The current state of affairs of the Muslim world greatly increases the relevance of some of the spiritual and Universal Lessons of Hajj.
Millions of pilgrims from all over the world will be converging on Makkah in the coming days. They will retrace the footsteps of millions who have made the spiritual journey to the valley of Makkah since the time of Adam.
Hajj literally means, “to continuously strive to reach one’s goal.” It is the last of the five pillars of Islam (the others include a declaration of faith in one God, five daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan). Pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.
The Hajj is essentially a re-enactment of the rituals of the great prophets and teachers of the faith. Lastly, the pilgrims also commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son for the sake of God. God later substituted a ram in place of his son.
Yet, the “Universal Lessons of Hajj” is more than these elaborate rituals. The faithful hope that it will bring about a deep spiritual transformation, one that will make him or her a better person.
If such a change within does not occur, then the Hajj was merely a physical and material exercise devoid of any spiritual significance.
As all great religions teach, we are more than mere physical creatures in that we possess an essence beyond the material world. Indeed, this is why all great religions have a tradition of pilgrimage. In the Islamic tradition, Hajj encapsulates this spiritual journey toward this essence.
As Islamic scholar Ebrahim Moosa asks rhetorically: “after paying homage to the two women Eve and Hagar in the rites of pilgrimage, how can some Muslims still violate the rights and dignity of women in the name of Islam? Is this not a contradiction?”
Indeed, the Qur’an teaches: “I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in my way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other.” (3:195)
The fact that millions of Muslims transcending the geographical, linguistic, level of practice, cultural, ethnic, color, economic and social barriers converge in unison on Mecca, attests to the universality of the Hajj. It plants the seed to celebrate the diversity of our common humanity.
Pilgrims return home enriched by this more pluralistic and holistic outlook and with a new appreciation for their own origins. One of the most celebrated Western Hajjis is none other than African-Ameican civil rights leader El-Hajj Malik El-Shabbaz.
The man profoundly reassessed his previous views during the Hajj. This transformation, of course, sealed his break with the Black nationalist movement of the Nation of Islam.
Contrary to the teachings of the Nation, he concluded that Islam encompassed all of humanity and transcended race and culture.
Upon returning to America, he embarked on a mission to enlighten both blacks and whites with his new views. Universal Lessons of Hajj
In fact, as part of the spiritual experience. The pilgrimage links people across religions through a past shared by several Abrahamic traditions. This combined with the Islamic teaching of the common origin of humanity holds out much hope.
The Qur’an teaches: “We created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other and not that you might despise each other.
The most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you” (Al-Hujurat: 13). This is a great celebration of the differences and at the same time unity of all of humanity.