The Purpose of Hajj

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Dhu al-Qa'dah 14, 1433 2012-10-01


by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 8, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1433)

The House of Saud is determined to empty Hajj of its Qur’anic and Prophetic content. Will the Ummah remain a silent spectator in this gross deviation from the message of the Qur’an and Hajj?

Muslims heading for Hajj this year would have discovered a strange demand made by the illegitimate Saudi regime. At the bottom of the Hajj visa application form, there is the following warning, “I fully understand that alcohol, narcotics, pornographic materials and all types of religious and political activities are prohibited. I accept that if I violate the laws and regulations of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I shall be subject to capital punishment.”

Surely people planning to perform Hajj would not take alcohol, narcotics or pornographic materials with them because these are completely incongruous with the purpose of Hajj. But what do the Saudis mean when they proclaim that the pilgrims would be subjected to “capital punishment” if they are involved in “religious and political activities”? Neither religious nor political activities have been defined. Isn’t Hajj itself considered to be a so-called religious activity by them? So what should Muslims do during Hajj?

It is clear why the Saudis feel so nervous. The long-serving Saudi interior minister, Nayef ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz suddenly dropped dead last June. He was Mr. Security for nearly 60 years. His death occurred at a particularly difficult time for the Kingdom as it was grappling with the fallout from the Islamic Awakening sweeping the Muslim East. The winds of change blowing in the region have not left the kingdom unaffected. There is no experienced hand to deal with the situation. King Abdullah is nearly 90 years old and has one foot in the grave. The new crown prince, Salman, is inexperienced in these matters as is the new interior minister. Thus Saudi jitters are based on real fears but what should the pilgrims make of these new restrictions as they go to the House of Allah as His guests, not the guests of the House of Saud, to perform one of their most important religious obligations? For most Muslims this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but under relentless Saudi propaganda and pressure, it has been turned into a rodeo where the faithful in their millions are herded in record time from one place to another like sheep.

Most ‘ulama in the Muslim world are also guilty of dereliction of duty by not explaining what the real purpose of Hajj is. There are historical as well as political reasons for this. Once the khilafah was abolished and replaced by mulukiyah, the genuine and sincere ‘ulama were put under great pressure. Many were brutally tortured and some were killed. Concurrently, a new class of ‘ulama — the official or court ‘ulama — was created to do the rulers’ bidding. With the emergence of this class, the teachings of Islam were distorted to cater to the needs of the rulers. Hajj was one of their principal casualties. If we find that Hajj has been reduced to a set of rituals, it is largely the result of this long historical process of deviation from the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and the Sirah of the noble Messenger (pbuh), culminating as it has in the exclusivist squatting of a tribal monarchy over what is supposed to be an inclusivist sanctuary affirming the universal brotherhood of the human family.

Thus, it is imperative to turn to the Qur’an to understand what Allah (swt) wants us to do at the time of Hajj. Certainly the qiblah, the tawaf, the sa‘i, the rami, and the du‘a at Arafat belong to the rites of Hajj, but getting the pilgrims there for these things belongs to a larger program of commitment to the Covenant that is to be annually confirmed by those present. The principal purpose of Hajj is described in unequivocal terms in the motivating Qur’an,

“And a proclamation from Allah and His Apostle [is herewith made] to all mankind on this day of the Greatest Pilgrimage [Hajj], ‘Allah disavows all who attribute divinity/authority to any beside Him, and [so does] His Apostle…’” (9:03).

The Saudi occupiers of the Hijaz and the Arabian Peninsula insist that Muslims must not bring up such matters during Hajj. Under what Islamic injunction do the illegitimate rulers and their court ‘ulama make such pronouncements? Are Muslims required to fulfill their obligations as outlined in the Qur’an and exemplified by the noble Messenger (pbuh) or should they abide by the oppressive policies of Saudi potentates?

The Muslim world faces numerous challenges the most important of which are imperialism and Zionism. To these must now be added the incessant attacks on the honour of the noble Messenger (pbuh). Should Muslims not raise these issues at the time of Hajj? The Saudi occupiers forbid Muslims to discuss the oppressive policies of the US and Zionist Israel. Where else should Muslims turn to enlighten the Ummah about these issues and why should the self-serving policies of the House of Saud take precedence over the teachings of the Qur’an?

Muslims must rise up against such restrictions, consign these primitive savages back to the desert and liberate the Haramayn from their clutches. The Muslims will continue to suffer humiliation as long as Makkah and Madinah remain in the hands of the House of Saud. Liberation of the Haramayn must take precedence even over the liberation of Masjid al-Aqsa. That will follow once the Haramayn are liberated.

Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought

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