Hajj, the Greatest Symbol of Unity
As we find ourselves entering the Hajj season the discussions fall upon the story of Hajj and its origins. We trace many of the rites of Hajj back to the story of Ibrahim, Hajar and Isma’il (AS) and rightly so. Muslims generally are familiar with the story and teach we it to our children from young. Preparing for my own Hajj a few years ago in most of the Hajj books I came across the story was discussed and elaborated upon. However the familiarity of the story of Ibrahim, Hajar and Isma’il (AS) to Muslims and the Hujjaj seems to be in contrast to the lack of general awareness of the Seerah of the Prophet (SAW) and the context and realities of the single Hajj he (SAW) lead. I would argue that only by studying deeply the political context and the stage in the Islamic mission in which the Prophet (SAW) embarked upon the farewell pilgrimage can one understand the farewell sermon (Khutbatul-Wada) – the significance, the profound message, and lessons of the Hajj to humanity.
In the tenth year of Hijra the Nabi of Allah sallallahu alaihi wa salam announced his intention to make Hajj. With this news people from all over Arabia started to gather for the opportunity to perform Hajj with the Prophet (SAW). This was a culminating event, a beautiful jewel in the crown gifted by Allah (SWT) to his noble servant at the apex of his mission. Over a hundred thousand Arabs from every deep and distant valley of Arabia convened in the valley of Makkah. All of the wives of the Prophet (SAW) would join him. Many delegations were sent from tribes all over, either to enter the fold of Islam, to proclaim their allegiance, or to enquire into the faith that was miraculously sweeping across Arabia and its borders.
When I picture the Prophet (SAW) walking down the plain of Arafah to make his farewell sermon, seeing the tribes of Arabia in their tens of thousands gathered at his feet, when only a few years earlier things had been so different. One can’t but help think how emotional it must have been for Rasoolullahi (SAW) recalling only four years early the bitter sadness the fourteen hundred Sahabah and Muslims felt as they turned back from Hudaibiyah not being able to enter the sacred precincts of the Ancient House. How downbeat the Muslims felt that they were ignoring the command of the Prophet to sacrifice the animals until he (SAW) started to sacrifice the hadi himself. But that was in the course of events the great turning point upon which Allah (SWT) transformed the fortunes and fate of the nascent faith and the power of the new Islamic State.
How momentous an event it must have been. After all the great trials and tribulations, the dark moments, the long sacrifices, the rejections and boycotts, the loss of so many so dear, Allah Almighty had made His Deen and His Prophet victorious over his opponents. But as we look back with hindsight it was also full of portents of the greatest calamity to ever befall the Ummah indeed mankind. For the signs were gathering of the completion of the mission, the closing of the window of divine communication, and the departing of the life of the best of Allah’s creation, for he would soon leave this lowly world to rejoin to the company of his Lord most sublime.
From Hudaibiyah to Hajj
A brief look at some key events that took place after Hudaibiyah give us a picture of the fierce military and diplomatic struggle that the Prophet (SAW) was conducting across Arabia and far beyond. Late in the sixth year Hijri on his return from Hudaibiyah, he (SAW) decided to send messages to the kings beyond Arabia. That included messages to the Ceasar, Chosroes, Negus, and Muqawqis to name a few. In Dhul Qa’da of 7 Hijri he set off with 2,000 men to perform the ‘Umra which had been left off the previous year. In Jumada al-Ula of 8 Hijri the battle of Mu’tah took place, beginning the great conquests of the land of the Christians. Later that year in the blessed month of Ramadan, with a force of 10,000 strong, Allah (SWT) completed the great opening and conquest of Makkah. No sooner then nineteen days after the conquest the Muslims where again on the march for the battle of Hunain with a force of 12,000 men. In Rajab of 9 Hijri the Prophet (SAW) assembled his greatest fighting force of 30,000 men to invade the Roman province at the battle of Tabuk. This also would be known as the Year of Delegations (Aam al-Wufud) in which perhaps 70 or more delegations came to embrace Islam or enter under the authority of the Islamic State. So successful was the foreign policy of the State, and the Prophet (SAW) was so busy meeting the delegations, that he (SAW) appointed Abu Bakr to lead the first Hajj in Islam.
This very cursory look at some of the events that preceded the Farewell Hajj draws a picture of the pace and progress of the political and military struggle of the Prophet (SAW) to consolidate and complete the power and authority of the Islamic State over Arabia. It puts into context the Farewell Sermon (Khutbatul Wada).
