Hajj and the fight against racism

Imam Shamsi Ali berhaji
Imam Shamsi Ali



By Imam Shamsi Ali*

UPON reading the verses where Allah talks about hajj we will find that all those verses use the term “mankind” and not “believers” or “Muslims”. Allah for example says: “And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass -”

Allah also said: “And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way” (Al Imran: 97).

All these are telling us that hajj is truly the representation of the global and universal face of this diin and its followers. We have mentioned several times before that the whole concept of Islam is universal in nature. From the concept of God, to Muhammad, to Al-Qur’an, all are global in nature. Allah is Rabbul alamin and Rabbun naas, Muhammad is “kaafatan lin-naas” and “rahmatan lil-alamin”, and the Holy Qur’an is certainly “hudan lin-naas”.

Beside the universal nature of its teachings, the followers of this diin are also global and universal. In other words, Islam’s followers called Muslims are all types of people from diverse backgrounds. They are diverse in race, ethnicity, nationality, skin colors, cultures and also languages. From Indonesia to Morocco, and now from USA to New Zealand. Muslims are all over the world, deeply diverse but believe in one diin; Al-Islam.

This is one of the most important moral teachings we should learn from the ritual pilgrimage (hajj) which is an annual ritual performed by millions of Muslims from all over the world gathered in one place as one community for one purpose; seeking the pleasure of their Lord the Almighty.

Islam and the fight against racism

The obligation of hajj in Islam one of the important affirmations about how Islam not only teaches human equality, but In fact actively fights against one of the oldest human societal sicknesses called racism. Racism had existed since the beginning of human creation and has become one of the most dangerous human enemies of all times.

We learn from the holy Quran that when Allah created Adam, He commanded the angels to prostrate in respect of Adam (peace be upon him). Iblis was among the ranks (gathering) of the angels, and so he was included in the commandment (to prostrate). However, he rejected Allah’s order.

When Allah asked him “why he rejected to prostrate to Adam, he answered: “I am better than him. You (Allah) created me from the fire and you (Allah) created him from the clay”.

In other words, Iblis rejected Allah’s order to respect Adam for a physical or material reason. He turned arrogant because he assumed his physical creation from the fire is better that Adam’s from the clay. This arrogance on the basis of worldly (physical or material) matters is what racism is about. These days, some people feel superiority based on their skin color, ethnicity or race. As a result, division between people on the basis of race and/or skin colors had become deeper.

This was exactly the reality of the Arabs (especially those of Makkans). Those who considered themselves physically or materially superior enslaved those who were considered less in their race and physical realities. Human arrogance and oppression against one another turned the society into chaos and evil in nature.

Islam then came by the “bi’tsah” (appointment) of Muhammad (SAW) as the final prophet and messenger of Allah. He was sent to bring healing and solution to that human societal evil and sickness which unfortunately has continued throughout history. Western colonial powers, past and present, can not be separated from this evil. In fact, the Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands can not also be separated from this evil and sick mentality (racism).

All this should remind us of the final sermon (khutbah Al-wada’) of the Prophet Muhammad during his final pilgrimage (hijjatul wada’). He stood in front of his follower’s gathering and delivered that monumental sermon. Among the important points that he delivered was the sacredness of humans life and the urgency of ensuring the rights and honor of women.

But what’s more historic and memorable was his declaration of genuine human dignity and human equality. He said: “Indeed your Lord is One. Your father is one. All of you came from Adam. And Adam was created of clay”.

That powerful declaration underlined the fundamental rights of every human being, regardless of their ethnicity, race and skin colors, to be treated with all respect and honor and with equality. This prophetic commitment and declaration is in fact a very foundational teaching of Islam.

There are basic foundations in Islam that emphasize human dignity and equality. For example, Islam views all humans as essentially created from the same nature; namely clay. Islam also teaches that all humans came from a single soul (nafs wahidah); Adam is the human father that we all came from as it’s mentioned in the prophet’s sermon.

Islam on the one hand embraces the universal human family: we all were created from a single male and a female (Adam and Hawa). But on the other hand, it acknowledges the existence of diversity within that one human family (shu’ub wa qabaa-eel). Then it underlines the real basis of honor and dignity; namely piety or righteousness (taqwa).

We can talk on and on about this matter. But I just wanted to point out that it was during his final hajj that the Prophet of Islam proclaimed the declaration of Human dignity and human equality. And remember, this was in the 6th century. The world was far from being claimed as a civilized one. More importantly it’s far earlier than the Geneva UN Declaration of Human Right in 1947.

May we Muslims be proud of that fact. And may all people around the world learn honesty to accept this historical fact. InshaAllah! (*)

Jamaica NY, 24 June, 2024

(An Imam/Director of Jamaica Muslim Center / Chaplain at NYCHH Bellevue hospital).

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