3:96–97: “Certainly the first house appointed for humanity is the one at Bakkah, blessed and a guidance for the nations. In it are clear signs: (It is) the Place of Abraham; and whoever enters it is safe; and pilgrimage to the House is a duty which men owe to Allah — whoever can find a way to it.”
3:64: “Say: O People of the Book, come to an equitable word between us and you, that we shall serve none but Allah and that we shall not associate aught with Him, and that some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah.”
3:67: “Abraham was not a Jew nor a Christian, but he was an upright man, one who submitted to God, and not one who took others for gods.”
22:26–27: “And when We pointed to Abraham the place of the House, saying: Associate naught with Me, and purify My House for those who make circuits and stand to pray and bow and prostrate themselves. Proclaim to mankind the Pilgrimage: they will come to thee on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path.”
Hajj or the Pilgrimage is the last of the five pillars of Islam. As it is the last, it is reasonable to think that the teachings of Islam must somehow reach a climax and culmination in this institution. And that climax is that this institution shows clearly that Islam is an international religion, and it has come to unite all humanity and all religions on the basis of the oneness of God and the equality of all human beings.
So, how are the Pilgrimage and the associated Id-ul-Adha prayers and sacrifice, related to these aspects of Islamic teachings? Firstly, the Holy Quran tells us here that the Ka‘bah was the first House of worship on earth that any man built. Historical evidence, too, bears out that this House has existed from the most ancient times that we can go back to, and that it was visited annually by people and regarded as sacred. Thus Islam has chosen as its central shrine, not a place whose importance arose only in the life of our Holy Prophet Muhammad, but one which has significance in the history of religion of mankind, where man first built a house of worship. In fact, it was part of God’s plan to raise the Last Prophet in the land where this most ancient of all religious memorials existed. Humanity, which spread all over the earth, is being drawn back to the place where religious consciousness of mankind originated. It is also being called back by Islam to the original principles of religion, the simple fundamentals which later became lost in the maze of detailed religious doctrines, ceremonies and controversies as different religions took different forms.
The Quran speaks of mankind (an-nas) or humanity when mentioning the Pilgrimage, as in the two verses above, and not just believers or Muslims. This contains a prophecy that it is not only in theory that Islam makes an appeal to all mankind, but in practice too a substantial cross-section of all mankind will join Islam, so that the Pilgrimage will present a scene showing representatives of all mankind there. The verse:
“Proclaim to mankind the Pilgrimage: they will come to thee on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path” (22:27)
was revealed to the Holy Prophet in the very late stages of his life in Makka, shortly before the emigration to Madina. At that time Islam and the Muslims were in the weakest position they have ever been, and it appeared that they would be simply be effaced from this world be their opponents. No one could imagine that Islam would spread in Arabia, let alone that large crowds of people belonging to all sections of mankind would come, travelling from the farthest places in the world. This was also prophesied in the Bible. The prophet Isaiah said:
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah, 2:2).
Being the “highest” and “raised above the hills” means, of course, the highest in dignity and honour in the hearts of mankind.
Secondly, apart from the connection of the Ka‘ba with the earliest days of human worship, it is also connected with Abraham, a man accepted and revered by both Jews and Christians. Abraham is the Patriarch with whom the history of religion, or at least the history of the Middle Eastern religions, can be said to begin. He taught the oneness of God, service to God and sacrifice for Him. According to the Bible, God bestowed upon him the name Abraham, meaning father of the nations. God gave him many promises about how great nations would arise from among his descendants, who shall be blessed in the world, and how his name will become great in the world and be blessed by people.
