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Let’s Redeem the “Benefits” of Hajj!


By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam

9 July 2012

Although there is nothing earth-shattering in this, as many brave souls have previously and in recent times, expressed similar thoughts on Hajj as here, but they have done so in its spiritual and religious terms. As Mankind is given the right by Quran 25: 73 to question its actions, this probing is based on temporal and practical benefits to Muslims.

Poet Iqbal for example had asked in this regard:-

Zaairaan-e-kabaa say Iqbal yeh puchey koyee,

Kyaa haram kaa tohfaa zamzam kay siwaa kuchh bhhi nahin’?

[Iqbal asks the tourists of Kabbaa,

Is the gift of Haram nothing but Zamzam?]

The gullible Muslim-Nation quenches its spiritual thirst with the holy Zamzam water once a year and asks absolution from God of individual sins, but gains not much else.

Hence these enquiries are on the basis that all actions, good or bad in nature produce appropriate reactions. It stands to reason therefore to ask as to what are the practical “Benefits” of the Pilgrimage or Hajj 22: 28 in the particular city of Makkaa. What has it ever achieved for Muslims and what are the returns on it? The questions are:-

-- The law of requital is enunciated clearly in Quran 53: 39 etc. The rituals must therefore be analysed in terms of beneficial return on investments and effort. The conventional pilgrimage to a city in Arabia is one of the most important actions. It is performed by two to three million souls every year now. Should it not accrue some benefits therefore to the community of Muslims and mankind at large?

-- References to Hajj, Makkaa (bakkaa?) Haram, Qibla and kabbaa, abound in Quran. To deny their importance and existence would be similar to Queen Victoria’s denial of Bolivia’s existence during a dispute with it, and childishly tearing its map and stomping on it, saying, “Now, Bolivia does not exist”. (K Mennon, the Indian diplomat to London quoted in one of his speech.)

-- There are now TWO Haram(s), one in Makkaa and the other in Madinah; as the Arab Rulers, the custodians of two holy Basilicas have titled themselves “Khaadimul Haramain” although only ONE only is given in Quran. Is it for ِليَشتَرُوا بِہِـ ثَمَناٌ قلَيلَا۔ "as to make from it small gain 2: 79”? Are the material gains small to the host country?

-- Religious Scholars have written volumes on spiritual benefits of the Hajj for the life ‘hereafter’; however to focus on this world 2: 202, that is life here and now-‘fid-dunya’ would need a paradigm shift in ‘thinking’; such as was accomplished by the Messenger over fourteen centuries ago and that which reversed everything that mankind did and worshipped at the Temples in the name of their Religious deities and personalities.

Yet the pre-Muhammad trading city of Makkaa, we are told, from ancient times, and the temple has, with some modifications for pilgrimage rituals survived in the performance of Hajj today. Is then today’s Hajj in iconic and economic terms any different than before?

-- Was the old Makkan customs regurgitated after the Messenger, only a few decades or centuries later and the black stone now covered under the embroidered black shroud to make it a statuesque tangible religious focus of today?

-- Were the old obelisks –or today’s walls erected to curse the Satan despite the Quran saying on Satan’s behalf, “don’t curse me, but curse your ‘Self’ 14-22”? Should the hajis therefore not cast stones at each other, instead of the rajam on the Satan who refuses to die and comes back every year to be stoned?

-- If the fixation with the windowless cuboid Kaabaa and the geographical place is believed by many as ‘God’s house’, is it not at odds with 2: 115 & 177 etc. where it is stated that He is the Master of the whole universe, and He encompasses all?

- To that effect did not Ibrahim in desperation, eventually say: “I turn my face towards the primal Creator of the Universe 6: 71 to 79” and Muslims too recite the same in their fard or obligatory prayers?

-- Is then the Qibla not an intellectual concept and not a peg on the earth, but to set humanity free from the bonds of man-made icons and man’s exploitation by man?

      -- Can it not be argued that Makkaa is not where the Code of Islam was promulgated; as its founder, according to Quran is Ibraham, a true and sincere Muslim, not a Christian nor a Jew, and historically from Ur- Mesopotamia now in Iraq on the river Euphrates. Should not that, if anywhere else, be the Muqaam of Ibrahim 3: 97; his lofty place?

Dr Iqbal, who has never been the favourite son of the Clergy, in his poem laailahaa-illalah laments the loss of the true muqaam of Muslims:-

Yeh dore apney Braheem kee talaash main hai

Sanum-kadah hai jahan’—laailaahaa-illallah!

This age is in search of its own Ibraham,

Where there is a now a house of idols -- laailaahaa-illallah!

