Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
More than two million have performed Hajj this year. Hajj is the best symbol for universal brotherhood and the Muslim Times has the best collection on this theme.
What do all these rituals of Salat and Hajj mean in the big scheme of things?
The very first verse of the Holy Quran is, “I begin in the name of God, the Most Compassionate and the Most Merciful.”
It talks about the Divine compassion for the mankind and as we are created in His image, we are supposed to reflect it towards fellow humans and the rest of God’s creation.
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Persian poet from the 13th century is the best selling poet in USA these days. He wrote 3,000 love songs to his mentor Shams of Tabriz, the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, and God. His monumental Mathnawi has been called the Quran in the Persian language. According to William C. Chittick, Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies at Stony Brook University, as he highlights love in both the Mathnawi and the Quran, “This is not because it bears any outward resemblance to the Divine Word, but rather because Rumi was able to capture in a non-technical, everyday language, understandable to any Persian speaker, what he himself calls, ‘the roots of the roots of the roots of the religion’ – which is an apt description of the Quran itself, the foundation of every thing Islamic.” A beautiful one line summary by Rumi of the love in the Quran, an epitome of love, compassion and justice.
William Chittick has an essay titled the Quran and Sufism in a recently published commentary of the holy Quran by Syed Hossein Nasr and his associates:
So the goal of God’s creative activity is not, as some might think, for there simply to be a world out there, but rather for God and His loved ones to come together, as they were before creation. Rumi explains this game of love when he says that all of us used to be ﬁsh swimming in the ocean of Divine Unity, unaware of our distinction from the water. Then God threw us up on dry land, the realm of separation, longing, pain, and suffering. Only by tasting separation can we remember the joy of water and desire to return to it. Once we return, we will swim in the Ocean of Unity again with full awareness of the joy of consummated love.
The most explicit reference to union with God in the earliest Islamic sources is probably the sound hadith qudsi in which God speaks of the servant who seeks nearness to Him through good works. When the servant advances on the path, then, God says, ‘I love him, and when I love him, I am the hearing with which he hears, the eyesight with which he sees, the hand with which he grasps, and the foot with which he walks.’ This hadith has been the subject of endless explication in Suﬁ texts, for it describes in concrete terms the fruit of He loves them. But they love Him also plays a basic role: the servants’ love for God drives them to follow the path of guidance. If their love were to be misguided, then they would be attracted to the gold plating rather than to God; so they would not advance on the path. To advance they must act beautifully and virtuously (ihsan) and come to be characterized by beautiful character traits. The only way to accomplish this is to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet. The Prophet is instructed, Say, ‘If you love God, follow me, and God will love you’ (3:31). When God does love us, then He will be the hearing with which we hear, the eyes with which we see, and the heart with which we love.
How has this love story between God and humanity unfolded historically. The holy Quran says:
Surely, the first House founded for mankind is that at Becca, abounding in blessings and a guidance for all peoples. (Al Quran 3:96/97)
This is what happened in the time of the prophet Adam, may peace be on him, some six thousand years ago.
What happened in the time of the prophet Abraham, may peace be on him, some 1800 years before Jesus Christ is also mentioned in the holy Quran:
And remember the time when We assigned to Abraham the site of the House and said, ‘Associate not anything with Me, and keep My House clean for those who perform the circuits, and those who stand up and those who bow down and fall prostrate in Prayers; and proclaim unto mankind the Pilgrimage. They will come to thee on foot, and on every lean camel, coming by every distant track.’ (Al Quran 22:26-27/27-28)
Fast forward to the time of the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, some 1400 plus years ago and we find:
Muslim literature has been replete with mention of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, saying to a crowd of more than a hundred thousand people, at the time of the final pilgrimage, an event that itself symbolizes human equality, “All of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they may belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal. Allah has made you brethren one to another, so be not divided. An Arab has no preference over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor is a white one to be preferred to a dark one, nor a dark one to a white one.” The whole of his sermon is recorded in history and has been more famous and cherished than President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, in the Muslim world, over the centuries. This is where human equality began, not only for the Muslims but for the whole of humanity!
There are several verses of the holy Quran that talk about the equality between men and women in Islam and that is why I have added the word ‘sisterhood’ to the ‘brotherhood.’ Here is an article on this theme: Gender Equality in the Holy Qur’an – In the Beginning Man and Woman Were Equal.
But, is the universal brotherhood and sisterhood, just a hollow slogan or does it mean anything real? Does it truly mean, ‘Love for All and Hatred for None?’
The holy Quran has very clearly defined the boundaries.
Allah wants us to be kind and nice to every fellow human, except those who are belligerent and want to make us homeless:
Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable.
Allah only forbids you, respecting those who have fought against you on account of your religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and have helped others in driving you out, that you make friends of them, and whosoever makes friends of them — it is these that are the transgressors. (Al Quran 60:8-9/9-10)
The prophet wanted to see extreme love among all the Muslims when he said that the Muslims are like a body and when one part hurts the whole body hurts.
This is what is the meaning of Salat and Hajj. This is why we face towards Kaaba five times a day and more than two million have performed Hajj this year.