Friday, December 7, 2007

Hajj is Arafah: Developing an Insight

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

While Laylah al-Qadr is the greatest night of the year for Muslims , Yawm 'Arafah is the greatest day of the year for Muslims. So great is this day that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) proclaimed "Hajj is Arafah". There is no night in which we supplicate more than the Night of Power and there is no day on which we supplicate more than the Day of 'Arafah. Even those not participating in the Hajj rituals are encouraged to fast on the Day of Arafah and engage in all kinds of good and righteous works.

Now, what are some of the lessons that can be learnt from the Hajj and more specifically the Day of 'Arafah?

For me personally, the significance of the Hajj and especially the Day of 'Arafah is embodied in the following very important Qur'anic verse - a Qur'anic verse that addresses the whole of humanity:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

This verse is mentioned in Surah al-Hujurat. It is significant that in this Surah Allah Almighty - prior to this verse - addresses the Believers five times with يا أيها الذين آمنوا (O you who believe). In the sixth address (which is this address) the message is directed to the whole of humanity because it is a matter that concerns the whole of humanity - humanity in all its diversity. Apart from the universal address there are also some other important points:
(a) All of humanity share in the common denominator of being created by Allah .

(b) We were created from a common origin, a single pair of male and female - a pair whose parts are different yet complementary - a pair that requires both parts to ensure that the human race lives on

(c) Even though we were created from a common origin, we were still made into different nations and tribes with different languages and colours. These differences, though, were never intended to create division but rather (i) as a sign pointing to Allah's Power to create diversity from a unity as He says in Surah Rum (verse: 22) (وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّلْعَالِمِينَ ), and (ii) as a means to learn to know one another by looking beyond these physical and Islamically insignificant differences as stated in this verse in Surah al-Hujurat. Also, Allah Himself says that if He wanted He could have made us into one single nation, but instead He chose otherwise (وَلَوْ شَاء اللَّهُ لَجَعَلَهُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً ) (Surah al-Shura verse: 8), and (وَلَوْ شَاء رَبُّكَ لَجَعَلَ النَّاسَ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً ) (Surah Hud verse: 118).

(d) As stated in the previous point, the reason behind all this diversity is for us to rise above our differences by embracing the one and only commonality which is that we are all creatures of Allah, and created by Him from a single male and female, and then made into different nations and tribes. So what really unites us is the fact that we all share the reality of being created by Allah, and that makes us no better than anyone else. This intended human diversity is not without significance. The significance of this diversity is to afford the best amongst us the opportunity to rise above these differences, and to see only the commonality that unites us which is our utter dependence as creatures of Allah upon Allah (يا أيها الناس أنتم الفقراء إلى الله والله هو الغني الحميد) (O People, You are the ones that are in need of Allah, while Allah is absolutely free of all wants, and the One Always Praised).

(e) The next point in the verse is where a categorical statement is made, namely: (Verily, the most noble and honourable amongst you in Allah's estimation are the most Allah-conscious of you). As if to say, that not only is Taqwa the main and primary criterion for determining the most noble and honourable amongst us, but that Taqwa itself is also the means that enables us to see beyond our differences and to see only what unites us. In fact, it is only relationships that are bulit on Taqwa that are lasting and enduring relationships. The Qur'an tells us that on the Day of Judgment all friends will be enemies of one another except those who have Taqwa: الْأَخِلَّاء يَوْمَئِذٍ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ إِلَّا الْمُتَّقِينَ (Surah al-Zukhruf verse: 67). Moreover, the fact that Taqwa is not tangible so as to be measurable means that no one can really claim the quality for him or herself (except the Messenger of Allah) but that we can only strive to be the best that we can possibly be.

(f) Should we be deluded into thinking that we have more Taqwa than some others, then just remember the hidden and veiled warning in the final part of the verse: (إِنَّ الله عَلِيْمٌ خَبِيْرٌ) , as if to say: Only Alllah knows and is aware of those who have Taqwa, so let us not be deluded and be carried away by false piety. In fact, Allah has made the sole criterion for being the best amongst humanity a quality that cannot really be measured because Allah alone knows how much you have of it if at all. If anything then Taqwa will cause you to know how really insignificant you are and that it will also cause you to think others better than you. You cannot be having Taqwa if you claim that your Taqwa is more than someone else's. In Surah al-Najm verse: 33 Allah reminds us that He knows us from the very beginning, from the time He created our ancestors from the earth and from the time that we were nothing but tiny emryos in our mothers' wombs, and therefore we should not make ourselves out to be good and pure, because He knows best those (among us) who have Taqwa:

(هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِكُمْ إِذْ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ وَإِذْ أَنتُمْ أَجِنَّةٌ فِى بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ فَلَا تُزَكُّوا أَنفُسَكُمْ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِ اتَّقَى ) .

