Abraham and Muhammad (peace be upon them) to the latter’s Companions, make one inhale and imbibe the sense of the sacred and sublimate one spiritually and emotionally.

At the same time, this grand setting humbles one, making one all the more conscious of one’s failings and lapses in being true and faithful to one’s covenant with one’s Lord. Psychologically and morally it brings such benefits which a pilgrim treasures throughout his life.

The talbiyah and Hajj-setting help a pilgrim release and ennoble his feelings, especially towards his Creator and Lord. The sense of liberation and purgation is enhanced by the immediate environment and constant mention of Allah which form part of Hajj.

The visit to Haram (the Sacred Mosque) further heightens the sense of the hallowed and the sacred. It is innate in human nature to exteriorize, objectify and perceive the sacred with sense perception.

In Islam the sacred is abstract and rightly belongs to the domain of al-ghayb (the unseen which is beyond the realm of human sense perception). This natural desire on man’s part is, nonetheless gratified, to a certain degree, on seeing and going round the House of Allah, a concrete object yet enjoying such a close association with the sacred and the divine. The visit thus has a sublimating and exhilarating effect on the pilgrim’s spirit. Needless to add, this benefit is not obtainable anywhere else.

Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is on record as saying that a prayer offered within the precincts of the Sacred Mosque is equivalent to one thousand prayers offered in any other mosque. This benefit of Hajj is too great to be disregarded by any Muslim.

Tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka`bah) broadens and reinforces one’s spiritual benefits. This rite draws the pilgrim into the proximity of the sanctum sanctorum. Standing near the Ka`bah, praying at the spot on which the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) had once stood, visiting the Zamzam well and drinking its water, and performing Sa`i between Safa and Marwah all being part of the rites of Hajj, help the pilgrim re-enact sacred history.

This benefit, once again, is special to Hajj. While regarding himself as part of the grand tradition, the pilgrim gains firm religious conviction. In other words, revivification of faith is one of the great benefits of Hajj.

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The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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Sunnah Acts in Hajj

By Dr. Ali Gomaa

Tawaf_Makkah

After a pilgrim completes Tawaf Al-Ifadah at Makkah, he returns to Mina on Yawm An-Nahr where it is recommended for him to stay until he finishes stoning on the last day of Tashriq.

In efforts to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet, our exemplar; his sayings and deeds, it is worth to note and follow some particular acts he (peace be upon him) performed during Hajj.

So what are these sunnahs (the specific Prophetic acts of worship) related to Hajj?

1 & 2: Bathing and Using Perfume before Assuming Ihram

Before assuming ihram, it is recommended for a person who intends to perform Hajj or `Umrah to pare his nails, trim his moustache, comb his hair, and shave his armpits and pubic hair and the like.

When a pilgrim wishes to enter ihram, it is recommended (even for a woman in a state of menstruation or postnatal bleeding) to bathe, intending to bathe for ihram. The period between bathing and assuming ihram must be brief and its duration is determined by convention; at present it is 12 hours.

3- The Talbiyah

The Talbiyah (saying labbayka Allahumma labbayk) is a sunnah without which a pilgrim’s hajj or `Umrah is still valid and omitting it does not entail any consequences. However, a pilgrim misses a great virtue by neglecting it.

4- Tawaf Al-Qudum

It is desirable to perform Tawaf Al-Qudum for anyone who enters Makkah for Hajj, `Umrah or any other reason, for someone who has assumed ihram from al-hill (non-sacred place i.e. any place outside the Makkan Precinct) or even for someone who is not in a state of ihram.

It is likewise recommended for a pilgrim who does not fear missing standing at `Arafat due to time constraints, as for instance one who enters Mecca some time before dawn of Yawm An-Nahr (Day of Sacrifice) or a pilgrim who does not perform `Umrah before Hajj while in Al-Haram (Sacred Sanctuary). It is recommended for such a person who has performed `Umrah before Hajj and then exited Al-Haram to repeat Tawaf Al-Qudum.

