Monday, December 15, 2008

Beyond Ritualism By Amer Rizwan

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Far away from the vicious murk of Pakistani politics, when the country was reeling under the emergency rule and the legal fraternity was bent upon redeeming the country from the total abyss, I was busy observing a more dynamic, versatile and enriching experience of life. My spiritual pursuits at the religious capital of the Muslim Ummah were profound, far reaching, rewarding and incredibly soothing though my attempts at reaching the spiritual status were flawed and far from prefect almost reveled in the emollient power of the zamzam whose holy aroma bespoke a spiritual magnetism exercising a spontaneous and concomitant pull and drawing you closer to the divine path traversed thousands years ago by the prophets of God and their followers.Hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah is one of the five pillars of Islam. Hajj was made obligatory in the 9th year of Hijra. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) sent off 300 Muslims under the leadership of Hazrat Abubakr Siddique (may Allah be pleased with him) to Makkah so that they could perform Hajj. The great extravaganza, actually one of the five obligations for a true Muslim to observe, is inter alia meant to commemorate the sacrifice offered to Allah Almighty by Ibrahim, His Prophet. On this day Muslims sacrifice a goat to commemorate the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim, who willingly agreed to kill his son at the behest of God. However, Allah Almighty replaced his son with a lamb, which was slaughtered instead. The ancestry of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH is traced to the son of Prophet Ibrahim i.e. Prophet Ismail. The Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) imparted the event his own universal and eternal message of love, sagacity, tolerance and fraternity. The last sermon of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made on the eve of Hujjut-ul-Wida or the Last Pilgrimage dwelled upon these core universal principles, which together make up the first Universal Charter of Human Rights. It is primarily this aspect of Hajj that has intrigued me to write something on. As a matter of fact, coming across at Makkah, as well as at Medina, millions of people of different races and colours, preoccupied with a common holy purpose, offers a unique mosaic, nay it provides a rare and unique picture of unity in diversity. Tolerance, sympathy, and love far above the petty issues of mundane life is rarely observed elsewhere. Therefore, I condescend to state that Hajj model with slight modifications can be applied at the global level for a peaceful international system. Labeling it an Islamic World Order would draw swarm of critics from all quarters, but what is name, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.It is here that my spiritual sojourn, a great and the most cherished pilgrimage, has also turned into a yet another rich experience – an experience that enabled me to develop a greater understanding of different peoples and different races and colours. The Muslims coming here belong to different nooks and corners of the world; they are white, black, brown and colored; they are both Arabs and Ajams; they are young and old, male and female, but primarily they are human beings, and I tried to gather from their demeanors and modes of prayers their sensibilities, sensitivities, their likes and likes. It is a rare cosmopolitan experience, not observable even in the US and UK with distinctive idiosyncratic national traits melting mysteriously into an ocean of compassion, love and tolerance. It is only after wading through this stream of purity that a totally different human being with a better grasp of men and matter would emerge.By showing love and respect to each and every human being irrespective of his race, colour, language, sect, difference in details of rituals, there may emerge a greater flexibility in the outlook of the pilgrim. This would also imply love and tolerance to humanity principle. Instead of clash of civilisation and peoples, this would create a better understanding and accommodation among peoples of the world. The pleasantly smiling Turks, the devoted and genial Malaysians, the ascetic Indonesians, the numinous Persians, the devout South Asians; all are frantically bent upon pleasing their Creator and his creatures.A very interesting aspect was the Indian and Pakistani Muslims greeting each other as if geographical barriers have not been able to rob them of their commonalities. Kashmiris of the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) would embrace Pakistanis as there is no other place under the sun where they could do so openly. Turks would consider Pakistanis as their brothers and show open admiration for Pakistanis. Most of the pilgrims are acquainted with only the literary archaic Arabic written in the Holy Quran, but here they come across the more crude, spoken form being used in a variety of dialects. At times, this crudeness seems unpleasant and jarring to the non-native listeners, but continuous interaction with the locals for a few days mitigates this impression.There are more lessons in store for us in the Hajj than the bare eye can unfold. Here in Pakistan, we declare, every digression in terms of details of your prayers something as heresy. During Hajj, on the contrary, each and every devotee, irrespective of his school of thought, sect or mode of prayer work ecstatically and assiduously to try to please Allah Almighty whether or not by offering ‘Rafa’a Yadain’ or either by whispering ‘Amen’ or by saying it loudly. An interesting but very important lesson comes home i.e. attempts may be faulty, procedures may be shabby; the weak mortal body may also not be able to move in tandem with the spiritual onus, yet as long as there is singular concentration and devotion to purpose, one has every hope of being blessed and redeemed. Again, this ecstatic devotion is so absorbing and intoxicating that it does not allow one to observe and ponder over one’s own worshipping details what to speak of trying to correct those of others. Owing to the tremendous rush of devotees, at times, there is no option except to pass before a praying pilgrim, but neither of them would indulge in the blame-game. Hajj has also lesson in store for us in discipline, punctuality and civic sense – the hallmarks of the Islamic society of yore. As long as they wielded these time-honoured universal values, they continued to shine on the galaxy of science, technology, medicine and arts, but no sooner had they shunned the door to further quest and research, than they lagged behind in almost every walk of life. Let me reiterate that the unity in diversity is the true lesson given by Hajj. Allah could have filled the earth and heavens with malaik praising Him round-the-clock restlessly. But he created a versatile and multi-coloured world. This versatility is reflected in the flora and fauna, and in different physiognomies and colours of human beings. The human civilisation would prosper, as long as we respect the natural diversity, dynamism and versatility. We cannot subject “others” to total extinction, nor even vice versa, so why not to live side by side peacefully while developing greater understanding for the fellow beings. There is no denying the fact that Hajj is the best forum for doing so.It is high time, we move beyond the mere ritualistic aspects of Hajj to its real intent and purpose. And more than anything else, the overhauling process must bring about positive changes in the life of the individual with a better understanding of others. The harmonious social life should have far-reaching implications. This model can/should be magnified and applied internationally. By laying emphasis on the practical experiences of Hajj, I by no means underestimate the ritualistic dimensions of Hajj, nay their observance in accordance with religious principles and guidelines can bring about the much desired result. The writer is a Ph-D Candidate in the Department of International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad

No comments: