Dr. Ali Shariati
Preface By The Author
As a person who is "knowledgeable about religion" and whose field of study is "the history of religions", I reached the following conclusions as a result of my study and research of the historical evolution of each faith whereby I compared what the faiths were in the past and what they are now as well as a comparison in the differences between the "truth" and the "reality" of the faiths. My conclusion is not based on personal religious feelings nor prejudices:
If we study and evaluate the effectiveness of each religion in terms of the happiness and evolution of mankind, we will discover that there is no prophecy which is as advanced, powerful, and conscious as the prophecy of Mohammad (PBUH) (i.e. Islam and it's role in man's social progress, self-consciousness, movement, responsibility, human ambition and struggle for justice; Islam's realism and naturalness, creativity, adaptability with scientific and financial progress and orientation toward civilization and the community). Contemporaneously, we will discover that there is no prophecy which has deteriorated and been transformed into a completely different representation as much as the prophecy of Mohammad (PBUH)!
It seems that some power composed of all physical facilities as well as knowledgeable advisors, openly or secretly has hired a group of the most educated and intelligent philosophers of history, social scientists, sociologists, social psychologists, politicians, human scientists, theologists. orientalists, experts in Islamic studies, Quranic interpreters and people who are familiar with Islamic literature, the social relations of Muslims, the traditions of Muslims, the personalities of Muslims, the weaknesses and strengths of Muslims, the interests of Muslims, the socio economic behavior of Muslims, the roles of special people ... to completely change the Islamic doctrine through the pursuit of cautious and scientific research of Islam and Muslims!
As far as I know, from the practical and conceptual point of view, the most important pillars of the Islamic doctrine which motivate the Muslim nation and makes it's citizens conscious, free, honorable and socially responsible are:
Towhid, Jihad, and Hajj
Unfortunately, the teaching of the concept of Tawheed is limited only to elementary schools. Beyond that, it may be spoken of at the philosophical and theological discussions held by religious leaders; but such discussions are totally foreign and inapplicable to the lives of the people. In other words, only the existence and oneness of God are considered - not Tawheed in it's real sense! As for the concept of Jihad, it is absolutely forbidden and buried in the graveyard of history. The fundamental principle of Jihad, "encouraging people to do good deeds and to avoid wrong deeds" is only applied when blaming the friends instead of when correcting the wrongdoers. And lastly, HAJJ is viewed as the ugliest and most illogical action that Muslims perform yearly.
The enemies of Islam were successful in bringing about changes by implementing a unique policy. The "prayer book" was brought from the grave yard into the city while the Holy Quran was taken away from the citizens in the city and given to those at the graveyard who read for the souls of the dead. A similar approach was used in the theological schools (madresah). The Holy Quran was seized from the hands of students who studied Islam and put away on the shelf; it was replaced by the book of principles and philosophical discussions. So, it is obvious what the enemies can do to us when the Quran is absent from the lives of Muslims and not included in the curriculum of Muslim students!
Does the intellectual individual who feels a responsibility towards his people and a Muslim whose faith endows him with a responsibility or an intellectual Muslim who has this dual responsibility feel at ease by sitting passively? Does he think resorting to a western ideology will save his people and solve their problems?!? NO!! ! Oh my intellectual friend and my Muslim brother - either you feel a responsibility toward the people or toward Allah. It does not matter; we are in the same boat and are endowed with the same responsibility. In order to liberate ourselves and regain our honor, it is best to employ the same tactics that our enemy used. We must return to the path from which we were abducted! Therefore, we have to bring the Holy Quran from the graveyard back to the city and read it to those who are alive (not deceased)! We have to remove the Quran from the shelf, open it before the eyes of the students and let them study it. Since our enemies could not destroy the Quran, they closed it and left it in a corner to be respected as the HOLY BOOK! It is our duty to re-use it as a "book" - a "book to study" - as is designated by the name QURAN!
May we hope that one day the Quran will be accepted as the classic book of our Islamic school and used for our Islamic teachings! May we hope to see the day when Quranic study will be required in order to qualify for a degree in Ijtihad. If we return to the Quran and make it part of our lives, we will realize the essence of Tawheed. If we consider the Quran as the structure of our system, we will realize the creativity and efficacy of such duties as: Hajj, Jihad, Imamat, Shahadat ... and the meaning of our lives!!!!