5- Spending the Eve of `Arafat at Mina

After arriving at Mina on the afternoon of the Day of Tarwiyah (8th of Dhul-Hijjah), a pilgrim is to spend the rest of the day there. It is recommended that he spend the eve of 9th of Dhul-Hijjah there until he prays Fajr. He is then to leave Mina on the 9th  of Dhul-Hijjah after sunrise and proceed to `Arafat.

6- Spending the Night at Muzdalifah

After standing at `Arafat in the recommended manner until sunset, he is to proceed to Muzdalifah. It is recommended for him to stay there for at least the time it takes him to deposit his luggage and then join the Maghreb and `Isha’ Prayers at the time of `Isha’.

It is recommended for him to have something to eat and drink and spend the eve of 10th of Dhul-Hijjah there. It is likewise recommended that he pick seven pebbles from Muzdalifah to stone Jamrat Al-`Aqabah, also called Al-Jamrah Al-Kubra (the last and largest stone pillar) after he leaves for Mina.

7- Supplicating at Al-Mash`ar Al-Haram

It is recommended for a pilgrim to spend the rest of the night of 10th of Dhul-Hijjah at Muzdalifah and then leave for Al-Mash`ar Al-Haram after Fajr Prayer to make supplications and invocations until the day lightens considerably.

8- Spending the Nights of the Days of Tashriq at Mina

After a pilgrim completes Tawaf Al-Ifadah at Makkah, he returns to Mina on Yawm An-Nahr where it is recommended for him to stay until he finishes stoning on the last day of Tashriq (13th of Dhul-Hijjah).

It is well noted that Tawaf Al-Ifadah, which is also called Tawaf Az-Ziyarah (Tawaf of visiting), takes place after the standing in `Arafat, on the day of Al-Adha or after it. It is one of the pillars or essential parts of the Hajj.

If he is in a hurry to leave, he spends two nights at Mina and then goes to Mecca before sunset of the second day of Tashriq (12th Dhul-Hijjah). If he is not in a hurry, it is recommended that he spends three nights at Mina.

The opinion stating that spending the days of Tashriq at Mina is a sunnah, is the one maintained by Hanafi scholars and is likewise the opinion implemented for fatwa.

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Source: ali-gomaa.

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Murad Hofmann’s Journey to Makkah

 

Ka`bah_Makkah

The Ka`bah appears like the motionless center of a giant disc in a slow and silent counter clockwise revolution.

We stopped briefly in Makkah in order to circumambulate the Ka`bah one more time (Tawaf Al-Qudum), this time under the scorching sun.

Just like many other pilgrims, I tried to protect myself with an umbrella, but this proved utterly impossible lest you risk gouging out someone’s eye, or losing your own.

In the yard of the huge mosque, on the level of the Ka`bah, everything became completely grid-locked, so I escaped up to the first storey of the shaded gallery. In return I had to put up with a wider radius.

Circling the Ka`bah seven times up there meant covering a distance of 3.5 miles, and that in 110ºF heat. If his focus is right, to a pilgrim everything comes easy. Someone who was walking by my side even covered the entire distance with his little son on his shoulders!

The view from the first storey was absolutely mesmerizing and of striking aesthetic power. The Ka`bah appears like the motionless center of a giant disc in a slow and silent counter clockwise revolution.

The scene changes only at prayer times: At this point, the Ka`bah becomes the center of concentric circles made up of 40,000 or more shining white bodies who want the same, seek the same, do the same – and thus comes to symbolize total submission on a global scale. Multi-storeyed structures circumscribe the inner court of the mosque, with the Ka`bah at dead center.

Everything is dominated by sumptuous, sometimes green marble. Seven gigantic minarets in Indo-Islamic style are the connecting elements that hold the Ka`bah in its setting like a precious gem. I had to tear myself away – or miss the bus altogether.

After 45 minutes on the bus we finally arrived in the valley of Mina, which is only a little more than 3 miles from Makkah. Mina was going to be our jumping-off point for the Day of `Arafah. And what lets us know what the Day of `Arafah is all about?

“Hajj is `Arafah”, so says the Prophet, and `Arafah is Hajj. There are only a few parallel roadways connecting Mina or Makkah to `Arafah, and more than two million pilgrims are transported over a distance of about 6 to 10 miles on as many as 50,000 buses. They both cause and suffer a truly awesome, unprecedented traffic chaos that could easily qualify for the Guinness Book of Records.

