This is the month of Hajj, a divinely prescribed pilgrimage to Makkah that dates back to the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), who with his son Ishmael (Isma’il) built the Ka’bah or "house of Allah (God).” It is through the rituals of the Hajj pilgrimage that Muslims commemorate the personal struggle and sufferings of the Prophet Ibrahim whom the Qur’an describes as; "indeed a paragon of virtue, obedient to Allah, and not one of those who disbelieve. We chose him and guided him to a Straight Path …" (Qur’an 16: 121-123)
The message and mission of Prophet Ibrahim reached the culminating point in the life and tradition of Prophet Muhammad. In his final address before the vast Hajj concourse at Arafat, the last Prophet’s message highlighted the virtues of equality, justice, peace and human values.
We read in the Qur’an that Allah sends Prophets and messengers to all nations of the world, bearing good news as well as warnings, and that every prophet was chosen by Allah. They did not become prophets by their own will or achievements. Some prophets did occasionally perform miracles through the permission of Allah, but for the most part, they all went through the same pains, trials, and tests in their lives as other human beings.
"Lo! We inspired thee (Prophet Muhammad) as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Ibrahim and Isma’il and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as we imparted unto David the Psalms; and messengers We have mentioned unto thee before and messengers whom We have not mentioned unto thee; and to Musa (Moses) God spoke directly. Messengers [are sent] as heralds of glad tiding and of warning, in order that humankind might have no excuse before Allah after the [coming of] these messengers." (Qur’an 4:163-165)
These verses clearly show that there are two aspects involved in raising or sending prophets; one aspect deals with "good news" and the other with the concept of "warning." To punish a people for any wrong they may do, without their being warned beforehand by a prophet from the Creator, is contrary to Allah’s mercy and compassion. The warning precedes responsibility, which may be followed by reward or punishment: "So anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, shall see it, and anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil, shall see it." (Qur’an 99:7-8)
However, the majority of the people to whom prophets were sent rejected these prophets and their teachings and showed intense animosity towards them. And because of their arrogance and audacity, they brought Allah’s wrath upon themselves and in some cases were wiped off the face of the earth. "Have they not learned anything from the previous generations? — The people of Nuh (Noah), ‘Aad, Thamud, the people of Ibrahim (Abraham), the dwellers of Madyan (Midian) and of the cities overthrown; to them come their Messengers with clear proof. So it was not God Who wronged them, but they wronged their own souls." (Qur’an 9:70)
"We do not send messengers but as givers of good news and warning, and those who disbelieve make a false contention that they may render null thereby the truth, and they take My communications … for a mockery." (Qur’an 18:56) Let us reflect briefly as to what happened to those people who rendered null the truth and made mockery of Allah’s apostles:
"… [A]s for the ‘Ad – they were destroyed by a storm wind furiously raging, which He willed against them for seven nights and eight days without cease, so that in the end thou couldst see those people laid low [in death], as though they were so many [uprooted] trunks of hollow palm trees: and dost thou now see any remnant of them?" (Qur’an: 69: 6-8) "And that was [the end of the tribe of] `Ad, [who] had rejected their Sustainer’s messages, and rebelled against His apostles, and followed the bidding of every arrogant enemy of the truth." (Qur’an 11:50)
“[To those wrongdoers shall happen] the like of what happened to Pharaoh’s people and those who lived before them: they gave the lie to their Sustainer’s messages — and so We destroyed them in return for their sins, and caused Pharaoh’s people to drown: for they were wrong- doers …" (Qur’an 8:54)
In the Bible (King James Version) we read: "The words of Amos who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa which he saw concerning Israel: ‘Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob’.” (Amos 9:8); "I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes." (Amos 2:5-6); "Ye who turn justice to wormwood, leaving off righteousness in the earth. They hate him that rebuke in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh upright." (Amos 5:7-10)
The people of Lut (Lot) rejected (his) warning. “We sent against them a violent tornado with showers of stones, (which destroyed them), except Lut’s household: them We delivered by early dawn as a grace from Us: thus do We reward those who give thanks." (Qur’an 54: 33-36)
"This account of the communities — some of them still remaining, and some [extinct like] a field mown down — We convey unto thee [as a lesson for humankind]: for, no wrong did We do to them, but it was they who wronged themselves. And such is thy Sustainer’s punishing grasp whenever He takes to task any community that is given to evildoing." (Qur’an 11:100-102) Herein lies a clear warning for modern-day evildoers, tyrants, occupiers and oppressors.
Once again, the annual Hajj coincides with dreadful events unfolding in the Muslim world. The situation in the Middle East continues to be volatile and ominous, with the international community and neighboring Muslim countries alike all distancing themselves from the intense sufferings of the people of occupied Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. If this trend is not checked in time, impending catastrophe will overtake us all.
Properly understood, the looming danger facing the world requires Muslims to collectively — as the global Ummah — raise their voices against tyranny and injustice. Millions of Muslims come to Makkah from all corners of the world, reciting "O Lord I am here," a solemn promise that also must be fulfilled in deed. But, as in the case of the Hajj, mere rituals without deeper meaning and a spirit of justice and equality behind their rites and customs, are not enough. The Qur’an drives home this point, saying: “It is not their meat or blood that reaches Allah." (Qur’an 22:37)