The Farewell Sermon
The correct way to view the Khutbatul-Wada is the address of Allah (SWT) last messenger to mankind and the commander of the Islamic State and nation. That nation that has been tasked and whose existence has been established in order to complete the mission of the Prophet (SAW), by inviting the all nations to enter the fold of Islam and unifying the whole world under the dominion, peace and justice of Allah’s Deen.
“Indeed it is He, Who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Deen of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all others” [At-Tawba:33] – That was his mission, which must be fulfilled by us his Ummah by the promise of Allah (SWT).
So when we come across the discussion of Islam as Fikra and Tariqa – Thought and Method, i.e. a belief (a philosophy about life including values, ideals, commands and prohibitions) combined with a political, economic and social model of governance that would establish and uphold the rules, values, ideals and beliefs about life within society.
With the above mentioned thoughts in mind we should look now at the details of the Farewell Khutba, its profound and far reaching message:
“Oh People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today”
—“Oh People, just as you regard this month, this day, and this city as sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that he will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn ‘Abd’ al-Muttalib (Prophet’s uncle) shall henceforth be waived…”
—“Every right arising out of homicide in pre-Islamic days is henceforth waived and the first such right that I waive is that arising from the murder of Rabiah ibni al-Harithiah.”
—“Oh men! The unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calendar in order to make permissible that which Allah forbade, and to prohibit what Allah has made permissible. With Allah, the months are twelve in number. Four of them are sacred, three are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Shaban.”
—“Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.”
—“Oh 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 Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness.”
—“Oh People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.”
—“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim that belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”
—“Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”
—“Oh People! No Prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore Oh People! And understand words that I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur’an and the Hadith and if you follow these you will never go astray.”
—“I have left among you the Book of Allah, and if you hold fast to it, you would never go astray.”
—“All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Oh Allah, be my witness, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”
All these noble precepts mentioned in the Khutbatul Wada were not abstract notions or spiritual ideals for the Prophet (SAW) or the Qur’anic generation as they established them in reality with governance an put the seeds of a civilization that would embody, establish and convey those precepts for more that 12 centuries.
Following are some of the words from Seyidina ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab (RA) in a khutba he gave on his last Hajj:
“Nothing is dearer to Allah Almighty and of greater benefit to mankind than a ruler’s kindness based on true knowledge and insight. Nothing is more hateful to Allah than a ruler’s ignorance and stupidity.
— By Allah, I do appoint governors and officials in your provinces so that they will beat you up or take away your money. I send them to you to instruct you in your faith and teach you the way the Prophet (SAW) has shown us.
— Whoever is treated differently should put their complaints to me. By Allah who holds my soul in His hand, I will ensure that justice is done to them. If I fail to do so, I become a partner in such injustice.
— It is much better for me to remove a governor every day than to leave a despot in his position for an hour longer. To replace governors is much easier than to change the people. If setting things right for a community requires replacing their governor, then it is certainly easy.
— Therefore, whoever is in a position of authority in any area of the Muslims affairs must fear Allah in the way he treats his people. To all these I say, do not beat people up to humiliate them. Do not deny them their rights, showing them little care, and do not place them in hardships making them feel lost.
— My people, when you have completed your Hajj rituals, let the people of different regions meet me together with their governors and officials so that I can look into their situations. I will consider their disputes and give my judgment, making sure that the weak are given their rights and justice is done to all.”
Whilst performing Hajj and fulfilling all of its rites, venerating the House of Allah (SWT) hoping for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness as individuals, looking inwardly and outwardly – so too must the Hujjaj and indeed all Muslims, think of our situation as an Ummah, our mission as an Ummah and at the task of reforming the inward situation of the Ummah and outwardly – in the message that we have to convey to mankind.
“And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform Hajj).” [TMQ Surah Al-Hajj 22:27]
Implicit in the command to proclaim the Hajj to mankind is to proclaim the message of Islam i.e. the Da’wa to all nations, since the latter is a condition of fulfilling the former, which is fulfilled via the foreign policy of Islamic State. So in the last sermon one sees the Prophet (SAW) indicating the transfer of that mission from himself unto the Ummah and asking Allah (SWT) to witness upon his task now completed – “Be my witness oh Allah that I have conveyed your message to your people.”
A unique time of year
The month Dhul Hijjah and especially the first ten days of which the Prophet (SAW) said “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days.” represent a unique time of year when a sixth of humanity becomes focused on this one unique place, event and rituals.
Muslims from every near and far flung corner of the world, of every race and language, rich and poor, young and old, journey and converge to perform a unique event. Almost every Muslim in every part of the world knows someone who will be amongst the hujjaj – in this way the whole Ummah is connected to this one event in this one place. This makes Hajj a natural time to discuss the vital issues of this Ummah, it’s need for unity, liberation, leadership – and the revival of the message and da’wa to mankind.