When we finally arrived in the tent city erected around the Mount of `Arafah, the air was glimmering with heat – 120ºF in the shade, which makes it considerably more than 130ºF in the sun! And not a whiff of a breeze in the air.

The neighboring tent belonged to none other than Sheikh Mahfoud Nahnah from Algiers. It became a long and wonderful day of contemplation, reflection, of prayers, and invaluable conversations. Never since my boyhood days, during Jesuit retreat exercises had I possessed this inner certainty of a clear spiritual focus on God.

The Best Day of the Year

The Day of `Arafah is nothing but dialogue with Him. Such is the embodiment of our constant cry: “Here I stand before you, our God!” – Labbayka, Allahuma, labbayk! This, therefore, is the meaning of “tarrying” (wuquf) before God on the plane of `Arafah.

Millions of people, wrapped in burial shrouds, leave everything behind on this day, exist only for God, embrace their mortality, and go on pleading and praying with a degree of fervor and confidence never achieved before – and hardly ever after.

It is the custom to stay in `Arafah until just after sunset, only to hurry off down the 4.5 mile stretch toward Muzdalifah. There was such a rush and confusion that the professor and I had lost our bus. Wandering around among hundreds of buses, we were looking for seats.

Suddenly, I noticed somebody waving me to approach him. It was a friend of mine, Muhammad Azmani, Morocco’s Minister of Industry and Trade. To run into him, in a crowd of two million people! That is how, at a time of crisis, I became a temporary, unofficial member of the official Moroccan Hajj delegation. First this tremendous rush, and now we found ourselves sitting on the stranded bus for a total of three hours, drenched in sweat, before it was able to crawl forward for all but three yards.

As usual, all the pilgrims must try to get to the same place at the same time. The traffic police attempted to intervene, but only succeeded in worsening the chaos. A few pilgrims were trying to take the direct route on foot, across the dark volcanic mountains, their forms contrasting off of the black rocks like lost and lonely white ghosts. Caught in stop and go traffic, we did not reach Muzdalifah – close but yet so far – until 11pm.

Led by an imam from Rabat, we were holding our evening and night prayers together, our sore knees resting on just those tiny but sharp pieces of gravel, the size of chick peas, from which we were to pick up 49 pebbles in order to be appropriately supplied for the rites of stoning (rajm), that were to take place on the following days. At about two o’clock in the morning our bus returned to Mina and stopped near one of the three pillars that were to be stoned.

The intention was to symbolize the final rejection of evil in oneself and also in the world around us. I pushed my way in close enough to hit the pillar with my pebbles, yet also maintained a safe distance to avoid getting caught in a hail of stones from behind. A group of little boys armed with scissors waited in front of our bus. Didn’t I say so?

Since we did not opt for shaving our heads, they at least wanted to cut off a lock for the sum of three riyals, as finally happened. After that, having fulfilled all our Hajj obligations, we could have left the status of ihram and with it stopped wearing our pilgrim’s attire. Instead, we found ourselves so elated that we were swept along in a kind of pious rapture. So before dawn we decided to hurry on to Makkah.

Now we had to walk around the Ka`bah another time, this time in the cover of night (Tawaf Al-Ifadah). At least 200,000 other pilgrims seemed, however, to have had the same brilliant idea and unaccountable energy reserves. Thus the pushing and shoving was even worse than last time.

As a result, the seven-fold circumambulation of “The House”, followed by the jogging and walking back and forth between al Safa and al Marwah, also for seven times, altogether took me a total of two exhausting hours.

It was 4:30 in the morning on the Day of Sacrifice, the 10th day of the month of pilgrimage, and we had to muster our last ounce of strength and composure in order to join 800,000 other believers for the Morning Prayer in the Great Mosque of Makkah, almost in a trance.

The quality of their voices, together with the perfection of their recitation distinguish the muezzins and the imams in the Haram of Makkah as the “crème de la crème”. Their chanting builds into a magnificent incantation of sublime artistic quality. In fact, their recitation of the Qur’an reaches the level of acoustic meditation. Shortly after six am, we had finally made it back to our guest house in Mina.