Now, if you seek to find a link between Sawm and Hajj, then the link is this very quality of Taqwa. Sawm precedes Hajj by about two or three months, and Allah tells in the famous Sawm verse the whole purpose behind fasting which is to develop and achieve Taqwa (لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُوْنَ) . In a very important Hajj verse Allah tells us to gather our supplies but that the best of supplies is Taqwa (فَتَزَوَّدُوْا فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَى) . It is as if Ramadhan prepared us and equipped us with the neccesary supplies (i.e. Taqwa) to enable us to get through the Hajj in the best possible manner.

Thus, it is in the Hajj that we see all the values that are mentioned in the verse mentioned in Surah al-Hujurat realised there and then:

The theme of unity and commonnness of humanity is stressed throughout Hajj:

(1) Unity of Purpose: We all go to Makkah with one and only purpose in mind, namely, to respond to Allah's invitation to come to the Holy House by saying: labbayk (Here we are, in answer to Your call; Here we are, in answer to Your call). In fact, "Hajj" itself means "to intend" because the pilgrim intends the House of Allah وَللهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيْلاَ .

(2) Unity of Dress: We all dress in one type of garment, and it is significant that this is also how we will be dressed when we are finally laid into our graves

(3) Unity of Language: We all recite the same Thikr and Du'a

(4) Unity of Activity: We all engage in the same activities

(5) Unity of Locations: We all move around in the same locations, and congregate on Yawm 'Arafah on the same plain the Plain of Arafat, where everybody engage in Thikr and Du'a

Everything that the pilgrim engages in during Hajj emphasises the unity of humanity rather than its diversity. While they are all different and diverse they are really all the same, because they all go there with the same concerns, and the common hope that Allah will accept their Thikr, Du'a and Righteous Deeds.

There is also something very atomic and cosmic about the Hajj. During the Tawaf we circumambulate the Ka'bah just as planets do around a star or sun or sub-atomic particles around a nucleus. In other words, from the smallest to the largest of objects in the universe, there is this sense of revolving around a center. It is this center which unites these apparently disparate bodies., without which they will all be scattered. Even on a non-physical level we require this center or purpose in life around which our whole life revolves. There is always a tendency to tie apparently unrelated things together. There is this tendency towards Tawhid, if you may. Even in life we have cycles. There are our own life cycles. And on reflection we see that even these cycles tend to have a center. It is the center that provides the unity to all the diversity that we see. It's only now that I understand the full impication of the words of the poet: وَفِيْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ لَهُ آيَةٌ * تَدُلُّ عَلَى أَنَّهُ وَاحِدٌ [In everything there is a sign that points to the fact that He (Allah) is One]. Isn't tasbih exactly just that: to celebrate the Absolute Uniqueness of Allah and to have a belief in Allah that is free from likening Allah to any of His creation. In other words, He is Absolutely Unique, He is Absolutely One, and this is what everything in the universe attests to, and this includes the Hajj. Not only do we as Hujjaj (pilgrims) celebrate the unity of humanity but we also celebrate through our states and actions the Absolute Unity of the Lord of Humanity.

It should also be remembered that Arafah is so called because it is said that it is the place where Adam and Hawwa' came together after their exit from Paradise. It is also significant that 'Arafah comes from the same root as لتعارفوا (lita'aarafuu = in order that you may know each other) mentioned in the Hujuraat verse. It is almost as if people are meant to learn to know one another by foregetting their differences (even internal and sectarian differences) and all just to unite as a single human being with a single purpose and a single request that Allah forgive them all, and to save them from the Fire of Jahannam.

The Hajj should be a lesson for all of us in that by joining forces and having a common purpose we should be able to overcome the challenges that face us as an Ummah. Our problem is that we still prefer to foreground our differences rather than our commanilities as an Ummah, which is why we have become the laughing stock of the world. As a Muslim Ummah we have all the ingredients to be the best nation that has evolved for the entire humanity, but we prefer petty and trivial differences to divide, and the outcome is what you see in the world today as regards the condition of the Muslims. The irony of it all is that despite being a weak Ummah at the moment we are still a force to be reckoned with. The point is what a force won't we be if we are instead in a position of strength! The Hajj should remind us every year of our strength as an Ummah: how Muslims can mobilise millions within a short period of time in one place - an Ummah that operates as a single human being. HAJJ IS THE ULTIMATE SHOW OF UNITY IN DIVERSITY ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.

O Allah, help us as an UMMAH, O Allah, help the UMMAH of Your Most Beloved, Ameen!

1 comment:

Adnan said...

A great post. JazakAllah for your efforts.