SHAFAQNA – One of the five sacred pillars of Islam, Hajj pilgrimage is required of all able Muslim – men and women, at least once in their lifetime. Holy among the holies, Hajj embodies the very spirit of Islam as it enables the faithful to reach the divine through physical acts of worship.
It is God whom pilgrims are yearning for as they turn their faces towards Mecca; it is remembrance of God’s Mercy and His Benevolence pilgrims hope to find as they walk in the footsteps of Islam’s last prophet.
Allah says: “The pilgrimage is (in) the well-known months, and whoever is minded to perform the pilgrimage therein, then let there be no lewdness nor abuse nor disputation during the pilgrimage. And whatsoever good you do Allah knows it. So make provision for yourselves (Hereafter); for the best provision is to ward off evil. Therefore keep your duty unto Me, O people of understanding.” [Surah al-Baqarah: 197]
A pilgrimage of the mind and heart, as well as the body, Hajj demands of each pilgrim utmost restraint, good moral, and piety. If Hajj is often taxing on the body, it is spiritual elevation, and enlightenment which in fact require together discipline and absolute devotion. Needless to say that Hajj is not for the faint-hearted. Hajj commands submission through perfected religion … only then, can pilgrims hope to be reborn in Islam and washed away from their sins.
The walk of a lifetime, the communion to surpass all communions Hajj is where, and when many will find not only Islam, but Eternity in faithful abandonment.
The Hajj pilgrimage is a concerted effort for the pilgrim to remain aloof from the desires of the worldly life and its material concerns. The pilgrimage trains and conditions the character to be more independent of material things and to find contentment in less.
Every year millions on Muslims converge towards the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform their pilgrimage, and complete their faith. Every year tens of thousands have seen their pride and their body shattered under the vengeful boot of al-Saud’s Wahhabi moral police in the name of a faith which has claimed ownership over Islam’s inner sanctum.
If Mecca still echoes of Abraham, if the Kaaba still remembers of the touch of God’s prophet, its skies remain blotted by the arrogance of a house which thought itself worthier of that which God’s elected to His Guardianship.
As it glimmers of a thousand golden lights, its floor paved with marbles and precious stones, Mecca has died a million deaths – its holy landscape redacted, and the faithful prevented from expressing their devotion in the manner which best fits their heart. It is violence today which most of all has tainted Hajj and turned Islam’s most sacred ritual into an exercise of submission to the dogmatism of Wahhabism.
Muslims of all school of thoughts and walks of life have raised their voice in resistance – keen to break fear so that Islam could be reclaimed for those who seek God, and not flitting glory.
“I have ben spat on, beaten and punched while performing Hajj. I was called an apostate and an infidel when I turned my face towards the Prophet Muhammad’s last resting place and called for his intercession. I was slapped in Medina as I read my book of duas [religious supplications] in al-Baqee cemetery where Islam’s saints are buried. My real crime? Doing Hajj while Shia” said Hassan al-Wazir, a pilgrim from Yemen in her testimony to the Baqee Organization.
Hanan Abbas, a British pilgrim recalled how her elderly mother was thrown to the ground by a Muttawa (Wahhabi religious police) when she shed tears at al-Baqee cemetery over the martyrdom of Fatema bint Muhammad, the daughter of the Prophet. “My mum was first told to move away … when she pleaded with police to be allowed to pay her respect to the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad she was pushed violently to the ground. They took her book of supplication and cursed her. As my brother intervened he was hit with a baton in the stomach … I was in shock! My mother spent the rest of her Hajj in tears. I have never been angrier in my life. Hajj is supposed to be a time of reflection and peace. We saw the face of hatred and bigotry.
Under the care of the Saudi regime the Hajj pilgrimage has been turned into a painful and humiliating experience. For millions of non-Wahhabis, every step taken has become an act of resistance against the intolerance of blind extremism.
“Long ago Muslims faced the wrath of Mecca’s idolatrous elite … today we face the poison of another. We have tasted humiliation and oppression for we have refused to abandon our beliefs and buckle down before the House of Saud. For millions like me performing the Hajj is an act of religious resistance against tyranny. We shall continue to bear our sorrow and call on our Lord to revenge our cries. Islam is for all believers, without judgement, without bias, without prejudices … Islam is not about dogma and vengeance. What a tragedy to see our Scriptures misinterpreted by an ignorant crowd,” noted Sheikh al-Hashemi, a scholar from Yemen.
A sign of the time, and in negation of Islam calls for tolerance, the Saudi regime has called since 2015 for pilgrims to be profiled according to their school of thoughts. Pakistani officials confirmed in 2015 that: “Saudi Arabia will not entertain any Hajj application from aspirants that fail to specify whether the applicant is a Shia or a Sunni.”
It is violence and the fear of violent repression which more than anything else now rhymes with Hajj. Only this September the Saudi authorities arrested Iraqi Shia scholar “Sheikh Taha” in Mina, sentencing him to 3-month incarceration and 300 flagellations for an unknown reason.
Of all the many and grave transgressions Saudi Arabia committed against pilgrims one particularly troubling incident has stood out. Just as millions of pilgrims flocked to the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia senior cleric called for a grand religious cleanse against all those they view as apostates: all non-Wahhabis.
Of course the label non-Wahhabis extend to pretty much every faith, including Islam.
By Catherine Shakdam – Director of Programs for the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies. This article was published in the Huffington Post.