Homesick for Makkah

After being up and about for 26 hours, we felt emotionally and physically drained. My fellow pilgrims and I embraced each other, exclaiming “Hajj Mubarak! Hajj Maqbul!” (May your hajj be blessed and accepted).

Sheikh Nahnah was sobbing, delighted with my new status. On the third (and last) day, I went right after the Morning Prayer and all by myself, to discharge my duty of ritual stoning, for myself as well as my neighbor. In the streets, the first pilgrims were just beginning to rise from their makeshift beds. Even some street vendors were already up and about.

Combining Hajj with commerce has always been permissible. Many pilgrims are earning their trip back home by selling off whatever they brought from their native countries: ivory trinkets, silver jewelry, or fabrics. An Anatolian farmer crossed my path and asked rather casually: “Seytan nerede?” (Where is the devil?), as if he expected everybody to know this and speak Turkish to boot.

With a deadpan face I gave the correct directions – in Turkish – for him to find the pillar scheduled for stoning that day. Never before had I been able to locate the devil with such a degree of precision.

The next day we returned to Jeddah by way of Makkah where we performed the farewell Tawaf (Tawaf Al-Wada`). Since we arrived in time for the Afternoon Prayer, the mosque was bursting at the seams.

I decided to sit on the gallery for quite some time, eagerly soaking up the view of this incredibly beautiful mosque so that it would stay with me for a long time. I felt homesick for Makkah even before having left.

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Source: onislam.net.

The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Journey to Makkah”.

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Hajj: A Different Level of Existence

 

Ka`bah_Hajj

It brings to mind immediately the grand assembly before Allah at the end of time when each and every human being will be recompensed…

During Hajj the pilgrim imbibes the spiritual experience flowing from the role models of the Prophets Abraham, Ishmael and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon them) and of Hager. Each of them represents an illuminating model of wholesale surrender to Allah’s will, and of steadfastness, characterized by unflinching resolve and undoubting courage, in following the path prescribed by Him.

As the pilgrim observes the places associated with them, he discovers a new level of existence; of surrender to Allah’s commands. Taken in this sense, Hajj stands out as a salvific journey, facilitating the pilgrim’s quest for deliverance.

For as the pilgrim moves away from his mundane, worldly surroundings and moves on to the open and sacred center and witnesses first-hand the religious sacra, the doors of his/her perception are cleansed. Hajj thus has a tremendous transformative effect on the pilgrim, giving a marked measure of coherence, direction and meaning to life.

The standing at ‘Arafat in the company of millions of pilgrims displays the homogenization of the purpose of the journey and of status.

It brings to mind immediately the grand assembly before Allah at the end of time when each and every human being will be recompensed in proportion to the record of his/her deeds.

At another level, this grand gathering has effectual benefits. For this infuses a strong sense of brotherhood among all the pilgrims. This spectacle of Muslim fraternity cutting across ethnicities, polities, cultures and societies, brings into sharper relief the truth underlying the Qur’anic assertion about Hajj.

And recall when We appointed the House (the Ka`bah) a resort to mankind and a place of security… (Al-Baqarah 2:125)

Hajj embodies the virtuous inclination of the pilgrim’s will. It thus serves as an excellent opportunity for ennobling and sublimating one’s emotions and responses. As already hinted, Hajj trains pilgrims in exercising and developing self-restraint.

On the way to Hajj, the pilgrim may be afflicted with troubles which are sent by Allah to test his/her moral mettle. Apart from this, the restrictions flowing from donning ihram aim at imbuing the pilgrim with a whole array of moral values. Of these, the avoidance of aggression or controlling one’s animal instincts is to the fore.

The Qur’anic directives of Hajj are, significantly enough, tempered with exhortations for self-restraint, something which is pivotal to leading an excellent moral life. Take the following as an instance in point:

For Hajj are the months well known. So whoever undertakes that duty, let there be no obscenity, wickedness or wrangling during Hajj. And whatever good you do, Allah surely knows it. And take provision for the journey. Surely the best provision is piety. (Al-Baqarah 2:197)

Likewise, the command for animal sacrifice is followed by the precept denoting charity and fellow feeling … “Eat some of it and feed the needy and the poor,” (Al-Hajj 22:28). All lewdness in word and deed is forbidden.