Now let us look at one of these duties - Hajj - and search for its significance from a monotheistic point of view. This book is a summary of my personal experience and understanding after performing the Hajj three times and touring Mecca once. It is only the comments and interpretations of the rites by a humble servant of God. No Muslim has the right to view the rites on the basis of this writing since it is not a book on "religious jurisprudence" but rather a paper to make you think! I have attempted to interpret the ceremonies as a Muslim Hajj who is entitled to talk about the Hajj when he returns home. I can discuss my views with others; this has been a "tradition" too. Every year the minority who were able to participate in the Hajj will share their views with the majority who did not have this opportunity. If there was a responsible leadership who demonstrated as much interest in teaching more than a million Muslims from various parts of the world (i.e.. from the least developed villages and least trained natives) as they do in their meals, health, souvenirs and luxurious but ugly shows of aristocracy (which contradicts Hajj) and if they were only a bit concerned about realizing the meaning of the rites rather than being meticulously obsessed and prejudiced about performing the rites themselves then the Hajj could have been a yearly course of practical and theoretical teachings of the Islamic doctrine given to more than a million Muslim representatives from all over the world! They could learn the purpose of the Hajj, the meaning of the prophecy, the importance of unity and the fate of the Muslim nation. With a reserve of knowledge and information they could return to their countries and their individual lives to teach their community. As a result, all his life a Hajj could remain a guide in the darkness of his society - like a glittering beam m the darkness!
Dr. Ali Shariati
What has the experience of Hajj taught me? First one must ask - what does Hajj mean? In essence, Hajj is man's evolution toward Allah. It is a symbolic demonstration of the philosophy of Creation of Adam. To further illustrate this, it may be stated that the performance of Hajj is a simultaneous show of many things; it is a "show of creation", a "show of history", a "show of unity", a "show of the Islamic ideology" and a show of the Ummah.
The following conditions prevail in this "show". Allah (God) is the stage manager. The theme portrayed is the actions of the people involved. Adam, Ibrahim, Hajar, and Satan are the main characters. The scenes are Masjid-ul Haram, the Haram area, Masa, Arafat, Mashars and Mina. Important symbols are the Kaaba, Safa, Marwa, day, night, sunshine, sunset, idols and ritual of sacrifice. The clothing and make up are Ihram, Halgh and Taqseer. Lastly, the player of the roles in this "show" is only one; and that is YOU!
Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, young or old, black or white, you are the main feature of the performance. The role of Adam, Ibrahim and Hajar in the confrontation between "Allah and Satan" is played by you. As a result, you, individually, are the hero of the "show".
Annually, Muslims from all over the world are encouraged to participate in this great "show" (Hajj). Everyone is considered equal. No discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or social status is made. In accordance to the teachings of Islam, ALL ARE ONE AND ONE IS ALL.
The one who restores somebody's life, has restored the life of all and the one who kills one, has killed all.
Yet the enemies of Islam continue to deliberately wage a campaign against Islam. They attack it by denying that Islam recognizes the human being as an individual endowed with special rights and values. In terms of the concept of Hajj, it is relegated to the status of a duty which has very little significance. As Imam Ali, the son of Kaaba says:
As if Islam is a lamb fur-coat' that is put on inside out.
What have I personally learned from Hajj - me being so "little" and Hajj being so "great" in meaning? How far and what could I see from this experience? The following pages are the product of my humble efforts to answer these questions. My purpose is not to inform the reader what must be done during Hajj. This can be attained by referring to the book of rituals. Instead, I want to share with you my perceptions of the significance of Hajj. They should help you to understand why it is incumbent upon Muslims to perform this duty, or at least motivate you to think about Hajj.
Rejecting an Empty Philosophy
Life today (not life as it should be carried on) is an idle cyclical action a movement with no goal! A meaningless pendular action starts with the day only to end at night and night starts only to disappear at dawn. In the mean time, man is busy watching the play of these black and white "rats" who chew the strings of our life until we die.
Life (as we live it) is like a theater. Man watches these aimless nights and days. Indeed, what foolish play is conducted! When you are in need, you hope and struggle to overcome your needs. Yet once you achieve this, you view your past efforts humorously. What a senseless philosophy to live by!
Living on a day to day basis, the person lacks direction. His aim is only to live. What exists is a dead spirit in a living body. However, the Hajj experience alters this unhealthy condition!
Once you decide to perform Hajj and take the necessary steps, you are on the road to the actualization of Hajj. Before going to Hajj you reside in your home calm and reposed. Upon entering the state of mind for Hajj, you arise and move away from your routine environment.
