Friday, January 21, 2005

The Big Eid

Its that time of year, where all your relatives who chose to go to Hajj return home after a couple of weeks in Mecca (that's a larger than average percentage in my family). Those who were going for the first time, those who go once a decade (average good-muslim joe), and those who go almost every year (die-hard hajjis). One of my aunt's, an archetypal diehard, even says that she is going to advertise going to Hajj for anyone who cannot go themselves, if they pay for all tickets and accomodation of course! Do you have a dead aunt or uncle or parents who didn't manage to complete a pilgrimage in their lifetime?

Substitute pilgrim available here. Contact me on the email address below.

You welcome them back with a strong warm embrace, relieved that they made it in one piece and that no major crowd catastrophes occured- no tunnel closures, no stampedes, no fires, no disease. Despite the look of sheer fatigue, the radiance of pure happiness and enlightenment is apparant. You do get a strong sense, that something in them has changed, how long that will last is another issue, but at least they can live on with the thought that God has wiped their slates clean, as if they were born again.

Every muslim wrestles with themselves with the question of, when is a good time to go to Hajj? There is a clear payoff curve. If you are able financially and physically to go, then it is a sin in itself to delay Hajj, yet most people feel that the later they do it the better (the whole clean slate philosophy- get the sins done and out of the way first before the final repentance). At the moment i'm toying with the idea of going next year if all things work out, but I feel there are a few stepping stones that I need to do first before I feel 'ready'.

Reading Shariati's simply titled book "Hajj", discusses the symbolism and philosophy of this ancient ritual, it is a mustread for all those thinking of going to Hajj. He metaphorically describes the image of Hajj as:

"a symboli c demonstration of the philosophy of Creation of Adam. To further illustrate this, it may be stated that the performance of Hajj is a simultaneous show of many things; it is a "show of creation", a "show of history", a "show of unity", a "show of the Islamic ideology" and a show of the Ummah.

The following conditions prevail in this "show". Allah (God) is the stage manager. The theme portrayed is the actions of the people involved. Adam, Ibrahim, Hajar, and Satan are the main characters. The scenes are Masjid-ul Haram, the Haram area, Masa, Arafat, Mashars and Mina. Important symbols are the Kaaba, Safa, Marwa, day, night, sunshine, sunset, idols and ritual of sacrifice. The clothing and make up are Ihram, Halgh and Taqseer. Lastly, the player of the roles in this "show" is only one; and that is YOU!... The role of Adam, Ibrahim and Hajar in the confrontation between "Allah and Satan" is played by you. As a result, you, individually, are the hero of the "show"."

He describes seeing the Kaaba for the first time, and the questions that naturally arises:

"Made of dark rough stones laid in a very simple manner with white chalk filling the fissures, the Kaaba is an empty cube - nothing else. You cannot but shiver and wonder about what you see Here ... There is no one! There is nothing to view! An empty room (cube) is visible. Is that all?!! Is this the center of our faith, prayers, love, life and death?

Questions and doubts arise in your mind. Where am l? What is here? What you see is the antithesis of your visual imaginations of the Kaaba. You might have perceived it as an architectural beauty (like a palace) whose ceilings covered a spiritual silence. Another possible portrayal was that of a high tomb housing the grave of an important human being - a hero, genius, imam or prophet! No - instead it is an open square, an empty room. It reflects no architectural skill, beauty, art, inscription, nor quality; and no graves
are found there. There is nothing and nobody there to whom you can direct your attention, feelings and memories."

I've always wondered why there isn't a Lonely Planet Guide to Hajj with maps of the city, good places to dine in Mecca, where to shop (you'd be surprised, I picked up a few great things last time I was there), hotel guide, main attractions (its not just the Kaaba there!), transport and etiquette (how to live communeally, use the glisteningly clean Saudi washrooms etc). It would be a sell-out this time of year. Since we're on the topic of business and Mecca, the Economist's aptly? named article "Meccanomics, Profit from the Prophet" explores this interesting relationship- never knew land prices are around £60,000 per square metre in the Holy city! One of my friends jokingly said to me once, "globalisation has existed in Mecca for over 1000 years", referring to Mecca as the melting pot of persons of every race and colour. Another person was telling me about a staunch Marxist who went to Hajj out of obligation and found his basic communist ideals there and repented!


Posted by BB @ 1/21/2005 05:54:00 PM

Read or Post a Comment

Eid Mubarak memsaab, the plan is to retire to my mountain cave and contemplate life, once i can afford the flunkeys, SL55, etc etc etc, and of course - your company. Till then the life of a highly paid slave is my karma.

Posted by Anonymous

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 1/21/2005 07:02:00 PM #

Eid Mubarak Bahrania..... 

Posted by Bugs

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 1/21/2005 10:39:00 PM #

Eid Mubarraq!

I spent it for the first time after 16 years away from my mum, and dad, and the whole Muslim village of Malaysia. This time, I'm here in Abu Dhabi, in the cold, looking at sand dunes, and wondering what I'm doing here..

Tis an experience though, but I'm still lonely. 

Posted by AA

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 1/23/2005 02:59:00 PM #

Hope you all had a great Eid my friends- Changaiz, Bugs, AA.

Changaiz: i'm sure at least u'll have the hunting skills for living in the mountains as a result of predator-like lifestyle that is city life.

Bugs- hope u had cosy Eid in Sweden...

AA- sorry for the lonely Eid! Although Eid is the best in your own country, second-best is any other muslim country. I'm sure AD must have toned down its Eid celebrations due to Sh. Zayed's death. 

Posted by Bahrania

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 1/24/2005 09:10:00 PM #
<< Home