A positive message about Hajj, Islam and the Ummah
Allah (SWT) blessed this Ummah with the greatest symbol of unity to mankind. Anyone, Muslim or Non-Muslim who has watched the hujjaj perform the hajj and the salah at the Ka’ba in their millions nowadays, can’t help but be impressed and moved at the sense of complete unison, harmony, brotherhood and energy that radiates from such sights. It’s amazing to think how this could happen between millions of complete strangers from all over the world, who speak in different tongues, coming from different societies, with no rehearsal or practice run.
This is proof of the validity of this Ummah as the ‘best Ummah ever raised up for mankind’. Hajj is proof of the ability of the Ummah to unite all peoples and to lead mankind. Hajj is proof the power of Islam to transcend all the false barriers created to divide this Ummah. It gives proof to the notion that we are indeed ‘One Ummah’.
YET, in the world today, we are the most divided, disunited and leaderless people on earth
The Hajj is an action of collective ibadah and expression of the jama’ah, but today it’s been atomized and striped to a purely individual dimension.
Hujjaj feel very strongly the bonds and emotions of brotherhood and the uniting power of the Deen yet no avenue is allowed for the expression of these sentiments.
Leadership of Hajj
The very first Hajj of Islam was not lead by the Messenger of Allah (SAW) but was delegated to Abu Bakr (ra) his Wazir, since it was the year of delegations. The affairs of state, the foreign policy of Islam, the meeting of the foreign ambassadors and spreading Islam beyond the frontiers of Arabia was too important to be delayed or neglected even for the first Hajj in Islam. This fact of the Seerah of the Messenger of Allah (SWT) and the Nabi of this Ummah is neglected today.
The Prophet’s Mission was the liberate the Ka’ba from the idolatry and shirk, to purify the Haram and it’s surrounds. He (SAW) fought the darkness of Jahilliyah – but visit the Ancient House today – so much of it has been brought back. Is it not a wrongful neglect for Muslims to visit the Haram and not consider the corruption that surrounds the blessed precincts?
Early Makki Suwar
Almost every type of corruption, which the early Makki suwar came to address, surrounds the Haram and its precincts today. The orphans, the poor and the destitute cling to the pathways while the rich Arabs cruise in luxury cars – as though the Makki suwar were never revealed. You find the institutions of riba, rich oppressing weak, cheating in the markets, hoarding wealth, racism, pride and prejudice, and the Ka’aba surrounded by the materialistic idols of today.
The Last Sermon
The greatest speech ever delivered, that summarised in the most eloquent speech the universal message of Islam. It encouraged the believers to observe all the values and high ideals of Islam and charged the Ummah with a duty of conveyance of Islam to the rest of mankind – this duty today is unfulfilled.
The Lessons of Sacrifice, Sabr and Tawakal
The story of Ibrahim, Isma’il & Hajjar (AS) is not just a story, it needs to be connected to our lives and the situation of the Ummah today. The whole message of the story is about making Allah (SWT) and the Deen of Islam He has blessed us with the centre and the pivot of our lives as individuals and as an Ummah, to make it our cause for which we live, and to be prepared to sacrifice all in it’s path. If the millions who visit the Ancient House year upon year actually took that message and idea onboard when they returned home the situation of the Ummah and indeed the world could be transformed very swiftly. Yet most of the Hujjaj have been trained to have only the thought of forgiveness as a goal and not much more. A few months after their return what dramatic and profound change does one really see in many of the Hujjaj?
Aren’t we the Ummah of Tawhid, having One God, one Messenger, one Kitab and one Kibla? So shouldn’t too our blood be one, our war be one, our land be one, our leader be one and our cause – our mission, be one?
Hajj is a symbol of our Unity as an Ummah. Less than 100 years ago pilgrims were united under one leader – the Ameer ul-Mumineen (the leader of the Believers) – the Khaleefah of the Muslims – and not divided by artificial nationalities, passports and flags. We pray that before long, that will be the case again.
Yet still today, millions of men and women, young and old, of different colours, languages and means – still face the same Qibla in orderly lines, wearing the same simple pilgrim dress, all of which symbolises the way that only Islam can unite and bring order in the Muslim world.
Indeed, it was at the of Hajj of the Prophet (SAW) that Allah (SWT) told us this Deen combining beliefs, worships and values, as well as political, economic, social and judicial systems for society -was the perfect way for humanity to live together in order and harmony, when He ‘Azza wa Jal said:
“Today the Unbelievers have despaired of overcoming your Deen. So do not fear them, fear Me. This day, I have perfected your Deen for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your Deen”
[TMQ Surah Maida 5:3]