Islam introduced this moral strain at a time when the visit to the Ka`bah during the pre-Islamic period was vitiated by obscenity. The above moral precepts are part of the Islamic code of conduct. These are nonetheless emphasized during Hajj as part of the pilgrim’s moral training.

The union of the separate but similar emotional and moral dispositions of pilgrims facilitates this effectual benefit. Through the strong sense of brotherhood and the common bonding of devotion to the same goal as also the moral tenor leaves an indelible imprint on the mind and soul of the pilgrim.

The convergence of pilgrims from all parts of the world, representative of a vast socio-economic catchment area, provides pilgrims with many associational benefits. Acquaintance and social contact with fellow believers revitalizes the sense of community and solidarity and opens up avenues for trade and commerce.

Furthermore, the exchange of views on a wide range of issues may be likened to a fresh blood supply in the Muslim polity. More rewarding is the interaction among the `ulamaa’ (scholars) and jurisprudents from different parts of the world. Hajj serves as an international gathering of members of various strata of society. It provides an excellent platform for da‘wah, its strategies, challenges and prospects.

Above all, it helps raise the morale of pilgrims as believers.

The benefits of Hajj are staggering, especially the salvific, associational and effectual ones. Little wonder then that the Qur’an makes a point of mentioning that Muslims should perform Hajj so as to witness the benefits accruing to them” (Al-Hajj 22:28).

Some of these benefits are recorded graphically in the travelogues of pilgrims of all times and places, especially of new Muslims. Even Orientalists, inimical to Islam, feel compelled to pay a glowing tribute to some of the benefits of Hajj, as is evident from the following extracts:

This great international gathering … is an impressive manifestation of the unity of the Muslim world, and serves to keep alive the feeling of brotherhood in Islam. The same thought is impressed upon those Muslims who have been unable themselves to make the pilgrimage in that on the very same day in which the sacrifices are being offered outside the city of Mecca, the faithful … are linked by bonds of sympathy with their more fortunate brethren in the sacred city.

In the same vein is the observation of a distinguished Western historian of Arabia:

Down through the ages this institution (Hajj) has continued to serve as the major unifying influence in Islam and the most effective common bond among the diverse believers. It rendered almost every capable Muslim perforce a traveler for once in his lifetime.

This socializing influence of such a gathering of the brotherhood of believers from the four quarters of the earth is hard to overestimate. It affords opportunity for Negroes, Berbers, Chinese, Persians, Syrians, Turks, Arabs – rich and poor, high and low, to fraternize and meet together on the common ground of faith.

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The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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Hajj: Seeing the Unseen

By Abdal Hakim Murad

Makkah at night

At once, memories long suppressed bubble up to the surface. The light of the Ka`bah makes us see our sins.

Everything in existence has a center; and if what matters to God is the worship of devoted Muslim souls, then the center of this terrestrial universe is surely the Ka`bah. No other place on earth is the magnetic center of so much piety, love, and yearning.

The Ka`bah represents, for the believing heart, the eternity of God, who we worship and serve and adore – utterly unlike any created being. He is the final mystery, around whose unimaginable throne the unimaginable angels turn. But as the pilgrim approaches the Ka`bah, the ‘Ancient House’, he knows through some mysterious symbolic logic in his heart that this is the truest representation of something – absolutely beyond representation or imagining.

Muslims are faithful to the second commandment: no graven images. Abraham, who broke his father’s idols and was expelled into the desert, came here to establish the purest sanctuary of the worship of the one true God. Later generations forgot this simplest of all commandments, and 300 statues were set up around the house that Abraham, together with his eldest son, built in this lonely valley.

When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) entered the city after 30 years in exile, he rode his camel around the shrine, and pointed with his staff to each ugly, shameful image. As he did so, each one fell forward on its face. And the Prophet raised his voice, reminding the world: “Truth has come, and falsehood has vanished; truly falsehood must ever pass away.”

