As the Saudi Arabian peninsula becomes more volatile and violent, two million people will descend on Mecca for the annual Hajj (pilgrimage) following a tradition that shadows the footsteps of Prophet Ebrahim (Abraham), peace be upon him (pbuh).
Whilst the rites of the pilgrimage are well known, greater emphasis is being placed on the inner dimensions and essence of Hajj i.e. the meaning of the prophecy, the importance of unity and the fate of the Muslim ummah (nation).
The Hajj offers a practical example of confronting and solving current dilemmas including oppression, racism, inequality and sacrifice. Treading the footpath of the great revolutionary, prophet Ebrahim, the pilgrims recount his jihad (struggle) in combating and eradicating the challenges that faced him.
Born into a technologically advanced society steeped in the worship of idols, the stars, sun and moon, the masses were exploited and oppressed by both the politicians and the religious elite. Superstitions, divination, witchcraft, and the use of talisman and amulets guaranteed the priest’s power over their people.
The kings colluded with the priests to keep their subjects under servitude. By creating fear and anxiety, the priests accorded supreme power to the king, whose power over their lives and property was absolute. Because Ebrahim openly rebelled against the twin oppressive powers he underwent severe trials and tribulations.
He was isolated, tortured, despised and exiled, yet firmly stuck to his principles and beliefs. His exemplary life demonstrates a commitment to struggle in order to overcome oppression. As the pilgrims flock towards Mecca, they recount the firmness of purpose and determination shown by Ebrahim before Almighty God granted him leadership of the nations.
Accompanying Ebrahim on this epochal journey to Mecca was Hajira (Hagar), the mother of his son Ismail, who helped his father build the Holy Kaaba. Left in the inhospitable desert environment, Hajira’s heroic efforts to raise Ismail is revered as the Muslim pilgrims physically retrace and emulate her struggle. She lies buried at the Kaaba in the ultimate form of respect as millions of Muslims circumambulate it annually.
It is remarkable that, from amongst all of humanity, millions of Muslims often accused of discriminating against women, pay homage to a woman. More so, among all women, she is a slave. And amongst all slaves, a black maid! The respect and honour granted to Hajira remains unparalleled.
Despised and isolated, lacking shelter, homeless and lonely, she faced this adversity with exemplary courage. A slave from the lowest rung of society, exiled to a strange land, rejected from the aristocratic and capitalist system, a black maid with a child in her arms- she overcame these drawbacks to soar to the pinnacle of humanity.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) declared centuries later in his final sermon in Mecca that “no Arab is superior to a non-Arab, nor is a non-Arab superior to an Arab, nor is a White man superior to a Black, or a Black man superior to a White man.”
The Iranian sociologist Ali Shariati wrote in his book Hajj and Freedom that barriers between classes and nations is effectively discarded by donning a simple frock or two unsown pieces of cloth. Clothes create superficial borders that gives rise to discrimination and symbolize status and distinction. The concept of race, class, tribe, clan, group, position, family and values disappears.
Clothes typify the relationship between master and servant, oppressor and oppressed, colonialist and colonized, exploiter and exploited strong and weak, rich and poor, nourished and malnourished, honored and dishonored, happy and unhappy, civilized and uncivilized, Eastern and Western.
It is the experience of Hajj that tears down these divisions of wealth, power, social status and race, merging the masses in a collective, unified throng of humanity.
Prophet Ebrahim and Hajira underwent enormous trials and tribulations in confronting injustice and oppression before being granted leadership of the nations. Isolation, humiliation, torture and exile in the course of truth are inevitable. Having waited 86 years for a child to continue his mission, Ebrahim demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice his son for the lofty ideals of truth and justice.
The world is witnessing the colossal sacrifices borne in the struggles against the occupiers in Palestine, Iraq, Kashmir and Chechnya. The daily martyrdom of the oppressed in their struggle for a higher, sublime purpose is modeled on the paradigm of Ebrahim and Hajira.
At the end of the rituals Muslims should remain for a couple of days to discuss with people from other parts of the world who have the same ideology, needs and problems. Thinkers, intellectuals, academics, freedom-fighters who fight colonialism, oppression, occupation, poverty and corruption in their lands have the opportunity to exchange views, seek advice and assistance, and find solutions.
Muslims must use this opportunity to study the danger and conspiracies of the super-powers and their agents who have infiltrated Muslim nations. It is a forum that must expose the propaganda, Islamophobia and causes of disunity amongst the various Muslim nations. Through a system of cooperation and understanding, Muslims will be strengthened in their jihad (struggle) against a common enemy.
As the followers of the true revolutionaries, Ebrahim, Moosa, Isa and Muhammad begin their annual march to the Holy Lands of Mecca, the thrones of the oppressors reverberate with apprehension. As the Saudi monarchy totters in the shifting desert sands steadied only by the increasingly shaky hands of America and Israel, the enemies of Islam can no longer keep the revolutionary ideals of Hajj hidden.