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Hajj, Manifestation of Unity

Hajj is the greatest outward symbol of both tawhid and the ummah—including implicitly the latter’s integrity and unity. The inner reality of the Hajj is tied to the idea of walayah and the waliullah. Muslims, in embodying these ideas, will be able to achieve higher and higher forms of unity, empowering them for the cause of Allah in this world and engendering for them the heavenly states of the hereafter.

Sectarianism is one of the greatest impediments for such achievement in the path of the Muslims.

This article delineates these themes and provides the general direction that individual Muslims are to follow.

1. Hajj, Symbol of Unity and Universality

Of all the rites of religion, Hajj is the greatest in its manifestation of unity and Tawhid. This is because the concept of unity, as expressed in creation, essentially involves the idea of universality. Just as God, the One, is eternal, ubiquitous, and the sustaining Creator of mankind, His last word and final religion must rightfully be universal.

Hence, Islam – the universal religion – is for all times, all places, and for all peoples. The Hajj clearly portrays this truth and the Ka’bah, its focal point, poignantly symbolises the same. Islam is for all times, past, present and future. For is not the Ka’bah the first place of worship?

God says in the Qur’an:

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِلْعَالَمِينَ فِيهِ آيَاتٌ بَيِّنَاتٌ مَقَامُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ۖ وَمَنْ دَخَلَهُ كَانَ آمِنًا ۗ وَلِلَّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلًا ۚ وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ

“Indeed the first house to be set up for mankind is the one at Bakkah, blessed and a guidance for all nations. In it are manifest signs [and] Abraham’s Station, and whoever enters it shall be secure. And it is the duty of mankind toward God to make pilgrimage to the House – for those who can afford the journey to it – and should anyone renege [on his obligation], God is indeed without need of the creatures”. (Qur’an 3:96-97)

The word “Bakkah” means the place of confluence and congregation of throngs and it refers to the ground upon which the Ka’bah is built. God says that the structure there was the first house to be set up for mankind and hence is as old as man himself. It is also the last point of convergence that man will have available to rally around during his spiritual epic and sojourn on this planet.

The great-grandson of the Prophet (S), Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) said:

لا يزال الدين قائماً ما قامت الكعبة

Religion will withstand so long as the Ka’bah stands.[1]

Islam is for all places. This is graphically symbolised in the Hajj by the influx of people from all different places on the earth towards Makkah. As such the Ka’bah is the centre whose circumference encompasses the entire world. God says in the Qur’an:

وَإِذْ بَوَّأْنَا لِإِبْرَاهِيمَ مَكَانَ الْبَيْتِ أَنْ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِي شَيْئًا وَطَهِّرْ بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْقَائِمِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ وَأَذِّنْ فِي النَّاسِ بِالْحَجِّ يَأْتُوكَ رِجَالًا وَعَلَىٰ كُلِّ ضَامِرٍ يَأْتِينَ مِنْ كُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيقٍ

When We settled for Abraham the site of the House [saying], Do not ascribe any partners to Me, and purify My House for those who go around it, and those who stand [in it for prayer], and those who bow and prostrate. And proclaim the hajj to people: they shall come to you on foot and on lean camels coming from distant places. (Qur’an 22:26-27)

Islam, the perennial religion practised by all prophets from Adam to Muhammad, was present in all times and all places because it was meant for all people. For God, the eternal and omnipresent Creator, created mankind and He alone knows best how to guide them – sending prophets to every people, at all points of human history.

Man for his part, in his imperfect and fallen state, is always in need of God’s guidance and is the perfect receptacle of this Divine guidance and grace. But man in his fallen and earthly nature can not immediately conceive of Divine realities, whether it be this supreme guidance or man’s own essence and spirit.

He needs help and support from the outside, so to speak. He needs tangible things to aid him and guide him towards guidance and the Guide. The Ka’bah serves as this external symbol and is God’s House not because God needs a house, but because man in his weakness needs a solid point of reference to turn to. The Ka’bah is as a lighthouse which guides sailors lost at sea back to the shore and back to their home and origin.

The first verse quoted above speaks to this role of the House of God being a source of guidance for all nations