Muslims, privileged heirs of the purest monotheism, are honored to bow towards the Ancient House five times in every day. The House thus becomes a great vortex of prayer. If one were to view this earth from above, with a light visible in the heart of every Muslim at prayer, one would see an endless series of luminous ripples and waves moving around the globe.

As the people of the West are increasingly honored by the presence of Islam, formerly dark regions are now filling up with points of light, as the absolute call of ‘No god but God’ is heard triumphantly in the spiritual ruins of materialistic cities.

Five times a day and more, the qiblah (direction of the Ka`bah) draws our attention away from what matters so much less. “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greater), means: turn towards the symbol of His unknowable, unfathomable, majestic unity and beauty.

As the Muslim stands to pray, rising above and beyond those who are trapped in their own desires, he pushes behind him everything that has made him forget God’s power and scrutiny and mercy. Sleep facing the qiblah; never relieve yourself facing the qiblah, die facing the qiblah, lie in your grave on your right side, facing the qiblah, awaiting the final call, which will raise you to life, just as the adhan (call for prayer) raised you from spiritual death in the world.

Such a place is held in fear and awe. But in our Abrahamic religion, we move towards that place, through our fear and awe, to find love and stillness. Where the greatest crowds on earth come together, we find peace. The faces of those who have just returned from Hajj reawaken the desire for the House in all who see them. “And truly with hardship comes ease.” (Al-Inshirah 94:6)

Abraham is told this: “And call people to Hajj! They will come on foot, on every lean beast, from every narrow ravine.” (Al-Hajj 22:27)

God commanded, and promised; and the Hajj shows how He honors His promises. The ‘valley without crops’ is sterile and austere, ringed by jagged peaks: Uqhuwana, Khandama, Thawr, Hira’.

The culmination of Hajj, at `Arafat, is the simplest and most ancient of rituals: simply standing ‘where tears fall and prayers rise’, with two million broken hearts. The beauty is in the rigorous ancient austerity of the rites, but also in the faces of a thousand races, all filled, as the sun sets, with the light of knowledge, and the hope for forgiveness.

The city draws in these lovers of God each year, and then sends them home, like a heart pumping blood through the body. Most pilgrims have not come before, and as they approach, chanting the reply to God’s command to Abraham: ‘At Your service, here I am!’, their hearts begin to melt at the unfamiliar sights and rituals.

Stripping away all their pretentiousness, they wind on the ihram, as though ready for the grave and its questioning angels. At once, memories long suppressed bubble up to the surface. The light of the Ka`bah makes us see our sins, and as we look within we are horrified by what we see. Forgetfulness, stupidity, laziness, cruelty, and more, in sins repeated year after year. Wrongs never put right, hearts still unhealed, come to mind painfully.

The entry to the city is a time of fear, for there is no fear greater than that we might go to our graves unforgiven. The forms of Hajj must be obeyed; but acceptance is God’s alone and is not in our power.

‘Here I am’, and the pilgrim stands before the House of God. The mood of Madinah is jamal (beauty); but the mood of Makkah is jalal (rigour). The Ka`bah seems like an optical illusion, growing vast and majestic as one approaches, the eye disoriented by the velvet blackness of its coverings. Everyone seems to be talking – but the voices are of men and women engrossed in private prayer.

While walking around the House, there are no set formulas, one speaks what comes to the heart. Qur’anic verses, prayers and litanies of the Prophet, or words of contrition of one’s own devising: all may be heard. Some pilgrims are in tears. And at the most highly-charged place of all, the Multazam, beside the golden door, the atmosphere of hope, fear, love and yearning, cannot be described.

“The accepted Hajj has no reward other than Paradise” (Al-Albani), the hadith tells us. The Hajj is a purgation: uncomfortable and physically exhausting. Following the rules crushes the ego.

Once round the Ka`bah can take an hour, but the pilgrim must circle it seven times. The crowds are immense, the heat staggering, the accommodation basic. Many who find a scrap of cardboard on which to sleep consider themselves fortunate. But at the end: a new birth, as the successful pilgrim ‘leaves his sins behind like a newborn child.’

