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The Pilgrims Return – What message do they bring?

Azher Quader

azherquader@yahoo.com

Aug 14, 2019

Today was the final day when the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia left Mina after their 5 day stay there, to return to Mecca for their farewell tawaf before heading home. As we congratulate them on the successful completion of this important obligatory duty in our faith, we are at once profoundly grateful to Allah (swt) for having made this journey safe and without incident for them.

These past few days at Mina, Arafat and Muzdalfa,   their acts of submission were in full display as they travelled from station to station in their journey of Hajj . This awesome show of unquestioning submission has little to compare with in the modern world  we live in, where no two people can feel comfortable to lock steps together for a few minutes leave alone for several days. There is a certain passion in the air all through this time, which is at once mystical and moving. There is a certain meditative peace and quiet that is amazingly present in the midst of all the bustling activity and hectic movement, which those who have experienced it once, may never forget.

Throughout our lives, our daily routines are often directed by reason. We weigh every act in the balance of benefits and consequences. Every activity however casual or insignificant has to meet our personal  demands for meaning and purpose. We are indeed by nature creatures of doubt, often guided by the arrogance of our imperfect wisdom.

All of that changes in Hajj though, as we let go our doubts to become submissive to His will and His Messenger’s ways. Allah commanded and the Prophet (pbuh) obeyed and showed us the way to obey. It was to be seven times not eight or nine or ten. There are to be no shoes, no shirts, no scented soaps. A day in Arafat praying under a hot sun, a night in Muzdalfa sleeping under a starry sky, a piece of towel wrapped around the middle and another thrown over the shoulder, pelting stones at granite walls for three days, there is no room for questions, only submission. Hajj is all about submission. And there is that added dimension for sacrifice from the story of prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) that is linked to it as well.

They say Hajj awakens our sense of unity too. That may however be a tall order. One obviously sees diversity. Muslims of so many colors and shades coming together from different regions of the world, is clearly an astonishing sight to see. But unity requires dialogue and time. Neither is available in Hajj where time for social interaction is usually  scarce.  We see them but we cannot hear them. Without language to communicate, real unity remains a far removed goal and an out of reach reality.

So here is the intriguing part of Hajj that begs reflection. If  over 2 million Muslims every year can find the ability to submit to His will during Hajj, why can’t we remain submissive to so many of His other commandments once we return from Hajj?

For starters, the practice of patience, the control of anger, the pursuit of austerity, the refrain from indulgence, the show of compassion. Never mind the bigger challenges of living lives of integrity, standing up for justice, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, serving the underserved, providing education that is free, eliminating the many injustices that plague our societies. Why is it that we are fully submissive in Hajj when we are dealing with mechanical practices but fail to be submissive beyond Hajj when the practices are less mechanical and more transformational of our lives and our societies?

So many of us go to Hajj with the comforting notion of getting our sins ‘washed away’. If that argument holds water (pardon the pun), there has to be an effort to remain clean following such a sin eliminating bath, right? For that too we need submission to the Divine will and the Prophetic way. Without that we are in a never ending cycle of going to Hajj repeatedly to wash away our sins, which clearly is not the command of the Quran. Sadly so many of our fellow Muslims look upon Hajj as a ‘Laundromat’, where they can go every year to get their sins washed away!

We are often reminded that Hajj rituals are reflective of the events in the life of prophet Ibrahim (pbuh). Here too we are so often quick to offer our submission to the mechanical practice of slaughtering animals and resist to make the real sacrifices when it comes to giving up the things we have come to love so dearly in our self-indulgent lives. Need we mention the many idols we worship, our wealth, our possessions, our comforts our tribal allegiances, our oversized national pride. Why again the disconnect between the mechanical and the meaningful? Submission to the mechanical without submission to the meaningful mocks the sincerity of the faith we claim to practice.

Just glance beyond this pillar of our faith and examine the other pillars we practice in the name of religion, and it may not be that difficult for us to see why our submission is so inadequate, our outcomes so obvious. Every day millions of us delight in the pursuit of the mechanical hoping to find salvation the easy way. Our beloved poet philosopher said it best in describing our condition:

“Tamadun, Tasawwuf, Shariat, Kalam

Butan-E-Ajam Ke Poojari Tamam!”

 

In culture, mysticism, canon law and dialectical theology—

He (the Muslim) worships idols of non-Arab make.

 

“Bujhi Ishq Ki Aag, Andhair Hai

Musalman Nahin, Raakh Ka Dhair Hai”

 

Gone out is the fire of love. Now there is just darkness!

The Muslim is a mere heap of ashes, nothing more.

___Iqbal

 

Yet when we are face to face with the Kaaba in Hajj, it is impossible not to see in our imagination, those who prayed around it some fourteen hundred years ago and submitted their lives to His will. For them submission was not a mechanical act but a real one that transformed them to become the trailblazers of history. It is impossible not to see them marching victorious into the courtyard of Kaaba, in full battle gear, after having suffered for years the atrocities of their neighbors, now willing to fight and die so others could live in peace without the oppression of fellow man.

How far have we come from that glorious moment in time and how far have we moved away from those earliest believers in the faith?  Iqbal again prays for such a change to happen that could be transformational in our lives.

“Sharab-E-Kuhan Phir Pila Saqiya

Wohi Jaam Gardish Mein La Saqiya!”

 

O Saaki,(reference to the Divine) serve us that old wine again,

Let that old cup go round once more.

 

“Jawanon Ko Soz-E-Jigar Bakhs De

Mera Ishq, Meri Nazar Bakhs De”

Endow the young with fervent souls;

Grant them my passion and my vision.

 

“Tarapne Pharakne Ki Toufeeq De

Dil-E-Murtaza(R.A.), Souz-E-Siddique(R.A.) De”

Give them the capacity to feel the pain (of others) and to struggle;

Give them the heart of Murtaza (Ali RA), the fervor of Siddiq (Abu Bakr RA).

___Iqbal

May Allah inspire the returning Hajis and the rest of us to a continuing life of submission and sacrifice, that could someday produce a future for us that gives us peace, prosperity and security as He has promised.

 

 

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