Friday, January 21, 2005
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!