Part of the spiritual power of the Hajj lies in its inculcation of wisdom. We may return to many of our ugly habits. But the memory of a sudden encounter with the ‘clear signs of God’, and of the power of repentance, stays with the pilgrim, as a reminder of the urgency of our need to remain pure of heart, and close to our Lord. Often, decades later, a memory of the Hajj can pull a sinful man or woman out of apparently hopeless vice. In that sense, the Hajj never comes to an end.

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Source: Emel Magazine.

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Former Anti-Islam Advocate, Arnoud van Doorn, in Hajj

Arnoud van Doorn

“I found myself among these faithful hearts”.

A new Muslim now, the once strident Islamophobe, who produced an offensive film about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), was among the great Muslim gathering of Hajj this year.

Since his spectacle conversion to Islam a year ago, Arnoud van Doorn, former leader of the far-right Dutch Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) and a former anti-Islam activist, has become a dedicated follower of the very religion and the Prophet he harshly antagonized before, even becoming an inspiring example of a devoted Muslim.

Van Doorn bitterly regrets having taken part in the production and creation of the derogatory film Fitna (Sedition), declaring that his visit to the holy sites is just a little atonement for his sins.

“I hope that my tears of regret will wash out all my sins after my repentance”, Van Doorn told Saudi Gazette.

About the peace and tranquility he found during the soul-searching journey he articulated: “I found myself among these faithful hearts”.

A Thing of the Past

Van Doorn was among party leaders who helped produce the offensive film that linked Islam and the Qur’an to terrorism and violence.

But after worldwide Muslim outrage the movie provoked, and with the intention of producing another anti-Islam film, Doorn took to read and learn more about the Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him), before becoming spiritually inspired by divine religion and later embracing it.

As a token of atonement, Von said he will produce a new film that will unfold the truth about essence of Islam and the correct noble personality of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Now he described Fitna as a blind hostility and totally wrong image which contained a lot of misleading and incorrect information that had nothing to do with the great divine and peaceful religion or its great Prophet.

“I felt ashamed standing in front of the Prophet’s grave. I thought of the grave mistake which I had made by producing that sacrilegious film”, he said.

“I hope that Allah will forgive me and accept my repentance.”

Unmatchable Joy in a Whole New Life

Doorn said that since his arrival in this holy land, he has been living the best days of his life, planning to spend more time in Madinah.

Doorn’s visit to the holy lands in Makkah and Madinah is not the first as, after his conversion, he had come to Saudi Arabia in February to perform `Umrah, where he met the two imams of the Prophet’s Mosque, Sheikh `Ali Al-Hudhaifi and Sheikh Salah Al-Badar, and where he acquainted himself more closely with the basics and rites of Islam.

“I find tranquillity inside my heart when I am near the Prophet Mohamed’s tomb,” he then said.

He was given sermons by the two imams on how to lead the life of a good Muslim and confront challenges facing Islam in the West.

“I will spare no efforts to protect the rights of Muslims in all European countries as well as to serve Islam and its followers throughout the world. I will try my best to repair the damage that I caused to Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him) through the film ‘Fitna’,” he said then.

“I will use all my experience in producing an alternative film, which will speak about the true image of Islam and all aspects of the personality of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as well as his great qualities.”

About his Hajj experience the joy he felt for being in the holy city of Madinah, Doorn posted different tweets reflecting his feelings during Hajj.

“Prayer in the Sacred Rawda #Madinah,” Doorn said in a tweet.

“I’m not complaining about crowds at the Market on Saturday #Jamarat”

“Inspiring meeting with the Imam of The Prophets Masjid His Excellency Ali Al-Hudayfee,” he said in another tweet.

Expressing how Islam impacted his entire life Van said:

“Islam has filled the emotional void I have long desperately felt. I missed many things before embracing Islam,” Arnoud was quoted by Okaz.

“My previous life was futile and aimless.”

But, ”now with Islam, many things have changed” in his life, he added.

That’s why he decided to perform the Hajj; “to seek repentance and forgiveness from Allah.”

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Source: Saudi Gazette and Agencies

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