Jumuah lecture on Friday 12 July 2019 (9 Dhul Qa’ada 1440)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
These days, we are bidding farewell to our brethren who are very privileged to be granted the opportunity to embark on the great journey of Hajj, to perform this great pillar of Islam and fulfil their compulsory duty, and visit the house of Almighty Allah (SWT).
This beautiful tradition in our city of Cape Town, of bidding farewell and paying respect to Hujjaaj, is indeed highly commendable, as they are the guests of Almighty Allah (SWT). There is no doubt about this, in principle, that it is a good practice and in a way expressing our respect towards this great pillar by the name of Hajj.
Also during this week, we have the birthday of the 8th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (a.s). I thought it will be appropriate to narrate a beautiful, thought-provoking and very comprehensive Hadith from Imam Ali Ridha (a.s), relating to Hajj. All these traditions we uphold in Cape Town are beautiful, no doubt, but we should not forget the real philosophy, meaning and message of Hajj.
IMAM RIDHA (A.S) EXPLAINS THE PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY OF HAJJ
This particular Hadith, which I am about to narrate from the 8th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Ali Ridha (a.s), gives us a summary of what Hajj is all about. It is narrated that Imam Ali Ridha (a.s) said that people are commanded to go to Hajj for a number of reasons, but the primary reason is to be guests of Almighty Allah (SWT).
The Hadith is quite lengthy, but there are 3 main themes on the philosophy and significance of Hajj, covered by Imam Ridha (a.s) in this narration:
The first part of this Hadith speaks about the spiritual aspect of Hajj, explaining that the main reason for Hajj is to migrate towards Almighty Allah (SWT). This is a journey from where we are, towards our Creator, and to seek mercy and proximity of Allah (SWT). The way to achieve this is through coming out of those acts which has polluted us with sins and the diseases of the soul, while making Tauba (repentance) for what has passed.
SPIRITUAL ASPECT OF HAJJ
There is a very beautiful build up in this Hadith of Imam Ridha (a.s):
- He starts off by explaining that Hajj is the migration towards Almighty Allah (SWT).
- The purpose of Hajj being to increase the level of proximity to Almighty Allah (SWT).
- This is achieved through Tauba (repentance) and withdrawing from the pollution of sins and diseases of the soul.
Imam Ridha (a.s) explains that the method to achieving this result is through spending money for the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT). This is how we will break out of the pollution of sins. Furthermore, this is achieved when we place our body in trouble by going through the strain of travelling all the way to Mecca, and the associated challenges.
Imam Ridha (a.s) further explains that this result is achieved with the sacrifice of leaving our families behind and choosing to go towards the desert weather instead of an exotic holiday in loads of comfort!
You embark on this spiritual journey of Hajj with conviction and you are going with the intention that this will be a permanent feature for you, and that you will cut away from the enjoyment of your desires, for the sake of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Imam Ridha (a.s) says that we embark on this journey with extreme humility, like a beggar before Almighty Allah (SWT), instead of with any ego or intent to show off and expect a social status as a Haji!
This is the spiritual aspect Hajj!
ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF HAJJ
Imam Ridha (a.s) then moves to explaining the material benefits, after embedding the central foundation, which is the spirituality and Manasik of Hajj. Imam Ridha (a.s) explains that Islam does not separate itself from the material aspect. Spirituality is there, but at the same time, this international and global assembly of the people has a strong material element.
So, with all of the spiritual benefit and self-development in Hajj, as explained by Imam Ridha (a.s) noted above, we read that he goes further to explain the benefit there is in Hajj for the whole world! Imam Ridha (a.s) is saying that the material benefits of Hajj are not limited to those who are present in Hajj.
Hajj provides an amazing economic empowerment opportunity not only for the Hujjaj, but for all those who are making business during this period. Imam Ridha (a.s) lists them as follows:
- Business people
- Someone who produces
SOCIO-POLITICAL AND CULTURAL DIMENSION TO HAJJ
In addition to this, very importantly Imam Ridha (a.s) says that Hajj provides the opportunity for people to take care of the needs of each other, as Hajj is the global assembly of the whole Ummah! During this process, you network with different people from different nationalities, coming from all corners of the world with their pains and challenges. This is the opportunity to reach out!
Imam Ridha (a.s) then goes beyond the socio-political aspect of Hajj (being the universal assembly) to explain the great cultural benefits, which he explains as the opportunity to understand religion, and the opportunity to convey the message of the Imams of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) to every corner of the world.
Imam Ridha (a.s) then explains that Hajj is to witness the great benefits such as the empowerment and upliftment in the areas of spirituality, economical, socio-political and cultural. So, Hajj provides the opportunity to not only uplift you spiritually, but is the ideal platform for all Muslims to convene to discuss the social and political challenges of this Ummah.
And indeed, without doubt, Hajj provides the opportunity to promote the teachings of Islam and understand our religion better. What Imam Ridha (a.s) is trying to say is that we have all aspects of Islam altogether at the annual pilgrimage of Hajj.
There are so many Hadith recorded from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and the Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s), which explains their approach to Hajj as being the comprehensive, all-encompassing platform for Muslims to take great benefit from.
THE SAD REALITY OF HAJJ TODAY
Through this beautiful Hadith from Imam Ridha (a.s), we get a clear picture of what Hajj is meant to be. Unfortunately, the realities on the ground today are very different to what Hajj should be. Unfortunately, today’s Hajj is very much distanced from its real philosophy, significance and benefits.
Spiritually, Hajj has been negatively affected.
The economic benefits of Hajj are still there. There are those who benefit substantially, but I do not think that the Muslim Ummah as a whole benefits and uses this opportunity for economic empowerment of this Ummah. It is not there unfortunately. Certain families who believe that Mecca and Madina are their personal property are the ones who suck the blood of the Hujjaaj and legally or illegally exploit the Hujjaaj to benefit only themselves.
And when it comes to cultural and academic benefits of Hajj, we again see that this is very limited.
Then, when we look at the socio-political benefits of Hajj, we are very sorry to say that the custodians of Hajj have no shame in saying that Hajj has nothing to do with politics! They make it a point for Hajj to not be politicized.
In fact, if you want to politicize Hajj for a particular agenda, then nobody politicizes Hajj more than the Saudi Royal family! However, if politicizing the Hajj is for the sake of the Muslim Ummah and the unity of this nation, they issue a very strong decree to not make Hajj political, because you came here to engage in the rituals of worship in Hajj, and not to give slogans.
It is not us issuing political slogans. Instead, the slogans are coming directly from the Holy Quran which commands us to not surrender before the enemies. This is a major announcement on Hajj! This is the Hajj which the Holy Quran expresses as the universal assembly of Muslims to witness the benefits for themselves as a united Ummah against the enemies, and collectively addressing the challenges of Muslims.
This is the tragedy, that this comprehensive approach to Hajj has been shunned by the Saudis. Hajj is there, but we cannot speak about the pain of our people in Palestine, nor can we speak about the pain of our people in Yemen. Nor can we speak about the suffering of our people in Myanmar. Nor can we speak about the unjust treatment of our people in China. Nor can we speak about the suffering of Muslims and the oppressed in different parts of the world, because it has nothing to do with Hajj, according to them!
This is in stark contradiction with the spirit of Hajj of Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) and the Hajj of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).