HAJ - demonstration of universal brotherhood | Daily News

HAJ - demonstration of universal brotherhood

Once a year, millions of Muslims of every ethnic group, colour, social status, and culture gather together in Mecca and stand before the Kaaba praising Allah. The pilgrim population visiting Mecca during this period was surveyed in 1980 as being two million and as predicted by analysts has grown exponentially by over 10% per year since then. Despite restrictions, it is believed that a record crowd of nearly four million is expected to gather in the hills of Arafath on September 11.

The pilgrims follow rituals that are designed to promote the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood by showing that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah. For a start, all the male pilgrims undertaking the Haj, whether they be monarchs or subjects, rich or poor or of whatever social status have to be attired in just two pieces of unsewn white cloth. Women though have the privilege of dressing themselves in any form of chaste clothing that does not reveal their body form. If the pilgrims are not attired in this manner their Haj will not be accepted and what the hardships have endured undertaking the pilgrimage will be in vain. When so attired the pilgrim is said to be in a state of Ihram – purity and is prevented from various acts which include plucking his or her hair from anywhere in the head or body and even plucking parts of plants or uprooting them when in the state of Ihram.

The rites required for performance of Haj are unlike any other religious practices. Whether one is Sunni or Shia or are dictated by the different theological schools of thought – Hanafi, Shafi’I, Hanbali and Maliki (Sunni) or Isthna Ashari, Dawoodi or Nizari sects of the Shia division all of them have to perform the same rites in the same manner for an accepted Haj. In the state of Ihram as aforesaid, the pilgrims will have to circumambulate the sacred Ka’aba and walk (while jogging a short distance) between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa doing both these rites seven times and thereafter congregating in mount Arafath on the ninth day of the twelfth lunar month – Dhul Hajja.

The Haj is completed by throwing stones at the imaginary Satan symbolising the acts of Abraham and his son Ismael (May Allah be pleased with them) and the shaving (or cutting some hair) from the head. Those who can afford will sacrifice an animal and distribute to the poor while those who cannot will fast three days in Mecca and seven days on returning home in atonement for their inability to have given the sacrifice of an animal. These are the rites in summary that every pilgrim has to undertake without exception of sectoral differences.

Promoting social equality and brotherhood

God in His absolute wisdom has made the Haj a massive gathering of people simply attired in the same manner and performing all the rituals everyone on his own to signify that no one is different in the sight of Allah and that everyone has to account for themselves when risen in the last day similarly attired in the white shroud that he or she is buried in. Similarly it signifies the promotion of brotherhood as preached by the Prophet (May peace and blessings of Allah be showered upon him) in his last sermon in the mount Arafath thus: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over s white; (None have superiority over another) except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefor do injustice to yourselves”.

In the sermon cited above the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) emphasised that all mankind being from Adam – irrespective of whether they are believers or not deserves to be treated equally. However while establishing this equality amongst all the people, the Prophet (PBUH) singled out Muslims brotherhood in his sermon. The Hajj makes Muslims feel real importance of life here on earth, and the afterlife, by stripping away all markers of social status, wealth, and pride. In the Hajj all are truly equal.

The different rites and acts of worship performed by the pilgrims signifies their renewal of their sense of purpose in this world.

Respect for women and their rights

In the performance of the Haj women have been given several concessions unlike to men. They can dress in any fashionable clothing, as long as they are not revealing and modest and their faces, hands below their wrists and legs below the ankle are uncovered. They can cover their faces with the niqab if they fear molestation, but cannot wear any perfume. Thus the vanity with which women express their passion for fashion has not been curtailed.

The Prophet (PBUH) iterated in the strongest of terms the rights of women in his last sermon in mount Arafath thus: “O people, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under a trust from God and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”

Thereby the combination of factors granting several other concessions for women in the performance of the Haj permitted in the Islamic Shari’ah bears ample testimony in respect of protection of women and their rights in Islam.

Sacrifice and humility

To complete an accepted Haj all male pilgrims are required either to shave their heads or cut some of their hair. Most of them prefer to shave their heads in order to show humility and obedience to God. Female pilgrims are required to cut some of their hair. They are not required to shave. This is another concession enjoyed by women.

The most important event in the culmination of the Haj is the sacrifice of an animal – a camel, bull, goat or sheep by a collection of seven or twelve pilgrims respectively. The meat of the sacrificial animal is distributed to the needy, not only in the place of slaughter but in any part of the world. Presently most pilgrims dedicate their sacrificial meat to people in refugee camps all over the world thus giving these unfortunate victims of terror and poverty an opportunity to enjoy at least to some extent some nourishment that they have been denied by circumstances not of their own making.

Thus the performance of Haj may appear (to those who cannot appreciate its significance) to be mere rituals. But it has a much greater significance as a training ground in the universal equality, brotherhood, women’s rights, sacrifice and humility – Allah Knows Best. May Allah accept their Haj and supplications and grant them an accepted Haj. EID MIBARAK


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