Hajj is the antithesis of aimlessness. It is the rebellion against a damned fate guided by evil-forces. The fulfillment of Hajj will enable you to escape from the complex network of puzzles. This revolutionary act will reveal to you the clear horizon and free way to migration to eternity toward the Almighty Allah.
Depart from your home. and visit "Allah's house", or the "house of the people"! You, whoever you are, you are a man, Adam's son, and a representative of Allah on earth! You are a relative of Allah, Allah's trustee, His master of nature and a student of God. Allah taught you the names. He made you from His spirit and endowed you with special qualities. You were praised by Him; His angels even prostrated to you. This earth and everything in it was made available to man. God became your "homemate", with you at all times and watching all of your actions. Are you living up to His expectation?
With the passage of time and the influence of various forces of the social system which disregard human rights and duties, your character has been changed. The vicissitudes of life have affected you to the degree that you became alienated and neglectful. Originally, with Allah's spirit in your heart, you were supposed to shoulder the responsibility of being Allah's trustee on earth. You were granted time as a means for fulfilling this task but you failed because the gift was used carelessly!
This is what is called life! But realistically speaking what has been accomplished? What constructive contributions have you made? What have you gained? So many precious years have been lost, yet who are you?
Oh trustee and vicegerent of Allah on earth, you have turned to money, sex, greed, aggression, and dishonesty. You have regressed to the inferior status that you occupied before almighty Allah blew His spirit into you. Where is the spirit of Allah now? Oh man, rise out of this decadent situation! Divorce yourself from this gradual death.
Leave your surroundings and go to the pure land. There you may face Almighty Allah under the inspiring sky of Mashar. The estrangement which you have experienced will be overcome. At last, you will find yourself!
Reaching towards Allah
Hajj occurs during the highly respected month of Zul-Hijjah'. The land of Makkah (Mecca) is tranquil and peaceful. Instead of fear, hatred, and war, the desert is characterized by security and peace. An atmosphere for worship where people are free to face Almighty God is prevalent.
Do you not hear Ibrahim's command:
You, oh Mud, search for and follow the spirit of Allah! Accept his invitation; leave your home in order to "see" Him. He is waiting for You!
Human existence is frivolous unless one's aim is to approach the spirit of Allah. Separate yourself from all those needs and greed which distract you from Allah. Therefore, join the eternal human migration to Hajj. "See" Almighty Allah!
Before departing to perform Hajj, all of your debts should be paid. Your hates and angers toward relatives or friends must disappear. A will must be drawn. All of these gestures are an exercise in the preparation for death (which will overtake everyone some day). These acts guarantee your personal and financial clearance. The last moments of farewell and the future of man are symbolized.
Now you are free to join eternity. On the day of resurrection, when "you can do nothing" in Allah's court, where "your eyes, ears, and heart are the best witnesses of what you have done,"
Hajj represents your return to Allah, the absolute, who has no limitations and none is like Him. To return to Him signifies a definite movement toward perfection, goodness, beauty, power knowledge, value, and facts. On your way toward the eternal, you will NEVER approach Allah. He is to guide you in the right direction and not to be your destination!
Islam is different from Sufism. A Sufi lives "in the name of Allah", and dies "for the sake of Allah". But, a Muslim strives to approach Almighty God
To Allah we belong and to Him is our return.
Our goal is not to "perish", but to "bloom". This is done not "for Allah" but rather to bring us "toward Him". Allah is not so far away from you; therefore, try to reach Him! Allah is closer to you than yourself!
On the other hand, everyone beside Allah is too far to be reached! Oh man, all the angels prostrated to you; yet, through the passage of time and societal influence you have changed greatly. You have not abided by your promise to worship none but Almighty Allah. Instead, you have become a slave to idols, some of which are man-made.
Your nature is characterized by loyalty to other individuals, self-devotion, cruelty, ignorance, a lack of direction, fearfulness, and greediness! This life has caused you to acquire animalistic traits. Now you are like a "wolf", "fox", "rat", or "sheep".
Oh man, return to your origin. Go to Hajj and visit your best friend who created you as the best creature. He is waiting to see you! Leave the palaces of power, the treasures of wealth and the misleading temples. Dismember yourself from the flock of those animals whose shepherd is the wolf. Join the flock at Miad who is going to see the house of Allah or the house of the people.
Entering Miqat and becoming One
The show begins at Miqat. At this point, the actor (mankind) must change his clothes. Why? Because one's attire covers the person as well as his character. In other words, an individual doesn't wear clothes, but rather, the clothes cover him!