According to Islam, and the traditions of the Arabs before the coming of Islam, Abraham travelled down to the Ka‘ba in Arabia, which had become derelict by his time, settled his wife Hagar and young son Ishmael there, and some years later returned to rebuild the Ka‘ba with his son Ishmael and establish the Pilgrimage. But some thousands of years later when the Holy Prophet Muhammad appeared in that country, the people there had made it a shrine of idol-worship, superstition and ignorance. This was the condition of the Arabs, among whom no prophet had ever appeared. The other descendants and followers of Abraham were the Jews and the Christians. In their history many prophets had appeared, from Isaac, Jacob, Joseph to Moses, David, Solomon and lastly Jesus, and they possessed scriptures. Yet these two religions held opposite beliefs.
The Jewish religion prescribed the rites and rituals of the religious law in the most minute details, and the Jews came to believe in the mechanical observance of these rituals as of the prime and greatest importance. Their concept of God was of a Being that is remote and insists more on punishment and justice than on forgiveness and mercy.
When Jesus appeared among the Israelites he had to correct these exaggerated tendencies. So he denounced following just the letter of the law and laid stress on love between man and God and the need for exercising forgiveness and mercy. His later followers took this to an extreme and rejected the need to follow any regulations of the law at all, and instead taught reliance on the forgiveness and mercy of God. They believed that just belief in Jesus as the one who had atoned for people’s sins, and having love for God in your heart, was all that was required. They took the need for a relationship between man and God, and closeness of man to God, so far as to teach that God could send His son into the world in human form. So here were two religions following the same scriptures, and believing completely opposite things. One believed that the mechanical observance of religious laws and rituals was all in all, and the other rejected the law as unnecessary and a curse. One believed strictly in the oneness of God and God as separate from man, while the other believed in God having a son who appeared in human form. One rejected Jesus as an impostor while the other believed him to be the son of God. As the Quran says:
“And the Jews say, The Christians follow nothing (true), and the Christians say, The Jews follow nothing (true), while they recite the (same) Book.” (2:113)
It is interesting here to note that as the President of the U.S.A. is a committed, practising Christian, therefore according to his beliefs the Israeli Prime Minister is definitely doomed to everlasting hell because he does not accept Jesus as his saviour. Likewise, according to the Israeli Prime Minister the U.S. President is definitely doomed to everlasting hell because he accepts an impostor as Messiah and son of God. But the Holy Quran says:
“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.” (2:62)
In order to correct these wrong doctrines entertained by the Jews and Christians, the Quran calls upon these two faiths to reconsider their common origin. It tells them that Abraham, the great teacher who preceded their two religions, obviously neither followed the detailed religious law of Moses, nor believed in Jesus as saviour and son of God, and yet he is their real founder and father figure.
As a contrast to the Jewish practices, Abraham’s obedience to God was not in mechanically following rituals of the religion but in displaying a true spirit of submitting to God’s commands with one’s heart and soul. This is illustrated in his readiness even to sacrifice his son when he thought that that was what God had commanded him to do. Those who lay extreme stress on a ritual following of details of religious precepts usually find it very hard to make a real sacrifice of their desires. They may be very meticulous in adhering to all the physical details of worship but they then consider that this gives them a licence to indulge in their wrongful conduct in their practical lives. There is a lesson in this also for Muslims of the present times who show exactly the same tendency.
In contrast to Christians, Islam points out that Abraham was a staunch upholder of the belief in One God and rejected every kind of worship of multiplicity of gods. Belief in Trinity or in a man being God’s son are completely alien to Abraham’s outlook. Without believing in these doctrines, and without accepting Jesus as his saviour who died for his sins, Abraham according to the Bible was a man so close to God and so beloved of God that it is written about him in the Bible:
“Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” — Genesis, 15:1
“I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.” — Genesis, 17:1
“… and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things.” — Genesis 24:1
And why did God raise him to such an eminent position? It was because:
“… Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” — Genesis, 26:5
And after Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son, the Bible records:
“By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, … and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed My voice.” — Genesis, 22:16, 18
And according to the Quran:
“And who is better in religion than he who submits himself entirely to Allah while doing good (to others) and follows the faith of Abraham, the upright one? And Allah took Abraham for a friend.” (4:125)
So Islam points out to Christians that Abraham became the beloved of God by obeying the voice and the commandments of God and by his willingness to carry out the sacrifice of his son. In other words, you must do something practical to show your love for God and to be loved by God. It cannot be by merely believing that God loves you so much that He sent His son to be sacrificed for your sins, and if you accept this then your sins are all forgiven. Thus the Christian creed goes against the fundamental beliefs of religion as taught by Abraham.
