Taking The Ritual Of Haj One Step Further

27 November 2016

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

THESE are the twilight days as millions of Muslims from across the globe gathered in Makkah and its vicinity to partake in the annual Haj ritual. The pilgrimage will soon be over, and many will begin their journey back to their hometowns from today onward. The pilgrims from both sexes came in all colors. They are white and black; yellow and brown; pink and all other colors in the hue spectrum of human complexion. The pilgrims understand that the sacrament that they had set upon is not simply one of donning an Ihram (plain white and unsown pieces of cloth for men) and perfunctorily going through the motions.

How opportunistic it would have been for the cause of Islam to have diehard Islamophobes witness for themselves up close and personal what these pilgrims have been up to. They have not gathered in Makkah to declare war on anyone. They have not come with the aim of recruiting forces to spread terrorism. There are no sermons exhorting violence and mayhem against the rest of mankind. Instead, it is a peaceful personal journey for one and all, and a journey whose foundation is harmony and acceptance of all of God's things.

Haj in its most basic meaning translates as an act ''to continuously strive to reach one's goal.'' It is the last of the five pillars of Islam. We were all nations of different colors and races believing in one God and one humanity. While all the great religions state that humans are more than mere physical creatures in that we possess an essence beyond the material world, in Islam Haj summarizes this spiritual journey toward this essence. Haj is unquestionably the most demanding of all Islamic rituals, and the Prophet (pbuh) said: ''Whoever performs Haj to this house Kaaba and does not commit any obscenity and wrongdoing, he, or she, will come out as the day he, or she, was born pure and free from sins.''

During these days of worship, pilgrims seized the opportunity to correct their faults, to sincerely atone for their worldly sins and make up for any shortcomings or wrongdoings of their past. Deeply engrossed in prayers, the pilgrims prayed for Allah's mercy. The conglomeration of millions of Muslims rising above geographical, linguistic, level of practice, cultural, ethnic, color, economic, and social barriers who converge in unison in Makkah is a tribute to the universality of the Haj.

An Islamic scholar in describing the experiences of Haj said it could be overwhelming. ''Imagine yourself stepping on the same land where Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to step and going through valleys and mountains wherein he used to receive the divine revelation. It gives you another perspective of how much he and his Companions did suffer in order to get this message communicated to us in its most perfect and purest form.''

The rigors that pilgrims had just completed were not simply mindless exercises prescribed in textbooks for them to blindly follow, and then carry home as a plaque of ''being there.'' The gathering of such a large and diverse group of Muslims was also to strengthen and renew bonds across many borders and their diverse inhabitants.

In his last Haj sermon, the Prophet (pbuh) advised those present to convey the meaning and message of the rituals they had just performed to those who were absent from this great assembly. Thus a pilgrim's journey does not end simply with the termination of the rituals he or she has completed.

Pilgrims now carry the responsibility of conveying the message and practice of peace back to their homelands irrespective of faith. Islam is all about tolerance.

It is crucial in today's times that the real meaning of Islam is promoted far and wide by returning pilgrims and especially to people of other faiths. Islam has taken an unfair pasting in much of the non-Islamic media thanks to the vicious and depraved acts of thugs and terrorists posing as Muslims going about killing and blowing up people. Islam is far removed from such activity and that is the message that must be broadcast to those who view Muslims and their intentions with suspicion.

Yes dear Hajis, dedicate yourselves to the true meaning of Islam, a religion of peace. Spread this message of amity and goodwill with vigor upon your return back to your lands and people. Let your non-Muslims friends, neighbors and co-workers know why you undertook the journey, what you saw and what you gained. And above all, make them understand that it was all about peace.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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