Clothes symbolize, pattern, preference, status, and distinction. They create superficial "borders" which cause "separation" between people. In most cases, "separation" between people, gives birth to "discrimination". Furthermore the concept of "I" not "we" emerges! "I" is used in the context of my race, my class, my clan, my group, my position, my family, my values, and not "I" as a human being.
So many "borders" have been created in our lives. The descendants of Cain, the executioners and the cruel split Adam's family and mankind's unity into many parts and factions. What resulted were the following relationships:
master and servant, oppressor and oppressed, colonialist and colonialized, exploiter and exploited, strong and weak, rich and poor, nourished and malnourished, honored and dishonored, happy and unhappy, noble persons and lay persons, civilized and uncivilized, Eastern and Western, Arab and Ajam and etc.
Humanity is divided into races, nations, classes, subclasses, groups, and families. Each one has its own distinct status and values, names and honors. And for what? All this just to show "ones-self but under so much "make-up"!
Now take off your clothes. Leave them at Miqat. Wear the Kafan which consists of plain white material. You will be dressed like everyone else. See the uniformity appear! Be a particle and join the mass; as a drop, enter the ocean.
Don't be proud, you are not here to see somebody, but be humble. You will be seeing Allah. Be the one who realizes his mortality or a mortal who feels his existence.
At Miqat, regardless of your race or tribe, you must doff all the covers you wore in your daily life as:
- a wolf (symbolizing fierceness and oppression), - a rat (symbolizing slyness), - a fox (symbolizing craftiness), - or a sheep (symbolizing slavery).
Leave all these in Miqat and assume your original shape as a "man" just one "Adam" as you will be at the end, as one "dead"!
Wrap yourself in two pieces of cloth. One covers your shoulders and the other goes around your waist. No special style or material is used. It is made of very plain and simple fabric. Everyone is wearing the same outfit (Ihram). No distinctions in appearance are visible.
The caravans from all over the world which are traveling to Hajj will congregate at Miqat. They will meet at the same time and at the same place!
On his way to Allah, man is not just "to be" but he is "to become" what he should be!
How wonderful! Everything is moving - evolution, death and life, life and death, contradiction, change, and direction.
And Allah is the "absolute" - being, perfect, and eternal!
Hajj is also a movement. Man decides to return toward Allah. All of his egos and selfish tendencies are buried at Miqat (Zu-halifa). He witnesses his own dead body and visits his own grave. Man is reminded of the final goal of his life. He experiences death at Miqat and resurrection after which he must continue his mission in the desert between Miqat and Miad.
The scene is like the day of judgment. From one horizon to the other, a "flood of whites" appears. All the people are wearing the Kafan. No one can be recognized. The bodies were left in Miqat and the souls are motivated here. Names, races, nor social status make a difference in this great combination. An atmosphere of genuine unity prevails. It is a human show of Allah's unity.
Fear and pleasure, excitement and charm, perplexity and rapture all appear as minute particles in a magnetic field. Allah is in its center (qibla')! Only man shows himself. He is situated in one direction which is toward Allah. In this desert all the nations and groups merge into one tribe. They face one Kaaba.
Once you remove your clothes and all the signs which distinguish "you" as An individual, you may enter into the heart of the crowd. In the state of Ihram', try to forget the things that remind you of your life.
Everyone "melts" himself and assumes a new form as a "mankind". The egos and individual traits are buried. The group becomes a "people" or an "Umma". All the l's have died in Miqat; what has evolved is "We".
By the time you leave Mina you should have integrated into the Umma. This is what Ibrahim did. You are also supposed to act like Ibrahim.
At last, one is all and all is one! Everyone is equal. The society of polytheism is converted into one of monotheism or Tawhid. This is the Umma or the society which is onto the right path. It should be a society which is perfect, active and led by Islamic leadership (Imamat).
Everyone performing Hajj has turned away from himself to face Allah. He has been endowed with the spirit of Allah. You have gone from an exile to the hereafter. You have been exposed to the absolute facts. You have overcome ignorance and oppression and have been enlightened by consciousness and justice. You have rejected polytheism and adopted monotheism.
Previous to the performance of Hajj, the people neglected their human quality. They were alienated by power, wealth, family, land, and race. Their life was only in the context of mere "existence". Finally, the experience of Hajj allowed them to achieve self-discovery. Now they perceived each other collectively as "one", and individually as a "man" NOTHING ELSE!