Dhu’l Hijjah is the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar and of which the first ten days are filled with a blessing. That blessing is the yearly journey of 2 million pilgrims to Mecca to answer the call of our creator and sustainer to come to His house and perform the Hajj rituals culminating in Arafat and ‘Eid al Adha.
Performance of the Hajj is incumbent on every Muslim man and woman who is financially and physically able to do so. Those of us who remain at our homes urge our brothers and sisters on and perform other deeds of worship as we are able.
One aspect of this great gathering of souls that is often spoken of but bears repeating here and now is the sense of brotherhood/sisterhood that exists among all those there no matter where in the world they come from and no matter what their financial standing. This great event equalizes king and pauper – queen and servant and puts each of us equal in the heart of Islam. In the lines of people around the Kaaba we see only fellow muslims and muslimahs who have answered the call. There is no way to tell, nor is there really any importance in knowing, who is a corporate exectutive and who is a ditch-digger, who is a university professor and who is a seamstress. As we look over the crowd we cannot see the distinctions and differences that divide people, we only see our ummah comming to Bayt-Allah to be re-united with the beloved.
Indeed we are equal in the sight of Allah (swt) who tells us in the Qur’an Sharif:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ – 49:13
Ya ayyuha annasuinna khalaqnakum min thakarin waonthawajaAAalnakum shuAAooban waqaba-ila litaAAarafooinna akramakum AAinda Allahi atqakum inna AllahaAAaleemun khabeer
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. 49:13
One of my earliest memories of learning about the unity of the Hajj was in reading the autobiography of Malik El Shabazz (Malcom X.) His account of being in Mecca, surrounded by peoples of many different races and ethnic origins and his immersion in it was both illuminating and touching. He wrote about it in a letter:
“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white.
You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.
During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug)-while praying to the same God with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of the blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the ‘white’ Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.
We are truly all the same-brothers.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”
What he saw was the message of the Qur’an, the message of Islam alive in front of his eyes.
Surely there is knowledge there for those who consider. There are many wonderful lessons that we can learn from the Hajj, the story of Ibrahim and Haggar and Ishmael are central to the theme and we hope to learn from them. Rasul Allah (saw) had much to teach us through the rituals and rites of this pilgrimage and a lasting and universal message delivered in his (saw) last Khutbah delivered in Arafat. But this lesson of unity, kinship, and realization of humanity’s common origin in our creator is one that hajjis experience first hand and deeply personally. Proof of our lord’s (swt) telling us that his signs are within us as well as out on the horizons. The signs are a part of our make up, a part of what makes us human and a part of what is yearning inside us to return to the beloved. Many of us can answer the call to the pilgrimage in Mecca but there is an inner pilgrimage that all of us can take – the Kaaba within is always there for us to reach in for our connection with divine guidance.
And for those of us in our homes while the two million are in Mecca, that inner Kaaba is where we must journey to each day to be in unity with our brothers and sisters all over the world. A world where we are sincere in our love of each other and of Allah (swt)
And Allah knows best.