Hajj and the Global Face of Islam

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Imam Shamsi Ali berhaji
Imam Shamsi Ali

 

By
Imam Shamsi Ali*

 

THESE days millions of Muslims from around the globe are preparing to go to or are heading to Saudi Arabia, the home of Al-Masjid al-Haram and Al-Ka’bah Al-Musharrafah. It is estimated that more than two million Muslims go to the holy city (Makkah) to perform the hajj (pilgrimage) every year.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam as mentioned by the Prophet in his hadith. It is also a consensus among the Ummah, based on the Quran and the Sunnah that hajj is obligatory for every Muslim that has the ability (Al-Istitho’ah) to perform it.

Allah said:
“And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way. But whoever disbelieves – then indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds.” (Al-Imran: 97).

He also said:
“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 -” (Al-Hajj: 27).

When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned its obligation to the Ummah, he was asked: “is it every year o Rasulullah?” The Prophet chose not to respond to the question. He was again asked: “is it every year?”. And after third time of the same question he responded: “if I have said it ‘yes’ it has become obligatory (every year).

The hadith clearly indicates that hajj is a one time obligation in Muslims life. Performing it more than once in life is considered an act of righteousness and recommended acts (Sunnah). The first time hajj is counted as the fardh (obligation) of Islam.

Hajj and the universal face of Islam

Upon reading the verses of the holy Quran that talk about the hajj, surprisingly we found all those verses are using the term “an-Naas” (mankind) and not “aamanuu” (believers) or “Muslimuun” (Muslims). The two verses mentioned earlier clearly indicate that: “و اذن في الناس” and “و لله علي الناس”.

Based on these verses and other religious sources, including some hadiths, we have come to a conclusion that hajj truly represents the global or the universal face of Islam. That Islam is not intended for and belongs only to certain people, certain races or ethnicities. Islam is intended for all people of all races, ethnicities, and cultures.

Undoubtedly Islam is indeed a religion that is characterized by its global characteristics. Every aspect of Islam carries a global identity. From its creed to rituals, mu’amalat (social matters) and certainly its moral values are in line with all the universal human values.

Let’s start with its creed (theological aspects). Islam begins and ends its holy Book, the Holy Quran, with a clear concept about God who represents all mankind. Allah is known in the first chapter of the Holy Quran as “Rabbul alamin” (Lord of all mankind). The last chapter of the Quran is also talking about “Rabb, Malik, Ilah an-Naas”. That God in Islam belongs to all “human beings”.

The second chapter of the holy Quran begins with the description of the Quran itself. It describes itself as “hudan lil-muttaqiin “ (guidance to the righteous). Means the holy Quran functions as guidance to all people who chose to follow the righteous way (siroot al-mutaqiim), be them Arabs or non Arabs, white or black, Europeans, Asian or Africans. Furthermore the Quran characterizes itself as “hudan lin-naas” (guidance for mankind).

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is also known as the final and the only messenger sent to all mankind. As Allah said: “And I did not send you except to all mankind”. He also emphasizes the global message of the Prophet as “rahmatan lil-alamin” (mercy to all mankind”.

As a human, the Prophet is an Arab ethnically and racially. But as a messenger his message transcends all bounds of our humanity. This is a reason why all Muslims love and fully commit to the prophet’s teachings. You will find a Chinese or Korean Muslim who loves the Prophet as the Arab themselves love him, or even in some cases they love him more than the Arabs themselves.

Beyond the creed we also find that ritual practices in Islam are all global in nature. The way the Arabs pray is exactly the way the non Arabs do their prayers. All Muslims in every corner of the globe will observe their religious ritual observances the same way. And the reason is because all those rituals are based on the same religious basis; the Quran and the Sunnah.

On some issues we find different opinions of the Muslim scholars. But those differences are mostly non fundamental matters in the religion. More importantly all opinions expressed on the matter are based on the same religious foundation; the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh).

Similarly when we come to the moral grounds or teachings of Islam, all moral teachings in Islam are in line with so called universal human values. The real difference is possibly in the philosophical grounds of all those values. In Islam, moral values are grounded on the solid belief in God and in the religion. While so called universal human values are founded on social and human considerations.

Take for example the Islamic idea that every human being is inherently free, and that freedom is an inherent human right and every man or woman has the basic right to freedom. This is also stated clearly in the Geneva Declaration of Human Rights.

In Islam, freedom is the foundation of everything, including our belief. In other words, believing or otherwise not to believe is a part of that expression of freedom to chose. “Whoever wills to believe do so. And whoever wills to disbelieve do so” (Al-Qur’an). This is then confirmed in another verse of the Quran: “there is no compulsion in the religion” (Al-Qur’an).

In fact, the foundation of freedom in Islam is the most important aspect of the religion itself. For Muslims, believing that there is no god but Allah (laa ilaaha illa Allah) means none has the right to enslave but Allah, the Creator and the Sustainer of all mankind. This is indeed the most genuine and strongest basis of human freedom.

Another example of those values is justice and human equality. Both religiously and historically Islam has been in the front line to advocate and fight for justice and human equality. In fact, Islam believes that justice is equivalent to life itself. Prosperity in the society without justice doesn’t bring any peace and happiness.

For Americans, the phrase “justice for all” is no doubt a very popular and accepted as a basic right of all Americans. This phrase is an important American value that makes America beautiful and strong. And surely it is a reason for citizens of this country to be proud Americans.

In Islam justice and equality have been a very foundational mission to mankind. In Islam, human virtues are not defined by race, ethnicity or by any of those which normally a person is proud of. But it’s in a person’s “taqwa” (pity or righteousness) which is defined by human hearts (faith) and actions (character). “Indeed the best among you in the eyes of Allah are those of the most righteous of you” (Al-Hujurat: 13).

Similarly justice in Islam is universal in nature. Allah strongly reminds the believers in the Holy Quran: “oh you who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and not hatred of any people seduce you deal not justly. Deal justly, that nearer to pity” (Al-Quran).

In fact, the Quran also reminds us to establish justice even if it is against one’s interest, or against the interest of our parents, children and of relatives”.

In connection to hajj, for this very important reason Rasulullah (pbuh) during his pilgrimage (known as hajjatul wada’) delivered his monumental speech or sermon called “khutbatul wada’” declaring those universal human justice and equality. He affirmed that all humans are inherently equal. There is no superiority of any kind on the basis of race, ethnicity, skin colors, and so forth.

In conclusion, in addition to its paramount importance as a pillar of Islam, hajj is truly a representation of the global face of the Ummah. All humans of all diverse identifications belong to this global community called “Ummah”. And during the hajj, the faces of this one Ummah are represented. The pilgrims come from different parts of the globe (Fajjin ‘amiiq) and gather together with one shared feeling; humbleness to the One; God of all mankind.

May Allah grant those who perform hajj a hajj mabrur and their sins be forgiven and in-shaa Allah be admitted into the Jannah in the next life. Amin! (*)

Bellevue Hospital, May 29, 2024

*Director of Jamaica Muslim Center & President of Nusantara Foundation

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