There is an unfortunate reality for the Muslim Ummah, especially in the West, where many return from the momentus journey of the Hajj and performing its rites, only to return to the same un-Islamic characteristics that they left behind. Since this is for many a ‘once in a lifetime journey’, it is imperative that we avoid the ‘what happens in Makkah stays in Makkah’ attitude. Rather we should exert our efforts to change ourselves for the better, for the long term. The aim should be to instil an Islamic personality that is fortified during Hajj and is moulded in a way where we do not slip back into our old habits and ways.
How can so many Muslims carry out the Hajj and return to committing clear acts of Haram such as missing the Salah, Riba based transactions, or selling haram products in their trade? These kinds of inconsistencies are easy to recognise, however other aspects of the daily life of a Muslim in the West requires a deeper study of the values of the society we live in and how these effect our thinking and behaviour.
The Deen of Islam is not only a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’. Rather it is a way to view the world and your place within it. For that reason we should be careful not to inadvertently merge ideas based on Islam and unislamic ideas existent in Western societies.
We will examine some of the over-riding concepts of Islam that we can learn from Hajj, that are at odds with the values of liberal secularism, so that the experience creates a comprehensive change in our outlook and behaviour.
Placing Allah سبحانه وتعالى At the Centre of Our Lives
One of the key symbols of the Hajj is the tawaf around the Kabaa. Many scholars have written about the symbolic act of making the House of Allah the direction of prayer and circulating around it, demonstrating that Allah سبحانه وتعالى is the centre of our lives and that life is not centered on our desires and egos.
In liberal secular societies, individualism is a prized and celebrated idea. It has a deep belief and conviction that the most important aspect of society is the individual. That individuals should pursue what they want, without considering any consequences after this life. Rather the outlook is Me, Myself and I. Inevitably this creates a society full of selfish individuals, who define an action based on sensual gratification which belittles human beings.
An example of the problem of individualism is encapsulated in the ‘UK Good Childhood Inquiry’ which concluded that abuses against children were the results of beliefs of ‘excessive individualism’ and ‘that the prime duty of the individual is to make the most of their own life.’
Islam on the other hand elevates humans, by performing their actions to seeking Allah سبحانه وتعالى pleasure. This is by following the commands and prohibitions established in His سبحانه وتعالى revelation. Indeed Allah سبحانه وتعالى, All Knowing, has the perfect knowledge on how humans should conduct themselves to create true happiness and tranquility for individuals and societies.
This approach is to develop our thinking and conforming our behaviour with Islam. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: “None of you shall be a believer unless his disposition is in accordance with what I brought (to you),” and he صلى الله عليه وسلم also said, “None of you shall be a believer unless I am the intellect with which he comprehends.’
Sacrificing for Allah’s Sakes
Sacrificing an animal every Eid ul Adha clearly reminds us when Ibrahim عليه السلام accepted to sacrifice his son Ismail عليه السلام in true submission to Allah سبحانه وتعالى, and then Allah سبحانه وتعالى replaced him with a sheep.
However in the West, capitalist ideas such as maximisation of wealth and consumerism is saturated in society. If capitalism does require a sacrifice, its to sacrifice time, energy, morals and family for the sake of wealth. Together with individualism, a society becomes selfish and greedy and believes the measure of existence is how much wealth is obtained. Indeed the main success of any government is determined in capitalist societies by the increase in GDP figures.
Is it then surprising that individuals will cheat, lie, steal or exploit the system? The world has seen this with bankers and the scandal of MP expenses, which has all been in order to maximise their wealth.
As Muslims we must reject this capitalist mindset of judging matters based on whether it effects our material benefit or not. Rather we are required to adhere to the halal and haram and even go beyond that striving for ihsaan (excellence) and performance of mustahab (recommended) actions, even if it means sacrificing our earnings.
Today we must consider what we need to sacrifice. The idea of a comfortable life, and praying in glossy Masjids and eating Halal meat is not the whole of Islam. The example of Ibrahim عليه السلام and of all the Prophets, including the final seal of the Prophets, Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, is the example of sacrifice in the perseverance in working to establish the Deen of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. Indeed adhering to Islam and working for its establishment will inevitably require sacrifices. Your Ismail i.e. your sacrifice could be your wealth, your job, your rank, your power, your lust, your greed, your spouse or family. Therefore we must remind ourselves of the example of Ibrahim عليه السلام sacrifice when we are tested by Allah سبحانه وتعالى with things we love in this world.
Allah سبحانه وتعالى said,
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنْفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ
الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ
أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ
“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.). Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return. They are those on whom are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:155-157)
The completion of the Revelation
On the day of Arafat Allah سبحانه وتعالى completed the revelation with the following ayah:
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإسْلامَ دِينًا
“This day I have perfected your deen, bestowed my favour upon you, and have chosen Islam as your way of life” (Al-Mai’da: 3)
Clearly there are pressures for Muslims to give up, or even reform some of their values in favour of liberal secular ideas, particularly those living in the West. They claim obligations such as segregation of the genders, Islam’s views on chastity, or its views on politics and shariah should be changed and updated to fit a “modern” secular society.
However, how can we amend or change that which the Lord of the universe completed and perfected? If there is a disparity between the current status quo and Islam, then it is the status quo or society that must change not Islam. Ultimately this was the struggle of the Prophets who faced a society hostile to the revelation of Allah سبحانه وتعالى and though they faced persecution they never compromised nor changed the message they were ordered to convey.
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was given various offers to compromise the Deen while living in Mecca, his صلى الله عليه وسلم response was emphatic, “I swear by the name of God, O Uncle!, that if they place the sun in my right-hand and the moon in my left-hand in return for giving up this matter (calling people to Islam), I will never desist until either God makes it triumph or I perish therein.” Al-Serah Al-Nabaweyyah, Ibn Hesham, Vol. 1, pp. 265-266.
Living in the West, we should not become defensive about our Deen. Rather we should convey it, without compromising the message in a manner that demonstrates the strength of its ideas and the weakness in liberal secular ideas.
أدْعُ إِلَى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُمْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ ضَلَّ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” (An-Nahl: 125)
Unity of the Ummah.
One of the most striking experiences of all Hujjaj, is the different array of races and peoples who come to the Hajj united based on the Islamic Aqeeda. It was Malcolm X’s experience of the Hajj that removed his racist attitude and who realised the potential of unity of humanity, no matter the race nor the nation, upon the belief of Islam.
Therefore when returning back to our homes we should not think we are now disconnected from the Muslim Ummah. The difficulties and problems afflicting the Muslim world should not only concern us but we should also work to alleviate their suffering. The push to divide us into nationalistic entities or the push to distance the Muslims in the West away from the wider global Ummah should be resisted. Indeed how can we stand together in Hajj as a display of unity praying to the one and only Creator and then divide ourselves into small nationalistic entities dividing ourselves politically? We should work earnestly to manifest the full unity of the Ummah under the Islamic political system, Al Khilafah Rashida!
وَاعْتَصِمُواْ بِحَبْلِ اللّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلاَ تَفَرَّقُواْ
“And hold tight to the rope of Allah and and be not disunited” (Al-Imran, 3:103)
In conclusion, there are a vast array of lessons we can take from Hajj and the above are some brief points that we should contemplate and consider in order to create the lasting change in ourselves. This change would not just affect our individual behaviour but also shape our view towards society and the Muslim Ummah, thus creating a dynamic Muslim character.