-- Again, if the fixation is on the basis that Hajj is one of the five ‘pillars’ of the rites of passage in Islam, then may not one ask as to why none of the previous Messengers including Messenger Isaa- Jesus, the nearest one to Muhammad in time and space, not make a single journey there? Although all the Messengers were given the same Divine message of Belief and rites and none were differentiated between 41-43, 3-84 etc?

--  Should not this gathering be turned into useful conference-Shuaraa- 42: 38 of Heads of Governments too, to find solutions to the problems that beset the Muslim-world and the world at large, particularly in this hostile age for Muslims; perhaps somewhat of its own making? ----This practicality was first suggested by a Muslim Scholar G.A Parwez.

-- It is said that ‘ridding on the shoulders of giants, one sees further’. One can then suggest a step further that there are strengths and opportunities in this annual gathering and tangible benefits to the whole Muslim-Nation if this annual Hajj was held in different Muslim countries. Will it not spread and distribute (2-3, 36: 47 etc) economic benefits to these countries with the spiritual benefits accrued as well? May not it go some way in eliminating their poverty?

For practical purposes, the exercise called ‘SWOT’-- Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats, well known to young business MBA executives today, is suggested to be carried out if the Muslim-world is to redeem the benefits of Hajj for the Nation as a whole; if not the mankind- annas 2: 125,196 etc--. That the Book has ordained for Hajj.

It is easy to see the weakness, and the threats with this fixation to a particular place;-

I-It bars the friendly curious humanity from witnessing Quran’s message of Hajj.

Ii-It imposes drain on scarce foreign exchange on entire Muslim world, which in itself is largely dirt poor and destitute and in many cases the begging bowl of the world.

iii- it fills the coffers and accords huge economic benefits to just one country year in year out, yet too rich in itself with other gifts of the Creator which in reality belong to the whole Muslim Nation to share, if not the mankind as a whole.

Iv- Importantly, it prevents the Muslims from travelling the planet earth as Quran many times, implores them to do–“Do they not travel through the earth so that their hearts and minds may thus learn wisdom 22-46”? Does it not suggest that travel is one of the important means of acquiring knowledge and wisdom? The earth is after all a “huge expanse 91: 6”, is it not a shame then to visit the same place twice?

v- Most importantly, many millions of animals, all over the Muslim-world are slaughtered in the name of God. A ritual which was a pagan rite of ‘sacrifice’ of blood and gore; is still performed in His name who says -‘has no use for it, 22-37’. It causes untold misery and the wastage of precious animal resource as food-(except for dealers of hides/skins and cattle!) ‘God dislikes all extravagance 7: 31’. The unhygienic pollution and stench in the Muslim-world during this period, is appalling. Although killing of animals is ordained but only at the place of Hajj, as it says, ‘to feed the weary travellers 22-36’.

And so the tragedy of imposed poverty, ignorance, wastage and of religious-trade piles up. All in all it seems that the Muslim Nation’s efforts and collective wealth that is spent, is wasted for no tangible benefits–“those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works 18: 104”!

Opportunities exist, in the spirit of committing “righteous deeds” as ordained in the book, at this gathering. It could be turned into the paradigm that the apostle initiated with his last and perhaps the only Hajj for the purpose of important ‘sermon on the mount’-. This thought- has been suggested by many brave souls before. But religions and churches maintain that, pilgrimage is ‘pure-worship and spirituality’ for all religions! Of this world we are taught not to bother, again contrary to 2-202. It appears that perpetuation of religions and their industry is a must for the ‘Mother Church’ and its Hierarchical elite, the Clergy to survive at huge costs to mankind and particularly Muslims in Hajj!

A well-known saying goes: “Hands extended to help others are better than those raised in Prayers”. Musulleen have raised their hands and have bruised their foreheads on the prayer rug in that direction for centuries, to no tangible benefits to show in this world, except of course for the undeserving rich host country getting even richer!

It is most appropriate therefore to quote here, from way back, six centuries or so ago a Sufi Punjabi poet Bulleh Shah:

Baed Quran’ parh parh thhakay

—Sujday kardeyan’ ghas gaye matthay

—nah Rub Teerath nah Rub Makkay!

 ----Got tired of chanting Vedas, Quran

— Bruising foreheads in prostrations

— (but) God is neither to be found in Teerath nor in Makkaa!

It seems that along with the CEOs of the religious industries, and the Khadim of Haram(s), have colluded for centuries for their mutual and exclusive “worldly Benefits” but only promising the pilgrims the benefits of “Hereafter” 2: 202!

Three million Muslims annually in one place every year should help solve at least one World problem; out of the many that Muslims have today, and redeem the benefits of the Hajj in this world too 2:201,18: 10, in a business-like manner. This is desperately needed for the nation, which must seek to re-establish its own lofty Muqaam amongst the nations of the world!

A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is an Indian-origin Engineer (Retd.) based in Australia for over forty years.