The Corner Stone (Hajj and Umra)

Dr. Faiz A. Khan

Posted Feb 11, 2003      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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These are words from reflections drawn during the performance of umra - rites of the Islamic pilgrimage done in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  The rites are termed umra when the pilgrimage is made outside the time period of The Hajj (Greater Pilgrimage).  The rites referred to in the following are those of walking in circles (tawwaaf) around the Kaaba (a cube like structure thought to be erected by Abraham and his son Ishmael), which includes as part of its base a black stone embedded in the southeastern corner of the structure.  The stone itself is said to have been part of an even more ancient site established by Adam in the same vicinity.  During the tawwaaf, worshippers attempt to touch or even kiss the stone ? or minimally raise their hands in gesture toward it, as they begin or pass at the southeastern corner. 

“Just a rock, a latticework of Carbon”, so al-Khattab exclaimed.  “Yet I say through you, oh stone, discernment occurs; The True Discernment belongs only to al-Furqan.”

The patient ones wait on line to perchance touch or kiss you before commencing the sublime rounds of tawwaaf; they wait quietly, orderly, patiently

Then there are the mad mullah’s; Ablaze with grunts and groans -glistening and dripping with sweat; Eyes blinded and bloodshot they push, shove, choke, headlock; They claw and cut in front - all for their black stone.

‘Excuse me” emerges an angrily subdued voice “there is a line”

“yahaa line lageey hai”- perhaps they understand urdu

With these voicing protests they nod in agreement - yet their faces are still contorted as their elbows continue to fly and swing - now even more intensely

An agonizing cry, perhaps a woman or child crushed in the melee

The keepers of the peace bask in the shade, feet up, chewing their miswaak,  deadened to the commotion

Distracting rage courses through my veins - I try to temper

Do they not know that hysteria was never the way of Muhammad?

Do they not know that ebadat is thrown back in our faces probably now more than ever?

“Careful!” I am cautioned by the inner wisdom, “Don’t judge!”  Some have come a very long way

But the distraction is far too great ? I am too weak to contain myself

What is it about these fellows, who I am sure are as harsh with their women as they are with this Southeast corner of the Kaaba?  What is so reviling about this scene?

Is it hypocrisy?  Inconsistency? No - for who is not a hypocrite or inconsistent on some level?  Drinking from Al- Kauthar would turn many into sprinklers - so full of holes are we

It is something else; Aaah,  perhaps if they had gone to grad school, or college, or even highschool; Yes,  a good education

No - that’s not it?

Our own Prophet was ummi

After all, those who have ascended the highest ranks in the temples of secularized education engineer acts most heinous and abhorrent

Suddenly, I am jarred by a piercing elbow in my back.  I brush it aside, trying to refocus on my worship.  A hand follows the elbow quickly - finding my shoulder.  I ignore.
The hand shakes my shoulder.  I ignore.  The hand shakes my shoulder more deliberately.  Finally I turn.

Before me is a man Panting, glistening, and dripping with sweat - eyes bloodshot, glazed.  He must be one of the motley crew, appearing as possessed as the mad fellows

My eyes meet his,  and I am wrong,  he is indeed possessed, but perhaps not as those fellows - not by pursuit of a most dangerous idol, ibadaat

His eyes are glazed and bloodshot not out of harshness, but because he has been weeping for quite some time now He has broken his focus with Allah and stands before me, his eyes probing mine for forgiveness from a stranger he may have disturbed or injured with an elbow

He will not turn away until he is sure he has it

I smile and wink.  Joy then alights his face; He merrily floats back off round and round the Kaaba, now beseeching the Forgiveness of His Lord

And so it is that I am reminded what struck me as missing with the brutes Who are still mauling, rucking, scratching and shoving as I write

It was neither lack of consistency, nor a sound secular education

Dreadfully absent was that which the Qur’an Itself highlights in our beloved Prophet, What The Prophet Himself stated he came to perfect?

Nobility in Character? Nobility in Manner

Wa innaka la ‘ala khuluqil Azeem [indeed, you are of the most exalted character] Qur’an

Inna Akramakum ‘indallahe athqaakum [indeed the best of you are those most noble in conduct] Qur’an

Innama bu ith tu li utammima makarim al-akhlaq [I was sent simply to perfect your manner and conduct]  Hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad)

Oh God - Let good people be religious, and let religious people be good. Prayers of British schoolchildren