The approach adopted by Islam is not to say to the Jews and Christians: you are wrong and we are right, so accept our beliefs. Islam invites them to look at the origin of their own faiths, and to realize that those original, simple principles of faith, as seen in the life of Abraham in their own traditions, are the core and crux of religion, and they are ones that Islam is re-establishing. The Jews had made the law and practice of religion too complicated and cumbersome, while the Christians had made the doctrines of the religion complex, confusing, and incomprehensible. Islam resorted their original simplicity.
In this way, while correcting wrong beliefs of these two faiths, Islam also accords them respect and dignity by dignifying the origin and the forefathers of those faiths. If you want to insult a community, you say to them: there is nothing good in your background and history. You attack their forefathers. But God says in the Quran near the beginning:
“O Children of Israel, call to mind My favour which I bestowed on you and that I made you excel the nations.” (2:47)
There was a time when you were the best of nations and you can be again.
Incident of sacrifice
The main points of the incident of the readiness of Abraham to sacrifice his son are as follows. They can be found summarised in the Holy Quran.
The practice of sacrificing something belonging to you for God, or for a deity that people worship, was very common among all religions and people. The idea behind it was to try to please a deity by offering it a gift, particularly if you thought that the deity was angry with you. But Islam presented a different concept of God as follows:
“He (God) feeds and is not fed” (6:14),
“I (God) desire no sustenance from them, nor do I desire that they should feed Me.” (51:57)
“Not their flesh, nor their blood, reaches God, but what reaches Him is your righteousness and doing of duty.” (22:37)
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad explained this last verse as meaning that the true sacrifice is not of the animal which is being slaughtered, but of the animal desires of the person doing the sacrifice. Maulana Muhammad Ali used to exhort people in his khutbas at this ‘Id that the real sacrifice by an individual at this occasion is to give up a bad habit permanently. Each and every Muslim has to sacrifice a part of his bad side, even though it may be a small part.
I return now to the point made earlier that the institution of the Pilgrimage shows that Islam is the religion of all humanity and the words of the Quran which indicate that people from all mankind will go to perform it. The Holy Prophet Muhammad related a dream of his, which is reported in the most authentic book of his sayings, Bukhari, as follows:
“While I was asleep circumambulating the Ka‘ba (in my dream), suddenly I saw a man of brown complexion and straight hair, walking between two men, and water was dropping from his head. I asked, ‘Who is this?’ The people said, ‘He is the son of Mary.’ Then I looked behind and I saw a red-complexioned, fat, curly-haired man, blind in the right eye which looked like a bulging out grape. I asked, ‘Who is this?’ They replied, ‘He is Dajjal.’ ”
I cannot here go into the details of the interpretation of this dream, but briefly the man whom the Holy Prophet was told is ‘the son of Mary’ (i.e. Jesus) going around the Ka‘ba is, symbolically, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, since the Prophet Muhammad has likened his followers to various prophets from the past. The man called Dajjal represents the Western nations. For details of this you can read the book The AntiChrist, Gog and Magog by Maulana Muhammad Ali. The Holy Prophet Muhammad was shown in his dream that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement would lead the people of the West, who initially would be averse and inimical to the religion of Islam, to go and perform the Pilgrimage, meaning that they would accept Islam through him and pay homage to it. A literal glimpse of the fulfilment of this dream took place in 1923 when Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, a man who under the inspiration of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had started the Woking Muslim Mission here, took Lord Headley, his most famous convert to Islam, to the Pilgrimage.
It is now a challenge for us, our Jama‘at, to further fulfil this dream of leading the Western people to pay homage to Islam.